Great Cheap Dates With My Best Mate: Sydney, Australia. February 2007.

A bat flew past and lightning flashed as my husband and I stood under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We'd taken a ferry to the Luna Park amusement park, shown here in David's picture, betting that the rain would hold off. It didn't. So, we watched the sunset from an unusual perspective, huddled under the bridge like vacationing trolls. The lights of the city across the way brightened as night fell, as David captured here in this picture.

Most of our Sydney days ended watching sunset from the city's botanical garden. We'd picked a spot where we could see the light changed the tint of Sydney's most famous building, its Opera House, shown here.

The garden also is home to a colony of flying foxes, which looked to me like cats with leathery bat wings instead of arms and legs. My husband and I came across them on our first walk together through the garden.

They were quite a surprise at first and then we grew fond of them. We would watch for them at dusk, when they would leave their trees and streak across the sky. Closer to our favorite spot, white birds would circle over our heads. They would chatter and swoop over us.
We visited two of the more famous Sydney beaches, Bondi and Manley, during our visit. This is us on a walk on a beach cliff:

White Sails, Blue Water

On our ferry ride back from Manley, white sails dotted the blue harbor. It wasn't much past 5 p.m. , so I wondered if it was a special event that got so many people out. No, just a regular Friday afternoon in summer, a fellow ferry passenger explained. Good job, Sydney boat owners. There is something so pretty and relaxing about seeing the white sails on the blue water.

Secondhand Books

Seeing a neighborhood like Sydney's Glebe Point Road gives me some idea of how golfers approaching a new course, enjoying a fresh take on familiar and welcome elements. Our stroll along Glebe Point Road showed it had good little groceries and cafes and signs for yoga classes, all the niceties a city neighborhood needs.
And, then came what my husband views as a sand trap for me -- a secondhand bookstore. I asked one of the employees about a 1987 book by Sally Morgan, a woman whose family hid their Aboriginal roots to avoid discrimination. The bookstore employee directed me instantly to the right section.
I had to climb a narrow set of stairs to get there, feeling a bit of nostalgia for all of the creaky floorboards I have stepped on in old houses and unfashionable storefronts converted to secondhand bookstores like that little place near Washington's Eastern Market and Victor Hugo on Newbury Street in Boston.

Vegging at the Observatory

David and I made the obligatory pass through the Rocks, a kind of touristy, kind of fashionable neignborhood something like Baltimore's Fells Point. The outdoor markets there sold the usual arts and crafts along with some neat Christmas ornaments based on weird Australian creatures, such as the koalas we'd seen at the zoo.

We also wandered over to Sydney's observatory, which we enjoyed greatly. There were exhibitions on local contributions and efforts in astronomy. A television played an episode from a very well done Australian Broadcasting Corp. series on Captain Cook, the English sailor credited with finding the east coast of the nation. David and I sat and watched it for about an hour, enjoying a nice t.v. break and waiting out a spot of rain on our Sunday in Sydney.