Sunday, January 2, 2011

View from the beach towel

View from the beach towel
January 2nd -- summer holidays -- 30 degree heat again -- ladies lunch = Balmoral Beach., the other one.
The more observant amongst you blog followers might notice the way in which Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert seem to pop up frequently in these posts. This, I assure you, is purely chance. Today we have another such serendipitous instance: Balmoral Beach, in Sydney's north, is named after Balmoral Castle in Scotland, an estate purchased by - you guessed it - Prince Albert. However, apart from some kind of sentimentality, I can see no reason why the beach - quintessentially Australian - should have acquired this name, so we will leave the subject of Prince Albert (until he pops up again, at least).

Shirley on the Esplanade,shaded by lovely old fig trees
Apart from providing a spectacular foreground view for some spectacularly expensive real estate, Balmoral beach has some quirky history. In 1923-24 the Theosophical Society built an ampitheatre here, known as the 'Star Ampitheatre'. It was demolished in 1951, but not before it spawned a story that it was built to host the second coming of Jesus, who, it was thought, would walk across the water and through the Heads, visible from the beach. Wikipedia does not record that Jesus ever arrived, so I'm assuming He didn't. It was once possible to take the tram from the city, across the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge (which originally had two tram lines) all the way to Balmoral Beach. (May the idiots who tore up Sydney's tramlines receive their just desserts.)

Annet & Shirley locator; Balmoral Beach

The beach side park features a white classical rotunda, which forms a useful 'stage' for the summer 'Shakespeare By The Sea' performances (started in 1987). Sadly, it appears that 2011 will the last season for these shows - opening 14th January, so hurry to catch them if you are in Sydney
.…Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange… (from 'The Tempest')
Near the Rotunda there is a statue of a Billy, a faithful dog who accompanied his master, a street sweeper, for 17 years....awww...

Balmoral also boasts a small island called Rocky Point which lies a few metres off shore and is reachable by a quaint stone foot bridge. Rocky Point is an ideal spot to eat your gourmet fish and chips and champagne picnic: the fish-and-chippery nearby, named Bottom Of The Harbour (you have to be a Sydney-sider of a certain generation to appreciate that name) is said to be excellent.

Our lunch table, with cocktails du jour. Best seat in the house.

Front door of the Bathers' Pavilion -
close enough to the beach for you?
Nearby, the Bathers' Pavilion , once home to, presumably, bathers, now houses a gorgeous restaurant. You can choose from fine dining (book ages in advance), or queue up like Shirley and I did today and wait, oh, ten minutes or so (have a caprioska and margarita like we did while you wait) and eat similarly excellent food in the casual cafe. As the website says:
Food in the cafe and the renowned fine dining restaurant is carefully managed by Montreal born chef Serge Dansereau, with a menu that is responsive to seasonal offerings, treasures of the deep and European culinary traditions.
Plus, we had very cleverly taken the bus (No. 257 if you need it) from Cremorne right to the beach (just like the tram in the old days), so we didn't have to deal with the horrendous parking issue, and could indulge in another summer cocktail. I am still congratulating myself on our cleverness in this respect.

After lunch we joined the various bodies on the sand - fat and thin, young and old, brown and white (I will leave you to guess to which categories I belong) - and took to the sea, pleasantly if briefly. My new swimsuit is officially christened.

Fortunately, Balmoral is a quiet and sheltered little beach, and seems unattractive to sharks, unlike some other beaches around Sydney. Palm Beach was closed briefly the other day after a suspected shark-spotting; some Sydney beaches are 'netted' (a grey nurse shark became entangled in the net at Bondi recently); and there are shark-spotting helicopters on duty. 330 people were evacuated from the water at Trigg Island Beach in Perth the other day, after three sharks were spotted ('shark sighting in Perth').

Kids at Balmoral Beach, Jan. 2

And here, better late than never, is my New Year's Resolution:

Map from:
Balmoral Castle from:

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