1 Qantas has extraordinary lounges wherever one flies. This is a small lounge in Los Angeles, where we had a brief stopover.
2 Kevin Sharkey accompanied me on this very short trip to Down Under. We flew courtesy of Qantas Airlines. In First Class you are given a little roomette in which to sit, lie down, sleep, watch movies, and eat.
3 Russell Simmons, hip-hop magnate and entrepreneur, one of the other speakers at the conference, flew on the same carrier. He, too, was very happy with the roomy situation.
4 After flying for 15 hours, we arrived at 8:30am on Saturday morning. These are some tall buildings as we drove through Sydney.
5 There are beautiful government buildings and wonderful trees everywhere. And, in December, it's summer south of the equator!
6 The traffic was light and the skyscrapers were high - a nice juxtaposition of old and new everywhere.
7 Just one of the many odd sightings - This lady was covered in the red and green reindeer antlers she was peddling.
8 The Shangri-La Hotel is the tall 36-story building on the left.
9 The sign at the entrance
10 The Shangri-la offers stunning views of Sydney Harbor. This is the spectacular view from my 35th-floor hotel room. The white 'winged' building on the promontory is the famous Sydney Opera House.
11 This is the historic Bronte House, owned by Matt Handbury and his wife, Clare Strang. It is shuttered, charming, and filled with antiques. The dog is one of Matt and Clare's extraordinary standard poodles.
12 lunch on saturday was at the invitation of Murdoch Books owner, Matt Handbury, who had hosted me on my last trip to Sydney years ago. he now lives in an historic house Bronte House, in Bronte
13 Matt's Senior Food Editor, Anneka Manning, cooked a most delicious lunch of local ingredients.
14 The sitting room with its marble mantle, high ceiling, and gracious proportions is comfortably furnished.
15 The dining room table was laid for lunch.
16 All of the walls are decorated with beautiful paintings.
17 There is also an eclectic collection of fine furnishings.
18 I loved this crystal and gilt chandelier in the shape of a giant balloon.
19 The kitchen shelf had many great cookbooks - most of them Murdoch publications.
20 Many walls are covered with vintage wallpaper and beautiful mirrors.
21 One feature of the old house that I particularly liked was the cupboard construction. In every room and hallway, glass-fronted or wooden-fronted cupboards were built right into the walls - a great use of otherwise wasted space.
22 The interior of one of those cupboards
23 The dining room had a great chandelier, as well as a handsome sideboard.
24 This Chinese lacquered corner cupboard was lovely.
25 For lunch, there was a delicious potato salad with creamy herbed mayonnaise.
26 And perfectly cooked sliced organic beef tenderloin
27 A crunchy salad of radish, celery, cress, and walnut
28 Matt, his son Keith, daughter-in-law, and Anneka on our walk around Bronte House gardens and down to the beach
29 The Eastern Terrace is secluded within a verdant and colorful tropical garden of palms, ficus, ferns, and other amazing trees and shrubs. The garden has most recently been cared for by landscape designer Myles Baldwin.
30 Another view
31 In the garden against a wonderful cloudy sky are two magnificent and 'protected' trees that tower over the property - a 100-year-old very rare Araucaria columularis or New Caledonian Pine and a giant leaning cedar.
32 Large magnolia grandifloras flanked the gates. Their huge waxy white flowers were just starting to open.
33 Obviously, a gardener was planning some new additions to the mix.
34 I must find out the name of this unusual palm tree. Does anyone know? Susan Sims said the mystery palm isn't a palm at at all. It's a Worsleya procera, or what's commonly called the 'Blue Amaryllis.' Many thanks!
35 Cordyline, succulents, ferns, and palms - all grow in this semi-tropical paradise.
36 Giant clam shells of all sizes, catch water for the birds and the dogs.
37 There are many sago palms in the gardens.
38 The bark of palm trees is so interesting.
39 There are so many fascinating textures and patterns.
40 Giant bromeliads have been planted under the shade of a huge ficus tree.
41 Birds' nest ferns grown to tremendous widths in the roots of the ficus.
42 Ponytail palms, with their bulbous trunks on either side of the walk
43 A bismarkia palm growing from a hollow in the cliff of sandstone, upon which the house is perched
44 I love these purple and green 'rose' succulents - I believe they are called Aeonium 'Chocolate Rose'.
45 Just a short walk down a steep hill, through a locked gate, and across a grassy field, leads you to the beach.
46 Where we found a lot of partying going on and a lot of grilling, too.
47 There were sandwiches being made on soft buns.
48 And lots of onions grilling slowly
49 Sausages and spicy chicken skewers
50 Hamburgers and weisswursts
51 And the glorious Pacific Ocean where surfers reign
52 Bronte Beach is one of the finest beach parks to be found. There are picnic shelters, barbecues, playgrounds, and of course, water!
53 This section of ocean, called Nelson Bay, has great waves.
54 There are also great cliffs for hiking.
55 Back at Bronte House gardens - a wonderful fountain and water garden
56 These stairs were carved right out of the sandstone cliff.
57 Another look at those giant potted bromeliads
58 Agapanthus flowers circle the lawn.
59 This is the backside of the house, built of sandstone with a slate roof, facing the entertaining lawn.
60 A handsome lantern
61 Datura grows well in at Bronte House
62 After our beach walk/romp, the two poodles felt the need for a rest.
63 After a lovely lunch and visit, it was time to depart.
64 This was the view from my room on Saturday evening - a full moon, sparkling lights, warm temperatures, and mostly cloudless. The harbor is always alive with ferries, private yachts, steamers, tourist ships, and more.