I’m pretty sure I am officially the most spoilt person to turn 40 last Thursday. It’s almost certain. And whilst I am usually quite good at keeping on topic with my gardening blog, perhaps you will let me re-live a very special 72 hours and indulge me just this once.
My birthday started, after numerous delightful phone calls, messages and a flower delivery, with a trip of a lifetime in a seaplane.
I’m not a great ‘flyer’ but ever since we moved to Sydney I have gazed with longing at the seaplanes over the harbour. Today was the big day I got to go up in one.
And not just go up in one, but co-pilot one.
Co-piloting was quite a responsible job. I had to sit up at the front with the pilot, take hundreds of photos out of the window and avoid leaning on the controls too often. But I was up for the challenge!
It was quite a cloudy day, but visibility was still good and as we took off I was on a huge high. I don’t know why, but somehow it wasn’t in the slightest bit scary. It was just the biggest thrill in the world.
Sydney on a cloudy day is not the same as Sydney on a sunny day. It didn’t detract from my trip but it’s hard to show the true beauty of the city in photos. However, this shot above, of boats and beaches, harbour and ocean, filled in between with Eucalyptus and Ficus trees is just so Sydney. So stunning.
We landed at Palm beach to drop off two other couples, and then pilot, co-pilot and husband carried on their way to the Central Coast.
It was the most decadent experience I have ever had. By now in our personal aircraft, we came in to land in the waters of Hardys Bay, where upon a bright blue water taxi pulled up alongside the seaplane. Our bags were transferred over and on we stepped, for the two minute ride to the wharf.
Here, a man from our hotel picked us up and drove us to the door of the room where we would stay that night.
The gardens at Bells took my breath away. They were quite unusual in many ways, and I had an ah-ha moment working out why they worked so well. A whole blog post is in progress on the gardens.
We had a delicious meal that evening and the following morning went down for a walk through the bush to Maitland Beach. Oh, so many photos to show you of this walk……another blog post coming up soon!
It was my birthday again that day. Paul had foolishly pointed out that due to the 11 hour time difference with the UK, in fact I wasn’t 40 until 6 February here, so I could claim birthday privileges all over again.
Our journey back was the same in reverse. As we approached the wharf a man rowed past in a beautiful, simple, wooden rowing boat. A father was fishing with his young son nearby. I had this moment of longing for a simple, rural life. But then I realised that it was hard to travel by seaplane too often, living the simple life. Oh, the conflict.
As we watched our seaplane come in over the hills, I really felt this was the only way to travel (if only!). It certainly beat fighting my way through Heathrow two hours before the plane was due to depart.
On the way back a 1961 De Havilland Beaver came to pick us up. None of this $2m Cessna luxury this time. I was really wishing he hadn’t told me the plane was older than I was (which by now, was pretty old; I had ticked over the 40 mark by every definition) before we left, but actually I felt entirely safe. I was co-piloting again, after all!
It was wonderful that the sun was out today and the water looked bluer than ever.
We waved goodbye to the peaceful Central Coast and started another exciting journey back to the city. We were very lucky that by chance, we were the only ones on the plane again.
Palm Beach looked stunning with the surf and sand and green, green hinterland.
We got an amazing view right the way down the northern beaches; pockets of sand in every bay, with the city skyline on the horizon.
And to our left, just the blue, blue ocean stretching out to, well, next stop Hawaii.
If you have been to Sydney, you will almost certainly have visited Manly. Here it is from a slightly different angle. The beach on one side, the harbour on the other and beyond it, you can see the city, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, if you look closely on the left.
As we approached North Head, at the entrance to Sydney Harbour, I was sad that I knew we were nearly home. But a bit of sweet talking and No.1 pilot said that we could do another loop of the Opera House and bridge.
It was another of those pinch-myself Sydney moments as we looked out over the city in our little private plane.
I was so sad that it was over, but my darling husband had also planned a party for me the following day, so there was still much to look forward to.
We had about 50 friends to our house. The sun shone and it was such a lovely feeling to be surrounding by my very favourite people, milling around in our garden. I can also thoroughly recommend to anyone born in the Northern Hemisphere in February, that they look to move south, quick smart. Birthdays dramatically improve on the other side of the world.
April Maze, an outstanding, Top 100 Spotify band came to play a concert, in our kitchen. Truly surreal. They are the most lovely couple and everyone adored them. In fact some of my friends liked them so much they have since bought tickets to see them again tomorrow evening in Canberra on the first night of their new tour. An incredibly talented couple, who fortunately love to do house concerts.
I really did feel like the luckiest person in the world. Wonderful friends who have welcomed me to this wonderful country, which I have entirely fallen in love with. I live in (arguably) the most stunning city in the world and life is very different to when I turned 30, with my single, corporate (although at the time, exciting) life.
I’d like to turn 40 every day please. But if that’s not possible, frankly, everyday life as a garden designer in Sydney is pretty amazingly special. Happy, lucky, lucky me.