WARRNAMBOOL, AUSTRALIA — We spent an afternoon along a beautiful bay today, and Torsten even lasted a whole hour on the beach.
Beth loves everything about beaches — the white noise of waves and children playing, the feel of warm sand on your backside, the people-watching and, of course, floating in cool water, gazing up at the sky.
Warrnambool happens to have a fantastic beach, and quite a few people were there on a Thursday afternoon in early fall, enjoying sun and gentle rollers. An entire stand-up paddleboard class paddled by, apparently beginners, because most of them were on their knees.
A lot of swimmers were in wetsuits, so Beth almost didn’t go in, but when she did, she was surprised that the water wasn’t that cold. She was also surprised to see on a map that she was swimming in the Southern Ocean, never having heard of it before.
Torsten doesn’t like sitting on sand beaches — too hot, no shade. He also wasn’t wild about a stroll on the city’s Foreshore Promenade, for the same reasons, but he did it anyway.
First, we treated ourselves to a little snack on the deck of Simon’s Waterfront, next to the Surf Life Saving Club. Torsten had a pineapple and coconut Bundaburg soda and a fancy dome of iced chocolate cake with toffee garnish. Beth had a small bag of potato chips with a 10-ounce glass of pale ale, which here is called a “pot” — a schooner is 15 ounces, and a pint is 20.
The promenade follows Lady Bay on a paved path through scrub and sand, and we could tell we were in Australia because the Surfside Hazards signs listed snakes — coastal taipan, one of the world’s deadliest. We didn’t see any, but we did see a winged insect hauling a massive Huntsman spider off the path.
We turned around at Granny’s Grave, the first burial site of a European, likely an ex-convict. That’s also where we had a nice chat with Tim and Martine, who had passed us on bicycles and struck up a conversation when we caught up with them. They’re Brits who immigrated to Australia in 1978 and obviously have adopted the national habit of friendliness and curiosity about strangers.
By the time we got back to the surf club, half the town had come to the beach, including a children’s surfing class. On the other side of the point, even more people were wading in the shallows around Middle Island.
The island is off-limits to the public because Little Penguins breed there, protected by two big white Maremma sheepdogs. By 2005, foxes had reduced a colony of 500 penguins to 10. A local free-range chicken farmer proposed bringing in Maremmas, who are bred to protect livestock, and no penguins have been lost since they came to live on the island.
For dinner, we drove back to Liebig Street and ordered takeout from Piccolo — duck risotto with prosciutto, mushrooms, spinach and carmelized onion; penne with roasted butternut squash, pine nuts, red peppers, mushroom and spinach; and a Greek salad.
Belatedly, we’d realized that in Australia, you’re charged quite a bit less for food you take away — we assume because a living wage for servers is built into restaurant prices here, unlike in the United States, where servers earn most of their pay from tips.
We ate our meal on our patio at home, then went back to the harbor to watch the sunset, which the young women outside the crepes shop had raved about the day before. A few families were still swimming despite the evening chill; clouds had mostly obscured the sunset, so we watched them instead. Aussies are sturdy people.
Then we headed for home, but only one of us got out of the car. The other one went back to Liebig Street for a Nutella and banana crepe — his reward for putting up with the beach-lover in the family.