Day 15 – Sydney

Today, we experienced our first overcast and rainy day on this trip. No worries, as the Aussies say! We had umbrellas and jackets, some with hoods, so we were nonplussed about heading out – especially because our first stop was the iconic Sydney Opera House. Even with sprinkles, it is quite a sight to see. We were given a special “behind the scenes” tour of the facility, which most tours do not provide. We were there only days after they celebrated its 50th anniversary to great fanfare.

Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon in a design competition, he created something very special, where millions flock to see each year. When it was started, there was a lot of political will and enthusiasm, built for over $100 million dollars (about $3 billion in today’s money). Eventually, when administrations changed, the enthusiasm changed and Utzon was pretty much ostracized, and quit. Three Sydney architects took over the completion of the building and in 1999, Utzon returned as the architect for a huge improvement project, including the Reception Hall.

We were allowed to go into the main concert hall, which seats just over 2,900 people. The acoustics are amazing, with innovative designs in the wood to move the sound in the auditorium from the hard wood on the walls to the soft wood of the seats so everyone can hear perfectly. Fifty years ago, this was unimaginable, but accomplished. Of course, the hall is not just used for opera but also for concerts of all kinds.

The smaller concert hall, named for opera legend Joan Sutherland, is mainly used for chamber orchestras and dance performances. It is beautiful but not as impressive as the larger hall. The roof, with its flying sail design, is made of reinforced concrete and custom-made tiles that repel water, shuttling it off to spaces between the concrete walkways and ultimately to the harbor.

Its proximity to the Sydney Harbor Bridge makes for a spectacular view. Many people pay a lot of money to climb the bridge, which is quite taxing although, no doubt, very rewarding. Supposedly, just walking across the bridge is amazing, although we did not have time to try this. Docked near the bridge was an immense cruise ship, housing over 6,000 passengers, plus crew. It was an overwhelming site. I can’t imagine what happens when they disembark and overrun the city.

From here, we went to check out Manly Beach. It is known for surfing but the surfers were scarce that day. It was raining, although I doubt that surfers care about that. We ate Chinese dumplings at a small restaurant overlooking the beach and had a giggle when we saw a gaggle of Chinese tourists leaving, all decked out in matching orange jackets and pink caps. I kidded our tour guide how we would all balk at having to wear identical jackets and caps – big time!

By the time we returned to the hotel, we decided to go to the Queen Victoria Mall to get something quick and easy to eat for dinner. It seems that most of the food places closed at 8:00, so we did a quick check and got some Asian food for takeaway (to go in our parlance). We took the food to our hotel and ate in the lobby with a beer from the bar. Another busy day…

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