The city with the famous opera house.
We landed at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, February 21, 2000. The flights were not too bad.
We were able to get a decent amount of sleep and get adjusted to the time change reasonably well. The plan was to stay
up as late as possible in order to get completely onto the Sydney clock.
In order to do that, we had to keep ourselves occupied. So, after checking into the
"Southern Cross", we got organized and struck out for the harbour. The hotel had a few unexpected quirks: no washcloths, 2 twin beds,
roasted tomatoes on the breakfast buffet and no huge selection of cable channels on the TV.
As we were walking along, we noticed that not only do folks drive on the left side of the
road, they also walk on the left side of the sidewalks. We kept running in to people. This explains the trouble we have with a few of our co-workers
who are from Britain: they are used to walking on the wrong side of a hallway. Escalators are also oriented differently.
Our first stop was at (surprise! surprise!) a bookstore. One of our favorite authors
(Elizabeth Moon) has a picture up on her site of a signing she did at Galaxy bookshop. We figured we
had to stop in, take a look around and pick up some works by Australian authors. In the process of doing so, we
discovered that part of the store's sign is visible during one of the scenes in The Matrix. We're going to
rent that movie to verify that information.
We had decided that visits to the local aquarium and zoo were tops on the list of things to do.
Given the fact that we were going to be in this country for three weeks, we decided it would be a good idea to be
able to recognize the various plants and animals that were around. In retrospect, we highly recommend this approach.
The Harbour Aquarium was a pretty neat place.
It would have been nicer if the air conditioning
had been working, but you can't have everything.
Darling Harbour Aquarium
Kim fell in love with the platypuses on display. We were both amazed that they weren't larger animals.
We were expecting them to be 3 to 4 feet long and they are actually about one foot long.
We arrived back at the hotel, attempting to collect ourselves before dinner. Unfortunately,
the dinner we collected ourselves for was the next day's. Jet lag caught up with us and we slept until the next morning.
Tuesday was the day for the Wynton Marsalis concert, so our trip to the Blue Mountains was
put off until Wednesday.
Therefore, today was the day for the zoo. To get there, a ferry ride is necessary, at least from the south side of the Harbour.
The ferry ticket booth sells ferry tickets that include the cost of entry into the zoo with the cost of a round-trip ferry ride.
It was about AUS$20 per person.
The Taronga Zoo is quite nice, even with all of the
construction in progress. Kangaroos, Emus, Red Pandas, Komodo Dragons, various snakes, lizards, birds were all on display.
Scott was really looking forward to seeing the Komodo Dragon since he'd missed seeing one at the San Diego Zoo.
The platypus display was livelier at the zoo than at the aquarium. They were swimming about quite energetically,
looking for the food that had just been put in the water as we walked by.
We walked back to the hotel, noting the fact that men's haircuts were available for
AUS$7. Prices for other items didn't seem to be nearly that reasonable. For instance, a full buffet for breakfast, in the hotel,
might run AUS$23 and Levi's jeans run about AUS$100.
Dinner was at Scruffy Murphy's, at neat little pub a couple of blocks from our hotel.
We were ahead of the crowd, if one ever showed up. They'd just recently opened up their more restaurant-like area
that they call "the Garden". The only part of the meal we really remember is the potato wedgies. In essence, they are
steak fries crossed with nachos. The bowl is full of steak fries with cheese and a huge sccop of sour cream. A neat thing
they offer on the menu is to make the wedgies with sweet potatoes instead of russets. We also tried a Victoria Bitter,
one of the Australian-brewed beers. Later experience would show that it is much better on tap than in a bottle.
The pub was showing a soccer match on one of the TVs while we ate. Kim and I don't know
much about soccer, but, 15 minutes after we sat down, Kim was yelling at the players, telling them what they were
doing wrong. She was mightily distressed at the poor defense that led to a wide open goal. She loves to coach!
Sydney Opera House
Having walked back from the area of the opera house, we decided to get back there we'd
take a taxi for AUS$8. Up close, the opera house is almost as interesting as it is from a distance. The floors
of the terraces around the structure are made out of some sort of granite type substance. The white of the opera
house is a cement tile. There are wide mortar lines between rows of tiles that are plainly visible up close,
but disappear at the right distance. There is a lot of cement in the structure, even on the inside. In the foyer,
there is too much cement and not enough sound absorbing material. The noise is overwhelming. Inside the concert
hall, the designers got it right. The acoustics are quite pleasant. The only problem we had with the concert that
evening was an electrical problem. The speaker facing us (behind the stage) was not connected during the first half
of the performance.
It was an interesting concert and, sitting behind the Duke Ellington Orchestra, we got
a slightly different perspective than most folks. When they started doing encores, we were able to determine when they
would come out and do another one and when they were quitting for good. We had a good view of the drummer and he put
on special shoes for the performance. When he switched back to his wingtips, we knew the concert was over.
The taxi ride back to the hotel was an experience. It's probably nothing compared to
some rides in New York, but it had Kim and I worried. Scared might be a more appropriate word.
We caught the train to the Blue Mountains/Katoomba the next day. After a 2 hour ride,
we started walking. Flocks of cockatoos were flying around! Definitely unexpected. We found the Grand Staircase and
started descending. 855 somewhat stable, somewhat slippery stairs later, we reached the ground. We decided that we
weren't going to climb those stairs to the top!
Wandering through the forest, our destination was the Lauryn Cascade. It's not big
enough to be called a waterfall, but it was still pleasant. I took off my shoes to cool my feet in the water and
to have my picture taken. Little did I know that, three hours later on the train, I would find a leech attached to
After the Cascade, it was time to start heading back. We had to do some climbing, but
not nearly as much. We took the Scenic Railway up most of the distance. The Scenic Railway is an electrically powered
collection of roller coaster-type seats that moves up the mountain at a 45° or 50° angle. Thank goodness for
the cage that keeps you in the seat.
Thursday was our final day in Sydney, and we had a few items left to buy. We managed
to pick them up fairly early on in the day. Dinner, we decided would be at a little place in the Glebe area of town.
This area was about a 30 minute walk from Darling Harbour, where we spent most of the day. When we got there, the place
recommended by the Lonely Planet guide was either not yet open, or permanently closed, we're not sure which. So, we
ended up at a little pizza and ribs joint on the main drag. The pizza was great, but the oven in the shop combined
with our long walk made the place a little too warm.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Leaving Glebe, we headed back to the Harbour Bridge. We had an appointment to climb
it that evening. The world's tallest steel span bridge has several hundred people a day paying at least AUS$75 each
to climb up to the top and look over the city. It's a gorgeous view, and the climb is not too strenuous. Still, you
can get a little warm making the climb, so we feel the best time to climb it is at night or on a very cool day.
On top of the bridge!
Next stop, Melbourne.