After sleeping for so long yesterday we were all nicely refreshed and ready for some sightseeing in Sydney. Rachel’s suitcase had turned up at the airport but wouldn’t be at the hotel for a few hours, so while she went off to get a warmer jumper & shoes I brought the kids to the playground (again!). The Darling Harbour area is lovely, with lots of pedestrian areas linking the various waterside restaurants and shops. The pathways are interspersed with interesting water features, and you quickly forget the roadways overhead.
It’s wierd having a low, winter sun but temperatures in the high teens. The weather is really mild with clear blue skies, light breezes, and no humidity to speak of. It’s such a contrast with China, where the temperatures were in the low 30s with 100%+ humidity. It’s a relief not to start sweating as soon as you leave somewhere air-conditioned
Sydney also really highlights how crowded and full of noise China is. Looking back I realise that I was stressed out a little by the press of humanity in the Chinese cities, the sheer difference and alienness of the place, and the inability to understand the language. At the same time there were several aspects of China that were familiar, especially in Shanghai, and the whole place was fascinating.
Whatever the reasons, I am much more relaxed here in Sydney. It has a strong European feel, but with American overtones. It has a clean, compact city centre that feels safe and friendly. I really like it We decided to hop on the Sydney Explorer city tour bus to find our feet and get our bearings. Before long we found ourselves approaching one of the most recognizable buildings in Sydney, if not the world – the Sydney Opera House.
The Opera House is built on a headland which gives great views of the harbour and the other famous Sydney landmark – the Harbour Bridge. While the Harbour Bridge is the largest single span metal bridge in the world, and is impressive enough, the Opera House is something else entirely. It took many more years to complete than originally expected, came in at more than 10 times over budget, the original Danish architect fell out with the Australian government and has never seen the building in person, but his vision of sails in the harbour that was so revolutionary in the 1950s is still breathtaking.
We went on a guided tour of the building, and the interior is a striking mixture of polished concrete and natural wood. There are a couple of smaller stages, and the two main halls – the Concert hall and the Opera hall. We saw the larger Concert hall which is approached round the sides via staircases that feel and look like a cathedral, and the lobby is at the back of the building, but with great views out over the harbour. The hall itself is magnificent, and we were allowed in to listen to a school choir doing some rehearsing. The acoustics are supposed to be excellent, and they sounded great to my untrained ear. I think it’s a wonderful building, a real modernist statement without being a stark concrete box, and it thoroughly deserves its place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
We ate lunch at the waterside on Circular Quay with the winter sun glinting off the water, fending off the scavenging seagulls. We strolled on up to the Museum of Sydney and spent an hour or so wandering around the exhibits. Adam & Cora had fun with activities prompted by a leaflet they each received as we went in, and the exhibits were interesting enough, and well presented.
We hopped back on the bus and travelled around the city, including crossing the Harbour Bridge. We saw most of the city centre and its environs, though it was dusk at this stage so it was hard to see some of the buildings properly. It seems like a lovely city.
We ended up back at Darling Harbour, and after a quick stop back at the hotel where Rachel’s bag had turned up, we went to yhe IMAX cinema to see the latest Harry Potter movie. It was AU$66 for us all, which was a bit steep to be honest. The movie wasn’t much bigger than most screens back home, and the 3D section at the end didn’t add much to the whole experience. However the movie was fine, enjoyable enough, and we returned to the hotel where the kids were asleep before long. Tomorrow we’ll continue exploring this lovely city.