Guy playing the didgeridoo
Landing into Australia I had been warned by people that they can be very strict about food products being bought into the country, you have to declare everything or risk being fined. They were also very particular about soil getting into the country, on the form it stated are you bringing into the country hiking boots that might contain soil on the soles it must be declared. They carried out stringent checks at the exist gates with x-ray checks and some searching too.
Instructions in hand I followed Mimi's directions to her designated station. Cost $16.80 to westmead station out west. The cost of this is more expensive than a usual train ticket as it covers the airport exit. Take the green line to Central station and change there for the yellow western line.
The rocks markets
The whole journey took over an hour. This is in the suburbs of Sydney
, very residential, very quiet place. I had time to dump my things, shower and then out again.
This time I got the day tripper ticket $17.90, this covers the trains, the ferries and the bus services. I thought it would be useful as I would be roaming around town all day. My first stop circular quay, this is where all the ferries take off and the closest station to the habour for views of the bridge and the opera house. On exiting the the station I could hear a didgeridoo, so I followed the sound and saw a guy dressed in an Aboriginal outfit, he was busking under the bridge and had captured the interest of quite a large crowd.
Sydney Opera house
From the bridge I went into the Rocks area to find the weekend markets. There was food, gifts, trinkets, jewelry and some clothes. It was hard to enjoy with the heavy rain beating down onto me. Before long the whole market was filled with huge umbrellas. After having a browse, I decided to head back to the quay and catch a ferry to Taronga zoo. On the walk down to the quay the rain fall started to get much heavier. I had just missed the Taronga zoo ferry and as I sat waiting I decided that the zoo in this weather would probably not be a good idea as I'm not sure how the animals would behave in such heavy rain. Instead I decided to take a short ferry ride to North Sydney
and back via Kirribilli, to catch the sites of the governors house from a distance.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The round journey didn't take long, maybe about 1/2 hr. It was actually from the water that I got a view of the Opera house and the harbour bridge. I expected the Opera house to take my breathe away but it didn't. The Opera house had a slight brown tinge to it. I had read in the book that the Opera house isn't bright white as most people expect but this was a real shock to me to see what I thought was a slightly dirty shell. I took pictures of it from the ferry while on the water, the rain really lashed it down so some of them might have come out a little hazy. The view of the harbour bridge was also good from the water. I took some pictures of it from this angle too.
Once off the ferry I decided to do the Opera house guided tour today, seeing as it is indoors and would allow me to escape the pouring rain.
The Governor's house
I walked up the stairs and through what I thought might be the main entrance. The atmosphere was buzzing as soon as I walked into the foyer. There was a recess from one of the performances and the foyer was filled with people in dressed in their best outfits, men in tuxedos and women in cocktail dresses. The whole place just light up for me and had a really grandeur feeling. They were sipping champagne and happily chatting. I made my way downstairs to the booking and enquiries desk. I booked the 4pm guided tour even though I had to wait and hour and a half, the women advised me that if i took an earlier tour it would mean that I would miss out one of the big theatre rooms as it was in use right now. You might as well wait for all the performances to finish since you have to pay $35 for the tour.
Sydney Opera house
Luckily I had grabbed a guidebook from the airport and managed to score a 20% off voucher so only paid the $28. There are two shops in the Opera house that sell souvenirs of the place. There is a small shop upstairs on the same level as the bookings and enquiries desk but also a bigger shop downstairs. The goods in here are overpriced but if you want a genuine Opera house souvenir than I guess this is the place to get it. I bought a 3d wooden puzzle of the Opera house, it looks fairly complicated and intricate to put together, it cost $30, very over priced but I decided I wanted the real thing.
At 3.50pm the guide is ready and waiting for us at the meeting point. She hands out all the audio equipment and does a tester to make sure that everyone can hear her.
The designer projected on the lego style bricks
Of course there are a few late comers and we end up waiting for them to get set up before we can start the tour. Our guide Sue, is very chatty and friendly and she leads us up into the ticket box office, where it leads right into the play house. The entrance/waiting area of the play theatre had recently been reburbished. New wide windows had been put in to allow more light in and more importantly to allow people to see the views outside onto the harbour, previously this had been all concrete walls and artificial lights were used to light the area. The play theatre has a small stage, the theatre is black but the seats are red. This used to be a movie theatre, surfers used to come straight in from the beach to catch a movie. They'd leave a trail of sand all over the place.
The opera theatre foyer
Small productions are held here, currently performing was a marionette show. All the marionettes were all on stage some of them with not much clothes on and the guide informed us that it was quite and explicit play.
We made our way up the stairs to the bigger theatres. The hall was lined with thick velvety purple carpet. We sat on the stairs and watched a movie about the designing and the making of the Opera house, part 1. The government were holding a competition for a design of the future Opera house. Most of the entrants had designed square, circular or rectangular buildings. All very conventional designs. The winning design happened to be a late entrant but also originally a rejected entrant. This is how we have the Opera house that stands before us today.
The opera theatre foyer
A lot more work was needed to get this design to reality. An estimate of 3yrs and 7 million dollars was put against this building design. Lots of planning and architectural input was required as everyone believed that this would be impossible to build... to be continued.
The next part of the tour covered the musical theatre. The stage was down below with all wooden panelling to gain better acoustics. Every bit of the design was used to enhance the acoustics of the theatre. The seats are cushioned as it can absorb sound, so even if the seat is empty it can still absorb as much as a real person, which allows a balanced sound. The wood panelling is a combination of soft and hard wood. The doughnuts on top help reflect the sound back down onto the orchestra so that they can hear themselves, without having to wait for the sound to travel right up to the top of the ceiling and back again.
Next stop the ballet / opera theatre. Here the theatre can seat 1500 people. The stage is pretty big but the wings are small. The orchestra seated directly below it a netting to catch anyone that happens to fall off the stage. The box seats in this theatre is the cheapest as it is the worst views in the house. They were placed there as there was pressure to have a total of 1500 seats. Also the sir titles are projected onto the top fo the protruding wall above the stage. This is for the English translation for any opera's that are not performed in English. Again the cheaper seats are on one that have less view of these titles. Once we fininised the tour of the theatres we watched the second part of the design and making movie.
The project got delayed for longer and longer periods of time as they were still unsure of how to fit the building together. Eventually the designer had the idea of lego building blocks and suggested that the brick work would literally fit togther like building blocks. This method seemed to work. During the course of the building of the Opera house the designer and the politics of the place fell out and the designer decided to resign and leave Australia for good. A new group of designers were bought in to finish the interior designs. The project was completed after 16yrs and 100's of millions of dollars spent. The Sydney Opera house opened in 1973 by the Queen. The Opera house has also been recently awards the Unesco world heritage, the youngest of them all.
Overall the Opera house still managed to maintain its grandeur for me after visiting the inside. The outside as explained by the guide tends to change colour due to the colour of the sky, clouds and sunshine. At the moment it was still affected by the sand storm and so still had that dusty look to it.
Next back to Westmead to meet Mimi for dinner. She took me out locally near her suburb, a place called Paramatta. We dined in a friendly Thai restaurant, it was cheap and tasty and the service was fast. We went to a bar around the corner for drinks, Lowenbrau, Octoberfest. The waiters and waitresses were dressed in traditional German dress lederhosen and all. I had flavoured beer to get into the spirit of things.