Sydney Opera House, by way of Circular Quay…

Monday, April 2

I tried to not take too many pictures, really I did, but it was nigh unto impossible. Because of this “problem”, some of my days will have to be divided into multiple posts. So, my five days in Sydney may take twice as long to write about on my blog. I know, I feel your pain. You’ll just have to suffer.

Monday morning didn’t start too early for me, and I almost got sidetracked by helping Rachael’s friends do a crossword in the dining room, at breakfast. I was particularly pleased over figuring out the word “prescient”, for one of the clues, and I think my tablemates were impressed.  : )

I made my way to the bus stop, and though the bus sign said “Circular Quay”, I still thought I was supposed to get off at Central Station. Considering I was headed to Circular Quay (that’s pronounced “key”, if you weren’t sure), this probably should’ve caught my attention, but it didn’t. In retrospect, I only noticed the bus sign out of the corner of my eye, so that may explain it. Fascinated by all the city scenery that was going by, which reminded me a lot of NYC, I missed the stop for Central Station. The bus driver told me we were at the Circular Quay stop, and though I felt a bit dumb, I smiled at him, knowing this was where I’d been headed.

Just on a random note, I’ve wished several times that I could look as trendy and stylish as some of the people around me. But then I wonder how you can wander all over the city, comfortably, when you’re dressed like some of them (short dresses, high heels). And I’m sure that my hat marks me as just down from the country, but I remembered that I am a tourist, so if I look like one, so be it.

If I had just come to Australia, a few weeks ago, I wouldn’t be aware of how badly you can get fried in the Aussie sun. I don’t particularly like wearing hats, as I like to get a tan on my face. I look stupid in baseball caps, too. But knowing what I do about that brutal sun, I wear my Akubra, and ignore any looks that might suggest people think I look like a hillbilly. Yes, I know my imagination is probably running away with me, but I think it quite possible that some city mice feel superior to the country mice that come along in their Akubras. Or just the tourists. I took comfort in knowing that my hat was the real deal, instead of like the fake ones that I saw in most of the souvenir shops.

Now, I just had to find the waterfront. I walked downhill towards a piece of sky with no buildings blocking it, and found myself at the Circular Quay Wharf and Train Station. Under the train station are plenty of touristy shops, in front of it are all the ferries, and to the left and right, the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.

I only got a slight glimpse of the above marvels, as I went to an information booth to ask about what was my best ticket for the buses, trains, and ferries. Then, I went and got an iVenture pass, which would allow me to get a good price on 5 main attractions in Sydney.

Taronga Zoo was not included in those five, but I was planning (originally) to visit WILDLIFE Sydney, the Sydney Aquarium, the Opera House, and two other interest spots. I thought climbing up the Harbour Bridge Pylon would be fun, getting to hear the history of the bridge, and take some pictures of it from a different angle. I could also go to the Maritime Museum, tour The Rocks district, or a few other places that I’ve forgotten.

Because it was there, and I wanted to see it right away, I began to walk towards the Opera House, stopping to listen to someone playing the didgeridoo, on the way. Of course, I took way too many pictures of the Harbour Bridge, on the way to the Opera House, but I tried to restrain myself.

By the way, if you look at my pictures of the Bridge, you might think they’re actually blurry, but they aren’t. If you’re looking at the roadway of the bridge, the “blurry” part is the curved fencing that will keep someone from climbing onto the road (or off the bridge). But if you look closely at the arch of the bridge, you can see the criss-cross design, and my later posts will show this better. So, acquit me of taking bad photos, please. I deleted between 50-100 photos, every evening, so I aimed to keep only the best.

On approaching that uniquely designed building, the Opera House, I found that a huge area in front of it was under construction. They’re building an access tunnel of sorts, in order that the stage crews can get their stuff into the building, much more easily.

Taking self-portraits can be a bit awkward, when you’re using a (not small) Nikon camera, but I’ve figured out how to do it. But while I was taking these pictures, a young man came up to me, seeing that we were in the same boat. He suggested we trade, he’d take some pictures with my camera, and I could take some with his. It seemed a fair swap, so we each have nice pictures of ourselves, with the Bridge in the background, as you’ll see.

It wasn’t until he walked off, that I realized he might’ve been American. Not that it really matters, but that’s how bad I’ve become at hearing the accents around me. I barely hear the Aussie accents, half the time, unless I’m really paying attention.

After taking a kajillion more pictures of the outside of the House, I finally figured out where to hand over my iVenture card, in order to get my ticket for the tour. After that, a visit to the restroom, and I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the bathroom.  : )

Thankfully, no one else was in there, so it didn’t get awkward with me taking those pics. But the sinks were so rippley, and they weren’t even “sinks”, exactly. And even the doors to the stalls were all rippley. As for the hand-washing area, they wouldn’t be the only sinks I saw of that type. Talk about easy to clean, with just a smooth or slightly wavy slab to clean! Sorry, former housekeeper speaking here.

While we waited for our tour guide, a lady took our pictures in front of a green screen, which were later turned into a package of photos, with me standing in front of various locations in and around the Opera House. I bought that package, as in some of those places, we hadn’t been able to take pictures inside.

When Dan, our guide, arrived, we were given headsets, so that he wouldn’t have to shout to be heard. We went in and out of the House, climbed tons of stairs, and were generally amazed by all the views. And the architecture, too, of course.

We got to watch a small video about the competition for best plans for the Opera House, and the decision to locate it on Bennelong Point. When Jørn Utzon’s plans were chosen, the original estimate was that it would take 3 years to build, and cost about 7.5 million dollars. I knew that it had taken longer and cost more, but I couldn’t recall the numbers.

Photos could be taken anywhere in the Opera House, except for in the theatres, because of copyright issues over any production that was on stage. We didn’t get to see the ballet/opera stage at all, because they were having dress rehearsals for La Traviata. Which is why I posted my tour photo of myself in the theatre, though I was only “green-screened” into it. But they told us that we get the copyright to our own pics, when we get the package.

In case anyone needs reminding, I haven’t forgotten how to spell, just because I’ve been in Sydney. In Australia, they spell the words “theatre” and “harbour”, instead of the Americanized “theater” and “harbor”. So, since I’m here, I try and use their spelling, though I’m sure I slip up now and then. But if it’s a title, as in the “Harbour Bridge”, I will always aim to spell it correctly, just like I hope everyone spells my name correctly. We don’t compromise on names, whether it’s a person or an object.

The second small theatre we went into was where they were performing MacBeth. Actually, Dan told us that they were having a production of a show that “begins with M, and ends with -acBeth”. Then, he went on to explain the curse of MacBeth, and how actors are very superstitious over saying that name in a theatre, before the show begins. I don’t believe in this curse, but Dan did point out that the show had been delayed for several days, because four of the lead actors had gotten food poisoning. So, you can decide for yourself, whether it’s true or not.

In the chamber orchestra theatre, we got a glimpse of one of the largest (if not THE largest) pipe organs in the world. I think he said it has 10,000 pipes, and it took ten years to put it together, and three years to tune. And if you remember the original estimate for how long the building would take to put together, then I can also tell you that the organ took at least half of the original budget, as well.

You’ll notice that I have a few pictures of people working industriously, cleaning the windows of the Opera House. That takes quite a while, I’m sure. But our tour guide explained to us how the roof tiles are a self-cleaning variety, so that when it rains, all the dirt just slides off easily. There are no gutters on the building, though, so if you happen to be in “Hurricane Alley” (as you can see, I’m taking the pic from between the “shells”, just above), or “the Cleavage”, as it’s also called, you’ll get just about drowned.

And the granite slabs that we walked around on, they have a little space between each of them, so the water just drains between the slabs, and back out into the ocean. Rather nifty, wouldn’t you say? Also, you may notice the photo of the roof tiles, with a bar at the top? They use that to rappel down, to replace fallen tiles, as well as setting off some of the fireworks, on New Year’s Eve. I don’t see how there’s room to put fireworks up there, but that’s what Dan told us.

There’s one photo that you may find confusing, with a panel that looks like you’re staring through it, down to the water, and yet you can see a clear delineation of the sky, a sharply cut edge to the “picture”, above that. I’m actually take that picture straight up, and the water reflection is coming off of a glass panel. If you look closely, you’ll see the roof of one of the “shells” above it. I thought it fascinating, but found the photo wasn’t exactly self-explanatory.

The final short video told us about how long it took to figure out how to build the Opera House, and the difficulties in the logistics of making it even possible to put those shells up. I won’t even attempt to explain it. I just know that Jørn Utzon was bloody brilliant. But sadly, things didn’t end well for him.

The government became upset with him, and how long the building was taken, so he ended up resigning. When, after it took sixteen years to finish, the Opera House was complete, Utzon never returned to see the completed building.

However, Dan assured us there was a happy ending, and he took us to the Utzon Room to show it to us. Though Utz0n never returned, thirty years after it was built, a new government invited Jørn Utzon to do some more design work for them. He was at least 80 years old, by then, so he did his designing from Denmark, and sent his son to oversee the work.

So, though he never saw the completed building, in person, Utzon’s mark was made, again and again, as several more of his designs were used inside the Opera House, and his son saw them put into place. Utzon died in 2008, but you could say that his honor had been restored to him, and we got to see the Utzon Room, which was one of his final works.

Also, the ongoing construction, outside, was also partly his design, so even if they keep to their budget and timetable, Utzon’s hand will continue to be felt in, and seen, all around the Sydney Opera House, for many years to come.

~

And now, I will stop, and you’ll have to come back tomorrow, to read about the rest of my first day in Sydney.

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