Monday-Tuesday January 21-22, 2008 – Sydney, Australia
Our time in Sydney was quickly running out and we decided that it was finally time to take a tour of the cities’ iconic Opera House. Before we could indulge our cultural sides though, we had a little business to take care. You see, the Green Bay Packers were playing the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game (American Football). Unfortunately, my beloved Packers lost and the entire day was tainted with Brett Favre’s overtime interception that cost my team the championship. Despite wanting to sit around the room feeling sorry for myself, we finally did make it outside towards the Sydney Opera House at around 3:30pm on Monday.
The walk from our hotel in Darling Harbour to the Opera House took around thirty minutes putting us there right after 4pm. Unfortunately this meant we were not going to make the planned 4pm tour, but the nice women in the ticket booth said she could secure us 4:30pm tour tickets. She then went on to say that the main halls would be closed due to rehearsals, so Jasmine and I went back and forth as to whether or not we should purchase the tickets. Finally, we decided that we wanted to see the main halls and decided to come back for a Tuesday morning tour instead.
Given that we had just made the rather lengthy journey from our hotel all the way down to the Opera House, it didn’t make sense to turn right around, so we decided to take a stroll through the Sydney Botanical Gardens located nearby. By this time the weather had turned pretty nasty and we found that we had almost the entire gardens to ourselves.
Surrounded by giant spiders hanging on the trees and bats flying overhead, we took an hour meandering our way through the stunning gardens located in the heart of Sydney’s Central Business District. While the location is spectacular by itself, the gardens are among the best I have ever visited. If you are visiting the Opera House or any other locale in this area, make sure to stop by for a quick stroll at the very least.
With the weather still not cooperating, we headed from the gardens back to Chinatown to finish our day with a quick meal in one of the areas many food courts. Given that we were leaving for Newcastle on Tuesday afternoon, we decided to pack everything up, since we had an early morning tour of the Sydney Opera House and a quick visit to the Sydney Chinese Garden planned for Tuesday morning before our two hour train ride.
With a full itinerary in front of us, we checked out of our hotel early Tuesday morning and stored our bags with bell services. Just as we did Monday night, we quickly made the long walk to the Sydney Opera House ticket booth and this time purchased our tickets for a full tour including one of the main halls! We arrived at the Opera House around 9:57am and were quickly given tickets for the 10am tour. After a bit of running and searching for the tour start location, we arrived at 10:01am and the tour began shortly thereafter.
The tour started in the basement with a short overview and history of the building before making its way upstairs. Our first main stop was the concert hall where we were allowed to sit in on a rehearsal. This allowed us to hear first-hand just how wonderful the acoustics are in the building! After five minutes of taking in the phenomenal sound, we moved on to the Opera Hall and then to one of the three small theaters located downstairs.
While we were only able to take pictures in the lobbies, I can attest to the fact that the venues inside are superb. As the tour continued and we saw more of the building, we continued to be in awe of how beautiful it is on both the inside and outside. One interesting fact we learned on the tour was that the color of the building’s iconic tiles is actually tan. Not only did our tour guide tell us this, but we were easily able to see it when looking at the building up close.
We finished our tour around 11am and thanked our tour guide before speed walking towards Darling Harbour where we wanted to visit the Sydney Chinese Garden. After paying admission, we were treated to the largest and prettiest Chinese Garden we had visited thus far. We also decided to splurge a little and pay to have Shawn Reece dressed up in traditional Chinese clothing. Before long we were in a small wooden building full of traditional looking clothing and Shawn Reece was excited.
The nice man who rented out the clothing began to dress Shawn Reece and mistook him for a little Chinese boy. Jasmine and I found this quite funny and Shawn Reece was a bit embarrassed. Since we were paying for this, we took Shawn Reece to every corner of the garden and took pictures of him in the Chinese garb. Of course, we also took time to enjoy this oasis found right in the middle of Sydney. Our previous fast pace of walking around the city afforded us extra time and we took all of it. Eventually though Shawn Reece returned to his normal clothing and we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags.
Without much time and unsure of the exact location of the station, we quickly left the hotel and made our way to the train station. It turned out to be easier to find than we thought and in the end we waited about an hour for our northbound train to Newcastle. The trains to Newcastle are considered commuter trains and consist of double decker cars, many of them in pretty rough shape. While the trains weren’t the best, the journey took us near the shore several times and through the lush green countryside, so we could not complain. We had already booked ahead at the YHA hostel in Newcastle and when we arrived it was easy enough to find and we settled in quickly.
Sydney is a magical Sydney and I understand why it has such a wonderful reputation among both travelers and locals. While I think I like Melbourne more as a city, Sydney certainly is a tourists dream and we could have easily spent several more days taking in all of the sights. Seeing the Opera House and everything else Sydney had to offer was an inspired experience and although the weather was less than stellar for most of our time there, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
The Coomer Family