Hong Kong, Australia and Fiji - November 2006 travel blog

Opera House and bridge

Sydney Opera House

Majestic Sydney Opera House from the bridge

The weather here in Aus seems to go from the sublime to the ridiculous - we had 15 degrees in Tasmania earlier in the trip ("unseasonably cold" so we were told everywhere we went, necessitating long trousers and jumpers) to a high of 38 degrees here in Sydney today. Even Sydney is having odd weather - it's the hottest November temperature for nearly 40 years, and yet here they had the coldest November day for over 100 years last week.....

Anyway, yes, we've made it to Sydney. We spent our first afternoon wondering around, and had dinner at Circular Quay, eating outside at a restaurant by the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and overlooking the Opera House- so, as you can imagine we had fantastic views enjoying the warm evening weather.

Today we've done all of the major touristy things. Firstly, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can do a "Bridge Climb" - right along the top! However, not being a great one for heights, we didn't fancy that, PLUS you couldn't take a camera in case it dropped onto the traffic below! So, instead we went and climbed the 200 steps at Pylon lookout - it's inside one of the stone pylons of the bridge, and contains an exhibition and history of the construction of the bridge. The bridge was designed and built by a firm in Middlesborough (little known fact 2: Tim's granddad was in the merchant navy, and helped transport some of the ironwork from the UK). The bridge opened in 1932, taking seven years to build. 1400 people were employed at the busiest point of construction. The views from the top, as expected, were spectacular - looking out over the opera house, but also getting a real sense of the size of the Sydney area and the way it has developed around the water with its many inlets.

After the bridge, we split up as Tim & Angie have been to Sydney before. We went and did the Opera house tour - which was an hour long with a fantastic guide. Although one of those instantly recognisable buildings, we never knew that it actually contains lots of theatre and performance spaces, including 2 full size halls. In the largest, which has 2200 seats, we were very privileged to watch the full Sydney symphony orchestra, along with a choir, practicing Rackmaninov, which starts tomorrow and is completely sold out. In the second, slightly smaller hall, we got to see the Australian Ballet practicing. Evidently not everybody who does the tour is so lucky! The Opera House was first designed by a Dane back in 1956, and it was thought it would take 4 years to build at a cost of $7 million AUD . It eventually opened in 1973 - 14 years late at an actual cost of $101 million AUD. The difficulty was that it is a free standing structure with a complex shape - it has no internal columns holding up the roof, and was built using concrete - all new and untried techniques 50 years ago. However, the halls have fantastic acoustics and great views from every seat. Lots of wood has been used inside - Anne thought it was a bit different to the Buxton Opera House!

We then took a short ferry ride round to Darling Harbour to visit the aquarium. This is huge, with large pools that have clear tunnels underneath that you walk through as the fish swim over and around them. Very cool, although I do feel slightly sorry for some of the bigger fish that we saw that are used to ranging for miles in open ocean - like the sharks (grey and nurse sharks, some 8 feet long) and sting rays (6 feet across).

To complete over "touristy" day in Sydney we've booked dinner at "360" the revolving restaurant at the top of the Sydney Tower. The tower looks down on the city, and we should be able to watch the sunset and the lights while enjoying some good food. More later.

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