Sydney Part 1: Opera House, Botanic Gardens, Observatory

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April 6th 2018
Published: April 6th 2018
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Even though we were full of excitement and nervous energy, we actually managed to get a decent night's sleep ahead of our 30+ hour commute around the globe from Canada to Australia. One of the disadvantages of taking a year to research for a trip is that you end up over preparing, as well as imagining for all the things that could go wrong, so I was filled with intermittent bouts of travel anxiety. However, it all went according to plan: we got up like a shot at 5 am, Stu (Kevin's dad) was kind enough to wake up at the crack of dawn to drive us to the airport, the check-in was speedy and our first flight from Edmonton to L.A went off without a hitch. We had a 12 hour layover in Los Angeles (during which we ambitiously walked 90+ min to the nearest beach and back again), we boarded the Quantas flight that would take us the rest of the way to Australia, a 15 hour trip. Though we had a bit of trouble initially leaving LAX (a sick passenger was evacuated from the flight followed by a broken down tow truck blocking our way on the runway, setting us back almost 2 hours) it turned out to be one of the best flights we've ever had! We managed to get some quality shut-eye thanks to the sleeping "aid" we were given by Sharon (thanks, Mom!), were fed well, and caught up on the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (Larry David is my spirit animal). Pretty, pretty, pretty good. To top it all off, when we landed we managed to completely bypass the line at Australian customs due to a lovely airport employee who approved our Incoming Passenger Card right at baggage claim. After that, it was easy to catch the airport train to Central Station, then to our AirBnB in the Inner West suburbs to get ourselves settled in, rested up, and set up for a week exploring our first week in Sydney.

Jet lag is real; we were asleep by 8 pm after our arrival, but that set us up perfectly to tackle some sights early in the morning. Wide awake by 6 am we had some breakfast and set off for downtown Sydney around 9. Maybe it's because it's so iconic, but seeing the white sails of the Sydney Opera House appear around the corner as we rode the train into Circular Quay solidified the fact that we had actually made it to Australia. The building is so famous and for most people around the world it represents not just the city, but the country itself. Once we walked out of the train station, we got a full view of the scene. An impressive theatre standing on a massive fleet of steps, the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background and the oh so sparkling blue water in front of us. It was positively stunning to experience, and we weren't the only ones impressed. Tour groups, families and fellow tourists were taking pictures everywhere and we joined in. An absolutely enormous white cruise liner was moored alongside the dock opposite the Opera House, while it's passengers explored the city.

The previous evening we had booked a tour of the Opera House so we drifted on down the promenade to find our meeting point. I knew a bit about the controversies attached to the construction of the project including the fact that it went 20 times over budget and that the Danish architect was fired before he could finish it, but not that his original ideas were largely (completely) untested. When he submitted his concept he failed to include any engineering specifications, so no one knew the physics behind the white sails or how they could be installed, so they had to figure it out as it went with several redesigns. This method works well in Jazz, but not so great in architecture. All that history was very interesting, but was most engaging moments to us were the spaces themselves. Our guide let us in to some of the theatres where we got to see the Sydney Ballet warm up for the evening performance, saw their fantastic experimental Studio space and the set of one of the resident theatre's plays. This particular playhouse was on the lowest floor and actually under the water line of the harbour, where aluminum panels on the roof allowed the theatre to be naturally cooled by the water channeled through it. Seeing all this made Kevin and I want to jump up on the stage and start reciting all the monologues we have in our back pocket, but we resisted the urge. Being able to perform in this space would be absolutely wonderful. I mean, even the Green Room has a stunning view of the harbour! Also having been a Front of House Theatre Manager for the past two years made me greatly appreciate what it must mean to run a place like this. You've got multiple tours in multiple languages running all day, two concert halls, three stages, multiple foyers with performances running day and night! It was all very impressive and we were glad we got to take an inside look. Ticket prices are quite high, so I'm not sure if we will splurge on a show yet, though the temptation is great. Either way, it is an amazing site right on the water and was incredibly inspiring to visit.

After the tour we walked through the Botanic Gardens which are a stone's throw away from the Opera House. I mean, you've got to eat your sandwiches somewhere, am I right? It is so central and absolutely massive. We meant to just take a quick stroll and then head over to the Rocks, Sydney's oldest neighborhood, but it just kept drawing us in. Pieces of sculptures, hidden bamboo groves, strange little birds, and everywhere stunning views. The grounds were close to a naval base, and Kevin's jaw dropped when he saw not one, but two aircraft carriers moored on the far side of the grounds, with a destroyer and frigate nearby. I usually don't think to take pictures, but I couldn't help it.

Our legs were already pretty sore from our walk in LA, and we were slowly approaching our limit, but before we grew too exhausted we headed to the parks exit and set off towards the historic Sydney Observatory. Located at the highest point of the Rocks neighborhood and boasting even more beautiful angles of the skyline to admire, a wedding was being officiated on the surrounding grounds while we were there, and there was a small free museum to wander around in. The observatory was founded in 1858 and had been integral in the weather and timekeeping efforts of the early colonists. The building was full of relics from the time period, including original telescopes and different instruments for measuring rainfall and heat, time and humidity, however by this point the jet lag was beginning to weigh on us and we decided to call it. There is simply too much to see in one day and we have a week after all.

We plan on taking the next few days to explore the city more thoroughly. Tomorrow we are heading to the world famous Manly beach, where we will try our best to avoid vicious sun burns, but we are Canadians after all and there is only so much we can do in that regard. Sydney is beautiful, and it has made a strong first impression on us. We are so glad to be here, and can't wait to take a deeper dive into it in the coming days.


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