Before we left home we had arranged with a friend of one of Pat’s former co-workers to meet her for tea in Sydney. Since she lives near the Sydney Zoo, we planned to visit there first. Since we now understood the lay of the land a bit better, we figured we could also visit the Opera House before taking the Ferry over to the Zoo. So after a nice English breakfast (love those baked tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans), we strolled down George St. toward Circular Quay at 9am along with all the Sydneysiders going to work. Lots of hustle and bustle but it was a pretty easy walk. We were able to scout out which ferry went to the zoo and then walked around to Bennelong Point where the Opera House is located. We were able to buy tickets for a tour starting in just a few minutes, so off we went. We had lots of surprises in store. The first we had already noticed, like most everybody in the world, we’ve see pictures of the Opera House from lots of different angles and times of day but the one constant is the bright white color of the roofs. Well
Interior of the Opera House
outside the Concert Hall looking down the steps
up close and personal, the roofs are actually covered with ceramic tiles that are two different colors – cream and light tan.
More on the construction in a bit, but first the general layout. There are two main buildings, both roughly oval. The western building (the one closer to the Harbor Bridge) holds the big Concert Hall and three small venues on the lower level while the eastern building holds the Opera Theater. They are only about 20 feet apart so they look like one building in pictures. There is a third smaller building on the city end of the Point which contains a very good (we’re told) restaurant. Now the construction, in the mid 50’s there was a world-wide design competition which was won by a then unknown Danish architect Jorn Utzon based on basically a series of rough sketches and not a lot of engineering detail. When it came time to actually construct the roofs, no one on the job could figure out how to do it, until one night Utzon had an inspiration. Every roof section from the center line of the building down to the ground is a piece of one sphere. This means they
all have a constant (and equal) radius and could be assembled on framing ribs which only had to vary in length. Anyway, by 1973 (13 years and millions of dollars over budget) it was done. By the way Utzon, got pushed out by the NSW government so the interior was completed by a committee of local architects and isn’t nearly as inspiring as the exterior, although Utzon did hire the acoustic engineer to design the interior of the venues, and he got that very right, the acoustics are nearly perfect. As I said, the exterior of the roofs are covered with over 1 million ceramic tiles which alternate with a glazed and flat finish which gives the “sparkle” you sometimes see.
As our tour progressed, we were able to enter the Concert Hall where the Sydney Symphony was practicing and listen to their performance for ten or fifteen minutes. We also saw the three smaller venues but couldn’t see the Opera Theater because they were doing a children’s performance. We were also able to walk around the outside area some and see how it connects to the rest of the city. One last good idea, since they don’t want
the docents having to shout at the groups at the beginning of the tour, we were issued a headset connected to a little fob on a lanyard we wore around our necks, the fob was a Bluetooth receiver and the docent had a mic and transmitter keyed to the specific units of her group. We could hear everything she said and she didn’t have to work to make herself heard.
After the tour we walked back to Circular Quay and bought tickets on the #2 Ferry for the Taronga Zoo. Once we crossed the harbor and rode the bus up to the top of the bluff where the Zoo entrance is located, we started working our way through the zoo. Yesterday, one of the disappointments at the Aquarium was that the Platypus tank appeared to be empty (I’m sure they were hiding in there someplace), but at the Zoo they were out in full force so we got to see our fill. The Zoo has a full range of animals in its collection, but we decided to concentrate on the Australian animals on the theory that we could see lions and tigers in the US. Fortunately, they have organized
all the Australian animals in one section so it was pretty easy to see everything we wanted to in a couple hours. As you can see from the pictures, we got to see most of the unique critters on this continent.
We had planned to meet Ann at 3pm by the main entrance, and amazingly that worked out just fine and she gave us a quick tour of Mossman on the way to her house where we met her husband Malcolm. He’s a world class ceramic artist and she’s a consultant and they met at the U of Mass in Amherst before settling in Sydney about 30 years ago. He’s also the family cook and had made some wonderful scones which they served with clotted cream and jam and, of course, tea. We had a wonderful visit on their back deck then Ann drove us back to Sydney over the Harbour Bridge. We had her drop us off at the Bridge Museum so we could do a quick tour. The famous Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb leaves from the same area, but the cost is about $300 each and we were starting to fade a bit. Although the views would
This is the only monochrome other than the platipus
have been great, we took a pass and walked back down to Circular Quay and back up George St. looking for a dinner spot. We ended up at a little place we’d seen in the morning and thought looked nice, and we had a good “pub grub” dinner and then headed back towards the hotel. One of the other things we noticed about Sydney (and now have seen in other cities as well) was a plethora of chocolate shops. Since there was one just around the corner from the hotel , we stopped there for a dessert of hot chocolate. Overall another pretty good day.
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