The next day began with a tour of Sydney. We were picked up from our hotel at 7 AM for this 4-hour tour by motorcoach. We had a cool bus driver. He was personable but at the same time strict in his demand that people be courteous to other passengers by not talking when he was talking. I appreciated this. He had to tell one man on our tour twice to stop talking so loud on his mobile phone.
Although we were shown some of the same places Traci and I saw during the I'm Free Walking Tour during our first Sydney visit, we saw several places had not seen. We were given a photo stop at Mrs. Macquaries's Chair, a bench Governor Macquaries dedicated to his wife. From here, we had a nice view of the harbor. We also made a stop in the Rocks neighborhood for a 20-minute walking tour of some of the historic hidden alleys and to listen to some of the stories of the infamous residents of the Rocks during the 1800's.
We were driven out as far as the famous Bondi Beach. We were given time to walk around the area. Despite it being a chilly, drizzly day, there were several surfers in the water catching waves.
cobblestone alley in The Rocks
Our tour ended at Circular Quay. The tour was nice but truthfully, I enjoyed the I'm Free Walking Tours Traci and I did during our first Sydney visit. Even though you can cover more distance during a motorcoach tour, I guess I still prefer a walking tour. Walking tours allow you to use all of your senses to explore a place.
Traci and I had about an hour and a half before we needed to be at the nearby Opera House for our 1:30 tour. Therefore, we had a nice lunch at one of the restaurants surrounding the harbor.
I really enjoyed our tour of the Sydney Opera House. I could hardly believe I was entering this iconic Australian structure. We were given headphones with which to listen to our guide thus allowing him to keep his voice down. There were performances and rehearsals in progress while we were there. There were many steps to climb. Our guide told us we would climb approximately 200 of them during the course of our 1-hour visit.
There are several performance venues inside the Opera House. The first theater we visited is where plays are normally performed. I was struck by how plain it looked. It reminded me of a school auditorium from the 70's. What was interesting about the theater is that the guide told us there is no backstage or wings. The directors have to design their shows knowing that the actors cannot do costume changes in the wings.
The other reason we were brought to this theater was to watch the first part of a film about the construction of the Opera House. The design was that of the Danish architect Jorn Utzon. His design was chosen in a contest. Construction began in 1959 but over the years, there were budget issues and political disagreements. Utzon eventually abandoned the project and went home to Denmark. A few years later, some engineers decided to finish the project based on their interpretation of Utzonís design. The Opera House finally opened in 1973. By the way, it was interesting to learn that the first performance at the Opera House was that of American singer/actor/activist Paul Robeson. He did this in 1960 before the official opening to salute the construction workers.
Despite the fanfare of the Opera House opening in 1973, its opening was 10 years later than planned and $95 million dollars over budget. Utzon died without ever seeing the completed Opera House.
Continuing with our tour, we were led through other areas of the building. One of the more memorable places we saw was the Northern Foyer with its purple carpet and purple walls. Our guide told us that His Royal Badness (Prince) liked the decor when he gave a concert in Sydney.
My absolute favorite part of this tour was when our guide let us take a look inside one of the grand theaters. There was a large symphony orchestra rehearsing in there at the time. We were allowed to stay and listen on the conditions that we were quiet and did not applaud. The way the sound of the orchestra filled the theater was awesome! This was the icing on the cake of our Opera House tour. There was another tour group in the theater at the same time as our group. I guess they did not get the memo about the applause because they began to clap after the orchestra finished their piece. Oh well. It was hard not to applaud considering how great the musicians sounded.
I was so into the rehearsal that I did not even notice the 10,000-pipe organ at the back of the stage. No one was playing it during the orchestra rehearsal. Our guide told us about the organ after we left the theater but he was nice enough to let us back in to have a look. I was really impressed by the Opera House tour.
The Opera House tour was the last item on our sightseeing itinerary for the day. Traci and I used the rest of the day to walk around the city. We stopped at a Circular Quay restaurant for some scones and hot chocolate. We walked through the Westfield Mall and some of the other shopping centers near our hotel. We had dinner at Mejico and did not have to wait to be seated thanks to the reservation we made the previous day. We tried to make the daily 7 PM light show at the Opera House but we were too late to see it. Continue...