This morning everyone was fresh and excited about our ‘All Day City Sites Tour.’ First thing we had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast was full of fresh fruit and yogurts, as well as the typical fare of pancakes, Aussi sausages and breads. Our guide, Claire, met us after breakfast and we loaded onto our private coach and headed out on the town. She told us about all the areas we drove through and we learned quite a bit. Today’s main agenda was our private tour of the Sydney Opera House, our luncheon cruise of Sydney Harbor, and our cliff walk along Bondi Beach. (Those were the highlights anyway.)
In my class, I had a range of majors, but three of my students were actually students from my primary teaching area, Theatre. So our tour of the Opera House was really exciting. Most days, folks are not allowed to take photos within the actual theatre facilities, but today, the large theatre was ‘dark’ during the time we were there and we were able to snap photos. The theatre was a masterpiece. Completely wood lined and perfectly designed to transmit sound to every corner of the space. We were told that the sound transfer was within .2 seconds to every seat. It was interesting to note that the designer of the structure of the opera house did not design the interiors. He is around 89 or 90 years old today and has never once visited his masterpiece. He is responsible for the unique ‘sails’ (the white tile shapes that everyone around the world recognizes). The government of Australia changed during the construction of the building and they started pressuring the designer to make cuts and changes that would force completion of the structure without regard to design. He refused and quit. They hired other or another designer(s) to design the interior spaces based on the original concepts. Later, the original designer did design one interior room of the opera house, but he still has not visited Australia or the Opera House till this day. (Ok, enough of the history lesson…)
The second theatre (the actual theatre used for Opera) was in use for a ‘load in’. That afternoon they were doing an opera (I forget the name) but the set was being constructed/ assembled on the stage, so I have no photos of this space. The space was amazing though. I was surprised to see how small the actual stage was. I assumed that it would be huge, but it wasn’t and it did not have any wing space. The way they changed scenes was with an elevator in the back of the stage. One set would be on stage, the next below ground level. During a scene change the on-stage set would roll upstage (away from the audience) and onto the elevator. It would be lowered down and the second set loaded onto the elevator and taken up to the stage level. (A really amazing thing to see.) This theatre was painted black, unlike the first theatre which was done in all natural wood tones. The reason was simple. In opera, one is directed to look at the performers, while in the large theatre where they have orchestras and other music events, the audience doesn’t necessarily have to look only at the musicians. They actually never fully take out (turn off) the house lights in the large theatre. In the opera theatre, they do, however, take them all the way out during the performance.
After the Opera House tour, we were taken to the catamaran for our luncheon cruise on the harbor. It was a feast of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats (seafood and other) as well as lots of pastries and cakes to round off the meal. The sites of Sydney from the boat were amazing. It was cloudy that day, but as you can see from the photos, we had breathtaking views. I highly recommend the luncheon cruise if you visit this amazing city.
After lunch we traveled to another point of interest in the history of Sydney, ‘Mrs. Marquaries Chair’, where a wife of a famous governor from Australia’s history would go and sit and enjoy the views of the harbor area. This was right at the edge of Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens. (And beautiful in all respects.) The fig trees here were HUGE.
We finished off day two with a walking tour along the cliffs of Bondi Beach.
We got soaked with rain, but it was warm, so no one really minded. Not many people stayed out on the beach when it began to rain, but there were a few and one amazing sand sculpture. When we loaded back up onto the coach, I expected to hear complaints, but everyone was happy.
This night, we all had dinner on our own and Louis and I ate at a little bistro on Oxford Street. I had fish and chips and they were scrumptious. We drank Australian beer with dinner, Victoria Bitter. A nice and great way to wind down after our second day.
Today, we traveled to Blue Mountains and the rain forest. The Blue Mountains are aptly named because of the eucalyptus trees. The oil they produce absorbs all colors of light except for the blue waves and it reflects the blue waves so when people look at the tree covered hills, they see a blue forest or Blue Mountains. (Sorry for the physics lesson…)
We drove out to ‘Australia’s Grand Canyon’ to see the Three Sisters Rock Formations, but because of the weather, there was a fog covering the canyon. We did enjoy our walk through the rain forest at the base of the canyon though. We rode down into the canyon on the steepest rail car on the planet.
It was SCARY and really fun. Being the RAIN forest, it was of course RAINING, but it did not stop us from having a great time. We all put on big plastic rain coats (that look like trash bags!) and made our way through the rain forest seeing all kinds of wonderful trees and birds. All of the animals one might expect to see in the rain forest were of course sleeping since most are nocturnal creatures. We saw lots of ferns and some pencil orchids (not in bloom – but huge) up in the trees. I think I was most impressed with the size of the tree ferns.
After the walk through the rainforest, we loaded back into our coach and headed to the Featherdale Wildlife Reserve where we met some of Australia’s native animals up close and personal. LJA and my favorite was the Cassewary Bird. It was a huge bird with a large ‘hat’ like horn on the top of its head. It is also the most deadly bird in Australia. It stood about three feet tall, had a blue face and each of its legs ended with feet with three toes. (The center toe being half again as long as the outer toes.) This bird is known to jump up into the air and stick its inner toe into a person like a knife with a kick. It looked like an emu, only bigger and colorful and had the horn-hat. (We later found out that the Cassewary is very beneficial to the rainforest in that it spreads seeds all around. It is also in danger of disappearing off of the planet. Very few remain in the wild. It is estimated that only about 110 are left. So being able to see two was really a nice experience.)
One of the funniest things that happened on the trip happened today. While a few of my students were exploring the reserve on their own, they were looking at the big red kangaroos. These are the ‘boxing’ ‘roos. Anyway, the male roo was feeling a bit frisky and the female really was not that interested, but eventually gave in to the male’s persuasion. As they began their ‘humping’, one Australian man turns to a student in my group and exclaims in a very Australian accent “Looky there, he’s banging her, mate!” This sent my students into a roar of laughter. And all the cameras came out including video. (Later that evening, I was shown my very first Australian porn recorded by one of my students. LOL! My thought was- I wonder what his parents will think of this!)
So, after Featherdale and lots of shopping at the souvenir shop, we again loaded back onto our coach and headed back to Sydney. We were about an hours drive outside of the city. While talking to Collin, our driver for the day, he mentioned the Olympics from the year 2000 that were held in Sydney and wondered if my group might be interested in seeing the Olympic park. YES! I quickly answered, and we took an un-planned tour of the Olympic park.
The park and the history was all amazing. I had not done any research on it and it was all completely new to me. I did recognize parts of the area from television, but I had no idea how large it actually was. As we passed by the ‘memorials’ area, we saw the flag for the Olympics that were held in the states and Colin said, “There is your area” and explained what he meant. He also explained how they did not build lots of hotels or parking near the Olympic Park because they wanted visitors to the Olympics to use their public transport to go to and from the city. It was all very fascinating. One more note about the Olympic Park – It is against copyright to display the Olympic rings in the original colors, so the rings that were there had all been returned to natural colors. I thought that was interesting.
On our way out of the park we noticed a blue line that ran along the left side of the road. (In Australia, they drive on the left side of the street so opposite from here in the states.) Anyway, the line was the runners’ line and it went from the Olympic park to the heart of Sydney in as much of a straight line as possible. As it crossed bridges and intersections, it sometimes ran at a diagonal to the actual road and had to be dashed to keep traffic from following it at night and running off of the road.
Anyway, after the Olympic park, we headed back to the hotel for dinner on our own and plenty of time to relax and unwind from a full day of activities. Being in an area known for partying, LJA and I along with a few of my students decided to see what the night life was like. We walked around and met some very interesting folks and after a full day of activities we were fairly tired, but decided to catch a taxi to the casino. Some of the students wanted to try their luck and I wanted to see the design of the space. We passed by it several times on our tour and it looked huge.
It took us two cabs to get to the casino. Once we were there, three of the students had to return to the hotel to get proper clothes/shoes to enter the place and another had to get his passport. LOL! Finally after several taxi rides later, we walked into the casino and took a look around. I had a pocket full of Australian coin and wanted to try the slot machines. I kept putting money into the machines, but it would just fall straight through. Finally I went to the cashier and asked what was going on and found out that even though the machines were marked 5 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, etc… they only took the dollar coin. I changed a few of my coins for some dollar coins and played a few slots. I lost one dollar.
Meanwhile, my students not finding a black jack table with under a 25 dollar limit decided they wanted to learn to play roulette. We walked over and told them that maybe they should just play red or black and see what happens. Well… they started winning and it was funny because they believed LJA and I could call the color before the wheel stopped spinning. They kept looking to us to say red or black. LOL. Once two of them were really up – like seventy dollars, I said time to stop. They did not want to stop, so we left them there at the tables. By the time we were out the door to get a taxi back to the hotel, they came up behind us and had lost all their money. LOL. Their good luck charms had left and so did their luck. I reminded them that the casino always wins. We all had a good laugh and headed back for the night.