On our second day in Sydney, Maile and I were scheduled to take a tour of the Sydney Opera House. As you can probably imagine, given our reactions to simply seeing the outside of structure on the previous day, we were both pretty excited to take a look at it from the inside.
The story of how the Sydney Opera House came to be is pretty interesting -- especially since it almost didn't come to be at all. In 1955, there was a design competition for a new, dedicated opera house for the city. At the last minute, a sketch submitted by Jørn Utzon, a Danish architect, was pulled out of the already-discarded-designs pile. This design was completely unlike any others submitted -- in truth, no one had a clue how to even build such an edifice, it was beyond all engineering knowledge of the time -- but nonethless, Utzon was awarded the design, and history was made.
(Somewhat predictably, construction of this amazing building ran into serious financial and scheduling overruns, and sadly, Utzon was fired from the project. He returned to his native Denmark and never returned to see the final result. Thankfully however, by the time of his death in 2008, Utzon had received many accolades for his design, and the Sydney Opera House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. So in the end, it was all good.)
As gorgeous as the building is from a distance, it gets even more amazing up close. For example, the white "shells" aren't actually a monochromatic white, but are actually made up of over a million ceramic tiles, of varying shapes, "whiteness," and reflectivity. It's a stunning piece of work.
However, I was most excited to photograph the inside of the Opera House. We weren't permitted to shoot the stage areas, but that was okay -- because the foyers and mezzanines were incredible. The adjective that most came to mind was "soaring":
It's truly an amazing structure.
After the tour and lunch, we had the afternoon off -- and then, I left Maile to her own devices, while I hooked up with some old friends. If you've been reading Chookooloonks for some time, then you've heard me mention our friends Peter and Joanna -- dear Australians pals who were neighbours of ours when we still lived in Trinidad. When our family moved back to the US, they eventually returned to their native Australia. So obviously, there was no way I could visit Sydney without inviting myself over for dinner. Ahem.
Their daughter, little Charlie, who was Alex's dear friend, is now Tween Charlie. Also, Charlie now has a baby sister, Olivia, who I was meeting for the first time. And she is ... well ... little Charlie.
It was so great to see them again.
After a wonderful home-cooked meal (on the barbie, natch!), we took a walk to their local pub. Jo suddenly turned to me.
"Hey, are you free for lunch tomorrow? We could meet in the CBD."
"I am free, and yet I have no idea what you're talking about."
She smiled. "CBD. Central Business District. What you would call 'downtown.' It's about a 20-minute walk from your hotel -- I could take a break from work and meet you for lunch, if you'd like. Besides, all you've seen so far is the harbour. You need to actually see Sydney."
Sold. So the next day around 11:30, I headed to the CBD.
Walking from our quiet hotel, suddenly the streets became more congested, the buildings started to scrape the sky, and I was finally in Sydney proper: the heartbeat of the city. It had that Manhattan-esque-very-important-business-is-going-on-here feel, and yet, it was spotless, just like the harbour. It was exhilarating.
I met Joanna at her office, and then we walked over to the Queen Victoria Building for lunch.
(Dude, I love that statue of Queen Victoria in the front there. Girlfriend had swagger.)
Then after lunch, Joanna proclaimed, "Well, I can't let you go until I know for sure that you're pointed in the right direction for shopping. You need to buy souvenirs, right?"
And then she proeeded to lead me to the most beautiful little shopping centre I've ever seen.
Are you kidding me with this? That decor beats the Houston Galleria by miles, I'll tell you what.
Jo stayed with me patiently, long enough to advise me through buying Marcus an Akubra hat (because that had to happen), and then it was time for her to return to work. We said our goodbyes, and I slowly wandered back through the CBD to my hotel. And I was reminded that wandering through unfamiliar city streets is one of my favourite parts of travel.
It was a great afternoon.
With that, I had officially seen Sydney from offshore, and now I'd seen Sydney from inside the Central Business District. It was now time to see Sydney from above.
But that's a story for tomorrow's post.
Huge thanks to Tourism Australia, Air New Zealand and Go Mighty for making this adventure possible. If a trip Down Under is a dream you've had, please be sure to check out the Tourism Australia site for all sorts of juicy information about Australia; in addition, throughout October Tourism Australia, Air New Zealand and Go Mighty are running two additional campaigns to help make your dream come true in 2014: the first, Fill-A-Plane, where you can sign up to be one of 322 people to get a special discount on air travel for folks who take the pledge to travel to Australia next year; the second, "Win a Wild Card ticket to Australia," for a chance to win a trip to Australia, by simply becoming a member of Go Mighty and adding your wildest Australia-based dreams. You can check out all the details here. And to see my iPad images and listen to more in-the-moment impressions I had while in Australia, be sure to check out my Go Mighty posts of this adventure.