Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What I Did On My Australian Vacation: Day Eleven

Day Eleven:

This was our first full day in Sydney, and it started out with a bus tour of the city. I found it much easier to relax and enjoy it this time than I did in Melbourne, knowing that I was actually going to have some time to get out and explore on my own the next day. I will say, though, that Sydney, while a pleasant enough city, didn't strike me with the same charming first impression that Melbourne did. Maybe it was simply that Melbourne was my first sight of Australia after that interminable plane ride; maybe it had something to do with the fact that our guide, a Sydneysider, over-hyped it a bit (albeit in a friendly and amusing way); or maybe it was just that both the weather and the traffic were worse than they had been in Melbourne.

Regardless, it was a nice tour, with stops at various parks and at the Royal Botanic Gardens. But the highlight was the tour of the Sydney Opera House. You know, I have to admit that I never understood quite what was so aesthetically impressive about the Opera House. It's eye-catching, certainly, but in a funny and rather impractical-looking way. I must say, though, that it's considerably more impressive close up, and the inside -- or much of the inside, at any rate -- is beautiful. Even if bits of it were torn up for renovations at the time. (They were putting in more elevators.) And even I, who knows essentially nothing about the practicalities of sound engineering, could tell that the acoustics in the theaters were exquisite. We also watched a couple of moderately interesting films on the history of the building, and learned that they started building it before they were remotely sure exactly how (or whether) the engineering was going to work... You have to love the eternal, borderline-insane, can-do optimism of the Aussies. Heh.

Here's a picture of the Opera House from across the harbor:

And one taken inside, in one of the areas where they'd actually let you take pictures:

After the Opera House, we headed out to Bondi Beach, a famous surfer beach that has apparently been featured in lots of movies that I've never seen. There weren't too many surfers out that day, as it was still raining off and on, but I've never let a little rain dissuade me from enjoying a stroll down the beach. (Hey, I live in a place that's about as land-locked as you can get. I take my beach-going however it comes.) Also, there was more ice cream. Yay!

Then it was back to town, where we boarded a boat for a luncheon cruise through Sydney Harbor, featuring yet another tasty buffet spread and some pretty views of the Opera House and the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge.

After lunch, we went to some place that sold opals. Apparently Australia is quite famous for its opals, which are also the country's national gemstone. While several members of our group seemed to really enjoy shopping for opal jewelry, well, the only thing I'm less interested in than wearing jewelry is shopping for it. Fortunately, though, the shop also had some really cool displays of opalized fossils, so the less fashion-conscious and more science-minded of us could mostly keep ourselves entertained.

We then had the evening free, so my friend and I decided to visit the famous Sydney Aquarium, which was well worth spending a few hours exploring. I've been in lots of aquaria with observation tubes where you can walk among swimming sharks, but Sydney's blew them all out of the water. Er, so to speak. If nothing else, I didn't know rays got that big. Wow.

And then, because it happened to be said friend's birthday, my family and I took her out for dinner at a fun little restaurant on Darling Harbor, where we also discovered the joys of mango daiquiris, and my aunt's friend investigated the question of whether the Aussies might be onto something when it comes to the practice of putting fried eggs and beet slices on their burgers. (Her verdict: not bad. But I figured I'd stick with the chicken, anyway.)


  1. We have great beaches in Melbourne here too. And great surfing. The top 2 surfers in the world are from Cocoa Beach, about 20 minutes from us.

  2. I was going to say that it's a pity I don't surf, then, but considering where I live, it's really just as well. :)

  3. I live in a place that's about as land-locked as you can get.
    You also live in a place where it rains so infrequently that it's an event when it does happen, so going outside in the rain is a purpose unto itself.

  4. It's true! Although I think I would have preferred to separate the enjoying-the-rain and the enjoying-the-sights-of-Sydney portions of my vacation a little more. The rain was much more fun on the beach. :)