Thursday, July 28, 2016

Australia 2016, Day 9 - Darling Harbour, Whale Watching, Vivid

Day 9 in Australia was my last day in Sydney before leaving for Darwin and Kakadu. My allergies were still really bothering me, but I was determined to make the most of an absolutely gorgeous day. I had booked a whale-watching cruise earlier in the week, on the exact same boat that Stephanie and I went on two years earlier. The cruise left at noon from Darling Harbour, so I set out for a leisurely morning stroll along my normal route through The Rocks, past the Garrison Church and down to Circular Quay, where I took the ferry under the bridge to Darling Harbour. The sky was brilliant blue, the sun was beaming, and the wind was brisk and cool - it was perfection!
Day 9 pic with my Opera House
Just a little windy on the boat - and my hair looks red!
I absolutely LOVE this view of "the coathanger" arching over the sails of the Opera House.
More bridge climbers
Once in Darling Harbour, I just wandered exploring, people-watching, and taking pictures. It wasn't all that crowded, other than groups of school kids on field trips in their adorable little uniforms. They were precious!  
National Maritime Museum
Seagulls were everywhere!
I made sure to get some food in my stomach before the cruise, because last time I got seasick and I wanted to avoid that this time. Apparently (and strangely!), eating something actually helps settle the stomach. And then I got to the dock really early, because I wanted to make sure I got the same spot on the boat that we had last time. Stephanie had brilliantly wedged herself in on the front of the boat so that she wasn't tossed about by the waves, but could still see really well - I wanted that place this time! By the time the boat actually arrived, there were quite a few people waiting for it, and several of them jumped in line in front of me (grrr!!!) but I still got my seat on the True Blue.  
Deja vu!
We headed out through the Sydney Harbour, between the headlands, and into the open Pacific Ocean, where we all set our sights hunting for whales. We saw several off in the distance and made our way out to them. They really weren't jumping much, but they kept coming up to the surface and splashing. We followed a couple of different "competition pods" (several males competing for the attention of a single female), and we did get to see a tale slap at one point. The ocean was nice and calm (nothing like last time!), and I took pictures by simply holding my camera up and snapping without actually looking through the viewfinder - most of the pictures weren't great quality, but at least I didn't get seasick! It was such a fabulous afternoon on the water watching the majestic creatures. You can see below how close they actually got to our boat at one point - so cool!
At the bottom, those are people's heads at the front of our boat -
that's how close the whales got!
Loving this!
My best whale pic - a tale slap
The boat photographer captured this one.
Another shot by the boat photographer
Back in Sydney Harbour
Once our cruise was finished, we returned to Darling Harbour where I did a little souvenir shopping before Stephanie got off work. We had made plans to meet up, watch the Vivid laser light show (our last Vivid night, sad!), and have dinner before going home to pack for our Kakadu adventure. The first showing of the light show wasn't all that exciting, but we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, outside overlooking the marina and the 7:00 light show which was much better and included fireworks! Then we walked home via the Pyrmont Pedestrian Bridge, enjoying the lights on the harbour and the Maritime Museum along the way.
Dusk in Darling Harbour
Sunset in Darling Harbour
So glad I got to see fireworks, since I didn't see any on July 4th.
Front of the National Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum lit up for Vivid

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Australia 2016, Day 8 - The North Head, Harbour Views, Vivid Sydney

On Day 8, I woke up to my allergies causing me fits. Bummer! My plan had been to take the ferry to Manly and walk from Manly Beach around to the North Head and the Quarantine Station, and back down to the wharf. I was not about to miss out on a day out in Sydney, but I surely didn't feel like all that walking. So I decided to do an easier version of that plan. I started out on the Manly Ferry, enjoying the beautiful harbour, bridge, and Opera House on the cool and windy ride.
Three Sydney icons in one picture - the Opera House, the bridge, and the Manly ferry
Once in Manly, I took the local bus up to the North Head, where I set out walking around around what is known as the Fairfax Lookouts. Everything was so green, and the walk was really peaceful. I took it easy, stopping for pictures and eating a light picnic lunch along the way. At times it was like bushwalking, and I enjoyed seeing the strange plants and watching for cool birds. I was hoping to see a kookaburra, but no such luck. But the views back to the city were incredible, and the cliffs were spectacular!
The aboriginal people used the stalks of this plant to make their spears.
This plant was used to make brushes.
A grey butcherbird
These cliffs reminded me so much of Scotland!
You can see the Hornby Lighthouse on the South Head at the bottom of this picture.
Doesn't even look real!
Eventually I made my way back to the bus stop, took the bus back to the wharf, grabbed some seasoned chips from Nando's (yum!), and put my feet up to enjoy the ferry ride back to town. 
By this point I was almost worn out - my allergies were really bothering me. But I had plans to meet Stephanie and her coworker after work for a nice dinner, so I decided to push through and just watch the sunset over my two favorite Sydney icons. A Starbucks hot chocolate helped revive me a bit. I sat on the hill in the Botanical Gardens overlooking Circular Quay, read some travel brochures, looked at pictures and played with my camera until the sun set, the headed out to meet Stephanie.
Where are all the people?! I've never seen the Opera House this empty!
Day 8 pic of me with my Opera House
Starbucks, Sunset, and Sydney!
There is simply no such thing as a bad view in this city!
After a yummy steak dinner at The Meat and Wine Company, Stephanie, Beth and I decided to walk around and enjoy the Vivid lights. We only had one more night left in Sydney before leaving for the northern territory, so this was our last real opportunity to see Vivid in the Botanical Gardens. I think most of the people in Sydney decided to join us - it was SO crowded! But we made our way to the Cathedral of Lights, which I had seen during the day but not at night. It was so cool! The individual lights were actually little flowers, but together they formed an arched tunnel of white lights that led from Circular Quay into the gardens. The crowd was moving really slowly, because everyone was taking selfies and group pictures, and of course we joined in! I had seen a picture on instagram of the Opera House through the lights, and I wanted to try to duplicate it, but with the crowds it wasn't possible - I did get something close, though!
This is the instagram picture I was aiming for.
This is my version of the above picture. Not quite right.
I love this picture of Stephanie!
Despite not feeling my best, I was having a blast!
After the Cathedral of Lights, the Vivid walk led up the hill through the gardens to a couple of trees that had been turned into creative displays. The first one, called "Synthesis", featured a constantly moving 3D mapped projection. The second, called "Will o' the Wisps", featured an abundance of tiny lights that continually changed colors and made the gardens look like an enchanted forest.
Will o' the Wisps
And then we rounded the corner to this absolutely incredible sight - moving projections on the trees, spotlights shining up from the ground, and the back of the Opera House aglow. I was in awe!
This might be one of my favorite Sydney pictures this year.
Back in Circular Quay, Stephanie asked me if I wanted to walk up on a bridge to take pictures of the lights. Um, what kind of silly question is that?! Of course I do! I don't know how I didn't know this bridge above the ferry wharf was there, but if I had I certainly would have taken pics from there before that night. Anyway, we spent a good while "playing Barb" (as my friend Amy would say) on the bridge, enjoying the projection on the Opera House and the bridge lights, before returning to the crowds below for one last stop before calling it a night.
Our last stop of the night was around Circular Quay where I watched the Vivid lights on my first night in town. Canon had set up a large photo frame with the Opera House spectacularly displayed behind it. People could wait in line and have up to four photos taken in the frame, which would be emailed directly to you, then walk down to the Canon building and print them for free. Brilliant! You could actually print some of your own Vivid photos in a large format, but the line for that was insane, so we didn't bother with that part. The line to have our pictures taken was about 30 minutes, so we chatted, planned for our upcoming Kakadu trip, decided what we were going to do in the frame, and played with our cameras until it was our turn. After this, we set out for home - we were worn out!
We're cool!
Check out the Opera House behind us!