Friday, July 25, 2014

Down Under, Day #3 - Touring the Opera House

I started my third day in Sydney with a tour of the Opera House. Yes, I spent a good bit of time around the Opera House on the previous two days, but this was a chance to go inside - I wasn't about to miss that opportunity! Our tour guide was really good, and there were only about 10 of us on the tour, so it was easy to get close and hear all the facts and stories he shared. The interior is really interesting - the underside of the "sails" is made up of cool cement beams, and arches are everywhere. The best part of the tour was the surprise treat of hearing the Sydney Symphony Orchestra rehearsing in the main Concert Hall - amazing! Here are a few Opera House facts:
  • The Sydney Opera House is actually 3 buildings - the main Concert Hall is the largest, the Joan Sutherland Opera Theatre is next, and the smallest is a formal restaurant.
  • The Opera House is set atop the Monumental Stairs, which serve as seating for outdoor performances in the forecourt. The architect, Jorn Utzon, was inspired by the Mayan temples, where visitors ascend stairs to access the temple and their gods. So he designed the Opera House to be a sort of "temple" atop over 80 stairs. 
  • The architect, Jorn Utzon, was forced to resign and never saw the completed project.
  • The shells have been likened to sails (and orange slices), and are supposed to resemble the sails of a ship when seen from the Harbour. When you stand in the northern foyer of the Concert Hall or the Opera Theatre, it feels like you're standing on the bridge of a ship looking out over the water. 
  • There are 1,056,006 tiles covering the shells of the Opera House, arranged in chevrons. Only about 8 tiles have to be replaced each year! You can own a part of the Opera House by purchasing a tile for $100 or $400 at http://ownourhouse.com.au/
  • One of my favorite quotes about the Opera House comes from American architect Louis Kahn, who said "The sun did not know how beautiful its light was until it was reflected off this building."

Standing in the northern foyer of the main Concert Hall
The underside of one of the shells
This shows the size of each tile.
A kind security guard offered to take a photo for me.
This is what he came up with.
After my tour, I grabbed a quick lunch and then took a ferry to north Sydney on the other side of the harbour. All of the travel books say that the best way to see Sydney is from the water, and I definitely agree. I purchased a multi-day travel pass and took a ferry almost every day I was in Sydney. On this day I took the short 7-minute ride across to Milson's Point and the iconic Luna Park, a Coney Island-esque theme park at the foot of the Harbour Bridge. The park was closed, but I wasn't wanting to ride rides anyway. I just wanted to walk around and take pictures of the bridge and the Opera House from a new vantage point. The colors of the park made a nice contrast to the blue of the water and sky.  
This should be an advertisement for Harbour Jet!
One of Sydney's iconic green-and-yellow ferries
Luna Park from the ferry
Here's looking at you, kid!



Eventually I caught another ferry. I thought I was going directly back to Circular Quay, but it ended up taking me on a tour of Darling Harbour, Sydney's busiest tourist district other than Circular Quay (close to the Opera House). I was able to see the imax, the aquarium, and the Australian Maritime Museum all from the ferry, where I made sure to sit in the very front so I could see everything. It was a little windy there, though!
Australian Maritime Museum
Bridge-climbers at the top of the arch! At this point I hadn't decided whether I was to climb or not. 
Eventually the ferry completed the circuit back to Circular Quay, just as the sun was starting to set. I was entranced by the way the shells of the Opera House change colors in the different light, so after we docked I walked around the Quay and just enjoyed taking pictures. 
Eventually I made my way back to Stephanie's apartment, where we ordered dinner at home and packed for our next adventure - an early morning flight to Adelaide and two days on Kangaroo Island. I'll blog about that next. In the meantime, check out the bridge at sunset from my bedroom!

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