What the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Opera House is to Sydney, its iconic roof rising over the harbor like billowing sails. In fact, the Danish architect’s father was in the shipping business, which had an influence on the design, not only the roofline, but also the windows, which angle out over the water and you feel like you’re on the bridge of a ship. What appears at a distance to be a solid white roof is actually composed of over a million white & off-white specially made ceramic tiles, as pure white would have blinded viewers in the brilliant Australian sun. There are 5 theaters within the complex, for all manner of concerts & performances, not just opera. Interestingly, the winning architect’s design was originally in the reject pile, until one of the judges who showed up late, dug it out and proclaimed it the winner. And you’ll find a net above the orchestra pit in the Opera Theater, installed after a live chicken on a stage production fell onto a cellist.
From there, take a wander along the bay – if you’re lucky there may be a sailboat race going on. Head towards the Royal Botanic Garden for a meander among the flora, scenic views, and a peek at the many feathered inhabitants.
At the end of the gardens, you’ll come upon the Art Gallery of New South Whales, with many Australian artists’ works on view, as well as excellent Asian & European collections, including Monet, Cezanne, Picasso & Moore.
Best of all, these activities are free! If you want to tour the inside of the Opera House, there’s a fee, but I highly recommend it. Otherwise, you can take photos all around the exterior to your heart’s content.
Close by, St Mary’s Cathedral stands majestically across from Hyde Park. When I asked the guard if I could enter, he said, “It depends. Are you here to see or here to pray?” I hedged my bets & answered. “Both!” No photos are allowed inside, but it was beautifully ornate, with incense wafting through, along with the deep resonant voices of the choir.
The Rocks, a historical district at the edge of Circular Quay, where the ferries come & go, is bustling with pedestrians on Friday nights during holiday season, enjoying the street full of food booths (kangaroo anyone? Personally, I’d rather watch them in the wild than eat them) and live dance performances in the shop windows. It’s a little magic in the city!
Across the harbor, Taronga is a zoo with a view. If you’re curious about the critters of the country, furry, feathered & scaly, this is the place to be. You may even see the elusive platypus!
A little further afield are the majestic Blue Mountains, a 2 hour train ride to the east, where you can view the famous Three Sisters, take the steepest railway down into the rainforest & cruise high above the treetops in a cable car with a glass floor.
And then there are those beaches, which need their own separate post…