Originally published 12 August 2013.
G’Day, mates! Today’s adventures had Steve and me high on life and lookin’ fancy! This was so close to a perfect day, I think I could relive it over and over and never tire of it. First stop, Sydney Tower!
Of all the places I’ve been to the top of—Washington Monument in DC, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tokyo TV Tower, Empire State Building, Space Needle in Seattle—I’d have to say the Sydney 360-degree view from up top is one of the most breath-taking! The Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge are quite dramatic against the water, there are lots of green patches around the city, we even saw a monument and a couple of other points of interest that we didn’t even realize were there! Steve and I both like to go up to the tallest place in a city to get a good view of the places we will go.
Next up: The Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb! Steve has done it before, about 5 or 6 years ago, and he’s the one who suggested we do it together. What a fun and stunning experience! Our guide, Nick, enjoyed his job. All the guides were cracking jokes with each other, with the tourists, etc., and they just seemed to truly be having fun—and in turn, we tourists all had fun as well!
To do the Bridge Climb you have a lot to do! You must sign a waiver, suit up with loads of gear–including a jumpsuit, hat, and hankie–get into a harness, wear a radio and earphones to hear your tour guide, bring along a knitted cap, sunglasses strap (if you’re bringing sunglasses), wear a key around your neck for your locker, and… I think that’s it. Anyway, we geared up, got trained on how to use the steep steps (like a ladder)—one person at a time, three points of contact (i.e. two hands and a foot, or one hand and two feet), and watch your step!
There were about 14 of us, plus Nick the Tour Guide, and off we went! Nick helped us connect our harnesses to the safety wire, and we started our trek to the top! There are over 1,400 steps, but it was really an easy “climb.” Nothing too treacherous. We got to hear bits of information and interesting anecdotes about the bridge and Sydney in general throughout the 2 hours or so of our journey, and we got to take lots of time to stop and take in the view on the way up and back down. The views from all over the Bridge were absolutely magnificent. I think this certainly had to be one of the most memorable and worthwhile activities from the trip. What a way to spend part of day!
After our climb and a late lunch, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for the thing I was looking most forward to and the first thing that entered my mind as a “must-do” for an Australian adventure… an opera at THE Sydney Opera House! Steve, of course, was less enthusiastic about going to the opera, but he said we could do anything I wanted. If we did nothing else, I wanted to do an opera—ANY opera—at the world-renown, iconic venue. I took my favorite dress (my senior prom dress!) and had it altered with a high-low hemline, and I even bought heels to go with it—and most everyone knows I don’t wear heels, but for this, I made an exception! Steve brought a suit to wear, so we looked like quite the fancy couple!
We saw the opera Don Pasquale, set in 1940s Italy, about a man named Don Pasquale who decides to marry to prevent his nephew from inheriting his fortune when he dies. Unfortunately, he falls prey to an elaborate scheme involving a false marriage to his nephew’s girlfriend (unbeknownst to Pasquale), who fools him into thinking she’s a shy and sheltered girl, but once she’s trapped him in marriage, she spends lots of his money, redecorates his house, and wreaks havoc for him! In the end, the nephew marries his girlfriend, Don Pasquale allows the nephew to inherit, and all is well.
Most operas end in tragedy and are many hours long (three or more), but this one was light-hearted and only two hours. See? I’m a pretty nice girlfriend. I didn’t make him suffer too long, and he even said he was looking forward to it more than he thought he would—he even enjoyed it! The opera was performed in Italian, but most of it was translated into English with surtitles (at the top, as opposed to subtitles at the bottom of the stage). We took the train back to the hotel and were completely pooped by the time we got there! What an experience!
Sunday morning, we went to breakfast at a little café on the corner before a member of the church picked us up for services that morning. We went to mass the night before (Steve is Catholic), so Sunday we went a worship service at a Church of Christ. The church there is around 40 people, and they were all so friendly! We were dropped off for lunch at Circular Quay and spent a relaxing afternoon there before heading out to Manly Beach.
Supposedly it’s so-named because the first European sailors to come in saw the Aboriginal men there and said they looked very “manly!” We didn’t get in the water or even go out on the sand, since it was pretty cold (don’t forget it’s winter here Down Under!), but the view from the shore was quite beautiful. It’s the South Pacific!
On the way back to the ferry that would take us to Circular Quay, Steve and I stopped for hot chocolate at a place called “Chocolate and the Bald Man.” It’s such a neat concept! There are hot chocolates of many kinds, and Steve and I both got the Danish Toffee Chocolate. They also have strawberries with your choice of chocolate for dipping, chocolate-banana pizza, tarts, cakes, brownies, cookies, even your own choice of chocolate to eat straight up. The hot chocolate was just right for a chilly evening after a full day!
That’s how we spent our last days in Sydney for now. Next stop, Cairns, Queensland! Great Barrier Reef, here we come!