“The Complete South Pacific”
As usual, we’ll start with the tour map to review where we are for this chapter in the report.
We just left Hobart, Tasmania and headed to Sydney. We will be in Sydney almost three full days, the longest of any single city on the tour.
Friday, March 8 (continued): We landed at the Sydney airport a little before 9 AM, got our luggage and found our bus and driver. As with the last couple of cities, we took a short “city tour” on the bus on the way into town, making a couple of stops for photos on the way. Probably the most “classic” photo spot was at a park on the harbor to get photos of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
You don’t get much more classic than the opera house and harbor bridge.
There were plenty of photo opportunities here, and, of course, everyone had to get their photos with the bridge and opera house in the distance.
We got our version of the “required” tourist photo.
We continued the city tour on the coach for a while, including one stop almost underneath the Harbor Bridge. We could easily see some people doing the bridge walk, over the top of the harbor bridge, as well as more views of the opera house.
You will get tired of photos of the harbor bridge and opera house before we leave Sydney.
After some other sightseeing, including views of the oldest pub in Sydney and an old government building,
Evan turned us loose for a while to get some lunch and look around some near the “Circular Quay” area, where there are several ferry docks and some shopping areas. We all rejoined with Evan and walked the short distance over to the Sydney Opera House where we were scheduled for a guided tour. The tour was better than I expected, covering a lot of the history of the design and construction of the opera house and the many problems along the way. I took a lot of photos, but will try to hold this to just a few. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photos inside the performance halls, which were also beautiful.
Even the precast concrete sections in the roof were curved.
The architect who did the initial design,Jorn Utzon, was replaced part way through construction when the schedule and costs greatly exceeded his estimates. Although he ended up being credited with the beautiful design, he never returned to Australia to see the opera house after it was completed in 1973.
The outside is covered with thousands of tiles of different textures.
I was somewhat surprised at the extent to which the outside is brought into the opera house through the use of large glass walls.
The outside environment really becomes a part of the opera house.
Even the inside is light and airy, avoiding any “closed-in” feeling.
After the tour was over, we left, but everyone seemed to keep looking back at the buildings.
Leaving the Opera House, but this won’t be the last photo you see of it.
We then loaded up on the coach again and headed to our hotel for the next three nights, The Hyatt Regency. Everyone rested up for a little while before meeting up for dinner.
This evening would be a little different as we had, several days previously, been given a choice of three restaurants we could go to this evening. The restaurants were basically a Steak house, an Italian restaurant, and a seafood restaurant. Susan and I were the only ones who had chosen Nick’s, the seafood restaurant, so we had a relatively quiet and nice dinner.
Susan at Nick’s Seafood restaurant.
A short geography lesson: The Hyatt Regency backed up to Darling Harbor, one of the busier little harbors in the Sydney area, including a busy ferry dock. At the end of the harbor was Cockle Bay, which had been developed into a destination for the local people and tourists alike, it was lined with restaurants, bars, and shops of all kinds. A large pedestrian bridge went across Darling Harbor and essentially divided the working harbor area to the north, from the Cockle Bay area to the south of it. We ended up crossing this bridge a number of times. Here is a little video of Cockle Bay to give you a better idea of how it looks.
After dinner we wandered around the Cockle Bay area for a while, then headed back to the hotel via the pedestrian bridge and called it a night.
Saturday, March 9: At this point we had been traveling for two weeks and we needed to do some laundry. This hotel did not have a guest laundry facility and the hotel’s laundry service was outrageously expensive for the amount of laundry we had, so we tried to find a local laundry-mat. It was surprisingly difficult to find a open laundry-mat within walking distance and we got in a good morning walk looking for one that no longer existed. We checked with Evan and he did some research and even called the laundry-mat he found to make sure it was open. It was not exactly the type of facility you expect for a laundry-mat, but we were finally able to get a fresh supply of clean clothes.
As part or our Sydney stay, we had a choice of several excursions and we had chosen the two day hop-on, hop-off ferry pass: we could get on the ferry and get off and back on as many times as we wanted for two days. Since we had the pass, we decided to take a ferry ride around the Sydney Harbor.
As we pulled away form the ferry dock, another boat, the James Craig, a large square-rigged sailing ship that operates in the Sydney area, was also heading out, offering some interesting photos.
The James Craig had pulled out from its dock on the other side of Darling Harbor.
We cruised around the harbor making multiple stops to let people off and on, but we just stayed on board sightseeing.
Another view of the Opera House
The James Craig was originally built in 1874 and completed a major reconstruction in 2003. It was an imposing sight but I wish we could have seen it under full sail.
The James Craig followed us under the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
And here the Sydney skyline makes a good backdrop for the James Craig.
We saw a number of interesting boats, from small sailboats to huge cruise ships. On this day the cruise ship Celebrity Solstice was docked at Sydney: I mention this mainly because this is the exact ship that we had sailed to Alaska about 4 years ago. (Our one and only “large ship” cruise.) This was a Saturday, so a lot of the local people were out sailing, including some apparent regattas, and other people just cruising around, out having fun.
I put these people in the “out having fun” category.
We rode the ferry to the furthest point, Watson Bay, and then returned with it to Darling Harbor, got off there and returned to the hotel to relax a little while before dinner.
There were no tour activities this evening so we were on our own. Susan and I had both been feeling a little under the weather with cold-like symptoms and some congestion, so we decided to look for some decongestant and then get a light dinner. We did find a drugstore type place with a pharmacy and the pharmacist there was very helpful in recommending some medication. I had located a restaurant, Toro’s, that had tapas on the menu, so we headed there.
Our view of Cockle Bay from Toro’s restaurant.
But, when we got there, Toro’s special for the evening was made to order paella. Susan loves paella, and I rather like it also. Paella made properly by a Spanish restaurant and a bottle of good Spanish wine is about as good as it gets, so we had to order that. (You could only order it for 2 or more people.)
Every Saturday evening at 9:00 PM there is a fireworks show in the middle of Cockle Bay, so we hung around a while and got a good place to watch the show on the pedestrian bridge.
This photo shows some of the fireworks and the normal lights of Cockle Bay.
It was a pretty good show (short video here ) that lasted about 20 minutes. Afterwards we made the short walk back to the hotel and called it a day.
Sunday, March 10: We would be on our own for most of the day, with no planned group activities until 4:30. Some of the group had scheduled a walk over the top of the harbor bridge but that was a bit much for me so we decided to just walk over the bridge on the pedestrian lane at the road level. Then we would hop-on the ferry and ride out to Watson’s Bay for some sightseeing.
The first challenge was walking to the bridge from the hotel and finding the stairs and pathway to get onto the bridge. I won’t say it was unmarked, but it was also not exactly obvious. It was about a 30-minute walk from the hotel and we finally found the stairs to the bridge and confirmed we were in the right place.
The sign confirms that we are in the right place.
It was an interesting and scenic walk, going across the bridge like this.
Just getting started across the bridge: It has a dedicated pedestrian lane.
Of course, we had more good views of the Sydney Opera House from the bridge.
We definitely got some different views of the bridge itself. This bridge was actually built about the same time as another iconic bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge. The Sydney bridge was opened in 1932 and the Golden Gate was started in 1933 and was finished in 1937, five years after the Sydney bridge. They are completely different types of bridges, and both are beautiful in their own ways.
You have seen many photos of the opera house beneath the harbor bridge, but we saw a little different version of the classic view.
A different version of the opera house though the bridge view.
As we came off the bridge and back toward the ferry dock, we saw another open air market, this one probably open on weekends, beneath the bridge itself and next to it in an open area.
As I said, open-air markets are popular in Australia.
We made our way down to Luna Park, where there is a Ferry dock, and also a somewhat old-style amusement park with all kinds of rides. It was still early (on a Sunday) when we got there, so very little activity yet.
The “mid-way” at Luna Park.
I was a little surprised that I had read the ferry schedule properly when the ferry approached the dock, right on schedule. I was also surprised when, as the ferry approached the dock, we heard familiar voices calling out to us. Tour members and friends Michele and Bonnie were on the ferry and had spotted us on the dock. This was a bit smoother ride than we were all on when heading to the Great Barrier Reef.
Bonnie and Michele were on the same ferry, but heading to a different destination.
We continued on, under the harbor bridge and past the opera house (again), but I won’t repeat those photos. The ferry made several stops along the way, giving us good views of the harbor and city.
After a stop at Circular Quay, the Sydney skyline makes a good backdrop.
Bonnie and Michele got off at their stop and we continued out to Watson’s Bay. I had looked at a map and saw that it was a very short distance from the dock at Watson’s Bay, across a small park, to a nice trail along the oceanfront.
The park was very quiet when we got there, but was getting busy when we left.
We quickly found the oceanfront walkway and spent quite a while exploring it in both directions. At the north end of the walkway you could see the entrance to Sydney Harbor.
Looking across the entrance to Sydney Harbor
And, looking the other way, you could see the waves breaking on the rocky water front at the bottom of some steep cliffs.
I suspect that, on a stormy day, the wave action could get interesting here.
The walkway did offer some interesting views of the harbor and even the city. If it was not for the heads of some other sightseers, this video of the area would be interesting.
Once again, there were lots of sailboats out on the bay, with everything from classic old style boats to the latest little “foiling” sailboats.
This classic sailboat had all the sails up and was moving along very well.
As we came under the Harbor Bridge, I knew by the time of day that there was a good chance some of our tour group was on the bridge, doing the bridge-walk.
If you look closely, you can see several groups of bridge- walkers on the top.
So, we will assume that I did get a picture of our friends up on the bridge. (I don’t think you could ever prove that I didn’t!)
Jay, wife Kay, and “Englishman” Brian at the top of the bridge.
(Thanks to Jay for the photo.)
We got back to Darling Harbor and our hotel about mid-afternoon and relaxed until time for our next excursion at 4:30.
We all met up at the ferry dock to go on a sunset harbor cruise with dinner and it turned out to be a very nice evening for such a cruise. Even the dinner was surprisingly good.
Some of us around the “dinner table”.
Of course, with all of our tour members on board and the boat going under the harbor bridge, everyone had to get photos of the bridge and opera house in the background.
We got the bridge in our photo.
But the New Youk ladies got the opera house.
I noticed a strange thing happening to my photography about this time: I was focusing less on the sights we were seeing, and more on the people on the tour with us. Perhaps this is a natural outcome of getting to know everyone better and being more comfortable taking their pictures.
It was supposed to be a “sunset cruise”, but we got back to the dock well before the sun had set, but we had a nice view of the actual sunset after getting off the boat.
It was a nice sunset, even if not from the boat.
This next event needs a little explanation. Early in the tour, in Cairns, a friend of Evan had told us that he is an excellent singer and that, sometime during the tour, we should have him sing for us. As we left the boat and headed to the hotel, we raised the issue with Evan and twisted his arm a bit to get him to agree to perform for us a little. We went to a lightly used area of the hotel which turned out to be very appropriate for this purpose and Evan performed (note: not just sang, but performed) a couple of songs for us.
Evan, performing “Somewhere over the Rainbow”
He performed several songs but, unfortunately, the one that most people will be familiar with is the one that I screwed up the video on so that you have to watch it sideways. If you consider that this video shows him performing with no accompaniment, no props, with poor acoustics, and on the spur of the moment, I think he did very well.
After our added entertainment, several of us went to the hotel bar to have a glass of wine (or two). The wine was purely to help us sleep well before our early departure in the morning.
The wine was only a sleep aid!
Monday, March 11: We were indeed up early and headed to the Sydney airport for our flight to the next destination: Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand. We are leaving Australia behind!
You should now click on the “Back” button on your browser to return to the main section of the report, then click on “Part 6: The South Island of New Zealand” to continue.