Unfortunately, I only spent four full days in Sydney. It is a spectacular city - one of my favorites during the trip. I think I've said it at a couple of other points on the trip, but I could definitely live here. Given my short timeframe, I had to pack in as much as possible. Here are the highlights:
After a nice walk on Saturday morning, I found myself sitting under an outcropping of rocks - almost like a little cave in the white sandstone of Mrs. Macquarie's Point in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney. I was looking across Farm Cove, soaking up the rainy morning view of the Sydney Opera House; stark against the dark steel of the massive Sydney Harbor Bridge.
It's a view fit for a postcard, even with the rain. I actually had the chance to relax and get lost in the moment. I felt peace here. For the first time in a long time I'm not worried about work, the trip, whatever.
It has been spitting rain all morning, but is starting to subside. The opaque view of an hour ago has cleared up beautifully. I can see small lines of people climbing the harbor bridge - ants ascending the giant metal curve. The opera house sits silently below - to say it is beautiful is a disappointing understatement. It's truly everything I'd hoped for, even from a misty vantage point. It's like the first time you see the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids. A rarity in sightseeing, it's something that's actually better than you imagined it to be.
But it's not just the Opera House or the bridge that elicit the sense of serenity. It's the harbor itself. It's the big ships pass slowly under the bridge... It's listening to the waves crash against the sea walls in front of me... People of all ages walking and jogging by on the walkway in front of me... I could hear people talking about the blue water on a sail boat passing lazily by.
I walked through the botanic gardens toward the Opera House. I'm not a park connoisseur by any means, but it was a really nice walk. I saw birds and plants I've never seen before.
Eventually, I made it to the stone gates of the Opera House. The first impression is the size - it was even bigger than I thought it would be. The peaks of the white "sails" soared into the grey skies. It's tough to give words to the elegance of the architecture. Every view from every angle was worth a photo.
I climbed the steps, and circled the entire structure. I touched the white tiles of the shells, which are actually two shades of off-white, arranged in a dynamic pattern.
After spending an hour just gawking, I turned to the remainder of Sydney. I walked along the harbor, avoiding the increasing rain, taking shelter in the concrete canyons of downtown.
Christmas decorations were up all over the city, something I was desperately looking forward to. Street signs bore colorful "Happy Christmas" banners, while the open plaza in front of Town Hall gave rise to a massive Christmas tree decked with gold and crimson stars.
Late in the afternoon, I wandered back up toward the Opera House, and caught an absolutely beautiful sunset through the parting clouds of the evening. It was a photographer's dream.
Sunday provided a chance to walk down by Darling Harbor - a smaller version of nearby Sydney Harbor - and home to a variety of attractions, including the famous Sydney Aquarium. I wandered around for several hours, making it down to Chinatown and back to Town Hall. I even had a chance to duck into a local bar to catch the re-broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day football game between Indianapolis and Atlanta.
I inevitably found myself back at the Opera House. It seems to have the power to draw me towards it from anywhere in the city. The sun was shining brightly, and the sky was spotted here and there with a wispy cloud. A beautiful and no less impressive contrast to yesterday's overcast setting.
On Monday evening, I had the opportunity to catch up with a good friend from my recent escapade in India. Diana and I sent a few emails back and forth over the last few days, and at the last minute found a time to get together on Monday night. She, along with her lovely daughter Cassie, picked me up at my hostel, and we headed down to have dinner on Bondai Beach.
We strolled along the beautiful beachfront, watching beautiful people playing volley ball, walking their dogs, waiting for the perfect wave. We re-lived the India experience, and caught up on all things in between. We had dinner at a nice little restaurant/club overlooking the beach - a secluded spot which was actually really nice. We found a table for three on the deck facing the water, where we watched the sun set behind a bank of imposing clouds on the horizon. Diana, Cass, thanks much for a lovely evening. I hope you both are well.
Tuesday evening I headed to a performance by the Australian Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. I got tickets a couple days earlier to a concert benefiting the Royal Flying Doctors Service of Australia. To be honest, the performance was secondary to experiencing the Opera House itself. I really wanted to get inside and see what it was like. And, as you might expect, it has a touch more ambiance than the Lyric in Kansas City. I won't go into detail on the experience, as it's impossible to describe, but know that as a fan of the symphony, it's something I'll never forget.
I spent the rest of the night walking around the harbor, taking pictures, like a true tourist. It's hard not to - the place was made for cameras.
Sydney is an absolutely amazing city, and one that I'll be visiting again as soon as I can. If you haven't been there yet, add it to your list.