A Brief Visit to Sydney

Harbour Rocks Hotel Entrance

The Harbour Rocks Hotel is a “boutique hotel” that was recommended by Eamon at work. It is quite nice and fantastically located. Not very large, it is in an old warehouse (or something) with a lot of exposed wood.

Room at Harbour Rocks Hotel, Sydney

My room is much smaller than in Canberra but quite nice indeed. My back window looks out over a small courtyard. It is a shame I will only be here one night. I did not have a lot of time to enjoy the room though as I wanted to head out to enjoy what I could of the city.

Harrington Street, Sydney (outside hotel)

I headed down to the harbour via a back alley to catch the ferry to Manly beach. Manly is on the coast at the mouth of the harbour on which Sydney is found and is about a 25 minute ferry ride.

Alley Down to Harbour

When people think of Sydney I suspect they immediately think of the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. These are on either side of “Circular Quay” where the wharves are located for the various ferries that regularly come and go from here. As I approached the quay I passed the Museum of Contemporary Art and was faced with both of the two things that most will know of Sydney. To my right the opera house and to the left the bridge. The area was relatively busy as I figured out where to catch the ferry to Manly. I picked up a return ticket and found the wharf where the ferry was already boarding so I simply walked on board. Heading to the upper deck I found a spot outside to sit and relax while someone else did the driving…

Busy Harbour (Sydney Cove)

Of course, I took a lot of pictures as we left Circular Quay and passed by the opera house. The banks of the harbour on both sides are pretty much all covered with houses - Of course, everyone wanting to have a view of the harbour. There were not a lot of other boats around as we slowly made our way to Manly. On my last visit we had gone to the zoo but Manly is much further out and as we approached I noticed the houses along the shoreline got a lot nicer and sort of reminded me of scenes you might see in the Mediterranean.

Approaching Manly by Ferry

Manly Wharf Ferry Terminal

I had no idea what to see when we arrived in Manly. To be honest, I was just so focused on getting here in the first place and grateful I had arrived before dark. So, as in other situations I have been like this, I looked around to see where everyone was headed and soon spotted a sign pointing to the “Surfing Beach”. An area called the “Corso” is a pedestrianised street leading out from the ferry to the beach so I made my way along it past the various typical tourist shops and fast food restaurants. I was in a bit of a hurry to get to the beach before dark…

"The Corso" Leading Between Ferry Terminal and Surfing Beach

I had, rather optimistically, brought my swim suit and a towel from the hotel but I quickly could tell it was too cold and windy for any swimming when I arrived at the beach. The kite surfers were busy at it in the rather rough surf.

Manly Beach (North)

Manly Beach (South)

I walked down onto the beach (I had to walk on the beach) and sat down to watch the busy activity up and down the beach for a few minutes. One of the kite surfers had even set up an automatic video camera on a tripod on the beach that followed him as he went back and forth. It struck me as being pretty trusting that no one was going to steal it…I was getting chilled as I got up, shook off the sand and turned my back on the beach to head back.

Hotels on North Steyne Road along Manly Beach

I was looking for a souvenirs for people back home so made a couple of stops looking for the best bargains (and, hopefully, least tacky) but I also stopped at a sushi place to grab something for dinner and found out it was half price! Amazing tasting - VERY fresh fish.

I returned to the ferry and waited a few minutes for it to return me to Sydney. I was first at the gate and managed to get the front seat on the first floor of the ferry though, regretfully, the front flag pole obscured most of my pictures. The wind was getting cold as the sun set on Sydney harbour.

Sydney Opera House at Night

Sydney Core Area at Night (Circular Quay)

Sydney Harbour Bridge at Night

I slowly returned to the hotel stopping briefly to check out some souvenir shops opposite the ferry terminal then at a take-away to get something to eat. “Pie Face” is a name I have seen a lot of while I have been here. It is a restaurant that specializes in pies (an Australian staple, it seems) that, supposedly, have faces drawn on them. I can’t say the pattern on my pie looks like a face but you be the judge below…

Inside Harbour Rocks Hotel (1st Floor)

Dinner - Sushi from Manly and Pie from "Pie Face"

I was able to sleep pretty well on my last night in Australia (my only night here in Sydney) but did have to get up fairly early. I had booked a tour of the opera house for 9 am in the morning. Being an iconic image of Sydney and posing such a fascination to myself I felt it would certainly be worth a visit before heading to the airport for my return flight.

Breakfast was included so I headed to the basement to have mine. There was a continental-style buffet but we could also pick one item from the menu so rather having the full “english” breakfast I have been having in Canberra I picked something relatively simple - Eggs Benedict.

Breakfast - Eggs Benedict

I sat and enjoyed by breakfast near the door that was open onto the back cobblestoned alley leading down the hill to the harbour. It is not a nice day today - Cool and this early in the morning it is also foggy.

As I made my way from the hotel and around Circular Quay to the opera house I noticed that overnight a massive cruise ship had berthed on the harbour very close to the hotel. It is incredible that such a large ship can get all the way into Sydney like this - I did not know the harbour was that deep! Mind you, thinking back on it, I remember seeing cruise ships parked right in the middle of Hong Kong as well (at the tip of Kowloon near the bell tower).

Sydney Opera House in the Fog

Of course, I was early for the tour so spent a few minutes looking through the windows of their souvenir shop before it opened. They had the new Lego set of the opera house there including a rather large, $400, version as well (with lots of pieces, no doubt). The meeting place for the tour was just under the walkway so I went up the stairs to wait in the sunshine before we headed out…

Gathering us up they took our picture against a green screen which showed up at the end of the tour with our images splashed across various views of the opera house - So tacky! I wish they would not do this as I feel so bad to see them throwing away the things they have printed with my picture on them - Mind you, I suspect they do play upon this guilt a bit as well. The waste is awful.

We were given audio receivers for the tour guide which worked very well and meant we did not all have to crowd around him to hear what he had to say. There were about 30 of us in the tour so it was quite large considering it was early on a Saturday.

West Side of Sydney Opera House from Walkway

We were lucky enough to be taken into all of the various venues that are in the opera house though in several we were unable to take pictures as there are productions underway that do not permit photography (one was hosting a russian play and the other was a rock group setting up for a concert tonight in the Concert Hall). I was not aware that contrary to being simply an opera house it is actually five separate venus. The two largest being in the vaulted shapes you can see from outside (the biggest being not the opera house but the concert hall - the opera house is actually the smallest and, oddly, the only one without stage wings meaning staging operas is quite difficult…).

Inside Sydney Opera House - The "Studio"

The difficult development of the opera house was explained to us. They wanted a general purpose facility on the site of an old warehouse in their iconic harbour opposite the recently completed Sydney Harbour Bridge. A contest was arranged with the winning architect failing at two of the stipulations (that it had to fit the existing site and that it had to be of a certain cost) but winning over the judges with his amazing design. After winning, they had no idea how it could actually be built - with the plans only finalized well into the construction (it is based around the segments of a sphere).

Great View of the Bridge from the Opera House

Of course, the opera house was well over budget costing a total of $107 million with the original estimate being $7 million. It was also completed well behind schedule in 1973 (it was supposed to finish in 1963). As this was happening it caused, of course, a lot of controversy which in no small way led to the original architect leaving the project before it was completed (indeed he was not even present at the opening ceremony nor was his name, sadly, even mentioned).

Concert Hall Foyer

View of the Bridge from the Concert Hall Foyer

I had been told that the interior was fairly average but I found the spaces fascinating with the views of the harbour around the hall absolutely amazing. Perhaps a bit industrial with the amount of concrete yet so beautiful.

View of the Opera House from the Concert Hall

 Amazing Concrete Work in the Structure of the Opera House

We were about 15 minutes over time with the guide explaining that he wanted us to see everything so we finished off having a look in the Opera House itself where they were set up for a staging of “The King and I”. The guide explained that because there are no wings on the stage it makes big productions quite difficult as the sets have to move up, down or back. He said that for one ballet they staged here they padded the walls on either side so the ballerinas could jump off the stage and not hurt themselves as they hit the wall (!). Amazing at the practicality that has been sacrificed for design. But, truly, one look at the opera house and you know where you are.

Enormous Cruise Ship and Sydney Harbour Bridge

I had to hurry back to the hotel to check out, pick up the car and go to the airport. It was not an easy drive with traffic being quite nasty and the navigation system in the car not giving me the directions quick enough so I ended up seeing more of the city centre than I had planned on as I drove around a few blocks trying to get onto the motorway out.

Of course, enquiring at the hotel they assured me there were many petrol stations on the way to the airport so filling up the car would not be a problem…wrong. There may be many petrol stations but they are not on the road to the airport so I ended up actually driving into the airport then leaving to go and find a petrol station nearby. I ended up simply driving straight until I came across a 7-11 in a residential area. Of course, it meant I had to face more traffic as I once again returned to the airport - Damned if I was going to face the fuel costs from the rental agency!

I returned the car and learned that all cars they offer are unlimited miles - Except if I was to rent a Porsche so, well noted for next time (…no…Porsche…).

⇒ Continue to Flight Back