G’day, and Happy New Year! Sandy and I just got up after a late night of fireworks over Sydney Harbor and … but I digress … more later. Our saga continues, and it’s been a while since we last wrote.
Saturday, December 30, 2000
Our first item on the check list was to see Sydney Harbor by taking a Harbor Ferry to Manley. Sydney reminded us of a huge version of Annapolis’ busy harbor with huge passenger ferries everywhere, scores of sailboat races being organized and hundreds of power and sail boats out for an afternoon sail. There is virtually no industry on the harbor. It is bounded, instead, with dozens of residential communities, some on bluffs and others nestled right up to the water. All this is trimmed with views of the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and the impressive city skyline. It is truly beautiful!
Manley is a suburb on a small peninsula bounded by Sydney Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. It was the first seaside resort to allow daytime swimming and surfing in 1903. We didn’t really see much of the town. Instead, we followed the crowd past rows of shops to the ocean beach. The long, narrow beach was crowded with bathers, beach volleyball courts (they give lessons), surfers and surf kayakers. Graham and Kimberly explored the beach while the adults consulted Frommers for the perfect Manley lunch. We settled for sandwiches on the beach and the best chips(french fries) we’ve had since Lancaster.
After the ride back on the ferry, we walked to the Sydney Opera House. We signed up for a tour and were rewarded with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide. We got to see both the Concert Hall and the Opera Theater. The structure is huge! It contains almost 1,000 rooms, mostly in the four floors below the foyer level. The ten shells that make up its famous profile are massive. It is almost hard to believe that it stands and easy to believe that it took fourteen years and lots of politics to build.
A bus ride home to regroup and we were off again, this time to the Sydney Tower Center point in the middle of town. This needle structure is the highest in the southern hemisphere and is impressive. We were keen to see the city lights at dusk, but not keen enough to pay the single admission price that covered both the 40 minute film and the ride to the top. It was one of the few disappointments we’ve had on this trip. Fortunately, the monorail terminal was just outside the building, so we rode it around the full route, finally getting off at Sydney’s Harborplace at Darling Harbor to get dinner and walk the short distance back to our hotel.
Sunday, December 31, 2000
We split with Henrys for the first part of the day. Our first stop on our walk was the QVB (Queen Victoria Building). An elaborate Romanesque structure, it is a retail space built to replace an existing market in 1898and fills an entire city block. Restored in the sixties it is truly an elegant shopping mall. It has a beautiful glass dome, stained glass windows and beautiful tiledfloors. Two popular features are the clocks that hang in the two atriums, one called the Royal Clock and the other the Great Australian Clock. Both feature a series of animated scenes that display hourly. Also impressive is the Chinese Imperial Bridal Carriage, the only one outside China. Housed in a glass case, it is VERY old and literally, solid jade.
From there, we walked to The Rocks, the oldest section of Sydney and site of the first buildings. Historic, it is also the home of a lovely shopping district. Modern developers wanted to tear it down in the sixties but the people convinced the government of its historical importance and stopped the demolition plans. We wandered the shops and had a lovely lunch at The Bakers Café, a courtyard restaurant. We returned to the hotel to meet the Henrys and organized ourselves for the next checklist item.
Sydney knows how to celebrate, and this New Year’s Eve was no exception. Not only was the city celebrating a successful Olympic year past and ringing in a new. It was also kicking off a celebration of the centennial celebration of the federation of Australia’s states. We joined the throngs of an estimated million Sydneysiders walking to our chosen site to view the fireworks. Mrs. Macquaries Point, on the harbor and out from the Botanical Gardens, was one of more than a dozen designated harborside viewing areas. The site afforded a perfect view of the harbor with the Opera House framed by the Harbor Bridge. It also was within view of downtown buildings and harbor barges from which many of the works were to be displayed. The 9:00 preliminary show, set from two barges was an impressive precursor to the big midnight show. The midnight show did not disappoint! It was a completely coordinated display, firing incredible fireworks from the four river barges, from atop several surrounding skyscrapers and, of course, from the bridge, itself. Fireworks crowds are the same worldwide, oohhing and ahhingin unison to the more spectacular effects and sounding horns from the boats anchored in the cove in front of us.
We returned to our hotel on foot, passing several entertainment venues set beside the Botanical Gardens and in Hyde Park. We finally crawled into bed about 1:30 with the noise of the more ambitious partiers still wafting up from the streets.
Happy New Year to you all!
Sandy & Bill