Sydney is a sprawling harbour city and is the most populated city in Australia. To us it had many similarities to Toronto. Skyrise towers intermingle with old, British style buildings. Tree lined streets and parks, cute boutique stores and coffee shops, but of course, nicer beaches. Like Toronto, Sydney’s real estate has boomed dramatically since 2012, with a 75% increase, making the average detached home worth about $1.1 million.
What makes Sydney so special? Well if the sun, proximity to beaches, and bustling nightlife aren’t enough, there is the architecture. The iconic Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect, after winning an international competition. They began construction in 1958, but the architect left in 1966 over “conflicting interests”. It finished in 1973 but he refused to return to see the completed project, despite being awarded the highest award for architecture and it becoming a UNESCO site.
Being the ever thrifty travelers we are, we had found a deal on Groupon for an opera performance at the Opera House. Not knowing basically anything about opera, we thought ‘why not?’ and bought some tickets for Opera’s Greatest Hits. We arrived a few hours early to the Sydney harbour, to take in the Harbour Bridge, see the ferries, and of course, inspect the Opera House. It’s a very “wow” moment, seeing the iconic building for the first time. It’s the quintessential “I’m in Australia” view and it really doesn’t get old.
As you get close to the opera house you can see all the detail. It surprised us that the roof is actually two-toned tiles, layed in different designs to make up the “sails” that are the opera house roof. In addition, it’s not actually one building. From different angles, you can see that it’s actually a few buildings, and it houses multiple theatre stages.
We handed in our tickets, bought a drink at the bar and went into the sectioned off places many tourists never get to go. The inside is decorated with wood, but the ceilings are a sculpted concrete (which apparently caused many issues with getting the correct sound distribution initially) and we made our way to our seats, anxiously awaiting the start. The lights dimmed and the pianist/host came out and talked to the crowd. Anyone from overseas, anyone from Spain? Do you happen to from Seville? Perhaps a Barber? Which lead into the first opera song, The Barber of Seville. To laypeople such as us, this is the song from Bugs Bunny when he cuts Elmer Fudd’s hair. As it was “Opera’s Greatest Hits” we actually recognized a considerable number of the songs they sang. We even got to participate in one, so we can say that we sang at the Sydney Opera House. It was truly a fantastic show, and it was a bit unexpected how much we enjoyed it considering neither of us are opera aficionados.
After the opera, we relaxed by the harbour, and watched the hustle and bustle and the overexcited seagulls snagging people’s food. The lights come on at night, illuminating the harbour bridge and opera house, creating a whole new sight to behold.
The harbour bridge is a icon in itself. Taking 9 years to build, it was completed in 1932. It spans 1.15 km and was a huge feat of engineering at that time. It is used continually, having 150,000 cars passing over it daily. Maintenance crews are continually painting it to prevent rust (it takes 1 year and 30,000L of paint). Fun fact, the actor that played Crocodile Dundee used to be a bridge painter. You can climb the harbour bridge for the small fee of $250, or you can climb the tower beside it for $15. Guess which one we opted for.
We of course, did a few other “must do” attractions in the Sydney area. Bondi beach has been a staple to surfers and beach goers for many years. We went to Koala Park and hand fed some wallabies (the kangaroos had already been fattened up too much before we got there). The main attraction is the koalas. We get to head into the koala enclosure and get to pet the hairy little guys (we learned it is hair, not fur) who sleep for 20 hours a day. They looked completely zonked out, but one managed to keep his eyes open for a few pictures with us. We understand you koalas. We’ve been there.