Sydney in the RainA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 3: IN WHICH WE MEET TWO ICONS
Day 4: Sydney, Australia. Though locals like to boast that "Sunny Sydney" averages 240 days of blue skies and sunshine annually, we awoke this morning to find gray clouds hovering over already wet streets. By the time we were ready to go out, the rain was falling in earnest, knifing a hole into our mostly outdoor plans for the day. Taronga Zoo? Too puddly. Walking tour of the city? Too splattery. Walking across the harbor bridge? Too splashy.
After failing to track down a taxi to take us to the opera house in the hope of scoring tickets for a tour, there was nothing to do but duck into the Starbucks across the street from our hotel and regroup. While drinking our beverages and pondering the day, we spied one of the hop-on/hop-off tour buses passing by and a plan was born. A short slosh north on George Street took us to Town Hall where we boarded one of the red double-decker tourist buses that troll the streets of so many cities. Not having ridden one of these coaches for a while, we were impressed with their adoption of modern technology. Upon boarding, we were each given a set of earbuds (red, of course) for listening to commentary. Each seat was equipped with its own audio device, which had eight channels for different languages and volume controls. There was even a channel for narration in kidspeak. Using GPS technology presumably, the remarks started and stopped based on the bus location.
|Rain maintained a high vacancy rate at the Opera House sidewalk cafes.|
After lunch we hooked up with tour guide Monika at the designated meeting place on the lower level. Though tour groups can be as large as 35, our little group was a cozy 14. Monika's strong German accent required an extra dose of concentration but the earphones she distributed helped greatly, and she was a knowledgeable and congenial guide who clearly enjoyed her job. By the time we were midway through the tour, the many windows of the opera house revealed a transformation in the weather. Skies were a brilliant blue, and the sun shone brightly.
|Windows in the opera house look out on Sydney Harbour.|
|The Concert Hall|
By the end of our tour, the sunny skies were luring us to the beach, so we walked to nearby Circular Quay and bought tickets for the ferry to Manly, a beachside suburb 11 miles north. Missing the 2:00 ferry by two minutes, we waited for the 2:30. By the time we boarded, the gray cloud cover had reasserted itself, shoving the blue skies and sunshine into obscurity.
Tomorrow we are altering our plans a bit to hook up with a cousin of Ken's father who lives in the Sydney area, which will give us a bit more time in the city and maybe a chance to walk across the harbor bridge—if sunny Sydney makes another appearance.
- Ever the wise consumer, Ken asked at both the opera house and the ferry about senior discounts. Yes, there are senior discounts and they are substantial (25% off for the opera house tour). No, the discounts are not available to tourists. Only Australian permanent residents qualify for senior "concessions."
- As we approached the meeting spot for our opera house tour, we heard before we saw 15 or so screaming and giggling six-year-old girls chasing one another in the area near the meeting spot. Glancing over to the ticket window with thoughts of rebooking on a calmer tour, we soon realized that these little princesses had more important matters. They were celebrating a birthday at the cafe nearby and had no time to tour a boring old opera house.
- In the produce section of the supermarket, we were amazed to see potatoes on display that were covered with dirt. Some even had big clumps of soil attached. The cultivar is known as golden delight, a product of an Australian farm which sells this species along with red delight and cream delight exclusively in outlets of this grocery chain. Both the red and cream varieties were spotlessly clean—didn't look as if they had ever been underground—much in contrast to the golden. Finding no apparent reason, we checked the Delight Potatoes web site for an explanation. There was none, but curiously, the three types were pictured the same way there that we saw them in the supermarket.
|Does the weight of the dirt get deducted from the total potato weight?|
- Started in rainy Sydney, ended in rainy Sydney
- Mileage - 35 miles (Trip total: 9,659 )
- Weather - rainy, sunny, rainy; 54° to 63°
- Letterboxes - 0
- People sitting at opera house sidewalk cafes in the rain - 0
- People sitting at opera house sidewalk cafes in the sun - 2,611
- Total cost of opera house construction - $105 million
- Cost of current refurbishment and improvement project - $800 million
- Swimmers at Manly beach - 0
More Photos from Today
|Rain ending, tables drying out at Circular Quay|
|It didn't take long for the tables to fill.|
|Fascinating opera house ceiling in one of the foyers|
|A view of the opera house from the ferry|
|So different yet so recognizable even from various angles|
|Sydney Harbour Bridge, another iconic symbol of the city|
|The bridge was considerably smaller than we had imagined it, less than three-fourths of a mile long.|
|This umbrella art exhibit at World Square shopping center was particularly appropriate today.|