November 13, 2006
We board a plane and fly back to Sydney, this time to stay a few days. Sydney is a huge metropolitan and very modern city of about five million people. The area dates back to 1770 when Captain James Cook discovered it. He claimed the entire east coast of Australia, named it New South Wales.
Our room at the Sofitel Wentworth Hotel has a balcony overlooking a courtyard that is located several floors up from street level. It is evening, we are hungry so we decide to walk around the hotel block to find a restaurant. Being unsuccessful, we return to the hotel, eat at its restaurant and we are shocked to find the bill totals $70.00 – four glasses of iced tea at $8.00 a glass and two sandwiches. We won’t eat there anymore!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Our first stop is at an exclusive opal dealer. We go in, sit in a small reception area. Fionna introduces herself and welcomes us. She tells us a bit about how opals are mined and shows us a short video. She gives us a tour of the facility and she lets us see the store’s pride and joy – a one million dollar cut and polished black opal, kept in a special vault. We have 15 minutes to shop. Lil has her eye on a particular ring, I decide that Christmas will come early this year. Lil tries the ring on. Lo and behold, it fits like a glove – no resizing necessary.
We depart for a tour of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a world famous structure, even one of the modern "wonders of the world", according to many. Our tour guide is on the opera house staff, knows his stuff.
In 1957, as a result of competitive bidding, a design contract was awarded to Jorn Ulzon from Denmark. Ulzon settled on a design calling for a grouping of shells each to be cut from the same sphere, each shell pre-cast of concrete and assembled on site like a giant lego set. The idea was predicated on the notion of flying buttresses with no upright columns to impede view. It was a radical design and several architects were dubious. But construction began in the late 50s. By the mid 60s, the project was well past the "point of no return". Due in large part to the constant bickering and design changes that invariably result in a project of that size, Ulzon resigned and went back to Denmark – never again to return to see the finished product. A new team of architects completed the project. The Sydney Opera House officially opened in 1975. We found this tour to be quite informative and definitely recommend it.
Our next stop is the Taronga Zoo – an old zoo – the staff, though, is professional. We are divided into small groups for more personalization, a good idea. We see most of the marsupials, indigenous to Australia – kangaroo, wallaby (the difference between a kangaroo and a wallaby is simply one of size – the wallaby is smaller), platypus, echidna, koala, wombat, dingo (not a marsupial), a Tasmanian devil and several bird species. The only animal that we don’t see is the possum, a furry creature and quite different from the opossum that we have in the U.S.
After the zoo, we go on an hour boat tour of the harbor – an impressive one, not to be missed.
Our final day, Wednesday, is a free day. We arrange to meet several S-W members at the Center Point Tower Restaurant – one of those "needlepoint" places high in the city where you can get a few spectacular views. This place also was built on a revolving platform, rotating once every 70 minutes.
The entire area around the base of the Center Point Tower is a huge shopping mall. It’s strange to see Christmas displays and hear Christmas music in our summer. We meet and quickly introduce ourselves, embrace and easily launch into conversation, like old friends. Such is the way S-W get togethers typically unfold. The eight of us sit around a table and help ourselves to the buffet. To say the view of Sydney from this vantage point is spectacular is an understatement – breathtaking, beyond words. When we said our goodbyes, I know we will remember this meeting always.