And we were only there for two days and a night.
This is an epic: I make no apologies: Sydney is, after all an epic city.
After three days and nights at sea, it was good to make land, in fact we were ecstatic – God alone knows (and the world cruisers) how we would have been after 8 days and nights at sea – Better still, the land we made was Sydney: we’d waited so long for this day, although the preceding day of blue, blue skies and an unbelievably flat Tasman Sea made the wait so much more tolerable: yet we were here. We had actually arrived at Sydney, Australia; the other side of the world.
We awoke, yes unbelievably the ‘we’ stands for both Mrs Me as well as me, at 05:00 to watch us sail into Sydney Harbour and: seeing for our first time, Sydney Harbour Bridge & Sydney Opera House ‘in the flesh’ an emotional moment it surely was.
When we booked this trip so many moons ago, we immediately booked an excursion through P&O to see an Opera in the Opera House, even though we didn’t know which one it was going to be. As it turned out, the Opera was to be Carmen, an Opera we had seen & loved twice before; once in the Verona Arena (in Italian) and again in the the Royal Albert Hall in London (in English) so it was going to be interesting to see it again – in yet another iconic venue – and hear it in French.
Prior to our arrival in Sydney, the Captain explained that we could only park where we were going to park (opposite the Opera House) if we arrived very early or late so as to avoid the rush hour. The reason became apparent almost as soon as we’d parked and tied the boat to the side with all it’s strings. Immediately in front of us were the ferry piers with boats of all sizes coming to drop off its cargo of commuters and tourists and to collect the next batch. This went on all day with the mix of commuters and tourists adjusting according to the time of day. Some boats were small little water taxis carrying no more than a dozen passengers while others were huge great big buggers that looked like small ships. At any one time, there was on average 4 coming in and 4 going out, constantly, all day long. No wonder we had to come in early.
Once we satisfied ourselves that we had parked correctly and was tied up nice and secure, Mrs Me and I went for breakfast where we (sorry, She) planned what we were going to do for the day. After much discussion, which consisted of Mrs Me discussing and me nodding my head, we agreed to just wander around the immediate vicinity, explore the area called the Rocks, find somewhere to drink, look for Australian Opals, find somewhere to eat, walk around Circular Quays, checkout the Opera House, find somewhere to drink, check ferry options for the next day, find somewhere to drink, watch the world go by then go back to the boat to get ready for the Opera. And, that’s exactly what we did. And having done it, we were hot and weary. So hot and weary in fact that we felt it necessary to return to our cabin early enough to allow us it sit and relax on our balcony, just watching Sydney’s hustle and bustle: we also felt it necessary to drink the bottle of champagne that had replaced the last one we drunk.
Point of information for P&O; if you keep putting champagne in our fridge, we’ll keep drinking it. :-)
Our next decision point was what do we wear for the Opera. A quick scan of the various paperwork suggested that open neck shirt, jacket & smart trousers would be just fine. For Mrs Me something nice (anything she wears make it something nice though).
The next challenge was going from the ship to the Opera House, about 500 metres, or a 10 minute gentle stroll. But no, we were to be transported there by coach. With boarding time – an age in itself – and the drive, seemingly, round Sydney, the whole thing took around 30 minutes. Naturally, we elected to walk back after the Opera.
At last, we were in the Sydney Opera House. We made our way up 120 steps, only to espy an escalator as we reached the top, before making our way to the pre-show bar looking out across the harbour. We genuinely felt so lucky/privileged just being there, let alone being lucky enough to have tickets to see the [sell out] show. In fact, we felt it necessary to drink 2 or 3 more glasses of fizzy pop before going into the theatre. Once inside, we found our seats and waited while the theatre filled, with people wearing the full range of outfits, from full dinner suites and evening dresses to sandals, jeans & T-shirts. And all sorts in between, some of which, and I’m talking about the female variety here, were more than a little pleasing on the eye. ouch, leave my ear alone: it hurts. Anyway, they were, very pleasing on the eye indeed.
The lights went down, the orchestra sounded off and the Opera was on. And as it started, the story once again came flooding back, with Carmen as ever looking voluptuous ( ouch, my ear hurts again). In a way, the fact that the story was so familiar was good as the effects of close to a bottle of champagne and the heat of the day started to take its toll. But, with all credit to the cast and orchestra, and of course all those that made it happen, I did manage to stay awake for the whole show and yes, I enjoyed every bit of it. I think I may have a bit of a crush on Carmen but given what happens, it probably wouldn’t be a long lasting crush. Now, as I mentioned, I had seen Carmen in Verona, and there, they brought horses onto the stage. They didn’t in London nor did I expect them in Sydney, but they did. Even for part of the curtain call where the horse bowed in appreciation of the thunderous applause. Applause that was well deserved for all involved. And so the show ended, the Opera House emptied and we made our way, on foot, back to the ship, back to our cabin, back to our balcony, back to just one more drink before bed time.
I recommend all to see Carmen at least once.
The next morning we had a slightly later breakfast before returning shoreside to catch a ferry from Circular Quay, going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, to Darling Harbour. From here we planned to walk around, via Paddy’s Market & China Town into Hyde Park and the Royal Batonical Gardens back to Circular Quay where would have a late meal so that we could enjoy the 9pm sail away (normally, we would be at dinner between 8:30 & 10:00).
We made Paddy’s Market in good time and immediately decided that Paddy’s Market was not a place that we would spend too much time. It certainly wasn’t our cup of tea. There then followed 10 minutes map reading for my part and questioning on the part of Mrs Me who was convinced I had the map the wrong way round (proof that women can’t read maps) – leave my ear alone woman – before admitting I was right and continuing into China Town, where we stopped to get a coke and jelly beans for Mrs Me who was starting to feel shaky and in need of sugar – nothing of course to do with the excess of champagne the night before! for gods sake, will you stop flicking my ear. Fully rested and watered we continued on to Hyde Park to visit the Anzac Memorial and then onto the fountain of remembrance.
From Hyde Park, we crossed over to the Royal Botanical Gardens. By now, we were starting to flag as the day got hotter (even the tar underfoot felt a little soft) and the exertions and excess of the previous day took its toll. Luckily, we found a small cafe where we could take on proper food and rehydrate ourselves properly. Had we been sitting in London, we would by now be pestered by pigeons but here in Sydney we saw but one solitary pigeon but there were loads of large (duck size) birds with long beaks like curlews. I don’t know what they were, perhaps they were curlews, but they were friendly and cute despite having the back of their heads looking a bit like a vulture. While the temptation was there, we resisted and kept all the food to ourselves.
By the way, as I’m writing this bit, we’re sitting in the Crows Nest enjoying a Singapore Sling , listening to a gaggle of women nattering and the clicking of their ‘knitting needles’ as we sail the Bass Straight between Australia and Tasmania on our way to ‘The Bite’ (which is supposed to be a bit like the Bay of Biscay) and subsequently, Melbourne.
Once again rested, we headed into the gardens proper which were stunning. Pictures I’m afraid will have to wait until we get WiFi that’s a bit quicker and more reliable that satellite. Without a doubt, there was a tropical feel about the place. It was very hot and extremely humid. In fact, it was so bad that when we ‘chanced’ on another cafe, we again felt compelled to site down a replace lost fluids. This time though, with beer :-).
While enjoying our beer’s I took the opportunity to photograph some of the wildlife. As before we were joined by what I now know to be Ibis’s, crows, moorhens and other things that I’ll never know the names of. Then, there was an almighty roar from above. No, it wasn’t a lion! It was an aerobatic team doing their stuff over the harbour. Wow, what a treat that was. I managed to get quite a few pictures, most of which were rubbish so you’ll have to take it from me, they were really good. After that, it was the last push to get back to the ship. On the way however, we strayed upon a tree filled with parrot type birds. Their flash’s of colours darting around over our heads. Brilliant reds, blues and yellows. Only seeing them for real can they truly be appreciated.
At last, we made the ship tired, achy and very, very hot. So hot in fact that we decided to forego the planned meal at Circular Quay and settle for Fish & Chips :-) by the pool before retiring to our cabin for the sail away, scheduled for 9 o’clock or 21:00 as us sea farers know it.
Just as we finished our fish & chips however, the sky became very angry, preceded by sudden strong winds and then, the sky opened and down came the rain. Did we care. Not one bit, we were in a sheltered part, by the bar, and anyway, the rain was warm. The rain triggered the need to close the roof over the pool, which turned the area into a something akin to a Sauna. That was our cue to retire.
Back in our cabin, we sat down on sheltered balcony to watch the rain and was now developing into an electrical storm. The lightening arced across the whole sky and moving forever closer. We saw the night bridge walkers quickly retreating from the top before the lightening got too close. The gulls, our forever friends in port went for cover. Then the thunder arrived, which given the immensity of the lightening was rather pathetic, and then, spookily, the allotted time arrived for us to depart. But, nothing happened. In fact nothing happened for at least half an hour. Then it was time; time to let go the strings. All the strings were eventually released and still the ship didn’t move – do we really need all those strings? After what seemed half an hour but probably only a couple of minutes, we were away. We slipped quietly away from the harbour (making lots of noise with the ships horn probably wouldn’t be appreciated by the locals) turned back into the main waterway and sailed out past the Opera House, setting course for Melbourne. I watched, Mrs Me now electing for bed, as we sailed out to sea until we dropped off the pilot at 22:19. Then, it was time for my bed as well.