Friday, May 31, 2013

Sydney and Manly Beach

31 May 2013
Thursday was a gorgeous sunny day, even though this is the end of autumn Down Under.  We walked over to the train station in Redfern, stopping at the gorgeous French patisserie along the way.  (Doesn't everyone have a croissant or pain au chocolat for brekkie?)  


And passed a few ibis along the way - IBIS!!!!!!  Weren't they the sacred birds of ancient Egypt or something like that?  (Okay, Wikipedia says they were revered by the ancient Egyptians - so we'll say they were sacred birds.)  How amazing is it to see ibis wandering around a neighborhood park, eating crumbs and looking for food in the trash can!  (And who knew ibis were scavengers?  Obviously, the ibis is not a sacred bird in Australia.  Or they've forgotten they were revered in Egypt.  Or they've started to mimic pigeons.)  

The train ticket is a bargain - gets you on the trains and buses and ferries!  Plus they are double-decker train cars!  So we sat upstairs and had a wonderful view, until the train turned into a subway as it entered the city proper.  And then we had wonderful views of the subway tunnel. 

We emerged - oh, sorry, the proper term here in Australia is that we alighted from the carriage - at Circular Quay.  This is the non-circular shaped (as in rectangular) boat basin and ferry terminal at the end of Sydney Harbour.  With, of course, views of the harbour and Harbour Bridge and the truly iconic Opera House.  Unbelievably gorgeous, the whole thing!  

This is a beautiful city, although the building that make up the main part of the city are the usual steel and glass blocks, interrupted with the occasional cylinder or something a bit more interesting.  Nothing else seems as interesting as the Opera House, which actually is more interesting in person than in photos.  At first it looks like a sea shell, somehow opened or unfolded.  But then one sees the texture on the shells, and suddenly it looks like a series of wings, with each individual feather etched into the structure.   The architect, Jørn Utzon, was a relatively unknown until he designed this amazing building - and there were all kinds of controversies during the building of the Opera House, mostly due to changes in government and the new gov't's unwillingness to pay for such innovation, and so he resigned.  The building was finished (took almost 10 years) and Utzon was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of Architects Australia at the opening - but he declined to attend.  Wow!  (You can read more about it here:

The Harbour Bridge crosses the harbour and links Sydney with North Sydney.  Modern as it appears, it was actually designed and built in the 1920s-30s.  Which makes it an Art Deco design.  (More info here:

And you can actually walk on the bridge.  Not on the nice flat part where the cars drive.  No.  When you walk the Harbour Bridge, you actually walk the BRIDGE.  As in up the arch.  And over the bridge.  Insane.  People PAY to walk the bridge.  Richard asked how much it would take to get me to walk the top of the bridge.  I think $10,000 might do it.  Nothing less.

We keep encountering festivals and events, and Sydney is no different.  Sydney is in the midst of their new winter festival, Vivid Sydney.  There are banners and posters all over the Quay area, advertising the events.  Basically, Vivid Sydney is, like many mid-winter festivals, a festival of lights (well, lights, sound, and ideas).  Running from 6 PM to midnight, there are art installations using light as the medium - just one example is this tree, a rubber tree, covered in apples - REAL apples - which have been cored and LED lights added to the core - the apples are then lit up from within.  We've seen various installations, and will definitely spend several evenings watching the city painted in light!

Richard had a medical appointment, so I hopped on the ferry to Manly Beach - mostly because it was a beautiful day, and the ferry to Manly is the longest ride. 

There were beautiful views of the city as we left the quay, and of course the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.  Sailboats, tour boats, ferries - the harbour was full of boats.  We didn't see anything exciting like dolphins or whales, but I suspect it isn't quite whale season yet.

Most people go out to Manly Beach for surfing, and their were certainly a few surfboards on the ferry.  But there were quite a number of day trippers, like me, as well as bicycles and strollers and prams.

We alighted at Manly, and most people headed either to shop or toward the surfing beach, which is on the opposite side of the peninsula from where the wharf.  I headed across the harbour beach, walking toward the wildlife refuge on the spit.  But I was waylaid by the sulphur crested cockatoos who were eating pine nuts under the trees in the park.  

The cockatoos were just fascinating to watch, and they didn't seem to mind people walking into their flock and taking photos.  (They did fly away when a small child ran in, trying to catch one.)  But a few cockatoos would walk right up to me, expecting some food.  I kept tossing the pine nuts toward them, and a few would pick one up and try to peel the nut out of the husk.  The two cockatoos here put on quite a show, arguing and bickering until one would flare out the crest, and that seemed to settle whatever their argument was, until they'd start up again a few minutes later.  (I think the one on the right kept trying to steal the pine nuts.)

By the time I tired of the cockatoos, our ferry had left and a new one arrived - so this meant I had to go catch this new ferry (and had somehow spent 30 minutes just hanging out with the cockatoos!).   And while I didn't get to see much of Manly or Manly Beach or surfers, I did see a sign about the Little Penguins of Manly Harbour - the little blue penguins nest here, and this is the end of nest building season.  Eggs should start hatching pretty soon, and we can come back to Manly to try to see some little blue penguins at sunset.  Fortunately, the ferries run until midnight, and we'll try to do this one evening.

The trip back afforded amazing views of the Opera House - the changing angles and changing views made it look like some abstract fan folding and unfolding as we sailed around the point on which it's located.

And I know I add way too many photos to the blog, but I just can't NOT add these photos - because the angle changes what the building looks like.

Sometimes it looks like sails of boats, skimming along the harbour.

Then the view changes and the pieces of the building telescope back inward, looking like a different building.

We shift around, and the Opera House turns into a modern cathedral! 

A few minutes more, the building unfolds and opens up back into shells.  Or maybe an origami flower unfolding.

As we head in to the ferry dock, the building resumes its usual view, and somehow it looks like it's settling back into place, almost like a bird settling its plumage back into proper array as it curls up for the night.  

And as sunset is early, because this really is winter, the Opera House appears to be falling asleep, a series of interlocking shells or wings or bonnets or even hoop skirts.  

Amazing, how sailing around a single building makes it come alive!

Richard and I met up as planned, right on time, and had our afternoon tea and coffee, watching more ferries ply the waters and crazy people march up and down the arch of the bridge.  I tried to get photos of the silhouetted figures on the bridge, but my camera can only zoom so far and the photos turn all grainy with the setting light.  But trust me, it looked like Gandalf leading the heroes into Mordor. 

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