Saturday, March 27, 2010

Manly Beach (II)

You can just make out the tiny dots on the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the photo above; these are people who have paid $200 each to climb the outside of the span to get a view of the harbour! (it might help if you double-click on the image to enlarge it)
Today was a day for the harbour and the water, of which there are copious quantities in the area. We started with a 10-minute walk to the Manly Wharf, from there we caught the ferry for a 30-minute ride into the heart of Sydney. Next on the list was a tour of the spectacular and iconic Sydney Opera House, which occupies a prominent spot on the harbour. Among the many things that I learned on the tour were:

• the winning entry for the 1959 competition was submitted by an unknown, 38-year old Danish architect;
• the entry, which was little more than a conceptual drawing, had already been rejected by the design committee, but a late-joining member insisted on reviewing all of the entries again, and the design was resurrected;
• the conical slices used in the exterior shell, when properly assembled, would form a large semi-sphere;
• the structure uses four times the amount of steel in the nearby Sydney Harbour Bridge;
• expected to be built in 3 years, it took 16 years to complete; likewise the $7 million budget for the task eventually rose to more than $102 million;
• due to all of the controversy over construction delays and rising costs, the Danish architect was replaced by a design committee, and returned to Europe. He died in 2008; having never viewed his completed masterpiece.
• The Opera House was officially opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II;
• the building has gained World Heritage status; the youngest structure to do so.

The Prime Minister's home is located on a point of land right across the harbour from the Opera House.

[Picture at left; Jean standing in front of our place; we have the top two floors on the left. Below; the view from our front balcony.]

Following lunch we took a ferry headed to a number of spots further up the harbour, which afforded us numerous occasions to take photographs and admire the many urban vistas possible in this spectacular city. I got accused of taking pictures of nothing but the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but it is impossible to ignore such an iconic and impressive structure. Before his film career as Crocodile Dundee, actor Paul Hogan spent 7 years employed full-time doing nothing but painting the bridge. Now, for just $200 Au you can climb the top of the outside span for an incredible vista of the harbour and city; all day there is a constant stream of little dots making their way up and down the huge span. Unfortunately, driving across the bridge does not offer the view one hopes; the pedisterian walkways have been enclosed in large, wire fencing to deter 'jumpers' and this spoils the view.

Next on our stop was a visit to The Victoria building; a marvellously-restored old building right downtown. While its restored tile flooring, brass rails and stained-glass windows are beautiful, the most impressive thing were two large hanging clocks. One represented the early explorers of Australia, with a wooden sailing ship making its way around the world. The second clock was an English castle. At the stroke of the hour the castle boomed out the time with exactly the same carillon and chime as Ben Ben in London, following which four trumpeters rose in the turrets to play a fanfare. Next, a window on the face of the clock illuminated periodically to show a miniature scene from British history. There was Henry VIII with his court, the signing of the Magna Charter a, and Sir Walter Raleigh being knighted. The show concluded with an execution, presumably Charles I. A masked man swung an English Broadaxe onto a chopping block, and the little head rolled into a basket. This caused the gathered crowd to chuckle, and left me wondering what all of this has to say about our heritage!

Afterwards we stopped in at The Marble Bar, a restored vintage bar that was moved in its entirety from an old hotel in the area. From there we took the ferry back to Manly Beach and headed out to supper.

The next day we again took the Manly Ferry to downtown Sydney and then switched to a local ferry to take us across the harbour to the zoo. This is located on a prime slope of land overlooking the city and is home to a huge number of unique specimens indigenous to the area; including Koala Bears, Wallabies, Kangaroos, Wombats, the Duck-Billed Platypus and all kinds of birds, lizards, etc. The zoo is the only one in the world that raises the Platypus. In addition, the usual bears, tigers, lions, giraffes, leopards, penguins and hippos were on display.

We have found that the Sydney area features food from around the world, and to this point we have eaten in Mexican, Italian and Indian restaurants, and enjoyed some very good meals. Likewise, we have tried some really excellent beer, and each of us has their favourite. Remarkably, the restaurants do not expect a tip; they are well-paid workers. Here on Manly Beach, a lot of the restaurant staff are young people working their way around the world. Manly attracts them because of the resort atmosphere and the beach attractions. I have already talked to restaurant staff from Serbia, Croatia, Russia, and the US. The other day I had a good chat with a young man from France, who especially appreciated being able to converse in French; he (charitably, I think) said that he liked the Quebecois accent, which immediately identified me as a Canadian.

Aussie Oddities

The children are mild-mannered, disciplined and polite. All school-kids are required to wear uniforms.

There is little garbage thrown around, and almost zero graffiti on buildings and walls.

The adults appear to be in better shape and slimmer than North Americans.

There is little canned beer; you are served with either draught in a glass, or bottled beer.

The electrical system runs on 220-volt; this requires some fancy, ad-hoc patchwork to keep all of our electronics (cameras, computers, GPS, etc.) going. The photo shows the collection of transformers, adapters and wires needed to keep our gear going.

Manly Beach got its name from the natives; when the British arrived they described them as being 'manly' in bearing.
An Auto Repair Centre is known as a "Preferred Smash Repairer; much better, eh!
This is the preferred breakfast of choice for the surfing crowd down here in Australia; it is known as the Wombora - roughly meaning The Big Kuhuna. It has two sausages, 4 slices of bacon and a fried egg; all slathered in fried onions and slammed between two pieces of white bread. It is prepared on an outdoor Aussie Barbie in order to give it that authentic Black Char coating that appears to be an essential taste element in the treat. You douse it liberally with some type of red sauce, assume The Hunch Position, and then try to cram as much in your mouth as possible. I do hope that my cardiologist isn't reading this blog!
Cheers, Mate!


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