Sydney A Trip Down Under - Day Three

by Julie Royce /
Julie Royce's picture
Jan 28, 2010 / 0 comments

On our third day in Sydney the thermometer climbed to 75 degrees by 8:30 a.m. when we left the Menzies. We asked the concierge for directions to the Museum of Sydney which appeared to be a few blocks away.  Following his instructions and armed with a city map, we headed off, oblivious to our fate - we would be lost within five minutes. In fairness to us, the streets of Sydney do not all run parallel and it was a pitiful map.

We decided that since we had no rigid agenda we would follow the aroma of freshly brewed coffee into a street-side cafe for a bit of breakfast.  We smugly watched workers bustling about in their well-pressed suits, hanging tight to attaché cases. They reminded me of how much I love retirement.  After refueling, we ventured out again. 


Sydney Harbour Bridge

The  Sydney Harbor Bridge from Circular Quay 

We ended up at Circular Quay admiring the skyline, snapping pictures of the bridge, and finally identifying the colorful lavender trees as Jacaranda.

I turned down the bridge climb. They actually let foolhardy visitors climb atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge in harnesses. To go requires you swear you are of sound mind, but I believe ‘crazy’ is inherent in the fact that you want to do it. I guess they mean that if you are suicidal you should admit it.  Women who are pregnant must first consult a physician for consent to scale the 52,800 tons of steel that soar 134 meters (whatever that is, I'm sure it's very high). It is the largest single span bridge in the world.


Sydney Harbour Bridge

  The Bridge is a geometric wonder from any angle


Sydney Harbour Bridge

Many brave souls make the bridge climb to the top


Sydney Harbour Bridge

The bridge links the city centre with the residential north shore 

We stopped enough people to finally find our way to the Museum of Sydney, a smallish museum with interactive displays and old films about the development of the City. It doesn't take a long time to exhaust its exhibits so our morning detour proved of no consequence. 


Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge

Entering the harbor in a misty morning fog 

Our afternoon was subject to greater time constraints. We had tickets for a 1:00 pm performance at the Sydney Opera House. If you are not a fan of opera, “not to worry” as the Aussies would say. The three venues of the Opera House offer something for every taste. We had tickets for God of Carnage which was amusing – at times laugh out loud funny - provocative, and definitely a great afternoon’s entertainment.  However, even if it had been a flat out bust, the Opera House was a not-to-be-missed adventure.


Sydney Opera House

The architecturally amazing Sydney Opera House 

Sydney Opera House


Perched along the edge of the Sydney Harbor, the views from the Opera House’s various levels are dazzling. Even if we had been unable to squeeze in a performance, it would have been worth making time to enjoy the building’s beautiful façade, sip a glass of wine at one of its sidewalk cafes, and tour backstage.  After the performance we had tickets for the Essential Tour which let us see the three main theatres: the Drama Theatre, the Opera Stage, and the Main Theatre. In the latter we caught a children's group rehearsing for an evening performance. I wondered if the youngsters were nervous or just excited about singing on stage at the famed Sydney Opera House. The main theatre holds 5000 patrons.

The brain child of Danish Architect Jorn Utzon, the Opera House was completed in 1973, and is one of the most (if not the most) recognizable and famous buildings in the world. Looking at it, you can imagine the engineering nightmares it presented to the workers trying to give life to Utzon's dream. It was originally estimated that construction would cost $7,000,000, which would have been a bargain. The final figure rose above $102,000,000.  As the Opera House neared completion, the city fathers became displeased with Utzon (small wonder since the project was coming in nearly 15 times over budget and years late). They offered Utzon the option of staying on during the remaining construction as an advisor only, or withdrawing from the project completely.  He chose the latter, returning to his home in Denmark never to see the magnificent culmination of his plan.

Whatever else you plan for Sydney, you can’t miss the Sydney Opera House without missing the very essence of the city. 


Sydney Botanical Garden

A Jacaranda tree adds a blaze of purple to the Botanical Gardens 

After the Opera House we wound our way through the Botanical Gardens back to the Menzies.  If the lush gardens had one downside it was the zillions of tiny flies that call it home.  They didn't seem to leave any evidence of damage, but were annoying nonetheless. I later learned that the gesture of swatting flies is considered the Australian salute.  We should have doused our arms with Off beforehand. Minus the insect pests, the gardens would have been the perfect place for an afternoon relaxing with a bottle of Australian wine, a loaf of fresh crusty bread, and some cheese and fruit. Maybe on our next visit to Sydney, that will be part of the plan.


The other important discovery for the day was an Australian beer called Toohey.  We sat in the Menzies' Sports Bar and relaxed with our thoughts of an interesting and unseasonably hot Sydney afternoon.  It had reached into the 90s and Bob wasn't letting me forget that I recommended he pack mainly long sleeved shirts and long pants.  How was I to know?


Don't miss the other articles in this series

Sydney: Days One and Two

Sydney: Morning, Day Four

Sydney: Day Four, Afternoon 


Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for




All photos courtesy and copyright of Robert Royce.


Note: The Essential Tour of the Sydney Opera House was complimentary for us as media. All other expenses were our own.