Day 56/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Day 2 Sydney, NSW, Australia.
When Plan A doesn’t work out, then figure out a Plan B. And that is exactly what we did today. I fell asleep last night trying to finish the blog, since our 18,000 step day was a killer! Richard woke me up at 12:45am and said you need to go to sleep! I was sitting up in bed with the Ipad on my lap when I fell asleep. Anyway, this morning Richard wakes up and I’m in the same position….trying to finish the blog from Day 55 - our first day in Sydney. I was having absolutely no luck trying to load photos with the horrible internet on the Neptune. And of any day when I really wanted a lot of photos in the blog, it was on our entrance to Sydney, and the Harbour. So I thought to myself, shopping malls all have free internet, so does Starbucks, so if we went into Sydney with my Ipad, a charging cable and a battery pack, we could probably get the blog finished with photos, and published in no time!
We had a quick breakfast in our cabin as we wanted to be on the 9:30am shuttle into Sydney this morning. As I said we are in ‘Etobicoke’ or actually we are at the ‘White Bay Cruise Terminal’ and it is a 15 minute bus ride to the shuttle drop off spot at Kings Wharf on Lime Street, downtown Sydney. Luckily we decided to go line up for the shuttle at 9:15am or we would not have got on the 9:30am shuttle. There were quite a few people behind us that did not get on the shuttle as the bus only holds 55 people. Some people actually got off to let 5 of the Viking crew get on the shuttle, as they do not have much time off in port and if they had to wait for the 10am shuttle then they would be eating into their free time. Richard is a transportation guru as he does this bus movement stuff for a living and what he could not understand was why there was a bus waiting at King’s Wharf at this time of the morning, when all of the movement of people needed to be from the ship to downtown? Anyway, I told him not to overthink this stuff, since he wasn’t working and we got down early enough for the 9:30am shuttle. The stores downtown all opened at 10am so of course the 9:30am shuttle was going to be very busy.
We decided to walk straight away to the Queen Victoria Building which I had seen was a very beautiful old building that I knew would have some cool cafes with internet! We walked for about 15 minutes to get from King’s Wharf to Queen Victoria Building using the walking map we had received from Viking yesterday. Sydney is an easy city to figure out using a street map.
On the way to the Queen Victoria Building we passed the Dundee Arms Hotel which is one of the oldest surviving pubs in the area. Built in the 1840’s the pub served sailors from the ships docked in the harbour and workers from the warehouses of Darling Harbour and the shopkeepers in the Corn Exchange next door. If those walls could talk!
The Dundee Arms Hotel, circa 1840.
We were hoping to find an Australia Ugg store in our travels today, but the one we found was not open at 10am when we went by it. The sign in the window was quite cheeky.
We weren’t sure if they would ever open, so we kept walking to Queen Victoria Building.
The architecture in downtown Sydney is a mix of old and new and is quite striking!
Commercial Federation architecture with elements of ‘American Romanesque’ on the Shelbourne Hotel in Sydney. There is currently a controversial proposal to build a 150 metre tower above the heritage pub.
Queen Victoria Building opened in 1898. With elaborate Romanesque architecture it was named to honour the monarch Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The building looked so neat from the outside we couldn’t wait to see the inside of it.
We walked through the Queen Victoria Building taking the escalator up to the middle floor and found a lovely little cafe with a bar top table that I could hook up to the internet and keep doing the blog. We ordered some drinks and a delicious almond croissant while I got settled. The internet was blazingly fast! I was amazed, but so very thankful to finally have some fantastic internet. If I had internet that good on this cruise I could finish the daily blog in less than an hour. The amount of time it is taking to load photographs is killing me on the ship. Hours and hours of waiting for photos to load into the Wix blog software I’m using.
I was able to quickly in less than 40 minutes, add photographs to the blog, and publish it, all while Richard FaceTimed his brother in Florida! The internet was that good!
The Queen Victoria Building is a lot older than the Toronto Eaton Centre, but the similarities between the two buildings were very similar. It was a gorgeous old building and I really enjoyed having the chance to see inside it.
After having our snack and publishing the blog we wandered downstairs through the mall and found an Aveda store. I had said to Richard there is an Aveda store somewhere in Sydney and I want to get some regular Aveda shampoo at the store if we can find it. I have said before I’m not a fan of the Freya products on the Neptune and for colour treated hair I use Aveda products at home and the product is amazing. The consultant recommended some product, I bought it and off we went to find the department store called Myer in the Westfield shopping mall, which was connected under the street to the Queen Victoria Building. If you’ve ever been in Toronto I felt like I was going from The Toronto Eaton Centre into The Bay through the underground tunnel.
Shopping was good at Myer! I had a couple of ‘start the car’ moments as we like to say! I do find the fashion sense in Sydney is delightful. Most women wear dresses and I like dresses! The dresses are very breezy and summery, often made of linen or cotton because of the heat, and nice and long, just like I like them. So if you’re into dresses and want good shopping, with a great fashion sense, save your money for Sydney!
We had to get going though after my shopping adventure, because we needed to get going for our private tour we had booked through VIATOR. We were going on 12:45pm and we thought about getting closer to the venue we were going to, before stopping for some lunch. We found an ideal little spot near Circular Quay with a food court and found a restaurant making Turkish street food. Amazing! We have never had Turkish street food. Why not?
The concept was that they make some dough which they press through a rolling machine. Then they stuff the dough, press the sides down and then pan fry it until the outside is browned and the insides are melted. Kind of like an Italian calzone, but with different fillings and thinner dough. I ordered us the feta and zatar filling with two sides of hummus and we waited for our takeout box. The dish looked like a cut up stuffed pizza and we also got a lemon wedge with it, to squeeze over the cooked dough. Yum! We could not wait to eat this tasty delight, but we had more walking to do before we had time to stop and eat.
We walked past Wharf 2 where we had boarded our ferry yesterday, and we had to keep walking and walking until finally we arrived!
I had booked us a VIATOR tour of ‘Behind the Scenes of the Sydney Opera House’. I had received an email from VIATOR with two vouchers which I had to exchange at the Tour Ticket office, for physical tickets. Richard had to check his backpack and my shopping bag, because there were no large bags allowed in the Opera House. There was no cost for checking the bags and then we had about 20 minutes to eat our lunch overlooking the Sydney Opera House, while waiting for our guide to show up at Post 1 to start our English speaking tour. It is a good thing we booked this tour well in advance because there were signs up at the Tour Ticket Office stating that all English speaking tours were completely sold out for the day. I had booked our tour last summer when I was reviewing the list of excursions and did not see anything offered by Viking for the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Our tour guide arrived with head sets and Quietvox machines for us to use at 1:20pm and we quickly got set up to be able to listen to him as he gave the tour. We started with an amazing 6 minute video of various performers that have performed at the Sydney Opera House in a room in the Opera House with the same Australian brush box wood panelling and amazing acoustics as the Opera House itself. The Opera House is actually made up of 5 concert venues: the Concert Hall with a seating capacity of 2,679, Opera Theatre or the Joan Sutherland Theatre, with a seating capacity of 1,547, Drama Theatre (544 seats), Playhouse (398 seats) and Studio Theatre (364 seats). The Opera House is home to: Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company, The Sydney Symphony Orchestra and The Australian Ballet.
After viewing the 6 minute video of performances at the Opera House, we then headed up to see the lobby of The Concert Hall which features architecture from the 1970’s called ‘brutalist’ style
Our guide gave us a brief history of the The Opera House which is 50 years old this year. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, but completed by an Australian architectural team. The construction was started in 1959 and the building was not opened until 1973 with a huge cost overrun from an original budget of $7million dollars and a final cost of $102million! The funding for the Sydney Opera House was funded through lottery sales, so our guide said that ‘gamblers’ had paid for the construction of the Opera House. The accounting firm Deloittes did a valuation of how much the Sydney Opera House brings in revenue to Australia each year from tourism and they determined that the Opera house adds $775 million dollars each year to the economy. Eleven million people a year visit the Opera House and there are 5 million tours done each year! Half the Opera House was closed for renovations until just 7 months ago, when a $150million dollar renovation was completed on the main concert hall which also added. a tunnel for wheelchair accessibility from the underground car park. Often during tours, the main concert hall is in use and not available for viewing, but we were in luck today, because 13 minutes before it was our time to enter the concert hall, they had just finished up a rehearsal. We were not allowed to take photos inside the main concert hall which seats 2,679 but our friends Gene and Margaret went to a concert last evening at the Opera House and Margaret shared with me her photos, so we’re in luck and I can share them here with you!
The main concert hall at the Sydney Opera House has a unique feature, which is seating is behind the main stage. If you look up at the top of the photo you can see the huge Sydney Opera House Grand Organ which is the worlds largest mechanical tracker action pipe organ. There are 10,244 pipes to the organ which is 15 metres tall and weights 37.5 tonnes! It took over 10 years to complete. At a cost of $1.2million dollars.
The large petal shaped pink tiles hanging from the ceiling were recently installed as part of the $150million renovation at the main concert hall. The fibreglass tiles which were manufactured in Germany can be raised or lowered to stop the sounds from the orchestra from bouncing around which makes it hard for musicians to hear each other. The tiles today when we were in the main concert hall had been retracted to the ceiling, but in the photo from yesterday you can see that they are only about 25 feet above the musicians head in effect creating a lower ceiling, so the sound does not travel as far and then reverberate back to the stage.
We were also able to visit the smaller Joan Sutherland Theatre where the Opera perform, named in honour of Dame Joan Sutherland who was a famous coloratura soprano from Australia. Pavarotti named Dame Joan as “La Stupenda” (she is stupendous) because she was one of the most powerful and technically perfect divas of the 20th century. We were able to watch the Opera scenery being lowered into the floor with the cranes that they use to move sets around. The storage of the sets is done 2 floors below the actual stage.
We were extremely lucky to be able to visit both concert venues today because our guide says that rarely happens when both larger venues are free.
We walked outside the Joan Sutherland Theatre to be able to touch the roof tiles of the Sydney Opera House. Up close, the tiles look completely different than anything we imagined when we saw the Opera House from a distance. The roof is made of tiles which were manufactured in Sweden. There are more than 1,056,000 glazed white granite roof tiles which are meant to be self cleaning in nature. The subtle chevron pattern has glossy white-matte and cream coloured tiles. The tiles are fungus proof and the white and cream finish catches the light and mirrors the sky from dawn to dusk, every single day of the year. The pattern of the tiles on the roof with folds and ribs in the design make the roof look very expressive.
World Pride is starting in Sydney this weekend for 17 days and the Sydney Opera House is lit up at night as a tribute to World Pride. We did not see the Opera House lit up last evening, but this is what it looks like.
Is this not stunning?
We were thoroughly ‘wowed’ by the experience of visiting behind the Scenes of the Sydney Opera House. There was so much more I could write about this amazing venue, but if you’re interested please go ahead and read up on this UNESCO World Heritage site. It really is a fascinating place and it truly is iconically linked to Sydney, Australia and probably the first thing anyone thinks about when asked to name the one thing they know about Australia!
We had to be back on board today at 5pm so after finishing our 1.5 hour tour of the Opera House with our excellent guide, we had to start walking back towards King’s Wharf to catch the Viking shuttle back to the ship. Both of us had really sore feet from two days of walking, and I saw the UGG Australia store and decided to go in to see what I could find. I’ve owned 3 pairs of UGG boots, have 2 pairs of UGG slippers, so I know how comfortable UGGS are! And warm too!
UGG Sandals! They are a bit polarizing with people either loving them or hating them. Frankly, I have so many issues with my feet, I am just looking for something comfortable to wear and UGGS are amazingly comfortable! So I will wear them and be comfortable! Haters can just not look at my feet!
We stopped for a quick McDonald’s ice cream on the way to our shuttle bus. They sell them just like ice creams in England are sold; with a Cadbury’s chocolate flake on the side of the ice cream! And for only a $1 too!
We made it back to the 4pm shuttle to the ship, with 15 minutes to spare, and the shuttle didn’t leave until 4:05pm. We sailed out of Sydney Harbour at 6pm and we went up to the starboard side of the ship just outside the pool deck to be able to capture the beautiful sail away through Sydney Harbour.
The internet is a complete write off at this point and Richard has sent an email to Guest Services to ask what is wrong with the internet and when it will be resolved, We had great internet with Starlink prior to arriving in Australia and the internet has been horrible since we have been near civilization, which does not make any sense at all. I’ve got a ton more photos to upload into the blog, but I can’t get them to load, because of the internet speed. Perhaps tomorrow which is a sea day the internet will be more functional and I can do a photo essay type blog of more highlights of Sydney.