Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Happy Australia Day to all of you back in Canada, they celebrate it on Jan. 26 and once again the Aussie’s have proved they know how to throw a party. The celebrations started on the water with the ferry race. We were watching from the Harbour Bridge and these huge vessels gathered just off an island and steamed off up the harbour, they all turned and 45 minutes later they came streaming towards the bridge. The 21 gun salute took place after which we wandered down to take our pick of the 7 sites of free entertainment in the parks around the Circular Quay and up in The Rocks. You had your pick of musical styles, from rock to reggae, soul, r and b to folk, if we didn’t like one stage we wandered off to another to see if it tickled our fancy, all free!!!

We headed over to the cove beside the Botanical Gardens to watch paratroopers sky dive into the water! First there was the F-18 screaming by doing figure 8’s over the crowd, and then the paratroopers came tumbling out of their plane. This is fairly typical although the landing in the water was something we hadn’t seen before. Then to top it all off a Quantas jumbo jet did a fly by, it made a total of 3 low level passes, the kangaroo plainly visible on its tail.

Fireworks were on tap in Darling Harbour so to finish off the celebrations we strolled over there. There was a floating stage set up on the water in the middle of the harbour, performers were ferried on and off at the back of the stage by boat. There were crooners, rock stars, the police band and the Australian Citizens of the Year were announced and introduced. Then we experienced a parade Aussie style. It consisted entirely of boats. They came through the opened bridge, would pass down one side of the harbour and circle in front of the stage and then pass in front of the crowd on the other side.

The parade paid homage to the working history of Darling Harbour and featured classic motor vessels, working tugs, fire fighting boats and a tall ship. The larger vessels made the turn at the end of the harbour very slowly, carefully maneuvering so as not to come in contact with the center floating stage. Darkness gradually fell, the symphony began to play, the choir sang and a fleet of matching sailboats with their main sails up began to circle behind the stage. The sails were lit up by floodlights and a marvelous display of fire works shot up from the middle of the boats. It was magical and a fitting end to a great celebration.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Madame Butterfly was magnificent. It was an excellent introduction to the opera world. The part of Madame Butterfly was sung with such emotion and expression that I found myself riveted with her performance. Her voice would soar with happiness and then the audience would hang on her whispered entry into another musical passage. The male lead had a wonderful voice but in my mind did not put as much passion into his performance. The costumes were very colourful but the set was quite simple but effective. I had to pinch myself to think that Barry and I were actually watching an opera in the Sydney Opera House, who would have thought. After the performance was over we wandered out on the steps and took in the Harbour Bridge lit up against the night sky, magic.

We continued our efforts to immerse ourselves in culture the next day. We headed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see the exhibition The First Emperor, China’s entombed warriors. There were examples of the underground army of the First Emperor of China on display. This army was discovered in 1974 and they have been working ever since then to uncover it and put it back together. The pits are thought to contain over 8000 life size soldiers, 140 chariots, 560 chariot horses and 116 cavalry horses all made out of terracotta. There was an example of each kind of warrior and horse on display as well as weapons, decorative buckles, pots, etc. The scope of the discovery is mind boggling. We were not allowed to photograph the exhibit but I have some pictures of the post cards I bought. We had a bowl of very good won ton soup in the gallery restaurant and then we were lucky to be able to see a display of Chinese martial arts put on as a special art outreach on Wed. evenings. The young guys were well trained and the skill was impressive. At times they look very fierce as they shouted out while completing their maneuvers.

Yesterday we took in the Sydney Observatory. It was established back in 1858 and astronomers observed the passing of Venus here in 1878 (I think). Barry is much more interested in astronomy than I am so he really enjoyed the displays. The Observatory is in a great location and there were wonderful views of Sydney from the top of the hill. After we walked up and down the area called The Rocks where sailors and all sorts of low life's used to hang about, there are small winding lanes leading between buildings that are cut into the rocks, very unusual.

Our bus pass expires today; we thought we might head out to the North Head of Sydney Harbour and wander around there, to finish off our week of exploring. We are not sure of where we are going or what we are going to do next but I will keep you up to date.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

We have been busy since New Years. We moved the boat out to Manly which is still in Sydney Harbour but out at the entrance. While we were there we took a 10 K walk along the shore line. The walk offered superb views. Manly is located on a thin strip of land that has a great beach with lots of surfing potential on the ocean side and calmer harbour side beaches on the other side. Where we were anchored seemed to be the spot where weekend sailors would come out to have lunch. The anchorage would fill up in the morning and then later on in afternoon everyone would pull anchor and head home.

The north and south headlands of Sydney Harbour.

We are now in what they call Middle Harbour. There is a bridge that connects the suburbs on the north side of the harbour to downtown Sydney. We were too tall to go under this bridge, so we had to wait until they raised the bridge. We were fascinated to watch four lanes of traffic stop and up went the bridge, there were lights to let us know when we could proceed. The out going traffic went through first and then we zipped through. It is very calm in here, there is no swell. We have purchased a weeks pass on the bus system so are making our way around the Sydney area.

One of the things I had wanted to do since we got here was to go to the Olympic site. We had a great day there. We toured the Olympic Stadium although I was disappointed there was no track in there any more. It is used for rugby and cricket now as well as big concerts, they can seat 85,000 people. We got to see the press box, the locker rooms and the VIP suites. 600 people paid $34,000 before the Olympics for 2 top notch seats, (which allows you the use of a very posh dining room) to every event that is going to be put on in that stadium for 34 years, that included all the Olympic events that were held in the Stadium, what a deal!!! We wondered around the rest of the Olympic site and saw a youngsters swim meet that was taking place in the Olympic pool, a tennis match between a French and a Chez. contestants, the Olympic torch, and the Olympic warm up track, which is now their Athletics venue. I jogged a 400 m on the track just to say I had been on the same track as Cathy Freeman and Michael Johnson.

That evening we went to the Sydney Festival first night. Everything was free. It was the same sort of mob scene that we encountered on New Years Eve. There were at least 5 free stages set up in the downtown area. We stayed in one spot and watched a comedian, some acrobats and a burlesque performer. Then we wandered over to watch Emmylou Harris perform. The consensus the next day was that Emmylou was just going through the motions and although she has a beautiful voice her stage presence had no pizzazz. On our way home we had to detour around another area that was packed solid with dancing, singing fans. We got slightly mixed up and wandered around for about half and hour before finding the bus stop we wanted.

The burlesque performer, not Emmylou Harris!!!!

Yesterday we took the bus/train/bus to Bondi beach and then the bus/train/ferry/bus back. It was Sunday afternoon on a beautiful day and the beach was packed with young people, the surf was crowded. The shops along the beach front reflect the surfer/beach lifestyle that is prevalent. Barry really wanted to go to an event at the Opera House so as a Christmas gift to each other we are treating ourselves to a performance of Madame Butterfly tomorrow night. It will be out first ever opera so I am looking forward to the experience.

This is a bit of a rant so don't read it if you don't feel like it!!

I set out about 2 hours ago to do a blog and started by downloading pictures, then I decided I should back up the pics and then I thought I deleted a whole wack of them. I tried to restore what I thought I had deleted and the stupid old computer started acting up and I was going to throw it overboard, but I became sane again and stopped myself from doing that. I copied the pics that I did have on to another device and then tried to restore what I thought I had lost, now I am not sure I deleted anything and I am still upset about it so no pics of the Olympic Park or 10K Manly Scenic Walk or Sydney Festival First Night or the bridge that had to open up when we went through or anything (*&^*^%$^&%)

Maybe tomorrow

Sunday, January 02, 2011


We spent New Years Eve in Sydney Harbour watching the fireworks, just not quite in the fashion we had planned. Our buddies Liz and Mike from Argonaut we supposed to join us and we were going to spend the day and evening on the boat in the harbour fending off other boats and experiencing the fireworks on the water. For two days leading up to New Years Eve boats had been anchoring too close to us and so when our friends said they were unable to make it we decided not to move Cat’s-Paw IV and possibly put her in harms way, but to walk to the Botanical Gardens and watch the fireworks from there.

We thought it was a wise move, just us and 20,000 other people, ahhhhhhh!! We thought we might mosey on over about 7:30 P.M. and get a good spot. Good thing I checked on the internet. It talked about needing sunscreen and lots of water and I figured we had better head out a tad earlier. We got in the queue to get into the park at 11:50 A.M. and 2 and ½ hours later we make it into the park. It was nuts, the line must have been a kilometer and a half long. Once we were in, I squeezed into a small opening on the grass with a half decent view of the harbour bridge, the other half of the bridge was obscured by trees. We spent the next ten hours getting to know the folks around us. It was quite the experience; it was like the population of Yellowknife was squeezed into this one small peninsula. It was one big party in the park. The crowd would start chanting in every different language you could imagine. A Canadian boy named Mark took it upon himself to stir the crowd up with clapping, chanting and other alcohol fueled antics. About 11:15 P.M. the sidewalk in front of us which had been kept clear by the security guards became overrun. People started shoving and getting belligerent and walking over our spot so we packed up and moved to a different place. We stood for about 40 minutes and had a decent view of the spectacle. Our pictures did not turn out very well as we did not have a tripod this year.

It was all worth it, they were the best fireworks we have ever seen. We probably would have had a better view from the water but we did not have the worry of people running into the boat. If we had been on the boat we would not have rubbed shoulders with people from all over the world who wanted to see a fantastic fireworks show in one of the most stunning settings in the world. It was a great start to 2011.