Next morning also began really “early,” local time, anyway. We were all awake by about 4.30 a.m., but of course couldn’t exactly get up and start sightseeing. So, we hung out in the hotel, took our time getting ready, and headed out into the city around 8.30, intending to start at the Australian Museum (the natural history museum). When we arrived, though, we discovered that it didn’t open until 9.30, and we didn’t want to hang around that long, so we headed on foot in the direction of the opera house (because that was our primary destination for the day).
On the way, we took a wander through St. Mary’s Cathedral (Connor’s request, as he hoped there would be a pipe organ; he wasn’t disappointed). It’s a beautiful church. Connor and I also signed a book of condolences for Pope John Paul II, which I presume will be sent to Vatican City when it’s filled.
After the church, we continued north until we came to the Royal Botanic Garden, through which we planned to wander. This turned out to be my favorite of all the places we visited in the city – GORGEOUS gardens, the nicest I’ve ever seen (even better than the one in Edinburgh, which I LOVE). And birds . . . birds, birds, BIRDS. I was already in love with the birds in Australia, and at that point, I’d only seen the ones which can be found in the middle of a big city!
Birds weren’t the only attraction at the gardens; perhaps not even the most spectacular . . . we’d only been in the gardens for about 15 minutes when I heard a big racket coming from some trees. Thinking it was some noisy exotic birds, I went to investigate and discovered not feathers, but fur. Bats. OMG BATS! The COOLEST bats I’ve ever seen EVER! Huge Grey-headed Flying Foxes, each about a foot long with wingspans of at least 2 or 3 feet, and hundreds and HUNDREDS of them. Later, I found out that they’re actually considered pests because there are so many of them and they can destroy the trees where they roost, but I LOVED them (and so, of course, did Eclipse).
After wandering around the gardens for a couple of hours, we were all getting hungry, and Connor wanted to have lunch at the Opera House, so we began walking in that direction. The Botanic Garden is located right next to the harbor, and the opera house, which made a nice route for us. Here I am with the Opera House (and Harbour Bridge) in the background.
We had lunch at the cafe on the lower level, and then took a guided tour of the opera house. Very interesting, especially when compared with the last opera house we toured (L’Opera Garnier in Paris). Two completely different buildings, but both really gorgeous in their own way. As the woman who gave our tour said, the Sydney Opera House is the “right building in the right location.” It definitely is. It’s so beautiful up close, and from far away . . . however, it would have been a flop in any other location. You couldn’t stick this building in the middle of a city – it needs to have the empty space around it which the harbour provides, in order to be seen to full advantage. Inside, it’s very plain – minimal decor, no ornate decorations or gilt or carvings – the opera house design itself is the primary focus. It’s a fantastic building, truly.
After the tour, we decided to head back to the hotel, again, via the Botanical Gardens. More birds, more bats, and another really cool encounter – with an Eastern Water Dragon near one of the greenhouses. COOL!
The other seriously cool thing spotted near the greenhouses were more cockatoos – this time, a large flock of them, all screeching and flying and flapping around in the trees and on the grass. At least 30 of them, a noisy bunch of birds and oh so pretty! I’m still madly in love with these birds, and it was even more fun to see this large flock than seeing the two we’d spotted the previous day.
Even though it was still fairly early (only about 4.00), we were all starting to feel the effects of the jet lag again, so decided to stop by the hotel and freshen up, and then go to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. It’s a tradition for us to eat at HRC anywhere we go that has one, and it’s one of Connor’s favorite restaurants, too. Best of all, it was only a few blocks from the hotel, so again, we could walk. After dinner, back to the room. We managed to stay up a tiny bit later that evening, and I made a trip to the Kinko’s around the corner from the hotel, to check e-mail and make a quick post to LJ – mostly so that everyone would know we’d arrived safely. Even so, I think we were all asleep by 8.30.