A Reunion in Sydney

This picture made us laugh because we now both look SO MUCH like clones from our dad’s side of the family (our younger siblings took after our mom). People often mistook my brother and me for twins when we were young.

We’ve had a lovely first few days in Sydney along with my older brother, catching up, reminiscing and visiting places around town. He arrived from Queensland (located in the northeast of Australia) just an hour or so after our train arrived in Sydney. He had booked himself a hotel in our neighborhood not knowing we were staying here, and the hotel turned out to be only a couple of blocks away from our apartment, so it was easy for us to get together each day.

My brother has lived in Queensland for over 40 years, working for the Australian Institute of Marine Science as an oceanographer and chief research scientist. He has both Australian and U.S. citizenship. His wife was a veterinarian, and both of them recently retired.

This is the view that says you really are in Sydney!
The Sydney Harbor Bridge view was best on the ride back into Sydney.

We met up early Thursday morning to go down to the harbor for a ferry ride across to Manly Beach. Temperatures that day were predicted to reach the mid-90s, and they did – the weather was beastly, and the heat draining. Being out on the water was lovely though, with nice breezes as we rode along the water both coming and going, and stunning views all around. We got our first glimpse of the opera house which completely exceeded all of our expectations, and of the magnificent Sydney Harbor Bridge as well, another famous landmark. We also got views of the prime minister’s and governor-general’s official houses, the navy base, the zoo up on the hill and other sites.

When we got off at Manly, the heat unfortunately was at its worst and we quickly found we barely had the energy to walk around. We had hoped to eat lunch out there, but the heat took away our appetites. The air was actually shimmering at one point because it was so hot so we ducked into a small restaurant and ordered cool drinks and sat and chatted for a while before heading back to the ferry for a cool ride back to the quay.

The Governor-General of Australia’s official residence, Admiralty House, looks across the harbor toward the opera house. Behind it is Kirribilli House, the secondary residence for the Prime Minister of Australia. They are only open to the public once a year.

My brother had a shopping errand to take care of downtown, so Brett and I decided we’d go along and look for a replacement for my pilfered sunscreen/moisturizer (I realized later that a bar of special soap from one of our Indian hotels had also gone missing from the bag). We did find a product I could use, but taking care of that small errand was when l fell and broke my toe. Thankfully I could still (somewhat painfully) walk, and we stopped at a supermarket on the way to our apartment for supplies, relaxed at our apartment for a while, and then all headed out for dinner at a nearby fish restaurant.

The Australian Maritime Museum

I took the day off Friday to rest and keep my foot iced and elevated, while my brother and Brett went out to do “boy stuff.” The weather had nicely cooled off so they headed back downtown to the harbor area to visit the Maritime Museum as well as the Powerhouse museum just down the road from it, filled with steam engines and other mechanical stuff that Brett loves to look at. It took them several hours to do both, and they both thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We again all hung out in our apartment for a while to enjoy some wine, cheese and conversation, and then walked over to an Italian restaurant next door to the fish restaurant we’d eaten at the night before. The restaurant was very busy, and we waited an hour for a table, but our dinners made the wait completely worth it – the food was that good.

The city-side view of the Sydney Opera House, with its expansive main steps leading up to the concert hall, opera theater, and smaller theaters.
Reflection of the Harbor Bridge on the glass overhang of the Opera House windows.

My brother was scheduled to head for home this afternoon (there has been massive flooding in the area near his home), but this morning we decided to take the guided tour of the opera house before he had to leave. The tour was absolutely FABULOUS, worth every penny, and we had a great (and funny) guide who spoke like an announcer on British nature shows, where they sort of bring things down to nearly a whisper for the really interesting tidbits of information. As for the opera house itself, it was beyond stunning, both inside and out, and we loved learning its history, from idea to design to construction, and about its future (renovations are taking place). We were also quite lucky to be able to be one of the last groups to be able to enter both the main concert hall and the opera theater as events were being held in both this morning – we got in to view them just before they opened to the public and tours could no longer go in. Unfortunately, because of final preparations going on for the events we weren’t allowed to take photos inside the actual halls and theaters.

Looking up at the iconic roof structure, the steel frame can be seen inside the glass. The wooden structure below is the concert hall – it is a completely independent structure from the roof and not attached in any way; the same is true for the opera theater.
The interiors of the roofs are magnificent, sculpture-like areas of concrete, steel and glass with wood added from the performance areas.

After the tour we all sat outside beside the harbor and had coffee and chatted some more, then said our good-byes. The last time I had seen my brother was in 2005, and neither of us know now when we’ll be able to see each other again. However, both of us are travelers, and now that we’re retired there’s a very good chance we’ll meet up somewhere again sooner rather than later.

These colorful banners represent pitcher plants and advertise an exhibit of carniverous plants in the Botanical Gardens!
Two of these impressive bronze Chinese foo dogs protect the entrance to a pergola inside the Botanical Gardens.
We have seen a banana tree in every city we have visited on our journey – seriously! – but this was the first one that was actually producing bananas (red ones).

Although it was very humid today, it was still cool-ish, and my toe thankfully didn’t hurt too much, so Brett and I decided to walk home from the Opera House along the harbor and through the Sydney Botanical Gardens. We decided to stop for lunch at the Garden’s cafe, ordered a plate of fish & chips to share, and sat outside to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. I was thrilled to discover that a kookaburra was sitting on a sign just looking over where we were sitting as I had very much wanted to see one in the wild. However, this turned out to be one of those “be careful what you wish for” events, and a true dining adventure, because the next thing we knew we were being dive-bombed not once but twice by the kookaburra as it attempted to snatch a piece of our fish! The attacks scared us out of our wits as they happened VERY quickly, and literally without warning, but thankfully we didn’t have to “share” any of our fish, especially after I set my purse up on the table next to the plate which blocked the bird’s view of our lunch.

I was thrilled to spot this kookaburra “in the wild;” that is, until he began trying to take off with our lunch!
When we dared take our eyes off the kookaburra this was our lunch-time view.
Our apartment is just a short distance from the top of the formidable McElhorne Stairs, the last hurdle on today’s walk home.

We have some great activities planned around town for the next three days, so hopefully the weather will continue to cooperate and not heat up again! But so far, heat and broken toe aside, we are thoroughly enjoying our time in Sydney, and I’m so grateful I got the chance to spend some time with my brother.

8 thoughts on “A Reunion in Sydney

  1. The heat has been unbearable. Only mad dogs and Englishmen… That and the traffic are what make me think about leaving.

    I had to laugh at the kookaburra incident. They are kingfishers!!! Not that I wouldn’t be scared. I’d be squealing like an extra in Hitchcock’s The Birds.

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    1. That bird! The first strike was frightening enough, but when it came back a second time, yikes! However, when I blocked its view of our plate with the purse it flew off in less than a minute – wish I had thought of it sooner! The bird wasn’t that close either, which is why the strikes really surprised us, and how fast it was. Plus, the whole time we had a couple of ibis perched nearby like vultures – it was an almost surreal dining experience.

      The cooler temperatures have been much appreciated. That first day out about did us in.

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  2. Seeing the Opera House in person is so surreal! I visited Australia at almost the exact same time of year and it is amazing how flipping hot it gets. And I will now be humming the kookaburra song all day lol.

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    1. I so agree with the surreal feeling! We sort of came around a corner on the ferry and there it was – I hadn’t really felt like I was here in Sydney until I saw it (even though everyone spoke with an Australian accent).

      The heat was awful that day – it was also a bit surreal considering how cold it was back in the U.S. Plus, the area of Queensland where my brother lives is experiencing massive flooding. But no climate change, right?

      The kookaburra experience was intense – I’m still a bit freaked out by it.

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  3. Just catching up on your posts. So sorry about your toe…ouch! The pictures are wonderful, as always, and the train trip sounded great. Well, except for your toiletries disappearing! Does the train jostle you around a lot at night while you’re sleeping? A friend and her husband went out west on Amtrak and I think the top bunk sleeper was strapped in at night.

    Sydney is beautiful! Your pictures are making me more open to that looong plane ride. 🙂 And how lovely to see your brother – I can see the family resemblance for sure!

    The weather extremes are just nuts. I can’t imagine how anyone doesn’t see climate change. We are finally melting a bit after that week of polar vortex. It was just miserable. Our schools were closed all week, and we didn’t have mail delivery, our libraries were closed, etc. Ugh.

    And I, too, now have the kookaburra song in my ear. Ha!

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    1. LOL – I am catching up on comments. We were out at the zoo today, but the heat and humidity has been oppressive (for me, anyway) and I have to get my body temperature regulated and back to normal before I can even think about writing, etc.

      Yes, Brett really got rocked quite a bit up top in our train compartment, which is why he and not I slept up there – I slept quite well on the bottom. He said it was just like being out on a ship in the navy, maybe a bit rougher at times.

      Can’t get over what’s going on everywhere with the weather. Hot, hot, hot here but record flooding up north where my brother lives and then record cold temperatures in the U.S. at the same time. The world is going mad it seems (in many ways).

      As seems to be the case lately we feel like we didn’t give ourselves enough time here in Sydney; we leave for New Zealand day after tomorrow. I am looking forward to it but especially to getting to Japan in less than two weeks!

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    1. With our mom gone now, there isn’t as strong a reason for my brother to come to the U.S. as there was before, and it will be hard for us to get back to Australia as well. He and his wife are going to Portugal this spring, and then their first grandchild arrives this summer, which will keep them closer to home. But who knows? We parted feeling like we will see each other again, somehow.

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