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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sydney Opera House by Margot Justes



 
 
A large cosmopolitan city, there is a great deal to see and do in Sydney. Depends on how many days you have to visit, and what interests you.

The iconic Opera House is a must; designed by Danish architect  Jorn Utzon, built between 1959 and 1973. It is by far the most fantastic building I have ever seen.

I’ve seen it morning, noon and evening, and the color of the tiles seems to change at will.
“The sun did not know how beautiful its light was until it was reflected off this building.” A quote by architect Louis Kahn, perfectly described the magnificent changes that occur depending on time of day.

There are some 1,056,006 tiles on the roof, and it was supposed to cost 7 million to built, but as usual, the cost wound up to be considerably higher, to the tune of 102 million.  The funds were collected through the Sydney Opera House lottery.

There are 5 theatres, and there are more than 2,500 performances or events a year. The building is well utilized. I was there on a Wednesday, and house was packed by tourists and locals alike.

I was lucky enough to see Tosca at the Opera House, in the Joan Sutherland Theatre. I had mixed feelings about the production, since it was set during World War II in Italy. The contemporary setting was to attract the younger generation to operatic music. I’m a traditionalist, and my feeling is don’t mess with success. I much prefer the original version, but the tenor Yonghoon Lee was magnificent, and it was still Puccini’s music.

There is a wonderful restaurant in the Opera House, Guillaume at Bennelong, where you dine, rather than just eat. It is due to close New Year’s Eve. Instead of the fine dining, the establishment wants to open a bistro.  There are many bistros all along the harbor, one more would probably get lost in the mix, except for the fact that it is in the Opera House, and they will be able to charge a premium just for the view; back to that old adage, it’s all about the location.

The building is magnificent, and worth a visit just to see it, but there is much more to Sydney.

More next week.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming soon Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sydney by Margot Justes


An early six am flight put me in Sydney about three hours later. The first thing I noticed was the change in temperature; Cairns was mid 80’s , Sydney mid 60’s. Not bad for middle of winter. For me, it was the perfect time to travel.

As with Cairns, I loved Sydney. Vastly different from Cairns, Sydney is big, less touristy, a working metropolis, like any other major city, except it’s in Australia, and it’s stunning. Maybe because I loved the gorgeous accent, the famous harbor, the iconic Opera House, the bridge, and all within walking distance, but it never got old. The people are just as friendly and helpful as they were in Cairns.

A short taxi hop brought me to the hotel. I love to walk, and usually pick hotels in areas where I want to spend the most time.  I wanted to be close to the Opera House, Sydney Harbor, Harbor Bridge, and the Rocks, considered to be the oldest part of Sydney. There was a hotel that fit the bill, and the price wasn’t astronomical.

When I checked in, the room wasn’t ready. They were very gracious, and said there would be a lovely room available within an hour. I had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and by the time I finished, a room was indeed ready, and the luggage was already in place. The view was fantastic; I could see the harbor, the Opera House and the bridge.

By noon, I was on my way to the harbor to get a closer look at the Opera House; without a doubt, it was one of the most remarkable buildings I have ever seen. I was already dreading going home, and I just got there.

There are many restaurants along the harbor, with spectacular views, and I decided my first dinner in Sydney would be in one of those outdoor places. It gets chilly in the evening, and most of them had heaters and candles. The heaters for warmth, the candles for ambiance. Perfection.

The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting the Government House. The mansion overlooks the Royal Botanic Gardens, and it was walking distance form hotel.

The Government house built between 1837 and 1845, and for a while served as the official residence of the Governor of New South Wales. This Gothic Revival building is quite beautiful; the stately rooms, and 19th century furnishings make for a fascinating visit, and along the way you learn quite bit about Sydney.  The guide was knowledgeable, and passionate about the history of the building, and some of the inhabitants. Admission is free, and it is well worth the visit.

In the evening I went back to the harbor area, and stopped for dinner in one of those delightful restaurants that faced the harbor, and the food was delicious.  I’m a pizza fan, and always manage to try the local version. Yes, even in Australia-they are quite popular there too. I couldn’t have asked for a better first day.

More next week.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming soon Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cairns by Margot Justes


 
 
Cairns is a small town, walking distance to everything. It’s quaint, accessible, beautiful, and the people are friendly. The only taxi we took was to and from the airport.
 
Restaurants were plentiful, we even paid homage to Crocodile Dundee, and ate at the place named after the movie. I loved the movie, and the restaurant was right on the boardwalk, facing the water, and a short hop from the hotel. Beautiful setting.
 
The food was okay, nothing fantastic, but I didn’t expect more. In this case, location and name were the selling points. I heard the steaks were good, but I’m not a great meat eater, and honestly prefer a good meatball to steak.
 
The hotel room included breakfast, and it was quite a buffet spread, down to my daily dose of passion fruit. I mixed it with yogurt and prunes. I love prunes, must be the European background. As odd as it sounds, the mix was delicious.  I continued with the concoction in Sydney as well.
 
In the center of town, there is a huge swimming pool that faces sand and water, and it is open year round. A sidewalk separates the pool from the sand, and the walk along the coast was mesmerizing, the beach on one side and Cairns on the other. Beautifully laid out for optimum pleasure for all.
 
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops, parks, and flora and fauna. In other words, it was perfection. From the day I arrived, I knew I was going to hate to leave. It was love at first sight.
 
The Cairns Regional Gallery introduced me to the works of Lloyd Rees. His drawings and paintings reflected lush landscapes, light, where man and nature interacted. His  drawings of churches were amazing, almost architectural renditions but drawn with soul.  I saw a drawing he did of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, and had to see the real thing. I actually visited the cathedral because of the drawing. He captured my imagination. I would see his work again in the Art Gallery New South Wales in Sydney.
 
The sunset harbor cruise is highly recommended, along with the harbor, there are glimpses of mangroves in the distance, a sublime sunset, and a beautiful skyline of the city.
 
There was so much more to see and do, but this was a good start. Would I go back? Absolutely.  
 
More next week.
 
Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art
www.mjustes.com

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tjapukai by Margot Justes


 
Tjapukai is an Aboriginal Cultural Park. A short 15 minute ride from Cairns, puts you right in the old world culture brilliantly revived, and it seems to be alive and doing well.

It is a contained park with planned activities, and I thought it was a terrific introduction to the Aboriginal culture and folk art.  

There was a didgeridoo concert, the haunting mellow sound resonated in the theatre, along with traditional dancing performed by the Tjapukai Dance Troupe. The didgeridoo requires a lot of air power, but the sound that comes out of the instrument resonates around you like an echo. Powerful, still and evocative.

The dance movements were mesmerizing, you quickly got caught up in the story they were telling. Tales of hunting, spiritualism, survival and pride; an insight into the culture through music and dance. The perfect introduction to a civilization  that was totally foreign to me. It was ideal, because it brought the past to life not just through a lecture, but through art, music and dance, and it was interactive

There were boomerang throwing lessons, along with spear throwing, it’s not as easy as it looks. If thrown correctly, the boomerang will return to you, but you must make the attempt to catch it. It will not magically appear in your hand, although the return flight was fascinating to watch.

There were lessons about hunting tools and weapons that were used some 40,000 years ago by the Aboriginal people. It was an amazing insight into an ancient society.

The park is intimate, well organized, and first and foremost educational. A rare glimpse of what once was, an inspiration to keep the old culture alive for future generation. A tiny spark that shows awareness of what once was.

More next week.

Cheers,
Margot  Justes
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
coming end of September Blood Art
www.mjustes.com