Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sydney - Theatres, Important Sites and Tours

In 1960 Sydney was already a huge city - bigger than any that I had been to before - and, with a large population, there were more attractions than I would find in Vancouver.

The John Fairfax Pty Building (Sydney Morning Herald) was within easy walking distance of Central Station where country trains intersected with suburban ones. Very close to there was one of the 'live' theaters. When I arrived a production of "The Music Man" was playing. On Friday afternoons there was a 4 o'clock matinee performance which I took advantage of. I enjoyed the production - but was not overwhelmed by it.

A production of "My Fair Lady" was playing at another theater but there was a wait of a number of months before a ticket could be used. My roommate and I went to see it but I was not terribly impressed. It wasn't until after I had seen an amateur production of "Pygmalion" that I went with a friend to see "My Fair Lady" again. I think that it was the same cast but this production was in Perth, Western Australia. I was sitting between my friend and three young Roman Catholic priests. All four of those guys were wildly enthusiastic so I enjoyed the production much more than I had the first time.

Back in Sydney - and while waiting for the night to come when we were to see "My Fair Lady" - my roommate and I went to see "West Side Story" which had replaced "The Music Man". My friend had seen a production in Miami, Florida but, for me, this was brand new. I was blown away!!!

The most mind blowing theatrical event, however, was being able to attend a performance of Paul Robeson's 'Farewell Tour' concert at the Sydney Town Hall. Paul Robeson was my Dad's favorite singer so I was very familiar with his best known songs ("Water Boy", "Old Man River" to name two of them). When I was a teenager, Paul Robeson - because of his outspoken political views - was not allowed out of the United States. However, the Vancouver Labor Council sponsored a picnic and concert at the Peace Arch Park between White Rock, B.C. and Blaine, Washington on a Sunday afternoon. At that time our family did not have a car so we were unable to attend.

When I arrived in Sydney the shell of the iconic Opera House had been erected. Paul Robeson visited it - and put on an impromptu concert for the construction crew.

I would say that the most impressive feature of Sydney is that incredible harbor. The "Iberia" had sailed up to the cleft in the cliffs along the coast and sailed through to an amazing sight. The harbor extends for miles with many coves and promontories. The Harbor Bridge joins the city center to the northern suburbs. But a shorter and lovelier route across is by one of the numerous ferries.

North of the North Head is Manley Beach. The ride across on the ferry was about 20 - 25 minutes followed by a short walk along the Corso to the ocean beach. I was there more than once and the most memorable occasion was to a beach party on New Years Day. The sky was overcast, the weather was muggy but I was pleased to witness what is a fairly regular event. Suddenly the shark alarm sounded and everybody quickly left the water. There was no shark - only a group of dolphins or porpoises gamboling out where the waves were breaking. Nobody took any chances when that alarm sounded though!

While on the subject of sharks, there was a sad item in the newspaper. A young man from England was staying with an uncle and an aunt whose property fronted the water. He was mowing the lawn when the aunt came out of the house to call him for lunch. She went back inside but he did not appear. It was assumed that, since he was warm from his exertion, he decided to dive into the bay to cool off before eating. The authorities assumed that he must have dived right where a shark was lurking and had no chance.

Also a ferry ride from downtown Sydney is the Taronga Zoo. There was a fifteen minute ferry ride to get there. It was a good-sized zoo and I enjoyed it very much. Also, it is the only place where I have had the opportunity to ride on an elephant!

One of the smaller of the World Religions is B'Hai. There was a B'Hai Temple located in one of the northern suburbs to which I was taken twice (as a tourist - not as a worshiper). The building had nine sides - important to B'Hai's - and the roof was a beautiful blue while the walls were pure white. Very pretty.

Later blogs will tell of my travels to other parts of Australia but, before I leave the subject of life in Sydney, I will briefly share about two short excursions outside of the city.

One weekend two friends and I motored down to the Australian Capital Territory. We visited the Capitol in Canberra (this was almost 50 years ago so the Capitol Building that I saw was not all that impressive - I understand that it now is) and the Anzac Memorial (the National War Memorial which is a very impressive structure).

We over-nighted in the smaller city of Queanbeyan and then motored over to the coast and then north back to Sydney.

Another weekend excursion was up to the Blue Mountains. We saw the Jenolan Caves near Katoomba (the first cavern that I ever visited) and were taken on a drive through those 'mountains' which are visible from Sydney. The next day the bus took us on to the coal mining town of Lithgow and then to Bathurst which is at the eastern edge of the Outback.

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