Our first night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney was a welcome rest and like the majority of hotels throughout the tour it was an ideal central location which allowed for plenty of quality eating establishments and great places to visit within a short walk.
We met our guide Deb on Tuesday morning in the lobby and then took a gentle 15 minute stroll along the wharf to the iconic Sydney Opera House. A young man met us and handed our headsets that would serve as our listening devices as we made our way through this impressive architectural masterpiece which has offered high quality entertainment to millions of people from around the world for over 50 years.
It was fascinating to learn about the Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, who was the inspiration behind this multi-faceted building that resembles the billowing sails of a tall ship driven by the ocean winds. We learned about the struggles to translate the concept design into reality and how the teams of engineers and skilled tradespeople collectively laboured for a number of years to complete the building in time for Queen Elizabeth II to formally open the Sydney Opera House in 1973. On 28 June 2007, the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains one of the most popular locations for tourists visiting Sydney.
The remainder of our day included a city bus tour, lunch at the picturesque Bondi Beach and a boat tour through the Sydney Harbour. A good number of our group capped off the day with a thrilling and memorable experience by summiting the Sydney Harbour Bridge to take in a glorious sunset.
Wednesday was a free day which offered time to relax, shop in the local historic district known as The Rocks, stroll through the Botanical Garden and for some to enjoy the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, home to two of only four “Dugongs” remaining in captivity around the world and an impressive collection of sharks and stingrays. That afternoon we felt quite privileged to enjoy an inspirational offering of Great Opera Hits at the Sydney Opera House and then gathered for our wrap-up dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant (unfortunately less one couple who had to start their journey home that morning). The cruise ship which had been tied up all day pulled away while we received our first course revealing the brightly lit and very scenic harbour including the Opera House in the distance. What an ideal conclusion to an amazing three week tour with a great group of friends.
On Thursday we loaded onto the bus destined for the Sydney International Airport with mixed feelings of having to say our goodbyes, leaving the wonderfully warm climate of Australia, a lengthy 24 plus hours of travel, but somewhat countered by the welcome home of family and the comfort of our own home.
An exchange of emails on Friday confirmed everyone returned home safely and with mainly uneventful travel. God has blessed us richly with newfound friendships, valuable knowledge and respect for the indigenous cultures in New Zealand and Australia, safe travel almost halfway around the globe and experiences which will last a life time!
– Terry Petkau