Archive for the ‘Bondi Beach’ Category

On the Beach & Inside the Opera House

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

There has never been a Lapointe family vacation that did not involve a beach or large body of water in some way. Even though it is winter in Australia right now, Mom was determined to not let this stop her from getting to the beach while in Sydney.  Her one request for our last full day by ourselves was that we go to a beach so she could put her feet in the Pacific Ocean. So after getting up this morning and spending a few minutes at USyd using the Internet to skype, we caught the bus to Central Station and then the train to Bondi Junction, and then another bus to Bondi Beach. Once there we had a light lunch and a pastry at my favorite café in Bondi- The Gelato Café. Unlike last week when I did the cliff walk with Kaela and her mother, today was a beautiful bright warm sunny day, and the beach was buzzing with surfers and families enjoying the weather.

Mom puts her feet in the Pacific Ocean at Bondi

Graffiti art at Bondi Beach

Surfer standing on his head for reasons unknown

A beautiful day at Bondi

So many surfers

Local wildlife

After spending a few minutes on the sand we started the cliff walk which goes is a roughly 5 km walk, but we only did the first leg of it which ends at Bronte Beach. We got off a Bronte and then took the bus back to the train station where we caught the train to Circular Quay.

On the cliff walk

We walked from Bondi to Bronte beach- thats Bronte in the background

While I have taken many people to see the Opera House when they have come to visit me this semester and I have walked around the exterior many times, I had not taken the official Opera House tour, but I definitely wanted to. Mom and I had attempted to do this on Monday but most of the performance spaces had been closed then do to rehearsals taking place, so we had agreed to revisit on Wednesday. So upon arriving in circular quay we went straight to the tour center and purchased tickets for the 4:00pm guided one-hour tour.

After meeting our tour guide, Daniel, everyone in our tour group of about thirty was issued a head set, and the tour guide had a microphone that he spoke through which we could hear in our headsets. Mom and I both remarked on what a brilliant way to conduct a tour this was since the guide never had to shout and you could always hear him no matter how close to him you were. One of the rules for the tour is that you were not allowed to take pictures inside of any of the performance spaces. This is because many of them have sets built inside of them that are under copyright, and the stage hands and musicians that work inside these spaces have signed privacy contracts that do not allow them to be photographed while they are working. Therefore, all my pictures are of the exterior hallways and lobby spaces of the opera house.

The first space we were taken into was the smallest one, which is a square theatre that has seating all the way around and chairs that can be brought out to fill the floor, or the floor can be left empty. This space can be used for intimate concerts, children’s shows, or any theatre performances that are done in the round. The second space we went through was the concert hall, which is acoustically designed so that no microphones ever have to be used and the sound evenly distributes throughout the entire room. The opera hall is similarly designed, so that the performers never have to use microphones, and a person sitting in the front row will receive the same quality of sound as a person sitting in the back row. In total the Opera House consists of seven spaces:

The Concert Hall, with 2,679 seats, is the home of the Sydney Symphony and used by a large number of other concert presenters. It contains the grand organ, the largest mechanical tracker action organ in the world, with over 10,000 pipes.

The Opera Theatre, a proscenium theatre  with 1,507 seats, is the Sydney home of Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

The Drama Theatre, a proscenium theatre with 544 seats, is used by the Sydney Theatre Company and other dance and theatrical presenters.

The Playhouse, an end-stage theatre with 398 seats.

The Studio, a flexible space with a maximum capacity of 400 people, depending on configuration.

The Utzon Room, a small multi-purpose venue, seating up to 210.

The Forecourt, a flexible open-air venue with a wide range of configuration options, including the possibility of utilising the Monumental Steps as audience seating, used for a range of community events and major outdoor performances. The Forecourt will be closed to visitors and performances 2011–2014 to construct a new entrance tunnel to a rebuilt loading dock for the Opera Theatre.

When the city of Sydney first decided to put an opera house on Bennelong Point, there was a contest held for architects everywhere to see who would get to design it. Hundreds of designs were submitted and discarded by the selection committee, but it was an American judge who arrived late to the judging process who asked to see the discarded designs that selected the design by Jorn Utzon, a Swedish architect, which had been placed in the discard pile initially but ended up being the winning design. The initial drawings done by Utzon were very crude and were more sketches than blue prints. He had no idea how he was going to construct the sails of the opera hose, and so work commenced on the base while Utzon and a team of mathematicians and architects worked on how they were to build the rest. This caused significant delays in the building process as the technology to be able to construct the building had to be invented.

The design work on the shells involved one of the earliest uses of computers in structural analysis, in order to understand the complex forces to which the shells would be subjected. In mid-1961, the design team found a solution to the problem: the shells all being created as sections from a sphere. This solution allows arches of varying length to be cast in a common mould, and a number of arch segments of common length to be placed adjacent to one another, to form a spherical section.

The tile pattern on the outside of the shells is the design it is because Utzon saw the same pattern on a woman’s bathing suit one day and he was quoted as saying ” I liked the way it flattered her curves” and hoped that the same pattern would flatter the curves of his design. The tiles themselves were triple glossed ceramic tiles so they would shine in the sun, but would not have reflective properties. Also- due to the triple glossing, even if they get dirty any amount of rain water rinses them off so they never need to be cleaned.

In the middle of construction on the project the governor of Sydney changed, and the new governor was not as patient or forgiving of Utzon and his expensive and time consuming project as the previous one had been. Tensions arose and got so bad that Utzon abandoned the project, returned to Sweden and a new group of architects were brought in to finish it. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his completed masterpiece, although he was re-commissioned by the opera house board in 1993 to refurbish one of the interior spaces and draw up plans for several of the opera house spaces for the future. He died a decorated and famous architect, and now his son works with the opera house board to continue his fathers work and the refurbishing and updating of many of the interior spaces.

Tile detail

Inside the opera house- The famous opera singer Liberace hated this carpet and refused to have his picture taken in this area according to our tour guide

Harbor views from inside the Opera House

More internal opera house views

This glass was made in France, and it is special glass that expands and contracts with cold and heat. It is attached to the beams on elbow joints to allow for this movement. The opera house is called a "living sculpture" and not a building by its architect Jorn Utzon

The original cost estimate given in 1957 when work began on the Opera House was $7 million. The original completion date set by the government was 26 January 1963 . The project was not completed until 1973, ten years late, and it ended up costing $120 million, so it went over-budget by more than fourteen times.

The worst place to be in bad weather as the wind gets tunneled through here, and since the building has no rain gutters all the rain slides off and into this space.

on the inside

After finishing our tour the sun was setting, so mom and I found a bus back to Glebe. On our way back to our hostel we stopped and got some Thai food to go, and then did laundry at the hostel while we ate. When we wake up in the morning we will check out of our hostel and take a bus downtown to check into the Menzies Hotel near Circular Quay, where Dad and Julie will meet us assuming they made both their flights. So as of tomorrow all of the Lapointes will be in Sydney (hopefully). Here’s Hoping!

I never get tired of this view

A Final Farewell

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

For Kaela and her mothers last day in Sydney they wanted to do the beach cliff walk that starts at Bondi Beach. We woke up around 10 am and took the bus from Bondi Junction to Bondi Beach. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating with our beach walking plans, because just as we got off the bus the wind picked up and rain started to fall. We walked across the street to the beach anyway, but after less than 30 seconds we decided that this could wait. Earlier I had suggested that if we were going to be in Bondi we needed to check out this amazing little gelato cafe that Yaella had once taken me to that had the best pastries and cakes. We had initially planned on doing that after the beach walk, but the rain drove us inside the cafe early.

Even though Kaela and her mom are both on weight watchers I insisted that they have at least one sweet thing being that this was their last day in Sydney and the sweets at this cafe were too incredible to pass up. I ordered an apple apricot fruit slice and Kaela and her mom split a chocolate almond pastry roll with a dollop of ice cream, which is quite decadent by weight watchers standards. We chatted and enjoyed our sweet indulgences as we waited for the storm to pass. By the time we were done eating the clouds had parted and the sun had appeared, so we headed back out towards the beach.

Even though it was still a bit cloudy out, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking out every so often, so we began our walk. One of the first big sites on the path is the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club. This club started in 1929 by a group of dedicated local lifesavers who wanted to maintain physical fitness and swimming skills during the winter months, ( and had clearly never heard of the indoor pool). They formed the club and ever since have occupied a prime location on the edge of Bondi Beach where they have two outdoor lap pools, one being olympic sized, and a large club house that has a bar, poker machines, and several large meeting spaces. While it is certainly impressive that people would voluntarily swim outside in 50-60 degree weather, to call it the ‘iceberg’ club is a bit of a stretch I think. It rarely gets colder than 48 or so degrees in Sydney. Now if this outdoor swim club was in say, Boston, MA, then yes, by all means call yourself the iceberg club, or better yet, the hypothermia at risk club.

Bondi Icebergs Swim Club

Cliff walkway

I'm the little mermaid, obviously.

The last remaining apt 18 ladies

The water is such a marvelous shade of blue here

The walk took us from Bondi Beach to Tamarama beach where we caught a bus back to Bondi Junction. Once there we went up to the apartment gathered up their luggage and went back downstairs to catch a cab so they could make it to the car rental place and begin their drive up the coast. Once we had flagged down a cab we had quick hugs and goodbyes and off they went. And then there was one. Now I’m really all by myself.

Southern ladies in the southern hemisphere

I will be living in my swanky 18th floor serviced apartment until July 2nd when I will move to a hostel in Glebe to await the arrival of my mother who will join me for a few days before the rest of my family arrives. Now that I am completely on my own in the land of Oz I am finding that it shimmers a little less. While I do love this country and I have been so grateful to have had this experience, it just isn’t the same without my study abroad family, who are now all back in the states. The days I have left before my actual family arrives will be quiet and quite possibly lonely. What can I say? I miss my Glebe family. Australia is hardly the same without them.

These are my people

How the Other Half Lives

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

This week has been a week of transitions and finishing up. Kaela’s friend Shelby left on Thursday morning, the same day that I had my last exam of my Junior year and my Australian university experience. On Friday Kaela’s mom arrived, just as we were beginning to pack up our apartment. The weekend we spent packing, organizing, and cleaning to get ready for our big move. Our move out date was dependent upon which school you attended and when that school finished their exam period. I had till the 26th, Jill had till the 28th, and Kaela had until July 2nd. We were told that if someone in our room needed to stay past our move out date then we could stay as well.

Well apparently the housing coordinator for Study Australia goofed and it turned out that we all needed to be moved out by the 26th. For most people this was not a problem, since the group flight back to LAX left on the 26th, but Jill’s flight left on the 27th and Kaela and I were going to be here till the 2nd. Since we had been promised through the 2nd we were told we would be moved at noon on the 26th to Meriton Serviced Apartments in Bondi Junction for the remainder of our time. The Bondi Junction Apartments were a housing option on our program, and one that a majority of students chose. It was the most expensive option, being a high rise apartment building where you get a weekly cleaning service, you live atop the main bus/train terminal, you’re a short walk from Bondi Beach, and there is a gym and a pool in the building. That being said, it wasn’t a very practical option for anyone who attended the University of Sydney since it is a 50 minute bus ride from Bondi but only a 20 minute walk from Glebe. Plus it was $2,000 more than my apartment in Glebe was.

So after a long night of packing and cleaning we found ourselves sitting in our Glebe living room surrounded by our baggage waiting for a representative from Study Australia to come pick us up. One of our last cleaning chores was to take our bottle collection down to the recycling room. Being the classy college students that we are, every time we had finished a bottle of liquor or wine we had saved the bottle and put on top of the bureau in our living room.

Trophies of our conquered evenings. We also made it through five boxes of wine (in Australia they call it goon) but those didn't make it to the collection, plus we brought two bottles of wine and a bottle of gin with us to Bondi, you know, just in case.

At 12:30 we were still sitting around not having heard from anyone. We decided to make some phone calls, and we found out that our resident director was on a trip to Fiji and was out of reach, and even though he had told us that we would be moving out at noon on Sunday it didn’t seem like he had told anyone else. Of the three people we spoke with, two had no idea we were being moved and one thought we were being moved on Monday. Meanwhile, the landlord came around to do room inspections and bring in the cleaning people and we were still sitting there.

After a few phone calls and making use of Jill’s sassy attitude when necessary, we got things sorted out and they told us they would send someone to come get us around four. Between the four of us we had so much stuff it was comical. Each of us had two bags plus a backpack/purse, and then Kaela had a huge bag of dirty laundry and we had bagged up all our remaining food and loaded it into a borrowed grocery cart to wheel downstairs so we wouldn’t have to waste food or buy new groceries when we got to our new apartment for the week. It took the four of us at least five trips to get everything downstairs. The Maxi Taxi driver we had said it was the biggest load he had ever taken. We were packed tight in the taxi, with each one of having items that were sitting on our laps and squeezed in next to us. Once we got to the Bondi Apartments we had to take two separate elevators to reach our new residence. This was quite an ordeal since the elevators were not very patient in waiting for us to get all of our bags out and kept closing on us and beeping because we were taking so long. Additionally, people were waiting to use the elevators and we were causing such a fuss with all of our stuff that people looked almost afraid to get in the elevator with us. People must have thought we were moving in for  a month instead of a week. Around 6pm the remaining ladies of apartment 18 moved into apartment 4 on the 18th floor and spent a good ten minutes marveling at the extravagance of our new digs. We had two full bathrooms, complete with stand-up steam shower and jacuzzi style bathtub. We also had two televisions with a full cable package, three balconies, a full kitchen complete with appliances, and a washer/dryer. That is how you know you have arrived in the world of apartments, when you have your own washer/dryer.

Not wasting any time we busted out the wine and beer and then changed into bathing suits and went for a soak in the hottub downstairs. Feeling relaxed and rejuvenated we headed back upstairs to shower, change into pajamas, make dinner, and watch some television. After dinner Andy, one of the boys from Glebe arrived. He, like Jill was flying out on the 27th and needed a place to crash for one night, so we of course had offered up our couch. We all hung out chatting, laughing, and reminiscing until we gradually drifted off to bed.

The next morning Jill and Andy got up early to catch a cab to the airport and the rest of us got up to see them off. We walked them down to the curb, said our goodbyes, hugged everyone and sent them off. Kaela and her mom had plans to go to the Taronga zoo, and since I was going to go there with my family in a week I decided to spend the day on my own. So I fixed myself a bowl of cereal, grabbed my laptop and enjoyed a few quiet moments on the balcony overlooking the city.

Sunroom/eating area, where I will be spending most of my time this week.

View of Sydney from the 18th floor- harbor side

18th floor Sydney view- ocean side

So now the question remains- what to do with my last six free days in Sydney? I have no classes, no internship, and no schedule. Maybe I will walk to Bondi beach. Cook? Do a little shopping perhaps? I have Sydney at my disposal and 23 more days left in Australia. O the possibilities!

A Winter’s Surf

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

On Monday, since neither of us had classes, Yaella and I set out to make good on my goal to explore more of Sydney. Yaella had a discount card for a surf board rental place in Bondi Beach and wanted to get in one last surf before heading back to the states. I had never been to Bondi before, and even though I had no intention of surfing I agreed to sit on the beach with a book and snap pictures of her while she caught waves. It was a sunny winter day with the high temperature being about 65 degrees, but this is perfectly acceptable surf weather in Australia. The hardcore surfies known no appropriate surf season.

So Yaella and I made our way to Bondi via train and then a bus, rented a board and wetsuit and headed out onto the beach. It felt odd to be walking on the beach fully clothed, but I kicked off my shoes, spread out my towel and plopped down to watch Yaella. She paddled out into the 63 degree water, dove under and started chasing after waves. Meanwhile I was sitting on the beach, dry, wearing a sweatshirt and a jacket and shivering when the wind blew at me. Yaella is clearly stronger than I. While she was out in the water I was observing the odd winter beach behavior of the Bondi residents. Some people were on the beach bundled up like me either reading or listening to music, but there was also a daring group of individuals who were in only bathing suits and were playing in the surf. 63 degree water is not water I would want to go into without a wetsuit. Yaella even had a heating pack in her wetsuit and while she did adapt to the water temperature there was no denying that it was quite chilly. I also observed a woman in a very skimpy bikini jogging down the beach listening to her ipod, and jogging right past the people who were all bundled up in fleece jackets. Beaches in the winter are odd places.

Yaella trying to catch some waves

Still trying

Yaella had rented the board and wetsuit for three hours but after an hour of getting thrashed by the waves she had begun to get frustrated. Surf conditions were somewhat odd on this particular day given that the waves were breaking about 80 feet out from the shore, and then were breaking right on the shore, but in between was a giant dead zone where they just fizzled out. There were a bunch of other surfers out and nobody seemed to be able to take any waves in past the dead zone. As she was rounding out her first hour the sun which had been shining quite brightly moved behind a big clump of clouds and the temperature dropped a few degrees. This combined with the shoddy surf conditions led us to decide that our time might be better spent sipping something warm in a cafe. Yaella and I walked her board back to the rental shop where the owner was nice enough to give her a voucher for 2 hours of board and wetsuit rental since she hadn’t used all of her three hours.

wipeout!

Bondi Beach, in addition to being the biggest and most popular beach in Sydney is also the jewish area of town, so over the course of the semester Yaella has spent her weekends there attending synagogue services and sharing shabbat meals with various jewish families.  Wanting to get out of the wind to dry off for a bit she suggested we pop into this small cafe she knew of that had amazing fruit pies and tarts for a hot drink and something sweet to eat. I got an apple apricot crumble and she got a cherry crumble and we split a pot of Earl Grey Tea. The deserts were absolutely delicious and we lingered over our tea, soaking up its warmth, glad to be indoors for a while. By the time we were ready to leave it was close to 3pm and Andy had texted us asking if we wanted to check out the Vivid Sydney Festival in Sydney Harbor that evening with him. We agreed, but this meant that going all the way back to Glebe would be a waste of time. Instead we filled up the next three hours popping in and out of various shops and bookstores in Bondi beach before catching the bus over to Sydney Harbor to meet up with Andy.

The bus ride from the Bondi Junction bus station to Circular Quay is about a thirty five minute ride and Yaella and I were chatting and listening to music watching the city zip past us when the bus stopped and this elderly woman got on. She had dingy brown and gray hair that was swept back in a bun and she was wearing a long skirt and unfortunate looking clunky black tennis shoes and a sweater. She sat down across from us and about ten minutes after boarding leaned over and asked

“Are you guys from a Pantene Pro-V commercial? You both just have the most beautiful hair, and the one of you has the dark curly hair and the other has the blonde straight hair, you should totally just work for Pantene.”

We both laughed this comment off, but once she had started talking to us she didn’t appear to want to stop. She spoke to us for the rest of our ride and told us about how she was a neurosurgeon who had studied at John Hopkins and had worked with Doctors without Borders. She talked about how she had traveled to dozens of countries, but also had studied at Juliard and worked as a professional singer for a while, and now she was a music promoter and went on and on about this band she was currently working with and how perfect the members of the band would be for us. Somewhere in the middle of all this she turned to Yaella and said “Are you Jewish? Because I am getting that Kosher vibe from you” Yaella of course told her than she was, and then she turned to me and said “But you’re not jewish are you?” Gee, I wonder what gave me away? Could it have been my bright blonde hair? Maybe my blue eyes? Could it be that I look like the poster child for the Aryan race? I guess I just don’t give off that “kosher vibe.”

This woman seemed quite evident on getting us some music from this band she was promoting, and she asked for Yaella’s phone number, which she gave her. WHen I asked her about this she said “I am leaving Australia in two weeks, she can call me all she wants.” Yaella and I couldn’t decide what to make of this encounter. Either this woman is truly incredible or she is the most fantastic and pathological of liars. We looked up the band she is promoting and they do exist, so the jury is still out on all the other claims she made.

Once we arrived at Circular Quay we found Andy and made our way to the inner rim of the harbor to see the festival sights.Vivid Sydney is an artistic festival of sorts that happens every year in the Harbor. The website for the festival describes it thusly:

“Sydney will once again be transformed into a spectacular canvas of light, music and ideas when Vivid Sydney takes over the city after dark from 27 May -13 June 2011.

Vivid Sydney will colour the city with creativity and inspiration, featuring breathtaking immersive light projections on the iconic Sydney Opera House sails, performances from local and international musicians as part of Vivid LIVE and a free outdoor exhibition of interactive light sculptures.

In 2011 the festival will also include a range of artistic collaborations, public talks and debates from leading creative thinkers from Australia and around the world, celebrating Sydney as the creative hub of the Asia Pacific”

Some of the sights are just for viewing, but many of them are interactive.

Cool moving 3D lighting effects on the Customs House in Circular Quay

Melting polar bear ice sculpture

Playing the light harp

Andy and I sitting on a chair of light

car sculpture

Making a lit sculpture friend, Yaella disapproves

Light up! Everyone is doing it!

Giant light up jellyfish and the illuminated opera house in the background

One of the many designs and colors we saw on the opera house

More colors

I got this image online, there were so many designs I couldn't capture them all

More Customs House colors

Cool interactive light show on the side of the art museum. You stand at the base of it and throw your hands up at it, and light projects onto the wall when you move. It resets every minute or so.

We walked around the Harbor for a little over an hour before Yaella and I began to drag and decided it was time to head back to Glebe. Even though the surfing hadn’t been all that great we had a great day out, and although we were tired, we were throughly pleased with our day.

Vivid Sydney!