Archive for the ‘Tamarama 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

Pacific Sun, Surf, and The Best Mexican Food I Have Ever Had

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Today was the first day I have been able to sleep in, and it felt lovely. I awoke around 11 (still way earlier than I get up at home, so there is progress to be made.) After a quick spot of brekkie I grabbed my laptop and camped out in the hallway for a few hours for wifi access. Then I got a call from Matt Ballew, a friend from high school who is also studying in Sydney through a Boston University program. He told me where he was and said that we could meet at the bus station and head to the beach for the day. He didn’t have to ask me twice.

He gave me directions to his apt, which of course I proceeded to get wrong, but a few phone calls and U-turns later I had figured it out and found him and three of his BU friends at the central bus station. We got on the bus towards Bronte Beach, about a 40 minute bus ride, but we were actually headed for Tamarama Beach, which is just a short walk from there. The way beaches work here is that instead of it just being an endless expanse of shoreline like it is on the east coast of the US, the beaches are all these cove type areas, and each one has a different name, although they may be less than 1 km apart, such is the case with Bronte and Tamarama. Even though the beaches are often close together, each one has a different culture attached to it, in the same way that Rehobeth beach has a different culture than Virginia Beach or the Outer Banks.

Tamarama beach is often referred to as “Glamarama” due to the number of gays that tend to frequent its shores. This is of course why Matt wanted to go there. That and because last weekend was the kickoff of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration, the largest pride celebration in the world, so there are lots of gays arriving in Sydney for the festival. The festivities generally stretch a few weeks, with the official kickoff being in late Jan, and the big street parade in March. The universe has aligned in my favor for this particular celebration as the street parade falls on my birthday!!! I can think of no way I would rather celebrate my birthday than with all the flamboyant gays of Australia in a giant drinking, dancing street parade. I can’t wait to write that blog post, its going to be wild.

So we arrived at Bronte Beach and walked the 1 km over to Tamarama. The views on the way were spectacular.

Bronte Beach

Tamarama

Bronte Beach is where the first surf lifesaver club originated. Surf Lifesavers are volunteers who are trained to perform life-guarding duties, but it is also a social club that hosts competitive surfing events and other social events. The yellow and red tent on Tamarama beach is where they sit. They also post yellow and red flags on the beach and you are supposed to swim in between the flags as that is where the rip tide is not, so it is where it is safest.

The ocean is so brilliantly blue here.

Sunbathers/potential skin cancer victims.

After some swimming and a good amount of catching up with Matt he suggested that I grab my camera and we climb some of the rocks that line the cove. Never having seen real tidal pools this was actually really neat. When we were there the tide was in, so many of the rocks were underwater, but he said at low tide you can walk a good 100-200 feet off shore just by climbing over the rocks.

The rocks were very slippery, but the views were well worth it.

Some of the tidal pools were a few feet deep and so people brought their little children over and treated them like baby pools. Dogs are not allowed on most Australian beaches, but over on the rocks is fair game, so we saw a bunch of dogs playing.

Dogs playing in the ocean!

I wonder how much these houses go for. I would guess minimum an arm, two legs, and your first born son. And thats probably lowballing it.

Tidal pool

Tidal pool wildlife, also Matt's toes.

Sea Anemones!...or rather ocean anemones....?

Ugh. So lovely.

Yep, still reflecting sunlight. Awesome.

After an afternoon of sun and surf we took the bus back to central, and after Matt had changed and rinsed off went to my apt so I could do the same. My roommate Jill ended up talking to Matt for a good 20 minutes about boston related things since she goes to Mass Art College and he goes to BU. Once we left my apt we headed up towards USyd, because on the way is this little mexican restaurant called The Flying Fajita Sisters. While I had been cautioned by my sophomore UMW roommate Mary Cait not to eat the Mexican food here (she studied in Australia last semester and had a bad experience with a burrito where they put parsley on it instead of cilantro) I was willing to put my faith in Matt when he told me that it was amazing. It sounds odd to say, and even more bizarre to have lived the experience, but I had the best mexican food I have ever had…IN AUSTRALIA. This seems completely counter-intuitive, as when you are in rome you should do as the romans, and when you are in Australia you should probably not try to eat cuisine that is from the complete opposite end of the earth, but I did, and it was life-alteringly good.

For an appetizer we had chips with three different dips, made from scratch on the premises. One was some sort of cheese with fresh chilies on top, one was refried bean infused with some sort of delicious spice, and the other was a green mystery dip that was just as mysterious as it was deliciously amazing. All three were served hot, and the chips were also warm and made form scratch on the premises. Because it was a saturday evening I had to of course get a cocktail (T minus six days till I’m legal in the states!) After giving the drink menu a careful look over I settled on a water melon, mint, citrus concoction that had some sort of tequila in it. AHMAZING. Next course was grilled fajitas. Since Matt and I are both vegetarians we opted for the grilled mango and cheese fajitas. I squealed with delight when I saw this on the menu because my love of mango is passionate and endless. However, the addition of cheese is an odd thing that I never would have thought of, but works amazingly well. The outside was crunchy, and the inside was sweet, thick, and had a hint of nutty saltiness due to the cheese. My taste buds reached a state of nirvana somewhere around the second bite.

For dessert we went with fried bananas finished with coconut creme, sprinkled with toasted coconut and white chocolate and a coconut and lime brulee. Words do not express the sheer blissful delight that washed over me with each spoonful. I had truly died and reached culinary cloud nine.

Banana, coconut and white chocolate. Brilliant.

Blurry, but o so tasty. Brulee is french, not mexican, but so wonderfully tasty.

Drinks, chips, and a dinner cruise to culinary nirvana.

After we had finally pulled ourselves away from this small island of mexican heaven we walked back to Broadway st (the main drag that separates where he lives and where I live) we hugged, said our “see you laters” and went our separate ways. I spent the rest of the evening catching up with my roommates and watching odd australian movies on tv. I collapsed into bed around 3 am full and happy. This country continues to surprise me in the most wonderful of ways. I mean mexican food in the pacific on the complete opposite side of the world? WIN.