As many of my friends and family told me before I left the UK, I simply couldn’t go to Australia without learning how to surf! Having been pretty ashamed of visiting Hawaii’s iconic surfer’s paradise of the North Shore and not learning, I decided today was time, and I was about to learn from the experts.
Feeling like squeezing a little culture into our day, we bought tickets for a tour. Admittedly, this was a bit of a gamble – I’m not a huge fan of so-called ‘tourist traps’ – but I was curious to see the inside of the Opera House and didn’t fancy any of the shows on offer (or they’d sold out), so this was our best chance!
We were met by our tour leader, Curly – he was fab! Very knowledgeable, very friendly, and all in all a great tour guide. One of those people who manage to make some trivial details genuinely really interesting.
We first headed outside, and up the steps of the Opera House. As you can see, the views of the Harbour Bridge were pretty special!
That’s Admiralty House – funnily enough exactly where Kate, Wills, and baby George recently stayed on their April tour of Australia – and what a view they’d have had from their room.
Curly then took us inside the Opera House. This was one of the most famous rooms.
It has its renowned purple carpets graced by some very important people, and is a famous venue for high profile weddings and parties, having hosted the reception of Lleyton Hewitt and Becky Cartwright, and countless other couples.
The purple carpet has even been known to startle Pavarotti. Story has it that the hugely famous opera singer was too afraid to step onto the carpet because of his superstitious fear of the colour purple. But I love it – don’t you?
Much of the tour was explaining the architecture behind the Opera House, and the life of the architect himself, the great Dane Jørn Utzon. I was amazed at the little details he added – virtually everything was considered whilst it was being constructed, from the materials that would affect the acoustics, to the angle of the windows so as to avoid reflection whilst visitors looked out at the superb view.
Sadly I wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside the main concert halls, but they are pretty incredible. We set foot outside again, and explored the outside architecture – can you believe the tiles are “self-cleaning”? How does that even work!?
Although the building appears cream from afar, all the tiles are actually yellow and grey.
It really is such an impressive creation – and it’s so sad to think the genius behind it never got to see the finished product. Sadly, Utzon was too ill to ever travel from Denmark to Australia in his dying days to see it in the flesh.
The tour beat all my expectations, and it’s definitely something I’d recommend to visitors to Sydney! You can buy your tickets here.
Next stop – back to Manly! We whizzed round to Circular Quay to catch the ferry once again, having picked Manly Surf School for our very first surf lesson.
A far cry from the nearest surf beach to my home, Fistral Beach in Newquay, we thought the good surf and beautiful Manly Beach would be a great place to learn.
We got changed into our rather dashing wetsuits (which were cold and wet – yuk!) and each grabbed a board.
I can’t tell you how heavy the surfboard was! We were in a group with a few others, who happened to be more experienced than us.
Our surf teacher told us the basics about surfing – spots to avoid, how to paddle, how to stand up, and so on. He was a typically laid-back Aussie, and good in that he appreciated we wanted to spend as much time out in the surf catching waves as possible.
Having received pep talks and briefings, it was time to head out on the waves. Surfing was a lot harder than I bargained for, but such a good work out. Think constantly paddling against tides, lugging a heavy board around, and then heaving your whole body up to try and stand on the board.
I well and truly got the hang of it by the end (typical Mum for not getting any pics of me actually surfing!) and it was so much fun. Some of my friends had said it’s difficult to stand up on the board, so I went with low expectations but surprised myself. I can’t wait to get back on a board, and really feel I know the basics of surfing. It could also mean a smaller board next time.
One down side of the lesson was the time our teacher has to split between the group – if you’d like a little more attention on your lesson, I would recommend private tuition, either on your own or with a small group of friends. Our teacher did, however, get everyone standing up by the end of the 2-hour lesson! Definitely give it a go if it’s your kind of thing – you might even surprise yourself.
We headed back onto the ferry feeling exhausted and soggy, but were greeted by another fantastic sunset – Sydney, you spoil us every time.
After an exhausting yet awesome day, it was time to head back for a relax before another great day ahead.
Have you been surfing in Sydney? Let me know if you’ve tried any surf spots that you’d recommend!