Okay, funsters, here is the rest of the update, now that I've got some internet time on my card again!
You got the surf update. The rest of Noosa proved to be quite a learning experience. This experience came in the form of the other people I was staying with. If you are looking for Americans in Australia, go to Noosa. That's where they're hiding. In one hostel, split among two rooms, were six Americans: myself, two girls from California, one girl from St. Louis, one girl from New York, and a guy from Maine. It was hanging out with them that I learned a few things about travelling. First, I learned that I am very glad I am travelling alone. The times that we all went out together, we tended to hang about as a group and talk about American things--the news in the States, our respective lives back home, etc. When I struck out from the group and did my own thing, I was much more likely to engage with the locals. And every time I went out on my own (say, to dinner) I received an invitation to share a table, or share a drink with a crowd. I met lots of very lovely people doing that, and learned about how life is outside of my own little bubble. (A lot of similarities, and some differences, too).
Second, I learned that many other people are REALLY crazy. A lot of the Americans (one in particular) claimed that they came to Australia to find answers. To what, they didn't know. All they knew was that they were going to do all sorts of things (one day of surfing, one day of hiking, one day of meditating in the mountains), in the search for these answers. I'm not sure how they were paying for this operation, as they didn't have a working holiday visa, and were there for several months, but that wasn't my business. They seemed shocked that, after my tale of how I got there, that I wasn't searching for answers of my own, but rather, just here to enjoy life and all it has to offer. The statement "I did my soul searching, already, thanks," just mystified that crowd. I didn't have time to help them find answers to questions they hadn't defined, so I didn't hang around that crowd a whole lot.
That was Noosa.
On to Sydney!
Sydney is a very charming city. It's big-huge, really, when traversed on foot and bus, and four days isn't nearly enough time to see it all. I spent the first evening getting to my lodgings--by the time I got plane and train sorted, it was rush hour, and getting dark quickly, and ended up walking from Central Station out to Glebe. This wouldn't be a bad walk if it were just a ramble, as it's only 3 or 4 km. However, this distance became huge when loaded down with 50 lbs. worth of stuff and sporting two blisters (earned in Noosa). I was not a happy girl by the time I arrived, and so I just stayed in and vegetated the first night. The first full day in Sydney (Tues), I decided to strike out and aquire opera tickets and wander around the city and see what it had to show me. I successfully navigated the bus system, and stumbled upon Hyde Park Barracks, a museum dedicated to the history of the City and the different roles the building had played over the years since its construction: convict barracks, legislative building, and records storage. It also documented the archaeology and restoration of the building to its' present museum state. I wandered around the courtyard, and stumbled upon a group of schoolchildren in a tour group, learning about how the earliest settlers lived..and the were all wearing slop shirts (1860s cut--history dork!) and making bricks out of wet sand. The difference between what these children were doing and activities that you would have schoolchildren do in the States was astounding. (For the record for the Aussies reading this, it would depend on the site, but would likely be some sort of farming activity, though the convict colonies were S. Carolina and Georgia, so they might be making bricks there) Then again, you might find something equally eye-opening at a Civil-war era site that didn't apologize for slavery. Tough to say. At any rate, the museum was interesting, aside from the choice to include mummified rats in the displays (I understand they made a mess of the building and made the lives of the occupants hell, but do you really have to include the mummies?)
From there, I wandered up and found the Opera. I went up to the window to get my ticket, and was quietly informed that if I bought a backstage tour of the opera for $35 (which I wasn't going to do, despite being mildly interested), I could get any ticket for that night's show for $50. For reference, the cheapest seats for the opera started at about $100, and after Noosa, I was looking for a deal! I dashed over and got my tour ticket, then came back and scored a seat in the stalls that normally ran for $198 for a mere $50. Woohoo for that! And I got a very interesting tour of the Opera to boot. I was glad I did it, in the end. It went into the details of construction of the opera, and took us through all the different concert spaces. In addition, we got to wander in and listen to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra rehearse (Sans-Saens cello concerto) for a few minutes. It was really cool stuff. There was another tour that took you all through the backstage, but it was only once a day, starting at 7am, so no luck there. While on the tour, I ran into a couple other tourists (a comedian from Los Angeles and a tourist from Germany) and we ended up wandering around together for the tour and having lunch afterward. It was quite pleasant.
After all that, it was time to return home, clean up, and get back for a 7:30 show. I wore my cute new Fluevogs, along with a really great dress I got at Kohls (great because its a wrinkle-free jersey). While sipping champagne and watching the lights from the ships move about the harbor before the show (It was the Sydney Opera, how could you not??), I was chatted up by two little old ladies who commented that they loved my shoes. They came to the opera often, because they loved the music and loved watching all the people. There's no dress code at the Opera there, so it provided ample opportunity for "what on earth are they wearing?" moments. :) You could see everything from formals to converse sneakers and jeans. One of the ladies runs a bed and breakfast three doors down from the hostel I'm staying in.
The opera itself was wonderful. It was just the way opera should be: beautiful music, beautiful singing, decent costumes (Fidelio is set in an 18th C. Spanish prison, there's not much room for pretty), and HORRIBLE acting to match the overdone story arc and absolutely over-the-top lyrics. I'll definitely seek out some opera in Raleigh.
After the show, I was hungry, and wandered into the only shop serving that late (10:30pm). It was a Guylian Chocolate shop, and I thought "I'm on vacation, why the hell not?" and ordered myself an incredibly decadant dessert for dinner. And another glass of champagne to go with it. While waiting for my death-by-chocolate dinner to arrive, I was invited to share a table with three very charming women: Imalayah, from Sydney, her friend (name???) visiting from the Phillipines, and her friend's aunt Tess, who also lives in town. Within minutes we were laughing like we'd known each other all our lives. One of the lovely serendipitous moments that could only happen because I was travelling alone...
Today was a trip to Bondi beach, to see the place where all the Beautiful People play. It was cool and windy, and the water was pretty cold (I checked with my toes), but the surfers were still out in full force, and they looked to be having a pretty good time. I'd seen pictures of the place on Christmas day, when every square inch of sand is covered by people with their coolers and inflatable Christmas Trees (I could do Christmas like that), but the beach was much more empty today. I was surprised by how small the beach was--maybe 100 yards long, and surrounded by a rock outcroppings upon which townhouses perched. What it must be like to live that close to the ocean, far enough south that you can live reasonably certain that you won't be blown away by a hurricane/typhoon? Seems amazing to me.
At any rate, I'm out of time (again), having spent the entire hour writing this, so I shall return in a couple of days for another update!
Up next: the rest of the day at Bondi, and a daytrip out to the Blue Mountains. Then on to Tassie!