We could see the Opera House from the window as our plane approached Sydney. Temperatures were somewhat cooler than in Alice. We got to our hostel in time for dinner in Chinatown.

The next day, we met up with our friends, Savvy and Chris, who we met in Vientiane, Laos. We checked out some of downtown Syney, and went to the Contemporary Art Museum.

We perused a Sam Taylor-Wood show, an exhibit called "Masquerade," and a permanent exhibit of modern Aboriginal works. My favorite pieces were the "Adventure Series" by Tracey Moffat. We also enjoyed seeing some of Cindy Sherman’s predecessors and contemporaries in Masquerade. I wasn’t aware there was such a tradition of photographic self-portraiture involving elaborate costumes and sets.

While in town, we noticed these terns, which apparently feed on garbage. They look kind of Edward Gorey.

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I spent one day shopping along Oxford Street, a long avenue of Soho-like shops and boutiques.

The weather never really cooperated with us in Sydney.

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One day, we did the "Bridge Climb," which entails climbing the Harbor Bridge. Apparently, it’s the only large bridge you can climb. Before "suiting up," we saw autographed photos of a melange of celebrities including Chelsea Clinton, Frankie Muniz and Pamela Anderson atop the bridge.

Though we’d only recently heard of the Bridge Climb, many in our group had been thinking of doing it for years, and were very nervous. We were put into some rather foul outfits — jumpsuits with belts that clip onto a wire that keeps you from falling.

After a brief training session, we began our ascent of the bridge. It was actually rather tame; I’d been looking forward to some rappelling, but that wasn’t included. We traversed stairways, catwalks and inclines to the top of the bridge.

The Climb was really fabulous — the harbor views were great, but cameras weren’t allowed. One could see lots of inlets and islands, and what looked like a regatta of sailboats — they love to sail in Sydney. There were several business centers with skyscrapers scattered around the inlets. And, of course, the Opera House was the gem of the harbor.

That afternoon, we wandered around "The Rocks," the charming neighborhood at the base of the bridge. We also saw a lovely old observatory.

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Another day, we took a ferry to Manly Beach, one Sydney’s loveliest. Apparently, it’s called "Manly" because, as he arrived at the beach in 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip was struck by the manliness of the local Aborigines. Hmmm. Though it was chilly, the surfers were out. We wished the weather was warm enough to swim. Nonetheless, gorgeous beaches and comfortable neighborhoods made the Sydney lifestyle look very tempting.

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We did part of the "Manly Scenic Walk" along the shore, and considered knocking on several doors to ask, "How much?" It must be amazing in the summertime.

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That evening, we took in a performance at the Opera House. While in Sydney, we never saw the Opera House gleaming in the sun, like it is in most photos. The weather was cloudy for much of our stay. But it was lovely to see the hemispheres glowing in the night sky. Up close, you can see a herringbone structure to the brickwork that isn’t always apparent in photographs. The Opera House is just as wonderful as I thought it would be. It’s hard to imagine the it was built in the ’50s, as it truly transcends eras or styles, and appeals to many.

The performance we saw that evening was "Ruby’s Story," about an Aboriginal woman’s life. She was part of the "lost generation," who were taken away from their parents and fostered out. The government thought this was a way to correct perceived social ills in aboriginal communities. It was a traumatic event for many involved.

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Before leaving, we spent about a day doing chores — errand-running, hair appointments, chiropractor, and planning for Cairns.

Despite the grey weather, we had a great time in Sydney, and can’t wait to come back.