On the morning of Day 2, Megan and I set out for a quick breakfast before we met up with Claire (who was flying to Sydney from Canberra while were at breakfast). We ended up going to the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), which was a short walk from the Grace Hotel. The QVB was built in the 1890s and then restored and re-opened in 1986 as the current shopping center. It occupies an entire block on Sydney’s George Street and contains more than 180 shops and restaurants. The building has a dome in the center which is occupied by a giant (it really was giant!) Christmas tree during the Christmas season. For breakfast, we grabbed some coffee/tea and food at one of the cafes – a perfect start to the day!
Look who we ran into at the QVB – Santa Claus!!! I couldn’t resist a selfie as he was talking towards us. It was my first Santa sighting of the year…on November 11th!
When I see the photo above, I cannot help but think of my friend Chika because I think my eyes look “tired” in the photo ( I spent 20+ hours traveling the day before so it should be expected). Chika and I used to work together and I swear for a year or so when I first started that job, I heard “your eyes look tired” more often than I can count and it seemed that Chika was around every time someone said it to me. It became a joke between us. Usually I wear fuller coverage concealer now so I don’t hear that as much but my plan for Australia was to give my skin and hair a break. For the most part, I stuck to lots of sunscreen, minimal to no make up and plain air-dried hair.
The clocks in the QVB were amazing! The clock in the photo below is the Great Australian Clock. It includes 33 scenes from Australian history, seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives. An Aboriginal hunter circles the exterior of the clock continuously, representing the never-ending passage of time.
Below is The Royal Clock. It activates on the hour and displays six scenes of English royalty accompanied by Jeremiah Clarke’s trumpet voluntary. Most of the scenes include mechanical animation. One depicts the execution of King Charles I.
Such a pretty staircase and stained-glass window in the QVB.
After breakfast, we stopped back at the hotel to meet Claire and then set out for the Sydney Bridge Climb. I was pretty anxious about this activity the whole time we were walking there. I considered bailing several times but made myself keep going. I was determined to do it!
The Sydney Harbor Bridge is a steel through arch bridge that goes across Sydney Harbor. It carries rail, vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. It is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design. It opened in 1932 and is the sixth longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 440 ft (so high!) from top to water level.
We bought our tickets to the bridge climb several weeks in advance. It worked well for us because we were able to pick the date and time for our climb. There were tickets available the day-of. I am not sure if that is normal or not. If you want to buy them in advance, you can buy tickets here: https://www.bridgeclimb.com/
The climb started from the left bottom corner in the photo below. It went up one side of the bridge, across the top of the bridge by the flags and then back down the other side of the bridge (it ended where it started at the bottom). We did not go all the way across the bridge and harbor. The flags on the top – one is the Australian flag, the other is the state flag. Yes, Australia has state flags too! 😉
They are very, very strict about the preparation process for climbing the bridge. There were about 10 people in the group we climbed with. The first step was signing the waiver and then we had to change into the blue and gray suits you will see below. I am pretty sure I have never put anything so unflattering on my body. It was part awful, part hilarious. The suit was way too long on me so without the belt, the crotch of the suit hung below my knees. It looked like I was wearing a penguin suit! Luckily, the suits looked better on Claire and Megan. Once we had the suits on, everything was tied down and strapped on, cell phones were put in lockers and specific instructions were given. It was all fine until anxiety or food poisoning or a stomach bug got the best of one woman in our group as we were preparing to walk out on the bridge. It was bad (and gross). I am actually surprised that no one else lost their breakfast as well because we were all standing right next to her when it happened. That poor woman. I hope she felt better quickly (clearly she was not allowed on the climb). 🙁
All suited up and ready to go (before they took our phones away)!
Megan on the left, Claire on the right in the photo below.
The adventure started with a long, flat walk above the street to get the the actual climb. The walk along the flat surface was the only part that made me nervous. You could see through the boards and they didn’t seem super sturdy to me. I went slow though and kept going until we finally made it to the actual climb. In the photo below, you can see there are closed steps all the way up and railings on both sides. We were anchored to the railing all the way. I never felt unsafe once we were climbing. We also went slow with lots of stops so we could enjoy the experience and the views. (Note: All of the bridge climb photos below were taken by the company that manages the climbs.)
Prepare for lots of cheesy poses.
Almost to the top with a neat view of Sydney behind us.
Now with the majestic Sydney Opera House behind us.
At the very tip top! They took at short gif-y like video of us at the top (not posted in this blog). We could shout anything during the video and we chose “I wish I was a kangaroo.” Yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds but it made us laugh and I don’t want to forget about it. 🙂
After making it back to the starting point, changing into our street clothes (no way was I leaving the premises with that penguin suit on) and making it down from the bridge, we wandered around the The Rocks Markets to find a bite to eat. The Rocks is what the area around the bridge is called. The market is near the bottom of the Sydney Bridge. It was a neat market filled with stalls selling food, jewelry, artwork, etc. We decided to get our lunch from Hero Sushi Box and all had different versions of the dish below, called Okonomiyako (which means ‘grilled as you like it’). It is a savory version of a Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. It is better known as ‘Japanese pizza’ in the US (because we can’t be bothered to try to pronounce the real name apparently?). It was delicious!