So if there was one recommendation that everyone had for us on our trip to Sydney, it was to take the ferry to Manly Beach. As such, we embarked upon that journey this morning, taking the regular ferry over (30 minutes vs. high speed ferry that gets you there in 18 min). Best part of the ride had to be the cliff views that one sees off to your right as you approach Manly - it is at the mouth of the Pacific and the views are quite dramatic.
As for the town, it definitely had a different vibe than the rest of the city - more laid back with a beach town feel to it. Once we disembarked from the ferry, we headed across a 400m walkway known as the Corso that had shops on either side and made our way to the beach. While everyone speaks of Bondi, Manly had a very chill feel to it and would absolutely be the kind of place you'd bring your family to hang for the day. Had we had more time, we would have done the Manly to Shelly beach walk (we did a portion but did not go all the way to Shelly). Also, if you are looking for a good place to grab a bite, Hugo's right by the harbor is supposed to be great. Like our other ferry rides, the views coming back into the city of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House were just as good the fifth time as they were the first.
Once we got back to the harbor, we met back up with Shea for a private tour of the Opera House. Given that it is one of Sydney's iconic landmarks, we felt compelled to take a closer look. The facility, which took 14 years to build, has 6 different "theaters" and hosts over 1300 performances a year. Needless to say, they get their use out of it. Interestingly enough, the Swede who designed it, Jorn Otzen, got into a bit of a tift with the government, moved back to Sweden before it was completed and never actually got to see the finished product before he died. Either way, it is a pretty spectacular venue - check out the pic of the grand opera hall which seats 2700 and has an organ with over 10,000 pipes. As for the tour, it was probably more average than some of the others that we've taken - got to see a little bit of the behind the scenes where they store equipment and so forth, but definitely nothing special. Frankly, I think the highlights for the kids were 1) seeing Sammy the Seal who arrived two years ago at the steps to the Opera House and hasn't left and 2) guessing how many tiles are on the roof of the Opera House (1,052,000). Only other memorable moment occurred in one of the 120 rehearsal rooms they have throughout the building - our tour guide was telling us all about how superstitious performers could be and that the cardinal sin was to whistle in an Opera House - needless, to say, what was the first thing that Yates did when the tour guide turned his back to head out.....
As I've mentioned before, one of Shea's favorite things to do in a city is ride the Get on/Get off bus - while we were at Manly, she was riding the red line tour around Sydney. Given that the tickets are good for 24 hours, we joined her in the afternoon/evening for the the blue line tour out to the beaches and back through some of Sydney's other neighborhoods. Probably the funniest part of the day had to do with a particular venue that apparently is quite popular in Sydney, the massage parlor. As we cruised around through different parts of Sydney, we noticed a disproportionate number of massage places, specifically Thai massage (which if anyone knows what that is, please feel free to share with me). Ultimately, it became a bit of a game to spot the massage parlor - a 100m section of road in Chinatown was the winner with 11 massage outlets.
Unlike other evenings, dinner was a bit of a non-event although I did eat a mean version of Thai Boat Soup at one of the food courts near our hotel. If you've never had it, it is a noodle based soup typically served with sliced pork, scallions, pork balls (????) and enhanced by pig's blood. This last piece might have been a bit of a deterrent had I been able to read the menu and knew what I was getting, but instead I just ordered off the pictures. Either way, it was actually quite tasty and I'm glad I found out the ingredients after I ate it and not before.