Monday, January 31, 2011

20 Nov 2010: Utzon, Sydney Architecture Walks

20 Nov 2010, Sat:

After the meet-up with my friend, KF, I brisk-walked to the Museum of Sydney for the Sydney Architecture Walks that would start at 10.30 a.m. The Sydney Architecture Walks are a series of urban walking tours led by architects. The tours were intended for the general public.

I was the only Asian onboard the tour. That was not new to me for I was the only Asian on The Rocks Walking Tour the day before. Nevertheless, I looked forward to the tour. The Sydney Architecture Walks tour that I had embarked on was known as "SAW 02 Utzon".  This tour gave an in-depth and comprehensive overview to Danish architect Jørn Utzon and his vision of the Sydney Opera House. The tour is not so much about the Sydney Opera House that we see today but on the original design of the Sydney Opera House that Utzon had envisioned but was never realised for the interiors.

On our way to the Sydney Opera House, our knowledgeable and humble guide shared with us the persons who have influenced Utzon's work and style. Being a visual learner, although I kept hearing the name of "Antonio Gaudi" being mentioned many times in a few variations, I did struggled to remember his name. The good thing was that I knew I could count on search engines to help me out after the tour. I learnt from the online sources that Gaudi studied nature and he incorporated the angles and curves that he had observed from nature into his designs and mosaics. One quote by Gaudi that had particularly drew my attention goes as such: "Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the Creator".

Other figures that had influenced Utzon's style of work were Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen, Mies van der Rohe and Picasso.

At the Royal Botanic Gardens and under a tree that faced the Sydney Opera House, the tour group sat down to learn about the source of Utzon's inspirations and his working methods. I took note that Utzon was inspired by Nature and ancient architecture. He had an interesting working method whereby he would make models and develop prototypes before the actual part of the building was built.

I was very inspired by the tour that while writing this post, I read all the 93 pages of the pdf article titled "Sydney Opera House: Utzon Design Principles" so that I could better appreciate the source of Utzon's inspirations, his vision for the Sydney Opera House and his working methods. The softcopy of the article came along with the souvenir pack that I had purchased after the Sydney Opera House Essential Tour on 19 Nov 2010. I thought it was a great idea to include the article in the souvenir pack.

The planning for the Sydney Opera House began in the late 1940s. Eugene Goossens who was the Director of the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music was lobbying for a suitable venue for large theatrical production. By 1954, Goossens had managed to get the support of New South Wales Premier Joseph Cahill to call for designs for an opera house. (source: wikipedia).

When a design competition for the opera house was launched in 1955, Utzon had yet to visit Sydney. In preparing for the design, Utzon referred to naval charts over Sydney. His design of a light sculptural roof of the Sydney Opera House over a heavy mass of a large platform was in a way a response to the natural sandstone heads of the Sydney Harbour.

If you were looking at me during the tour, you might have seen how intrigued I was. The guide used various drawings and models to show us Utzon's design principles. I could say that his design principles were meant to respond to the unique terrain and landscape of the Bennelong Point. Another source of inspiration for Utzon was ancient architecture. I learnt that he was inspired by the architecture of the Mayan People, particularly the ceremonial platforms, after an earlier visit to Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Since that day, I looked at the platforms and the wide stairs of the Sydney Opera House with a totally different eye. Yes, they did unconsciously make me feel liberated from the mundane daily world as I walk up on them.

The tour also brought us to appreciate the beauty of how Utzon have conceptualised the interior. Many of his ideas had not been realised. However, one of the latest spaces which form a part of the Accessibility and Western Foyers project is a good example of Utzon's ideas for the interior spaces of the Sydney Opera House. This spaces were designed by architect Jørn Utzon and his son, Jan Utzon, in collaboration with Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker, as part of the Sydney Opera House's Building Program. The tour guide reminded me of the value of simplicity in leading the visitors of the Sydney Opera House to be awed by the beauty of the Sydney Harbour as they look out of the glass panels. If the interior spaces had been overly cluttered with lavish design, the visitors may be overwhelmed by the complex spaces to even pay attention to the beauty that Nature has granted to the Sydney Harbour.

In solving the many practical issues of building and maintaining a monumental-sized Opera House, I learnt that Utzon came up with simple and efficient ideas to solve many of the complex issues. That was genius at work. We learnt about how Utzon envisioned the ribs and folds of the base to function. I love the ingenuity of the thoughtful drainage system of Utzon's design.

During the walk, I knew that I would start viewing the stairs of Sydney Opera House from an inspired perspective since then. The stairs were no longer mere stairs anymore. They were steps that elevated one from a mundane world, as one walked up to meet the Divine.

Our guide also pointed us to a model that demonstrated "key to the shells". Through lateral thinking, Utzon found a solution whereby the shells of the Sydney Opera House could be developed according to a spherical geometry. This meant mass production and pre-casting could be made possible. Admittedly, I was awed by the ingenuity of the simplicity and brilliance of the "key to the shells". That naturally led me to awe at the ribs of the shells.

The tiles on the roof of the Sydney Opera House deserve a discussion on its own. Utzon worked with one of the best ceramic factories in the world to develop the tiles. He subdivided the tile surface into glossy tile lids with matte tiles at the edges. In doing so, he had managed to realise the philosophy of "structure expresing the architecture and vice versa".

We went on to learn about Utzon's vision for how the glass wall enclosing the ends of the shells would be built. However, many of Utzon's vision and designs did not materialise when he was led to resign from the project due to changes in the political scene in New South Wales in 1966.

So the Sydney Opera House that we see today is not quite exactly the Sydney Opera House that Utzon had envisioned. Yet, Utzon was a person of humility and wisdom, and he recognised that rebuilding the entire Sydney Opera House according to the old plans will not be a viable solution (source: "Sydney Opera House: Utzon Design Principles"). Instead, he had suggested modifications to be made whenever the needs arise based on various design principles.

By the end of the tour, my mind was still trying to assimilate what had went on. The content was of lesser importance than the inspirations I have received after learning about Utzon's vision and his sources of inspirations. I would never be able to have the honour to meet Utzon in person. He passed away on 29 Nov 2008.

If you like the Sydney Opera House or if you like architecture or if you simply want to learn anything interesting about Sydney, Utzon by the Sydney Architecture Walks is one tour that I would recommend. It does not have the thrill of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, neither does it have the novelty of riding a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay, but this is one tour with depth and with inspirations.

As I have yet to go on the other tours under the Sydney Architecture Walks, it looks like I have lots of excuses to visit Sydney yet again.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I thank our tour guide (I remember that his name's Eoghan) for the inspiring and interesting tour.
2) I am thankful for the wonderful weather. I felt blessed that throughout my short stay in Sydney, the weather has been extremely kind towards me and my planned schedule.
3) I am grateful to visionary architects like Utzon. They serve simply because their works are meaningful.
4) I am grateful to my friend, KF, for accomodating to my last minute changes in schedule. This had allowed me to attend this very walk.
5) I am thankful to have come across this tour by good chance.

New things that I did:
1) It was my first time taking the Sydney Architecture Walks and I love it!

My learning points:
1) I am reminded that we can also look back to the ancient world for inspirations.
2) I was touched by Utzon's humility as I hear about his works and his story during the tour. I learnt the value of humility.
3) I was reminded how principles can be more important than the procedures. The procedures are usually meant to serve the principles, and often not the other way round. I guess this reminded me how living our lives based on sound principles and values could often be more important than living them based on strict procedures.
4) I've learnt about the beauty of simplicity. It is profound, and I am still seeking to appreciate it.
5) I was reminded that Nature has plenty to inspire us. We just have to make time to learn from Nature.

Sydney Architecture Walks
SAW 02 Utzon is a 2.5 hours tour. It takes place on most Saturdays, 10.30 a.m. - 1.00 p.m.
Meeting point: Museum of Sydney, Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney, NSW 2000.
Cost: General $35 (includes museum entry)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Read: Scribbling in the Sand

Title: Scribbling in the Sand - Christ and Creativity
Author: Michael Card
Publisher: InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illiniois, Leicester, England
ISBN: 0-8308-3254-8


One of my colleagues thought of me and generously lent me a book related to Christ and creativity, titled "Scriblling in the Sand" by Michael Card. Surprisingly, despite a growing list of books to read, I open-mindedly accepted her offer and read the book. I suppose I was searching for answers related to what it meant to be creative in a meaningful way, so I took the offer of the loan as a sign that it was a book to read.

So I put aside a few of the books that I was reading back then to read this book so that I won't have to hold on to the book for too long.

Michael Card's "Scribbling in the Sand" has some earnest messages and ideas for us. I would like to think each of us is an artist of our life, and creativity is an element that can help us live our lives with deeper sense of meaning.

Here are some great ideas in this book that I thought would be worthwhile sharing:

Using parables and stories from the Bible, the author illustrated how for art (including music, dance etc) to have meaning, it must serve. I thought that this was a moving concept that is worthwhile for artists of all time to meditate on.

In addition, I also like the chapter titled "The Call is to Community". In much way, I could see the gift that creating within the context of a community could provide the needed context of respect and trust, excellence and aesthetic accountability for artists to grow and to be nurtured. Admittedly, I yearn for it more. The author also offered a practical suggestion at the last few pages of the book to encourage artists to "do all one can, to be part of, foster", and pour himself/herself in a community.

It is quite a thoughtful read to read the author's on how community can facilitate meaningful Constructive Criticisms, offer apprecnticeshop, provide the context for Aesthetic Accountability, allow the space for artists to have the Freedom to Experiment, and to give artists the needed Unqualified Acceptance to trust that regardless of their ability to perform, they are still fully accepted.

The author also speaks of the value of humility in art. For whatever art we are doing can only be influenced by Nature or other people's art, rather than from nothing. Paradoxically, I think the author is right, when the artist does not boast of himself through his art, and seeks to serve through his art, his art instantly becomes great because of its meaning. Somehow, I was reminded of the late-artist, Wu Guanzhong, and his unbroken kite's concept.

One particular chapter that I find quite a good read was that on "A Lifestyle of Listening". The author outlined that there are three keys to developing a lifestyle of listening. These involves listening to the Word of God, the silence of prayer, and that of listening to our own lives - first as poems, then as living parables. I may have to reread this chapter to better appreciate its deep wisdom.

Overall, while I am not a Christian, this book is quite a thoughtful read for me. Perhaps Christian artists may find this book even more worth their time to read since they could possibly relate more to the parables mentioned in the book?

I thought that Michael Card is a sincere artist, and decided I could embed a copy of a video of him singing "Scribbling in the Sand" in this post. Enjoy it please.

20 Nov 2010: My friend's kindness to accomodate

20 Nov 2010, Sat:

The original plan for the day was to meet up with one of my friends, KF, at QVB. QVB, otherwise known as the Queen Victoria Building, is one of the well-known buildings in Sydney. It is a very beautiful shopping mall, and I think it is slightly more beautiful than Harrods, London. QVB has a nice old world charm to it. I learnt that it is an example of Byzantine architecture. Notice that the building has a series of domes and domelets. If one were to take a closer look, one could see exquisite stained glass windows and extensive wood panelling throughout.

KF is a friend whom I have gotten to know during my university days when she came to Singapore as an overseas-exchange student for a semester. It had been more than seven years since we had last met. While I was not sure how the meet-up would turn out since it had been ages since our last meeting, I was looking forward to it nevertheless.

After a breakfast that was as usual wonderfully delicious, I remembered that there was some architectural tours in Sydney. I would like to visit one of those if schedule permits. The hotel lobby provided free internet access to hotel guests. I wasted no time to use the internet facilities and came across two Sydney architecture tours.
Somehow I figured that the former might be worth checking out. The latter tour happened to start at 10 a.m. which coincided with my meeting with KF. Yet, I still had an issue. I could go without the tour for I thought it was a rare opportunity to meet a long-time friend. At the same time, I felt I could at least check out with KF if she might like to join me for the tour. Then I could meet Karen and check out the tour as well.

Although KF was not free to join the tour with me, she kindly offered to meet me at an earlier time nearby the meeting point of the Sydney Architecture Walks tour. I appreciate her kindness in accomodating so that I could meet up with her and at the same time, check out the tour.

In the end, KF and I changed our meeting place to Circular Quay. We had a meal at one of the cafes at Circular Quay. KF recommended me to try banana bread. She said it was quite a special kind of bread to eat in Sydney. However, the cafes did not serve banana bread so we settled  for what I vaguely remember as raspberry bread. It was pretty good. More importantly, we had a nice time catching up with one another.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I thank KF for her kindness in meeting me earlier so that I could go for the tour.
2) I am thankful to meet up with KF after so many years. I thank her for making time to meet up.

Monday, January 24, 2011

19 Nov 2010: The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's concert

19 Nov 2010, Fri:

It was a busy Friday evening at the Sydney Opera House. There was a ballet performance at the Opera Theatre. At the Concert Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra would present a programme consisting Haydn's Symphony No. 99, Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra, Dean's   and Brahms' Symphony No. 2. I would consider myself lucky that I had the foresight to collect my tickets a few days earlier. Afterall, I do not like to queue when there is a crowd. I suppose self-knowledge could help us devise strategies to live our lives with greater ease.

I decided that it was better for me to find my way to the Concert Hall early, so before it was even 7.30 p.m., I held my concert ticket in my hand and headed for the Concert Hall. There was a strings quartet performance at the lobby area. I figured that the performance was given by some of the participants of the Sydney Opera House's World Orchestras Education Programme. I mustered enough composure to navigate my way into the Concert Hall through the crowds.

No photography is allowed inside the Concert Hall. However, there was no rule to say that no sketching is allowed. I could appreciate how at times a sketchbook could be more relevant than the camera. I could sketch the Concert Hall and no one would say that I had flout the rules!

It was at least 20 minutes before the start of the concert. I was delighted to see some of the members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's double bass section up on the stage warming themselves up. That I saw as good luck for yours truly. I happily did a sketch of the stage of the Concert Hall as a memento.

The orchestra was playing to a full-house. Even the standing seats were taken up. My seat offered me a good view and sound of the orchestra. I could enjoy a good view of the double bass section too.

Honestly, I was feeling a little tired from the long day. The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has a way to inspire its audiences with its sound. As I browsed through the Berlin Philharmonic's Sydney Opera House's souvenir
booklet, what struck me was the cultural mandate of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra stated by Sir Simon Rattle that goes: "Music is no mere luxury, but instead a fundamental need. Music must be a vital and essential element in the life of each individual."

Audience to the concert had the pleasure to listen to Dean's Komarov's Fall. Brett Dean is an Australian composer who was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra viola section from 1985 to 1999. I suppose there was a special significance to present his composition during Berlin Philharmonic Orhcestra's tour to the land Down Under.

My favourite part of the concert was the orchestra's rendition of the work of one of my favourite composers, Brahms. Brahms' Symphony No. 2 opened in a balanced orchestral sound that immediately captured my ears' attention for the entire duration of the work. The second movement that opened with the cello section was the most moving rendition of the symphony I had ever heard. The third movement delighted my ears with its contrasting colours. The fourth movement was brilliantly articulated with one of the most balanced orchestral sound that touched my soul and heart with the vision to press on.

Brahms' Symphony No. 2 was so marvellously performed that I could still remember the clarity and beauty of the sounds from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Balanced was the word. The symphony was put together so heavenly by the orchestra that I felt deeply moved by the music. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra gave the best live rendition of Brahms' Symphony No. 2 that I have heard to date. I was greatly inspired by the orchestra. Bravo!

It was a night of inspiration. I was very pleased with my choice to listen to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. Actually, the experience was way better than when I heard them a week later at the Esplanade Concert Hall for a different programme.

After the concert, the music from the concert kept ringing in my ears and mind so heavenly.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I am grateful that I happened to realise that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was performing at the Sydney Opera House during my visit to Sydney. This helped me eventually decide to get a ticket to one of the concerts.
2) I am grateful that I could have some financial means to treat myself to an inspiring concert by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
3) Many thanks to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for a wonderful rendition of Brahms' Symphony No. 2 and a wonderful concert!
4) It is a gift that I could sketch. With this skill, I need not depend on the camera at all times.

A new thing that I did:
1) It was my first time listening to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra live!
2) I sketched inside the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall for the first time in my life.

My learning points:
1) Some great things in life are worthwhile making time for and investing in.
2) Great musicianship starts with living life well.

Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra)

Friday, January 21, 2011

19 Nov 2010: Back to Milsons Point and the evening stroll

19 Nov 2010, Fri:

After the Essential Tour, I came across the Utzon Room though I could not enter it as it was used for another function . This room is a special one. It was named in honour of the architect, Jørn Utzon, who was the original architect for Sydney Opera House. I read from the plaque outside the room that Utzon had "conceived the original designs for Sydney Opera House in 1957 and worked on its construction until 1966". I felt touched to know that people are recognising his contributions as the architect of Sydney Opera House.

My gut feel led me to visit Milsons Point by ferry. I strolled leisurely to Circular Quay, appreciating the beauty offered by the harbour.

I could have fell in love with taking ferry rides when I was in Sydney. Whenever schedule permits, I would make time to take ferry rides each day! Honestly, after taking the rides, I would tend to experience a rocking sensation for quite a while. Nevertheless, that did not seem to stop me from taking rides and more rides on the ferries while I was in Sydney. I figured I enjoyed the rides because it was simply pleasant to be floating above the waters and the breeze was simply inviting whenever I take a ferry ride.

On the way to Milsons Point, I took a photograph of a large cruise. I wonder if it was one of those cruises that would head to Melbourne?

I alighted at the wharf at Jefferey's Street. I vaguely remember it was the wharf to be used until the original Milsons Point & Luna Park's wharf is ready ater going through some upgrading works. I strolled about Milsons Point while keeping watch of the time since I have to ensure that I get back to Sydney Opera House in time for dinner and the concert that would start at 8 p.m. As I strolled about Milsons Point, I felt comforted by the tranquil setting of the place and the darkening skies that were lovingly peaceful despite their gloomy colours.

I was planning to take a train or a bus back to Sydney Opera House. However, it proved to be much more convenient for me to be patient and wait for the next ferry. As such, I continued to enjoy and experience the mysteriously peaceful Milsons Point while watching the time so that I would be punctual for the next ferry. One thing that I have learnt to do very well when I was in Sydney was to read the ferry schedules and to plan my schedules around them. The ferry came and by 19 Nov 2010, I had became a more street-smart tourist that I was able to make a good guess if the ferry was heading for Circular Quay without having to ask the crew. Anyway, to play safe, I still checked with the crew where the ferry was heading before I board the ferry.

Before I knew it, I was back to Circular Quay. I headed for one of the cafes at the Sydney Opera House for dinner. Dinner comprised Portabello mushroom and Feta (burger) with peppermint tea. I had quite a good view of the harbour while enjoying my satisfying dinner. I particularly like the juicy Portabello mushroom sandwiched between the fresh-tasting buns. The view and the food were so attractive that diners have to watch out for jealous and daring seagulls who were pretty ready to steal a bite and take over the use of the tables from the diners once the diners move away from their seats.

After dinner, hoping to have a good time digesting the wonderful meal, I took a stroll to the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens. I saw some trees with purple flowers at a distant part of the Royal Botanic Gardens. I figured that there might be plaques telling me the botanical and generic name of the tree. However, I did not want to risk being late for the evening concert so I decided I shall somehow find other ways to find out the name of the tree. Familiar places somehow bring back memories. As I strolled about the Royal Botanic Gardens, I fondly recalled the times when I visited it two years ago with my friend, RL.

I seemed pretty interested in signs with the name "Bennelong". This was possibly because I was acquainted with the story of Woollarawarre Bennelong during The Rocks Walking Tour earlier that morning. I also could not help but to take a photograph of a cage-like structure which is known as "A Folly For Mrs Macquarie". I have just learnt that a "folly" is a fanciful building designed more for artistic expression than for practicality. Whatever it is, I like its interesting design.

I headed early for the Sydney Opera House after my brief visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens so that I could be in time for the concert by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra!

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I am thankful for an evening of good weather.
2) I am pleased that people are recognising Jørn Utzon's contributions as the architect of the Sydney Opera House. While this had came pretty late, I suppose it was better late than never.

New things that I did:
1) I travelled to Milsons Point from Circular Quay on a ferry.
2) I had dinner at Sydney Opera House. It was my first dinner ever at the Opera House.

Royal Botanic Gardens
Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia

Sydney Ferries

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

19 Nov 2010: The Sydney Opera House Essential Tour once more

19 Nov 2010, Fri:

After a memorable afternoon get-away with one of my dear friends, it was time for the Sydney Opera House Essential Tour once more! My first Essential Tour was done about two years ago and I felt that I would be happy to check out this tour one more time. I was definitely happy with my choice.

I witnessed new developments and improvements to the Essential Tour. The Sydney Opera House has also underwent some changes over the past two years and there were changes in the various public spaces. Before the start of the tour, we each took a photograph against a plain background. This photo was meant for a souvenir pack that participants could purchase at the end of the Essential Tour.

Each tour participant was given an individual audio-set so that we can each hear the tour-guide's commentaries and various video presentations at the volume that we prefer.

One of our stops was the new public spaces outside Playhouse. These spaces were part of the Accessibility and Western Foyers project. This project was designed by architect Jørn Utzon and his son, Jan Utzon, in collaboration with Richard Johnson of Johnson Pilton Walker. I like the new Western Foyer space that is simple and dignified in its design. The simplicity of the design gracefully leads the eye to the colourful and magnificent harbour view outside the spaces.

The tour brought us participants to parts of the Sydney Opera House that were out-of-bounds to the members of the public. I was excited to see the Bennelong Point after having heared of the story of Bennelong during The Rocks Walking Tour in the morning.

Although we did not get to visit the Playhouse, the Drama Theatre and the Utzon Room, we had the great privilege to visit the Concert Hall and the Opera Theatre. At the spaces outside the Concert Hall, I saw a double bassist. I could not tell who he was. I wonder whether he was one of the participants who were participating in one of the education projects conducted by members of the visiting Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra?

There is something inspiring about the Sydney Opera House building and one just simply has to visit it to experience it. The Essential Tour is one great way to experience the Sydney Opera House. In addition, one could learn about the essential history of the Sydney Opera House on the Essential Tour.

Our tour eventually led us to the roof are of the Sydney Opera House. That eventually led us to the Opera Theatre. I like its magnificent tall ceilings! At the lobby of the Opera Theatre, we watched one of my favourite Essential Tour videos which contained an inspiring quote that Jorn Utzon quoted which goes:
"Give me a job so that I can devote myself with love and skill 100%. Then it is not a job anymore, then it becomes an art and an expression of love. And this is the Opera House.".

We had the pleasure to sneak into the Opera Theatre's audience seats and saw some performers rehearsing on the stage. Due to copyright concerns, we were not allowed to take photographs in the performing spaces. That had naturally tempted me to purchase the one and only set of souvenir pack tailor-made for me when the Essential Tour came to a close.

The souvenir pack included photographs of visitors superimposed against the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall and various spaces. I was so thrilled to see a photo of myself superimposed against the background of the Concert Hall that I gladly contributed $35 to own the special souvenir set. I had been to the Concert Hall a few times but it was almost impossible to get a good photograph of myself inside the Concert Hall due to various regulations and lighting conditions. So I knew I just have to get myself the souvenir set. That was the best way for me to have a photograph with the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall as the backdrop.

Honestly speaking, the hard-copies of the photographs did not last well possibly because there was hardly much time to dry the photograph before we participants acquire them. As such, some of the ink from the photographs eventually stuck themselves onto the plastic covers.

However, what I love was that I get to download the softcopy of myself against the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House and I could develop the softcopies of the photographs as and when I please. Other features that I like about the souvenir set was that it came with a CD-Rom that contains photographs of various parts of Sydney Opera House and more importantly, a document containing Utzon's design principles for the Sydney Opera House! I would still get the souvenir set if the clock turns time back again.

If you are in Sydney and you are visiting The Sydney Opera House, make this Essential Tour your choice programme! Folks who have a love for good architecture, design or manificent spaces will simply love the Essential Tour's experiences.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I am grateful that somehow my intuition asked that I purchase a ticket to the Essential Tour even though I had been on it in year 2008.
2) I am grateful for good weather throughout my tour.
3) Many thanks to my friend, RL, for the ride back to city area and for getting me back to the city on time for the Essential Tour.
4) I thank the tour guide, Robbie, for his informative and earnest sharing.

New things that I did:
1) I saw the new spaces of the Sydney Opera House, specifically the Western Foyer.
2) I went for the Essential Tour the second time in my life!

My learning points:
1) When we love what we do, we are on the journey to create masterpieces. This was what I gathered from Jorn Utzon's story.
2) When one likes something, it is perfectly alright to do the same thing more than once. In fact, each attempt is a unique experience on its own.

Sydney Opera House
Essential Tour

Monday, January 17, 2011

19 Nov 2010: The afternoon get-away, and back to Watsons Bay

19 Nov 2010, Fri:

Participating in The Rocks Walking Tour was a fabulous way to spend the morning. At slightly after noon, just before the tour was to come to a close, I excused myself for a lunch appointment. My friend, RL, had a lunch appointment with one of her friends, and I was invited to join them. I found my way to the lunch venue by asking for directions and by taking the risks to search for the place. It was quite a fun adventure.

Lunch was at a food establishment called Asagao. It was located at MetCentre. I had some kind of fish bento. The fish was nice and fresh. The company was good too. I got to make one new friend over the short lunch that we had.

My initial plan for the afternoon was to consider a Harbour Bridge climb or to visit one of the museums in Sydney. Anyway, I did not know how my intuition had eventually decided to tell me to take up my dear friend's offer for me to hitch a ride to Watsons Bay. My friend drove me to Watsons Bay. On the way to Watsons Bay, we passed by Rose Bay which I had missed visiting much earlier.

Finally, we reached Watsons Bay. It was a fairly windy day. I ventured near the shores on my own and then ended up doing sketches. My friend joined me when I was doing my sketches. She was very patient to enjoy the scenery while waiting for me to finish the sketches. I wonder if I had been a bit engrossed with sketching that day?

Watsons Bay has its own beautiful charm. I love the tranquility of Watsons Bay. I could have stayed there for hours if not for the fact that I had a tour to attend at 4 p.m. that day at the Sydney Opera House and that my friend had to reach the city by 4 p.m. While we were at Watsons Bay, my friend and I saw seagulls. I was pretty tempted to do some portraits of one of the seagulls. In the end, deciding that there was time constraint, I had captured the seagull on digital film.

On the way to the city, we passed by Rose Bay yet again. That time, I caught a glimpse of a familiar cafe and the site which used to be a church has turned into a residential estate. Perhaps that was why there is a saying that goes the only thing constant is change itself.

Thank goodness for a safe journey back to the city area. My friend somehow unintentionally drove us back and forth Harbour Bridge. That drive across the Harbour Bridge effectively meant that I had crossed the Harbour Bridge on a car. That was not of any significance to me. What had mattered was for my friend and I to reach the city safe and sound.

On the car, my friend shared with me some local products that were popular as gifts. These were: Darrell Lea, Haigh's Chocolates, Anzac biscuits and Lamingtons.

Before we knew it, it was close to 4 p.m. and time to part. Many thanks to my friend, RL, for her precious time out for an afternoon get-away.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I am thankful to RL for taking time out to meet up for lunch and her offer to give me a lift to Watsons Bay.
2) I thank my friend for her patience and understanding when I was doing my sketches. Perhaps she had somehow figured I very much needed the space?
3) The weather was good and the journey was safe.

New things that I did:
1) I have made one new friend in Sydney.

My learning points:
1) Could I write that I realised that being safe wherever one goes is what matters? The missed-turns, the paths that we had taken when we lost our way and the seemingly extra miles to take are secondary when we are safe and in good company.
2) I learnt that I like to be close to the shores and the waters though I do not necessary like the sandy and rocky beaches. At the very least, that could explain why I had visited Watsons Bay thrice during my trip to Sydney in November 2010.