Our next day in Sydney was spent on land, doing city things, and yes, shopping. We did have to bring home souvenirs and we wanted genuine Australian souvenirs, not something made in China. In particular, Nina wanted an opal. We started in The Rocks, located at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and one of the areas we had seen from the boat the day before. "The Rocks is the oldest area of Sydney and has recently under- gone an amazing metamorphosis, the old district being transformed into a vibrant pocket of cafes and restaurants and interesting tourist shops and stalls." It is also where members of the First Fleet stepped ashore on 26 January 1788 and British settlement of Australia was first established. It is very posh and touristy, and the perfect place to find a bit of Australia to take home.
In Australia, as everywhere in modern times, indigenous people blend seamlessly into modern society. We are not naive nor ignorant of that. But we do like to see signs of the indigenous culture, whether by visiting historical sites or cultural reenactments. While we strolled the streets of The Rocks, we spied this man. Of course we wanted a photo but did not want to invade his privacy or treat him with disrespect. But Judy encouraged us to ask, so we did. And we were so glad. He had just finished a street performance down by the water and was waiting for his friend. The body paint was for the performance. From an Internet site - "We never dance without ochre on... because that’s what we have been doing for a long time, like a thousand years. Body paint for us is really important for our culture, for sharing with other people too." Because they were performers, they were happy to pose for photos and even invited us to pose with them. We felt like tourist geeks on a city street, but it was an opportunity we were not about to pass up. This was as close as we were going to get to indigenous Australian culture on this trip.
Next stop, Newtown, a funky suburb with over 600 stores, 70 restaurants, 40 cafes, pubs, entertainment, graffiti and street art - so well known that it has a Wikipedia entry all its own. I loved the tiny rowhouses and the lively artsy feel, thanks to it's proximity to Sydney University and it's being the area where all the students, hippies, goths, and others from the fringes of society cluster. It's also home to button and trim stores, which is where we were headed. 1st stop was a tiny store that sold ribbons and trims and a few sari's from India.
Yes, I spent money there, but I did a lot more damage at the button store, the most beautiful array of buttons I had ever seen. We could have spent all day in Newtown, but we were getting the Sydney-in-3-days tour, because there was so much that Judy wanted to share with us and time was so short. Fortunately she knew exactly what would interest us and for the few days we were there we had the perfect balance of natural beauty and city excitement.
We had to cut short our time in Newtown. We didn't mind at all, because we were headed for the opera! La Traviata, to be exact, at the Sydney Opera House. It was Nina's dream to see the opera in Sydney. I was ambivalent about it, but when Judy and Michael decided to go as well, I said count me in. I am so glad I did. No photos allowed inside of course and words will not describe, but the scenery, the costumes, the music ~ heaven. There were even fireworks at intermission, often done when cruise ships leave the harbour. We felt like they were just for us, like the city was conspiring with Judy to give Nina and I a most unforgettable experience. The perfect ending to another perfect day.