Friday, December 22, 2006

2 Days to Go

We’re getting a last couple of days in Sydney, as we face the end of our Australian adventure. Highlights include touring a replica of the Endeavor, the ship used by James Cook to explore Australia in the 18th century; taking the ferry to Manley Beach; and seeing the inside of the Sydney Opera House. The Endeavor is a faithful copy of the original, and it must have been a difficult journey around the world: the ship is surprisingly small, and the living quarters were tiny, with 3 foot ceilings, no windows, and not a whole lot of space per person.

We also learned some that the designer of the Opera House, Jan Utzon, has never seen his building. He quit the project in the 1960s, after a series of delays and cost overruns prompted huge controversy (the building was supposed to cost $4 million, but wound up with a price tag exceeding $100 million). He then refused to turn over his designs for the interiors (wonder what happened to the government official who negotiated that contract), and it was left to three new architects to put the insides together. Utzon has never been back, even though he’s now doing some design work on refurbishment. Odd. This may be the most famous building in the world, and Utzon is 88. He must be unusually temperamental to refuse to visit his own work, especially over a spat that took place 40 years ago. Artists.

That said, the inside is breathtaking. The exterior design means that the theaters are unusually narrow and long, and the ceilings are very, very high (unfortunately, we weren’t permitted to take pictures). It looks like an engineering marvel as well, and it must have been something to figure out how to put the thing up. Especially considering that the engineers were working with slide rules and blueprints, rather than supercomputers and CAD systems.

We’re staying in Chinatown, and on Fridays there is a street market along the main pedestrian mall. Merchants use the hard sell, literally grabbing you to come into their shops. We walked past a massage setup , where you could get a neck rub for $12. Not a bad deal, and as soon as we expressed the slightest interest, we were face down on a table before we knew what happened. And then, the masseuses kept asking if they could do you back, your legs, your feet, your head, your hands, for $5, $10, $20 more. It was a tag-team effort, with people whispering into both ears at the same time. It was an uncomfortable position, and although the women doing the massages were tiny, their hands were so strong I bet they could crack walnuts with their fingers. I kept saying no, no, no, and when the time came to pay, everyone claimed that we had bought the whole deal, at $50 each. At this point, I stopped being polite, and said no, we agreed on a price, and that was it. Susan had no idea what she had agreed to, which is the whole idea, I guess, so we wound up sort of splitting the difference. It did feel pretty good, though.


Blogger R2K said...

: )

11:04 AM  

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