Whenever people ask me if I like travelling solo I always tell them it has its pros and its cons. On one hand it’s nice to be able to decide exactly where and when you want to go and what you want to do and you meet far more people. But on the other, there are times when you really miss being with people who know you and sharing your special experiences with someone.
|One of the drawbacks of travelling alone – getting someone else to take your photos. This was the guy’s first attempt, clearly didn’t understand that I actually wanted the Opera House in the picture too.
|This was his second attempt. After that I gave up.
That’s how I felt about the opera. I’ve always loved going to the theatre and for me the build-up to the performance is just as fun. When we were kids going to see a show was a real treat and we always used to get dressed up for it and even though I was very lucky in my last job to get to to go to the theatre regularly to review shows, I still loved to wear something nice and go out for dinner beforehand. Somehow it’s not the same when you’re doing it by yourself.
Nevertheless I was determined to go and while my backpacker’s budget couldn’t quite stretch to the 100 pound tickets, I had a plan. I’d heard that the Sydney Opera House releases ten standing tickets each morning for that evening’s production. I checked it out the day before and the man at the box office told me it was probably best to start queuing outside at about 8am. Of course, trying to be smart, I thought I’d better get there for 7.30am – just in case he’d been telling everyone else 8am too.
I felt very proud of myself as I stepped out of my hostel door at 7am. Only to discover that as well as being beautiful and all-round fabulous, the residents of Sydney are also early risers (don’t you just hate people like that?). Half of the city was already up and about and, unlike me, the women had actually managed to put on a bit of mascara and do their hair.
About a month ago absolutely everything I own started to fall apart and I mean everything – my rucksack, my clothes, even my shoes. I have never in my life used my emergency sewing kit but this time I’ve actually used up all of the thread, although I am wishing I paid more attention in Brownies when we learnt how to sew.
The other day I got off a bus at a rest stop and felt a draught on my bum, fearing the worst I rushed to the toilet only to discover one of the seams of my trousers had completely split! As the rest of my luggage was stored in the bus hold I had to improvise for the rest of the day by wrapping a scarf around my waist. Anyway, as a result of all of that I turned up to buy my opera tickets in jeans with rips in both knees, looking like some throw-back from an 80s girl band.
And, obviously, I was the first to arrive. But I needn’t have felt so smug as an hour later I was still the only person there. Luckily there wasn’t a dress code to buy the tickets so I managed to get one to see Puccini’s Turandot.
|Hmm…probably didn’t need to be this eager.
|But it was worth the wait.
Although I had to eat my dinner at my hostel – where it seemed every single 18-year-old visiting Australia was also staying – I at least managed to put on a fancy(ish) dress.
My ticket was restricted viewing so my seat was right up at the top of the stalls but it was a great spot to people watch and to see the orchestra tuning up, which always makes me wish I’d practised the violin just a little bit harder at school to get past the howling cat stage.
The Opera House itself is beautiful inside and the scenery for Turandot, which is set in Peking was gorgeously ornate (and the designers obviously thought so too as there was a strict ‘no photos’ rule enforced inside due to copywrite reasons).
As soon as it began I couldn’t take my eyes off the performers. Their costumes were stunning and their voices were amazing. Turandot tells the story of the Prince of Tartary who tries to win the heart of Princess Turandot by answering three riddles and the highlight for me was the performance of Nessun Dorma, which was so beautiful I actually had a few tears.
During the intervals it was brilliant to stand outside in the warm evening looking at the beautiful Sydney skyline. And I don’t want to get all X-Factor about it by saying: “Little old me from Scarborough watching a performance at the Sydney Opera House”. But there was a moment when it all felt a bit strange that the girl who had never even been on a train by herself when she started uni had somehow managed to make it to the other side of the world to watch Turandot.
And as I, quite literally, skipped home I realised that it doesn’t really matter if I’m doing these things alone. Because the point is I’m doing them. On this trip I’ve met so many people who have waited so long to fulfil their dreams of seeing Iguazu Falls or doing the Inca Trail. But I’ve had the chance to do so many things I’ve always wanted to do, sometimes on a weekly basis, and for that I feel very, very lucky.
|#13 – I did it!