For most students who take part in a humanities subject, the reading week is a common part of university life. If you don’t know, this is a period where there are no planned lectures or seminars (they call them tutorials here) so that you can catch up on reading and start essay preparation. It is, in theory, a really productive week.
However, as most will agree, it is also a time for relaxation, allowing you to rest mentally in anticipation of the weeks ahead. That is why reading week is typically at the midpoint of the semester. Here, on the other hand, it was in week four. More importantly, only three of my four modules decided to do this – Modern China’s Wars had its’ reading week after the mid-semester break. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this, so I ended up missing a two-hour lecture! The university records lectures so I could catch up – don’t worry, Mum!
In spite of having more free time, I did not do that much this week. This was for two reasons. Firstly, I had done a lot in the previous week, meaning that I had to focus on work this week so I couldn’t fall behind. Secondly, most of my friends didn’t have a reading week, so they were stuck in uni!
On Monday, I decided to tick off a few of my items on my ‘to do’ list, that created earlier in the month. One such thing was to walk on Harbour Bridge. I’m just going to state now that this wasn’t the super expensive bridge climb. This was the significantly cheaper museum in the South Eastern tower, which was complete with a scenic view of the harbour and the city. It’s only $10 if you’re a student!
As a history student, I found the museum really interesting, particularly how they built the bridge and the context behind it. But the views were definitely the highlight. From the top, you could see out to the ocean! After I climbed back down again, I decided to walk to the centre of the bridge, just to say I’ve been there.
Following this, my next place to visit was Mrs Macquarie’s Seat, which also offers superb views of the city, the Opera House and the bridge. To get here, I had to walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens. Located in this park is the old Government House and some of the oldest trees in Australia! At the time, the stage was set for Carmen – this was a unique outside opera for a limited season (one of the Salvos was in it!).
Mrs Macquarie’s Seat is a stone carving looking out over the harbour. This seat was where the wife of Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, would come and rest while her husband was working in Government House. Today, it is a big tourist spot, but it comes with some amazing views!
Another short walk took me back through the gardens, taking me past the National Library and other notable points. You can see them in the photos below!
The next thing I did was on Wednesday and it helped me to tick off another item on my checklist – the Bondi to Coogee walk. I admit, this wasn’t my idea – it was actually Alayna’s. As she is a fellow history student on many of the same modules as me, we both had the same reading week, so it was a good opportunity to get out.
The walk itself follows the East coast, allowing people who take the trail to discover some of Sydney’s hidden beaches. The walk itself is roughly 6km and takes the most part of an afternoon to complete.
We decided to start from Coogee and head North, as this was the easiest place to get to public transport. We saw many sites across the walk. Small coves which encouraged snorkelling, rocky cliffs where you could sit and stare over the ocean, and even a strangely beautiful cemetery. Some of the path was on normal tarmac, but there were sections where we could be more adventurous and climb over the rocks. It was a really sunny day, which made it a great way to see the coast. We finished off going for a quick swim at Bondi before returning home (Alayna had a tutorial to go to).
The final exciting thing I did this week was on Friday night. I had already been to the Opera House once, but I knew that I also wanted to go and see some classical music there, as this was in the Concert Hall rather than the theatre. The concert I chose to attend was a performance of An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra were responsible for bringing the music to life, which meant that I could see fellow Salvo Ron Prussing perform (principal trombone).
As I was queuing up for tickets, I bumped into Viki from SCH. It was great to see a familiar face, plus she told me that Andrew and Rosemary (also from SCH) were there too!
The Concert Hall is significantly more impressive than the Joan Sutherland Theatre. I was fortunate enough to get cheap tickets in the stalls so I was very close up to the action.
The first half consisted of some new music, contrasting to some older works by Brahms. Like in the theatre, there was a balcony at the back which I took a visit to during the interval. I also met Viki again here and it was good to discuss our thoughts on the music. When returning to my seat, the guy next to me, who was by himself, decided to engage in conversation with me. “Are you a Musician?” he asked, choosing to say musician in a French accent. He was eccentric to say the least. Nevertheless, we still had a good conversation discussing the music and the Opera House.
An Alpine Symphony is a great work – I had never heard it before this, but I loved how it ran through from scene to scene without a break. We had programmes, which meant that we could follow the narrative as the music progressed. It finished in typical classical fashion, with the orchestra standing up multiple times and seeing how long they can get the audience to clap for.
As I was leaving, I got a text from Andrew inviting me to supper. I accepted, and after taking some photos by the Opera House, we went to Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe, situated on Circular Quay. Being a chocolate fan, this was great – I ended up getting a fancy chocolate cake which even had some gold on it! I had a great time – thanks, Andrew and Rosemary!