(So this is a bit out of order. Sorry.)
After looking around the perimeter of the Sydney Opera House--one of the bits of iconic architecture on the planet--I decided to take the $35 hit and take the hour-long tour of the place. And even some 40 years after it was designed it still seems like an otherworldly work of building art. The spaces are utterly unconventional; the building is simply unlike any other, clearly someone's visionary masterpiece (I learned later that architect Jørn Utzon had won the prestigious Pritzker Prize for it). There are five performance spaces, all of which are booked solid, plus all the lobby and outdoor spaces, which are also in high demand. The two main performance halls, which sit side-by-side, are spaces-within-spaces, so that one can walk around inside each shell but outside the main space within. The original plan, which dates from 1957, was expected to take three years from groundbreaking to completion and to cost $7 million. By the time the space was officially opened in the early '70s, it had taken over 16 years and cost over $100 million. Talk about behind schedule and over budget! But the tour guide said that a recent poll showed that two in three people on the planet recognize and can correctly name the complex from just a silhouette, which makes it an astoundingly effective brand. It's not hard to see why the city is so fond of the place.