Stepping out over Sydney harbour, cheeks flushed with pinot grigio, you have to marvel at what a city it is.
A giant, illuminated chandelier hangs suspended by a crane over an enormous raked stage, water lapping gently near its sides.
The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge glimmer in the background. People coddled in coats clutch their programs for La Traviata - fireworks explode so close, it feels like they might land in people's laps.
I've lived in Sydney before, but I've never seen it like this.
Italian fine dining
I'm sitting at chef Alessandro Pavoni's latest restaurant a'Mare when someone asks me where I've lived in Sydney. There were those sharehouses in Balmain, then that one on Cleveland Street in Darlington.
"You know Angry Tony's Pizza? Near there."
It's fair to say a'Mare is a far cry from Angry Tony's Pizza (although it is a great pizza and pasta joint).
The Italian restaurant is smack-bang on the harbour at Barangaroo's Crown Towers; a resort that, from its marble bathrooms to its own giant chandelier in the lobby, screams "luxury" unapologetically.
Pavoni's a'Mare fits seamlessly with the theme. Impeccably groomed staff flit past floor-length windows, stopping to slightly stir you for another glass of rosé.
Laying open the menu, everyone remarks at how traditional it is: crudità a'Mare agli agrumi, tagliata di manzo wagyu alla pizzaiola, pesce intero alla brace.
To be honest, I feel a little helpless reading it, but I eventually settle on the focaccia for my first course, and the spatchcock chicken for my second - galletto saltimboca.
The focaccia is the most delicious I've ever had - the aged balsamic makes it - and I'm slightly startled when waiters wheel out a wooden trolley behind me to start carving up the chicken.
To say the least, it is absolutely divine. The crunch of the prosciutto perfectly complements the supple meat, and the rich green pepper sauce gives it a depth and tang.
I'm sorely disappointed when I get back to Canberra a few days later and my first meal is Red Rooster.
Boutique inner-city living
Feeling satisfied and slightly sleeping, I lug my suitcase out of an Uber and dump it on the pavement of a Surry Hills alley.
This isn't my old stomping ground but, looking around, everything feels very familiar: the smell of car fumes, the sound of construction work, 20-somethings chatting as they walk down a street.
I'm taken aback when I walk into the lobby of the Crystalbrook Albion and the sounds are cut off.
The place is beautiful - classic with a modern twist, and flooded with natural light.
The bar downstairs has a warm, vintage feel, but it's decked out with bottled cocktails and a careful selection of wines - an honour system, general manager Chris tells me. Come down from your room and take whatever you want, then tick it off a list.
Chris is a gracious host. He takes my bag and leads me into the Albion's glass "Willy Wonka" elevator, then up to my room where jazz music is playing softly on the TV.
Later, he gives a tour of the Albion, pointing out hand-painted portraits of people who formed part of the building's history.
The former convent was at first home to the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in 1903 and, a few years before it became a boutique hotel, it was supported accommodation for people living with HIV/AIDS.
There's little historical details in some of the rooms, like the original foundation stone in the shower of room 105, and the gothic windows that still grace the front of the building.
The tour finishes on the hotel's rooftop; the perfect spot for lounging in the sun surrounded by what Chris describes as a "sea of crucifixes".
The Albion is an enclave of old-school class and charm in the bustling and trendy Surry Hills.
A harbour-front spectacle
I've never been to the opera before, but I don't imagine this iteration of La Traviata is entirely traditional.
A huge double-decker structure juts out over the harbour at Mrs Macquarie's Point; within it there's tiered seating, bars, and waiters pulling back the curtains to the "platinum club".
I'm one of the lucky people who get to enter it, and I'm immediately struck by the spectacular view.
The waiters leading us to our table pause so we can take the obligatory shots for Instagram. I'm squatting slightly behind a table, trying to crop other guests' heads out and keep a bouquet in frame.
Dinner is delicious. I have olive oil poached salmon for my entrée, chicken with crispy prosciutto and pine nut gremolata for my main (I still have that spatchcock on my mind), and white almond mousse for dessert.
We're talking about those of us that have never seen an opera before, and someone tells me: "If you get bored, just look at the harbour and the moon."
But La Traviata is a captivating whirlwind of colour, sound and emotion, and my eyes are glued to the mammoth stage, which happens to be more than twice the size of any Australian indoor stage.
The sense of grandeur in the production is ridiculous - there's moments I fear the giant 3.5-tonne chandelier will fall and crush Violetta, the courtesan who ultimately succumbs to consumption.
A silhouette of a Paris cityscape foregrounds the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and, the fireworks explosion seems to take a few in the audience by surprise.
Everyone walks out with a huge grin, though, and it seems like the opera is meant to be a little bit ridiculous.
La Traviata showcases what Sydney has to offer: extravagance, art, breath-taking views, and fine food and wine.
- Cassandra Morgan stayed in Sydney and attendedLa Traviata Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour as a guest of Destination NSW.