“Sydney is rather like an arrogant lover,” film director Baz Luhrmann once said. “When it rains, it can deny you its love and you can find it hard to relate to. It’s not a place that is built to be rainy or cold. But when the sun comes out, it bats its eyelids, it’s glamorous, beautiful, attractive, smart and it’s very hard to get away from its magnetic pull.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. When I first visited to Sydney one of the things that struck me most was all the open space. With its parks, squares and beaches, the city and its surroundings seem built for people who love the outdoors – the harbour and waterways penetrate the city scape like fingers reaching into the depth of a jar of treats, further and further in to get as many out as possible. Some would call those imaginary fingers bays and coves, I suppose, but I like to think of them as a probing complement to the urban sprawl.
Opera House and More
Given Sydney’s proliferation of outdoor spaces, not to mention the central area’s manageable size, walking is one of the best ways to explore and get the real Aussie vibe. We were staying in a villa about an hour’s drive outside of the city centre, but the suburbs are well connected with an easy-to-navigate and efficient public transport system, so there is really no need to rent a car. We spent the first day – a Friday – just walking around the city taking in the many excellent views of the harbour.
Of course, going to Sydney without seeing the Opera House is a bit like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Apart from the iconic structure being an impressive piece of architecture, the harbour front area where it sits is also a major draw in its own right.
Excellent city planning means the harbour is framed by promenades – some lined with cafes and restaurants such as in Cockle Bay Wharf, a dining and entertainment area located in the central business district and overlooking Darling Harbour; others more suited for strolling and sightseeing, such as the wide sidewalks directly around the Opera House. No matter where we went, the combination of the two icons: Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House was almost always in view and the cityscape reflected in the blue waters provided a special experience and great photos that very few cities in the world could beat.
In the evening, we went to Newtown, an eclectic and somewhat bohemian neighbourhood around 4 kilometres from the city centre. It’s known for its student life and artsy feel with plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and boutiques lining the small streets. The atmosphere on the weekend is almost festival-like, and it seemed like every other restaurant or bar has a live gig going on.
Along the main thoroughfare known as King Street we stumbled across Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen, which had scores of people inside and even more spilling out on to the street. It served up a rich combination of great music, friendly people and fab food.
What more can you wish for during a night out on the town?
Bondi Beach Time
The next day we got up early. Not easy thanks to all the drinks at Miss Peaches the night before, I might add, and we took the train to Central Station and from there another train to Bondi Junction. We had read online that every Saturday there’s a farmers’ market at the Bondi Beach Public School, so we thought we’d stop by there and get some fresh local food for a day at the beach.
The market didn’t have the farmers’ vibe you might get at a market in Europe where products tend to come with the dirt still on them, but there was nevertheless a wide selection with plenty of fresh and prepared food, including preserves, vegetables, fruits, meat and poultry, baked goods, dairy and delicious snacks like sandwiches, wraps and take away boxes. We bought some cheese and bread along with some healthy, freshly pressed juice for the hangovers and some pastries to tide us over as we head towards the beach.
Bondi is probably Australia’s most famous stretch of sand and it’s easy to see why. It’s powdery fine, the beach is wide, and the waves are gentle for the majority of the season. The beach is popular with both tourists and locals and from where we sat on the sand enjoying our food, we could hear thick Australian accents as well as British and American lilts and a number of more or less identifiable languages from around the world.
After a couple of hours we decided to get up and move about a bit, and some friendly locals pointed us in the direction of the ‘coastal walk’, which starts on Notts Avenue and goes to Tamarama, Bronte, Coogee and ends in Maroubra. It’s a popular walk that you share with many others, but the scenery is fantastic and there are plenty of places to stop along the way for a bite to eat and something to drink. It was the perfect day and we returned to our suburban abode with smiles on our freshly tanned faces.
In my humble but greedy opinion, Sundays in any sizeable cosmopolitan city should start with a hearty Sunday brunch and although Sydney has no shortage of restaurants, finding the right place to fill your face can be difficult. For many, the big hotels would be an obvious choice, but the city is also full of small independent eateries and it would be a shame not to try them out.
One of the places that came up again and again in conversations with friends that had visited the city, and also in google searches, was Revolver, located in Annandale, an affluent suburb in the inner west, not far from Newtown. It serves great coffee and a delectable selection of smoothies to go with breakfast comfort foods such as yoghurt with granola and fruit, creamy scrambled eggs with avocado, and rosti with smoked trout.
The place was packed and we had to wait to get seated. It was worth the wait, however, which is exactly how one might describe an arrogant lover on a rainy day in Sydney.
Some Sydney Links
Although not vast, the sheer diversity of attractions on offer around Sydney means its best to do at least a little travel planning in advance of your arrival. The links below will help you make the most of Australia’s most happening destination.
- The official guide to everything that goes on in Sydney, providing information for both residents and tourists alike http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/
- Miss Peaches does excellent Latin inspired comfort food, with extra special treats like Grits with gravy, cornmeal porridge with braised beef. https://www.facebook.com/misspeachesnewtown
- The Bondi Farmers Market is located at the Bondi Beach Public School and is open every Saturday from 9am to 1pm. http://www.bondimarkets.com.au/farmers/
- Revolver Cafe started life in 1893 as a residence and corner store and was operated by a young Welsh emigrant named David Kierwanis. It’s open every day from 8am to 4 pm. http://revolver.com.au/