I broke up with Sydney eight years ago. It wasn’t me, it was her. I felt that after twenty years in the inner city I was still no closer to affordable organic food, decent public transport, small bars like Melbourne, and most of all a city that embraced cyclists. I felt myself literally and metaphorically stuck at the end of a Sydney bike lane that disappears into raging traffic! And decided, enough!
I let go of my dreams of enormous bike parking lots in the city with change rooms and repair shops and coffee like Amsterdam or Cambridge, or a gorgeous daisy-lined urban transit like Bilbao, let alone a bike path that actually went somewhere. I headed south on a stinky, overcrowded old train to my tree and sea change, nursing my broken knuckles from an Oxford Street impasse with a bike hating cab. And I never regretted it once.
There were a number of years that I didn’t actually go to Sydney, though it’s only three hours away. I would get off the train from my home at Sydney airport station and fly straight out. When not going overseas, I had started dating Melbourne behind Sydney’s back.
But recently it was time to see if Sydney had in fact changed. So I decided over the course of the last few months to play for two nights in each of my favourite inner city hoods, and one for the new found tourist in me. And to my delight it had indeed changed. Better coffee, great new small bars in Newtown, some fabulous airbnb properties, ‘glamping’ in the middle of the harbour, sparkling, industrial Walsh Bay, new fun in Darlinghurst and Potts Point and some big changes in Bondi.
Sharing the love at Shenkin, Enmore.
Newtown and Enmore
First, my home town of Newtown. Airbnb means I can actually stay there, rather than schlepping on that awkward public transport from Darlinghurst. I found a great little space right near the Carriageworks. Breezy and bright, unlike most of the dark terraces I inhabited, with a magic staircase outside that takes you right to the market! And voila, finally great priced organic vegetables straight from the growers (pick carefully, but I managed to spend the same as in my local fantastic coop). Then breakfast made by Kylie Kwong and served by my south coast friend Kin, followed by seeing a great old friend Bek selling delicious salads in a jar. Lots of great food and familiar faces. It certainly felt like home.
Young Henry’s Brewery Newtown
The next two days were spent wandering around Newtown and Enmore, with plenty of new things to see. Highlights included a great new brewery called Young Henry’s with new yoga school opposite. Plenty of graffiti. Seeing The Herd at Newtown Social (the old Sando), catching up with friends at a great new bar hiding behind exactly the same old butchers window and curtains (Earl’s Juke Joint), breakfast at Shenkin in Enmore at the end of my old street, and food and service so good at Hartsyard we popped into the bar both nights! From what I could see no improvements on the bike path front, but plenty of great new places to go and a real new energy to the neighbourhood I loved.
On the water at Pier One, Walsh Bay
Walsh Bay and Cockatoo Island
The next two nights in Sydney coincided with my tenth anniversary so we decided to celebrate in the middle of the harbour. The harbour is probably my least familiar part of the inner city. We kicked off with a fun night glamping (camping but you take nothing) at Cockatoo Island at the end of the Biennale. It was a great mix of art, spectacular views, bars in shipping containers, and the best pizza I’ve had since Italy. Completely unexpected and plenty of fun. It poured rain the whole time, but the setting is just so interesting and beautiful we really didn’t care. It was nice however to dry off the next night at the lovely Pier One Hotel at Walsh Bay. This hotel is so off the radar, we were ON the water for under $200! My partner and I both had to work the next day, so I set up my mobile office on pier 8 at the Yahoo office cafe. I cant believe people seriously work here. Lucky peeps! We re-met for after work drinks at the Sydney Theatre Company Bar at the End of the Wharf. The view is incredible, what a great hidden spot! Then late romantic dinner at the bar at Mr Wongs. Such a sexy industrial old school Chinese space. Next day was spent wandering around the harbour and checking out the MCA.
Lucky lucky people who live anywhere near the harbour, but Cockatoo Island and Walsh Bay are my picks. Yoga at dawn on Cockatoo Island with the harbour in front and industrial backdrop, was certainly an anniversary to remember.
The Bar at the end of the Wharf, Walsh Bay.
Darlinghurst and Potts Point
I just love these neighbourhoods, but like the locals I either go around Darlinghurst Road or move quickly when it comes to the middle of the Cross. I’ve been gone a long time, but I still recognise so many of the hustlers’ faces. It’s a delight on foot once you’re through. This trip I had time to meander up and around Rushcutters Bay and Elizabeth Bay, then down following the water through Woolloomooloo to the Art Gallery of NSW. Just a delight. Slivers of sun sparkle on the harbour as I wound my way up and down old staircases between buildings, the harbour finally revealing its full beauty when you reach a green space or park. What a magnificent city.
I discovered some lovely bars and cafes in the area including Room 10 in Llankelly Place, Yellow and Harajuku Gyoza, and visit some of my old favourites … Eau de vie, Spice I Am and my absolute favourite, Busshari.
Try to score a seat at the bar in front of the sashimi chef, Nobu. His artistry extends even further than the sashimi – he makes the beautiful ceramics. My favourite dish in Sydney is his beautiful masterpiece – sashimi salad. Harajuku is a newcomer and lots of fun. Be sure to buy a couple of their original manga plates for twenty bucks.
We were lucky to have our friends gorgeous apartment for a few days (thanks Michael and Dale), but I’d recommend both the Kirketon and Diamant hotels to complete the inner city experience, as no one in this neighbourhood has extra space.
Biennale at Cockatoo Island at night.
I had one night in Bondi, as I only had time for 24 hours, so I know I missed plenty of great new stuff. It was barely enough time to dip my toes in the water. But I could sense some big changes afoot, especially in Hall Street. My favourite new find was the beautiful new cafe Porch and Parlour opposite the beach at North Bondi. It’s the perfect place to catch up with overseas friends and then take the coast walk. In the evening we had a drink at our mate’s little bar, The Shop (one of the first small bars in Sydney), followed by a great refugee week gig at the Beach Road Hotel watching the gorgeous diva MC Kween G.
We stayed at the lovely new Adina Hotel in Hall street. Great coffee at Melbourne’s Sensory Lab downstairs.
Now this is just what I found in a few days. I’m sure the other Sydney based writers have plenty of favourite Sydney things they can add. Please do.
Next time … Marrickville
We’ve already booked an amazing warehouse there through airbnb. I just know it’s going to be great as the host is super friendly already and New York artist Selby blogged about it in his trip around the world – “London, Paris, LA, Tokyo, Marrickville!” Plans are to visit friends and check out Cornersmith and Coffee Alchemy and anything else that’s new, and visit my old favourites, the Addison Rd organic market and Reverse Garbage. The rejuvenation of Chippendale and all of the architectural changes around UTS are also on my to do list.
Aurora Kerr – On the Road Aurora is a traveller first, then feminist, writer, therapist, holiday retreat owner (www.mettaatmyola.com.au) nature lover, recycled design lover and adventurer, who lives in Jervis Bay on the beautiful south coast of Australia. She has a suitcase, always packed, at the front door ( also helpful for bushfires!) Life Balance = Travel. Nature. Nurture.