We went to Sydney at the end of March, part work (for Joe), part recreation, part family catch up. Had a great hotel, here’s our view! Actually it was a great location in Darling Harbour, walking distance from lots of places and close enough to where we wanted to go. When not at the conference he was attending at Barangaroo, Joe spent a lot of time in the room doing this.
On our first full day I walked to Belvoir St Theatre to see the play Every Brilliant Thing. I could only get a ticket for the matinee which was part of the schools program so I was there with lots of teenagers. They filled the place up, entering in their school groups all of them in school uniforms. As it turned out this was terrific. The play follows the life of a young boy with a depressed – suicidal – mother. So it was very pertinent to the young people I think. There was a lot of audience participation. The boy draws up a list of brilliant things to try and cheer up his mother after her first suicide attempt and he distributed cards in the audience with these written down and when he mentioned a number the person with the card had to read it out. It was very affecting. Not as grim as it sounds given the subject matter. There were lots of funny bits. And it was very informative. At the start of the season it was performed by a woman, Kate Mulvaney, and the character portrayed was a daughter. But she became ill and had to withdraw and was replaced by the actor Stevie Rodgers, now playing the son. He was terrific. Here’s a review of the play with Kate in the role.
That evening we taxied to the harbour, walking through crowds of people wining and dining in the nearby venues to the opera house – which is where we expected to collect our tickets only to be told they had already been taken to the actual venue.
So we walked around to where the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour was happening; a lovely walk along the promenade between harbour and botanic gardens; very pretty both sides although the weather was grey and threatening.
They were rehearsing the dancing scenes. All very energetic and looked fantastic during the performance. I can’t imaging them doing it in the rain. We thought it might do so this night and Joe actually bought a disposable poncho for me just in case. But I didn’t have to use it. In fact the evening got warmer as night fell which seemed strange to we Melbournians.
Great views of Sydney’s famous landmarks were to be had as we waited for the performance to begin. It was all very well organised. There were lots of options for eating, and drinking beforehand. We, perhaps foolishly, chose the first one we came to but our hamburgers and dips were fine for the occasion.
I enjoyed the show; although I’m not terribly keen on American style musical theatre. Too theatrical for me by which I mean too artificial. I hated the American accents but goes with the form. But there was lots of energy from everybody and the songs were familiar. And the two leads were terrific with plenty of chemistry. I thought they both sang and acted well. I even shed a tear when Tony died (to my great surprise). Here’s a good review complete with pictures.
Next day I went with Joe to Barangaroo. While he went to his conference I explored Sydney’s answer to Melbourne’s Docklands. I have to say it seems much more successful in Sydney. The tall tower blocks all have busy cafes, restaurants and shops beneath them; people everywhere. That’s the big difference to Docklands. I had breakfast and then took a circuitous route to Barangaroo Reserve. They’re still building so I went past what seemed like a lot of construction sites, including what will be Crown Casino (that’s a pity!) and a new metro station (that’s good) until I came to the harbour.
I don’t know what was there before so can’t mourn its loss which I understand some Sydney-siders (including Paul Keating) do. But I think what’s there now is great; including these blocks of sandstone that follow the water all the way around. These steps were near the start.
I found it all quite lovely. The weather was warm but not too hot although after walking a while I took of my summer jumper. It was much warmer by 4pm when Joe and I were walking back to our hotel. On my walk the sky was overcast but there was never any likelihood of rain.
There were a few people picnicking including this couple and I passed a young family. It would be a lovely spot to do so but I suspect getting there at the moment through all of the construction might be a challenge. It looked as though workers from the offices in the towers were walking along the path, presumably to sit and eat their take away lunches somewhere.
There were lots of walkers and joggers, the most machismo of whom were running up and down the steep steps that ran up from the path to the top of the park. After walking for a while I was surprised to finally come around a corner to find this view. I’ve got no sense of direction, or of Sydney’s geography, so had no idea I was so near the bridge.
I continued on my way back past the construction sites back to Barangaroo where, at Cirrus, I had one of the best the fish and chip dishes in Australia (according to Gourmet Traveller). I talk about them here. here.
In the evening we went to an author talk at the Newtown Bookshop, Better Read Than Dead, by Walter Mason who I follow on twitter. We should have caught the train instead of an Uber. Sydney traffic is something else. We missed the first half hour of Walter’s talk on Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. The second half was good! Photos of the different locations referred to in the novel. This short piece covers a bit of the same territory as Walter (but not as well!). You can stay in Greene’s suite at the Metropole Hotel, seen here. Walter takes small groups on tours of Vietnam. I was pleased to introduce myself to him.
From there we wandered Newtown’s King Street which was bustling on a Thursday night, full of people eating out on the footpath; Lygon Street as it used to be. We walked the whole length of the strip in search of Bloodwood, once recognised as the best new restaurant in Sydney. It was worth the walk; great food and great wine and I talk about that in my blog on March fine dining here.
On the Friday, Joe was free and we walked into the city to have lunch at the Michelin starred Bridge Room (also referred to here . Unsurprisingly it’s located near the bridge, so we were back in tourist town. So, of course, we took pictures.
After our lunch we continued walking. The size of the cruise ships is incredible. I know we have them in Melbourne but they don’t come near Fitzroy so we don’t see them or notice their impact. You certainly notice the impact here in this part of Sydney.
Then it was off to catch up with family. Getting old is not for the fainthearted. It was lovely to see Joe’s Uncle and Aunt. But tough times are at hand for them. This is the view from their home in Birchgrove which is where we left the lovely Erica after eating in Balmain and walking home with her. A lovely warm evening.
Our next and final day was for catching up with friends. Although Joe spent most of the day at his desk at the hotel. I caught up with Marion at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some great works on display at an exhibition she had suggested we catch Janet Laurence’s After Nature. It’s described on the museum’s website as the first major survey of one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. She explores the interconnection of all living things – animal, plant, mineral – through a multi-disciplinary approach and using diverse materials. She highlights the environmental challenges (the natural world) faces today: the era of the Anthropocene.
And here it is a detail from that work. It’s very hard to depict this piece properly through photos. It was enormous. And very beautiful. Also dangerous according to the accompanying blurb. Some dangerous substances involved.
And this is a tiny section of a whole room full of items focussing on the Great Barrier Reef and the impact of coral bleaching. Its called Deep Breathing: Resuscitation for the Reef. She collaborated with the Australian Museum on this installation and there are various museum specimens included. I bought a post-card of this work because I was so taken with it but I don’t think it captures it any better than I did.
Then we went for lunch in the wonderful Queen Victoria building. We had a very lady like lunch of goats cheese tart and a cup of tea in fine china, here in the inner arcade which is very beautiful, reminding me of the Block Arcade in Melbourne.
After lunch we parted ways; Marian to go to the French Film Festival (which I managed to miss altogether back in Melbourne) and I went shopping. What’s a holiday without a bit of retail therapy. I managed to find my way to David Jones, and then through the maze of temporary corridors within the store as it undergoes renovation, to the relevant levels to buy a new black woollen jumper (just what I need – heavy irony) and a green trench coat. Which I’m wearing here; the next day as we breakfast before heading off to the airport. It suddenly got very cold in Sydney and I hadn’t brought any winter clothes with me; but winter clothes were definitely required.
That evening I was pleased to have my new clothes when we went out for dinner with our friends Hugh and Anne. Here they are with Joe in front of the famous Kings Cross fountain. We had eaten at Billy Kwongs. Another fine dining establishment that is about to close down as Kylie Kwong moves on to other things. We had the chef’s selection and it was great food. And great conversation. Nice to catch up with old friends. Who were about to depart for a holiday in France so it was lucky timing for us.
And that was our holiday in Sydney. I felt as though I’d been there for four weeks instead of four days. We crammed a lot in.