City Guides

Connoisseur’s Guide to Sydney

Sydney-Opera-House
Written by Aksel Ritenis
Sydney-Opera-House
Sydney Australia a city of nearly four and a half million people was voted world’s best city in 2007 by magazine Condé Nast Traveller’s readers, beating New York and Paris. Sydney won out on the overall rating – performing very well on cleanliness, user friendliness and beauty. This is not surprising to locals who delight in their stunning ocean beaches, their waterways, surrounding bushland and climate.

Culturally they are well provided for – Sydney’s Opera House is a modern World Heritage site and is home to many local and overseas productions of opera, drama and music. After 35 years there is talk of refurbishing the Opera Hall, whilst another school of thought says it would be cheaper to build a new one at another location or adjacent.

sydneyFormer Australian Prime Minister, now turned urban commentator, Paul Keating says the Danish architect Joern Utzon’s three shells are a wonderment in an urban setting when viewed from the west and should be untouched externally. The harbourside Opera Bar is a popular local meeting place to gaze at Sydney’s skyline and catch up with some funky music.

The nearby Sydney Harbour Bridge is home to Bridgeclimb an award-winning and spectacular climb over the bridge’s arch both during the day and at night and is the focus to Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Sydney is becoming a leading destination and conference centre. There is a call for a larger conference centre. World Youth Day run by the Catholic Church from 15 to 20 July 2008 embraces both these icons and Sydney’s cherished harbour. The Pope will arrive by ship, not the Popemobile) and a pilgrims’ procession will cross the bridge and the pilgrims will then sleep under the stars at Randwick Racecourse. All the horses are being moved to other training facilities to cope – no betting allowed. 300,000 visitors including 125,000 overseas pilgrims are expected for this event.

Sydney Luna ParkAny visitor would be highly recommended to take one of the harbour walks which are easily accessible by bus or ferry, e.g. Manly to Spit or South Head to Bronte – take in the combination of ocean, sun and bushland and Sculpture by the Sea in November. These walks rate right up there with the Cinque Terra or Mansions Walk in Newport, Rhode Island. Alternatively take one of Sydneys’ commuter ferries to Manly or one of the delightful old-world inner harbour destinations like Mosman or Balmain.

For the sporting-minded, in winter there are four different football games played, which is extraordinary for a relatively small country. AFL which stands for Australian Football League has 18 players on a very large oval field involving kicking an oval ball. Some would say these are the most tragic supporters. Rugby League has 13 very tough players as tackling is generally by 3 players. Football hit the world stage with Australia’s second ever only qualification in the 2006 World Cup in Germany and perhaps unfair elimination by the eventual winners Italy. Australia after many years of requests now plays in the Asian Confederation. Finally there is Rugby Union with 15 players of hugely varying physiques – short and bulky in the forwards, lean and fast in the backs. On weekends there are traffic jams at local sports fields as kids’ games become big family and social events. Pubs screens often show all four at once.

Where does Sydney sit gastronomically? Bon appetit – a combination of a vast range of fresh products and cuisines means that Sydney will satisfy all diners. From the $10 (6 euro) steak/pasta and beer nights at the pub, through to a l Chinese yum cha (a kind of smorgasbord delivered in whizzing trolleys) at Kam Fook or Fook Yuen (careful with the pronunciations) or the 800 seat restaurants in Chinatown like Marigold, any kind of ethnic from Nepalese to Portuguese, through to the modern Australian cuisine at Georgia and Justin North’s Bécasse restaurant in the city. There are seven restaurants with 3 chef’s hat, fourteen with 2 and thirty six with 1 hat in the newspaper Sydney Morning Herald’s good food guide 2008.

Some former harbourside defence barracks have been closed and turned into restaurants and teahouses. ripples at Chowder Bay and the Gunners’ Barracks Tearoom have magnificent views, are steeped in history (some were part of massive sandstone canon ramparts to ward off a Russian naval invasion in the Crimean War of the 1850s) and are part of the process by the Sydney Federation Trust to return these lands to the public and find adaptive reuses.

Try a genuine Aussie hamburger “with the works” – with beetroot, pineapple, egg and bacon etc.

Wines are relatively cheap due to good crops, especially “cleanskins”, which are leftovers with generic labels. In the biblical James Halliday Wine Atlas there are well over 50 Australian wine producing zones (then comprising regions), from the nearby Hunter ValleyOrange. An emerging trend is tapas bars and restaurants with a Spanish/Modern Australian twist and a range of Argentine wines such as tannat (which originated in the Basque region in south-west France). There is Brian Villahermosa’s (formerly of Salt Yard, London) Catalonia in trendy Kirribilli on the North Shore, nearly under the Harbour Bridge and Bodega in the former rag trade and newspaper area of Surry Hills. with its classic semillions to the cool country in

The music scene has been doing it tough recently as the corner pubs have replaced many venues with poker machines. Recent changes to regulations have, though, created a resurgence of jazz, rock, live and DJ music venues. The Vanguard on gothic (clothes and faces, not architecture) King Street Newtown does great blues music.

Clothes and hotel millionaire and man about town Justin Hemmes says the party has started, doors are open and invites you to check out stage one of his ivy’s dazzling constellation of lifestyle indulgences. Restaurants, bars, cocktail lounges and live music will bring a whole new world of social experiences for 3000 patrons to the middle of the city in George Street. He’s even built in his own apartment with a retractable pole for pole dancing. Bring your wallet.

During and after Easter a Sydney institution is the Royal Easter Show – the old-fashioned non-Disney show where the country comes to the city with all types of animals large and small, frenzied woodchopping, magnificent regional product displays – joined by sideshow alley with the ghost train (with real ghosts) and the rubber woman. It’s at the 2000 Olympic Park.

Leave the snow and the cold and come to Sydney in December and January. See the New Year’s Eve fireworks and the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race – 100 maxi and mini yachts about to brave the massive waves of the Tasman Sea to Tasmania. It’s the long languid sunny summer holidays, so that many Sydney people have gone bush or up the coast, leaving you to sample the city’s delights and the Festival of Sydney.

Australian native animals are always everyones’ favourite. A short ferry ride to Taronga Zoo, the Sydney Aquarium at Darling Harbour or Manly Oceanarium (you can swim with the sharks – just check they’ve been fed that day) or a number of wildlife parks (Pennant Hills or Featherdale) will get you very, very near these animals. At Manly walk around the East Esplanade to the Manly 16 Ft Skiff Sailing Club. Membership is closed, but if you show you are a tourist you should be able to try their breakfast or buffet or ? on the deck.

Have a look at artwork/clothes by Ken Done in the historic Rocks – no-one captures the azure Sydney sky and water better – no grey sky here. Help him out financially – he’s made a lot of money from his work – but has taken bad financial advice and is down to his last 5 million euros.


Written by Karl Mezgailis

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Aksel Ritenis

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