A Stroll through Sydney

Monday, 10 July 2023

I’ve certainly not kept this blog up to date over the last few months, but I’m about to make up for that. My last posting raced along on my 45 day trip from Melbourne to London, a trek which involved train travel in Australia, South Korea, Japan, Canada, USA, Italy, Switzerland, France and the UK – nine different countries. Since then I’ve also been on trains in Spain, Belgium and Monaco, if you count arriving and departing at Monte Carlo’s train station.

So now I’ll make the stops along that route, starting with a couples of nights in Sydney, just to remind myself how much I liked living there half a century ago and how enjoyable return visits are to this day. It’s 50 years since Maureen and I published the first Lonely Planet guidebook – Across Asia on the Cheap – out of our basement flat in Sydney in 1973. I’m doing assorted ‘Lonely Planet 50 years’ talks and articles this year including a ’50 places for 50 years’ article in The Age (Melbourne) and the Sydney Morning Herald. It proved surprisingly popular!

▲ So I started my stroll in the beautiful Hyde Park at the Archibald Memorial Fountain. In January 1973, right after our penniless arrival in Sydney at the eastern end of the ‘hippie trail’ across Asia, Maureen and I used to meet here after work everyday and walk up to our rented room just beyond Kings Cross. Before we both got full time jobs. And after hours started work on creating Lonely Planet.

▲ In 2023 I walked on down towards the harbour to visit the Museum of Sydney, always a good place to look at in Sydney. This visit I particularly liked these comic portraits of Australian prime ministers – from left to right Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, the truly awful Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. We’ve had two more since then, the also truly awful Scott Morrison and now the far better Anthony Albanese.

◄ I also enjoyed the collection of indigenous tourist souvenirs, really that’s truly awful as well, but deliberately so. And having been to Norfolk Island earlier this year it was interesting to look at the models of the 11 British ships which arrived in Sydney in 1788, the ‘invasion fleet’ from the perspective of Australia’s indigenous population. The disastrous wreck of the fleet’s flagship HMS Sirius at Norfolk Island is documented in the island’s Sirius Museum.

▲ From the museum I strolled due south 2-1/2km to colourful Surry Hills to meet a friend for lunch – we’d meet again for breakfast the next morning at Sydney Airport before he flew off to Zambia in Africa and I flew off in the other direction to Seoul in South Korea. My Surry Hills walk took me past this colourful wall painting for the Rebels ‘n Misfits café just off Crown St.

◄ After lunch I looped back north to the recently opened (December 2022) Sydney Modern addition to the Art Gallery of NSW, click for a Guardian Australia article about the new gallery. The entrance to the gallery is front by New Zealand artist Francis Upritchard’s Here Comes Everybody statues.

▲ Inside my favourite was Samara Golden’s Guts, a weird mirror reflection balcony where you looked out at a window and then up and down to endless decks, windows and balconies down below you and up above you with crowds of people at every level. Except when you looked more closely you were on every level, on every balcony, at every window, it was all reflections. It reminded me of that confusing oil pool reflection at the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square in London. But the Sydney Modern also has the weird, dark subterranean Tank Gallery and a bunch of other interesting stuff.

That was the end of my day in Sydney, I walked back to the interesting Kimpton Margot Hotel where I was staying. Over the years I’ve stayed – and enjoyed – several Kimpton Hotels in the USA and this one was no exception. Particularly for the evening wine hour overlooking the lobby and for the wonderful recorded voice messaging in the elevators, which tells us, in a strange American accent, that we’re stopping at the ‘foath flowr’ and then we’re ‘goan’ dowwn’ to the ‘gwound flowr.’ It’s an accentuated enough accent that other people also notice it. And comment!

▲ The Kimpton Margot Hotel features excellent art deco touches inside and outside, once upon a time the building was home to the Sydney Water Board. Built in 1938-39 it’s one of the best examples of art deco in Sydney, or even in Australia.

Next stop, Seoul in South Korea – K-Pop and museums.