Thursday, February 11th, 2010
When we got to Sydney, our friend Cheryl said she had heard that “Australia is the LA and New Zealand is the SF,” and she wanted to know if it’s true. My answer, based on seeing only Sydney so far, is yes — to a point. Sydney, with its string of famous beaches, has a surf culture that mirrors Santa Monica and a sense of style that channels Hollywood. Whereas Kiwi fashion looks earthy and understated, lots of people here dress as though they’re going clubbing — circa 1985. Morgan, who arrived here before me, emailed me on his first day in Sydney: “Make sure to bring high heels, tube tops and tight clothes since it seems to be what lots of other women are wearing. Sort of reminds me of the Aussie girlfriend in Spinal Tap.”
But the LA-SF analogy falls apart when I realize that many of Sydney’s loveliest parts evoke San Francisco. In Sydney’s central business and shopping district, grandly refurbished and ornately detailed Victorian and Edwardian buildings stand next to sleek modern high-rises. Along the bustling waterfront, shops, exhibits, restaurants and, of course, boats are everywhere, as though San Francisco’s stretched-out Embarcadero had been compressed into a few distinct harbor areas.
Sydney also feels like San Francisco because of its large Asian population. But the demographic diversity doesn’t stretch much beyond Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian and Indian. We can buy egg rolls, sushi and curry on every block, but burrito places are few and far between. I can count on one hand the number of black people I’ve seen so far, and the only Latin American I’ve noticed is the wizened old street musician with the rainbow serape who seems to play the pan flute in every major city we visit. And the only Aboriginal I’ve seen yet is on a postcard.
As for the weather, it doesn’t match either city. You could call it “hog” — humid fog. It’s been overcast and rainy most of the time, but sticky hot, and then the sun broke out and it was scorching!
In spite of less-than-perfect weather and a high price tag on everything, we have grown very fond of this city. It’s urban yet easy to get around, flashy yet laid back. Of all the big cities we’ve visited, this is one of the most kid friendly. We’re staying in a high-rise apartment building in the central business district, next to Darling Harbour, where there’s a sprawling playground and easy ferry access. Catching ferries the way you catch cabs or subways in other cities is one of Sydney’s charms.
Here are highlights and recommendations for anyone visiting Sydney: (more…)