The Secret Life of Sydney
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
An Insider’s Guide to the Real Sydney
By Stacey L. Kernaghan
One of the most visited capital cities in the world is Sydney, Australia, but beyond the traditional tourist “highlights” packages showcasing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, lies a vastly diverse and oft-missed cavalcade of cultural, gastronomical and musical splendour which can be far more enriching than yet another snapshot in front of a world landmark.
Australia is a nation with a blend of cultures and a unique sense of national identity that is particularly apparent in Sydney. It is difficult to walk down a street in the city without feeling this cultural infusion, and at places like the National Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art, this is almost palpable. Both museums house some of the most important pieces of art in Australian history as well as works from international masters such as Van Gogh and Picasso. If art isn’t your thing than perhaps the Powerhouse Museum will hold your attention. The Powerhouse is widely regarded by locals as a Sydney institution, housing a regularly rotating collection of exhibits. Past exhibits included the Kylie Minogue Collection (featuring items from the pop divas clothing collection) and the Paramount Star Trek Collection (featuring sets, costumes and props from the numerous Star Trek franchises).
Beyond the museum crawl, the lively fusion cuisine scene of Sydney beckons. Walking around Darling and Sydney Harbour you will be lathered in delicious smells from the spicy exotic herbs of Asian restaurants to the pungent freshseafood Sydney is so famous for. The restaurant choices are endless, but for a little adventure trek down to Chinatown where some of the worlds best chefs (including Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong) frequent for both ingredients and for dining. Alternatively, Doyle’s of Sydney (arguably the most famous seafood restaurant in Australia) will offer you some truly spectacular dining, almost enough to cause you to ignore the spectacular bill.
Music will never be a foreign sound while you are in Sydney. Like everything else in the city, the fusion of cultural elements is represented just as well in the city’s music scene. “Buskers” are a frequent feature of most major streets in Sydney, but the music they play is startlingly good. Many buskers are highly trained musicians in their own right, while others have fine-tuned their skills over many hours on the street. However, the true highlight of the Sydney music scene is the established hotspot “The Basement,” which is almost exactly what the name implies. The small, somewhat dark, little venue is always the leader in the finest musical visitors from home and abroad. “The Basement” serves drinks and food, but it’s the music and a cozy evening in an intimate setting that can provide some truly memorable moments.
Alternatively, one cannot help but mention the wonderful array of musical options that await you inside the Opera House (that is of course, if you can get past the wonderment of the outdoor sails). Inside you’ll realize those very picturesque architectural treasures are responsible for creating some of the certainly performed here, but don’t be fooled into thinking that is all they offer. Plays, comedies and symphony concerts are all regular features, as is the newly established set of acoustic evenings called the “Max Sessions” set up by best acoustic environments for vocals and instrumentals in the world. Operas are the Music Max channel in Australia. These evenings allow a small audience to see an acoustic (and sometimes electric) concert performance including an audience Q & A session, with some of the world’s most acclaimed musicians. In the past, the likes of KD Lang, Toni Collette, Eskimo Joe, Chris Issak and Blondie have all cut a suave sound across the hallowed Opera House sails.
Sydney is ultimately about finding something that caters to your personal interests, which the city will have no trouble satisfying, but it would be well worth the trouble to throw yourself into the less tourist-frequented side of Sydney; one where unknown treasures could be the making of your trip Down Under.