I started my Australian adventure with a week in Sydney, staying in a spare room that I found via Airbnb.
My room was in Newtown, somewhere I hadn’t heard of before. Airbnb described the area as ‘hip’, which is probably about right. It is full of quirky little shops, cafes and more streetart than even I can handle (and you know I love streetart).
You only need to walk up King street and into its various side streets to see all these examples of street art, some legal and some not so much.
On a Friday and Saturday night King street is packed solid as people pour into/out of the various bars and clubs. Imagine this after 24 hours on a plane and two sleepless nights (one travelling and one up watching the orange man get elected into the White House) and you get some idea of my introduction to the area.
Newtown was once a suburb of blue-collar workers, who lived in its small terraced houses. However as these residents had families and accumulated (relative) wealth, they gradually moved out to suburbia and freed up a lot of small units for rent. The proximity of the university and the affordable prices meant that these properties then got snapped up by students, and in the 1960s-70s the area became known for its slightly bohemian vibe.
It still has the artsy, alternative vibe – most of the shops are independent and there are countless cafes, bars, restaurants and such – however the accommodation is now priced well out of the reach of most students.
This is not my first visit to Sydney. I was last here in 2002, although I don’t remember it too clearly. I had just sold a house and made a small profit (no effort on my part, I just bought and sold at the right time through pure luck). I decided to invest around £5,000 on a ‘good’ holiday; my ‘holiday of a lifetime’. The holiday cost nearer £10,000; budgeting has never been my strong point. On that occasion I made a stop in Tokyo, then went to Australia (Sydney, Cairns, Darwin, Alice), then New Zealand, Fiji and back via New York. Looking at that itinerary now, it’s easy to see why it went so far over budget.
A lot has changed in fifteen years. Maybe Australia hasn’t changed so much but my whole outlook and the things that interest me have changed since then. It’s hard to remember what I did before, although I vaguely recall a lot of shopping and sunbathing.
These days when we take 200 pictures of one day out and Instagram our dinner, it’s easy to look back and remember exactly what we did. In the pre-digital age I took around forty photos of the entire trip, which I printed out when I got back and stuck in a small photo album. The photo album has long since vanished, a victim of one of my many house moves.