Author Denise Cullen Photography Geoff Lung
DAY TWO / After a well-earned sleep-in, take a short cab ride to the popular Bills in Darlinghurst. Something of a Sydney institution, unassuming Bills has fans as far-flung as New York and London. Have a seat at the large communal table and dig into an indulgent breakfast of sweet corn fritters or fruit muffins.
Once sated, take a short walk to the eclectic eastern-suburb shopping precinct of Oxford Street, Paddington, and indulge in a spot of retail therapy where the well-heeled locals do. This is a good place to pick up clothing by talented Australian designers: Drift from the spangles and sequins of Charlie Brown to Sass and Bide’s urban déshabillé. If you’re looking for treats to take back home that don’t scream “souvenir,” Giftica has unusual beadwork mobiles, jewellery, and body balms.
Also beloved by locals is the nearby tree-lined stretch studded with cafés and delicatessens that is Queen Street Woollahra (walk southeast along Oxford to a left onto Queen). Step into the cool hush of Shapiro Auctioneers, which houses a seductive range of Australian and international paintings, sculpture, and photography. The knowledgeable Jane Raffan can introduce you to some of the finest examples of Aboriginal art here. Find something you fancy? Shipping to your destination back home is, as they say in Australia, “no worries.”
You’re lunching at the cutting-edge, Thai-inspired Longrain restaurant, tucked inside a 100-year-old warehouse in the heart of Surry Hills. In the early days of the colony, this was a slum area thick with brothels, gangs, and sly grog shops, but Surry Hills now hums with art galleries, antiques shops, cafés, pubs, and fashion outlets. Sample the betel leaf topped with smoked trout and glistening orange globes of trout roe and an innovative dish that combines a tangle of prawns, pork, peanuts, sprouts, mint, and coriander under a net of drizzled egg.
Walk to the World Square monorail stop a few blocks away and enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the city’s landmarks as you make your way to the vast Australian National Maritime Museum, alighting at Harbourside. Exhibits include one of the original anchors from Capt. Cook’s Endeavour that the explorer jettisoned when he ran aground on the Barrier Reef in 1770. Then there’s the boat made entirely of beer cans and The Spirit of Australia, designed on a kitchen table and built in a Sydney backyard.
Take a short ferry ride from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay and wend your way through The Rocks district toward Sydney Observatory, built in 1858. You’re in for a truly celestial experience: Under the guidance of an experienced astronomer, you’ll gaze through powerful telescopes at distinctive constellations like the Southern Cross, or Crux, that twinkle in the Southern Hemisphere heavens. This month, the planets Mercury and Saturn will disappear from the sky, but Mars and Jupiter will remain tantalisingly visible.
Outside, take in the city panorama from Observatory Hill before making your way back down the steps and through the Argyle Cut toward George Street. You have dinner reservations at the sophisticated Rockpool, which offers ever-changing tasting menus to satisfy the palate. Typical dishes include goat cheese tortellini with pine nuts and raisins, tea-smoked duck with mango, star anise, and ginger caramel sauce, and rose-wrapped vanilla cream with candied pistachio and raspberries. Though the restaurant prides itself on its seafood, mouthwatering vegetarian options are also available.
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