Sydney wander


David Whitley attempts to tick off Sydney’s must-sees and cultural attractions – but ends up on a glorious walk to nowhere.


Noble intentions and savage hangovers don’t tend to mix that well. And that’s my excuse for spending 20 minutes shambling around the Museum of Sydney before conceding to myself that I wasn’t taking anything in. Sydney is my second home. I lived there for just under five years, and enjoyed the experience enormously. But as is so often the case when you live somewhere, I was a bad tourist whilst there. There are so many things to do and places to see in Sydney, but I’d only scratched the surface during my stint as a resident.


So today’s mission was supposed to be a bit of a cultural trail, checking out the museums and attractions around Circular Quay and the Rocks that I’ve never bothered to go in before. Unfortunately, while there are lots of things to see and do in Sydney, I also know a lot of people there. And, predictably enough, the first day turned into a marathon alcoholic blur. A picnic in the park turned into a day-long festival of binge drinking, out-of-tune singing and catching up on the latest interpersonal scandals.


Therefore my cultural tour the next day, packing in one museum after another, turned into a few hours of aimless wandering.  And you know what? Aimless wandering is thoroughly underrated. Sometimes it’s great to put the map down, banish any must-sees from your mind and just walk where your whims take you. Sydney is magnificent for this (well, right up until the point where you spend two minutes at each pedestrian crossing).


It’s not all about the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge (although the latter is magnificent). It’s the little things - like father and son slurping on gelati, getting equally messy faces, or grandmothers scampering out of the way of those rubbish tourist trains that plough around the waterside areas with a scarcely concealed menace. 


Then there’s the ferries jostling on the harbour, the didgeridoo players trying to drum up custom, the bats hanging from the trees in the Botanic Gardens and the water taxis fizzing across to the North Shore. There’s the jugglers standing on stepladders, the buzzy bar/ restaurant terraces, the kids persuading mum to let them go on the carousel and the possums hiding up trees in the park. There are old haunts, new developments, little yappy dogs taking on much bigerg adversaries and fashionistas with ridiculous haircuts reading the paper over breakfast. 


I must have meandered for around three-and-a-half hours. In that time, I didn’t do anything I was supposed to, pay an entry charge or go into anywhere important. There was nothing more frenetic in the itinerary than sitting down on a bench with a sandwich. But it was blissful. And it’s sometimes the experiences like these that we miss out on. It’s all too easy to concentrate on getting through as much of the highlights package as possible – but more joy is often derived from skipping the lot and becoming lost in your own little world.


More photos here