Thanks, Sydney. As always, you turned on another perfect day for my latest arrival – despite its being sandwiched between days of winds and downpours.
Every trip to Sydney is packed with the potential to explore more of its myriad fascinating facets. Although I have been a regular visitor since childhood, and once lived there for three months while in primary school, I’ve barely scratched the surface. But luckily, family members have back-of-the-hand familiarity with its endless nooks and crannies.
Sydney Harbour’s 240 kilometres of shoreline is a special treasure trove with its numerous little beaches and coves, and waterside entertainments. On this visit I was introduced to a trendy new eatery at Mosman’s Balmoral Beach, already famous for the Bathers’ Pavilion Restaurant. The Boat House, a sister venue to another of the same name at Palm Beach, offers breakfast and lunch on a first-come, first-served basis – no reservations. We had tried accessing the Palm Beach version the day before but, as the location for Home and Away shoots, the film crew, cast and curious onlookers had packed the place out. The Balmoral Beach Boat House décor is eclectic, the food generous and of excellent quality, the coffee creative. All so tempting that the seagulls are determined to join your table and beat you to your meal. And the view? Well, it’s Sydney Harbour – what more could you want?
Just around the corner, Chinaman’s Beach, one of a number of sandy bays along the Mosman-Seaforth foreshore, is a delightful and safe spot for kids to fossick for shells, build sandcastles and splash in rock pools. What a gift for families in the middle of a huge city. The beach takes its name from old market gardens established there in the 1870s by Hi Tik Cho, who also distilled salt from the water. The iconic Australia artist Ken Done lives at one end and many of his paintings, created in his harbour side workshop, have been inspired by the setting with its vibrant colours. Another famous local was Nancy Phelan whose book A Kingdom by the Sea recalls her childhood growing up by that magic environment.
No visit to Sydney is complete without a quick look at the Art Gallery of New South. The current feature exhibition is America Painting a Nation, an offering of over 90 works chosen for the role they played in defining the development of America as a nation. Described as the most ambitious survey of American painting ever seen in Australia it showcases masterpieces by major artists such as James Whistler, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock. I was living in Canberra when the newly opened National Gallery of Australia purchased Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles for the “outrageous” sum of $1.3 million to the howls of the then (opposition) political class and the media commentariat. At last estimate it was valued in a range from $20 million to $100 million. So Gough wasn’t so mad after all!
One work which caught my eye was Ken Unsworth Suspended Stone Circle, a gift of the John Kaldor Family Collection to the gallery. It defines what is so exhilarating about art – the sheer creativity of the human mind. Who would have thought a bunch of similar-sized stones, suspended from the ceiling by diagonally crossed wires, could be so mesmerising?