Sydney Part 1: Of Broods and Bookstores

In this spoiled, modern world that we live in, no friendship has truly been tested until one travels with said friends. Ying, Xiu and I finally put our 14-year bond through the fire in August, when we made our way Down Under and into Sydney.

On the Pyrmont Bridge, which can move to allow ships to pass through to Darling Harbour

On the Pyrmont Bridge, which rotates to allow ships to pass through to Darling Harbour

And what a trip for the annals! For starters, I’ve long prided myself on being the most on-top-of-everything in our trio, except that I almost missed my flight, had it not been for a call from the twins around 11pm.

Ying: We’re on the way to the airport now. A little bit early, but where are you?
Me: Um, isn’t the flight at 10am?
Ying: Um, no. It’s at 2am.
Me: No, it’s not.
Ying: Dude, it’s at 2am.
Me: (checking my email) Oh shit.

So began the world’s fastest packing effort: I threw in every long-sleeved shirt I could find, telepathically willing the pilot to wait for me no matter what. My boyfriend shook his head ever so often as my mother gunned all 21 kilometers to Changi.

We made it within an hour of Ying’s call.

I would go on to find that I had the world’s most uncoordinated wardrobe stuffed in my carry-on. It also turned out that I had brought neither sunglasses nor comb, but at least I had what one might call clothes to wear on our first BFF sojourn.

Sydney was a whirlwind of bookstores, brunches, boozy nights and beaches, peppered with the requisite quarrels that come with being in close quarters for more than four hours. (Laughs too – I stumbled upon Giant Dwarf and their “Story Time” segment on the interwebs, a comedy club whose lovely theatre could not contain my side-splitting bellows and giggles.)

But apart from the general warmth and fuzziness that comes from surviving your first BFF trip, the highlight must be the combination of (a) finding out that the New Zealand duo Broods exists and (b) scoring tickets to their sold-out show at the Oxford Art Factory (38 – 46 Oxford St, Darlinghurst), by taking a gamble and heading straight to their box office.

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Georgia Nott and her brother Caleb are young (she’s 19, he’s 21), talented (her voice is atmospheric, he’s a multi-instrumentalist) and easy on the eyes (self-evident). Four months on and I can still loop songs like Mother and Father, about the pain of growing up and leaving home, and not get sick of them. On stage, Georgia electrifies with her sultry dance moves and conviction as she belts: “And I hate that I can’t say your name /  Without feeling like I’m part of the blame.” (Never Gonna Change).

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We paid all of A$20 each for our tickets, which I suspect might be the lowest price these two will be charging. Their global star is on the rise even though the band was only born last year — they recently completed tours with Sam Smith, Ellie Goulding and Haim. We also caught opening acts Jarryd James and EAST — the latter possesses an infectious voice, and I really liked Old Age.

We visited several bookstores on the same street, too. Ariel (42 Oxford St, Paddington) was bright and modern, featuring books with an artistic/architectural slant. Ampersand (78 Oxford St) looked like a recluse’s library, filled with yellowing books and armchairs with mismatched upholstery. But my favourite was the Berkelouw (19 Oxford St), a family-run chain. We spent almost two hours sipping on chai lattes and browsing books on photography (me) and architecture (Xiu). Ying got her fix of Wifi and doodled in her diary.

(I recently learned that the smell of old books is thanks to lignin, a chemical compound smells like vanilla and grass. I’ve taken to stockpiling books in my bedroom in an effort to recreate this smell. The downside is that every morning is a mini obstacle course, as I avoid kicking over said piles.)

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Lyrics from the Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wanna Know? outside the Ampersand

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Feeling at home at the Ampersand

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Twins at the Berkelouw

Everyone talks Sydney up as a must-go for its food (and we had some memorable dishes which I’ll share in the next post) but what charmed me most were the things that locals can turn to for a good weekend. Bookstores that don’t chase you out? Intimate venues with awesome bands? Comedy clubs with a great vibe and not-too-bank-breaking alcohol (well, relatively)? Check, check, check.

Admittedly, I don’t give what’s happening in Singapore more of a look-see, and goodness knows how fast the Scene (for a lack of a better word) is changing here. But that’s a to-tackle for 2015!

Hope everyone who’s still reading is enjoying the new layout. I’m trying to keep posts shorter, but stick around for the next few posts!

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