Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Living in Sydney in the noughties: Part 1

Well, my lovely followers (and thanks to my new ones - you now number 28, up from 16 only five days ago. Woo hoo!), so now you have an idea of how I found working as a young solicitor in Sydney. So how did we find it living there? Well, the noughties were a heady time in which to live in such a spectacular city. It was pulsing with vitality, the housing market was booming and confidence was up. The bright young things were making money and life was sweet.
Our view from the ferry stop at Milson's Point, just under Luna Park
It had a whole new vibe for us, so different to Melbourne. Back then, it was far more common for our peers to move from Hobart to Melbourne, rather than Sydney. Melbourne was only an hour away by plane and the closest big city. We had spent many a holiday there, catching up with our friends and enjoying the cool, moody, arty vibe, revelling in the laneways with their hidden treasures tucked away.
Dining al fresco in a Melbourne laneway
For us, Sydney seemed brighter, shinier and more confident. It really felt like a happening place. Preparations for the Olympics were almost complete and Sydney stood ready to show itself off to the world.

We were struck by the white brightness of Sydney's light and heat, arriving on a 36°C day. The humidity was suffocating and all enveloping. I woke on my first morning feeling like a bus had hit me, so draining was its impact on my unacclimatised body. It also caused damp problems. We discovered Damp Rid and the need to air our wardrobes after expensive visits to the dry cleaners with our mould-covered clothes.

We were captivated by the leafiness of the Lower North Shore (those capital letters seemed very important to the locals), the verdant lawns (despite the drought - water restrictions soon put paid to them), the neatly clipped murraya hedges, the fragrant jasmine, the rampant wisteria and the lacy, mauve glory of the jacarandas. We learnt that our friends always realised HSC exam time was imminent when the first jacarandas bloomed. In a good season, there were special ferry cruises around the Lower North Shore to view them. We looked out over the neighbouring suburbs which were studded with mauve bursts. It really was a picture, gladdening our hearts.
Jacaranda time
Of course, that was only what we saw in our neighbourhood. We didn't move far from the Harbour. Our concepts of time and distance changed - travelling 30 minutes to go shopping at Chatswood Chase soon seemed like zipping around the corner. We grew used to having to plan our travel and organising to catch up with friends weeks in advance. Life wasn't as spontaneous as in Hobart as it took a long time to get anywhere, so choked were the major arterial roads.

Sydney's incredible ethnic diversity sprawled around us, in every direction. We grew to understand the different opinions on areas and the local lingo such as 'The Shire' (the Sutherland Shire - doesn't that remind you of the Lord of the Rings?). The geography of the place was an important divider - whether you lived in the Eastern Suburbs, the Shire, the Inner West, the Western Suburbs, the Blue Mountains, the Northern Districts, the Lower North Shore, the Upper North Shore or the Northern Beaches. We also discovered that each suburb had its own distinct identity, Woolwich in particular.

Woolwich was reached by driving past the grand old sandstone Hunters Hill mansions with their lawn tennis courts and spectacular water views to the peninsula at the end. There, the ferry terminal awaited the locals at the bottom of a hilly street (we often flew down there in haste to jump aboard in the nick of time before the gangplank was hauled in). Magnificent waterfront mansions abounded like this one.
Isn't it just divine? I want to live there!
We embraced the relaxed summer vibe and enjoyed the sweet scent of jasmine in those hazy, lazy evenings, firing up the barbecue and sitting on our balcony, wine in hand, gazing onto the Lane Cove River. We joined the locals fishing off Clarkes Point at the end of the peninsula and watched the New Year's Eve fireworks there with the Harbour Bridge in the background. Yes, life was good!
Fishing off Clarke's Point, Woolwich
Then the Olympics energised Sydney in spectacular fashion when the Olympic flame arrived. 
The vibrant logo abounded
We streamed out of work, lining the streets with thousands of others to watch Pat Rafter and Dawn Fraser run with the torch through the city to Town Hall. The place was abuzz during that glorious fortnight. International visitors thronged the Olympic venues and relaxed at the specially erected entertainment areas and free concerts in the Domain. We travelled to work in the dark on the ferry as our workplaces changed their opening hours to accommodate the demands on the transport system. I had the thrill of being an official volunteer. And that, my friends, is a story for my next post. I won't leave you hanging long, I promise!



  1. It sounds like you really loved Sydney; I guess everyone feels a bit differently about a place ;-)

    Honestly, I did like what little I saw of the inner Sydney area, however I get the sense that it's just not as liveable (as the town-planning geeks like to say) as some other Australian capitals.

  2. Yes, Nadiah, we really loved it when we were DINKs. However, once the children and Planet Baby arrived, our view altered. Ah, the liveability issue - somthing that vexes all Sydneysiders! I'll post some more thoughts about that. Sydney also changed a lot in those 11 years we were there, not always for the better.

  3. Always wished I'd got to Sydney pre-children!

  4. Ah, yes and when you did we never got organised enough to meet up - sigh. Oh well, we will probably see you in Hobart one day. J x

  5. DINK - I had to look that one up. Yes, it definitely does seem like it'd be a cool place for cashed up young people, though even they can benefit from a good public transport system.

    I used to work for Brisbane Transport (the council's business unit for buses and ferries) and we had a slogan, something like "Make Brisbane Livable", as part of our mission statement. This is going to sound terribly nerdy, I know, but it used to make me feel proud to be a public servant, to think that I was helping make the city a liveable place for everyone.

  6. Nadiah, that doesn't sound nerdy at all - it's just what Sydneysiders would love to actually happen. Good on you! That's the problem - the government is all talk and little action or when something does occur, it blows its budget and is completed late. People are so disenchanted now that they scarcely believe anything that is announced as it's so unlikely it will actually happen as planned. That's when they have a plan at all. Yes, I'll post about that one day soon.

  7. I was gonna say I'll be follower 29 but then remembered that this was a weekend rewind and so I'll be 179 instead :)

  8. Hi Loz Thanks so much for hopping aboard this crazy planet. I hope you enjoy the ride ☺. J x

  9. I know I bag it out to you a lot, but I've lived in many places and Sydney is truly special. She is a mighty fine city indeed. x

  10. I'll round the follower list up to a nice even 180 I think ;-) We've moved around a bit in Queensland for Hubby's work and then had nearly 4 years in Melbourne. I think I was meant to be born there. LOVE the place and miss it a lot. I've often said to Hubby though that I don't think I can "do" Sydney if he were ever to get a transfer there. Beautiful, beautiful city, but oh so busy.

  11. my partner is from sydney and so I have spent a bit of time there, i do love it as a city but have not quite been convinced to move there yet. Living in Margaret River, we are so far from Sydney, not just in kms but in lifestyle....Sydney really is a beautiful city though

    Gill xo

  12. I too loved Sydney in the Noughties. Though I lived in the Inner West (caps also very important). Great post!

  13. Hey, Bron, I'm with you on that one. I miss the Emerald City dearly.

    Hi LMAG Thanks for hopping aboard ☺. Yes, life in Hobart is a lot more manageable and calmer than Sydney. There's certainly a lot less road rage. I'm a big fan of Melbourne, too. They all have such different personalities.

    I am looking forward to visiting your pretty part of the world one day, Gill.

    Oh, yes, Allison, One of my fave spots was the Palace Cinema in Leichhardt. Sigh. J x

  14. Ha ha! I still think nothing of driving 30 mins to go to Charswood! Going today actually as N has a birthday party, Ross is getting his hair cut and then we are going for yum cha! Hunter's Hill is one of my favourite Sydney suburbs! x

  15. Hmm, Chatswood! Haven't had my coffee yet! x

  16. You crack me up, Em! J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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