The advantages of seeing a city with someone who lives there are many; instant familiarisation, a license to cut out a lot of the crap and the unique insight of a local.
The advantages of seeing a city with someone who used to live there are very different but are also many. One advantage in particular is that the person who used to live there will want to go to specific places to see if they have changed and that in itself leads the one who is new to the city on a very different journey; one of rediscovery as well as discovery.
Such was the case with NewMan and Newtown. (I really couldn't make this up!)
Newtown is an area located in the central south-western suburbs of Sydney and was described to me by NewMan as "like Camden, but cooler and less punks", or at least it had been when NewMan left over six years ago. We headed there to see if this was still the case.
The main vein which pumps life into Newtown is Kings Street, a very busy, very long (nearly 9km in total) road lined with turn of the century and Victorian style "prairie" style shop fronts hosting restaurants, bars, shops, boutiques, backpacker hostels, tattoo studios, vintage and charity shops (or "op shops" as they Aussies call them), antiques stores, cafes, theatres, workshops, offices and all other manner of retail outlets. Inside and out of these shops people flowed like a busy relentless human river and I got so swept up in it I failed to take any decent photos (I will also blame a dead battery the cause of which will soon be explained). It was an impressive bustle for a weekday during the Christmas and school holidays.
And yes, just like in Camden there were people to look at too; there were the tattoo-ed, the long haired heavy-metal heads, the hippie-fied, the mod-ish, the vintage-loving and the ice, ice cool but NewMan was absolutely right, no punks. I can therefore see why NewMan made the comparison to Camden even if there was a gaping lack of canals and markets. And goths too, didn't see a single goth in Newtown.
So back to my drained camera battery, well it was for a good cause. We aimed to park at the bottom of Kings Street near Princes Highway but before we'd even found a space I found myself jumping out of the car at traffic lights and being led down a side street by my camera as a sniffer dog would it's trainer on the tail of a massive stash. I had spotted a few side roads covered in colourful street art. It was unexpected and yet on second thoughts totally expected of near Newtown (as the area is actually more St Peters than Newtown). I started snapping away ignoring my battery light flashing red.I loved how old and original graffiti style art - the tags and swollen letter style signatures - blended in with the more random, incredibly creative and thought-provoking work. A little bit of research at a later date revealed that the street art we stumbled on is part of May Lane Street Art Project known as May's. There's quite a lot of information about the initiative on the website, however I'm still undecided if the organisation element of the project took away some of the magic. Though I suppose in this day and age it's required and I'm certainly not about to condone illegal graffiti.All this perving at street art left us with a great hunger so not far down Kings Street we ducked into an appealing looking burger joint called Moo (excellent burgers with optional wholemeal buns - a big plus point in my book).
And what do you know - more street art albeit by slightly younger artists and with a definite theme.It was here however that my mind-altering hunger meant my camera stayed switched on and the battery died before the sleep mode kicked in so I couldn't take photos of the lively Kings Street. Lesson learnt.
Frances M. Thompson
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