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Nine reasons to stay in Sydney this season

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Adelaide may have its churches, Melbourne its sky crossed with overhead wires, but Sydney has… well, what doesn’t it have?

1. Oh! You do like to be beside the seaside

Sydney folk are renowned for their savvy style. Take walking, for instance. For many, especially those blessed with a car, it can prove a chore. Exercise, while prescribed often, is a regime rarely followed. But rather than hit the treadmill in a franchised gym where the air could at best be described as ‘pungent’, Sydneysiders are blessed with the wonder that is the coastal walk.

In one of what’s been portrayed as one of the most expensive cities to live in, this six-kilometre stretch is low cost and high impact.

But the Sydney crowd don’t just stop there – rather than simply settle for the expanse of the Pacific and the occasional whale, each year they organise an art show named, appropriately, Sculptures by the Sea.

This year, the thirteenth annual Sculptures by the Sea transforms the Tamarama to Bondi coastline with over 100 sculptures from artists around the world. They will be exhibited until 15 November.

2. You don’t want to waste away to nothing

Worked up an appetite? You’ll find North Bondi Italian Food – perhaps not surprisingly – on the northern end of the iconic Bondi Beach.

Paper placemat menus and wait staff clad in Ksubi (the Sydney-born label formerly known as Tsubi) denim and classic white tees make this trattoria-style dining a must-visit on a regular basis.

A standard 40-minute wait for a table is filled easily – and pleasantly – with a glass of something cold. Perhaps a Pasqua Soave ($5)? Or a chilled Petra Zingarri (red blend, $6) and a bowl of peanuts to shell?

Once seated, it should be mandatory to sample the Arancini, crumbed spinach risotto balls ($18) and only a fool would pass on the Spaghetti Arrabbiata, crab, cooked in a paper bag ($28). The latter though, should come with a warning: don’t wear white unless you’re brave enough to tuck your napkin into your collar, bib-style.

There are no variations to the menu, but that is hardly going to break anyone’s heart.

3. You’re after a little retail therapy

Still in the East, but four beaches south at Clovelly, is Belinda Seper’s The Frock Exchange, stocking Missioni, Prada and Marc Jacobs, all pre-loved and perennially discounted. This is a local’s worst kept secret, and well worth the trek.

Once you’ve strayed from here, you can hit Sydney’s Paddington, a veritable mecca for those in need of a little retail therapy. Don’t miss the little streets off the main drag, Oxford Street. One to keep at the top of the list is William Street, home to Seper’s eponymous store, Belinda; Andrew McDonald Shoemakers for designer handmade footwear; Elegantly Scant, Australia-designed lingerie; Ginger & Smart, Australia’s own sister act; Pratten, leather accessories and Sarah’s for vintage jewellery.

4. You’re in search of bright young things

Once you’ve had your fill, but you’re still hungry for a little culture, don’t miss the last month of Sydney’s 18th Primavera (closing 22 November) at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA).

Standing outside the MCA, you’ll realise why they call Sydney the harbour city, with clear views to the Opera House and the slightly less attractive but equally controversial, toaster building.

Showcasing the work of nine bright young things (all under the age of 35) hand picked by guest-curator Jeff Khan, this year’s Primarvera more than lives up to its reputation for uncovering new talent in the visual arts.

“As contemporary art continues to expand outwards, artists are practising with a new level of fearlessness and curiosity,” says Khan.

Working across a range of disciplines, the Primavera 2009 artists are Andy Best, Christine Eid, Michaela Gleave, Christopher LG Hill, Ross Manning, Wade Marynowsky, Roderick Sprigg and spat+loogie.

5. You want a room with a view

And a Sydney Destination Guide wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Café Sydney. Nestled on the rooftop of Customs House, and a mere few minutes walk from the MCA, the view is nothing short of spectacular.

This November, Sundays are your day of choice to dine as Jonathon Zwartz, legend of the Sydney Jazz scene, keeps you entertained.

Kick back with a cocktail in hand, preferably of the Café Sydney Lounge ($18) variety. This is their signature cocktail – fresh lime muddled with torn kaffir leaves, white sugar, Bombay Sapphire, Bacardi, Citron/Gingembre Liqueur complemented with cranberry juice and a splash of Midori.

To start, and to keep that cocktail company, opt for the cured kingfish and ocean trout carpaccio with pomegranate, Spanish onion and citrus dressing ($26), and for a main, it’s difficult to go past the grilled swordfish with baby squid, pancetta, green peas, chilli and lemon butter ($37).

6. You need a little inspiration to stay on the straight and narrow

But Sydney’s not all cocktails and canapés. Sydney Harbour was the original cove of sin, since it was built on a rich and illustrious history of convict lineage. But it wasn’t just a case of mad men – the fairer sex also got into a fair amount of trouble. And at the Justice and Police Museum (on the corner of Phillip and Albert Streets, a short stroll from Café Sydney), you’ll find their wayward ways on display in the Femme Fatale exhibition.

Here, you’ll get up close and personal with the legacy of the likes of sly grogger Kate Leigh and poisoner Yvonne Fletcher. This exhibition examines these extremes, and will make you feel a little better about your own misdemeanours.

7. You want to feel close to someone

Closer to Kings Cross, where many a good girl turned not-so-good, is the now gentrified suburb of Potts Point. On Challis Avenue, you’ll find The Sardine Room.

As you’ll be assured when you’re manoeuvred to your table – and once more as you breathe a sigh of relief upon eyeing the menu – this place does not take its name from the menu’s main gripe, but rather because “you’re packed in like sardines!”

The salt and pepper squid with confit garlic aioli and lemon ($16) is well worth the almost over whelming panic caused (primarily) by claustrophobia, and the seafood pie ($29) is one you’d sell your grandmother for.

Oh, and if it’s a case of table for one, you will not feel lonely. Plus it’s BYO, making it an affordable affair.

8. You want your boat rocked

Enya might have encouraged you to sail away, but only a fool would pass on a trip around Sydney Harbour. To get out on the not-so-high seas, stop in at Rose Bay’s Sydney Harbour Escapes. (Hugh Jackman’s told Oprah this is in his top five favourite things to do when in town.)

If you’re looking for an excuse, Cup day is a Tuesday, so why not make it a corporate affair? There’s no better affair to have than a five-star cruise, taking in the sights, as experienced by the likes of Elton John, Kylie Minogue, John Travolta and the late Michael Jackson. The skipper of luxury cruiser A.Q.A., is currently offering it out at a steal ($5,990 for three hours and for up to 30 colleagues). Oh, and they have a TV on board, so you won’t miss the race.

November will also see the arrival of the highly anticipated Lightwave Catamaran – a luxury boat that can host 49 of your nearest and dearest.

Or, if you’re looking for something a little more low key, Escapes also have a fleet of self drive boats ($360 for four hours). Each seat up to eight people, and you can stop off at Cockle Bay or the Sydney Fishmarkets for lunch. Or, simply settle into one of the Harbour’s quieter coves – a firm favourite is Store Beach.

9. You’re thirsty

This month in Woolloomooloo, Blue Hotel’s Water Bar is treating you to a brand new bar menu to quench your thirst. Here you’ll find:

  • Something old – the Hemmingway Daquiri ($16), a generous pour of Havana Club Añejo Blanco shaken with white grapefruit juice, fresh lime and a touch of Maraschino Liqueur, served straight up.
  • Something new – the Ruby Rose ($19), pink grapefruit muddled with raw sugar and shaken with Tanqueray 10 Gin, peach liqueur and Campari, served straight up and capped with a rose and champagne foam.
  • Something borrowed – all the way from New York, you can’t go past the Desert Rose – Jim Meehan ($14), a lift-your-spirits combination of Plymouth Gin, shaken with pear puree and freshly pressed lemon juice then finished with a splash of rose water, served straight up with a slice of caramelised pear.
  • And, of course, something blue. Perhaps the Le Poire ($17), grey goose pear vodka and poached pear puree shaken with cinnamon liqueur, fresh lemon juice and spiced syrup, served short over ice with chai spiced pear crisp?

From Sunday to Friday, enjoy the happiest hours of them all with $4 draught beer and $10 cocktails before 7pm. And if you have one (more likely, eight too many cocktails), simply reserve a room at Blue. Each of their 100 guest rooms, including 33 stunning loft rooms, features unique characteristics of the original heritage-listed wharf.

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