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February 2010

the fun guide

ACCESSline Page 21

Sydney and Mardi Gras by Andrew Collins In North America, January marks the very heart of winter, and for much of the continent, this means chilly weather and dark, gloomy days. This is not the case on the other side of the world, in Sydney, Australia, which might just be the hottest and hippest gay destination in the southern hemisphere. Here, January marks the height of summer. And just a month later (February 19 through March 7 in 2010), it’s the time for Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. This hugely popular series of cultural events, parties, and parades celebrating gay life in Australia rivals any LGBT festival in the world. Regardless of whether you’re planning to Mardi Gras, summer is a terrific time to visit this visually stunning city. Cultural draws are many in Sydney, beginning with one of the world’s foremost architectural icons, the Sydney Opera House, which apart from possessing a magnificent exterior overlooking Sydney Harbour presents fine operas and other musical and theatrical performances. It’s right beside Circular Quay, from which you can catch water taxis and harbor cruises to some of Sydney’s famous beach communities, such as Manly, Watsons Bay, the Harbour Islands, and also to the fascinating Taronga Zoo (an excellent place to come face to face with the many unusual animals unique to this continent). The harbor is surrounded by The Rocks neighborhood, which fringes Sydney’s modern central business district, a warren of glitzy high-rise office towers. There are several other top sightseeing draws in this fabled city. The outstanding Art Gallery of New South Wales contains one of the world’s most pretigious Asian collections. Just south of the opera house, you can lose yourself for hours strolling the lush grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Grab a ride on Sydney’s sleek monorail to poke around the Darling Harbour neighborhood, home to the shark-infested Sydney Aquarium and impressive Powerhouse Museum, a trove of fascinating science, natural history, and anthropology exhibits. And if it’s a sky-high photo op you’re angling for, take an elevators to the top of 1,060-foot Sydney Tower, where the southern hemisphere’s highest observatory platform offers 360-degree views. If you’re keen on getting in touch with Sydney’s famed natural scenery, consider a stroll along the Bondi Coastal Walk, a simple and easy path along the ocean that takes less than an hour to complete. If there’s a true must-try activity, it’s booking a tour with BridgeClimb Sydney to hike across the very top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the most beautiful such structures in the world. An excellent, economical way to sightsee is to buy a Sydney Pass—these are available for three, five, or seven days and include unlimited travel on Sydney’s extensive network of ferries, buses (including the Sydney and Bondi Explorer sightseeing buses), and trains as well as discounts to numerous attractions. Sydney’s renowned gay scene is concentrated chiefly along Oxford Street, in the city’s Darlinghurst and Surry sections, but you’ll also find an increasing GLBT presence in such funky neighborhoods as Newtown and Erskineville, which lie about 3 miles southwest of the city center. The Oxford Street neighborhood is most interesting from about the edge of Hyde Park for several blocks east, until a bit beyond Taylor Square. In this area you’ll find several

The Little Black Book -- ARQ

-- Arts Hotel

-- Bank Hotel

-- Bodyline Sauna

-- Cafe Giulia

-- Colombian Hotel

-- Emmilou Tapas

-- The Establishment

-- Exchange Hotel -- The Falconer

-- Grumpy Baker -- Imperial Hotel -- Kinselas Hotel

-- Kirketon Hotel

-- Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel

Photo: Andrew Collins gay bars and clubs, some fun restaurants, numerous fashion boutiques, and quite a few shops selling porn and sex toys. Tops among the watering holes, the Colombian Hotel (note that bars and pubs in Australia often take the name “hotel” even when they don’t offer overnight accommodations) is a trendy, mixed-gender spot with two floors of fun. Nearby, the four-level Exchange Hotel has long been a favorite for dancing and cruising into the wee hours. It’s great fun to watch the crowds gather in the neighborhood’s gay epicenter, Taylor Square, from the balcony at the Kinselas Hotel, which draws a fairly mixed crowd. Near here is Bodyline Sauna, a muchvisited bathhouse; Oxford Hotel has been popular with gay guys for years, especially after a major remodel a few years back. It’s open 24 hours and draws an eclectic bunch of all ages and styles to its several bars. Fans of drag and cabaret shows should make a point of checking out both Slide Bar and Cabaret and the campy Taxi Club. The bilevel Midnight Shift is another highly recommended spot, with a disco upstairs and a more laid-back bar on the ground level. Younger guys tend to favor the loud and festive Stonewall Hotel, which offers dancing downstairs and a lounge on the second floor. Finally, hardcore lesbian and gay disco bunnies cut loose at ARQ, which is open only Thursday through Sunday nights and packs in hundreds of buff dance-aholics. The more eclectic scene in Newtown is focused along King Street, where bars tend to draw a more local bunch. The main queer mecca along here is the Bank Hotel, which contains a very good Thai restaurant, and bars on the terrace and overlooking the garden. A short walk south in Erskineville, serious fans of drag shouldn’t miss the Imperial Hotel, which has both drag-king competitions and very popular shows that inspired the classic movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (parts of the movie were filmed here). Sydney is of the world capitals of inventive dining—there are great restaurants all over town. For a truly special occasion, few restaurants in Australia deliver more “wow” factor than Rockpool, a temple of creative modern Australian (aka “Mod Oz”) cuisine, where you might sample such innovate fare as stir-fried squid and King prawns with squid-ink noodles, smoked bacon, and chilies. Around the corner, Wine Odyssey Australia is a restaurant and vino bar with a terrific selec-

tion of wines from every part of the country, plus very good contemporary food to match (including a knock-out cheese plate). For more casual dining and drinking, stop by one of the city’s quintessentially oldschool pubs, such as the warm and festive Lord Nelson Hotel, which serves a nice array of ales and lagers as well as tasty pub food. And for incredibly delicious Thai food, look to Sailors Thai restaurant, an elegant restaurant on one of the Rocks’ busiest streets. In the heart of the main gay district, for inexpensive, home-style food, drop by laidback Betty’s Soup Kitchen, which is known for its huge, meal-size bowls of soup, from lentil to gazpacho, plus simple pastas and homemade desserts. The Grumpy Baker is a cute coffeehouse with delicious baked goods and a typically delicious-looking clientele, too. More upscale options include The Falconer, which specializes in regional—mostly organic— cuisine, such as slow-roasted pork belly with saffron pears and chestnut puree. Just off from Taylor Square, hip Emmilou serves authentic yet contemporary Spanish tapas (goat sausage with red cabbage jam, sardines on toast with sweet-chili salsa) and groovy cocktails. Coco Cubano is a casually elegant coffeehouse and bar serving Latininspired drinks to a sexy, mixed crowd. Wok on Inn is a cheap-and-handy Asian restaurant specializing in noodle bowls. Nearby in trendy Paddington, Toko Sushi on Oxford turns out some of the most inventive sushi in town, in an uber-trendy dining room. A couple of blocks north of Oxford, check out trendy Fishface for exceptional seafood— everything from sushi to fish-and-chips, all prepared with great creative flourish. And nearby Le Petit Crème serves wonderful coffees, breakfast fare, and sandwiches— enjoy them on the lovely terrace. In the up-and-coming Inner West area, the Newtown and Glebe neighborhoods have become popular for funky shopping and ethnic dining. King Street in Newtown is a good bet for food explorers. Here you might try the slightly glam Twelve Restaurant, which prepares modern Italian and Australian cuisine, including very good pizzas, grills, pastas. Hipster-favored Corelli’s Espresso offers great people-watching, plus tasty breakfast fare (try the waffles) and light sandwiches and salads at lunch. Although it’s huge and a tad banquet-y feeling, Thai Pothong serves authentic, deli-

-- Midnight Shift -- Oxford Hotel

-- Park Hyatt

-- Quest Apartments www.questpottspoint. -- Rockpool

-- Sailors Thai

-- Slide Bar and Cabaret -- Stonewall Hotel

-- Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras

-- Sydney Marriott

sydcc-sydney-marriott-hotel -- Sydney Pass

tourist-services/sydneypass.htm -- Sydney/New South Wales office of Tourism

-- Taxi Club -- Thai Pothong

-- Toko Sushi on Oxford -- Vibe Hotel

-- Wine Odyssey Australia -- Wok on Inn

cious food, from barbecue octopus with chili-sour sauce to spicy Thai duck salad. Not far from Newtown, charming Cafe Giulia—set in a remodeled century-old butcher shop— serves some of best breakfasts in town. Try the Tuscan toast topped with grilled mushrooms, avocado, and tomatoes. Sydney has a number of inviting accommodations, most of them downtown, which is either a pleasant 20- to 30-minute walk or a relatively quick cab ride from Oxford Street. Directly facing Sydney Harbour, you’ll find the stunning Park Hyatt, a four-story hotel with unbelievably cushy rooms, round-the-clock butler service, and a loyal celeb following. If you get a chance, eat lunch in the hotel’s open-air dining room overlooking the harbor and opera house. There aren’t too many accommodations right along Oxford Street, but one lovely and relatively affordable option is the Arts Hotel, just east of Darlinghurst in Paddington. This intimate and friendly property has reasonably priced, simple, yet contemporary rooms plus a pool and exercise room. Right on Hyde TTLISA’S LIST continued page 25

ACCESSline, Iowa's LGBT Newspaper, February 2010 Issue, Volume 24 No 2  

ACCESSlineIOWA - Iowa’s LGBT+ Newspaper. Gay and lesbian, bi, trans, and HIV+ news for Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo/Cedar...