The Neighborhood Pub Crawl: Week 216

The Rose Hotel in Chippendale: Sydney, Australia

I have often contemplated the curious color palette of The Rose Hotel on my way to work. In the nicest way possible, I would say the names of the paint chips were Victorian Christmas and baby vomit.

Although I was very familiar with the exterior of the hotel, I hadn’t been inside until the ‘fight of the century’ between Mayweather and Pacquiao. The main bar with the trompe l’oeil ceilings was full, so Barret and I found a wood bench in the spacious courtyard and ordered a round of Bloody Marys with lunch. With the exception of one loud group, the audience was cheering for Pacquiao and when he lost the hotel quickly emptied.

A laundry line outside a house in Darlington: Sydney, Australia

Barret and I followed the exodus of people back out onto the street, but the afternoon weather was so nice that we decided to take a different route home. From Chippendale we walked through a quiet residential street in Darlington before ending up in Redfern.

A faded and peeling wall in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that Redfern was a rough neighborhood, but the last decade has brought about significant gentrification. Strolling down Regent Street, Barret and I popped into an antique shop and against better judgment we left with two small spoons made from cow bones. Thin black decorative lines were carved into the polished surface.

Front door of The Bearded Tit in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

A few doors down from the antique shop was an establishment called The Bearded Tit. It’s an LGBT-friendly bar named after a puffy white bird that breeds in the reedy swamps of Europe and Asia. The backyard housed a ‘caravan of love’ and the gender-less bathrooms had a large moose hanging near the sinks.

A coaster at The Bearded Tit: Sydney, Australia

The best part about The Bearded Tit was its support for art. Local and international artists can apply to have their work displayed in a number of unique ways- from a wall to a curiosity cabinet. A ‘taxidermy tableaux’ surrounded a TV that was perfect for video art and resident artists could receive free bar food and 50% off drinks.

A small bakery on the Regent Street in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

After a round of champagne, Barret and I continued our circuitous journey home. Small family-owned restaurants, bakeries, and video rental relics lined the rest of Regent Street.

A terrace house in Erskineville: Sydney, Australia

It was dinnertime when we reached Erskineville, but neither of us wanted to cook so we walked through our neighborhood and towards the southern end of Newtown.

The Union Hotel in Newtown: Sydney, Australia

The Union Hotel had a lively cover band in the front and a large self-contained restaurant in the back. We ordered food and sat down near a father and his young daughter whom were both reading books. While there are more charming hotels further up King Street, Barret and I were both drawn to the classic brick Aussie hotel circa 1946.

The reason that I like Sydney’s inner west neighborhoods so much is that they are a perfect combination of historic buildings, livability, and community culture. It’s definitely not a cheap place to live, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better area for a stroll and a neighborhood pub crawl.

How to get to The Rose Hotel: 52-54 Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

How to get to The Bearded Tit: 183 Regent Street, Redfern NSW 2016

How to get to the Union Hotel: 576 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042

Sydney Fringe: Week 131

Xavier Toby leading the 2013: When We Were Idiots walking comedy tour, Sydney Fringe

At some point in the future, or maybe it is the past, the Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer will melt Antarctica. The specifics are a bit unclear, but I have a suspicion it’s because he wants to be extra cautious with his new ship the Titanic II.

Shortly after the destruction of Antarctica, entire flocks of penguins swam to Australia. The good news is that they quickly adapted to the desert heat, the bad news is that their passports did not withstand the rigors of a long distance ocean swim. This is to say, all of the penguins arrived undocumented and were immediately sent to an offshore processing center until someone realized they actually make excellent tour guides.

I was lucky enough to learn all this future history thanks to an independent arts festival called Sydney Fringe. For two weeks the most famous penguin guide from 2113, Xavier Toby, came back to 2013 to transport tour groups to 2113 to be able to objectively look back on 2013. Still following?

2013: When We Were Idiots walking comedy tour- Sydney Fringe

During our stay in 2113, Xavier hired ‘actors’ to accurately recreate 2013. So as we walked down King Street in Newtown, we were assured that anyone around us was an actor and that we should engage them, photograph them, and even give them hugs (especially the actors playing police officers).

Sometimes we guessed these actors ATM numbers (did you know it was a very popular game in 2013? If you guessed correctly you won money!) and while most actors were friendly, there were some real nasties in 2013. The angry, tattooed guys eating fast food at Oporto’s deserve an Oscar- I thought they were going to stab our penguin guide!

Aside from the cultural commentary, we also learned a little about the history of Newtown and how it received its original name. *Spoiler alert*- it was named after a grocery store called New Town Stores. Before colonization, Newtown was a large field in which the Aborigines used to plant kangaroo grass. Not that they ate the grass, but as you can imagine it did attract a certain tasty herbivore.

Ninety minutes later, 2013: When We Were Idiots wrapped up at a local watering hole where the drinks were as refreshing as the walk. I had enjoyed experiencing a comedy show outside of a traditional venue; it allowed for more spontaneity and more encounters with road vomit. And correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that in 2013 vomit was traditionally seen as an indicator of a good time.

About: Sydney Fringe

About: Xavier Toby & When We Were Idiots

Wellington: Week 65

It reminded me a little of San Francisco. Even the buildings along the main drag had a modest Victorian sensibility- almost as if by the time the architecture had reached New Zealand, its previous decadence had been subdued by the long trip across the ocean. The skies were grey and the rain poured down in diagonal sheets. It was tough to find parking and even tougher knowing it cost four dollars an hour.

After picking up two friends that we met in Te Puke, we drove off to the New Zealand Film Archives. Everything in the collection was from New Zealand and free to view. I felt like a feature film, so I picked the first one off the top of my head- Once Were Warriors. All of us had heard this movie mentioned quite frequently, but none of us really knew what it was about.

Whew. That’s some light material this afternoon,” the curator replied when we gave him our request.

Without giving any of the plot away: the movie opened with a dirty sepia-tinged color and, at least in my eyes, ended behind a foggy, wet window. I was crying hard and black-tinged tears clouded my vision and coursed down my face. Light material indeed.

Later on we saw Te Papa- New Zealand’s national museum. The building is extremely large and to keep from being overwhelmed, we picked just a few areas for our first visit.  Since we were on the first floor we began at the natural science wing, replete with stuffed kiwibirds and earthquake simulations. The star of the show though was the colossal squid, of which Te Papa is the only museum in the world to have a specimen. It clocked in at 13.8 feet long and had eyes the size of basketballs. The body was suspended in a long casket-like tank while other bits and pieces were located in jars nearby. One jar even contained the squid’s special tentacle hooks which can rotate 360˚. I hoped to never encounter one in the ocean, this squid looked much more sinister than the ones I battled in Korea.

In between house-hunting, we also made a stop at the Weta Cave in the suburb of Miramar. Weta is the huge film effects studio that most famously worked on the LOTR trilogy. I was more curious than enthusiastic to see the “Cave” and once we walked in my suspicions were confirmed. These people can create the most magical digital environments but they are all thumbs when it comes to real-life interior design. It looked like Grandma’s curio cabinet. I was actually surprised there weren’t doilies under the prosthetic limbs.

Before leaving Miramar, we had a few hours to kill so we stopped at La Boca Loca. It was the first time I had had such delicious and authentic Mexican food since leaving the US. The corn tortillas were made in house and the salsa was fresh and piquant. Unlike the Weta Cave, the layout was open and the design stylish. We wolfed down our food with colorful splashes of hot sauce and wiped our noses on scraps of tissue. The parking was free, the rain had finished, and we had a house to check out. I had a propitious feeling and I was excited to be in Wellington.

How to get to:

New Zealand Film Archives: 84 Taranaki Street  Te Aro 6011

Te Papa: 55 Cable Street  Te Aro, Wellington 6011

Weta Cave: 1 Weka Street  Miramar, Wellington 6022

La Boca Loca: 19 Park Road  Miramar 6022

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