The Queen Victoria building. Sydney, NSW, Australia. 2009

Today I went into the city to meet up with fellow blogger Vanille who has come over from New Zealand with her husband, Paprika for a short trip.

Vanille is a French woman with a real sense of style, a fabulous food photographer and cook who has a deep interest in architecture. So when I offered to show her and Paprika around town I felt a little worried about where to take them. The weather as been pretty lousy here in Sydney lately so I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the easy way out with a trip on the harbour which always pleases. I asked what places they’d wanted to visit and the told me the Powerhouse museum and Darling Harbour. I’ve been to those two place several times and felt they weren’t that interesting but I thought that they might be of interest to others who had never seen them so I didn’t try to dissuade them.

Sydney is like any other tourist destination, in that it has heaps of over hyped opportunities to blow money and time on very little.

The first place we went to was the Powerhouse Museum which features technology and design. Although the Powerhouse museum was much vaunted in various design media when it was first opened, it is now a tired old triumph of style over substance. Dark displays hidden under noisy soundscapes and wretched projected video excess. I felt embarrassed that I was there with people of obvious taste and intelligence. Mercifully, Vanille and Paprika were self assured enough to let me know they’d rather see something else, so we bailed and headed for nearby Chinatown for lunch.

Despite the best efforts of whatever committee that has tried to turn Chinatown into a tourist experience, it is still a great place to go for excellent and cheap food. I particularly recommend the Sussex centre which is basically an Asian shopping mall that has a fantastic food hall of very authentic Chinese food from all over Asia. One of my favourite dishes that I like to turn visitors (who are unfamiliar with the food of South East Asia) onto, is the laksa (I prefer the Katong style).

After lunch we went to Darling Harbour which, despite being promoted as a tourist attraction, is nothing more than yet another retail mall with more tourist nick-knacks per square metre than just about anywhere else in Australia.

I think that what the people who design such places don’t understand, is that there should something that makes the place worthwhile to visit on an intrinsic level rather than just a place to shop. Darling harbour is just one of those lame-arse copies of the glasshouse Eaton centre in Toronto Canada with very little to offer to anyone other than pathological shoppaholic. At least it’s near the water and gives a good view of the city.

To my mind, Vanille and Paprika were starting to look a little dispirited with some of Sydney’s major tourist traps and when the pouring rain came I knew I had to think fast.

Vanille has studied architecture and we had been talking about the design of various things so I thought I should show her the beautiful Queen Victoria building as a way to show that not everything in Sydney is a clumsy and crass attempt to separate tourists from their money.

The Queen Victoria building (also known as the QVB) is a stunningly ornate sandstone shopping centre  built in the late 19th century that has been recently renovated.

It’s a building that has much old world charm and it offers so much more than a chance to merely shop. The QVB is an aesthetic tour de force that is so rare in these days of soulless shopping malls and tourist traps.

13 thoughts on “The Queen Victoria building. Sydney, NSW, Australia. 2009”

  1. Hi Razz, all tourist destinations have tourist traps – and on a five-minute walk from the tourist trap you are far away from the tour buses, souvenirs and over-priced low junkfood and softdrinks and you are back in the real world. See Venice on your blog, five minutes from San Marco cute girls walked with mobile phones permanently glued to their ears.

    Here, for Vanille & Paprika from Kiwiland the neighbouring Ozzie alternetives for over-hyped Sydney of Sunshine Queensland and man-eating Saltie Northern Territory are: Canberra, Adelaide and Southern Oz, Perth and Western Oz. And probably Sydney have their own alternetives for the overhyped ones Powerhouse Museum & Darling Harbour

    Thank you very much about describing, I know where I not must go when I go to Oz.

    Of course, Kroket Country where I live have their own tourist traps, and their superb alternetives. Forget Amsterdam or Volendam with Japanese camera folk, go to Haarlem or Leiden

    Yours, Joost

  2. C’mon…you kill me with these interior shots! Give Vanille and Paprika a print and their trip will have been worth it! I’ve never quite seen one with such a range of colors and pattern/texture.

  3. Wow, what colors! A fabulous redo, even if it is for a shopping mall. And a great shot; I love the symmetry of shape coupled with the bold asymmetry of color.
    Why do the developers of tourist attractions underestimate the intelligence of visitors so badly? Surely there are a few who enjoy those “attractions”, but there must be far more who don’t, but are afraid to admit it.

  4. So if the rain was not raining, and they had no special destination in mind, where would you have taken them?

    It’s top picks time!

  5. Joost

    Of course you’re right about getting away from the obvious places that everyone goes to. I wish I knew about Haarlem and Leiden when I went to the Netherlands. Oh well, perhaps next time.


    Thanks. When are you coming to Sydney so you can see all this stuff yourself? I’ll take you around town and even carry your camera bag.


    Thanks. I think we can never underestimate enough, how much developers underestimate us.


    Vanille and Paprika had already been to see the “Rocks” (the oldest, part of white settlement in Oz) and the Opera House which are touristy but very worth going to visit. If I had’ve taken them to the Rocks, I would’ve shown them the “Lord Nelson” hotel and the “Hero of Waterloo” hotel which are some of the oldest pubs in Oz and they serve nice food.

    I alway recommend that visitors always go for a ferry ride to anywhere on the harbour because it’s one of the cheapest and nicest things to do in the city. A trip to Fort Denison (it’s on a tiny island in the middle of the harbour) to eat at the restaurant and enjoy the views is always good.

    The Botanical gardens are also quite nice. Chinatown is a great place to eat. The NSW art gallery has a few worthwhile exhibits.

    For me though, the interesting places are outside of the city proper. The Royal National Park in the south of Sydney is a great place to walk and watch hang gliders at Stanwell Tops.

    Today I’m taking Vanille and Paprika to the Blue Mountains (100kms out of Sydney to the west) to show them various natural vistas where one can look over a couple of national parks that abut each other and when taken together, are bigger than Belgium. It’s possible to see views that extend for as far as the eye can see that have no signs of human habitation or effect.

  6. Now you’re making me nostalgic. I completely agree about Darling Harbour and The Powerhouse. The first is overcrowded and the second overrated. But when living in Syd-o my family and I spent many happy hours at the QVB – what a great building! Like you say, it’s also great in the rain because you can be in there for ages and not be bothered by whatever’s going on outside.
    As for Sydney’s Chinatown, it has some of the BEST dim sum I’ve ever eaten in my time on this planet. I’d say you’re a pretty adaptable and excellent guide.

  7. Epic

    Glad to hear from you again and congratulations on your wedding. Next time you’re in Sydney we’ll have to get together and go for some Yum Cha.

  8. You betcha Razz!
    I’ll tell Monsieur.
    The wedding was lovely but it’s nice to be back. It already feels so long ago. Time flies, especially when you’re on a beach.

  9. We really felt so lucky to meet you. Your love for your city and your country made the experience even more enjoyable !
    And this shot is amazing…

  10. Epic

    So yum cha it is! I know quite a few Chinese people here and I’m sure that in a few minutes after some questions, I’ll know the best place in town to go to.


    I really enjoyed meeting you guys as well and I love the idea of sharing nice things with like minded people.

  11. China town used to be my favourite lace to eat when I lived in Sydney. I haven’t been it the QV building for about 20 years. Fantastic colours in the photo

  12. Ummm… Actually it was my favourite Place to eat. I don’t usually eat lace. I have a dicky P key on my keyboard

  13. Tony

    Chinatown is still a good place to eat, and there is a really great place there called “The Barbeque King”, that does the best barbecue Chinese pork and duck.

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