Walkin’ through Hyde Park and reminiscing…
Recently I stayed at Rydges World Square and checked out the local neighbourhood. There were many memories from my youth and many pleasant surprises. This was once the sleazy, grimy, grotty end of town… and that’s what I kinda loved about it then. It has changed to be sophisticated, cosmopolitan and interesting… and that’s what I like about it now.
Park Street in the city is an extension of William Street and it cuts through the centre of Hyde Park. Heading into the city, Hyde Park on the left takes you to the Anzac Memorial and Oxford Street… to the right takes you to the Archibald Fountain and Macquarie Street.
The right hand side was traditionally the much more attractive part of the city. It had a beckoning, sparkling harbour and Circular Quay, the atmospheric Rocks precinct, David Jones and the best shopping plus all the historic and architecturally impressive buildings – the Great Synagogue, St Mary’s Cathedral, St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, The Mint, Sydney Hospital, State Parliament, the State Library and the Conservatorium of Music. The left hand side led to Central Railway and was home to cinemas, pool halls, dingy pubs, erotica outlets, pinball parlours and an illegal casino.
These days there is no need for an illegal, shady casino at No 33 Goulburn Street because the legal and glitzy Star City Casino is just across Pyrmont Bridge. These days there’s Darling Habour, the Cockle Bay Wharf precinct, the delightful Chinese Gardens of Friendship, Tumbalong Park, the Maritime Museum, Sydney Aquarium and, of course, World Square.
In the old days Chinatown was a mysterious place with plastic tablecloths that mainly served Chicken Chow Mien and Sweet & Sour Pork to non-Chinese, who would eat it with a fork and spoon. Chinatown is still there but these days it is alive and vibrant with exciting menus and a welcoming buzz. There are also other tempting dining options – Malaysian, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Thai and Spanish.
Just up Pitt Street from Rydges World Square is the Edinburgh Castle pub. When I was a teenager it had damp carpet, smelt of stale beer and cigarettes and had a smokey billiard hall underneath. And they never asked for ID. It is now heritage listed and a trendy little place to hang out. The cinemas are also still there, just around the corner in George Street, but they are now swish and contemporary. And there are oodles of noodle bars and lots of posh boutique shops.
Yes, the once no-go but seedily inviting southern side of Sydney's CBD is now an exciting inviting do-go place with a pulse and a purpose.