October 24, 2011


"No city in the world impresses more [than Sydney] in its approach from the air – the harbour, the beaches, the bridge, the Opera House, the mountains". David Humphries in an otherwise fairly enjoyable whine about whiners in today's SMH.

Blimey. Hasn't he ever flown into, say, Rio, or San Francisco, or L.A. on a beautiful winter's day (when there are real mountains with snow on them only a few dozen miles from the beaches…)? Seattle gives those places a run for the money as well (something to do with that tall volcano and Puget Sound, no?). Even Chicago's a beautiful and impressive place to fly in to after a recent snowstorm (and if you want snow and mountains, try the approach into Denver from the west). And don't get me started about Hong Kong, or Wellington, or even (closer to home) South Lake Tahoe….

I suspect it's that scrappy belief that Sydney's often rather ordinary charms — whether physical or cultural — are really really (rilly!) special that helps define Sydney as being so much like any other mid-level city striving for notice (or notoriety). Not that anyone cares what I think, but Sydney's a great place (I have to say that, don't I?) with very definite charms and some unique characteristics, but a place like Sydney has to pick its battles carefully — and from the air, first impressions are often of how flat it all is and how suburban Sydney looks (as the American woman next to me commented during my last approach to the place by air).

And I'd say few cities in the world impress less on their approaches from the airport. Well, maybe San Francisco, with its utterly charmless ticky tacky box houses and industrial wastelands, or LA's 405 on a bad day, and any bit East of the East River on the way to Kennedy, but never mind, it's that view from the air that matters, no?

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