Quiet Places in Sydney
1. Schaeffer Fine Arts Library, University of Sydney
Located within the R.C. Mills Building on the University of Sydney’s Camperdown campus, the Schaeffer Fine Arts library strictly enforces its rules against group discussions, mobile phones and food and drink, making it one of the most authentically silent libraries in Sydney. The two mild-mannered librarians seem to have a sixth sense for the sound of a Snickers bar or chip packet being surreptitiously opened, and if you attempt this transgression you’ll be politely - but firmly - reminded of the rules. So if you’re looking for somewhere to pull an all-night study sesh fuelled by Red Bull and Twisties, this is not the place for you. If you want to borrow out books, print anything off, or even enjoy the comfort of air-conditioning - turn back now. But if you’re willing to forgo all of this for serenity, pleasant lighting and one of the best available collections of books and volumes on art and film, then pay Schaeffer a visit. Don’t skip over all the Japanese goodness in the Toshiba International Foundation Room.
2. Federation Pavilion, Centennial Park
This unassuming dome near the York St Gates of Sydney’s Centennial Park was built to house a small obelisk called the ‘Federation Stone’, which - apart from sounding like something from a fantasy novel - apparently commemorates the unity of Australia’s states and territories. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that no-one ever visits the Pavilion, which has always looked to me like a temple you might build in Age of Empires. The (very small) interior is a cool oasis of marble and sandstone, inlaid with some kind of historically/culturally relevant artwork. Whatever. More importantly, it’s a beautiful and mysterious refuge on a hot day, so if you’ve got a good book and or a date to make out with there are plenty worse places you could spend your time.
3. Weird bars in the CBD
While drinking alone is not generally advisable, there are times when the mood strikes. If you find yourself in the CBD with, a). the desire to pretend you are someone else; b). some reading material and a thirst for scotch; or c). a little spare time for people watching; then a weird, empty bar might help you wet your whistle. If you’re going balls to the wall it’s easy enough to hit somewhere like Zeta Bar at the Hilton, get a >$20 cocktail and pretend to be Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. The non-ballers amongst us, however, can enjoy no-frills drinks (think a handful of beers, house wines and bottom-shelf whiskey) and hope that we won’t be mistaken for an escort at seedy, lost-in-time establishments such as the International Nippon Australia New Zealand Club or CTA Business Club Bar. Alternatively, find an empty dive of your own - as a general rule, anywhere that makes you sign in at the door or has no English-language menu is a good start (+ points for both).
4. Fred Hollows Reserve, Randwick (look for the sign either on Alison Road or Bligh Place)
Formerly known as Glebe Gully (despite being nowhere near Glebe), I would also nominate this small section of Randwick as one of the greenest places in Sydney. The whole place is an unexpected world of green from the ground to the canopy of trees overhead, which appears out of nowhere as you descend into the gorge. This tiny pocket is so deep, green and full of bird sounds that you’re liable to forget that you’re in a suburb of metropolitan Sydney, if only for the short time it takes to walk from one side to the other.
By Doctor Butt