This is particularly precious as the last couple of times I was here – three and five years ago – I felt oddly displaced and weird.
It’s just really really peculiar going back somewhere you’ve lived and been very happy, when you don’t live there any more. You’re not a tourist and you’re not a local, it’s very disconcerting.
I feel like that in London sometimes, so to have the weirds in the two cities which have been my home and which I love the most is confusing and upsetting. Even though I always love seeing my adored friends here, being in Sydney, but not living here, makes me feel stateless.
I don’t feel like that this time though. I think it’s partly that it’s the longest break I’ve had from Australia since 1993, so it feels fresh again – but I think the bigger part of it is the new philosophy of travel I adopted a couple of years ago.
I have a rule: only go to new places.
This might mean an entirely new country – like Sweden, where I went for the first time last year (looooooved it) – or, more importantly, when visiting places you know well, don’t go to all your old haunts.
Going back to your favourite restaurant, where you used to have lunh practically every day, will only remind you that you don’t live there any more. And that will just remind you that you’re not that person any more.
It’s a kind of death by nostalgia.
So on this trip so far I’ve had breakfast in two new places – John Montagu in Woolloomooloo and Gypsy in Potts Point, lunch at The Wine Library (with the world’s most handsome waiter) and dinner at Cho Cho Sam and Chiswick.
I’ve loved them all and rather than chasing the ghosts of my youthful days, I’ve added wonderful new experiences to the fabric of my memory – which I’m realising is even more important to keep doing as you get older.
As the years flash by, it’s all too easy to keep looking back and thinking things were better before. There’s nothing wrong with remembering happy times and feeling grateful you had them – and I’ve loved doing my favourite walk from Potts Point to the Opera House and strolling through my beloved Rushcutters Bay – but it’s crucial to ration it a bit.
Don’t get all Proustian on yourself. Live now. Live new.
(Although I must confess there’s one old favourite I just couldn’t go past – I had to have a Tiger from Harry’s Cafe de Wheels…)