Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

The smell of the sea. Hustle and bustle as rowdy customers move closer to their prize. The satisfaction of de-shelling a fresh prawn in the morning sunshine as the hungry seagulls circle overhead.

Sydney Fish Market is my favourite weekend treat. Picking up the freshest fish, deciding which mouthwatering recipe to try out and serving up the results that night. It’s a day-long affair and one of the most enjoyable things to do in Sydney.

The fish market itself now offers lots more than just fish – there’s a fresh deli to start. With cheeses, cooked meats or specialist pantry goods. You can grab a coffee and a baked treat from the mini cafe. There’s also a greengrocers with fresh fruit and veg.

Here’s my trip to the Sydney fish market in images….and the results of my visit that evening in the form of a Sydney-style Spanish Paella…..

Oyster-shucking at the market

One of the larger fishes I spotted

fresh fish to eat at the market

Seagulls tear apart a piece of discarded fish

Fish on ice

Ling fish

Plus, everything else on offer at the market:

Deli cheese

Deli meats

Trying to avoid purchasing any of this..

Finally, the results of my shopping trip….

The final results….a delicious paella

And some sangria with fruits from the on-site greengrocer

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Bookshelves with books

Books are pricey in Australia (Image of Berkelouw Books in Paddington, Sydney)

As a keen reader, I took it forgranted in the UK how cheap it is to buy the latest paperback books. Wander into any supermarket and pick up 3for2, 3 for ten pounds or buy one get one half price on best-selling authors.

Over in Australia I had a shock in the local bookstore when I found average paperbacks retailing at around $25 each (GBP15 pounds). Like the cost of many everyday items in Australia, it’s been hard to adapt to books being so expensive.

So, over the last few years I’ve taken to visiting second-hand bookstores in Sydney to pick up nearly new versions of some of the best selling books on the high street. A bonus is that the sellers will often buy back books from you as well, so I try and take in some to sell before I buy any more too. Here’s my selection of my favourite second-hand bookstores in Sydney.

1) Darling Street Books, 648 Darling Street, Rozelle

This really is the treasure chest of second-hand books. Every single nook of this tiny store is crammed with books – fiction and non-fiction. From the latest best-selling chick lit, to autobiographies of Australia’s past prime ministers, you can find anything you want here. Worth the visit alone is the opportunity to see the shopkeeper tally up your sale and pencil it into his thumbed notebook of books sold – there’s no cutting-edge till system in use here and it’s a quaint and traditional shopping experience.

Darling Street bookstore in Rozelle

Entrance to bookstore

The entrance to Darling Street Books in Rozelle

2) Gleebooks, 191 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

Three years ago as a skint backpacker I took a walk out to Gleebooks from my hostel in search of a book to read. I wasn’t disappointed. There’s a huge range to choose from and reasonable prices if you’re on a budget. Plus it’s an easy stroll from most of the backpacker accommodation in the Sydney CBD, which means it’s top choice for the traveller.

3) Sappho Books, 51 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

If you’re visiting Gleebooks, then you’ll also want to pop into Sappho Books a short walk down the street. Settle in to the bookstore for the afternoon as it also doubles as a cafe and wine bar.

4) Berkelouw Bookshop Paddington, 19 Oxford Street, Paddington

Not only does this bookstore sell new AND second-hand books, but it also houses a cafe and is open til late in the evening.

Better still, it also looks completely amazing and is my favourite for a Saturday browse followed by brunch in the local area.


The beautiful Berkelouw Books in Paddington

So, that’s my top picks for second-hand bookstores in Sydney. Where are yours?

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One of the best parts of a trip back to London is a chance to go on a shopping spree to the famous British high street and pick up some bargains in Topshop, New Look or Primark.

So I should be really excited that Topshop opened its doors to the Australian public in Melbourne last month. And I should be even more happy that later this year, a second store will open here in Sydney.

Right? Wrong.

I think the decision to allow Topshop to open up shop in Australia was a big mistake.

Here’s why:

1)    It will undermine the Topshop brand

Australians love Topshop. They are crazy for it. You’ve only got to read about how hundreds camped out overnight for the Melbourne opening to realise this. And tell any female Australian between the age of 13 – 35 years old that you’re from England and I guarantee that shortly afterwards she’ll ask you about Topshop.

But the point is, Australians love Topshop because they can’t shop there. It’s seen as this magical shopping haven, a dreamy place that is so amazing, precisely because so few of them have ever been or ever owned anything from there.

Compare this to the UK, where you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t own something from Topshop. It’s just doesn’t stay exciting after that.

Topshop is the epitome of the British High Street, by making it more accessible to the worldwide market it will lose its desirability as a brand and the exclusivity that comes with having to go all the way to England to buy from it. It may sound an exaggeration, but Topshop also plays its part in Brand Britain, a ‘must-do’ on the list of every female from Oz who has ever managed to make the trip overseas. So it won’t just be Topshop that suffers.

2)    It won’t be as good as Topshop

Australia faces huge challenges in shipping and distribution due to its size and distance between major cities (and the rest of the world). Prices are high here because it costs so much to get anything sent here.

One of the signature appeals of Topshop is that the stock changes weekly, daily sometimes, to keep fashion forward and relevant. Topshop Australia just won’t be able to compete with the low prices, turnover of stock and varied selection that is available in Europe. With just two outlets in Oz, and several continents away from the remainder of the chain, I really doubt we will be able to buy much of the range that is advertised on the UK website.

3)    It will ruin Australian retailers

Even if Topshop can keep its prices cheap, why is that a good thing? It will undercut much of the Australian high street (where prices are notoriously high) and be a stab in the back to Australian homegrown retailers. Sydney high streets should be occupied by Australian designers, a signal of support to Australian brands and a chance for further growth. Why bring in Topshop to lure the dollars from the purse of teenagers and young women. We’ve already had Zara opening in Sydney and Melbourne late last year and now Topshop, where will it end?  It’s well publicised that whilst the Australian economy is thriving, Aussie high street retailers are not. Sales are down, stores are closing and we need to give them all the support we can to help them to survive. Not plunge in amongst them unfair competition of cheap clothing to replace them.

4)    We need to protect Australia from disposable fashion

Australia should be proud of the fact it hasn’t succumbed to the world of disposable fashion like Britain has. There is nothing comparable to the likes of Primark here, and long may that last. Women here still choose style and quality over a cheap piece of fabric that they will wear once then throw away.

5)    Our High Streets will all look the same

This is the one I’m most sad about. Topshop Sydney will be located in the old Gowings building (old Supre store) on George Street. It’s a landmark location and one of the busiest intersections in the city. Deadset in the centre of the city on probably the most famous street in Sydney. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s because it’s nearly identical in spec to that of Topshop on Oxford Street. But imitating the original will only encourage comparisons. The British tourist arriving in Sydney later this year will just see a high street that is disappointingly similar to that which they’ve just left at home. And what’s the appeal then?

What do you think? Is Topshop a good addition to the British High Street?

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