On the Australia Day long weekend, I enjoyed one last mini break before school started and work started in full for me. It’s a little thing I tend to do as one last avoidance of stresses that normal life seems to bring. Just that one last grasp onto something that makes me smile and helps me stay in the moment.
This last trip we all went to Newcastle.
My mum was from Newcastle, and so my early childhood has many memories of visiting newcastle, long before BHP left, long before the railways pulled back and long before stagnation took hold. As a kid none of that mattered, just the excitment of escalators in the Jesmond mall, the flash David Jones carpark in the city and the huge expanse of the Kotara shopping centre. Not to mention the Mereweather ocean baths and bar beach.
They are great memories.
You would have to say that with the recent history of Newcastle in mind, time has not been kind.
Economic downturns, GFC, BHP pullout, corruption on a grand scale (Nathan Tinkler I am speaking to you) meant investment in Newcastle had almost ground to a halt and you would have to say the place tended to have the reputation of a tough, dirty steel town, full of tough people, a bit boganish, a bit deflated and bereft of a positive agenda.
Hard to move forward with such a negative mindset. Places became run down and businesses closed. It wouldn’t have been high on my list of places to visit.
and yet somehow, people had a belief that Newcastle was a great place.
They had vision and determination that things could turn around.
yes, government needed to be involved, BHP needed to be involved, especially after all that Newcastle had given to them, but more than that Newcastle itself had a lot to offer.
It has great bones.
The inner city of Newcastle, old and run down as it is, is a revelation. Amazing what some out of the box thinking, some creative types and a determination to be positive, in spite of the environment has achieved.
It was like Melbourne, but with better weather. The potential and direction it is heading in is a real eye opener.
Due to a lack of investment over the years (or rather a penchant for developers hoping to make a quick buck, building crap, rather than taking time to consolidate and build on something timeless ) had meant that all the new work had been on the edge of the CBD and the amazing wool stores, old sandstone buildings and old pubs remain. Facades intact from pre-world war 2, crumbling but beautiful were everywhere.
Bringing people back into the city was obviously a priority, the Newcastle revitalisation process commenced. A team of people who could see the beauty of these old bones and their potential knew that the area just needed some love.
I am not sure if someone at sometime had wanted to raze the lot, but thank god they didn’t.
A significant amount of investment has been undertaken with more coming in restoring the inherit beauty of the space. Apartments fill these beautiful old buildings, exteriors restored with a modern twist, the city is coming to life. Coffee shops, restaurants and bars are so close, pop up art galleries are everywhere, artisan wares exist side by side with more traditional retail. The law fraternity is sprinkled amongst some funky tech and design firms. I have never seen so many architectural businesses in the one place.
If you want more traditional and fast paced dining then wander down to honeysuckle wharf, and view the reclamation of old disused wharf’s and wool stores, all the while gazing across to the working harbour and the remnants of BHP.
This shot below was from one of the many places to eat, drink or be merry as you wander along the foreshore. It was refreshing to just walk the east end of Newcastle and take it all in. Brendon and I had great chats about beautiful architecture about building something meaningful, taking something that looks old and rundown and to turning it into something amazing.
People wander and suck up the ambience. The whole place buzzed and had a really great funky vibe. and that was just the city - we didn’t get time to wander Darby Street.
We just loved it - it was good for the soul, it was good all the way down into my bones.
So why the travelogue?
I really find that travelling is where I am happiest. My psychologist wanted me to prepare a list of things that make me happy so that I could do more of them. After struggling to list anything, travel was top of my list.
I love to see new things, to experience new places and to wander. I find that I am most contented when I do that and I love to share that feeling with others. It’s not running from life, it allows me to enjoy life. I take those feelings back to the day to day and I find it helps to sustain me when things are hard.
Of all the advice I have received, the mantra to do more of what makes you happy sticks with me and travel is my thing.
So getting out of the house, even for a weekend and changing the scenery can make you happy, it makes me happy. A simple walk along the beautiful Macquarie river can seem like a mini break when you just breathe it in. You just have to give those simple things a little chance.
It lets you see that the environment we live in can be beautiful even when run down and tired. Just like us.
We all have good bones, sometimes we just need to work a little to restore that goodness so that we can see it and believe it.
and then others can..