I made a lightning visit to Sydney last week to do some KM consulting. I arrived late Tuesday evening and flew out 6.00pm Friday evening. The trip started off well – I caught an Emirates flight out of Christchurch. This is my favourite airline and they didn’t disappoint. It was a huge plane because it was flying onto Bangkok, then Dubai, once it offloaded hitchhikers like me in Sydney. I like Emirates’ entertainment system, so I watched (for like the fourth time I think) that hot tomali, Leonardo DiCaprio, in Inception. This is such a clever film: every time I watch it, there’s another layer to the story.

I stayed at Park8 boutique hotel in Sydney. Very central. But the first night was, well, awful. I had a room that was a miniature cat box with a frosted window that looked out onto….not sure, because you couldn’t open the window. I suspect there was a brick wall of an adjoining building behind it. The room was dark and depressing. And…the aircon wasn’t working. So I spent the night in a lather because Sydney was steamy. Around 28-30 ° (82.4-86F). Next morning, I chucked a hissy fit and was upgraded to a huge room with aircon. Heaven.

Sydney was very much the same as I remember it but oh so different. Different because the CBD now seems to me to be one giant Westfield shopping mall. When I left Sydney in May 2010, Centrepoint was being refurbished as was Skygarden, where I used to work. The last few months of getting to work were torture. Loud drilling, workmen everywhere, loose paving in the Pitt St Mall area. Shoppers and city workers had to put up with this for the sake of the AU $860 million Westfield Sydney redevelopment. Was it worth it?

After spending close to a year with five or so horses, a few cows and around 2000 people in Oxford (and I rarely see anyone) – it was a shock to suddenly be in such a busy, humming city. I soon settled in though because I was determined to check out all the new shops in Westfield Sydney (as it’s called), Mid City centre and where the old Skygarden and Imperial Arcade used to be. I admit to getting confused by all this – I think that the Westfield group has turned the Pitt St Mall area into three luxury shopping centres.

The Brands have arrived there – Armani Exchange, Christian Louboutin, Dianne von Furstenberg, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo. Brands ad nauseam. All the shopping centres I checked out were luxurious and the prices of items suitably expensive – but Sydney, what has happened to you?

Gone is the quaintness, the slightly 1940s look, the cute little shops that I remember in Imperial Arcade. Replaced by sparkly, luxury, high-end shops that frankly all look the same. Shoppers glide along on glistening tiled walkways, looking slightly punch drunk as they flit from one shop to another burdened by all the shopping bags they’re carrying. Sydney: are you trying to vie with New York? Become the Paris of the Pacific?

I don’t know. As much as I love shopping (less now that I realise there is more to life!), a part of me was sad to see Sydney’s Pitt St area so shiny and new. I was discussing this via email with my dear Aussie friend, Therese, and she made a great observation about Westfield Sydney:

I can’t decide either. Great shops but the decor is too drab/modernistic. They had a great opportunity to replicate some of the wonderful HK / Singapore shopping centres“.

And you know what? She’s right. She put her finger on the very thing that was nagging at me.  So after three days of mugginess and with my visual and auditory senses maxed out – I was glad to return home to New Zealand. I now think of NZ as home. This was going to be the test for me – would I want to return to Australia after going back or would I be happy to come back to NZ?

I am glad to be in rural NZ. The nights are dark and quiet. Life is slow with no stress.

You're a hot tomali Leo!

Just after checking into the hotel, I had a bite to eat at Bambini Trust cafe - Elizabeth St. You can sit out on the pavement and watch life go by.

The War Memorial in Hyde Park. I do like a stroll around Hyde Park.

Love the Australian White Ibis birds that just saunter around Hyde Park. They are quite bold.

OMG! Zara is opening up at Westfield Sydney.

Looking down Pitt Street Mall.

One of the entrances to Westfield Sydney.

Mid City shopping centre in Sydney's CBD.

Strade Arcade: at least this still looks the same.

Westfield Sydney.

Walking along Pitt St Mall.