26 September 2023

It was just over 50 years ago

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By John Rozentals.

The Aspire’s Gumtree: the quiet gurgle of water over glass panelling is a definite plus.

So, if you were old enough to be compus at the time, where were you about midday Sydney-time on July 21, 1969, as Neil Armstrong took mankind’s first tentative steps on the moon?

It was one of those occasions many of us remember, even if it happened just over 50 years ago. It really was that significant an event.

I certainly remember where I was — walking through Chippendale on my way to work, not far from the Powerhouse’s current location. A peek at the box could wait till later.

Of course, much effort has gone into remembering the fiftieth anniversary of Armstrong’s extraordinary feat, watched closely from above by Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11’s landing craft —and by an estimated 600 million people worldwide on live-to-air TV.

So close to the city: but the Aspire might as well be in the country.

It’s only natural that places such as Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, also known as MAAS (the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences — visit www.maas.museum) and located in Ultimo, within fairly simple walking distance of the city’s Central Railway Station, should make a big deal of such a milestone.

And so, indeed it has, devoting quite a deal of its precious inner-city floorspace to it and featuring some 200 key objects from the time, including parts of the rocket that put the first American into space, and a feed horn used at the Dish — the CSIRO’s Parkes Radio Telescope — which was responsible for receiving some of the very first images of the moonwalk televised around the world.

The exhibition is on until June 30 next year, and believe me, it’s well worth seeing. If only to realise just how close they came to failing disastrously.

The Powerhouse: well worth a few hours of your time.

But the Powerhouse and its many hands-on scientific and industrial exhibits are worth a few hours of your time anyway, and it’s open daily from 10am-5pm at 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, until at least the middle of next year, with a move to the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta scheduled to take place by 2023. Enjoy one of Sydney’s icons while you can.

Meanwhile, my choice of digs for the Apollo-exhibition visit was straight forward and easy.

One of my favourite Sydney hotels — Metro’s Aspire (visit www.metrohotels.com.au) — is located just around the corner from the Powerhouse in Bulwara Road, where I used to work for the NSW Bottle Company in student days, when it was still okay for truckies to be given a schooner on each of their visits to the nearby Kensington Brewery, occasionally six times a day

I treat staying at the Aspire a little like going to a very comfortable city home but one situated in the country. Despite its very urban location it occupies its own patch of greenery and it has a peacefulness to it that completely belies its position.

Plenty for kids to do: The Powerhouse has many hands-on scientific and industrial exhibits.

The rooms are comfortable and well equipped, with a lighting level that must be the envy of most hotels; and the rates are more than reasonable given the Aspire’s proximity to locations such as Central, Darling Harbour, Haymarket, China Town and the totally revamped Chippendale.

And the Gumtree, which fills the double role of gorgeous breakfast venue and delightful evening bar/restaurant, is one of my favourite hideaways — a laid-back, relaxing place that shows it needn’t cost a fortune to outfit somewhere really attractive. And the quiet gurgle of water over glass panelling is a definite plus.

The dinner menu is well priced and well chosen, with specialties including lamb korma curry and a huge range of excellent pizzas. The wine list is limited but well enough selected and ridiculously under-priced compared with those in many downtown establishments.

Low cost: it needn’t be worth a fortune to have an attractive venue.

I’ll certainly be back to the Aspire and the Gumtree for a dose of country style in the heart of the city.

And do have a bite to eat in the MAAS Café at the Powerhouse. The burgers are excellent, the cakes are yummy and the beer and wine delish. As well, they are all good value, with plenty of choice for adults and kids.

For further information about Sydney and NSW, see www.visitnsw.com.

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