Splendid Parks & Gelato

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Sometimes you have moments; moments when no matter how much you force it to happen, the tip of your pen just does not reach the paper. When what you write seems to have no meaning. When how you feel is not articulated just the way you want it to. Other times, you are struck with a sudden burst of inspiration, and that’s when you know your words will flow freely with ease. Like a waterfall. This little story of mine, I just don’t know where to begin. So I’m going to type up some freestyle nonsense and call it a work of art.

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Once upon a 32 degrees Celsius summer day, I found myself walking through the streets of Surry Hills, learning about how there is no real difference between gelato and ice-cream, and that I have completely lost it when it comes to directions. I work close to Hyde Park, but I rarely visit, probably because I’m running from one place to another. Located in the centre of the Sydney CBD, Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest public park, with over 16 hectares of lush spring green grass to roll around in (my next mission). As I had the day off, I had nothing but the goal of taking in some fresh air, clearing my insane mind, bringing in tranquil energy in a mediation kind of way, and taking a few snaps with my borrowed SLR (it’s set on automatic because I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing). I got more than I bargained for, for I learnt a little history about ancient mythology with my Italian company, L, while at the Archibald Fountain. Apparently, the statue on the left of me in the photo below, is of Diana (“divine”), who was a Roman Goddess of Hunting. She was apparently super popular with the locals for she possessed supernatural powers that enabled her to talk to and command animals of the wild. Hence, the bow and arrow. I tried to pitch in to this little history lesson by trying to recall what the name of the bronze Apollo standing tall in the centre of the fountain, surrounded by horses’ heads on either side, dolphins and cute little turtles/tortoises/whatever they are called. “What’s Brad Pitt’s character called in Troy?” The name just did not come to me. Of course now I remember it! Achilles. Some good-looking chap with abs of steel (that he does not have to work hard for), with the agility of Usain Bolt. All in all, I think Hyde Park is perfect for an impromptu picnic, one with a red and white checkered mat neatly laid out and a selection of various tropical fruits in a picnic basket. Or maybe it could be an alternative option to retail therapy for City slickers, who spend their lunch breaks busily checking out the latest collections at Michael Kors or Zimmerman in Westfield Pitt Street Mall. It’s an ideal oasis for putting your feet up on one of the park benches, listening to songs for sunset on Spotify, and just forgetting about the world for a little while.

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The next pit stop was at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). AGNSW was opened in 1871, with various art collections, programs and exhibits, ranging from 19th Century Asian art pieces of ceramics and bronzes that embrace the cultures of South, Southeast and East Asia, to contemporary art that encompasses abstract painting, Post-modernism, Expressionism, screen culture and pretty funny pop art. L seemed to know a lot about European histories since he is originally from Rome, and he was more than happy to share the meaning and origins of various Italian words, you know the ones on the little description board next to each art work. The awesome thing about AGNSW, is that admission is free, and you can take as many photos as you want. So put it onto your To-Do list because it’s kind of fascinating, even if your a not-so-artsy person. It also has a beautiful panoramic view of the City. “That Milk Beach place you mentioned is on the left somewhere over there, Darlinghurst over there, Surry Hills somewhere there”. L knew more about where places were located in Sydney than me, and I was born and raised here! I just kept nodding. Apparently in some places in Italy, height restriction laws apply on multi-storey buildings  to preserve and enhance the historic character of the traditional community. All I could think about was some kind of Italian holiday villa made from Tuscan red sandstone, with violet and terracotta red flowers overhanging from its balcony. I clearly have never been to Europe, and have watched Under the Tuscan Sun far too many times.

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When I get hungry, my brain stops working and my stomach starts talking to me, “Feed me, feed me”. There is an outdoor tuckshop called missChu on Bourke St in Darlinghurst. I’ve walked past it twice before, and have been enthralled by its upbeat, yet simple design aesthetic. The founder and creative director of missChu, Nahji Chu, who likes to call herself, the Queen of Rice Paper Rolls (I wish to one day have various awesome titles like she does), has thought of a very imaginative, unconventional, and neat-o foodie concept. What I like about her is that her food empire screams her. That is, it is a fusion of her personality mixed with her academic background and colourful life experiences, growing up in of of the first Vietnamese/Laotian refugees to settle in Australia. For example, the menus are reminiscent of the canteen ordering forms in her early school days, when she was adjusting to learn a new language and way of living. They say that your journey through life is what shapes you as a person. That everything you go through happens for a reason. That no experience in life is ever bad, for you always learn something from it. If that’s true, then when I turn 50 (random number), I want to look back (wearing Louise Vuitton cat eye sunglasses in a red Ferrari), and tell myself, “You did well”. I want to take everything I’ve learnt – through people, books, and travel, mash  it all up in a mortar and pestle, and mould the resultant into a creative ball that is in line with what I do.

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I ordered the traditional Vietnamese pork roll (bahn mi), along with a lychee and cucumber, young coconut frozen crush ($16 altogether). The pork roll tasted simple, but delicious. You could tell the ingredients used were fresh. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with a Vietnamese pork roll, they always just taste so good that I have to remind myself not to eat so fast. On the other hand, the beverage felt like the best icy concoction for that hot summer day. Each sip was like a burst of happiness, for it was just so refreshing. Get it!IMG_4608

IMG_4612The day ended with eating gelato in a park in Surry Hills. If you’ve never been to Gelato Messina, you are missing out! I ‘liked’ their Facebook page, and seeing their new unique creations on my News Feed makes me want to run there. Gelato Messina is the real deal – they don’t use colourings, flavourings, preservatives and pastes.  It’s the way gelato should taste, with its bold textures and natural flavours. For instance, if they want to make a gingerbread gelato,  they’ll make the gingerbread cake themselves and crumble it to smash into the gelato. Their other ingredients are noteworthy, including oreo custard, raspberry coulis and lemongrass jam. They’ve even gone to the extreme and added exotic, out-of-the-box ingredients such as duck fat, corn chips and tomato salsa. The funny thing is that it works! It still tastes amazing. It’s like they cast some kind of spell on you, that makes you want to come back for more. I vividly remember the first time I went, it was after a work function in Darling Harbour and my co-workers all wanted to go to Messina in The Star. I can’t believe I walked 20 minutes in heals just for gelato, but they promised it would be worth it. Gelato Messina did not disappoint.

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Anyway, so I don’t know if it was because he was Italian, but L wanted to try every flavour. Maybe he wanted to make an informed decision and eat only the best (but they are all good). I went for the Chocolate Fondant and the Salted Caramel with White Chocolate. L told me that in Italian fondant meant “dark chocolate”, but I was thinking of fondant icing like the type they put on wedding cakes. It did make sense. I’m not even a fan of dark chocolate, but I found it to be bliss. I’d rate both flavours highly.  If the mix of sweet and salty in salted caramel gelato is not balanced, it’s either overpoweringly salty or sweet. But the texture of the salted caramel at Gelato Messina was soft and creamy, and then you get these little bursts of happiness with the little white chocolate pieces in it. What is even more exciting is that the Specials, which have really cool names are uniquely based on celebratory occasions such as Christmas (I wonder if they do Hanukkah). They have more than 40 various flavours at any one time and also beautifully crafted gelato cakes that look almost too good to eat. There are a couple of Gelato Messina ice-cream parlors in Sydney such as Darlinghurst, Bondi, The Star, but my personal favourite is the one in Surry Hills of the beautiful park opposite it called Shannon Reserve (Crown St), where you can enjoy your treat. The park is a popular hangout for hipsters, young parents, yoga enthusiasts, university students, roomies, and old friends.

Yours truly,

from a 22-year-old girl who loves art, taking photos and eating lots and lots of gelato.

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