I love the experience of being in a wild place: the sight of a vast ocean, the smell of a eucalyptus forest, or the feel of lichen under my hand as I sit on a warm boulder at the edge of an escarpment. But most of my days are spent in the built spaces of the city. Here too there are places that can be equally transcendent, where the spirit soars.
Most of the places I love in the city are civic spaces, places of communal gathering that often feature gardens, water, history and inspiring architecture. In each of them, the first time I entered I felt that I had come home, that I knew the place intimately, even though I’d never been there before. I felt an affinity with its purpose. I felt I could stay there forever. Whenever I visit these places I leave refreshed and inspired.
The word inspired is a word of the late Middle Ages, a gothic time of arches and sky reaching spires; a time unafraid to acknowledge the metaphysical. So these are for me enchanted places, where magic is possible: a spell is cast, time stops, we are entranced. These are places that can feed the soul. They create memories to sip slowly when our reserves are low. They are cards to pull out and play with when we are bored. They are a door into the spiritual realm, places where our imagination and our senses are engaged, powerful places where we are linked to the earth, the sky and all of humanity.
Here are five of these enchanted places. I could list many more as I’m sure could you.
1) The Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales An Edwardian reading room with an amazing collection. http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/
2) The Quadrangle, University of Sydney An arched walkway surrounds the grassed courtyard at the centre of this tudor gothic sandstone building. http://sydney.edu.au/arts/about/quadrangle.shtml
3) Red Leaf Harbour Pool and Gardens Now the Murray Rose Pool, it is the enclosed half of Seven Shillings Beach, a stunning summer swimming spot and lovely place for a meditative walk at other times. http://www.woollahra.nsw.gov.au/
4) The Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney If you haven’t got your own herb garden visit this one. You can’t pick but you can smell: lavender, sage, rosemary, mint and hundreds of other herbs. https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/
And if you happen to be in Canberra, a planned city, so different to Sydney, this is one of my favourite places in the capital.
5) The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The graceful 1920’s architecture houses the ghosts of Australia’s recent political past. http://moadoph.gov.au/