FEET FIRST

Themed city strolls can lead to all sorts of dis­cov­er­ies, from the per­fect spot for a bar­gain buy or a culi­nary de­light, to the one-time haunt of an in­fa­mous mur­derer

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Australia -

YOU’D walk a long way be­fore en­coun­ter­ing a tour guide as en­er­getic as Susan Rosen­baum. This New Yorker is pas­sion­ate about the food of the Big Ap­ple. ‘‘ New York­ers like to eat and they like to keep things sim­ple,’’ she says. But there are lovely lay­ers of com­plex­ity to her food-themed strolls as she leads small groups through the Lower East Side, Chi­na­town and Lit­tle Italy.

Rosen­baum calls her com­pany En­thu­si­as­tic Gourmet, and it’s an apt de­scrip­tion. I join her on a three-hour ex­cur­sion that moves at a crack­ing pace across culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences as dis­parate as Viet­namese, His­panic, kosher, Chi­nese and Ital­ian.

High­lights in­clude Kos­sar’s Bialy Bak­ery at 367 Grand St: a bialy is a saucer-sized piece of flat bread with a mushy onion-filled cen­tre. Rosen­baum re­minds me that in Mel Brooks’s stage hit The­P­ro­duc­ers, the cen­tral char­ac­ter, Max Bi­a­ly­stock, hails from the Pol­ish city that gave the bialy its name.

Around the cor­ner at 49 Es­sex St are the Pickle Guys, who dis­play their vine­gary wares in gi­ant bar­rels, like Ali Baba jars. As we con­tinue along Grand Street, eth­nic neigh­bour­hoods blur and soon there’s the pun­gent smell of jas­mine in­cense in the air as we eye the shiny fish at Chi­nese-run seafood shops. Next is Lit­tle Italy, decked with red, white and green bunting. Fer­rara’s Bak­ery (195 Grand St) bills it­self as ‘‘ Amer­ica’s first es­presso bar’’ and the ri­cotta-stuffed can­noli is di­vinely good. We have been hap­pily sated on a tour across myr­iad borders in just half a day.

www.en­thu­si­as­tic­gourmet.com Susan Kuro­sawa

Old In­dia hand: ‘‘ And this,’’ says Satish Ja­cob, ‘‘ is the street where the Bri­tish pa­raded the palan­quin of Ba­hadur Shah Za­far II af­ter they cap­tured him, the last king of Delhi, last of the Mughal em­per­ors.’’ We are stand­ing in Chandi Chowk, the main artery of Old Delhi. It’s a full frontal as­sault on the senses: a bat­tery of noise, smells, colour and the crush of bod­ies in a place where per­sonal space is mea­sured in mere cen­time­tres.

Ja­cob sighs. ‘‘ This street has seen so much, you know. The sack of Delhi when Tamer­lane left be­hind pyra­mids of skulls, the golden age un­der Shah Ja­han, the car­nage of 1857 when the Bri­tish slaugh­tered women and chil­dren. Care for an­other co­conut puff?’’

A for­mer BBC In­dia correspondent, Ja­cob now leads per­am­bu­la­tions of Old Delhi, pro­vided you have the right con­tacts. He grew up here in the 1950s, in the years fol­low­ing par­ti­tion and In­dian in­de­pen­dence, whack­ing a cricket ball around the court­yard of one of the havelis at a time when wealthy Mus­lim mer­chants still main­tained th­ese ex­trav­a­gant and clois­tered fam­ily com­pounds.

Anec­dote fol­lows anec­dote as Ja­cob leads us through the al­leys of the spice bazaar, past jew­ellers’ shops and the wed­ding sari bazaar, but the tour de­mands imag­i­na­tion. He takes us up to the top floor of a ram­shackle build­ing, dodg­ing pant­ing skele­tons with gunny sacks full of spices on their backs.

‘‘ This was once a zenana, a harem. There were foun­tains down here, and gar­dens full of roses.’’ Just then a pea­cock ap­pears on a balustrade and screeches might­ily, puff­ing out its feath­ers for an ex­trav­a­gant mo­ment that leaves even Ja­cob smil­ing and silent.

www.aber­crom­biekent.com.au Michael Ge­bicki

Rip­per tour: I feel a lit­tle fear­ful traips­ing Lon­don’s dimly lit sidestreets and al­leys where Jack the Rip­per went about his bloody busi­ness. It’s not the shadow of the in­fa­mous Vic­to­rian killer of pros­ti­tutes that raises the hack­les but the go­ings-on of the lo­cals, who at times like to have a bit of fun at guide Don­ald Rum­be­low’s ex­pense, mim­ing stab­bings be­hind his back or adding a lit­tle un­wel­come de­tail to his gory sto­ries.

Rum­be­low, an ex-po­lice­man and Rip­per ex­pert, car­ries his blue plas­tic stool aloft as we head from Tower Hill Tube sta­tion at 7.30pm sharp on the pop­u­lar Jack the Rip­per walk. He doesn’t spare the de­tails as we stroll from one crime scene to an­other. In Goul­ston Street we study the arch­way where the Rip­per left a bloody apron and a mes­sage un­til Rum­be­low’s talk is in­ter­rupted by a loud clat­ter that sounds like a metal dust­bin on the march. ‘‘ The lo­cals are get­ting a lit­tle rest­less,’’ he says, pick­ing up his stool and head­ing for safer ter­ri­tory.

Com­mer­cial Street, where the Rip­per’s fifth and fi­nal vic­tim, Mary Kelly, was last seen alive on the evening of Novem­ber 9, 1888, is dim and suit­ably spooky.

At a pub break, Rum­be­low takes the chance to sign a few of his Rip­per books. It’s a sell-out. More than 100 years af­ter the crimes, the fas­ci­na­tion with Jack lives on.

www.jack­therip­per­walk.com Barry Oliver

City snoop: Pas­sion: Syd­ney’s Wild Side — part of the City of Syd­ney’s self-guided his­tor­i­cal walk­ing tour se­ries — takes the walker rather co­quet­tishly by the hand through Kings Cross and into the ad­join­ing lo­cales of Potts Point and El­iz­a­beth Bay. The idea is to snoop, re­fer­ring to a densely cross­hatched map, guided by serendip­ity.

The me­an­der­ing tour ex­plores the an­thro­pol­ogy of the Cross, its ar­chi­tec­ture and so­cial his­tory, its many cul­tural trans­for­ma­tions and in­te­gra­tions. The las­civ­i­ous painter Don­ald Friend was at­tracted to the Cross in the 1940s, look­ing for its ‘‘ gen­uine Ber­lin air . . . where ev­ery­body is wicked’’. Th­ese days artists re­turn to live here, at­tracted by the City of Syd­ney’s $30 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion, which trans­formed parts of the area into a precinct of stylish apart­ments.

Th­ese ar­eas now run to gold credit cards, capped teeth and brand-name hand­bags, a long way from the sin­gle rooms with a gas ring in the cor­ner and girls who leaned out ‘‘ from heaven over light wells, thump­ing mops’’, im­mor­talised by poet Ken­neth Slessor in the ’ 40s. But parts of the Cross are still scruffy and the risque lurks, suck­ing the sub­urbs dry of the young and not-so-young, the sin­gle and notso-sin­gle. And you can still see pasty faces and hot­pants backed into door­ways.

‘‘ It’s where vul­gar­ity, lower class, taste and pros­ti­tu­tion meet,’’ lo­cal writer Louis Nowra once com­mented, adding that it was a won­der­ful thing.

‘‘ You can be any­body as long as you’re in­ter­est­ing.’’

www.city­of­syd­ney.nsw.gov.au/his­tory Graeme Blun­dell

Shop and stop: Slip­ping through Melbourne’s or­nate ar­cades, back­streets and ob­scure laneways is the vin­tage con­nois­seur’s idea of brows­ing heaven, and if you’re very fast (as I am) there’s even the pos­si­bil­ity of a pur­chase.

Fiona Sweet­man, queen of Hid­den Se­crets Tours, leads me through this en­chanted do­main on her Lanes and Ar­cades Tour (Tues­days to Satur­days, 10am for about 31/

2 hours, with two to eight strollers). Camp­bell Ar­cade is the un­der­ground vestibule to a rail­way sta­tion built for the 1956 Olympics and dec­o­rated with Ital­ian mar­ble col­umns and salmon-pink wall tiles (the bar­ber at the Touch of Paris Men’s Hair­dresser sings as he works; cuts, $12). Next door is The Cat’s Meow, an out­let for stu­dent de­sign artists. We’re off to a good start.

We visit Camp­bell, Block and Cathe­dral ar­cades, Ni­cholas Build­ing and Cen­tre Place; vin­tage clothes, Ital­ian shoe shops, cafes (in­clud­ing the sump­tu­ous Koko Black choco­late maker), a louche lin­gerie bou­tique, bags, de­signer la­bel out­lets, be­spoke sta­tionery. We slip into Base­ment Discs, a war­ren of cel­lar spa­ces se­cret­ing the rarest of finds (I spot a CD of women artists singing jazz in Paris; the plas­tic card is in my pocket). And the iron lace, mo­saic floors, lead­lights and painted ceil­ings are priceless.

www.hid­dense­cret­s­tours.com Ju­dith Elen

Added bite: Think San Fran­cisco and you think food. Or Chi­na­town. Per­haps both. En­ter the ir­re­press­ible Shirley Fong-Tor­res, chef, au­thor, television per­son­al­ity and com­mit­ted bon vi­vant whose Wok Wiz walk­ing tours, con­ducted by a team of lo­cal guides also flu­ent in Can­tonese, bring Chi­na­town to life in a way no ca­sual am­ble ever could.

As we walk the busy lanes of this com­pact city precinct, the sound of click­ing mahjong tiles can be heard through open win­dows and the spicy waft of cook­ing food is ev­ery­where.

This is a tour that, like an army, marches on its stom­ach. There might be the odd cul­tural stop here and there for a brief cal­lig­ra­phy les­son, or to light in­cense in a tem­ple re­built af­ter the great earth­quake, per­haps to stock up on herbs at Wan Hua Co, where bills are still cal­cu­lated on an aba­cus, but es­sen­tially it’s all about the food, with those tempt­ing street smells lur­ing walk­ers deeper into the city. At the charm­ing Red Blos­som Tea Com­pany, pro­pri­etors Peter and Alice Luong whip up pots of milk-in­fused oo­long for­mosa for the weary trekkers.

The three-hour tour ends with lunch at one of sev­eral pop­u­lar dim sum restau­rants. If you’re lucky enough to have Fong-Tor­res as your guide, ev­ery dish comes with an­other food tale from the rich stores of her fam­ily’s im­mi­grant ex­pe­ri­ence.

www.wokwiz.com Chris­tine McCabe

Step by step: Top left and be­low, a taste of New York; cen­tre, an Old Delhi mar­ket; right, from top, one of Melbourne’s se­crets; Jack the Rip­per; ap­proach­ing Syd­ney’s Kings Cross in 1966

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