S YDNEY: S WITCHED ON

Graham Erbacher

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - GRAHAM ERBACHER Graham Erbacher was a guest of Hil­ton Syd­ney.

Bright lights, big city, and even brighter mu­sic and ideas — Syd­ney’s win­ter fes­ti­val, Vivid, launched last night.

The city (along with other Aus­tralian cap­i­tals) has an un­quench­able thirst for big events. After a sum­mer of the Syd­ney Fes­ti­val and Mardi Gras, and hot on the tales, so to speak, of the Writ­ers Fes­ti­val, Vivid sets the place aglow un­til June 17. Now in its ninth year, the fes­ti­val, or­gan­ised by Des­ti­na­tion NSW, last year at­tracted 2.31 mil­lion peo­ple, up from 500,000 four years ear­lier. The big draw­cards have been the light pro­jec­tions and in­stal­la­tions around the CBD, most spec­tac­u­larly on the sails of the Opera House (this year, ex­pect “puls­ing sea crea­tures, eye-sear­ing bird plumage and iri­des­cent plant life” with ac­com­pa­ny­ing sound­track), other city build­ings and in the Botanic Gar­den. The edgy mu­sic pro­gram in­cludes jazz great Dianne Reeves and, to­mor­row evening, film direc­tor Oliver Stone ( Mid­night Ex­press, Wall Street, JFK) kicks off the ideas agenda. What­ever hap­pened to hi­ber­nat­ing once the weather turned cool?

Restau­rants and bars around Cir­cu­lar Quay and har­bour cruise com­pa­nies have been of­fer­ing van­tage-point spe­cials and it’s worth con­sid­er­ing the best time to visit

the fes­ti­val, but to say avoid early evenings and week­ends is not al­ways pos­si­ble.

In the lead-up to the fes­ti­val, I am en­joy­ing an overnight pack­age in Hil­ton Syd­ney’s Vivid-in­spired Suite. What bliss it is for an hour-dis­tant com­muter to be able to stay in the city after an evening out (I’ve be­come a mati­nee kind of guy).

Hil­ton has part­nered with Philips Hue 2.0 to equip a Re­lax­ation Suite with a per­son­alised light­ing sys­tem to un­leash guests’ in­ner cre­ativ­ity so they can im­merse them­selves in their own fes­ti­val after the city il­lu­mi­na­tions are turned off. On ar­rival the splen­did room is like a theatre set. I am given an iPad to con­trol the scenes — Sa­vanna Sun­set, Trop­i­cal Twi­light, Arc­tic Aurora and Spring Blos­som — and the “moods”, from re­lax to en­er­gise. There are spe­cial col­umn lights and marvel­lous freeform bed­side lamps.

I’m away, fu­elled by not one but two 19th Amend­ment cock­tails de­liv­ered to the suite from the ho­tel’s fab­u­lous and his­toric Mar­ble Bar. The 19th gave US women the right to vote in 1920, which was the same year Pro­hi­bi­tion was im­posed, so I’m not sure how this all comes to­gether in a straw­berry-in­fused vodka cock­tail with lemon and fresh basil, but who’s com­plain­ing? It’s as colour­ful and cheery as I have made the suite’s light­ing, just in time for high tea, de­liv­ered from Caffe Cino down­stairs.

The five-tier stand is a thing of beauty. I’ll work my way up from savoury at the bot­tom, po­tato bli­nis with spicy tuna and pick­led cu­cum­ber, through fluffy scones with straw­berry jam and clot­ted cream, to lemon meringue, black­cur­rant mousse dome on sticky date, lay­ered blue­berry pas­sion­fruit and pis­ta­chio cake, and a whole lot more. It’s go­ing to be a late din­ner (an ex­cel­lent prawn lin­guine from room ser­vice).

As I sam­ple the TV en­ter­tain­ment (one set in the liv­ing and work area, one in the bed­room and one above the very spa­cious spa bath; what, no TV in the pow­der room!) I chance upon a so-called cur­rent af­fairs panel dis­cus­sion. The par­tic­i­pants are talk­ing baloney and I am be­com­ing livid. I reach for my Vivid light con­trols. If I turn the set­ting to re­lax or dim, will my mood change? It works, but then I re­alise I have been pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ad­just­ment and have lost track of what they’ve been say­ing. Now, where’s the pro­gram-change but­ton? Full marks, by the way, to the read­ing set­ting, of­ten a dif­fi­cult thing to achieve in a ho­tel room.

By lights-out, I have had a fun time and I sink into the rest­ful com­fort of my bed and Vivid dreams. There’s just one more joy — the ho­tel’s break­fast buf­fet served in glass brasserie. It’s an en­tic­ing spread and my ta­ble looks across Ge­orge Street to the cen­tral dome of the Queen Vic­to­ria Build­ing. The city is com­ing to life and talk at ad­ja­cent ta­bles is all CBD deals. To­day, it’s a 15-minute walk to work in the beau­ti­ful light of day.

Syd­ney Opera House lit up for this year’s Vivid, top; at­mo­spheric Vivid Suite in Hil­ton Syd­ney, above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.