Ben Connor visits the inner-city suburb of Glebe and finds there’s more to Sydney than its beaches and glittering harbour.

I sit in arm’s reach of the Galaxy.

In my hand is a book by Iain M Banks called The Player of Games. It’s hot: a sweltering 32°C. Large-bladed fans whir overhead like 1940’s aeroplanes. I’m in a room full of coffee tables and chairs, surrounded by shelves stacked with science fiction and fantasy novels. I pluck another book and read. Peeping into sci-fi scenarios, I’m slowly accumulating a multi-sensory montage of vast imagined galaxies.

It’s a nice way to spend a Saturday.

I’m in Sappho Books & Café in Sydney’s Inner-Western suburb of Glebe and my day has been moving along swimmingly. While summer Saturdays on Sydney’s beaches are regularly blanketed with locals and visitors from all over the city and the world fighting for car parks, bus seats, sand, waves, bar stools and coffee tables, a lazy meandering through the markets, shops and leafy streets of Glebe with the odd sip and/or sup in its cafés, restaurants and bars is a decidedly pleasant alternative. And Sappho has it all: You can sip, sup and meander all at the same time.

My latte arrives: a swirling love heart maze of brilliant white and caramel passages. I take it through French doors to the lower level of the tiered courtyard. Brick walls are covered in graffiti tags and murals of abstract seemingly morphing faces; a gritty street-art experience nicely civilised by white latticework, freshly turned garden beds bursting with tropical plants and a canopy of black umbrellas.

My grilled Cypriot haloumi salad arrives. Tsatziki smears everything in a moist mottled white, and the warm and salty haloumi, with its hard doughy texture and pleasing rubbery bounce, is a cheesy delight. I finish it and continue my meander, wandering through the more exclusively literary rooms of the second-hand bookstore.

Across Glebe Point Road, the suburbs main stem, in the playground of the local public school, is Glebe Markets. Here, a jazz band plays to a grassy area where 20-somethings nurse hangovers while downing coffees and puffing on cigarettes. Tourists, locals and smatterings of hippies, arty intellectuals and beautiful people in titillating attire wander about the stalls. Sixties robot toys, bonsai, funky retro bikinis and exorbitantly priced second-hand CDs and records are among the attractions. Turkish gozleme, Hungarian pastries, sushi and fresh cold lemonade provide alternative culinary fuel.

With a mixture of students, academics, artists, housing estate tenants and professionals catered for by dynamic markets, galleries, alternative retailers and quality cafés, restaurants and bars, Glebe would have to be one of my favourite places in Australia. There’s a quaint village atmosphere and sense of community here: an exciting outdoor hubbub in the numerous café courtyards, tabled footpaths, beer gardens and markets; a dynamic engagement between people, the world and ideas (significantly due to the proximity of Sydney University) and an almost visceral sense of the multiplicity of life dramas unfolding.

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