Catherine Crevecoeur is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An environmental science major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Sydney this term.
In this week's post, Catherine takes us to the Darlinghurst neighborhood in Sydney to check out Café 1812.
Today I walked to a little neighborhood in Sydney called ‘Darlinghurst’. The crisp, winter Sydney air reminded me a bit of fall in Pennsylvania, where I’m from. The day was a bit rainy and the sky was grey. It was the perfect day for curling up in a cute café and pretentiously reading a classic novel – which is exactly why I set out for Café 1812.
I walked down Oxford Street which had a number of cute shops and restaurants. On a Monday afternoon, it was not especially crowded with people. As I walked on, I noticed that there were a lot of younger people in this area of town.
When I reached the intersection of Oxford Street and Verona Street, I finally came across the most interesting café I have seen. Called ‘Café 1812’, the little place was a mixture of a bookshop, library, and an actual café. There was a small bike in the window where you first walked in and a giant sign reading ‘Berkelouw’. The walls of the shop were lined with shelves and all the shelves were brimming with books. New and old. Traditional novels and graphic comics. Cookbooks and travel books. Bestsellers and dusty volumes. There were several stories of this shop packed with various genres of books and stories and directions.
I walked up to the second floor and perused the fashion and photography section. I sifted through the glossy pages about glamorous gowns and costume couture. Then, I walked through the Australian literature section and crime fiction. Finally, I reached the section of the bookshop dedicated to ‘Classic Novels’. Part of me was touched to see some familiarity, in all honesty. When we read great novelists such as Jane Austen or Gustave Flaubert in high school literature classes, I do not think I appreciated the true timelessness of literature. Here I was, in 2016, thousands of miles away from home and I could still pick out a familiar novel in a bookshop. I could get lost in the tale of Emma Woodhouse at the age of 19 just as I did when I was 16 and just as some student in Australia did now and 50 years ago. So, that is exactly what I did.
Plucking up Emma by Jane Austen and heading to the café, I had my plan for the rainy afternoon. I ordered a pasta salad and a cappuccino although there were many delectable sweet treats and wines available as well. I grabbed a table near the window that could watch the cars as they drove by. Overhead, music was playing. I heard the Beatles and then Whitney Houston and then more songs like reminded me vaguely of my childhood. Since that afternoon was not especially busy, I felt almost removed from the city – in my own private oasis. Even the ladies chattering away at the table beside me did not burst my own small bubble.
I spent about three hours at the bookshop – reading, writing, and observing. Softly, fellow book lovers entered and exited the café, taking advantage of the soft couches and wooden tables at our disposal. At 5:00pm, the sun was beginning to set and I packed up my things – ready for the journey home.
I highly recommend Café 1812 to anyone who is seeking a refuge away from the busy city. Even if you are not a book lover, I highly recommend checking out the café and newer books – you might even find a gift for someone. I spent the day flipping through the pages and finding a relaxing spot with a great menu and I have never felt more at home.
Catherine's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.