Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Love the One You’re With

Back in my 20s when I was making eyes at every bilingual boy who came into my narrow Midwestern horizons, I couldn’t imagine staying with a man when someone more appealing came along.

Since then I’ve stayed with one Man even while moving countries every few years. Moving to a new place is like changing lovers. For years my husband and I have moved from one place to the next, searching for something we still can’t define: career opportunities for each of us, different climates and clients and collectors, but also for something more.

When we moved to this west Sydney suburb, Australian friends warned us away from it: “It’s dodgy over there!” they said.  But the Man’s company is just a suburb away, we heard there are great cafes and restaurants and a river nearby, and since I can work from anywhere, we decided to brave the warnings for a convenient commute.

But whatever we expected, it wasn’t this: a neighborhood that looks almost identical to the one where I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Many of the buildings are the same age, the boulevards dotted with fast-food restaurants and wide parking lots look like doppelgangers of those I traveled to school. Cars drive on the opposite side of the road and accents are different, but the fundamentals are eerily similar.

It was exactly what I had decided to leave for good a decade ago. And here I had moved back into it. I was miserable. The Man was miserable for his own reasons.

But when I returned to Sydney a few months ago, I decided to change my attitude. It was time to ignore the mundane, the homogeneity of much of life in the ‘burbs, and to discover and savor the many pleasures our neighborhood had to offer.

So I did!

Here are some of my favorites:

Purple flowers

These purple flowers are a graceful surprise in Sydney’s early spring

Parra Breads

Fresh Persian bread from the bakery around the corner. It’s piping hot and delicious. Their artisanal yogurt is fantastic, too.


Harry’s Cafe de Wheels has just come to the neighborhood, another delicious way to expand local waistlines.


Our suburb is one of the oldest Australian settlements. When I was a kid I dreamed of making rubbings of old tombstones. A block away from our flat, there are loads of old cemeteries to walk through, atmospheric both day or night.

Lament for Lost Child

Some of the inscriptions are really one-of-a-kind, like this one from a pair of resentful parents in 1834

Gated Community

The dead erect fences just as they did while alive

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Scrolls on tombstones were fashionable for awhile in the 19th century

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And most of all, Australia is a painter’s paradise: the light is spectacular all year round

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