What a city! Have you been here, or do you live here? Well you’re lucky. We were lucky too – we were in the Top End at a great time of year.

For a start, it’s the Dry Season. So warm, dry days (typically 30 degrees), not a cloud in the sky, gentle sea breeze, palm trees, sparkling sea. It’s a delight. And the dry season is when everything comes alive in this city. Bars and restaurants are abuzz, and people are making the most of the weather.

It’s also when the Darwin Festival is on. I’m writing this, sitting ifestival parkn ‘Festival Park’ – a small park near the CBD that has been transformed for these two weeks. There’s food stalls, a bar, the famous Spiegeltent and open air performance platform, topped by a sculpture that’s just… well.. startling. That’s it in the photograph on the right, in the background.

There’s a lot going on in the festival. We went to see some great comedy and Opera Australia’s touring production of The Marriage of Figaro.

Underneath Darwin’s foreshore is one of the most extraordinary concert venues I’ve been in. Oil tunnels built during World War II, lined with steel, and possessing the most incredible acoustic. I visited them with Anne Norman, artistic director of a mini festival called ‘Tunnel no.5’.

Then there’s Darwin’s jewel in the crown – the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. The fact that this city has its own orchestra is startling enough – it’s a city of barely 100,000 people. Someone mentioned to me that, by head of population, Darwin has the most attended symphony orchestra in Australia. I’m not surprised – their open air concerts have lines of people waiting to get in, kids and picnic cooler in tow.

I went along to meet the orchestra at their rehearsal. And – totally spontaneously – ended up playing tuba in their concert.

So Darwin – what a place. It’s a shame to leave – but there’s a Classic Road Trip looming!

Next stop Katherine

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