Parramatta tries desperately in vain to cling to the claim that it is Sydney's second CBD and whilst there are some very big names such as Deloitte who have massive towers there, the claim doesn't quite stack up. Yet Parramatta performs another trick in that it is the suburb that the suburb of Sydney 2000 wants desperately to be.
Parramatta was the second settlement in the fledgling colony of New South Wales and where Governor Phillip decided to put his seat of government. Old Government House which is set within the 260 acres of Parramatta Park and is really Australia's first public building with parts of it dating to 1799 when John Hunter knocked in and build upon Arthur Phillip's house. Parramatta generally was seen as the place where experiment and model farms were set up and from where the colony would start its expansion from.
Modern Parramatta although it is aware of its colonial past is actually probably a more modern thing than Sydney ever was.
On the southern side of the railway line is the incredibly monstrous Westfield Parramatta Shopping Centre. As he largest single shopping centre in the southern hemisphere it has such a tremendous economic pull, that even the shops in the immediately surrounding streets are affected. It is not until you jump the railway line and head a little way north that Parramatta plays its conjuring trick.
Church St heading north has a host of cafes and restaurants, all with awnings and/or umbrella shades right out on the pavement. In the suburb of Sydney proper, it is rare to see outside dining and if you do, it's usually only really a concession with patrons huddled in the spaces that aren't filled up with massive skycrapers. Parramatta's outside dining spaces; particularly on a warm spring night, fill the air with all sorts of exotic smells and the whole thing is reminiscent of Paris or Rome, even Melbourne but certainly not Sydney.
Across the River is the Parramatta Riverside Theatre. Not I'm not suggesting that Sydney doesn't have the theatre but Parramatta's theatre has a patronage that is just as likely to arrive in T-Shirt and jeans than suit and tie. Parramatta's theatre is therefore somehow accessible to the masses. Whilst you're not likely to see Shakespeare or Ibsen being performed there, you will see comedy that is as sharp as what's found elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area.
Of course it would be remiss of me to write of Parramatta without mentioning their Rugby League team, the Eels. The name "Eels" is quite an apt name for any team representing Parramatta, for the word itself in the Darug language means "the place where the eels lie down".
Parramatta has quite a range from which to draw Rugby League players from. There are a number of private schools in the program, boasting a strong tradition in the game and this probably stems from a wave of post-war immigration into the area.
Actually the very existence of Leagues Clubs itself is a uniquely Australian thing, for the idea of Leagues Clubs and RSL Clubs has no direct parallel existence either in the UK (where the sport came from) or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Parramatta is probably more complete as a thing than the suburb of the City of Sydney and for that reason, I think that it's a better place; that's usually the case with a second attempt.