Lets Have Lunch at Watson’s Bay

I was down in Sydney, visiting my friend “C”.  It was one of those amazing spring days when the whole world seems to be glistening – the new leaves on the trees impossibly green, the Jacarandas blue/mauve clouds, the smell of the Trachelospermum – the star jasmine – drifting up several stories to assail my senses.

Paddington backyards, vivid and intense after last night’s storm.

“Lets have lunch at Watson’s Bay”, I propose, returning indoors.

Come, join us, we’re meeting “I” down at the Quay (the hub of the city since Captain Arthur Philip stepped ashore beside a little creek that ran down to the harbour with his forlorn cargo of convicts, that fateful afternoon in 1788).

Circular Quay is hemmed in by two icons:  the Bridge to the West

Looking Northwest across the harbour to Milson’s Point, with Luna Park and the North Sydney ‘baths’ in the foreground.

and the Opera house in full sail on its promontory to the East.

We’ll take the ferry.

Nosing out of The Quay, Kirribilli in front of us on its ridge to the North, we turn right at  Pinchgut – more properly Fort Denison, originally a gaol, now a party venue and tourist destination,

making our way straight down the harbour toward The Heads.

When my father arrived, in the Autumn of 1924, he described it as:

… a harbour like nothing any of us had seen or … imagined.  It seemed to be a vast sheet of water that went on forever, surrounded by low hills, tree-clad right down to the water’s edge.  As we moved slowly forward, we caught glimpses of little bays, and beaches, and wooded headlands, with here and there a house or two almost at the water.

Thanks to National Parks and Reserves, much of the northern shoreline remains as he remembered it – it’s an outdoors city, a city with huge lungs and wide, rugged ranges for playing in.

Before we reach The Heads

North Head

we turn South, into the sheltered waters of Watson’s Bay, separated from the crashing swells of the ocean by the cliffs of North Head and The Gap.

We could have fish and chips and a beer at the pub, or fancy fish and chips and a chardonnay at Doyles, or we could opt for a picnic on the grass, under the trees in the park.  Whichever we choose, we’ll sit facing back up the harbour toward the city.

As the shadows lengthen it seems too perfect to leave.  Like this couple, we order another glass of chardonnay, and soak up the late afternoon sunshine.

Out on the harbour, twilight racing is reaching its climax

while from our spot just up from a perfect crescent of beach, the sun starts sinking below the North Shore, deepening the shadows to silhouettes.

Ahead of us, the city is aglow

and we think “wouldn’t it be fun to take a water taxi back home?”.

Out on the harbour, we catch the end of the twilight racing

and laugh into the chill breeze as the jagged teeth of North Sydney reveal themselves

before we turn slightly, and the last rays of the sun now miraculously appear behind The Bridge’s North pylons.

The water is bumpier out in the middle of the harbour, and the wind from our speed is turning our noses red but as we pass Double Bay, the prow of the Opera House lunges out from behind Potts Point,

and we ask the driver to make a detour into Rushcutters Bay, following the last of the racers back to the Cruising Yacht Club, where the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race starts from every Boxing Day.

The moon is shining on the water now, and the bushland on the North Shore is barely visible in the gloom.

Back at The Quay, the lights of Luna Park blaze like fluorescent rabbits-ears beneath The Bridge

and, reluctant to head home just yet, we meander around toward the Opera House.  Champagne and freshly shucked Sydney Rock Oysters at one of the Quayside bars sounds perfect.  We can watch the water glinting below us, and the city light up for the night.

This post is dedicated to Sydney, and to “C”, “C” and “I”.

To the first “C”, whose comment that she “couldn’t get over how small Sydney is” first made me realise that no matter how far I roam I call Sydney home*, and to the second “C”, and “I”, with whom I have spent treasured magical afternoons in Sydney and elsewhere since returning to Australia with “R” in 1984.

A Sunday Afternoon in Sydney could happen.  The afternoon we had lunch at Watson’s Bay we got off from the water taxi at the CYC.  We did catch the Twilight Racing, but our little boat was bouncing too much to take decent photographs.  These (slightly better) shots were taken from the Manly Ferry when the second “C” and I were returning from a day at the beach, which ended with champagne and oysters at a bar near the Opera House.

See other entries in Jake’s “City” challenge, the WP Weekly Photo Challenge, “Silhouette“, and Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme, “Couples“.

*  Apologies to Peter Allen

88 thoughts on “Lets Have Lunch at Watson’s Bay

  1. This is a perfect description (and photographs) of this journey from Circular Quay to Watson´s Bay. I love this trip and always take it whenever I am in Sydney. We either take a picnic or eat fish and chips in the carton from the take-away Doyle´s.

    You have set the scene beautifully for me here, Meredith as I am heading over to Sydney in four weeks time! Yahoo – can´t wait!

    • Perfect timing, Marianne! I’ll be thinking of you – and yes, looking forward to the day I too will be visiting Sydney again and taking the ferry to Watsons Bay for lunch in the sunshine!

      Glad you liked it. When I saw Jake’s challenge I wondered what city I should showcase. It’s hard – as an Australian we don’t tend to think of our lives as special, especially someone like me who’s so attuned to the exotic – but after I thought about it a while, I realised I’d like to do Sydney. I may not be going back there to live, but it represents home.

    • Hey, thanks! So glad you enjoyed a taste of Sydney – it is a wonderful city, like so many, and I think it must be amazing to visit it for the first time. I’m certainly looking forward to going again when I get settled next year.

  2. How lovely that all sounds and it reminds me fondly of my trip to Sydney several years ago. I was sick with a cold, and the perfect thing we did that day was get on the ferry and ride around the harbor. Another day we took the Manly ferry, too, to visit a friend who lives there. We also saw a play at the Opera House, took in a Bondi Beach kite-flying festival, and visited the zoo, which is marvelous. I love Sydney. Beware the beagles at the airport, though. They’ll sniff out your mayonnaise sandwich, which will be confiscated 🙂

  3. Such a spectacular way to start my Sunday. I loved every word and picture! 🙂
    I always forget the hemisphere difference between the States and Australia…when i first read “spring” I thought “shouldn’t she be saying fall!?” (Time for me to clear the cobwebs out with the first coffee of the day.
    🙂 )

  4. What a wonderful day. You paint a beautiful picture of Sydney, as it so deserves. I hope you have the opportunity to experience another gorgeous experience such as this upon your return 🙂

  5. Thank you for that wonder travelogue. When my son was in the Merchant Navy he travelled the world and saw many cities besides a lot of sea. Sydney was his favourite.

    • When we’re kids we’re like the sun – the centre of the universe about which everything flows and as such the essence of beauty, and all that goes with it! Glad you had the opportunity to revisit the harbour to revel in its glory.

      Oh – and when you’re there, say hello from me, and tell her I’ll be down for a visit just as soon as I’ve changed my life again.

  6. Fantastic post! I greatly enjoyed reading all of it along with viewing your terrific photos!
    What a great day and fun experience for you. Thanks much for taking me along!

    • Sydney is the harbour! As my friend, the first “C” intimated, it’s not an impressive city by normal standards of CBD areas and so forth, but it’s got this magnificent harbour and so much space and facility to enjoy it.

  7. Absolutely marvelous photos that brought back very happy memories of a great city. We were there about three years ago, and really loved it. The harbour is magic! We took a ferry to Manly, where my grandparents once stayed briefly (after they first fell in love, they weren’t married then!) We stayed in Darlinghurst, which we just loved. Thanks so much for this!

    • Ah, petchary …. Darlinghurst? I went to school there, and R and I bought a house there just as it was beginning to wake from its decades of slum-hood!

      So glad you enjoyed a bit of a trip down memory lane with me 🙂

  8. This was a wonderful afternoon tour for me. I felt like you were really showing me around. I will probably never get to Sidney but I will feel like I have. Thanks.

    • That’s what a girl likes to hear Michelle – merci beaucoup 🙂

      I’ve lined up lunch at Watson’s Bay the first time I go down to Sydney after I’ve settled in. I wonder if it’ll feel different, now I’ve shared the spot with so many of you?

    • It’s a bit sad when we realise there are places we’ll never get to in our lives … which is why it’s important to visit vicariously when the opportunity arises!

      So glad you enjoyed the evening on Sydney Harbour Jo. 🙂

    • I know what you mean – that’s exactly how I feel!

      I’ve already made a pact with C and I that I’ll go down to Sydney immediately I’ve settled in — and lunch, of course, at Watson’s Bay.

    • Oh does he Jake? I hope he’s enjoying it there. Although it’s probably ‘home’ it’s not where I’m going to live when I go back, but it will be fantastic to visit to see friends. Thanks for the inspiration this week – it served a very useful purpose in helping to loosen the ties to Sri Lanka.

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  10. Wanderlust, these are stunning pictures: as usual you have the light in the palm of your hand! I thought for a moment you had already made the move, but the counter at the bottom shows three months left.

    All the best as you effect the change.

    • Thank you Kate – I have to start working on the move with real intent, but I just can’t seem to tear myself away from Paradise yet! I thought curating an idyllic day on Sydney Harbour might rekindle some of the love … and indeed it did. So glad you were with us for the ride 🙂

  11. Totally, completely enchanting. I loved the one with the dark blue sky behind the sailboat thingies (are they called masts??), fourth from the last. Beautiful!!

  12. Oh my, these city posts are pulling me every which way! This one is the best of all. A series of wonderful images sandwiched between two perfect shots! Very well done 🙂

    • I love that shot too! I just have to close my eyes to feel the chill of the evening breeze, the faint lapping suck of the water against the piers of the marina and above everything, the faint metallic ring as the rigging of a thousand masts moves gently in the tide.

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