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.
“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
and the Opera house in full sail on its promontory to the East.
We’ll take the ferry.
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
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
before we turn slightly, and the last rays of the sun now miraculously appear behind The Bridge’s North pylons.
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.
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.
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.
* Apologies to Peter Allen