Tonight‘s blog has a more serious tone, as I reflect on my notes made of our last night in Sydney.
Sydney is a beautiful city and one that I have enjoyed visiting. I don’t mean to preach or judge, but just want to write down my observations of the sights and scenes that I have witnessed here.
Monday 19th February.
A mixed day weather wise; a cloudy yet warm morning with hot sunshine this afternoon and now in the evening at dusk; still cloudy and windy yet with a feeling of oppressive heat.
Circular Quay is looking a little bit worse for wear tonight, with litter strewn around; left behind as a reminder of the busy day already now passed. There is an unkempt feeling about the area, which is sad.
It is a terrible sign of our times that no matter, which country I have visited, there is the plight of homeless people sleeping on streets and Sydney is no exception.
(I mentioned this subject when I wrote about Vancouver and just recently in a writing exercise about Manchester!)
Lots of homeless appear round the Quay tonight. They hover on the corners, intact with mattresses, cool boxes and signs, which explain why they are sitting in the streets.
For example, a woman‘s notice board reads;
‘I am 35 years of age. I have breast cancer and my marriage broke up. I had to leave home due to an abusive husband and I am forced to live on the streets as I am too ill to work. I can’t afford the medicine that I need to combat my cancer; if you could help in any way.’
Or there is a man who has a sign which says;
‘I don’t want to be here. I am ashamed to be here in this situation. All I need is $15 for a bed tonight plus anything you could spare to help me out, I’d appreciate it.’
As we leave Circular Quay and make our way back to our hotel, we pass many other similar people with similar stories.
I found a quote by Linda Lingle, a republican politician who said,
We have learnt a valuable lesson this afternoon. Don’t be fooled into buying frangipani tarts; even if they tempt you with pear and apricots, as they are heavy on the tummy, never mind the waistline!
Finding shade this afternoon is a difficult pastime. It is 89 degrees, although it feels hotter. We walk along to the right side of the bay hoping to find somewhere cool, but it is now 3pm and all the spots are taken.
We end up sitting on a dirty sand -wet wall overlooking the beach, where a boathouse provides the shade. My lovely husband takes out his sketch book and paints and is happy and relaxed doing his thing.
As for me, my body protests at the way that I am siting; my shorts dig in and, suddenly feel too small and tight. “Why oh why didn’t I go on that diet!”
My creaky knees crack, as I slide clumsily down onto the wall. Nothing graceful here I’m afraid. With knees bunched up under my chin, I begin to write. The ink in my pen keeps disappearing to add to my woes and the heat is getting to me. I write an observation poem on what I can see.
As the heat haze rises,
The baking sun
Cooks the sandy beach
It meets the refreshing sea
Creating a translucent vapour.
Footprints wet and pronounced
And the sunbathers
Basted with sun cream,
Their skin turns brown,
Crispy and well done.
Sun visors and hats
Provide a canopy
And tilted umbrellas
Offer intermittent respite,
From the fierce sun rays.
The water laps thirstily
Along the shoreline.
It swishes and swirls
Offering some cool refreshment
From the oppressive heat.
Oh! Before I go; I have just spied myself 60 years ago! A little girl in a ruched swimsuit and white floppy sunhat tied under the chin has materialised on the beach in front of me. She looks adorable as she plays in the sand.
I have a black and white photograph, taken of me when I was about three years old when I was holidaying on The Isle of Man wearing a similar outfit.
I’m not too sure that I looked as adorable; however, my parents always told me the tale that one day a couple offered them £1000 for me!
Nowadays I’d be lucky to get 1000 pence!
On arrival, the bay is smaller than I expected, and first impressions are that it is not very pretty. However, the smell of fish and chips greet us as we disembark from the ferry. The wharf has the famous Doyle’s fish and chips franchise situated on the exit with a take away section as well as a café. The aroma is a tasty reminder that it is nearly lunch time.
A snack shared of barramundi and chips, under the shade revives us, and then we’re off to find the lighthouse, which is one of the reasons we travelled here. It was one of the first lighthouses to be built on the inlet into Sydney harbour.
A paved walk along the sea edge takes us to a road, which when followed, leads us to another beach around the small headland. The is Camp Cove. Now, this is a much better proposition and it is very busy with families enjoying a day out at the beach.
A quick toilet break (you never know when you will find another one!) and we are off up the hillside, following the heritage trail.
We traverse large, stone cobbles awakening memories of walking through Roman Streets in Pompeii. We continue to walk upwards, stopping every now and then to look at the vistas from the cliff side edge; a turquoise sea speckled with huge orange rocks.
The whirling sea crashes onto the rocks, reminding us of just how treacherous this inlet of water must have been to early travellers. Excitement is around the corner however, as steps down to the rocky bay lead to a pencil thin beach, which is a nudist beach! Voyeuristic snatches of naked bodies appear through the greenery. The women lie supine hiding their wares by lying front down on towels, whereas the men stand tall facing any passer-by. They parade in all their glory- browned birthdays suits are the order of the day!
We move further up the hill until the lighthouse appears. A light keeper's cottage has been preserved and the information about the shipwrecks add colour to the scene.
The lighthouse reminds me of a traditional helter-skelter slide that you find in fairgrounds; red and white candy stripes with a conical top.
It is a popular spot for taking photographs and I am amused and amazed at the seriousness, in which some holiday makers consider their poses.
One Japanese lady utters strident instructions to her long- suffering daughter on where, and how to sit! She doesn’t give up until she is satisfied. Standing next to her are two young girls in black shorts and black bikini tops. They are ultra-tanned; not super slim but their snapshots could provide a portfolio for an aspiring model. They are provocative yet innocent at the same time.
We move on, no place for us to take our photographs however, we can take snapshots further up where the views are just as spectacular. We move round the headland and make our way back down to Watson Bay.
An enjoyable couple of hours has passed by. Time for a drink and a snack I think!
With a fresh wind blowing through our hair (well mine actually!) and recently bought Opal travel cards, we set off on the ferry to Watson Bay; a popular weekend resort for Sydney locals.
We pass a flotilla of sail boats diagonally leaning against the wind. It seems to me a lot of hard work to go around in circles! Next, we see a small harbour full of party boats; they bob and float like white metal swans.
A noisy seaplane takes off disturbing the peace. It awakens the passengers (after all it is Sunday morning) and excited chatter erupts. Along the coast line huge house with their own docks hug the land. The house seems quite small from here, but I am sure that this area boats mansions and expensive residences. The view from their balconies must be breath-taking and views like this don’t come cheap.
A hoot of the horn and we pull in to Rose Bay where quite a few passengers disembark.
The throttle hums, then revs and we are off again. Cutting through the choppy waves. We continue our journey across the huge inlet (where the first explorers and settlers sailed) and the sun is shining, and I get this feeling that life can't get better than this! (however this is just day three of my holiday!)
Stresses and strains have disappeared, and shoulders relax into the quiet tempo of being on holiday. It is a lovely feeling; being carefree and just enjoying the moment. As we arrive I am amused by the contortionist photographers leaning, twisting this way and that to capture their snapshots.
As we arrive, the landing dock is full of people wanting to take the return journey. I wonder if these are the locals taking their weekend break in the city.
Yeah holidaying is a two -way streak!
A small grassed area has been filled with a local market garden event. Pristine white tents are dotted around selling all kinds of interesting things at the annual tomato festival. There are food stalls selling stone baked pizzas, cheese stalls and ice-cream vans. There are chutney and chilli stalls and a probiotic health drink stall, selling homemade brew in large wine like bottles.
But in pride of place are the tomato growers. The tomato stall from Harris’ Farm is full of natures bounty. I have never seen so many different varieties of tomatoes before; different colours and shapes. They are sold in punnets and you can pick and mix them. It is doing a roaring trade.
Beside this is a beautiful and intricate mandala made entirely out of tomatoes. (A mandala is an Indian pattern.) There is a competition to guess how many tomatoes have been used to create the pattern. I guessed 9,551. Unfortunately, I won’t be here for the result, but I enjoyed making the guess. (I think that I may have underestimated!)
One of the most interesting things about the festival are the ladies serving behind the stalls and their interactions with their customers. Straw-boat hats and white clothes are the current fashion in tomato land. They are approachable, friendly and obviously enjoy what they are doing.
Welcome smiles greet you and the warmth of them lets you know that all’s well with the world. Their knowledge and expertise are grounded and not to be sniffed at. Low murmurs from the cooking demonstration tent filter through and apparently, lemon noodles seem to be very popular now in Australian cooking. Regrettably, I missed the talk on how to use tomatoes in desserts!
Groups of people; families with young children, families with mixed generations and a disabled group complete with wheel-chairs and carers settle in the sunshine to enjoy their lunch. We had a stone-baked pizza and made to order with no cheese. And very tasty it was too! This was followed by homemade chocolate and hazelnut ice-cream! Perfection!
There is something for everyone and the atmosphere is happy. I had my photograph taken wearing a tomato helmet!
When in Australia...?
A step away and a large marquee stretches out, brilliant white against a backdrop of blue waters. The longest tomato lunch is to take place in a few minutes. The event is sold out, according to two lovely ladies, whom we spoke to. They were friendly and we smiled as they too were dressed in white! A short conversation later and we wander away to find a bench to chill on. Philip sketches and I write; in perfect harmony and synchronicity.
The inscription on the back of the bench is lovely;
May the sun always shine
Warmly upon your face;
Until we meet again.
To life and love!
And so, say we all!
It’s another hot and sunny day and the gardens are inviting in a fantasy world kind of way. You know what I mean; a magical place where unicorns, fairies and mythical creatures live in perfect harmony.
It is a peaceful place separated from the busy city, where skyscraper sentinels over look the tranquillity; a reminder that civilisation is nearby and watching. In this calm oasis the beauty of nature abounds. Colour and vibrancy are the order of the day from breathing taking rose blooms to the verdant greenery of the rainforest.
My lovely husband and I soak up the atmosphere and tense muscles ease and the strains of daily life flitter away, leaving a peaceful contentment. Maybe, this is what the designers of the area were aiming for. If it was, then they have succeeded; creating an Australian Shangri-La!
We sit in a secluded spot under an amazing rock face with natural cut- out patterns eroded by time. Passers-by stroll along the wide pathways in front of us enjoying the scenery and soaking up the sun.
The view is spectacular, with the Opera House’s lotus leaf roof, reaching out towards the sky and the graceful arch of the grey, iron Harbour Bridge behind. Sparkling ruffles of satin water, ebb and flow against the sea wall.
In the distance, a jet boat bobs silently across the water and an archaic water wheel steam boat gently traverses the bay. A luxury yacht is anchored in the bay; a fitting tribute to the expensive and glitzy paradise that is Sydney!
Over head a helicopter whirrs looking down on the scene as walkers, joggers, families and couples enjoy the space and freedom that the gardens have to offer; a far cry from the bustling city which borders it.
What a lovely way to start a day!