It’s hard to write about travelling to a place you once called home (and still do, in moments of homesick longing). The things that should be exotic become blase, and your attention is no longer on the jaw dropping spectacles of a city, a life, a country out of focus and completely foreign, but on the little things that have changed since last you were home.
We stayed in a hostel near Coogee Beach – I wanted to be near the places that mean something to me, to revisit the significant spots that I spent so much time in. It is the tail end of summer when we go to Sydney and the weather refuses to cooperate. Where are the crystal clear days I remember, with a white light so pure and bright it blasts away all imperfections, leaving only the raw, aching beauty of a summer day? The skies are grey, rain threatening, the sea in one of her many volatile moods.
Still, there are moments. I meet my old friends again, these old connections that bind me, these old friends I have missed. We walk through the CBD, through the grand arcades of the Queen Victoria Building, the copper green domes as majestic as I remember them. The city herself has not changed – the leaves still swirl around my feet on the wet pavements of Martin Place, the fountains still bubble at Darling Harbour, the lights still reflect across the water.
It’s me – the mind and thoughts and feet that trod these streets have grown accustomed to rhythms outside of this seaside, gracious city… it seems smaller, dearer, less worldly. I have missed it and yet, coming back here, to a place that is familiar and yet no longer home, with a hundred tiny changes and yet no real growth… I have grown apart from the Harbour City so beloved to me.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge; world famous Bondi Beach; crocs, dugongs, sharks, turtles and sea creatures at the Sydney Aquarium; crabs and bugs at the Fish Markets
We do the Bondi-Coogee walk on an overcast day, stop to watch the surfers at Bronte Beach. The water is too cold and the heat not strong enough for a swim, so we catch the bus to the Opera House and then a ferry to Manly Beach instead. The seagulls flutter around us on the evening breeze and we head home under a darkening sky. The first few drops of rain fall just as we pull into Circular Quay and the lights of the Harbour Bridge seem to greet us as we disembark.
There are so many memories for me here, back in this city. So much wistful nostalgia, so many ties left cut. So many friendships I miss. We look at the animals in the Aquarium – shark, dugong, lionfish, turtle. We have drinks at Opera Bar, wander the markets at the Rocks. We gorge on seafood at the Fish Markets, then cross the water into Pyrmont and Star City Casino.
We have fish and chips on the beach, sit in wavering sunlight. We walk along the bleached white granite cliffs south of Coogee Beach, where the waves throw up salt spray like confetti. We wander in silence, Jeff and I, as I try to piece together the places I once knew, the person I once was, in this city by the sea.