The sky is clouded, the beach empty. From beyond the windows of the detached houses comes the glow of the lamps. The foam-flecked sea is a strange blue, which turns water green here and there. Yet I’ve seen the warm light of late afternoon caressing the horizon on Sydney beaches, softening the edges of the rocks, making the ocean shine and paint the clouds purple and pink.
I could stay here forever; instead, I force myself to pick up the trail and climb up the cliffs against which crash, the blue, white and emerald green waves. The gusts of wind are so strong that it’s hard to keep our balance, as we cross a grassy lot where an old couple is walking hand in hand. The picture of serenity. A graveyard by the sea, another ridge to pass and finally, Bronte. Another solitary beach, where some brave surfers challenges the waves. This is the perfect place for a picnic, a barbecue or a volleyball match, like the one I remember from years ago. But that’s another story.
COOGEE AND THE SMELL OF THE OCEAN
I’ve got off the 373 bus going to Bondi and I’ve walked along the renowned beach towards North Bondi. I’ve waited, seated on the wet sand, for the Southern stars to appear. I’ve danced in one of the suburb clubs, I’ve had dinner in one of the beach restaurants and I’ve walked along the path that brings to Clovelly Bay and Coogee, enjoying the wind and the sun. But today, everything is eerily quiet after the storm. I’m not cold. The air has the distinctive smell of seaweeds, leaves and salt that I associate to the warm Australian winter. I’m writing from a café in North Bondi now, the Porch and Parlour, after a long walk that turned out to be an unexpected adventure.
IN THE POURING RAIN
This morning, while on the bus to Coogee, I watched the suburbs passing by outside of the window, under an increasingly grey sky. The roads quickly turned into streams, the passers-by sought refuge under the umbrella. I had no idea of how we could get off the bus, once arrived at our destination. Coogee is a nice half-moon beach in a quiet, residential area packed with cafés and small shops. An unlikely place to enjoy under this hurricane. And I hate to have to go back because of the weather. Then, for some miraculous coincidence, the rain suddenly stops as we get to the last stop right before the beach.
TO CLOVELLY BAY
Transparent rain drops slide down the long pine needles. I take a deep breath, relieved. We can take the road to the left towards Bronte Beach, walking along the path that, to me, is one of the most beautiful places in town. The road climbs up and down among cliffs and bushes, offering an incredible view over the ocean. We pass by a rocky beach where a rundown boat lies abandoned, then more rocks and bushes till we get to Clovelly Bay, a small sandy beach that we find empty. The ocean shines under a pale sun ray, and the natural pool is all mine. I explore the lovely houses built on the bay, desperately wishing I could live here, with this view, this smell of wood and salt, with the noise of the sea in the background.
BONDI BEACH & A BREAK AT PORCH AND PARLOUR
Instead of exploring the neighbourhood, I walk on to Bondi Beach. More cliffs, more views which are hard to leave behind, more houses where I wish I could live. The half-moon beach of Bondi is bigger than its sisters, and without people and surfers seems huge. The sand is mustard-coloured today; the wind blows strong. We pass by the wall that protects the street from the ocean in the stormy days, admiring the graffiti that embellish the stone. I’ve almost decided to take off my shoes and walk on the sand barefoot, when it starts raining. Not the kind of rain you can easily ignore, but a real shower. We are forced to run towards Campbell Parade looking for shelter.
Bondi is very familiar to me, with its shabby houses and independent bookshops and cafés by the ocean, its design stores (Hall Street), farmers markets and art galleries (Curlewis Street), and even Italian restaurants and ice cream parlours. Artists and young people love this area because it’s lively, eclectic, half hippie and half chic, as you may notice if you go inside a house or a café. Here, at Porch and Parlour, a girl next to me is drawing, her long hair put up in a messy bun; an elegantly dressed woman is sipping a herbal tea which smells of cocoa.
BONDI JUNCTION & WOOLLHARA. MEMORIES.
Later, I leave the coffee shop and take the 333 bus to Bondi Junction, a suburb very dear to me. A crowded market with stalls selling fruit and vegetables, cheese, scarfs, flowers and housewares attracts groups of youth who fill the street. Families seem to prefer Westfield, the big shopping centre where you can find almost everything – including a big supermarket, Woolworths.
I spend almost one hour in there, fascinated by the relaxed atmosphere (and the Ugg shop); then I cross Grafton Street and reach the municipality of Woollahra, one of my favourite places in Sydney. I love all those detached houses with wrought iron balconies and gates, shaded by typical Australian trees. I like the little wooden huts at the bus stops. How lovely it is to walk up and down these streets, especially when the sun goes down and the light takes on a golden shade.
From the changes I notice as I wander about the area, I can guess prices are higher than when I used to live here. Still, I feel this is my place. Everyone has one, no matter where it is. Whilst a silver moon appears in the sky, I make my way back to Bondi Junction and take the bus to Circular Quay via Oxford Street, as street lamps are turned on and people open their umbrellas. Again, rain has started to fall on Sydney.