Watsons Bay. When I read those words written on the wharf as the ferry approaches, I jump to my feet, surprised. Are we there already? I was looking to the right, toward a small beach beyond which there’s a green park, convinced that we were still far from our destination. No, it must be Rose Bay, maybe I took the wrong ferry (the one to Watsons didn’t stop at Rose Bay, did it?).
But as I see the familiar fish restaurant on the dock and I realize we’ve already reached the place that years ago stole my heart, gave me inspiration for a story, and made me fall in love with Sydney and its beautiful bays.
The blanket of clouds has changed the landscape, yet I recognize the beach as I get off the ferry. The boats upside down. The discreet charm of the houses surrounded by red flowers. Doyles on the Beach, the fish restaurant. And the seagulls, screaming and flying over my head. I need a moment to think, to wave together past and present and to literally find the road again.
I cross the beach, leaving the wharf behind. We are in one of Sydney’s most exclusive suburbs, as we can guess from the elegant houses and their tropical gardens. Long ago Watsons Bay was a fishing village. Today, along with the adjacent suburb of Vaucluse, it is the eastern pearl of the city. It is a peaceful place where houses cost a fortune but the atmosphere is relaxed, warm, unpretentious, especially during the winter, when the beaches are empty and silence reigns undisturbed.
Following the walking path that takes me north, passing by another small bay, Lady Bay Beach, I reach my favourite beach, Camp Cove. This half-moon shaped beach is framed by the villas that a friend of mine once called “the retirement houses”.
A different life
I think that living here makes it easier to appreciate the surrounding world. You wake up at dawn to see the sun rise on the distant skyline; at sunset, you sit on the beach and watch the sea shine like gold.
You have breakfast on the verandah, shadowed by the blooming trees, and you cook dinner at twilight, caressed by the warm light. You go shopping at one of the local supermarkets, among the two-storey houses with decorated balconies. If you’re depressed, you stroll on the beach and find solace in the solitude and timeless beauty of the bay.
The coastal walk takes me to South Head, where the Hornby Lighthouse stands. Here, sitting on the large stones shaped by the wind, you can see the imposing and threatening cliffs facing the Tasman Sea, the site where a passenger ship, The Dunbar, was shipwrecked in 1857.
I shiver, and not just because the wind is so cold. The sea is deeply blue in some points, emerald green in others, and I strive to fix every single detail in my memory, to absorb the colours and the power of nature that seems so alive here. The waves have so many stories to tell. Tales of ships and men, women and children, adventures and dreams to chase or abandon.
On the beach
Along the path that takes me back to the wharf, I keep watching the sea and the skyline in the distance, never tired of such beauty. Ignoring the restaurants crowded with tourists, I sit on the sand and happily eat my veggie and cheese pie, bought at a local market. Here, in this place, so far from home, I actually feel at home.