I still remember the day, time and place.
A typical summer’s day – expansive blue skies, not a cloud in sight, and the world around us painted with colours so bright they seemed almost unnatural.
Directly below, the harbour water sparkled under the intense gaze of the sun. As the plane banked to the right in the direction of the ocean, I pressed my nose to the small oval window and peered down. Before me, I could see one yellow strip of beach after the other forming a chain of golden lines running off into the distance. Gaining altitude, I could still pick out the people on the beach, towels, umbrellas, marquees for the surf life savers, children in the water, surfers and boogie boarders further out, then sail boats, fishing boats, power boats and cargo ships.
I watched and I wished.
Wished that I wasn’t leaving. Wished that I wasn’t returning to frozen Ottawa in the middle of a Canadian winter. Wished I could stay longer. Wished I could live in Sydney and experience these summer’s days for longer than an annual three-week holiday. Something about the startling natural beauty of the place had got under my skin.
I knew I had to live in Sydney.
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Gino)|
Other things about Sydney affected me over the years making it difficult to forget or give up. Other things got under my skin.
When we holidayed there, I would watch people running in the Royal Botanical Gardens and along the harbour wall at lunchtimes in the sunshine. I remember thinking what a fabulous experience that would be, so different to the occasional chilled jog along the south bank of the River Thames.
After moving to Sydney, I joined a running squad that ran a Botanical Gardens circuit during lunch. The heat in the middle of summer was unbearable and I regularly forgot to put on any cream, but there was something magical about running along the harbour wall with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge ahead of you, yachts on the water at Farm Cove to your right, huge ancient Moreton Bay figs on your left. As white ibises scratched around beneath the vast canopy of these trees, I couldn’t help but marvel at my unique environment.
Weekends in Sydney had always been something of a treat. When I worked by day in the city, the last place I wanted to be at the weekend was back amongst the office blocks and deserted alleyways. However, we occasionally treated ourselves to the odd night out in town, staying at one of Sydney’s many varied hotels dotted around the harbour – at Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Circular Quay, the Rocks.
We’d spend a night at one of these hotels – stepping out to browse the night markets in the Rocks, walking arm-in-arm along the Quay admiring the diversity of the street performers, sampling the growing number of small bars cropping up in the CBD – and I’d always feel as if I were on foreign soil for the first time, the vibrant pulse of the city never failing to invigorate me.
There’s also something about the light in Sydney.
The way it seems to give the water a deeper tinge. The endless blue skylight making the lagoons and ocean appear bluer. The plumage of birds like the lorikeet and rozella exploding in a variety of greens, blues, reds and yellows. The never-ending sunshine, lighting the sand a hundred different shades of yellow. Colours seem magnified in Sydney. The light is extraordinary.
It’s an extraordinary city all round.
From its location on the banks of a deep water harbour to its lengthy summers, diverse immigrant influence, outstanding coffee culture, exuberance and confidence, sheer over the top-ness, exotic and traditional dining fare, passion for the great outdoors, love for anything linked to sport, and its position on the edge of a vast landmass at the far reaches of the earth, Sydney is quite simply unique.
As a city, it got under my skin many moons ago. As a city, it’s a national treasure that needs to be discovered and explored, wherever it is in the world that you currently live.
What is it that you love about Sydney? What are the things that have got under your skin where you live?