Familiar but strange

This is a photo I never thought I would ever take! There is usually a mass of people walking here, with waiters dashing back and forth across the flow from the restaurants on the right to the outside seating beyond the pillars on the left.

On Sunday I ventured out of my immediate neighbourhood for the first time in weeks. I took the ferry from my local wharf (I’ve never seen more than a handful of people of that route, so social distancing was absurdly easy) to Circular Quay, where I stepped into an alternative universe: the buildings were all there, but the vast majority of people had been stripped away. My goal was the botanic garden (still open in the lockdown, although all its buildings and cafes are closed) and the easiest route is to walk along the quay and past the opera house. All so unthinkingly familiar — but this time, also so very strange.

I generally scurry along this stretch, dodging dawdlers and tourists. No need for that now.

Where are the hundreds of restaurant tables?

The next shock was the forlorn, stripped-down Opera Bar. This place I avoid like the plague — so noisy, so crowded!

Opera Bar — no tables, no chairs, no bar, certainly no people.

Looking back at Opera Bar from the other end. I’ve never taken a photo with all the people; the one on the right, below, is from

I then walked around the opera house, rather than crossing in front. At the harbour end, I encountered one other person; there are usually dozens here.

At the harbour end of the opera house.

It was time to head for the gardens. My ferry is only hourly, and this eerie ghost town with its memories of happier times was not somewhere I wanted to have to kill time if I carelessly missed my return. I took one look at the hordes on the main path that runs along the water and chose another route.

And indeed, away from the harbour, the gardens were fairly deserted, and as lovely as ever.

Bridge and birds of paradise.

Something bushy sticking through a fence.

Bonus points if you spotted the man up the tree!

This is the approach to the cafe. A lovely spot, with good food (and it’s licensed).

These chairs and tables are usually spread all over this area, full of people.

This looks like a painting, doesn’t it? The reflections give everything an undefined look.

More reflections.

Clumps of plants, backlit by the low autumn sun.

The various little buildings where you might sit with a group are closed.

But the benches are still open! I sat here for a while.

This protea caught my eye while I was sitting. Protea Cyanoides ‘Little Prince’, according to its sign.

Usually, after a stroll around the gardens I’d finish off with a glass of bubbly at Portside, another venue at the opera house but much quieter and more civilised than Opera Bar.

No bubbly at Portside this time, alas. Certainly quiet, however!

So it was back on the ferry and home again.

Heading home.

Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walk. (I see she has a cheese fest this week, oh yes!)


18 thoughts on “Familiar but strange

  1. How fabulous, but utterly weird, Karen 🙂 🙂 Everywhere so immaculately clean and uncluttered. And whatever was that guy doing up the tree? 🙂 Lovely crisp shots! I especially like the bird in the water and the sunlight through those plants. Many thanks for sharing Sydney with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How utterly bizarre, but what a chance to capture your city in a very different mood. The shadows of the opera bar are fab. The empty opera house steps I have seen. I had to walk back to the Quay via the gardens when there was that siege in Martin Place and the Opera House was evacuated. Everywhere was eerily quiet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s the absence of infrastructure — tables, chairs, umbrellas, etc — that makes it so strange. Things don’t seem merely closed, they are actually gone. Some of the restaurant and shop interiors are empty too, so they’ve given up.

      Liked by 1 person

        • So many businesses in towns and areas are being crippled by tourist absences. 😦 Though it seems we may (in a few months) have a trans-Tasman travel bubble. That would at least be a start!


  3. I can recognise all these places! This is more or less the route we walked on our first morning in Australia back in 2004 so I know how bust they should look. We had lunch where your first picture is taken. I can’t remember what we had, I probably didn’t know at the time because I was in such a haze of jet lag!


    • I totally understand the jealousy of wanting to take your own photos. I see shots of empty London and wanted to snap the places myself! I am very well, thanks — working from home is great, apart from the onslaught of noise from neighbours. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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