Take me home, Sydney roads: My not-so-European summer

Coffee, cobblestones, and Club 77 – romanticising the sights of Sydney.

Art by Jun Kwoun.

When the sun rises in Paris it stains the high walls and cobblestone pavements pink. Wooden terrace windows float on air and narrow streets flood with enough light to finally christen the ends of cigarettes, mulled and misty before a shot of espresso. Elizabeth Bay wakes from a similar dream of art-deco belle époque, dusting Ithaca Road in green and blue. Breakfast is served at Bill’s on a marble platter weighted with fresh lemons, brioche, and white linen skirts, preparing for a restful day. The Seine embraces Sydney Harbour behind it all, the two bodies of water whispering to each other across the distance between them.

Sandstone melts into the clay and curved archways uncurling along London’s Oxford Street. Bolted doors and dirty pigeons fly free as green trees fade to yellow, shopping bags blurring into red payphones. Double-decker buses race between lanes wide with ambition and rushing forward, always upwards with summer heat, serenading tourists who move to electric rhythms. Only when Oxford Circus comes to an end does Paddington begin its march of pride flags and gentrified pubs. The 440 hums along to the squeaky leather boots and scratchy fishnet stockings filling its seats, wondering how it ever got so lucky.

The journey west brings cleaner air and an appetite. Viridescent vineyards roll past Hyde Park and spill vino like a miracle onto Lake Como’s marble shores. Haberfield sails from the heart of Little Italy, transporting basilicas and piazzas through the azure channels of immigrant memories. Tall Venetian women set crystal glasses and dark red dahlias onto long mahogany tables veiled with white lace, breaking bread and thanks over a statuette of la Madonna. Perfumes of garlic and basil sing an alto note before draping themselves across crushed velvet couches. Catch a glimpse of riposo, drift off to Sicily: August has come, August has come. San Valentino’s sfogliatelle and affogato have never tasted so sweet. 

A flaxen haze holds full bellies chasing the remains of the day. Copenhagen ushers the weary traveller into the Surry Hills’ Golden Age Cinema, silently pouring elderflower liqueur and thick woollen blankets over a murmuring session of Margrete (2021). Candlelight dims as dreamers descend from the bar and sink into pews brocaded by emerald cushions, preparing to practice magic in the distance between Amalienborg and Rundetaarn. The Northern Lights, fatigued from their roaring beauty, yawn onto trailing curtains falling from the stars. Pictures flicker against silhouetted faces like snowflakes; strangers hold hands and huddle to keep warm. 

Balmy sea breezes, lime white washes, and sun-bleached soils coax kisses from the sunset’s underside. Athenian ruins crumble along beaten roads like feta columns and crepidoma tossed onto porcelain plates.

The Apollo stands tall on the corner of Sydney’s Macleay Street, laden with olive branches and unpolished stone. Conversations echo through the amphitheatres of pottered amphorae and silk mati bracelets set upon cotton countertops. Taffeta hemlines glide along the hard wooden floorboards of nights starting and meals finishing, the scene tempting a smile from the Gods. 

Youth demands love like the end of the night demands a dance. Red glows radiate from Berlin’s basements towards vignettes of black tattoo ink and midnight Jägermeister, seducing tabs on tongues and tokes on tobacco. The butterfly stamped onto William Street connects Darlinghurst to an underground network of graffitied stairs and mysterious memories, each slinking deeper and deeper into its nocturnal hideaways. Bodies rise and fall and catch one another through the traces of house music at Club 77, wrapping around walls and stages when the shadows steal the last of their senses. Hands touch hips and lips find lips in the darkness, breaking rules that do not exist in the morning light. Closed eyes; open city; sway.