The one thing I love about waking up in Australia is the sound of the Kookaburras outside the window; a strange almost ‘jungle’ like sound that appears to be from a group of monkeys though it is actually just from one bird; when you hear it you know you are in the tropics.
Although Australian life in the cities is basically northern European life in a better climate, the feeling that I am on the other side of the world never really leaves me or is far from my mind.
There is something almost bizarre about walking around air-conditioned department stores that could grace Bond Street with Christmas music blaring and Christmas paraphernalia whilst wearing summer clothes and shades, needed for when you walk outside into the blazing heat and sunshine. You feel like you are somehow in a bubble as everyone you know in the northern hemisphere is probably sleeping now, and this brings about an extreme tranquillity, a feeling that nothing needs to be rushed, that for the next eight hours or so no one is working, no one will try to contact you and no emails!
Of course spending time leisurely wandering around the elegant shopping streets and malls has its advantages but is not the real reason we travel to the other side of the world for the festivities, that is definitely reserved for the never-ending coastline of Sydney with its mile long white sandy tropical beaches (with never a sun bed or a parasol in sight). The Australian beach culture is a long way from the ‘British’ obsession with sun; they are probably the most ‘sun-safe’ cultures in the world but this has nothing to do with the way they lather themselves in incredibly effective sun lotion but the fact that they have the Mediterranean mentality when it comes to sun. Early morning beach trips or late afternoon are always on the Aussie family agenda (though not too late or early; no-one goes swimming or surfing at twilight or sunrise as that is when the sharks venture into shallow water for feeding, a fact that horrifies us but doesn’t bat the eye of a local!) and never go out without your hat!
During holiday periods and weekends the Sydneysiders love to also indulge in leisurely late breakfasts with great coffee, eggs and lots of avocado, or lunch in waterside cafe's. Food is great in Sydney, a melting pot of Mediterranean, Asian and European culture using fabulous ingredients, lots of fresh and unusual seafood (Balmain Bugs are a must to try!)
Christmas Day is usually spent on the beach and quite often a 'barbie' in the evening ( many beaches have a special area with picnic tables and communal BBQ’s on gas stoves that you can cook your food on), whilst New Year’s Eve is either spent perched in a optimum location to view the Harbour Bridge fireworks with a picnic and glass of bubbly, or in one of the many waterside pubs with massive outdoor areas and great ‘beach’ music. Of course there is also the option of an elegant evening in one of the superb city restaurants that line Darling Harbour or Circular Quay, or a night at the Opera at the stunning Sydney Opera House.
Whatever your objectives, Christmas in the sun (and our culture) is a definite must to do at least once in your life!