It seems like far too long since I did one of my ‘That Time That I…’ stories and with the holidays right around the corner I have the perfect festive story!
Growing up in England I never really had a white Christmas but being in a colder country I was used to cold weather, images of log fires and the constant mention of a white Christmas. We wrapped up in Christmas jumpers and drank mulled wine to keep warm. But that was all to change on Christmas 2010 when we left cold England for sunny Australia.
Why We Spent Christmas 2010 in Australia
My family weren’t the sort to go away for the holidays. We might travel to a nearby town to visit family but that’s about it. We’d also never been to Australia before, and only left Europe a couple of times, so traveling halfway around the world was a big thing for us.
What you also need to remember here is that I was late to get bitten by the travel bug, so I only started serious traveling in 2012.
The reason we went to Australia was for my brother. A few months earlier he and his best friend decided to take off on a gap year around Australia. This was the first time one of the kids was going to be away for Christmas and my mum decided that just couldn’t happen. She and my Step Dad John booked tickets for themselves and me to head to Sydney where the boys were planned to be.
However, things didn’t quite go to plan. The boys very quickly went through their travel budget and had to come home a month before Christmas. A disaster for my mum who had already bought flights for us that couldn’t be refunded. In the end mum and John very kindly bought the boys flights back out to Australia. Seriously, how lucky are they!
Christmas Morning Routine
Christmas morning was always the same for me and my brother growing up. We’d get up early with excitement and stare at the clocks in our rooms knowing we weren’t allowed to wake our parents up before 7am. Although, as the years went by and we grew older the need to sleep in like lazy teenagers took over so the routine changed to our mum being the excited one waking us up.
Once everyone was awake it would be time to drag our stockings from Santa into our parents room so we could open the presents while our parents stayed in bed. This did seem to be a little unfair the older we got. Surely it was our turn to be the ones in bed!
After Santa’s stockings were opened and we had made sufficient mess from all the wrapping paper, it would be time to head downstairs for breakfast (normally just cereal) and then it was time to open the presents under the tree from the family. Did I mention we were spoiled on Christmas day?!
Christmas Morning In Sydney
On Christmas morning 2010 I rolled over in bed and slowly started to remember that I wasn’t in my bed in England. As I was waking up it was coming back to me how the day before we had arrived at Sydney Airport and I was in a hotel room overlooking Darling Harbour trying to shake off the feeling of jet lag. I was actually grateful for the jet lag since that was the only reason my mum didn’t rush us to wake up like she normally does on Christmas morning!
Keeping with tradition myself, my brother Daniel and Ashley, his friend he’d been backpacking around Australia with, went up to my mum and John’s room. It would appear Santa had got a little confused as we weren’t in our usual location and had sent the presents to my mum’s room instead of ours. We let him off though as he is a very busy man!
While there were no decorations in the hotel room, with family, presents and a good laugh it still felt like Christmas. Although staring at the window at a beautiful blue sky was an unusual sight for Christmas morning! Don’t get me wrong, England isn’t the place where you wake up on Christmas morning to beautiful sheets of fresh snow, but the cold air sure did make you feel like it should be snowing!
After opening our presents it was time to head out and explore Sydney. After all, we were here as tourists! Stepping outside of the hotel into the warm Australian air was a bizarre Christmas moment. I probably should have tried to forget it was Christmas as we were going out exploring a new city but it’s a hard thing to shake!
Trying to forget it was Christmas wasn’t getting any better on our walk to the Sydney Bridge and Opera House. Along the way we walked past the streets that were filled with Christmas decorations but they were wrong. I was used to a world where Christmas was about Frosty the snowman and here I was on the other side of the world that had Christmas banners with parrots on them! Inside I was crying out for Frosty!
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being out in Sydney but being outside on Christmas day just felt so unnatural to me, especially in weather that was burning my delicate English skin! But once Sydney’s famous Harbor Bridge came into view I felt a lot better. Suddenly Christmas was out of my head as I stared at this magnificent structure thinking to myself “I’m finally here!”
Of course, next to the bridge is the iconic Sydney Opera House which was a lot different up close. I remember being fascinated with the roof. In the pictures the roof always looks smooth but it is actually textured. It’s kind of fun that you have to get up close to notice this. It makes visiting the Opera House more special. To me anyway!
Escaping The Australian Sun
As stunning as these iconic symbols of Sydney are to look at, they are out in the open so our English skin needed to get out of the hot Australian sun so it was time to head back to Darling Harbour for some inside activities.
The reason for returning to Darling Harbour was for the Sea Life Aquarium. We hadn’t been in Australia long enough to handle the sun all day long so this was the perfect afternoon activity.
Away from the sun we had fun watching the animals in the aquarium and taking advantage of the many photo opportunities inside the aquarium. It was fun pretending to dive with the sharks and boxing kangaroos. The shade was definitely appreciated by all of us!
I still can’t believe this place was open on Christmas day! I suppose there are probably a lot of visitors like us that need inside activities to keep us out of the sun. And the place was both busy with people so I guess it wouldn’t make sense for them to close.
Just like that, most of our Christmas day was over. I think that’s the most active I’ve ever been on Christmas day! We were all feeling the need for a rest, especially as we hadn’t quite recovered from that long flight the day before. Thankfully we were right by our hotel so it was back for naps, showers and relaxing.
Once refreshed it was time to head out for our Christmas dinner. Usually this would be a home cooked meal consisting of classic English Christmas foods such as turkey, pigs in blankets (sausage wrapped in bacon), roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and lots of vegetables. I had a feeling though that the restaurants in Sydney wouldn’t be offering this!
I’m not usually one for getting dressed up for Christmas but this year was all about experiencing a different type of Christmas so out I went in a red dress and Christmas tree earrings to make myself feel a little festive. Sticking with the unusual Christmas theme instead of the traditional English meal we had a pizza. Not just any pizza, the largest pizza I’ve ever seen! It may not have been the usual Christmas meal I’m used to but I definitely did not disappoint.
Sadly with the jet lag still affecting us it wasn’t long before we called it a night and headed back to the hotel. Lying in bed I couldn’t help but reflect on the weird Christmas day I had just had. It was an enjoyable day and I was glad to have experienced a warm Christmas but I think to me Christmas should be a winter holiday and I wasn’t just thinking that because I was lying there with a red, sore face! Frosty I missed you!
It’s funny looking back at it now. At the time I really struggled being somewhere with a different tradition to what I was used to. Obviously, since this trip I have travelled all around the world and now embrace any differences I can experience. But back in Sydney 2010 I really missed my traditional English Christmas. I’m sure this you could tell reading this post!
Maybe one day I’ll go back to Australia (or somewhere else warm) and try again to embrace the joy of the sunny Christmas. I know I have thought about doing Christmas in Bali so maybe that will be the place.
But wherever you are in the world, whether you’re celebrating Christmas or not, I hope you enjoy the day. Sending love from my family to yours
More From The ‘That Time I…’ Series
Did you enjoy this post? While travel guide style posts are helpful when travel planning, the reason many of us fall in love with bloggers is for the personal stories. I plan to write more of these in the future but for now why not check out the following:
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