Part one - Merry Christmas
19.12.2010 - 24.12.2010
We came to Byron Bay as another stop off to break up our journey down to Sydney. We found a lovely little town, if a bit hippy. This was the first of our stops where, due to our late bookings and the approaching Christmas holiday, it became cheaper to stay in a hotel than a hostel. So continuing on from our spot of luck in Fraser Island we enjoyed staying in relative luxury.
As a laid back town we enjoyed wandering around the boutique shops, eating fish and chips, watching the sun set over the ocean, taking a stroll around the headland and marvelling at the bravery of the turkeys wandering in plain sight this close to Christmas day.
After some careful consideration we decided not to attend the winter solstice gathering, despite the free food and drums, as a number of attendees appeared to have personal hygiene issues.
One overnight bus later and we find ourselves in Sydney, our last stop in Australia. We will be here for Christmas and flying out on New Year’s Eve – it would have been nice to stay to see the fireworks on NYE but the cost of accommodation and availability of flights would not allow.
Our first hotel is the Travelodge where we stay for two nights, one day to wander around the city and another day spent touring the wineries of the Hunter Valley. Our wine tour included 3 stops where they took us through their wines from dry whites, fruity reds, sparkling whites & reds, desert wines, port and even jungle juice. All of these served up with cheese and crackers. Not a bad day and in a display of restraint we only bought four bottles of wine.
Throughout Australia we (more Stiamh than Niamh) have been disappointed by the lack of festive spirit. Very few houses have decorated, Christmas music is not to be heard, and even the shopping centres seem drab and empty. To some in the midst of an over commercial Christmas, that started in July, this probably sounds ideal. To those of us not lucky enough to have snow and having to tolerate sunshine and beaches, that Christmas joy is proving an elusive sentiment.
Would Sydney come through for us.... not really. We have been to carols sung by the local youth choir and seen a number of quite pleasant trees and lights. Tonight (Christmas Eve) we will be going to Darling Harbour to hear more carols and see the fireworks. If that all fails we might have to take desperate measures and head to midnight mass to see if the Church can succeed where Woolworths has failed.
Today we have moved to the Sheraton hotel where we will be until the 27th. The bathroom here is bigger than some of the hostel rooms we have stayed in up to this point. We did briefly consider renting out the wardrobe to a couple of backpackers. We made enquiries about the hotel’s Christmas lunch but a Sydney Christmas is more about seafood and less about turkey and $240 per person for a seafood buffet is a little too much. Instead we have found a small hotel that does a turkey lunch and we have a few bits of cheese and ham and a couple of bottles of wine hidden in our mini bar.
Suffice to say we will have a lovely Christmas despite our humbug surroundings and we wish everyone a fantastic merry Christmas.