Despite having spent the best part of three months travelling down the Australian coast, I made pretty good time reaching Victoria for when I had aimed. As I mentioned before I was staying with some family friends, Ollie and Mike, and they were generous enough to invite me to spend Christmas with their extended family: an offer I was glad to have accepted.
As you might expect from any westernised country the lead up to Christmas was a big thing, and I first saw big decorations being put in place when I was back in Brisbane a month earlier. Presents and toys were a big theme, something capitalised on with a rather festive Lego display in Sydney, but it was during my few days in Melbourne just after travelling on the Great Ocean Road that I saw citywide decorations in full swing.
Of course travelling is all about new experiences, and taking in the sights of polar bears, igloos, and Santa’s elves wearing shades was, to me at least, certainly a novelty. I might have been far into the southern hemisphere, but the North Pole rhetoric of Santa Claus was as alive and well as back home.
For those who haven’t experienced one, an Australian Christmas is pretty much what you might expect, or at least what I was expecting from hearing about other peoples (plus maybe a few stereotypes thrown in for good measure). Firstly this included chilling out in the sunshine (and shade, complete with Slip, Slap Slop, routine) while before the finishing touches were added to the Christmas dinner.
Something was similar to a British BBQ menu of burgers, salads, etc, but being cooked in Australia was a little bit more exotic. Luckily those with more experience were able to teach me exactly what to do with my King Prawns to make sure I didn’t eat the parts I wasn’t supposed to.
In addition, rather than a traditional nap the after dinner routine consisted of relaxing in the pool rather than on the sofa. About as relaxing as you’d want spending an afternoon in the pool to be anyway, as the inclusion of water pistols is always a welcome one.
Over all it was a Christmas I shall never forget as it is one which most reminds me of what Christmas is supposed to be about. Not presents or snow, but spending a day with wonderful company in such a welcoming atmosphere, regardless of what side of the world you are on.
After spending a great week enjoying the comfort and hospitality of several Australian households however, on new year’s eve I headed back to the big city. Melbourne was about two hours away by coach, and I’d booked myself into the north YHA. Primarily as the main hostel in the Central Business District was fully booked, but as luck would have it this actually gave me an even better experience.
The trek to get there was a bit further than literally just around the corner from Southern Cross Station but did take me past the Queen Victoria Market, one of Melbourne’s more traditional features in contrast to it’s built up CBD skyscrapers. Something which this YHA’s location gave me an unobstructed view of.
Having grown up surrounded by countryside I’ve never been a huge city person, and as much as I have enjoyed visiting them, to me they’re always at their best when lit up at night. Melbourne achieved the pinnacle of this on this particular night, as I stood enjoying a firework display that covered an entire cityscape that was lit way above head height and was shooting off even further into the sky.
Something which was highlighted by the fact that although I was travelling by myself, staying in a hostel ensured that meant I didn’t spend it alone, and toasted in 2015 with a lovely German couple who treated me to a glass of Champagne style sparkling wine.
The humble rooftop terrace of a three storey YHA might not have been tall enough to join in with these firewors, but I’d have struggled to have found a better place to watch them.