Christmas Down Under

Today we’re taking a little break from all the wintery content on Almost Famous Writer, with MA student and Downton Abbey-lover Annick Wijnstra sharing her experiences of counting down to Christmas in Australia. 

Canberra, as it shifts from day to night

When Eden asked me if I wanted to write an article for Almost Famous Writer, I didn’t need to think twice. I have watched it grow and develop, so it was only appropriate I’d contribute my little piece of writing at some point. And what better time than to do it for the Christmas advent calendar?

But about what? Something Christmassy? That’s going to be tough. I am in Australia right now, doing an internship, and I’m not convinced Christmas is happening this year. The world has quite literally turned on its head.

Looking out over Canberra from Mt. Ainslie

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas (occasionally). In the Netherlands, the winter weather is a sure guarantee to get me into the Christmas spirit. I love the snow and the bitter cold, the short and dark days and, best of all, the Christmas lights. What I really love about Christmas itself is my family. Every year, we have a Christmas dinner, we dress up, we light some candles. I love the cosy nights in, hot chocolate and wood burning in the fireplace. But here in Australia, it is only getting hotter. And its weird. Christmas music is playing while it is 30 degrees Celsius outside which just doesn’t add up. Putting up the Christmas tree on the first day of summer is weird.

So, considering that it is too hot in Australia to think about Christmas, this is going to be an ‘Annick’s Admiration of Australia’ article (that alliteration tho!). I am based in Canberra, where I’m doing an internship at the Dutch Embassy. It’s cool and I love it. I never want to leave. But then again, I’ve known that I wanted to go to Australia since I was 4. My dad went to Australia when he was younger, and I’ve grown up watching his pictures of Australia. There is one picture that I vividly remember, even now. It is of him driving down a red dirt road, surrounded by gumtrees. This was when I fell in love with Australia and decided I wanted to go there myself.

The Australian War Memorial
Those architectural lines! From the war memorial you have a straight line to old parliament house and Parliament hill

Canberra is a small city, built to house the government because Australians are so extremely extra that they couldn’t decide on a capital and, to stop the competition, decided to build one especially for that purpose. It has its perks. Everything is well thought out and the design is stunning. There’s a lake and its surrounded by mountains. Double win. Together with interns from other embassies in town, I often escape the city for a weekend trip. Because no matter how nice the city is, it is small and full of public servants.

Australia offers the perfect escapes. Be it a trip to the beach, mountains, or a quick (read: 3,5 hours) bus ride to Sydney, there is enough to do.

So let’s talk about Sydney. Now there is a city. I’ve grown up watching Australian tv shows (Home and Away, which was filmed in Sydney, Dance Academy, McLeods Daughters, which wasn’t set in Sydney, but really cool!), and I fell in love with the city without having been there. The first time I visited, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was standing in front of the Sydney Opera House, and even though it was cloudy, it was magnificent. It may sound strange but being in Sydney made me realise that I was actually in Australia. I finally made it to the land down under, and I was in the city of my dreams.

Sydney
Sydney
Sydney

The beaches here are absolutely stunning. Everything you’ve heard about Aussie beaches is true. Crystal clear water, pure white sand, kangaroos lounging around. It is perfection. And no beach is the same. By now, I’ve seen my fair share of beaches in New South Wales, and every time, the beauty of it takes me by surprise.

Hyams beach has the whitest sand in Australia. It squeaks as you walk, it is amazing.
WHALES!
Pambula beach at sunset
To get to this beach, we had to walk though a jungle. This was the first peak of the ocean.
Windswept trees.
Skies made of fairy floss.
Bondi

The mountains have something mystic about them. It shifts from rocky desert into rainforest in the blink of an eye and the views are breath-taking. We went on a trip to the Blue Mountains one weekend with 14 people. We saw the famous three sisters and went on a hike that took us down into the valley. One minute you’re walking down a paved road and the next you’re wondering through a jungle. Hiking is the best thing to do here really. The nature is wild and rugged, and you can get to the most beautiful locations after a tediously long and difficult hike. (Very bitter about this) It is all worth it in the end. Standing on top of the mountain, the views are indescribable. It is at times like those that I realise how immense this country is.

Rainforest walk
Kangaroo Valley
Fitzroy Falls
Cambewarra Mountain Lookout
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Thinking about it now, Christmas is happening this year, regardless whether i feel like it is. With every step, every trip, I feel like a kid on Christmas. Australia is the perfect gift that keeps on giving (jeesh, that was corny). And there are so many great things to come. Actual Christmas on the beach. New year’s 11 hours ahead of everyone back home. A group of friends who have become family. And while it is strange for it to be over 30C for Christmas, it will be a great experience. Celebrating Christmas on the beach. Isn’t that just the dream!

Love from Australia,

Annick

All photos are shot by Annick Wijnstra

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