Days 71 & 72: A Very Matey Christmas

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December 24th 2009
Published: February 26th 2010
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Camels in Manly.
Spending Christmas together in a foreign country is a first for us. We are not particularly religious but we do enjoy spending time with friends and family during the holiday season. The next two days will likely feel a bit strange.

We flew back from Melbourne to Sydney on the morning of the 24th and checked into our hotel, the Amora, in central Sydney. It was listed as a "mystery hotel" on a website that gives great deals on last minute hotel bookings. It is not the St. Regis but it is pretty nice.

The harbor area was still buzzing with people on Christmas Eve and the sun was out so we decided to hit the beach. Bondi Beach is the most famous beach in the Sydney area. There is even a lifeguard show on TV called "Bondi Rescue". We haven't watched it but, from the ads, it seems similar to Baywatch - lots of beautiful, tanned, toned lifeguards running around the beach.

We're not fans of Baywatch so we opted instead for Manly Beach, 30 minutes from the Sydney harbor via ferry. It's a wonderful little community and its excellent beaches were absolutely packed with sunbathers and
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Testing out the water on Manly Beach.
children with ice cream cones. Lucky Southern Hemisphere people! In San Francisco, we spend the few hours of daylight on Christmas Eve in a mad rush to finish up shopping or stuck in traffic en route to holiday parties. We even ran into a pack of camels (!!) outside of a local church in Manly - a more dedicated (and far more interesting, although messy) recreation of the manger scene than Angelique had ever experienced in her Catholic upbringing.

Around 7pm we headed back to Sydney and had Christmas Eve dinner at "our" pub (the Lord Nelson). Surprisingly, it was fairly crowded. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. We had some great nibbles including a pumpkin-and-goat-cheese pizza and headed back to our hotel.

On Christmas morning, we slept in and then phoned some family members. Snow on the east coast, rain on the west coast. Cloudy but warm in Sydney.

Around 10:30am, we ventured out for breakfast. The central business district was absolutely empty but good old Starbucks was reliably open. We then went for a long walk through the botanical gardens, enjoying the 80F weather. In Hyde Park, we watched two gentlemen play a
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Big crowds at Manly Beach despite howling winds.
game of life-sized chess, making their moves by picking up their chosen piece and walking it over to its new position.

By early afternoon, a surprising number of people were outside in the central business district enjoying the day. We grabbed lunch at a restaurant near the harbor and headed back to our hotel in the late afternoon for a nap.

One of the best parts about travel is meeting so many interesting people. Tonight, in the hot tub at our hotel, we met a woman from China who is living in Australia and working in the mining industry. She has a PhD and is a geo-chemist. Very cool.

The Park Hyatt Hotel has the best view of the harbor and Opera House and so we went there for dinner. It was bustling. There was live music and exceptional people-watching (including one young couple who had clearly just gotten engaged and were celebrating with some champagne - probably their second or third bottle - and singing along to the music).

We do miss our family and friends - and San Francisco in general - but we were a bit surprised that we don't feel lonely being out of the country over Christmas. We've really enjoyed our time here in Australia: exploring Sydney and Melbourne and meeting wonderful, friendly people.

Tomorrow is our 19th flight of the trip - and our last flight for three months. We're moving on to our 10th and final country: New Zealand.


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