Tony Wheeler: It won't be a cold, cold Christmas on Bondi Beach
Something to declare
Sunday 16 December 2012
Many thousands of Brits are escaping to the southern hemisphere for Christmas. But can you properly celebrate 25 December while getting sunburnt on the beach at Bondi?
Well, let me propose the opposite. My children were both born in Australia, but their parents were both born in the UK: my wife in Belfast, myself in Bournemouth. When they were still teenagers we brought them back to the UK for a northern hemisphere Christmas.
So those ancestral memories kicked in, right? Santa and his reindeer arriving on the snow-covered roof? A robin redbreast twittering from the holly tree? Carol singers shivering in the frosty cold? They may never have experienced a real British Christmas, but it had to be in the blood, hard-wired into their nervous systems, didn't it?
"This isn't Christmas," we were told. "It's freezing cold. The weather is miserable. It just doesn't feel like Christmas. Christmas is supposed to be hot. Let's not do this again."
All those generations of family history, that natural feel for what a real Christmas should be like (cold and damp at the very least) had been wiped, deleted, purged. As far as my son and daughter were concerned Christmas should be sunny and hot. Anything else was fake.
So if you're going to have a hot Christmas in Australia, what better place to enjoy it than Bondi? It's a beach with everything – only five miles from the centre of Sydney, as fine a strip of golden sand as you'll find close to the heart of any city of four million people. Lots of tanned and buffed guys and girls look like they've just been posing for the Bondi postcards. There'll be Christmas-inspired swimsuits – ie red and white bikinis with white fur trim – and at least one Santa will undoubtedly ride in to the beach on a surfboard.
You won't feel alone – there'll be plenty of other Poms on the sand and in the water; the lifeguards will certainly rescue one or two before the day's out. Plus there'll be an international roll call of other visitors, so even with all the English accents you'll know you're not at home.
If you can't make it for Christmas, then Bondi is worth a visit at some other time of year. There are no notable Bondi hotels, but there is a notable restaurant – Icebergs – with a million-dollar view and prices to match. If you can't afford dinner, at least splash out on a drink. If it's winter you can sip with a sympathetic shudder for the hardy bathers who swim in the seawater pool nudged up against the cliff below no matter how low the temperature.
On more than one occasion I've been exceedingly glad to arrive at Bondi, along with 50,000 other idiots, when I've run the nine-mile "City to Surf" course from central Sydney to Bondi Beach.
But if you do make it for Christmas there's a final icing on the Christmas cake: you can send a festive present home to your family and friends. A sweet little picture of you lazing back on the sand, getting sunburnt. Won't that make them feel good, shivering back at home?
Tony Wheeler is co-founder of Lonely Planet travel guides
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