What It Was Like to Celebrate Christmas 2019 in Australia

kangaroo looking at us

A lot can happen in a year… I can’t believe we’re almost Christmas already as it doesn’t really feel like it. I never thought we would still be going through a worldwide pandemic by now but here we go! Anyway, the topic today is to go back to Christmas period last year when we were in the middle of our big adventure in Southeast Asia & the Pacific. In December 2019, we were visiting several cities in Australia and we were in Melbourne for Christmas. As far as I can remember, COVID19 was not worrying anyone just yet.

Christmas doesn’t mean winter for everyone

First of all, it was weird to celebrate Christmas during summer… Yes, December is a summer month in Australia, I struggled to get my head around it too. When you know their winter (June, July & August) is already quite warm compared to what Brits are used to, I will let you imagine what summer is like. We had temperatures above 40°C on multiple occasions and it was difficult to cope with at times! To me, Christmas happens during winter. People are happy if it snows because they can build a snowman, cosy up with a hot drink in front of a log fire, etc. I was certainly not used to wearing a pair of sunglasses instead! And apparently, Santa wears shorts over there. I still can’t recover from that.

How we spent Christmas day in Melbourne

Probably because of the weather, people don’t tend to lock themselves at home in Australia. They’re not vegetating for hours in front of TV like in England. They’re out and about, sometimes even enjoying a barbecue. We expected a quiet city with empty streets (like you could expect in London), but it wasn’t the case at all. After a quick video call with our families, we had Christmas dinner at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium. We thought it could be fun to eat in the middle of fish swimming around us. It was open on Christmas day and not too expensive.

In hindsight, I would say it was probably not the best decision we’ve ever made: the place was absolutely packed. Not only did it take us forever to move every metre, ditching an insane quantity of kids along the way, but the dinner experience was a bit underwhelming. If we ever have the occasion to do it again, we would simply go for a ride along the sea with a picnic. If we’re away from family on Christmas day, we might as well be away from a crowd of strangers too.

christmas 2019 in melbourne australia

During Christmas period in Melbourne – December 2019

What about Boxing day?

A cricket test match traditionally happens on Boxing day, people gather with friends and/or family there and spend the day eating (usually some junk food like hot dogs, fries, doughnuts etc) while supporting the Aussies playing against another country (usually either New Zealand, India, England or South Africa). The Boxing day test occurs every year in Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) as it’s the biggest stadium in Australia. It was also the biggest in the world until February 2020! As Brits travelling in Australia, of course we went there to live the experience.

melbourne cricket ground

Boxing Day Test 2019 at the MCG – Australia vs New Zealand

Christmas traditions around the world

It has always fascinated me how different this period of the year feels between countries. Now I can say I spent Christmas in France (where I was born and raised), in England (where I currently live) and in Australia (while travelling last year). Although I never lived in Japan, this is my mum’s native country and that’s where she experienced it during her childhood. I asked her what it was like over there at that time, but I’m sure it’s very different nowadays and I would love to spend Christmas in Japan some day and see for myself. Interested to read more about Christmas traditions in France, Japan and England? Check out my guest post on Merry’s blog!

Being in London during Christmas 2020

This year feels a bit like we have the cons of last year’s Christmas but not the pros. We’re still away from family but we’re not in Australia (and basically we can’t really go anywhere). We were supposed to be under relaxed rules for 5 days over Christmas but the Government changed their mind last weekend, given the worrying rise of infections in some areas. London has been put in tier 4, which feels like a complete lockdown and we’re not allowed to mix with another household. While isolation is perfectly acceptable when travelling, it feels a bit strange when you’re home! But like I said 2 months ago, it’s important to bear in mind this is just temporary. Let’s focus on what actually matters: being/staying healthy and being grateful for what we have.

Where in the world are you celebrating Christmas this year and what are you grateful for?

Big Girl x

Melbourne, One of the Most Liveable Cities in the World

Actually, Melbourne has ranked THE most liveable city in the world seven years in a row until 2017, based on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index. Since, Vienna (Austria) has stolen the spotlight but Melbourne is still a close second. If it wasn’t that far away from Europe, it’s definitely a city I would see myself living in… It has a weather I can cope with and gives access to all sorts of Asian food due to its proximity to Asia. What’s more to ask?

A sunny day in Melbourne

Skyscrapers are rising everywhere in the city, we rented an Airbnb on the 62nd floor just to see what it was like. Maybe because of the height, we didn’t have any balcony – It would have felt quite dangerous anyway. This is the view we had from our flat:

View from our flat on the 62nd floor – We’re practically flying!

On top of everything that’s going on within the city (rooftop cinemas, high streets, artists coming from anywhere in the world… etc), I also love Melbourne because of its variety of food options. The iconic Queen Victoria Market offers tons of fresh products (it’s only the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere). It really is a paradise for foodies! There is a very strong Asian influence too so one of the things we miss the most is a Japanese chain you can find mostly in Asia-Pacific, a Pepper Lunch classic: beef, egg and rice that you sizzle yourself on a super hot iron plate…

Pepper Lunch

And if you want to find a place a bit quieter and further away from the vibrant city, Albert Park is the perfect place to go. You have a stunning view (probably the best view of the city?) and you can cycle around the lake in peace, away from the crowd.

We stayed in Melbourne during Christmas season last year… Which means we were able to attend the Test Match that traditionally happens on Boxing Day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). It was Australia vs New Zealand last year. I’m not particularly fan of cricket but it’s worth going just for the experience. And why not order a hot dog just to feel like a local?

Boxing Day Test 2019 at the MCG

What I want to tell you next is probably my favourite experience in Australia: driving along the Great Ocean Road. It’s the largest War Memorial in the world, dedicated to soldiers killed during WWII: 243 km of zigzag road along the South coast of Australia. We did 12 hours of driving that day. In hindsight, we should have done it over 2 days, it’s a very long drive and stopping somewhere overnight would have allowed us to visit more places along the way.

It took us 7 hours of driving to reach the most popular spot in the Great Ocean Road just before sunset: the 12 Apostles. They were actually never 12 but 8 limestone stacks, created by erosion due to the extreme weather conditions in the Southern Ocean. They’re now only 7 as 1 collapsed in 2005.

The 12 Apostles

A little bit further away, there is a stack which used to form a double-span natural bridge but the first span collapsed in 1990, thanks to erosion. It used to be called “The London Bridge” (due to its resemblance to its namesake in London), but it’s now called the London Arch. I wonder what they will call it once the second span will eventually collapse too…

The London Arch

It’s impossible for me to summarise our 2 weeks in Melbourne in a single post, I would have too many things to say. But below a few more places to visit and some additional facts about this awesome city:

  • Some trams offer free travel to city sights and attractions, with audio commentary on points of interest along the route. A complete journey takes around an hour, it’s a free and easy way to have a quick overview and decide what you want to visit!
  • Eureka Skydeck will give you a 360° view of Melbourne, the lift takes you at level 88 in less than 40 seconds. And if you feel silly – I mean, courageous – you can also try the Edge experience: a glass cube which projects 3 metres out of the building, 285 metres up, while you’re in it. I still don’t know how I convince my fiancé to do it…
  • One thing you notice in Melbourne is the variety of street art. Graffiti, drawing, posters, stickers… Hosier Lane is famous for its colourful pathway that made Melbourne’s urban art scene known across the globe.
  • If you like mini golf, don’t miss Holey Moley Golf Club where the décor is impressive, from the sweet candy walls to the spooky room…
  • We spent Christmas day at Sea Life Melbourne and it wasn’t a good idea. Not because of the place itself but because it was super crowded that day… We kind of expected an empty attraction but it was all the opposite, Christmas is apparently not a day people stay at home in Melbourne!
  • At the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, you have an attraction called Punting on the lake where you feel like you’re in Venice. It’s very relaxing and informative!

Melbourne is indeed a very liveable city, I can’t find anything I don’t like about it. But maybe spending 2 weeks there is not long enough to have the full picture. If you live(d) there, I would love to have your feedback!

Big Girl x