Christmas Time… Road trip and Sunshine

28 Dec

It was always going to be a strange Christmas this year without going ‘home’ to see the family. But we were incredibly lucky to be invited by Peter and Andrew to their family home up in Brisbane for a few days and spend the Christmas period with them and their parents.

James knows Shez and Ross through his mum, who went to university with Shez so the two families actually go back a few years but since moving to Sydney, Peter, Andrew and their girlfriends have become very good friends and we feel really happy to have got to know them and very lucky to be ‘adopted’ for Christmas.

The holiday began at 4.30 am Friday morning with a car full of bags, Christmas presents, wine and mince pies and five of us ready to take on the twelve-hour journey to Brisbane. In order to beat the traffic, we set off early and planned to push on, doing the whole journey in the day so we would arrive in Brisbane by the evening. I won’t bore you with the journey details; memory games, crossword puzzles, code breakers, several coffee pitt stops, rotating driving shifts and awful Aussie radio meant it passed by pretty quickly and without too much sense of humour loss.

As we approached Byron Bay, we took a slight detour to see another friend of James’ mum – Wendy – and her husband Joss, who own a coffee plantation and grow, harvest, roast and package all their own coffee. As a none coffee drinker I couldn’t enjoy a cup – which everyone assured me was some of the best coffee they’d ever tasted. We got a quick tour around the plantation, the lowdown on how to produce coffee from bush to bag and then we experienced one of the things also common as you head further north in Australia – a tropical downpour. We emerged back at the house, very wet and then with lots of invites to return, we set off for the last stretch  – this time in torrential rain. It is cyclone season around Australia and a good rain lashing comes with it.

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When we arrived in Brisbane we were welcomed by Shez and Ross and instantly made to feel at home. The Lettens have had a pretty big year – starting last January with the devastating floods, which swamped half of the city. Living on the river, unfortunately Shez and Ross didn’t escape and so their house has only just been finished after a complete redesign and refurbishment. Although almost ready to move into, to host a big Christmas there, was not going to be practical so we all stayed in the house they’ve been renting for the past eleven months – just four doors down the road – belonging to a good friend and neighbour, who fortunately didn’t have the same extent of damage and owns another house further south. We went over to the ‘new’ house for drinks and to see the architect’s transformation: Beautiful, light, airy space with open plan wooden flooring and panoramic view out across the river.

It was certainly a fun house to be in – Shez and Ross were brilliant hosts – it was a little chaotic at times with twelve of us for Christmas Day brunch and dinner and people dropping in at various stages throughout but it was all very relaxed and never a dull moment. Importantly we also got to meet Marilyn – the ironically named Boxer dog. Andrew’s girlfriend, Shan and I put up decorations on Christmas Eve and they even found the Trivial Pursuit for a Christmas Eve stand-off. James and I on opposing teams and a win for team Louise, Andrew and Shan.

Christmas morning, we all got to share the traditions of someone else’s family Christmas: Stockings by the fire place, Ross dressed up as Santa and the Lego building competition between the boys – very amusing to see the big kids come out of everyone. With the dog decked out in reindeer antlers – Christmas was complete! The temperatures were in the high 20s – relativley cool for the time of year but hot enough to have a good swim on Christmas Eve and to go out wake boarding on the river on Christmas Day.

There was no turkey, stuffing or cranberry sauce but poached salmon, cold ham and salads were perfect for the balmy evening and we still got chocolate santas, Christmas crackers and an after dinner quiz! In fact, weather aside, we really did feel part of a normal, family Christmas.

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