I can honestly say I never thought I would spend Christmas outside of the UK or away from my family, but I was presented with the opportunity to work at a ski resort in Canada over the 2009-2010 winter season and it was too good a chance to pass up. Having never skied before (or even touched a pair of skis), I was a little apprehensive at first but considering I had five months to get good, I can safely say by the end, I could at least call myself an intermediate skier.
As for Christmas at the resort, well, what can I say - it was spectacular. Snow, more snow, Christmas lights, more snow, skiing, Christmas dinner with my friends (during a break between shifts) and even more snow. Of course, having watched Miracle on 34th Street and knowing the charm of a British Santa Claus, my employers had a special job for me and I duly donned the white beard and red hat and spent half the day ho-ho-ho-ing around the resort. Apart from a touch of vertigo when experiencing my first ride back down the chairlift (cue much ho-ho-ho-ing while green in the face and rushing to the staff office to throw up - fortunately the beard came off just in time), my experience as Santa went very well and the children at the resort were exceedingly grateful for my having delivered all their presents the night before.
Anyway, I would recommend Christmas at Panorama to anyone and especially those people who want to get away from it all and work at the resort for a season. I had the most amazing time and would go back in a second, if I happen to have a spare five months one year.
Having visited Sydney aged 15 with my family and doing all the things that a family should do when going down under - tours of the Opera House, ferry trips to Manly, relaxing on Bondi Beach, etc, I returned to Sydney determined to try out the more unusual attractions that the city has to offer which are maybe more off the beaten track from the hordes of tourists.
Of course, I did the adventurous stuff in Sydney to start with - climbing the Harbour Bridge and swinging out over 250m above the city on a glass floor on the Sydney Skywalk atop Centrepoint Tower (millions of tourists alas), but who'd have thought that just an hour away from Sydney, I could be hang-gliding over the beautiful (and devoid of tourists) cliffs of Stanwell Park, or that a couple of hours away on the train I could be racing over massive sand dunes to shipwrecks and tin cities on a quad bike at Port Stephens?
I did all this and more, in what truly was the adventure of a lifetime. Sydney is a wonderful city, and contains something for everyone. My advice - do everything - you only live once and you may only visit Australia once or twice in your lifetime. My only regret was not having the money to scuba dive with sharks at Manly Aquarium.
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