SYDNEY, Australia – Birds fly south for the winter, and, every Christmas, expat Australians like me do the same. You land, your entire body insulted from the indignities it has faced over the last fourteen hours in coach — and that was just the final leg of the journey. Add eight hours if you're coming from London or six hours from New York, plus wait time. That baby with ear pressure problems screamed for the last seven hours. You made a vow to yourself to never have children. The smell — let's not talk about that. You consumed five heavily wooded chardonnay mini-bottles (and you hate chardonnay), and that got you to sleep for a total of 47 minutes.
But you're back in Sydney now, walking through the terminal. Everyone is in a huge line at duty free stocking up on booze, so you sail right through customs and immigration. You're in heavy wool, carrying a coat, surrounded by people in flip-flops and shorts. It's 6:40 a.m. local time, and the airport is pumping. You're hoping that whoever said they were going to pick you up has not overslept their alarm. The crowd parts, and an excited, lovable, coffee-carrying family member / friend / lover is waiting for you. And you have never been so happy to see anyone in your life.
There is only one path to redemption at this point, and, if you have done this trip before, you know what it is. You drive straight from the airport to Bondi Beach. In the car on the way, you shed a few layers of clothing and pull out a hat, sunglasses, and sandals from your luggage. You go directly to The Crabbe Hole, located on the pool deck of Bondi Icebergs Club, a beach club known for its winter swimming.
The barista coffee you have longed for since your last visit comes with hearts and leaves decorating the foam. You consider agave-scented ricotta, Sonoma breads, Byron Bay Bliss Balls, home-baked cakes, and organic, cold-pressed juices. You feel comforted by the laid-back, friendly attitude. Though the food is delicious, you're really there for the view of the breathtaking ocean directly in front of you. Turn your head 45 degrees, and you see the whole of Bondi Beach. Look down one level at toned, tanned bodies doing laps in the pool.
A unique feature of Sydney is its ocean pools. Found at many waterfront locations and always with breathtaking views, they have ocean water flowing through — and sometimes waves crashing over the edge. They offer the convenience of a pool and lap swimming, but have fresh ocean water with no rip and no sharks.
When the Crabbe Hole waiters get too hot or need a break, they go down the steps, take a quick dip, and come back to serve you wearing a towel or sarong. You dig that about them. And you can't help but contemplate your life choices.
The Crabbe Hole
1 Notts Ave.
Bondi Beach, NSW 2026
(No website: They are that cool. Word of mouth spread so fast they didn't need one.)