Starting the 1800km drive from Yaroomba to Melbourne! We took the A15 Highway – a little more inland and a little shorter distance than via the coast. But whoa. We hit a heatwave, with temperatures over 40C. Matthias got super sick along the way, and couldn’t keep any food down for 3 days straight. Somehow we all survived those couple days, and honestly, even kept it together. Driving for such stretches of time, reminded us of our road trip through the US, the start of our journey. We can hardly believe how much we explored since then.
After all that driving, it was time to relax a little. Gym, schoolwork, and a good swim in the pool of the apartment complex made for an easy-peasy day. Vincent raced me in the pool, and honestly, I can barely keep up with him! Matthias in the meantime took a long nap, and after that was finally recovered.
That weekend, we visited Kim, Paul and their wonderful boys. Visiting them was the whole reason we drove the 1800km to Melbourne in the first place. It had been 10 years since we last connected. At the time, we both lived in Portland, pre-kids. With busy lives on either sides of the globe we had lost touch, apart from the obligatory facebook and Instagram likes. It was so refreshing to feel that when we met in person, even after all that time, conversation came easy, with lots of laughter, reviving old memories. Our kids blended well. What a great evening; how could it be any different with such great and generous hosts!
The next morning was Sunday, and frankly, mom and dad had just the tiniest of hangovers (woops!). Another easy day . We took the kids to brunch at a fancy place called The Grain Store that got good reviews on Tripadvisor. The food was good, but the menu not geared towards kids. It was also very busy and extremely noisy. Not the relaxing-take-it-easy-with-that-hangover-brunch we had hoped for, but alas. Afterwards, Steven and Vincent went to check out a funky art gallery that Steven had been following for a long time (on Elisabeth street). I took Matthias and Elyse “home” as we were all pretty tired (ahum, mom was tired). Now this was Chinese New Year, and Melbourne’s South Bank was transformed into a long slew of eating stalls to celebrate. Matthias got his dumpling fix J. Despite the “we are not going to nap”, “we are not tired” … it took Elyse not even 5 minutes to fall asleep for the longest nap. The kids woke up close to 5pm… too late to do a museum or something like that. So we walked the South Bank again, leisurely. Ate more dumplings. And tried a Korean potato-chip-on-a-stick that was so delicious. And, off course, the obligatory daily ice cream :). Then home, for movie night (hooray for Netflix!) with popcorn. That is travel too!
The next day we all felt refreshed and ready to explore the city. We walked the Sandridge Bridge and were really inspired by this privately funded monument. The entire length of the pedestrian bridge has glass panels on the side. Each panel represents a country, in alphabetical order, and has some key data on the immigration into Australia from this country such as what areas they came from, when the major immigration wave from this country occurred, how many immigrants were present in Australia in 2001 etc. The exhibit is quite cleverly called “Travelers” – and apart from the glass panels, has a couple large metal sculptures along the bridge. Each sculpture represents a significant historical period of “Travelers” arriving to Australia. As a family, we discussed which panel we identified with (and would take a picture with) … Belgium, Holland, USA, and why. We could not get to consensus. That just speaks to what patchwork experiences we have had so far.
The final panel on the bridge is the most impressive of all, with this poem/script:
Men live in tribes
then multiply and multiply.
For land they kill and rape.
The conquered ones become their slaves.
On the ground they put their flag
declared as their land.
Nations conquered each other, they sailed to find new land
Thousands of years the pattern did not change
When they found Australia, they put on the ground, their flag,
declared it as their colony.
Then they killed and raped, their laws brought
injustice and misery, but no more slavery.
Sent their convicts, invited settlers,
but needed more and more hands, by their lawful rights
invited more and more emigrants.
They brought their skills, cultures, customs,
knowledge, and with their blood and sweat
produced more and more wealth from the land.
I invite to be counted as Australian,
all the Aboriginals, Indigenous, Colonists and Emigrants.
We live in peace and harmony in our continent.
Let’s hold our hands and say together
We are proud of our heritage,
culture, customs and ancestors and we always
will cherish that.
all of us as one, with free will and full heart and clear mind.
We swear to the fact that we are all equal Australians.
We continued our city walk along St Paul’s cathedral and walked through Hosier Lane, famous for its street-art. I got quite the scare when I discovered that my credit card was not in my wallet. Retracing my steps, it turned out I had left it at the bottle shop 2 days prior. Fiew! The same day, we shopped the city to find sturdy walking sandals for the kids as they had all outgrown their sandals. Now that took some patience! It’s hard to find kid shoes in the inner city shopping malls. After all that, we would go to Luna Park. I swear I had checked the website for the opening hours, but clearly not good enough. It was closed!! We did not want to waste our 30$ uber ride, and luckily there was another playground nearby.
Our kids had to swallow their disappointment, but eventually got into playing and had a great time. We even met another world-travelling family, and that is always great for us parents too. After another long day, we went homewards and got more dumplings for Matthias . Not all their energy was burnt off however, and the boys finished the day with a visit to the Crown Playtime, a videogame parlor! They tried virtual reality and played laser-tag with dad. In the meantime, I learned all about My Little Pony, watching a couple of episodes with Elyse while cuddling on the couch. It’s the simple things!! A stellar day!
And so, our time in Melbourne came to an end. We had one more chore to do … shots! Before heading to Asia, we wanted to get our final set of vaccinations – Japanese Encephalitis. The prospect of getting those shots caused a lot of stress for the kids, but this one turned out to be breeze. We could hardly even feel the needle. What it did do was burn a very, very big hole in our wallet!
Our next stop was Venus Bay for some quiet time. And did we keep it quiet! More than anything, we simply sat and binge watched the Winter Olympics. We did go to Philip Island, and the Nobbies Centre there is very well done. The Centre is dedicated to the Arctic, with many engaging displays, and interactive videos. That night, we sat on the beach with hundreds of other people to see the “penguin parade” – supposedly hundreds of penguins come to shore at night fall to spend the night in their nests. Well, this time of year there are quite a few less penguins, and they are smart enough to beach somewhere where there are not all these curious eyes on them. Still, it was fun to see them wobble to their nests.
From Venus Bay we would continue to Sydney; we had to bring the car back (we had rented a car through rentmycar.com, essentially the Airbnb of cars, so we had to drop it off at the owner’s house). But none of us felt like another couple days in the car. So Steven drove us back to Melbourne and we made good on our promise to go to Luna Park. Imagine a 100-year old fun fair, with a wooden (!) roller coaster that shakes and rattles, with an operator standing in the middle of the carts to hit the breaks. Quaint is an understatement.
While the kids and I stayed in Melbourne, Steven drove to Sydney. We did a ton of schoolwork, and walked around the city some more. We would go visit Kim again, and on the way over, Elyse just casually said that she wasn’t feeling well. Literally the second Kim opened the front door, Elyse panicked with a “I gotta barf!”. We made it to the bathroom just in time. She was miserable all evening, and threw up several times. She couldn’t help it off course, but I was still embarrassed for Kim. I hope we didn’t pass the bug to them! Kim was as gracious and generous as ever. And the next morning … Vincent started throwing up too!! Steven called, and he was floored in Sydney with the same symptoms. Whoopsies. And I was supposed to leave the apartment at 5.45am in the morning with the 3 kiddos to catch a flight. I called our travel insurance to see if we could possibly change our flight, but that would only be possible if a doctor declared at least one of us “not fit too fly”. Well, it wasn’t that bad, I guessed. And oh wonder, literally by Tuesday evening 8 pm-ish everyone seemed to be starting to feel better. So yes, we got onto that flight. The kids were real troopers, once again. On top of that, while our flight left and arrived on time, Steven’s flight out of Sydney was delayed for hours. Long story, but I don’t have a valid driver’s license right now and so the rental company wouldn’t release our car to me. And so we sat. At the airport. Waiting. For a good 5 hours. Don’t ask me how it happened, but the boys actually got a lot of Khanacademy math in.
As always, including a list of places we stayed, ate and played. Including those we liked, and leaving the ones we didn’t love of the list :).
Where we stayed:
- Melbourne – We rented a serviced apartment in the South Bank district, in walking distance to the waterfront (through airbnb) – great for dining, walking, … I am not including the specific apartments, as they were nothing special – but they were clean and spacious and the swimming pool and gym were super. A pool was a must here to escape the city heat. There seem to be lots of these apartments for rents at any given time.
- Venus Bay – Villa Aprilia. There is not much to see in Venus Bay, apart from a fantastic beach and surfing. If you are looking for quiet and solitude, this is a great place to be. The house we rented had all the amenities, and the manager was incredibly responsive. The kitchen is well stocked, and we had a bottle of wine, a handwritten card and fresh herbs waiting for us when we arrived (a first!)
Where we ate:
- Nothing worth mentioning, really. We mostly cooked ourselves, or ate at foodstalls near the waterfront
Where we played:
- Melbourne – City walk with highlights St Paul’s Cathedral, Hosier Lane and the Sandridge Bridge
- Melbourne – Luna Park. Good for an hour or two of fun. Different carnival-like rides. Be warned that, even when purchasing the (pricy) entrance ticket that allows unlimited rides, there are still paid attractions inside. Some of which our kids loved, like “fishing ducks” (quite literal translation of the dutch “eendjes vangen” as I don’t know if there is a proper term in English).
- Melbourne – St Kilda Adventure Playground. The web page just has address, but if you look on googlemaps, the pictures will give you a good sense of what the playground looks like. If you find yourself in the St Kilda neighborhood, and your kids need to let off steam, then the beach is a great option off course. But if too windy, or something, we found a fun, small playground – for kids, built by kids. This playground opens 3.30pm. Entrance is free, but donations are welcome to maintain the playground.
- Phillip Island – great national park with amazing hikes, activities and viewpoints. We saw so much wildlife, just driving through. (Bizarly, the Formule 1 circuit is here too…). We focused on just 2 things:
- Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre (they have a decent café too), We loved this exhibit! Super hands-on, and interactive with smart use of multi-media, giving you the feeling you are actually there, on Antarctica. This is a joint-venture with WWF-Australia.
- Penguin Parade we got “front row seats”, ie with our bums on the beach, where we sat for over an hour, waiting for the sun to set, and the penguins to make their way onto land. It was a long wait for our kids, and in the end, this time of year not too many penguins come on land (or not where we sat). The kids were a bit disappointed, and to be honest, so was I. The better view is not stay on the beach, but head back to the dunes. From the raised wooden walkways, you have a great view as the penguins walk about to their homes.