Winter in Australia is the time of year when I get all miserable and terribly homesick! I’m pretty sure it’s because the weather isn’t as glorious as it is the rest of the year, and the leaves dropping from the trees transports me momentarily to the English countryside.
Winter 2017 down under is well and truly on it’s way. We have just over a week until it officially hits, but I’m already wearing fluffy bed socks and trackies to bed and the electric blanket is getting wayyyyy more use than the sexy undies…(I know, I know, Mr W is a lucky man!)
This winter in Melbourne we have so many wonderful things to celebrate, and get out into the cold for. The main attraction for The Wilson’s being The Big Freeze Festival. It’s a great way to experience the snow without actually forking out on a skiing trip!
The school holidays for me are always a mix of trying to keep the brats occupied, finding well priced entertainment, and juggling all sorts of different epic adventures to out wit other mothers. Lucky for me, and for Melbourne, The Big Freeze Winter Festival is returning! *I’m fist pumping and almost perfecting a twerk!
All the info you need if you are joining us on this snow filled, icy, adventure:
This year the festival will be divided into two areas –
The Winter Precinct (ticketed)
This section will include snow play, snowball toss, snowfall forest, winter village, snow globe photo booth, polar bear slide, kids’ active challenge, circus skills workshop, construction play, art’n’craft activities and the brand new snow slides which will be two different heights to allow more children to enjoy the thrill of the ride.
The Community Precinct
This section will be free for the general public and will be hosting daily stage shows, an activity zone with Phillip Island Nature Parks, sports with Milo, food vendors and more.
Great discounts apply for larger bookings, so organise your mother’s group or school friends to all attend together and enjoy the savings.
When: Saturday, July 1 – Sunday, July 9
Where: under the Big Top (and protected from the weather) at Fountain Gate Shopping (Cnr Princes Hwy & Brechin Drive)
Time: Winter Festival sessions run three times each day. Community Precinct open from 9am – 5:30pm daily
Cost: Free entry into Community Precinct. Winter Festival has a number of ticketing options available including a Child Superpass $29.50 (that includes a 4 Park Pass to Phillip Island Nature Parks valued at $28.50), Adults $19, Family $92 and extra savings for some afternoon sessions.
We get asked lots of questions about our decision to move to Australia. Why did we move all this way? Had we been here before? Did we know anyone when we came? Do we have family here? The truth is we’d never visited, and we didn’t know a soul! There’s only one real reason we chose Australia as our ultimate destination, and I’m pretty sure we’re not the only ones to have done this!
It all came down to a good few years of wintery nights, snuggled under a blanket on the sofa, chomping on Quality Street, listening to the rain outside; watching Australian Masterchef! Yup, it’s true, we chose to move to Australia because we were reeled in by Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan. They pretty much personally invited us! From that fateful day when Julie Goodwin walked away with the title we were ready to up sticks and move to Oz!
Tim and I sat and watched series after series, we’d store them up and have Masterchef marathons, almost wishing we could hop into the TV for a taste of that life they were all living. We longed for a supermarket like Coles, with it’s abundance of shiny, almost pretend looking fruit and veg, and immaculate stores. We wanted fish markets with people practically throwing oysters at us. We wanted markets like South Melbourne and stunning wineries where we could sit and relax after a day in the office; because that’s what Aussies do!! We wanted the beaches, the weather, the coffee shops, the restaurants, the food, the wine, the house, the glam friends, and the neckerchief… All that, and I was desperate to meet Maggie Beer. (Still hasn’t happened by the way!) Tim managed to get to series 6 before giving in and job searching in the Southern Hemisphere.
We can’t be the only ones?
There must be other people who have chosen their ultimate destination after being lured by a tv show? Surely we’re not the only family to have upped sticks and flown across the world because Channel 10 forced us to. There must be others who have been tempted somewhere by the ‘Masterchef lifestyle’? For us Masterchef was like a high end immigration advert for Australia; to be honest they should jolly well stop showing it in the UK if they don’t want mass migration!
When Dallas was first aired in 1978 I wonder if people were madly hopping into their beaten up old Robin Reliant’s and heading to the travel agent in search of a bit of JR Ewing’s lifestyle. The Stetson’s, the shoulder pads, and the hairspray! What about Eldorado on TV in the UK in the 90’s? Come on!!! I bet people flocked to the Costa Del Sol in search of Los Barcos in the hope of a new expat life, of tanning, twin sets and sundowners.
Sat on our sofa in Somerset, we were sure that the ‘Masterchef life’ was real; it was everyday Australia, and we wanted in on the action?
Well, it turns out Coles isn’t as shiny as it looks on the telly; and I can NEVER find what I want! Matt Preston isn’t readily available to hang out with me on a Saturday foodie session in town as I had so hoped he would be, and no one has whisked me off for a behind the scenes tour of the Cobram Estate Grove because my dinner last night was incredible and my plating was spectacular! Unfair right!!!!
I haven’t managed to fly in a hot air balloon over the Yarra Valley yet, or take my stove down to the Melbourne Rowing Club and cook a roast dinner in the blazing heat! But, (and it’s a big but….) 2 years into leaving our loved ones, we can see that the ‘Masterchef life’ that we were yearning for is here, it’s what we’re living, right now; only there’s no out of the blue appearances from Nigella!! (More’s the pity.)
We shop at beautiful markets, we have wonderful seafood at our fingertips, great restaurants, coffee shops to die for, and wineries dotted all around us. We can go on foodie tours, hot air balloon rides, visit distilleries, and even go to The Press Club and be cooked for by George after all..
Whether it’s crazy or not, we got hooked, almost like someone somewhere was putting Adriano Zumbo in front of us, week in week out, just pushing us toward this sweet life we are embracing! I have no doubt that falling in love with a TV show is a great way to find your perfect destination.
So put your custard creams down, pause the telly, jump onto google and start investigating. You never know how far the next series will take you!
As soon as you start to follow your dreams, the sun shines brighter, the flowers smell sweeter and everything has more meaning – Olivia xxx
Our final full day in Tasmania, and the clouds were looking threatening to say the least. We were up early, the kids were outside in the cold, chasing bunnies and watching the kangaroos hopping about in the mist! The Central Plateau is breathtakingly beautiful.
We headed to Deloraine. It was cold, really foggy and we were dressed like a bunch of city kids who’d been magically transported to ‘huntin’, shootin’ fishin’ country! Whoops!! We were in for a wet day too, so our highly impractical runners and Poppy’s brand new shoes from Seed were not going to cut it.
The fog was so thick that we didn’t get to see much of what we were driving past, but we did manage to get a good view of lots of sweet little houses hidden in between the trees, smoke billowing out of the chimneys, and piles of logs out front. It almost makes me want to sell everything and move to rural Tasmania. It looks like a peaceful existence; maybe when, I mean, if the kids leave home!
The dirt track finally turned into road after about 45 minutes, and as per usual the kids were “STAAAAAARVING” so we were straight into the Deloraine Town Cafe Bakery for a huge hot chocolate after what seemed like quite an adventurous journey through the elements! Once we’d warmed up, trashed the cafe, and just about destroyed the tourist information, we were set with fists full of leaflets, and ready to get going!!
First stop, The Melita Honey Farm . Turns out the honey farm is a very small shop, full to the brim with all things honey. Out the back of the shop they have a cute little room with all sorts of information about honey bees, where the children can see the bees in their hive, and learn all there is to know about the little buzzy creatures. Unfortunately we learnt diddly squat about honey bees as we were too busy digging in to the tasters, covering our last set of clean clothes in stickyness, and ‘tantruming’ about not being allowed an ice cream. I swore under my breath, purchased a pricey ice cream and headed for the Mole Creek Caves, praying I could leave them behind in a sort of Stalactite dungeon.
We were warned that the caves keep a steady temperature of 9 degrees, so we needed to wrap up warm! Monty did a great job, he had so much honey on his clothes he had managed to create another layer by picking up all sort of bits of fluff, leaves, crumbs, and food wrappers! Comfortable walking shoes were another good idea… Um!!!
We chose to visit the Marakoopa Cave. We were desperate to see the famous Glow Worms. I was pretty excited. That was until we were entering the cave and I realised just how slight the paths are, and how low we had to duck to get in. Palpitations were starting, then Poppy needed reassuring.. I took a deep breath and thought about it rationally. If it floods (because ALL CAVES FLOOD) we’re all gonna die so there’s no point freaking out too much! “We’ll be fine darling, come on!”
It was incredible. Rebecca our guide was brill! She explained everything in so much detail. It was hard to believe coral grew here 450 million years ago when Tasmania was tropical. Rebecca even managed to get us a good look at the Tasmanian Cave Spider, which the kids were thrilled about! I spent the rest of the tour convinced it was on my back.
We were dazzled by sparkling crystals, reflection pools, stalactites and stalagmites. The darkness was intense. The magnificent cavern known as the ‘Great Cathedral’ is jaw dropping and a must see. When Rebecca turned out the lights for us to adjust our eyes and really see the glow worms, we were amazed. It was as if we were looking at a beautiful clear starry night. The roof of the cave was covered in teeny little glowing creatures. Truly spectacular.
If you’re going to the caves, be sure to allow yourself an extra 15 minutes to enjoy the enchanting Fern Glade Walk from the ticket office parking area to the cave entrance. You will not be sorry! It’s a spectacular walk, even with slippery boots on, and a child who insists on skipping on the edge of the river bank.
Once we’d made it back to the car, and got ourselves some snacks for a picnic in our cabin, (we weren’t risking the bar again), we headed back, along the dirt track to the Great Lake. What was a pretty blind journey in the fog this morning, was now a sensational trip through the sublime wilderness. The views across the plateau, the little bridges over bubbling streams, the wildlife, the space, each little lake with a fisherman waiting for a catch. All this had been hidden, we had no idea just how superb the surroundings were, until now. The fog had lifted and we were amazed.
The little huts we passed this morning were now alive with people getting ready for the darkness to set in, and we were peering out of the windows at them, just like the locals peering at us when we arrived. What I’d give for a few days in one of those little fishing huts!!
Last night in the cabin, and a feast of Tasmanian delights we had hunter gathered on our journey. We had cheese, local sausage, wine, fresh bread, strawberries, pate, and perfectly squishy avocados. That was all to accompany the huge bag of popcorn that the children had foraged for themselves. We were tucked up in the huge bed, with the electric blanket on, watching local tv and munching. The best way to spend the last night of any holiday!
After a slight delay behind a local flock of sheep on the way to the airport, then a quick pit stop to see if Monty really wanted to get out and be left behind as he was insisting, we were parked up at Launceston airport! The holiday blues were already setting in. We were absolutely not ready to be going home yet! We still had so much more exploring we wanted to do. We still had room in our tummies for more Tassie delights, believe it or not.
We hopped aboard our Jet Star flight, and stared out of the window, bursting with love for Tasmania. Take off and a very quiet 50 minutes. Seems like we may have tired the kids out after all!
After an epic first day in Tassie, and still with full tummies, we decided to head into Hobart for a small brekkie, and a last minute look around before heading to the Central Plateau. Breakfast was a “cruffin” (croissant pastry made into a muffin! I KNOWWW) and a coffee at the very cool Brooke Street Pier. We’re ready for day 2!
The Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum is situated in central Hobart, also known as the “The Gateway to Antarctica,” just 50 metres from Constitution Dock. A couple of photo’s and a little kick of the penguin (don’t ask me why he does things like that, I have no idea) and we headed indoors.
The museum was opened on the 102nd anniversary of the departure from Hobart of the Australasian Antarctic expedition 1911-14 led by Douglas Mawson. The huts here are replicas of the ones still in Cape Denison – Antarctica – constructed in 1911 by the men of the Australian Antarctic Expedition. Hurrah, Poppy has been learning about Mawson at school as part of their “explorers” topic, so this visit was epic parenting!!!
We were greeted at the entrance by Warwick, who talked us through a photo slide show and explained in great detail the trials and tribulations of the Australian Antarctic Expedition and about the conservation work still going on at the huts. I had goose bumps just thinking about what a struggle it must have been for those brave young men back in 1911. Warwick made the visit come alive; he filled us all with eagerness to get into the huts and see for ourselves the living conditions the men were subjected to out there on the ice and learn about the work they were doing.
Once inside, you can see just what life was like for the explorers, it all becomes real. Pictures of thick ice under the beds gave us chills. Poppy was fascinated by the typewriter and sat like Angela Lansbury from Murder She Wrote, whilst the rest of us explored. Jeannie another member of staff told us about her own visits to the huts as part of the conservation team. She was truly incredible. It’s not very often you meet someone who has been to the Antarctic, let alone taken part in an incredible expedition to almost follow in the footsteps of one of history’s greatest explorers. We read stories of each man on the 1911 expedition, saw their meal plans, felt the blankets, saw the sledges that were used. It was truly one of the most fascinating museums we have ever been in. There was so much to learn about a rarely mentioned, incredibly heroic Australian explorer, and visiting was also a great way to help raise much needed funds for the conservation of the huts. A must see if you’re heading to Hobart!
We apologised to the kicked penguin, bought a few postcards, and got in the car, to begin the next leg of our journey! We were going South first via Kettering, Birchs Bay, Randalls Bay in the Huon Valley, past Eggs and Bacon bay, all the way round back to Hobart then off up to visit Richmond Gaol, and on to the Central Plateau. Our journey took us via some great places. We found a beautiful little grocers heaving with local produce and beaches bursting with oyster shells, the views were breathtaking. “It’s like Scotland, it’s like Iceland, it’s like Wales…” No, it’s like Tasmania. It’s perfect! And we’re in love!
Our reason for driving South was to drive the coast a little, and to visit Grandvewe, Tasmania’s only sheep milk ‘cheesery’. It was where Tim and I could taste cheese and sip Gin whilst the kids feed the sheep! We have our priorities right!
Well worth the drive; the kids were grubby, chatting about sheep poo and happily chomping on blueberries; our purchases are making the car reek of cheese, but hey, we’re on our way!!
We were running a little late after all our stops, so I rang ahead to the Central Highlands lodge, to check we’d be in time for dinner! We were told in no uncertain terms “the kitchen closes at 7!”
We couldn’t have driven any faster as the road had run out of tarmac and we were bumbling along the dirt, frantically trying to avoid all sorts of mysterious wildlife. Every now and again Monty would shout “RAAAAAT”, Tim would swerve and the little possum would watch us fly past like lunatics! The children found this hysterical, I was a wreck.
It was pitch black and thick with fog when we arrived at the lodge. There to greet us was yet another enormous furry Possum hanging from the bar window, and a crowd of locals, peering through the glass at us as if they’d never seen anyone round here before. We walked into the reception/bar.. silence… Um… I looked at Tim, Tim looked at Poppy, Monty burped.. The landlord mumbled something from behind the bar, then proceeded to ignore us for ten minutes as we desperately tried to order dinner before the kitchen closed. We felt awkward to say the least. It didn’t help that we all proceeded to get the nervous giggles. My shoulders were shaking, and tears were rolling down my face, I just wanted to get the room key and go hide..
We had a family cabin waiting for us, so we ate quickly in almost silence, with the other guests who were uncomfortably keeping themselves to themselves. We backed out of the bar, smiling and waving, to blank stares.. We escaped to the cabin! Ahhhh it was cosy beyond cosy!!! There were heated blankets, thick duvets, and a basket with our breakfast in it ready for the morning.
As bizarre and frankly standoffish as our greeting was; even though everyone managed to make us feel like we’d waltzed into their living room unannounced; we had the best night’s sleep, in the most comfy beds. We woke up refreshed, with incredible views across the Great Lake, kangaroos bouncing outside our window and were ready for more Wilson antics on Day 3!
Helmets on and we were ready to embark on our epic bike ride!
It is about a 13km ride to MONA, a good chance to work off the tonne of food we had eaten in the market, and well worth the aching legs. The children loved it, we all did. The freedom of being able to hop on a bike is fab, the views, the wind in your hair, it was one of the most wonderful days we have had together. We were able to use a bike track all the way to the museum so it was perfectly safe, and we could stop whenever we needed to. I would definitely recommend hiring bikes, we will be doing again for certain! It’s a great way to see a city!
The Museum of Old and New Art stands proudly on the waterfront, surrounded by vines feeding the Moorilla Winery. We parked our bikes, gasping for a glass of wine, and made our way to the bar. The kids spotted the enormous trampoline, with bells on.. (literally)… and bolted! “Maybe later” Tim reassured me with a rub on the shoulder.
When we told people we were heading to MONA with the kids, we had a few funny “really??” looks. Yup, it’s an art museum, and yeah our two are VERY temperamental! Uh huh you’re right, they have a whole wall dedicated to perfectly sculpted, life size “fanny’s” (actually entitled Cunts… and other conversations, but hey… the kids….), but there are also a gazillion (1900 to be exact) other collection pieces that they found just as fascinating as the lady bits. Monty particularly liked the fat car, although missed the point entirely. Poppy adored the bit.fall which was a waterfall that spells out words on the descent. She also missed the point, who cares? I didn’t go into it, as it would have resulted in an iPod/technology discussion that I was in no fit state to begin having not been allowed a glass of wine. She was just fascinated by the mechanics of the piece.
As with most activities kids take part in, they went in with completely open minds, and came out with heads full of interesting talking points. Like the one about the museums digestive system that actually poops on time every day, the models made out of video tape (they’d never even seen a video), and the giant head with all sorts of craziness and flashing lights inside! They were taken aback by room after room of incredible “things”. The fact that they had complete control over the device round their necks known as ‘The O’ made it all the more thrilling for them. They got to click on the + or the x to say whether or not they liked the art that was nearest them, they could listen to music and words. Poppy could be heard bellowing “click on the “ArtWank’ button guys” (a cock and balls icon) encouraging us to read all the arty details. What do you think Monty’s favourite word that day was!?? I’m so sorry MONA team, I’m pretty sure the “O” data would have been interesting to say the least after our visit!
The Wilson’s had a fantabulous time, we ambled through everything, we bought a magnet, covered the cafe in croissant crumbs (so sorry) and sipped on ginger beer like we were the Famous Five! It was bloody brilliant. Don’t be shy folks, take your kids to MONA, just don’t mention the C word…
Croissant!!!! You dreadful bunch!!
The way back!
Like with most journey’s the trip back seemed to go a lot faster than the one going. After the fun 13km bike ride back to Hobart, we sadly returned our bikes, and I gleefully skipped to the nearest wine bar! Yay for me! Pearl and Co was the perfect place to sit back, sip wine and soak up some Hobart waterfront views whilst gorging on hot chips.
Walking in we were surrounded by pirate and seafaring memorabilia, it was like a museum. You could barely move for ships wheels, fishing nets, old tin cans and skeletons. It’s a wonderful atmosphere. Luckily, this was definitely not another one of those “themed diners”. The menu was fantastic. When our meal was placed in front of us we were delighted. It was one of the best seafood platters we have had and the children’s fish was proper fish, not that reconstituted stuff!! My Creme Brûlée was insanely good! Great recommendation from the waiter!
I am so glad we booked ahead as the restaurant was full to bursting. It’s obviously got a great reputation, and the stories we were told about how haunted it is, only goes to make this place even more exciting. Well worth a visit, a great evening made even better by the wonderful staff!!
Ah time for bed, a cheeky bar of chocolate under the sheets after the kids have dropped off, and a whole heap of excitement about day two in Tassie….. Although I do feel a little sick after so much gobbling!! When will I learn?
Hobart Bike Hire– 1A Brooke Street, Hobart Waterfront, Hobart, TAS, 7000 Tel: 0447 556 189
MONA– 655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011 – Tel: +61 3 6277 9900 Tickets: Adult: $25 Under 18: Free
Ah, the bliss you feel when you’re all packed and ready to head away to a place you haven’t yet explored. Tim rushed in from work, we threw our bag (yes, just the one) in the car and headed for the airport. I love this bit of any journey! Everyone’s excited, the kids are pumped, already bickering in the back of the car. Monty had a handful of crackers and was creating more crumbs than a fat kid in a bakery. Poppy’s bellowing, “they’re even in my hairrrrrr mum”… Yippeeeee!!!
Tasmania has been on our list for ages. Now we’re in Melbourne, it’s even easier to get to. We hopped onto our Jet Star flight, after much kerfuffle at security. Poppy had packed all of her craft stuff into her back pack along with the sharpest scissors she could find. Safe to say, her little dripping eyes weren’t enough to save the choppers from the bin! Lesson #1 of the holiday!
We made it safely to Hobart! Shocker I know. The airport is beautifully small. We stepped off the plane and straight into the baggage collection. We were greeted by a happy looking seal going round and round on the luggage conveyor begging people to book a boat trip, in the faint hope that this meant he could get back in the water. (No, it wasn’t real!!) If only we had more time this weekend, we would have taken his advice. Next time.
We had planned ahead, (yay) organised a hire car and booked ourselves into the Quest Hotel in central Hobart! Unfortunately, there was a problem with the water at the hotel so we were sent to the serviced apartments just outside the town. Bit of a let down, but we managed to wangle some free parking in central Hobart so all good! The two bedroom apartment was nice and clean, but smelt a little like grandma’s house; someone had obviously smoked a lot of cigarettes there at one time. We unloaded the car, the kids tore all their stuff out of the bag, threw it around the room, and we settled in for the night.
We woke to glorious sunshine and looked out to see the rooftops of central Hobart in the distance. It’s really beautiful; so after a good night’s sleep and with Day 1 upon us we headed out to explore!
We wanted to make the most of the fine weather so we hired bikes. We have never braved bikes on holiday, but I’m happy to report we were glad we did!
Ian at Hobart Bike Hire was brill. He had us organised within about 20 minutes despite the kids’ constant interrupting. We had bikes, helmets, maps and some great local tips, and we were on our way through the town heading for the Salamanca Market! Monty refuses to ride his bike at home (he’s a scooter fanatic), so he was on a tag a long on the back of Tim’s bike; Poppy and I had our own snazzy mountain bikes. It was only a thirty second bike ride and we were at our first stop. The children weren’t happy to be getting off so soon, but they spotted the crepe’s and a jar of Nutella bigger than them so they came good.
We had heard so much about the Salamanca Market; it was on everyone’s list of things we couldn’t miss!! No doubt about it, it’s one of Australia’s most loved outdoor markets and we can see why. The market sits right on the Hobart waterfront, a location that’s hard to beat! There are over 300 stallholders all showcasing the best that Tasmania has to offer, and we were there, ready to dig in to as much as we could fit in our tummies.
I love a market! I loved being able to wind my way round, meeting the people who lovingly craft their wares! The kids just ran straight for the bloody Beanie Boos, and emptied their pockets!
Tim and I were blown away with all the delicious food. The food along with the artisan jewellery, Tasmanian handicrafts, clothing, vintage collectables, pottery, plants and flowers all make this market the wonderful place it is. Salamanca has a beautiful atmosphere, where we could have easily whiled away a few hours on the grass, if we didn’t have two little Wally’s begging for more cash.
Where we spent our money
Jasper Coffee – An organic, fair trade coffee van with oodles of yummy treats to feast on. Who can resist a donut when it’s looking at you, almost crying out for you to pick it up and bite into the fluffy sugary outside whilst the oozy custard squelches out of the sides and drips down your chin….?
Miam French Crepes, made by a lovely, friendly French lady called Aude. The kids went for lashings of Nutella, fresh Tassie strawberries and cream. I picked up a loyalty card, as I was pretty sure we’d be able to rack up ten of those pretty sharpish. Aude uses local produce, and even does catering for events too. Oh I want a big crepe party!
Simone & Co is a relatively new venture by local Hobart artist Nadi Simone. She sells beautiful jewellery and homewares too. I spent my cash on a wonderful concrete bangle and a sweet pink, gold flecked dish for my earrings. (Tim sighed)
Silver Hill Fisch boutique seafood sausages were THE BOMB! We went for the salmon sausage which was nestled in a fresh salad, with owner Maja’s own homemade dressing, and snuggled into the most mouthwatering bread roll imaginable. “Shall we just get one to share?” says Tim with most of it in his mouth… Five minutes later we were back for a second because neither of us wanted to share. Put it this way, if I lived in Hobart I would look like a boutique seafood sausage! A taste sensation!
We had apples fresh from the tree, nuts coated in all sorts of delightful spices. We sipped tasters of gin and vodka, the kids ate lollies (*sigh) we drooled over fresh cakes, were wowed by the talent that the market had on show, and all the while the kids wanted to get back on the bikes.
We have finally seen The Salamanca Market for ourselves. The Tasmanian produce has to be eaten to be believed. Poppy genuinely thought the strawberries were defrosted, frozen ones as they were so sweet and delicious.
We could have easily spent all day mooching, spending money, people watching, eating, and slowly winding our way through the stalls, but time… no…. the chained up bikes were calling.
18 Rides and attractions, 104 years of fun, and 800,000+ jolly happy customers every year!
When the words Luna Park are uttered, even for an expat family who are fairly new to Oz, you’re guaranteed to have all sorts of wonderful things spring to mind. If it’s not Mr Moon tempting you inside his gaping mouth, it’ll be the fairy floss as big as your head, or the world famous scenic railway (which just happens to be the world’s oldest continually operating rollercoaster).
Since 1912 when Mr Moon opened his mouth to the awaiting throng, many thousands more have flocked to enjoy the carnival fun, and yesterday, the Wilson’s got in on the action! We were dressed for all weathers (because this is Melbourne) and ready for anything that this magical place had in store for us.
The clouds were threatening to leak, so we were warned at the entrance that a few rides may be closing. We were advised to hit them as a priority! Super tip! The Silly Serpent was our first stop! The children were like dingbats! Screeching with excitement, bellowing “this is AWEEEEEESOME”, and running hell for leather toward a pretty daunted looking ride operator! And it’s not as if they don’t get out much!!!
The kids love rides. The scarier, more nail biting, and vomit inducing the better! They love to be upside down more than they like to be upright, their handstands in the kitchen are ruining me! I am a bit of a fairy when it comes to rides, I powered through though! I managed a fair few rides without too much disruption to my stomach! Go me!! The embarrassment eventually came when I had to ask to be let off the Spider ASAP as I was green from so much whirling, turning, and gyrating! (Hey!! I’m a delicate flower!!!) This of course had the kids in stitches, and the crowds watching in desperate anticipation for this mamma to chunder into the bin, but I held it together, and slowly headed for Binky the Train in the vain hope of a little less spinning! Suffice to say Binky was my favourite ride of the day, the children insisted on another 8 goes on the Spider, whilst I looked on, sipping water slowly!
Luna Park combines a generous mix of heritage listed attractions and brand new thrill rides to satisfy everyone looking for a day of fun. We loved the Sky Rider with it’s superb views across the whole park and Port Philip Bay, and the Ghost Train, although I’m not sure any of us kept our eyes open for that one!
The kids just love spending money, so the Carnival Games were a huge hit with them. Oh the joy of having a fist full of coins, and the hysteria when your whole $20 has won you a plastic motorbike, a stuffed doggy and 3 mentos!!! If only Santa could get away with such generosity!!
Sadly for us, the famous Scenic Rollercoaster is closed at the moment for annual maintenance. This is the iconic ride at Luna Park. It’s a wooden coaster that takes it’s passengers, at high speed, around the outside of the entire Park. (Yes I said wooden!!… I know!!….) It boasts the title of being the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world and the only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages!! It’s description doesn’t fill this nervous ninny with much enthusiasm, however I’m definitely going to have a go when it re-opens later in the year. As if we needed another excuse to head to Luna Park!!!
The Wilson’s had the most terrific day! We managed almost every ride, we ate squidgy hot jammy donuts, played endless carnival games, laughed at ourselves in the mirror maze, raced each other on the dodgems, and survived getting a little bit wet too.. All that, only one tantrum and mummy wasn’t sick on any of the rides! All in all a fabulous Saturday with the family! Go for the fun, go for the history, in fact, just go and be part of something so steeped in Aussie family tradition!!
Last weekend was a ‘ripper’ of a weekend for the Wilson’s. Poppy was chosen to take part in this year’s Rite of Passage event at the MCG. The event was created to mark the end of the very first season of elite AFLWomen’s games, so Poppy took part in a girls’ footy clinic. What a magnificent way to encourage female participation in football, and sport in general!
Since beginning our life down under, our children have been thrown into a much sportier existence than they ever had before. Australian life lends itself to being active and outdoors, and Melbourne is literally bursting with really impressive sporting facilities. Both kids have embraced this and given almost everything a shot. Ok, so the Nippers didn’t really go to plan, but at least they tried!!!
As soon as we took them to the MCG and they stood there dreamy eyed and wide mouthed like goldfish, they were hooked. Whether it’s cricket, footie, or just an hour at the museum, we all adore the venue. It’s such an exciting place to be with an atmosphere like no other, and the perfect place to go with little sports fans.. (It’s not a sale’s pitch, it’s just a fact!)
When we heard Poppy, our little English Rose, was being given the chance to step onto the “hallowed turf” at the MCG to take part in an Aussie Footie Clinic we were so excited. You can’t get much more “Expat Adventure” than that!! Tim was incredibly jealous; as was Monty, who insisted on popping his newly acquired footie boots into my handbag just in case. As if I didn’t have enough to carry!
Off we went straight from the netball court, a quick change of clothes in the car and we headed for what would turn out to be another marvellous day in ‘Straya!
We arrived at the MCG, and were greeted by the wonderful staff who had everything running smoothly, we had some photos with the Carlton players, were photo bombed by the enormous Sydney Swan, and then we were taken into the ground. It feels so special to be led into the MCG when it’s empty and quiet; it truly is a privilege.
The clinic was being led by Kelly Sports, who took all the kids onto the pitch, rounded them up into the correct teams, and sent them off to kick a footie with their coaches. It was so well organised and there wasn’t a moment of chaos; amazing considering there were 100 girls in total. 50 girls aged 5-8 and another 50 girls aged 9-12 were chosen by ballot to take part. I could see that the coaches were first class, they had the girls full attention, and were really leading them and teaching them some wicked skills. A few of the AFLW players from Carlton were also there to encourage the girls and show them how it’s done. I’m still flabbergasted at what an opportunity this was for these 100 young women!!!
Poppy has never played ‘footie’ in her life, but the way she was motivated and inspired on Saturday has put fire in her belly and she has just signed up to join our local team. We now have two ‘Aussie Rules’ footie players in the family! And I no longer have an English Rose, she’s more of an Aussie Golden Wattle…
We were so thrilled to be there on Saturday, promoting AFLW and celebrating the fact that after 100 years of waiting, women now have the opportunity to get out there and show off their athletic prowess on the footie field in the elite games. I am certainly proud to have a daughter that is embracing all things footie. How wonderful to be growing up 2017 with such super female role models in sport, who make young girls want to succeed on what has previously been a closed pitch for them.
Well done to the team at the MCG for creating such a special event, supporting women in sport, and showing our young girls just what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it.
If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward – Martin Luther King Jnr
You can follow the AFLW on their website and even on InstagramTwitter and Facebook. Head over to find out about the players, learn some healthy recipes, and be in the know with their hundreds of thousands of other followers! How awesome is that!!
So many times I have wished I had a small cell with chains attached to the walls where I could lock my kids up for a while. Richmond Gaol in Tasmania made these dreams come true last week.
As soon as we hopped out of the car, we noticed the beautiful autumnal trees, the lawn covered in huge orange leaves, and were shocked at how beautiful it was. Are you sure this is where the prison is?
Richmond is a heavenly little town comprised of beautiful old buildings, many of which made from limestone. The town was established as an important military staging post and convict station linking Hobart with Port Arthur. Richmond Gaol was built over a period of 15 years, between 1825 and 1840 and stands proud in the town.
We headed for the main entrance, went through the doors and into the Airing Yard which was used for prisoner’s daily exercise. We had stepped back in time. Instantly I had a weird, creepy feeling come over me. There is definitely a hint of ‘eerieness’ here. The children looked at me uneasily as they heard voices of prisoners being played across the courtyard. I can’t say I have ever had such a spooky feeling anywhere. Maybe I had psyched myself up too much before going in.
Thankfully the children had been given a ‘trail sheet’ to keep them busy, and they hurried off straight away to start their search! Fantastic! We had no “I’m bored’s” or “can we go now’s”, they were completely enthralled! All of us were fascinated by the stories about the prisoners who once existed in the rooms we were standing in. The kids loved chaining themselves to the wall almost as much as I loved chaining them. I was frantically shoving them into the tiny cell, pushing them into the right place, and cackling as I buckled them in… If only the door had closed properly. (Kidding of course! I wouldn’t have reaaaally left them in there… for long).
Once they had managed to wriggle free they were back to looking for the hidden items on their charts. The quiz definitely made us all experience that little bit more of the museum.
Next stop were the solitary confinement cells!! They were dark! Honestly, we all had the heebie jeebies. It is a truly spine chilling space. The children and I waltzed in, then sped into reverse and sent Mr W in first! Even he wasn’t too pleased to be in there. The stories of what the prisoners endured, for seemingly minor crimes was horrifying. To think of young men and women being kept in these completely dark, cold spaces, sometimes for months and months on end was just awful. The children were wide eyed in amazement.
We read stories of hundreds of prisoners, male and female, whose lives were harsh beyond belief. There were tales of daring escapes, lashings, and mistreatment, interspersed with a few heart warming stories, like the almond tree in the courtyard being planted as a thank you from a small aboriginal boy who visited the Gaol for medical treatment.
Whilst we were in amongst all the stories of despair and sadness, Monty was out the back, checking out the privvy in the flogging yard! Blissfully unaware of the dreadful sound effects everyone else was listening to of some poor soul being beaten, he hollered “look mum there’s a toilet”. Why do boys find all things “lavatory” fun?
We went on to see the cook house, (“No Monty it’s not a Pizza Oven!” **Hangs head in shame) the sleeping rooms, and the punishment cell. We read more chilling tales, and heard about the ghosts that are often seen at the gaol, and even in people’s photos once they get home! I was praying we’d find something in ours, but no such luck! We did have one lovely photo of someone picking his nose!!
We were all completely taken a back by the authenticity of the museum and the feeling you get walking on the same ground that many a ‘criminal’ walked upon.
We loved the story of Isaac “Ikey” Solomon (1785–1850) an English criminal who became an “extremely successful receiver of stolen property”. He is supposedly the man who Dickens based Oliver Twist’s ‘Fagan’ on. Truly extraordinary to think that after being tried at the Old Bailey in 1830, he was was sent all the way to Richmond Gaol. Imagine that?!?!
This is one of those special places that’s engaging, entertaining, and where the whole family comes away having enjoyed learning something new together. We just can’t stop talking about it!
Richmond Gaol is fascinating and ticked all the boxes. I just wish we could have left the kids chained to the wall a little longer so as we could have grabbed a beer in peace.
“Be part of Tasmanian history and experience the sights and sounds of early prison life”
Well, the Easter holidays are well and truly underway, Tim has no time off, the kids are starting to drive me INSANE, and I am getting to know the staff at Dan Murphy’s really, really well.
The first term of the school year ended with a bang! Grandparents day at school!! The kids were feeling emotional about it, I was insisting that not everyone has grandparents, and we’re not the only ones without a Granny and Grandad nearby. I turned up at 2:30 to a sea of Granny’s. Every grey haired Nana in Victoria was in the playground, with me! I spent the whole hour desperately trying to distract Monty as he was glazed over staring at everyone. The kids had gone to so much effort to make cookies, a little poster and a video about their grandparents. “I love nana because she takes me to the park,” “I love grandad because he plays games with me at the weekend…” “I love Pop because I have sleep overs at his house’…. 20 of these then Monty!! He had told the teacher Daddy was coming; I guess wishing that if he said it enough times Daddy would actually turn his lap top off and tear out of the office early to be there. His little face appeared on the video screen in the classroom “I love Daddy because we dress up like spiders!” I laughed, then welled up! They NEVER dress up as spiders, but here he was, this teeny boy, surrounded by his friends telling tales about their much adored, local, grandparents, and he thought he had to go one better and tell them all that his dad, his amazing ‘super dad’ dresses up as a tarantula at the weekend, so who needs a grandad!?!?! I was then presented with the “Dad” cookies, and the “I love Dad” poster which these little hands had so lovingly made, in the hope that Dad would actually be there.
Moving to Australia was a bit of a last minute, “OMG shall we just do it?” kind of move for us. Tim had the offer, and we were gone within about 4 months. We had thought that we would have a better quality of life, (because sunshine does that?!?!), and that Tim may have a better work/life balance. Well, it hasn’t really turned out like that! Yes, our lifestyle is better, there is no doubt about it, sunshine works. However, the work/life balance is no different, in fact, Tim puts in more hours here than he ever did at home. There’s no clocking off at 5 to catch the train, or working from home on a Wednesday. No, he’s up and gone by 6am and not usually home for family meals at 7; and that’s when he’s not travelling abroad. The children complain, I get stressed and long for the weekends.
Expat life is beautiful in so many ways, but being a wife, a mother, and an expat is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do! I’ve had to become all sorts of people rolled into 1. I’m a grandparent, a mum, a dad, a friend, an exhausted jack of all trades! I know, I know it looks like one long holiday, but the reality is I am a single parent all week, have no family around to buffer me, and it can get a little overwhelming doing it alone all week keeping a smile on my face.
“Oh stop complaining, you ungrateful wretch” I hear you say, (I’m saying it too BTW) and yes I hear you! I guess it does sound ungrateful, but believe me, I’m not at all ungrateful!
The truth is, if you are thinking of moving abroad, especially this far away from EVERYWHERE, you really need to be prepared for the changes to your family life. Many families come to Australia and have a far better quality of life all round, but the truth is, if you want to succeed, and really make it here, you all need to be ready to make sacrifices. Yes, it’s the same all over the world; everyone has to make sacrifices to succeed, but here, I feel like I’m making lots of sacrifices for everyone else’s benefit. I’m here because my husband is working here, and because Poppy adores it and Monty knows no other home. I’m here because we love it, it’s an adventure, and because the children and Tim have so many more opportunities. Of course it may not be forever, who know’s what will happen, but what if we stay…. for good? What happens to me? Is this the “expat wife’s” job? To suppress her longing for all the things she’s missing because her children are so settled and her husband has a great career? Is it my job to create a wonderful home life for everyone, make sure everyone is happy and content, whilst I miss my husband dreadfully because he’s working his backside off, and I can’t even catch up with my besties to have a moan?
For all of you out there who think the life of an expat wife is all beaches, wine and parties, think again. It’s beaches, wine and parties and a big dose of longing! Longing to know what the future holds. Longing to have time with the girl’s back home. Longing to move all your mates to where you are! Longing to stop longing! In 30 years’ time, will I have got used to seeing my nearest and dearest just once every two years? Will I have succumbed to retirement overseas to be near my children? Will I be content with the sacrifices I have made for the family’s happiness? Is that an expat thing, or is that just motherhood!?
I was given some advice this week from an expat 35 years into being abroad; “make sure when you’re living the expat life, you’re earning enough to be able to fly home and get your fix when you need it, then you’ll feel truly satisfied wherever you are.” Looks like Tim will need to spend a few more hours in the office!
Ah well, off to the beach for a wine fuelled party now! (Not really, I’ve got to clean my oven because my mum’s not here to do it for me).
When you move to another country you have to accept that there are some things that are better and some that are worse, and there’s nothing you can do about it – Bill Bryson