Monday, July 27, 2015

two weeks in Melbourne

We just returned from a most blessed two week working holiday in Melbourne. It was work for daaling and a holiday for me and the kids.

I booked our air tickets really early and managed to fly myself and four kid for less than RM5000 return on Malaysia Airlines. Daaling's ticket was booked separately. With an infant, I was entitled to a premium bulkhead seat for free. I took the risk of not pre-booking (and paying) to select seats for the kids. Just armed with faith and prayer, I thank God we got seats all in a row. Except for Isaac's crying which resulted in a very sleepless night for me, it was a rather pleasant flight.

just under the weight limit for the bassinet but definitely already too long for it.

Monday 13July2015
Upon arrival in Melbourne in the early morning, we could not yet check in to our rented apartment.
So we sat around at the food court downstairs and the smaller ones took turns to sleep in the stroller.
hot chocolate to keep me warm

Once checked-in to our 2-bedroom apartment strategically located between Swanston St and Russel St in the CBD, we went downstairs to Woolworths to get some groceries. The QV building would be our home for 2 weeks. Location was fantastic. Right next to the State Library and across the road from Melbourne Central, we had trams right at our doorstep and just about everything we need (Woolworth and Big W besides eateries) right downstairs. 

The modern apartment was well-furnished and comfortably slept all 6 of us in 2 bedrooms (each with a queen-sized bed) and the large sofa bed in the living room. It also had a washing machine and dryer which are absolutely essential items. We also had access to the swimming pool and gym on the 45th floor. The gym had a great view! You could see all the way to St Kilda.

Tuesday 14July2015
Having slept off the jet lag, we check out Birrarung Marr. This is rated as a 5-star playground just behind Federation Square. Because all trams in the CBD are now free, we take the tram down Swanston Street to Federation Square and then take a short walk to the playground. Isabel loved the tram while it was down memory lane for the older 2. They remembered the playground as this is their third time there. 

It was a cold cold day and we braved it to have lunch in the playground. By 2pm, it got really cold so we made our way back. Isaac fell asleep in the stroller on the way home. Later at night, I read in the news that it was the coldest day in 19 years!!! This July also turns out to be the coldest winter in 20 years! 

Wednesday 15July2015
I checked the weather forecast and since it was to be another cold cold day, we decide to do something indoors so we venture out to Melbourne SeaLife Aquarium. Entrance fee is AUD$66 for a single family (1 adult + 2 kids). Daaling was at work while it's free for kids under 4.

We took the tram (FREE!) down to Flinders St and then took a walk to the aquarium. We could have taken another tram down Flinders St but I decided I'd rather walk than wait for a tram. Also the low-floor trams were not frequent and it was difficult for me to take 4 kids and a stroller up the steps.
I packed lunch for them so that we could spend the whole day there. Isaac slept in the stroller after lunch.

Thursday 16July2015
We visit the Melbourne Museum. Kids enter for FREE every day while it cost AUD$12 for me.
I explained to Joe and Joy that it's cheaper to visit the museum than the aquarium because it's cheaper to maintain dead exhibits than live exhibits.
This being the third time to the Melbourne Museum for Joe and Joy, they remembered most of the exhibits and it was like going down memory lane for them.

At night, Daaling went to check out and tar pau Pellegrini's which I found by googling for 'good cheap food Melbourne CBD'.
Sad to say, we did not find it up to our standard of good nor was it cheap.
doing homework on holiday

Friday 17July2015
We took a morning walk to Fitzroy Gardens...

There was a very teeny weeny playground with a dragon slide and giraffe swing for two.

We tar pau-ed Sushi Burger for lunch. You get rice wrapped with seaweed instead of bread buns.

Taste-wise it was good but a bigger portion would have been better.

After a good afternoon nap, we headed out to the Docklands for fireworks! It's on every Friday night at 7.30pm during the winter. The fireworks were lovely and very up close. Certainly worth braving the freezing cold to watch.

Saturday 18July2015
We woke the kids up early to make sure we are out the house by 9.15am in order to get to Collingwood Children's Farm for the cow milking at 10am. It was just one bus ride away.

This has been one of our must-visit places every time we come to Melbourne. The kids get to put their hands to the udders to squeeze for milk! Two years ago we made it for the Farmers Market which happens every second Saturday of the month. Entry fee would be only AUD$2 per adult while kids go free. This time however, we paid the family entry fee of AUD$18.
Prior to the trip, I mentally prepared Isabel to milk Biddy (the cow). I told her all about udders and milk and Isabel had said she would do it. Unfortunately she chickened out when she saw Biddy. She did however brush Biddy's fur. 

After about two hours at the farm, we made our way to Albert Park south of the city. But on the way, we stopped by this place called Cafe51 which I also found while googling for good cheap eats. 
When we arrived there, there was a queue that stretched outdoors. 
They were indeed good and value for money. Joseph had the Juicy Lucy while I had 'The Boss'.
The Boss

 Daaling had another messy yummy burger that I can't remember.

The kids loved this playground located right next to Stop 130 on tram route 96 to St Kilda. It's got a huge maze kind of a fort. So many nooks and crannies to get lost in.

Sunday 19July2015
We visit Melbourne Zoo!
The first time here in 2009, we came with only 2 kids.
In 2013, we came with three kids.
And now we have four!
It was a lovely day out and the weather was sunny even though this was reported to be the coldest July in 20 years. 

At night, we met up with a friend for dinner at Universal Cafe on Lygon St. I had the strongly-recommended Chicken Parmigiana. It's a HUGE serving of chicken that's bigger than my face and it costs only AUD$14. I couldn't finish it.

Monday 20July2015
After a busy week and weekend, I need a break. We rest today and the kids enjoy the hi speed wifi at home with some movies.

Tuesday 21July2015
We check out the playground at Flagstaff Gardens. It's right next to Queen Victoria Market so while Daaling watched them, I ran off to QVM to get some fresh seafood and gourmet sausages for dinner.
In the afternoon the younger two had a nap and when they woke up, we went to Myers across the road.

dinner...loved the juicy scallops, prawns and mussels.
Wednesday 22July2015
In the morning, I took the kids to NGV where there was a exhibit called Tromarama Open House. It's a 'house' that comes alive. Entry is FREE! In one room, the kids get to make their own stop motion movie.
The kids particularly loved the dining room where the floor lights up with music and there's a dining table on the ceiling. 

dancing on the ceiling...?

From NGV, we take a tram to Docklands Park playground. Yes...more playground!

The kids loved this contraption that spins round and round. But it's a lot of hard work for Papa to push round and round.

At night, we check out the QVM Night Market (Wednesdays 5-10pm in the winter)
It was very 'happening' with lots of street food from around the world (including our own Malaysian 'Mamak') and music. However, be prepared to come out smelling like barbeque!

Fish n Chips from QV Night Market

Thursday 23July2015
I bring the kids to Carlton Gardens playground.

Every playground has different contraptions so the kids enjoyed a variety of play.

I love the clean environment. There are drinking fountains and clean public toilets everywhere. 
After lunch at the park, the kids play some more and then by 3pm, we make our way home but stop by Helados Jauja on Lygon St for a cool treat first.
This artisan ice-cream shop with origins from Argentina makes awesome gelato and I absolutely loved the durian flavour!

At night, we have dinner with another friend at PapaGino's.

Friday 24July2015
We visit the State Library which is just next door to our apartment building.


There's an area called the Play Pod that's just for young children. 
There are toys and tables with craft material for kids to get creative. It's all free!

Saturday 25July2015
This is our last day here in Melbourne. We spend the morning packing and cleaning up then check out at 12noon to head to Box Hill for Daaling's cousin's house. He invited us over for his son's first birthday party. 

Thank God for the great timing because our flight was to depart at 5 minutes past midnight and so we had cousin's house for refuge till then. After the party, the kids nap on the couch and we have an early dinner before going to the airport at 7.30pm.

The flight back was better than the outbound one because Isaac slept better. We got seats in two rows this time but it was good enough. Joy sat next to me where the bassinet is while Daaling, Joe and Isabel sat two rows behind. They all slept for most of the flight. 

Sunday 26July2015
We touched down at 6.30am, 10 minutes before the ETA. After going through immigration and getting our bags, we get into our cab and leave KLIA for home. Five minutes into the drive, my hp rings and it's an officer from KLIA asking if I've just landed from Melbourne. I get nervous. Then he tells me that I've left my bag behind and taken somebody else's bag!!! 

We pull over to check and true enough, the combination lock on the luggage strap did not match mine. We turn back to KLIA to exchange for the right back. I apologized profusely to the Malay couple who were patiently waiting at lost and found. We had the same kind of black-coloured Samsonite bag with the same rainbow-coloured strap and both bags had red and gold ribbons tied to the handle!!! How coincidental is that! Anyway, I thank God that we were still near the airport and it wasn't too much of a hassle. 

This trip has been good. The kids have grown so much.

Joe helped cooked breakfast in the mornings while Joy made the beds. She's a very good housekeeping service. 

I managed to take the kids out on my own most days while Daaling worked. Isaac was challenging at times when he wanted to explore on his own. He's also into a tantrum-throwing stage where he will throw himself on the floor when he doesn't get his way. I ignore him. 

Joy complained about the walking we had to do but she still walked. She came home to weigh herself and said she's one kilogramme lighter.

Isabel surprised me with her outspoken self. She may be the smallest of my kids but she can hold her own against the ang moh kids at the playgrounds. I caught her arguing with some ang moh kids. She can also defend her younger brother (when she's not bullying him).

The older kids learnt about purchasing power and we talked a lot about economics, politics and why our Ringgit is so weak. 

- clean fantastic playgrounds. I love it that there are clean public toilets at every playground and I feel safe bringing them out by myself. There were times when I had to take one kid to the toilet and I could ask the older ones to watch the other young one. 

- cheap good TimTam, yogurt and ice cream. We loved the yoplait yogurt which we could buy for AUD$4 per 1kg tub. Over here it's about RM24 for the same thing. 

-cold cold cold.
-dry cracked itchy painful skin.
-having to bundle up every time we want to go out. I found it so trouble some to bundle so many kids in so many layers...socks, sweater, jacket....

I'm so thankful for family time and new experiences for the children. It's a lot of money spent but the memories are priceless and certainly worthwhile. God has been so good. He is indeed Jehovah Jireh who provides all our needs and Jehovah Shammah who is with us all the way. Even in the coldest July in 20 years, he gave us lots of sunshine and not a drop of rain on our only weekend there so we could enjoy the farm and zoo. God is very good...all the time!