Last month we headed out to Melbourne for our big Australian Family Holiday for a very dear friend’s wedding, taking with us on our travels for the first time, our small one-year old baby. We have visited Australia a few times and even had lived there for a year back in 2008. It’s a dear place to us and we couldn’t wait to show it off to her plus have a great catch-up with old friends.
The flight out with a one-year old baby was great in the end. We had our bassinet all ready to go and lots of room by the hold. This was organised with Malaysian Airlines via phone about two weeks beforehand and we cannot stress enough how important this is to do if you have a “babe in arms” with you on a long haul flight. There’s a weight limit of course and they will make you remove a child and have on your lap if there’s turbulence plus pack it away fro takeoff and landing, however it was so handy for nap times and then the ‘big sleep’.
A combination of food, movies, puppets and walking round and round the cabin seemed to get us to our connecting flight in one piece OK. The first leg was 12 hours and she had managed to fall asleep by this point (according to UK hours) so it was such a shame to wake her up to wait for our connecting flight. It was 8am in Kuala Lumpa and the sun was shining and the sky was blue so she managed to do the switch around to the new timezone straight away. Shame about the rest of us!
Thankfully she managed to sleep on the second leg to Melbourne and we were picked up with the biggest hugs from our friend Kieran who had the fear that we might not have made it because we took so long to get from the plane to the arrival hall. Top tip for parents who haven’t gone through a security gate with a baby before – remember to fill them out a landing card as well as that will hold you up with Australia’s finest for a while…
Where We Stayed
We were very lucky to be able to stay with our friend, his fiance and their kids in their big Aussie tin-roof house for the duration of our stay plus they had a spare(!) car we could use (best friends EVER right?). This meant we could help out around the house for the first week, go and explore the local beaches and help the bride and groom to be with their wedding plans. We were staying in Bittern – a small town about one hour south of Melbourne by car in the Mornington Peninsula. It’s far away from the city to be considered “the country” and has a lovely charm to it.
Our trip was interspersed with various stays in Airbnb‘s which unbelievably Way Out Far hasn’t used before. We’ve stayed in a lot of hostels, hotels, guest houses, tents and even a yurt but having had some fallow time over the past 2 years due to arrival of the bambino, the Airbnb craze seem to pass us by.
We managed to get a great apartment for a few of us in St. Kilda, which is like the Shoreditch-on-Sea of Melbourne (because it’s Hipster Central). The couple it belonged to headed out to stay with friends for the night, allowing us to to take it over and pretend that we lived there for the night. I can see how it can get competitive on Airbnb to entice and impress your visitors. Consider us impressed.
It didn’t take long to get used to the time zone. It’s always seems easier going out East than coming back West. However we were caught out with how easy it had seemed for baby to switch over into the new timezone. She seemed to be OK, but for the first two nights of our stay she would get up, stand up in the travel cot and shout and laugh very loudly at us. With her only a few feet away it was pretty difficult to try and pretend to sleep so that she would be fooled into going back to sleep and would be delighted as soon as she realised she had got a reaction. Thank god that only lasted a couple of days!
Stuff We Did
Prior to the wedding we managed to hit the beach a couple of times; head up to Hipster-ville St Kilda and have a beer whilst overlooking the beach; head into Hastings and feed the pelicans and shop for all of the baby clothes that I seemed to have not packed before I left (I should have done a ‘what I am packing post so you all could have pointed out what I missed eh?). We also helped out a lot for the wedding, making a treasure chest for wedding gifts to be put in and getting our nails down with the bride-to-be (it’s a hard life eh?)
I should also add that we had to continually make sure we didn’t step on snakes, spiders or other dangerous creepy crawlies. seriously, I don’t know how Australians do it. I was constantly terrified of a Huntsman encounter when we lived there and wouldn’t think twice about bashing it in with a show if I saw one. It was NOT pleasant to find one in the utility room ON OUR FIRST DAY.
Well what can we say? It was such an honour and a pleasure to watch our dear friends getting married. They are absolutely made for each other and their happiness shone through so much on the day. The wedding was in St Kildas Royal Botanical Gardens out in the open and was beautiful! They both had written their own vows and there wasn’t a dry eye afterwards.
We had our Airbnb ready for the night and even had an offer of a babysitter from an old friend returning the favour from when we babysat her kids several years before living out here so we got to stay out until VERY VERY late and have a good old knees up with some old pals!
Up to the Bush
Perhaps the best part of the trip was the second half as the newly weds invited us up to their holiday home in New South Wales. ROAD TRIP!! We got to drive a small Nissan Pejero (a.k.a. “Pedro”) 8 hours up state and over the border to just outside Eden on the sapphire coast. Our friends had bought some land a few years previously in the country outside of Eden and had been spending their weekends and holidays slowly turning it into an ideal mountain getaway.
The journey is long although we have already done our fair share of Australian driving. The final 45 minutes need to be done in a 4×4 going up the side of a some very rocky terrain. The reward is a cleared flat area with a couple of caravans and open living area that overlook a river. It was a hard couple of days hanging out in the countryside, enjoying gorgeous Australian sun and drinking beers whilst sat in the river.
In the evenings we either went out for dinner or our hosts cooked up a barbeque and in the evenings we’d sit and chat, looking up at the stars. Down here you can see the Milky Way so clearly and we played “who can spot a shooting star?” for ages. We all won!
Soon enough it was time to leave the newly weds in peace and to enjoy their honeymoon to themselves and get back to Melbourne. One last treat in store was another night in an Airbnb ( I was hooked at this point) staying in Central Melbourne which meant we could easily transfer to the airport the next day. I opted for a high rise on the 40th floor in the west of the city overlooking the stadium. The apartment was tiny but it made a good holiday base and the view was just breathtaking. We were up so high we could see for miles and miles out of the city.
It felt like this area of the city liked to live high as when we went to explore the apartment’s open areas saw a high-rise tennis court on top of the building opposite:
On reflection now that we are back in the UK, I am amazed that we took travelling as a family all in our stride and really pleased that we were able to do all the things that we wanted to without compromise. It really helped that we were so looked after by our friends and had a place to stay and a car to use (with a baby seat!) We knew the area well so it felt like we were home for our stay. The fact that we were able to celebrate such a great wedding and have babysitter for the night was such a treat.
To then be able to go on a road trip – our most favourite of trips, WITH a small person in the back and feel totally safe, relaxed and in control for the duration showed how much our preparation paid off. We bought a lot of food when we arrived, especially that was baby friendly and she had a sun hat, sun cream and shoes on all of the time so we need not worry about her burning. We also took the travel cot as part of our extra luggage. Our hosts already had one set up for us when we arrived but it meant we could take ours on the road trip. She came along for the ride and I think that she enjoyed it judging by the smiles and chatter with everyone she met.
It gives us a lot of confidence that we can try and do “the big trip” across America one day…until then we’re back in the UK and dreaming of Tim Tams and Vegemite. Thanks for reading 🙂