Monthly Archives: November 2014

Day 10 – Melbourne

The kids were so tired from the day before that they slept till almost 10. I made soft boiled eggs for all of us based on 5 minutes of soaking the eggs in hot water twice. Z loved it so much that he reminded me to make the same eggs for him every morning for the rest of the trip.

We took a cab ($14 from Crown) to Queen Victoria’s market. There was an apparel and accessories’ section which I was not quite impressed with. It was huge but the selection got rather repetitive. The cab driver was funny because he warned us about the marked up prices for tourists.

Z was checking out a toy stall
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We moved on to the food section pretty quickly. We bought 2kg of macadamia nuts for $38. We also bought blueberries for X because he was really upset about the lack of snacks. The blueberries were big and sweet.

The meat stalls were very good and it was tempting to buy the steaks back to the apartment for dinner! However, it was still very early in the day and we planned for shopping till 9pm.
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We walked a tad more before we went to a party supplies store nearby and found the large black glossy wrapping papers that I’d been hunting for! We also picked up streamers and latex balloons.

We headed to the much recommended cafe called Hardware Societe for lunch. It was only about 10 minutes’ away.

At Hardware Societe

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I was very impressed with the iced mocha and hot chocolate. Both were so rich and thick. We ordered 3 dishes and they were all really good. We had baked eggs, the prawns and pork belly. There were so many eggs in all the dishes combined that we were too stuffed to have tea.

After a happy and satisfying lunch, we walked over to the shopping stretch at main Lonsdale street. We checked out Target, Big W and a few other malls before taking the free city tram to DFO.

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Surprisingly, DFO closed at 6pm on Thursday and only closed late on Fridays. We reached at 430pm and only had time for Nike. The shopping time was reduced by a fire alarm. We wrapped up shopping and had dinner at the Shipbuilders’ Yard. The food was a tad Thai-western fushion and was not bad actually.

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We popped over to Crown Promenade and checked out the swanky mall. I was impressed that there was 24hrs cafe which was cheaply priced. The food looked so good that we bought dessert back to the apartment.

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A Nike backpack which we picked up at DFO at $25 🙂

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Day 9 – Launceston/Melbourne

My relentless schedule meant that we checked out of the resort at 730am and spent the next 2 hours driving to Launceston. We took the route through Elephant Pass. It cut through the mountain range and was so narrow that I concluded no elephants could have passed through the road easily!

There were many sharp bends and we even saw a barn for pancakes. It was too early so it was not opened.

When the road got easier, I volunteered to drive but Mr H had everything under wraps. I could chill, snack and nap while he drove. I reckoned for the 9-day road trip, I only got to drive 20% of the time.

That was the perk of having a seasoned long distance driver for a spouse. I enjoyed driving but not so at limited speeds. We, of course, appreciated the GPS regular warnings on speed checks. The GPS was also handy in areas where Optus had zero 3G network which was pretty often.

We finally arrived at Cataract Gorge. It was a very accessible attraction and we even bumped into a Taiwanese travel documentary filming crew!

I shared the chair lift with Z. It was a pretty nice ride which gave a quick overview of the gorge. We were not into walking so we opted for a 2-way ticket.

Hi there, chair lift!
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Mr H might have felt the need to make up for the lack of exercise and decided to check out the peak of the gorge which would be a 30min round trip of steep slopes, no proper walking paths and extremely unrecommended to attempt with kids.

So he surprised us with the enthusiasm to climb up the peak.

I was very appropriately dressed in long skirt, varinas and cambon tote. NOT.

I did not want to be a party pooper but the back of my head was sounding alarm bells. There were quite a few times when I looked down to peek at the steepness and the lack of handrails and thought to myself, how deep the ravine was and how far down would I fall… And the weather looked like it was going to pour.

Thankfully it did not.

Though I was in a precarious position, I still took photos and videos.
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I was quite glad when it ended and we chucked ourselves at the picnic bench to finish up the apples and sandwiches. We popped up to the Duck walk and Alexander bridge before seeking out the famed scallops pies.

We headed to Tinnies’ Pies which was a 10min drive
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So many pies!
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Oozing with Tasmanian scallops
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We also got eggs and bacon
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There was a beef steak pie which was as delicious too.

We went to downtown to shop. The shopping streets were a tad better than I expected. We managed to score a few superheroes apparels too.

Along the street
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The parallel parking was pretty cheap at $1ish per hour but there was a limit that cars could only park for one hour there. I clarified with the parking attendant and she was very sweet to approve letting us extend the parking by another half an hour.

At 315pm, we left the shopping area, refilled the fuel tank and headed to Launceston airport for our 5pm flight to Melbourne.

I got rather worried when I did not see any Qantas planes at the airport or coming down the runway. Even at 445pm, there was no sight of a Qantas plane. I got pretty upset because I had paid more for Qantas which had a better track record than Jetstar in the area of delayed or cancelled flights.

Imagine my amusement when a tiny Qantas plane sauntered into the runway at 455pm!

The second tiniest plane I had sat in my life
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Z was very amused too. We sat near the wings and he actually got to see the plane retract its wheels! Despite the size of the plane and the lack of out-of-order inflight entertainment via wifi on laggard iPads, we were quite happy with the flight because of the stash of snacks provided. It was better than our Mel-Hobart flight.

Upon arrival, it took no time for the luggage to appear and domestic arrival was a breeze. Just step out of the door and that was it.

We took a station wagon cab. It cost about $60 with the toll charges. The sky bus would have been cheaper at $41 or $70 for round trips. With the luggage and the kids, cabbing made a lot more sense. Subsequently, we found out that the size of vehicle did not affect the meter fares and there was no surcharge for advanced booking.

No car seat!
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We went to Short Stay Melbourne Apartments’ office at City Road to collect our keys and instructions. We booked a 2-bedroom apartment for 3 nights at $300+ a night.

The apartment overlooking Crown Casino
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I was very happy with how new, clean and spacious it was.

It was 730pm when we put down our luggage and walked over to Meat & Wine company for dinner. We also picked up some groceries like kiwis, milk, water, snacks and eggs from the nearby Foodworks which actually closed at 11pm.

AMEX Airbnb Black Friday Promotion

We had a trip to Bali scheduled in Feb 2015. We had started looking around for accommodation and was about to book the villa when this timely promotion appeared this morning.

From the eDM this morning:

What could be better than relaxing in Bali or Sydney this holiday season? How about knowing that your Airbnb accommodation costs 20% less than usual when you book with your American Express® Card?

Can’t get a vacation until next year? Not to worry, this offer is valid for stays until 31 May 2015.

Simply make your booking between 28 November and 2 December using the promotion codeAMEXxxxxxxSYD or AMEXxxxxxxBALI, where ‘x’ are the first 6 digits of your Card.

In fact, last night, I was still messaging the host if she could extend a discount and I was waiting out for her reply when Mr H received the email from Amex. Imagine our delight!

Day 8 – St Helens

We woke up to continental breakfast provided by the resort. This was undoubtedly the most beautiful driving day of the trip. It was also the day where we were greeted with the most gorgeous beach too. It was an hour’s drive from Bicheno to St Helens. The Bay of Fire started from Binalong Bay.

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At Binalong Bay – the wind was so strong that it was sweeping sand like a sandstormIMG_8183.JPG

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We spent an hour exploring 4-5 lookout points at Binalong Bay before driving back to St Helens for lunch. En route back to St Helens, we passed by No. 2 shed Binalong Bay where Lease 65 oyster farm was. There was no cafe, sitting area or tour. However, we still stopped by to buy the oysters which were going at $14 per dozen. We had to add $1 for lemon slices.

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We ate the oysters at the back of the car.IMG_8209.JPG

It was so good that Mr H returned for a second dozen.

We still headed over to St Helens’ Blue Shed for lunch.

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Salmon in strawberry sauceIMG_8213.JPG

We also shared a trio gelato dessert before the kids headed to the sea-viewing playground.IMG_8215.JPG

 

We returned to cover the full stretch of Bay of Fire via Garden Road. It was too cold, windy and sandy to play with the sand. We headed back towards the resort. We visited the Eureka Farm for its award winning Apricot ice cream during the return journey.

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We returned to the resort at 5pm. The boys played and Z even dropped his toy car into a dead section of the playground. He spent a pretty long while wailing before he sobered up and we could visit the beach right outside the resort.

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We had dinner at Sea Life centre again.

This was Z feeding X some Hokey Pokey ice creamIMG_8240.JPG

Sea view seatsIMG_8237.JPG

Post dinner, we staked out for another penguin watch. We saw many penguins (13 of them) heading back together at the same time. IMG_8249.JPG

It was our last night on Tasmania and we had to finish up the fruits, which included this oddly shaped strawberry from Sorell Fruit Farm.IMG_8250.JPG

The breakfast hamper pack which the owners prepared for us as we would be checking out at 7am.IMG_8217.JPG

Day 7 – Richmond/Sorell/Freycinet/Bicheno

We set off for Richmond at 830am. It was 30min away. Upon reaching Richmond, it was such a little pretty & historic town that it reminded me of Stratford Upon Avon in UK.

The older buildings were in yellow sandstone. We checked out the Richmond Goal and famous Richmond Bridge. Z asked how it was possible that the prisoners could build such a beautiful bridge so long ago.

The Richmond BridgeIMG_8102.JPG

The oldest operating Chapel in AustraliaIMG_8113.JPG

After Richmond, we drove over to Sorell fruit farm. It cost $8 for an adult and $3.50 for a child to pick strawberries. Late Oct was the season for strawberries. Had we come later, it would be the season for cherries.

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Mr H & X sat out on this because we had a recent strawberry picking experience in Korea and mainly because, X was sleeping

The weather was erratic and rained suddenly. We were done with our picking and returned to the farm. We ordered the waffles with ice cream.IMG_8122.JPG

It was so good that X kept asking for more helpingsIMG_8124.JPG

Merchandise at Sorell Fruit FarmIMG_8119.JPG

Interesting sauce… (it cost $14 at Sorell and $8 at Eureka farm!)IMG_8115.JPG

Interesting jams such as TayberryIMG_8121.JPG

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We continued the drive to Freycinet Marine Farm. It was a long drive away. The road was winding, long and the lack of coastal scenery made the 2 hours’ drive feel longer than it was. It was pretty winding, so much so that X kept crying. After 15 minutes, I suspected that he was car sick and prepped a plastic bag. I was right. After 10 minutes, he vomited a little and was calmer after that.

We had a late lunch at Freycinet Marine Farm. It was more like a shack but we were happy with the selection.

Fresh oysters ($15), Calamari ($15), Oysters baked in kilpatrick style ($20), Scallops with bread roll ($15)IMG_8133.JPG

 

We ended up buying some fresh scallops with the intention of cooking scallops porridge for the boys’ dinner.

Many, many fresh scallops at $11
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From lunch, we drove to Freycinet National Park. We decided to skip the 1.5hours return walk to the Wineglass Bay lookout. The weather was erratic and we did not want to be caught in the rain, on steep slopes with 2 kids. The nice folks at the Marine Farm had suggested that we visit Cape Tourville instead.

We checked out Sleepy Bay on the drive up to Cape Tourville.

From the boardwalk at Cape TourvilleIMG_8142.JPG

It was an easy 15min boardwalk which we took an hour to finish because we were taking photos, admiring the view and going round in circles after X. It was so windy that I thought I would be blown off the boardwalk. I had to keep my hat on so that my hair would not fly in all directions.

It was 530pm when we were done with and drove over to Bicheno’s Diamond Island Resort.

The room was nice and the owners were very hospital
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The little owners, Ella & Mia, were very friendly and came by to play with Z too. I liked how open (yet enclosed) the field was and how there was a trampoline with the playground too.

We headed out to Sea Life Centre (5 minutes’ drive) for dinner.IMG_8164.JPG

Seafood platter for 1 at $30IMG_8165.JPG

Pasta, $20IMG_8166.JPGWe managed to return in time by 8pm to wait out for the penguins to return to their rookery. We saw 11 penguins before calling it a night. It was simply too freezing to stay outdoors.

 

 

Day 6 – Port Arthur

We woke up to a cozy scene on the rainy morning. Unfortunately, we had a long agenda ahead and had to drag the boys out of bed.
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It was this day that we realized Tasmania had several peninsulas. The good thing about staying at Seven miles beach was that we saved 30min driving to Port Arthur as opposed to staying in Hobart city.

It was an hour’s drive to Port Arthur. It certainly felt longer than that after we passed Sorell. The landscape became rather forestry and there were many bends, more so than along Great Ocean Road.

There was a drizzle which made the journey all the more dreary. It was still drizzling when we reached Port Arthur, further lending a somber mood to this historic site. We were recommended to take up the basic package which did not include visiting the smaller islands from Port Arthur. However, the basic ticket included a ferry tour around the island. The ticket to Port Arthur allowed 2 days of entry.

We spent some time looking at the exhibits which profiled the sort of people who became convicts in Britain and were sent off to Australia, then Port Arthur. Most convicts were sent to jail for petty crimes and if they chose to not comply with the slavery system by misbehaving or committing more crimes, they would be sent to Port Arthur.

The British government had wanted to encourage its citizens to seek new opportunities in new land. Hence, they had to provide a pool of labour (via convicts) to the land owners as part of the lure. Some people actually wanted to be convicted and be sent to Australia in search of better lives because of poverty and overcrowding in Britain at that time.

There was a vision of reforming convicts at Port Arthur and to even develop it as a flour mill which would be sufficient for Port Arthur to support itself. However, the flour mill did not take off and the building was converted to a penitentiary.

Subsequently, the British decided to remove the purpose of jailing convicts from the site, Port Arthur became a popular tourist attraction. We had a 30 minute walking tour, took a cruise and checked out the site by ourselves. We visited the old asylum which was really creepy in my opinion. It was little wonder that Port Arthur conducted Ghost tours too.

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Beautiful ruins of Port ArthurIMG_8055.JPG

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We completed visiting of the entire main site by 230pm and had a casual lunch at the bistro. We were done by 330pm and drove towards Hobart. Around 15min north of Port Arthur was a local Chocolatier called The Federation Chocolate. It offered a short introduction to how they made chocolates. It was touted as Tasmanian homemade chocolates and the Lady Boss herself was making the chocolates as we peered from the main hall. The Boss himself was babysitting their darling daughter and he was a very friendly host.

He was also very generous with the tastings and boy, were we impressed by the number of flavours available!IMG_8063.JPG

The Boss was so hospitable that we bought many bars of chocolates! The flavours were delicious too! My favourite was the Strawberry & Orange dark chocolate. Z’s was Apple milk chocolate, X’s was original milk chocolate and Mr H’s was Coffee Almond milk chocolate.

We continued the drive and checked out the Fossil Bay lookout and The Blowhole. The Blowhole was rather interesting and amused both boys to no end when the waves splashed and ‘exploded’ in the hole.

We also visited the Tasman Sea Cliff lookout at Eaglehawk Neck. It was mentioned that many prisoners who tried to escape from Port Arthur would usually be trapped at this area.

At the Dunalley Bay where it was the bridging zone between Tasmanian Devils’ conservation area and the “infected area” (read – rest of Tasmania)IMG_8070.JPG

It was 530pm by the time we were done with the random sightseeing and drove for an hour to Hobart for dinner at the much acclaimed Me Wah Restaurant.

The prices were steeper than Oriental Paradise by about 30-40%, an indication that it was an expensive Chinese restaurant. However, serving size was huge in Australia. Hence, it meant that for our little family of 4, 2 dishes and a fried rice was even too much for us to finish. We ordered the fried rice at $18 because it made more economical sense to do so than to have ordered 1 bowl of white rice at $4.

This was X, up to his usual tantrumsIMG_8091.JPG

He threw a bowl at the acrylic lazy susan. It did not break, thank goodness! He had already broken a bowl at Macka’s Farm and a mug at Healesville Sanctuary prior to this.

Beef steak & BroccoliIMG_8089.JPG

Tasmanian scallops with bamboo shootsIMG_8088.JPG

We were done with dinner in less than an hour and headed back to Wyndham hurriedly, no thanks to the terrible toddler in tow.

Day 5 – Hobart

This was definitely the most challenging day in my entire itinerary. We had a 830am domestic flight to catch and Healesville was an hour’s drive from the airport. It meant we dressed the kids in the day’s outfit instead of pyjamas for sleepwear. Furthermore, the kids were playing so much the previous night that they went to bed at almost midnight.

It was definitely tiring for Mr H & I because we had to wake up at 5am! I cooked porridge while Mr H packed up the remaining bits of luggage. We woke the kids at 530am for light breakfast and headed off for the airport by 6am. The kids were so groggy that they continued to sleep in the car.

It was a blissful, quiet & uneventful drive to the airport. The drive took an hour. We were almost reaching the airport and then we panicked about where to refill petrol for the car. Hertz had this policy where you had to refill the fuel tank within 15km of the return point. I searched for the nearest petrol station with the GPS and picked the wrong option which led us to a Natural Gas pump station. There were roadworks in the airport area and the GPS was not very updated in guiding us. Eventually, we followed the road signs and found a BP petrol station which was right next to the airport.

The check in was smooth and in no time, we were having a proper breakfast in the waiting area. The kids and I had Krispy Kreme doughnuts while Mr H tucked into his Hungry Jacks. The kids enjoyed the scene overlooking the runway and pretty much stayed in their seats.

 

Enjoying the view
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The domestic flight was an hour. We picked up our rental car from Hertz and the lady was exceedingly sweet to give us a map too.

It was half past ten, so we popped down to TAS Live abalone. I had forgotten that it was closed on weekends! We were very lucky to bump into the boss who gave us a personal tour. The canned abalone was $33 and the vacuum packed ones were pricier. The former was black lip abalone while the latter were green lip abalone. We paid $60++ for 200g ones.

After that, we headed to Barilla Oysters Bay which was directly opposite the airport. We ordered a dozen oysters, fish & chips, mussels, calamari and kid’s seafood pasta. The food was great and I especially enjoyed the oysters in different sauces.

Lunch
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We were staying at Wyndham Seven Miles Vacation Resort which was opposite Barilla Bay Oysters. As the villa was ready, we checked in at 1pm. I was impressed with how new, clean and spacious the 2-bedroom with a full sized kitchen and living room was. It was only $369 for 2 nights.

The villa
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We headed off to the famed Salamanca Market which only operated till 3pm. It was a pleasant surprise to see Bridestowe Lavender farm having a stall there. Their prices were so much cheaper than Warrantina Lavender farm. That being said, it was about 30% pricier if you were to pick up their goods from souvenir shops.

Hanging out
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Playing at the park in front of Parliament HouseIMG_8020.JPG

It was really cold and we decided to check out the Battery Point which overlooked the harbour. The roads in Hobart went up and down in straight lines. Bundled with the cold strong winds from the sea, it resembled San Francisco.

The houses at Battery Point were so pretty like English cottages. There were beautiful blooms around the estate. We chanced upon a cafe at the peak of the estate. It was crowded and after peeking at what they had, and trying the decadent offerings, we could understand why. The pies, tarts, cakes, desserts and drinks were delicious.

Tea time at Jackman & McRossIMG_8023.JPG

After tea, we headed to the Tasmanian museum. We were most impressed with the detailed history of Tasmania. It was called Van Dieman’s land initially. The history was a brutally sad one with many aboriginals wiped out by the whites.

There were other interesting exhibits such as vintage posters, time capsules and more artifacts.

Tasmanian MuseumIMG_8024.JPG

It had been quite a long day so we headed to Sandy Bay’s Woolworth to buy a roast chicken and precooked pasta. It was a good decision because it was so cold that we did not want to stay out late. It helped that the villa was so spacious and the kids really enjoyed running about.