You might have noticed that lately I’ve been harping on about a big family holiday to Melbourne. We have just arrived back and it was an epic trip to say the least! I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on here that I am half Australian – my Dad’s side of the family mostly live in Melbourne, so it’s somewhere we return to often during the winter months to take advantage of their summer. Though my Dad grew up in Melbourne, we have never lived there as a family. The four of us were all born in Hong Kong and we emigrated to the UK when I was 2 years old. But even having never lived there, returning to the city reminds me that it’s a huge part of me with so much extended family over there.
Throughout my childhood, we only returned to Melbourne a handful of times but in 2012 my younger brother moved there for work. I remember feeling slightly crushed when he moved, and for once really felt the distance at living on opposite sides of the world. You convince yourself there is Skype, Facetime and email, but the reality is that with such a huge time difference, it’s hard to chat every day as we used to. So I made it my priority to go over and see him every year for a couple of weeks. It was a nice excuse for me to have a holiday and catch up with my Nanny and family too. Having Emma inevitably changed all this – I was no longer able to travel and really missed that time we would have together. But then 18 months ago, he proposed to his girlfriend and we all set the wheels in motion for the wedding of the year Down Under!
A Very Long Journey
23 hours on the road, a real first for all three of us. As we approach the day of departure, that feeling of dread returns and I begin to wonder if we were setting ourselves up for a whole world of pain. Although I tried my best to pack light, we seem to have about 10 bags to carry each and have become two pack horses. My other half is also in charge of transporting the flight approved car seat, which is possibly the most awkward thing to carry in one hand – to the point that other passengers half laughed to themselves when they asked us if we had been lugging it around the whole time.
After a military operation getting the bags on and off the train, we were finally at Gatwick and ready to check in. As we approach the desk, I suddenly realise one of the milk bottles has started leaking and I am dripping milk everywhere I go. But this is the least of our worries, as the Emirates lady asks for our tourist visas, that I have failed to organise. Eeeek. Ah well, she says, not a problem as we can buy them at the ticket desk round the corner. So off we go with our numerous bags to buy the visas, cool as a breeze as we’ve got lots of time. However the lady at this desk asks me if I have another passport and when I innocently tell her that I also have an Aussie passport but I left it at home, she tells me she’s not sure if I can fly. While she calls the visa department for an ‘override’, I am left nervously looking at my shoes wondering how I could be so stupid. This decision to leave my other passport at home would come to bite me on the ass several times during the trip, but the lovely lady sorts it for us…phew.
After quite a few tears and tantrums in my arms, we finally get to our seats on the plane and it seemed like a relief for Emma to sit in her car seat and relax. We paid a little extra to fly with Emirates as we had heard they are fantastic with young kids and I’m glad we did – they gave Emma cuddly toys and a colouring book and were so helpful with our bags too. The only issue we had was over the car seat; we had cleared it with Emirates over the phone and bought a seat we knew was flight approved. But the cabin crew on board were really worried about it, and it took a bit of persuasion to get it sorted. It annoyed me a bit as we’d lugged the seat around the airport with us, where no-one batted an eyelid and at this stage we were just so tired and wanted to get settled.
As we had picked a night flight – Emma was really sleepy and the TV screens were brilliant at sending her to sleep. We found she loves Dumbo and Toy Story (though don’t make the mistake of trying headphones on her!) and she’d just watch the pictures and doze off – what a result! In the summer, we flew to Ireland and she screamed blue murder for an entire hour so I was expecting the absolute worst. The flights were tiring, as neither of us were able to quite relax but we got there in the end, extremely excited to see the family.
The Perfect Place to Stay
The beauty of having family in Melbourne is that they know just the right areas to recommend. My sister-in-law found us a wonderful house in Armadale for all 8 of us (plus the two little ones) to stay, in a gorgeous house. The area was perfect, round the corner from Malvern Central with lots of shops and restaurants/bars; plus there was a park round the corner too (great for those jet lag days when Emma was up super early!). It was also only 10 minutes from where the wedding would take place, and across the park from relatives too. I couldn’t imagine anything better! It was wonderful to have us all in one place, so we could do our own thing during the day and still be together for dinner in the evenings. Plus it was a godsend to not have to eat out every night, as that always gets tricky with little ones.
After the wedding, some of the family flew onwards but we decided to stay in Melbourne for a few days. So we hired another Air BnB in Port Melbourne, as it is near to where my brother lives. I’ve stayed here before when I visited him and I love this area! It’s pretty trendy and along the main street has endless cafes, restaurants and bars with yummy food. I really enjoyed being so close to him so we could spend more time together before our trip ended.
Three Generations Together
When Emma was born, I was hoping with all heart that on this trip she would get to meet my Nanny. Spending time with Nanny would always be one of the highlights of my trips to Melbourne and this was no exception. We all met up before the wedding and while it was brilliant to be together, there is just no substitute for time just the two of us. We have such a big family that often with our meet-ups, you come away not having spoken properly to anyone…I’m not sure if anyone with big families can relate to that?! But I was so happy that the day before we flew back to the UK, we were able to spend 3 hours together just chatting about life and catching up. Also it was amazing to see Emma play with her Great-Nanny, smiling and laughing. It was such a touching moment to see, almost as if even at this young age, she understands who Nanny is without us having to tell her. I’m so pleased we got a photo too – the 3 generations together, a moment I’ll always remember.
So that rounds up the first installment to our big trip Down Under…I hope I haven’t bored you to tears! We’ll be back next Tuesday with more photos and stories about the big wedding and also a bit about Melbourne as a city too. Hope you can join us 🙂