It feels like only yesterday that I wrote our March Expat Update and here we are in May already! April brought us two weeks of school holidays, Easter, a trip to Sydney and autumn in April. I adore the mobile app 1 Second Everyday which allows you to easily and quickly put together a video compilation showing what you did each day. The trick is to remember to take a video each day. At the end of the month, I love looking back at our month and what we have been up to. You can see our April video here.
Here is how April played out for us.
Saying Goodbye to our Visitors
We have been lucky enough to have my parents and Paul’s mom and her husband visiting over the last few months. After lots of wonderful time together, it was time to say goodbye to our guests. Our last weekend with Barb & Eric saw us check out our first Aussie Rules Football (aka AFL, Footy) game at the massive Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). We are all about giving experiences over things for gifts and our Christmas present to them was to go out to an Escape Room. We had a babysitter and enjoyed a night in the city. This is my second Escape Room and I wish I could say I brought some expertise to the evening. We had a great evening and did manage to escape from our room with some clues along the way.
Trip to Sydney
Paul was working a lot over the Easter holidays and attended a conference in Auckland as well. I headed up to Sydney for 5 days with the kids. We met up with my parents for a few days.
They then sailed off on their trans Pacific cruise to Canada (retirement is tough I hear!) and Paul came up for the weekend. I was feeling a little down that we weren’t using the two week school holidays to go somewhere exotic, but I was reminded what a great city Sydney is on our visit. It was so nice to be back in warm weather and enjoy the beaches up there. We love to stay in Airbnbs when travelling and we picked a cozy one right across from the Opera House. We loved taking the ferry in to the city each day – what a fun way to get around. The kids tried surfing, we saw the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from every possible angle, visited Bondi and Manly beaches, had a great Dim Sum lunch in Chinatown and visited the amazing Taronga Zoo. You can read my full post on Sydney here.
I love the Australia school year calendar. They have their summer break for 5 weeks in January and then have three other two week breaks throughout the year. So nice to spread it out like that. We did some normal things like have play dates, get haircuts, and swim at the local pool. Although we are living in Melbourne, I like to treat school holidays as an opportunity to be tourists.
We visited the Melbourne Zoo for like the 5th time. We have zoo memberships and since I am all about getting our money’s worth, I like to throw in a quick visit to the Zoo here and there. The kids seem to be Zoo-ed out and are not super keen for yet another trip to the Zoo.
We hadn’t visited the nearby Dandenong ranges, an area of low mountains set in temperate rainforest yet. Since ANZAC day was approaching, I picked the Kokoda trail as our hike in the region. This walk is also called the 1000 Steps trek and the kids were less then thrilled to find that out. Of course I love an opportunity to combine being out in nature with history and so we learned all about the importance of the Kokoda Trail. The one here is a memorial trail of the actual Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea, which was the location of a 1942 World War II battle between the Japanese and Allies (mostly Australians). It was obviously a very popular walk to do on Easter Sunday and the kids and I made it up the 1000 steps.
I had heard a lot about freakshakes on Instagram and was saving this as a special treat for the holidays. Have you had one of these? They are the rage over here and consist of a shake with cake, candy, donuts and even candy floss adorning the shake. We tried it out and while the kids were happy, I was a bit disappointed. So we will just have to try another freakshake at a different cafe soon.
Paul was working a lot over Easter and since all of our lovely family is so far away, it was pretty low key. Living in a different country always presents challenges at holidays. Do they celebrate the same way? What does the bunny leave here? Luckily it seems to be quite similar with the exception that it is very difficult to find those plastic Easter eggs we have in Canada. I checked so many stores and finally found a few at a ridiculous price. I needed them though for consistency sake and also to protect the chocolates and candy from the mice we seem to have roaming our house in the night. Note: the mice seem to have finally lost interest in our house. For weeks they woke us up each night and yet didn’t seem interested in any of our traps.
We did try to die some Easter eggs, but had a heck of a time finding white eggs to die. I must have checked five stores and no luck. We re-arranged some cartons to take home the lightest brown eggs and tried our hand at dying eggs with silk scarves.
Paul was home Easter Sunday for the hunt and we had our traditional Eggs Benedict breakfast. He then went to work and I dragged the kids on the above-mentioned 1000 Steps hike. Asking around, it seems quite common for people to go out for an Easter lunch at a restaurant to celebrate here. Since turning vegetarian this year, I wasn’t super keen about cooking an elaborate meat meal. However the kids are sticklers of tradition and requested a ham dinner and I of course obliged. Holidays are definitely a time where we really miss being closer to family and friends.
We arrived in Melbourne last year just after the AFL Grand Final and you certainly could tell that it was a big deal. In fact it is such a big day, that it is a public holiday. AFL (Aussie Rules Football) is played on a cricket pitch and is a hybrid between soccer, rugby and maybe some other things. Melbourne is known as a city mad about sports and AFL is sacred. What makes it especially interesting is that up until recently the sport was almost exclusively played in Victoria and not in other parts of Australia. There are now professional teams throughout Australia, but Melbourne rules “Footy”. Every one follows the sport and since 9 of the 18 pro teams are in Melbourne, rivalries run deep. We get asked regularly who we support and have yet to make a decision. After the summer cricket season, Footy starts up and it truly takes over the city.
We went to our first game as a family and it really is a great sport to watch. Watching any game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which holds over 100,000 fans is quite a treat. The kids did reasonably well once they were plied with chips and snacks.
Instead of playing soccer, the boys have signed up to play Footy on Saturday mornings at our local park. The AFL is Australia’s wealthiest sporting league and since they are the main sponsor, the boys received lots of free swag. The boys take their balls to school and play at recess. Gavin in fact broke his finger at the end of March playing footy at school. Miles seems to most like the contact part of Footy and will run from anywhere on the field to join in a pile up.
The Father’s Association at the school runs a Footy Tipping Competition. I thought this might be a social event where they played Footy but no it is a gambling sporting pool. Paul is quite thrilled to be leading the tipping and checks in on every game.
We have been around Australian travelers overseas during ANZAC Day and noticed what an important day it is for Australians. ANZAC Day is more important here then Remembrance Day in November and recognizes the Australians and New Zealanders that fought in the wars and conflicts. The day starts early with a Dawn Service held in every town and area. We were away camping for the weekend and didn’t make it out for the dawn service, but did see how moving the ceremonies were.
Our Last Camping Weekend of the Season
April definitely brought autumn to Melbourne (they don’t call it “Fall”). Living in the southern hemisphere, it is so weird to have the seasons reversed. Since Melbourne is so far south in Australia, they do experience four seasons (sometimes in one day). The leaves are changing colour, loosing their leaves and there is a chill in the air.
We managed to get away for a long weekend up to Victorian high country for our last camping trip of the season. We have heard lots of great things about the town of Bright, a 3 hour drive away. It is at the base of the mountains and is particularly well known for the autumn colours. We had lots of fun biking and hiking around the area and it is definitely a spot we want to return to. They have this great Brewery located on the River beside a fantastic playground and splash park – perfect for parents and kids. You can read our full post on our weekend away in Bright here. With the temps dropping, we will sadly be packing away our camping gear until next season now. We have brought out he “jumpers” and “wind cheaters” and are bundling up.
My Busy Housewife Life
I had to fill in a form the other day which asked my occupation. It definitely felt funny to write housewife, but that is what I am these days. We are now well and fully into the school routine and with all kids in school I was really worried what I would do with all my free time. I needn’t to have worried though because the days are so full that I never get through my to do list.
This week for example, I am volunteering at school four times, which keeps me on my toes. I am helping out with literacy activities in Miles and Gavin’s classrooms. Ella’s class is doing their two weeks of swimming lessons right now, so I am helping a couple of times to walk the class down to the Rec Centre. Being involved in School Council allows me to get the inside track on what is going on at school and is another thing that occupies my time. I am not quite sure why I agreed to Chair the “Education & Policy” Committee! Add in daily visits to the gym, working on the blog, coffee mornings with some moms and the day goes by quickly.
Last week we had the PTA sponsored Mother’s Day lunch which I guess was an opportunity for Moms to treat themselves to a day out. It was a pricey ticket, but included a fancy lunch at a local restaurant, an obligatory glass of champagne (you could have opted for the all you can drink option instead!) and a chance to meet other Moms at the school. It is events like this that I really enjoy because they are so different from Canada. Somehow I just can’t see this happening at our school in Guelph. What is impressive is that for a school with less then 500 kids, they get 70 Moms out to an event like this. Our School Council in Guelph would die to have participation rates like this.
Coming Up Next
I have been in full trip planning mode the last few weeks planning our trip home to Canada, our trip to Japan and our last minute trip to the Great Barrier Reef next week.
Great Barrier Reef
Paul and I visited the GBR years ago backpacking before kids and it is definitely something we want to experience with our kids while we are here. We have planned this last minute trip up to Cairns and are pretty excited to find the sunshine. I am hoping the kids’ strong snorkeling skills developed in the Bahamas will return. In addition to visiting the Reef, there is tons to keep us busy in far north Queensland. We are going to visit the Daintree rainforest and stay a few nights up there. We don’t do resort holidays often and so the kids are looking forward to some down time at the resort near Cairns. There are lots of opportunities to learn about the aboriginal people, Australian animals (crocodiles!) and the geography of the region up there. Needless to say, we are quite excited about this holiday.
We have our trip home to Canada finalized. Well the kids and I do. We are yet to book Paul’s ticket home, but hopefully he will be joining us! We are so excited to spend some time with my brother and his family in Alberta, before heading home to Ontario for the month of July. We know it will be a whirlwind visit, but we are so excited to catch up with all of you!
We are really bad at flying from point A to point B directly. We like to try to squeeze a stop over out of long flights and we are thrilled to be spending 10 days in Japan en route back to Melbourne. We have heard such fantastic things about Japan and although it is pricey, we are so excited for our visit.
Not sure if any of you made it through this really long update, but hopefully you have enjoyed hearing all about our month of April living over here as expats in Australia.