Friday, May 5, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 45 & 46: Melbourne for Reals

We got into Melbourne late in the afternoon and after getting groceries, feeding Baby, eating ourselves, and putting her to bed, we were more than pooped. We'd spent a lot of time in the car the last three days and were ready to stretch out and recoup. Unfortunately, the Melbourne Department of Transportation had different plans for us.

Our accommodation was situated right beside the above ground train station. For some reason, there was an apparent need for the trains to honk their horns when coming into the station. Loudly. Sometimes with two honks. So imagine trying to put a baby to sleep during rush hour when trains are arriving every three minutes from each direction. It was brutal. Then imagine trying to sleep yourself on a saggy mattress while the trains continued to do this all night long. Hell.

Maybe the day will turn around
So when we got up the next morning (note that we did not say "woke up" as that implies we were sleeping in the first place), the deluge taking place outside mirrored our moods. When the hail started coming down and water began falling (again, note the word choice - not "dripping"), and the apartment started to flood, it was laughably appropriate. Except that we were too busy throwing our bags on the bed and pulling the couch away from the wall to laugh.

But, you see, we had brunch plans because the thing to do in Melbourne is to go for brunch. So we got dressed, shrugged our shoulders at the pool of water on the floor, (and notified the owner), and went to brunch!

After a delicious meal and delightful conversation with Kirsty, we threw in the towel, (or more literally, threw it on the floor), and decided to cancel our plans for the day. Thankfully, Erin's cousin Ros is the most accommodating person in the world, and she agreed to come to us for the day rather than meet us downtown. To this, we were so grateful, especially when we discovered that our train station had closed due to flooding (though the trains still needed to honk when passing through the station!). We relaxed, got caught up, did laundry, gave Baby a bath, and had a much needed day at "home."

With the second night being not much better than the first, and our 2.5km drive taking 35 minutes in morning rush hour traffic, we were not feeling oh too happy with Melbourne. But we tried our best to give the city a fair chance. Whether it was Ros's upbeat personality, the fact that the sun finally came out, or that we were away from the infuriating beeping, we actually did find things to enjoy. 

Melbourne is trendy but not uninviting. It has a thriving art scene with interesting-looking museums that we would've checked out if we'd had more time. And we loved the alleyways with wall-to-wall graffiti. We sadly didn't get to visit the bar under the bridge because it wasn't open yet, but we did stop for a bite beside the river. Thankfully, for us, Melbourne's best attribute was its company. Thanks, Kirsty and Ros, for making our time there enjoyable!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 45 & 46: Melbourne

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 42-44: The Great Ocean Car Park

Okay, we admit it: we've been incredibly spoiled this trip. We had five weeks in New Zealand zipping along mountainous and coastal routes with the roads to ourselves enjoying breathtakingly beautiful scenery. So when we heard the words, Great Ocean Road, we kind of assumed that the road would hug the ocean.

To be fair, we were doing it backwards.
It worked better for us to go from Adelaide to Melbourne, meaning we were looking back for the best views, we weren't on the coastal side of the road, and we started, rather than finished, with the Twelve Apostles highlight. But nearly our entire first day of driving was through farmlands and brush without a wave or cliff in sight. How is this portion a part of the Great Ocean Road? We also had the disadvantage of needing to get a baby in and out of the car seat at most stops because the viewpoints required some walking. This was hard on all of us.

Despite our grumblings, we enjoyed the trip. Here are some of our favourite moments and places:

The Grotto
Gibson's Steps
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles
London Bridge
We were so excited to spot our first koala on our own...
no cars pulled over or anything!

NZ/Aus Day 41:Moooving Onwards

After a relaxing four days in Adelaide, we left it behind to gradually make our way to Melbourne. We were excited to be joined by our friend Kirsty who had flown from Melbourne to make the trip with us. Our social life had seriously been lacking over the past six weeks so we happily gabbed away in the car.

It was a good thing, too, because our first driving day felt long and uneventful. The stops we'd chosen were a little underwhelming... Pink Beach certainly was pink - because it was COVERED in seaweed. The pelican viewpoint had a small wooden stand that looked likely to be infested with spiders and snakes, and the gas station was, well, a gas station. Needless to say, we were happy to finally reach our destination for the night: an 1890's farmhouse complete with original furniture and a bedroom full of creepy oil paintings of past family members. It was so remote, the owner had to meet us and guide us to it through her cow fields and through multiple gates! With a roaring fire in the stately hearth, we nestled in for the night.

Monday, April 24, 2017

NZ/Aus Days 37-40: Adelaide

Four whole days. Four whole days? Did it ever feel longer? After our go-go-go finish of New Zealand and excitement of arriving in Continent Number Seven, four complete days in one place felt heavenly.

Adelaide, and specifically the gem of a spot Craig found on Christie's Beach, turned out to be perfect. The beach was literally at our doorstep (or more seriously, by the end of our stay, all over and in our apartment). The water was calm, the shore sandy, and temperature well above what we'd been experiencing the last little while in NZ. We strolled the coast, lazed in the sand, swam in the ocean, and tormented Baby by getting her to try new things. Actually, after our first failed attempt of getting her in the water in New Brighton, things went very smoothly for her second attempt. Perhaps we prepped her well by all of our sunrise/sunset walks where she was intent on watching the waves roll in and out. She even smiled this time! We also enjoyed watching three dolphins play in the water just off shore.

The great thing about Adelaide is that everything is close. On our second day, we took a short drive to the Onkaparinga River National and Recreation Park. Our main focus: koala hunting. (To be clear, we were searching for one to SEE it in the wild, not capture or kill it!)

We'd barely left the parking lot when Erin quickly pointed across a field and exclaimed, "There!" It wasn't a koala, sadly, but instead, a bright-eyed kangaroo mom and joey. Our first kangaroo sighting!!!

We proceeded to have the slowest-paced hour and a half nature walk of perhaps the history of all time. There was so much to be watching for in such a "barren" shrubland. Koalas, of course, and now kangaroos, the vast variety of colourful birdlife that suddenly seemed to be surrounding us, along with some busy anthills to step over. Then add on the famously huge and scary Australian spiders and snakes (of which we saw none, thankfully). And the nature itself wasn't all to shabby, either...

It was rainy on our third day, which was fine because we'd planned a little drive into McLaren Vale to visit some wineries. We were pleased with the atmospheric vineyards and friendly staff who led us through an educational and thorough tasting at the Oliver's family estate. It was nice to have a variety of wines to try after the sav blancs and pinot noirs of New Zealand. And, it was fun to spot a kangaroo in the field across from us!

And on our fourth day, we felt energetic enough to do a bit of everything. A short morning hike led to more kangaroo and bird sightings but no koalas. That was followed by two delicious and atmospheric wine tastings thanks to some perfect recommendations (thanks Kevin, Heather, and Kirsty!). Then we still had time left to go to the beach! Adelaide really does have it all!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

NZ/Aus Day 36: The Big 7

Celebrating 7
The older you get, the less "milestones" there are (that are created by society). We've graduated university, secured tenure positions in jobs, gotten engaged and married, purchased a home, and birthed a child. (We pause for a moment to acknowledge just how unbelievably privelged we are). Other than decade birthdays and retirements, what's left? Just think of the labels on greeting cards to get what I mean. Setting your own goals and establishing your own milestones becomes more important, just as it's important that you celebrate them all the same.

Today, we achieved something important to us. We arrived in Australia and have now officially set foot on all 7 continents. We've discovered the beauty of the world together, and the humbleness of humanity. We've witnessed a thousand - no, a million memorable snapshot moments of sunrises and sunsets, unbelievable animals and plants, sweeping vistas, and emotional human traditions, that have all taken our breaths away.

That being said, we're not done. Travel is more than just a checklist. There are more cultures to experience, new peaks to witness the sun rising on, further lessons to learn, and now, old places to revisit and watch our daughter discover. There will always be a new corner of the world that excites us (and many amazing places to revisit), and we are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to (re)discover them. Cheers!

In celebration, we've pulled some photos from the archives to commemorate each continent...

North America: Top of the World, BC, Canada

South America: Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Africa: The Church of Saint George, Lalibela, Ethiopia

Asia: Taj Mahal, Agra, India 

Antarctica: Portal Point, Antarctica

Europe: Porto, Portugal

Australia: Christie's Beach, Adelaide

Saturday, April 22, 2017

NZ/Aus: Tips for Travelling with a Baby

This looks like a good spot for a diaper change...
We've already alluded many times to the fact that our baby is super easy and awesome, so we are by no means experts about what works best for everyone. Every baby and family is different with its own quirks and priorities. But we thought we'd share what's been working for us because we were surprised pre-trip by how few blogs were out there about long-haul, long-term travel with an infant (it's almost like people stop travelling once they have kids, or something). ;)

Keep in mind that our babe is 3.5-5.5 months old for this trip. Things will be different for the next one when she'll be eating solids and moving around. But more on future trips later.

Packing list
We took one giant suitcase with ALL of her clothes,toys, diapers, and wipes, etc, and put the dock a tot on top which worked really well and was easy to keep her things organized. A collapsible hamper was super useful since between the three of us, laundry piled up quickly. I did laundry usually once every four days. We had to be prepared for both hot and cool weather so layers were key. I'll also note that i brought twice as many shirts as I would have normally for myself to account for spit-ups. I didn't need that many, but i always had a backup in my day pack just in case.
Throw the Dock-a-tot on top, zip it up,
and we're good to go!

Clothes for Baby
4 Short sleeve onesies
3 Short sleeve footless sleepers
4 Long sleeve onesies
3 Long sleeve footless sleepers
2 Sleepers
1 Fleece sleeper
2 Sleep sacks
3 pants: 1 thick,  1 thin, 1 with feet
3 pairs socks
1 fleece sweater
1 raincoat
1 rashguard long sleeve bathing suit (she wore the top lots just as a shirt for sun protection-I'd highly recommend this)
1 thin white long sleeve shirt (to keep covered from the sun on hot days)
1 dress
Sun hat

We recommend bringing a collapsible tub
but the froggie takes FOREVER to blow up
even with a small hand pump.
2 muslin blankets
3 burp cloths
6 face cloths
1 car blanket
2 waterproof change pads to set up a little changing station at each accommodation

Wipes container
Bouncy Chair (was great for places where the floor wasn't the cleanest)
Dock a tot
Nursing pillow
Sun bed: Kilofly Travel Bed. This was super has SPF 50 protection; great for when we were at the beach or out on a deck. We used the mat lots just to put down on hard floors at different accommodations, and even put the dock-a-tot in it for her to sleep in at places that had mosquitos. Our critique: it doesn't stay closed well. I'd recommend looking for one that zips shut.
Inflatable bathtub and small hand pump
Wet/dry bag
Medical supplies: d drops, nail clippers,  nail file, baby Tylenol, snot sucker, saline drops
Sun shields for the car windows
Baby carrier

I cannot stress enough how much we recommend taking diapers if you're travelling internationally. We ended up bringing two packs because we'd already bought them and knew she wouldn't fit them when we got back and we had the space. We were so glad we did! New Zealand diapers were terrible in comparison. Sizing was different, they didn't wick as well. We tried both brands offered, in multiple sizes, and couldn't find ones that fit. So, for the first three weeks we had enough diapers from home to put her in one at nighttime so there weren't poop explosions while sleeping. After we ran out, there was one almost every night... Take diapers.

We did not take our car seat because New Zealand and Australia have really strict regulations that are different from Canada for car seats. So we rented one with our rental car.

Toys/Books/Teething Aids
I brought WAY too much. I had this moment right before we left where I felt guilty for not bringing more things, thinking that I was depriving her of academic stimulation, so I threw in a bunch more stuff. It wasn't necessary. Our two Lamaze toys: the moose and the mermaid, are so great for encouraging different types of play as she grows, so they've been wonderful. We give her mermaid in the car and she's been happily playing with her for six weeks now. What I wish we had more of but they take up so much room and weight allowance is books. Craig has gotten really good at reading "Sleep Tight Little Mouse" upteen different ways so that Baby has variety. Another favourite is our soft picture book with real photos of our family members so she remembers everyone back home. :) I brought the blue mesh bag as a way to easily store them all in her suitacase, which has been helpful.

Day Pack
I became the queen of packing for day trips. My typical day pack would have:
3 small toys: a teething ring, her bunny rattle, and a small lobster rattle
An extra outfit for her
An extra shirt for me
Her fleece sweater or raincoat depending on weather
4 diapers, our refillable travel wipes container, change pad
1 burp cloth
Travel-sized hand sanitizer
2 granola bars, water bottle
2 hair elastics
Wallet, phone, camera, etc

Travelling Days

At the Airport
We're big fans of using a stroller at airports, especially with long-haul flights, connections, etc, because Baby sleeps well in it. She's not a fan of the carrier unless you're WALKING so we have it on hand but generally don't use it.

When arriving at the airport, you'll probably need to go up to a desk to check in so you can get a gate-check tag for the stroller, if you're taking one. Many airports don't let you gate check a stroller, so check in advance so you're prepared. Here's a list of the ones we've encountered so far:

Calgary-Ottawa (Air Canada): Yes
Toronto-Calgary (Air Canada): Yes
Calgary-LA (Air Canada): Yes
LA-Auckland (Air New Zealand): Yes
Auckland-Christchurch (Air NZ): No
Christchurch-Melbourne (Air NZ): No
Melbourne-Adelaide (Virgin Airlines): No

So at these places, we had to pick up the stroller with our checked bags, sometimes from oversized baggage, other times it was just set beside the baggage carosel.

When you get to security, you will most likely need to take everything out of the stroller, put all of it, plus your bags through the security scanner, then walk through the metal detector carrying your baby. At some airports, they will take your empty stroller and swipe it down, at others, you need to fold it up and put it through the scanner. Once, we were allowed to leave her in it and push her through the detector because she was sleeping (AUK-thanks, guys!!!). If you are carrying your baby in a carrier, same thing have to take Baby out of the carrier, put the carrier through the machines, and walk through carrying your baby. Be prepared that they may swab his/her hands and feet. ...seriously.

We've had great experiences so far at airports. We often get waved through in priority lines and have had friendly security and airport staff help us out. We've made use of the extra carry-on we get to bring with her stuff in it and of boarding before everyone else so you have the chance to get settled. I've flown alone with her and the flight attendants have been helpful with getting my stuff on and off the plane and offering to hold her if I need to go to the bathroom. Everyone loves a baby!

The crossover sweater I wore on the plane. 
Baby wore a short sleeve onesie and a fleece sleeper on our overnight long-haul flight because the plane gets so cold and she seemed warm enough. She wore a long sleeve footless sleeper for our short haul day flights which were warmer. Her "I'm new here" sleeper went over well with security and aisle-mates... it's good to break the ice and make her as charming as possible.  :)
I was skeptical about her ability to sleep in the bassinet but she did amazingly! Try to get the bulkhead and bassinet if you can for long haul flights. Even if your baby doesn't sleep in it, it's really nice to have the extra room at your feet and the ease of getting up and down, if needed.

On the plane we carried:
- Diapers (for our 40 hour journey, she used 10 but we had more with us just in case. The standard rule is one per hour of travel.)
- Wipes (I brought the equivalent of one wipes container in a ziploc bag and used about 1/3 of them.)
- Extra clothes for Babe: 3 extra onesies, 2 extra footless sleepers, her fleece sweater
- Extra clothes for me: an extra nursing tank and long sleeve shirt
*Note: For travel, I have found this old Lululemon sweater to be perfect. When nursing, I hold out one side to shield Baby from seeing people and getting distracted (giving me more privacy, too). She won't nurse with a nursing cover so this is a great solution.
- My nursing pillow. For me, this has been essential. It's something familiar and calming so Baby nurses better. She falls asleep on it meaning that I don't get "dead arm." It fits on a domestic Air Canada flight. It was tight on Air New Zealand but doable if you're sitting beside someone you know and can steal a teensy bit of their space.
*Note: I didn't worry about nursing during take off. For almost all the flights we've done, she's nursed once we boarded the plane then fell asleep as soon as the plane started moving. She's always slept through the ascent and her ears weren't a bother to her. I try to nurse during the descent when the flight attendants come through one last time to check. But sometimes Baby has been curious at this point and she'll look around and doesn't cry. So maybe she just has "good" ears or maybe it's not the big deal everyone makes of it? I think the main thing is that you stay relaxed.
- 3 small toys to provide comfort and distraction
- 1 muslin blanket,  1 burp cloth

You've likely driven with your baby, so you know what the expect. We strung up some toys for her to look at, which went over really well, especially for getting her in and occupied before we got driving. Our baby LOVES blankets..they are absolutely her favourite thing in the world. So we give her a blanket to hold on to and she's usually happy with that. If she starts crying, I reach back and shake the blanket to remind her that she has it and she grabs on and starts sucking her thumb. Problem solved. Ok, it wasn't that easy. Sometimes, I'd hand her toys from the front seat or reach around and dangle something in front of her for a minute to distract her. We also did a ton of singing, which really soothed her.

We found a rhythm that worked for us and fit with her schedule. Our preference was to wake up, feed her, get the car packed up, make and eat breakfast ourselves, then feed her again. This typically took us 1.5-2 hours. By this point, she was ready for a nap so we'd drive for 1.5 hours roughly, then take a break for her to nurse. stretch, etc. You know your baby, so do what works for you. Ours slept much better when we kept her head supported so it didn't roll around as we turned corners. This made her less cranky. And most surprisingly, even after a day of driving where she seemed to sleep a lot, it didn't affect her sleep that night. If anything, she slept more because it wasn't a truly restful sleep in the car.

Mama sleeping in the second bedroom
to get a much needed good sleep

We opted to stay in Air BnBs/VRBOs/Bookabach spots. This was the pricier option, for sure, but we are big self-caterers so we saved money that way. Baby was very happy in places that resembled our condo and she quickly adjusted. We'd arrive, I'd walk her around the place so she could see it, I'd lay her down on the floor and she'd stretch away, playing with a toy and be happy as a clam. Hotel rooms were harder because it was tough for us to have enough space to spread out or take a break, or have room to cook. This is what worked well for us, but again, everyone has their own priorities.

Spending time together as a family has been the most amazing part of our trip. Experiencing the world together, while also both getting to be there for Baby's firsts and developmental milestones is priceless. We are so, so fortunate!
I hope this insipres you and reassures you that you can travel with your baby!