We’re back! And yeah, that explains the radio silence after Christmas. We took our first long-distance road trip to Melbourne in our brand new car and had a lovely time. Here’s a bunch of highlights from our trip – mostly without pictures, because I’ve been rather slack with the photo finger.

1. Catching up with Saz and family

I have missed Sarah and E-gene lots since we last stayed with them (in 2009, from the last count!) Aidan was about Arddun’s age, maybe slightly older, and Arddun was only a pipedream then. It was just so good to finally meet up with old friends again, and to share in their splendid news!

I especially loved how Arddun just hopped out of the car, walked into their house and made herself at home within the first minute. Clearly understood that she was in good company. She also had little difficulties adjusting to a new house and sleeping in her portacot. Phew!

Sarah and Arddun
Sarah (who hasn’t aged a day!) and Arddun enjoying some last-minute cuddles and TV watching before we hit the road.

2. Cupcakes from the Buttercup Queen

I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures of that gorgeous birthday cake Sarah had put together for a customer. Witnessed its construction from flour to finish, and was even party to the Friday Night Drama with fiendishly tricky fondant. My humble contribution to the evening’s proceedings was cutting out tiny blue fondant dots to line the trim on the cake. For that, Sarah rewarded us with to-die-for cupcakes for our long journey home. Check out the full extent of her culinary talent.

Cupcakes from Sarah
Our going away present from Sarah before we hit the road. Took them to our picnic in Albury on our way home.

3. Fancy food

Melbourne is the mecca for food done fancy. For instance, a nonchalant trip to a humble cafe at a nearby Uni turned up this melt-in-the-mouth pork belly concoction with Super Crackling and Masterchefesque presentation. Yes. For lunch.

Pork belly dish at Victoria Uni
La-di-da pig

Also had very yummy and authentic Nasi Briyani at PappaRich at QV. Tony had their Roti Canai and didn’t care for it because they added sugar, which wasn’t what he expected. But he said the Tandoori Chicken was good.

4. Good games

Even though I understand cerebrally that Aidan is 5 going on 6 and therefore much more capable of walking and talking than when I last saw him, I was nevertheless rather awestruck that this little tyke can now calmly play – and beat me squarely in – 10 games of UNO. At least I beat him at 3D Snakes and Ladders. My one very small consolation. :)

Tony ended up getting roped in some RPG board game with monsters which involved rolling dice, getting spared several times by said 5-going on-6-year-old, and then unexpectedly winning. To this day, the man cannot explain how he did it because he still doesn’t get the rules.

5. Visiting Belmore Road

Went to worship with the church at Belmore Road and was very pleasantly surprised by the number of changes – great expansion of numbers due to work with the new Chinese congregation, an expanded main hall, and a handful of International students from Singapore I actually know and probably taught in bible class at some point in time.

6. Melbourne Zoo

Arddun is still a little too young to fully appreciate an outing at the zoo, but we took her anyway. The most precious moment was when she fully recognised the gorillas and with eyes shining, turned to me and squawked, “Mama! See! Mama, See! Monkey! OOOOOH OOOOHH AAH AAH AAH! MONKEY!”

She liked the zebras (“Horse!”) and ran into the enclosure to pet the emu. (True story.) She also chased after someone’s pet dog, but I don’t think she understood that it wasn’t technically part of zoo life.

Arddun in Ergo on Tony's back
Father and daughter watching the big bird. Don’t ask me which type of bird. I really didn’t care in that searing heat.
Tony and Arddun watching zebras
Horse! (Wearing pajamas!)
Emu Enclosure
Emu “enclosure”. Now you see why I had to run after Arddun once she decided to pat the emu like it were a big brown dog?

8. Safe travels

7 hours on the road is a big ask for a toddler. Arddun’s not old enough to read a book, play computer games or zone out on a DVD, and there’s only so many ways you can play with your tea set or do baby puzzles and sing funny songs before it becomes a huge bore.

The journey to Sarah’s, owing to a terrible accident on the Hume Highway that resulted in a fatality, ended up an hour longer. Which meant Arddun cracked it at 4pm and we had to stop at MacDonald’s and let her stretch her legs for a good 2 hours. Which meant we arrived in Melbourne 12 hours after we shut our back door in Canberra.

All things considered, however, we had a lovely time. Uneventful and comfortable car ride, courteous traffic, and a working satnav. We stopped at Albury’s botanical gardens on the way down, and picnicked at a park and playground on our way back. Highly recommend both places as stopovers if you have children who need to run around and explore.

Arddun at Albury Botanical Gardens
Cooling off under a shady tree with a chilled yoghurt at the botanical gardens
Tony and Arddun at Albury playground
Lunch before play at Hovell Tree Park

So yes – we survived! Next stop, perhaps Brisbane. We’ll see.