It was chilly when we arrived in Melbourne five years ago during their december school vacation. We stayed at a friend's posh Southbank apartment overlooking the Yarra river which meanders through the city. Her all-glass apartment, situated in close promixy to the Crown Casino, offers a panoramic view of the skyline, which glitters like a million stars at night.
Whilst Darwin is fascinating, Melbourne is posh and charming. There are a million things to do. From trendy cafes to chic boutiques, shady parks to elegant Victorian-era streetscapes, glitzy casinos to Manhattan-style skyscapers, it is indeed a city with something for everyone.
It was a holiday for the kids, naturally the itinerary centered around kid-friendly activities. At that time, YK was 12 years old and SK just turned 10. We had a good laugh when we visited the Melbourne Zoo. They had specially brought in elephants as special Asian exhibits. We felt like we were in our Singapore Zoo!
While the boys were gazing at butterflies, my friend and I sat at the alfresco cafe for a cuppa. A small plane was writing words in the sky!
Another day was spent at the animal sanctuary outside the city. The native animals in Melbourne are furry and cute, nothing like the fearsome ones I encountered in Darwin. The baby sheep, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies appeal to children.
Melbourne is famous for its lavish parks, gardens and waterways providing pockets of calm and tranquillity in the middle of the bustling city. We were greeted by gorgeous flowers and shrubs everywhere we went.
We went out to the countryside to visit a lavender farm. If I remember correctly, this was a new farm set up by a French man who fell in love with the charming countryside and decided to setup home. As we trotted along the lilac fields, the air was awashed in the scent of lavender.
We were charmed by the smart farm dog that followed his owner everywhere. He was like the farm's mascot!
One of our favourite activities in Melbourne was strawberry picking at Mornington Peninsula. Armed with a punnet, we set off in search of big ripe strawberries. SK couldn't resist popping one into his mouth.
The gourmet stall at the farm sells a huge array of cookies, jams, preserves and chocolates. We bought some chocolate dip to eat with our freshly picked strawberries. Yum!
Next stop was Ashcombe Maze, Australia's oldest and largest traditional hedge maze. It took us a while to find our way out of the maze. It wasn't as easy as it looked.
Besides the amazing maze, the other attractions on this 25-acre property include a restaurant where we had lunch, themed gardens, a smaller rose maze and abundant water features.
In the evening, we set off to Phillip Island Nature Park, home for one of the largest colonies of Little Penguins. Each evening at Summerland Beach, the Little Penguins return from the sea and make their way to their burrows.
We crouched by the viewing platform, squinting our eyes and straining our neck to catch sight of the first penguin walking in. Just as the little penguins started to cross the beach and walk under the elevated boardwalk, the skies open up and started raining. Everyone dashed back to the shelter to escape from the rain and bitterly cold wind. The penguins must be happy to find some privacy at last.
Melbourne boasts of great events, a passion for food and wine and a fabulous arts scene. We couldn't help but indulge the entire week we were there. I loved the vibrant markets and abundance of seafood and fresh farm produce.
While the kids were entralled by the games at the markets and spent hours watching confectioners making rock candy by hand, I was drooling over the luscious cakes and tarts at the famous patisseries.
One of my favourite places in Melbourne must be St Kilda Beach. On Sundays, the suburb comes alive as some of Victoria’s best artists and craftspeople gather to sell their crafts at The Esplanade Market. If not for the kids, I could spend all day there, admiring the creative works!