Wednesday, November 29, 2017

sydney: bilpin farmstay

Our last stop, #3 was a boutique farm. I enjoyed farm stays tremendously in my childhood, I thought the kids should try one out before they became old and cynical. Actually I still enjoy farm stays...

It's boutique as it's not a real working farm, but showcases several animals (all bestowed names for novelty’s sake) for the kids to feed and pet. Located at Bilpin, a real nowhere kind of spot in the Blue Mountains. Nowhere means no eating out, we had to cook ourselves, using ingredients bought from a tiny supermarket a good 15 minutes drive away. The owner also provided a ton of bacon, sausages, eggs, milk in the fridge. But there's only so much processed meat one can take!

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* Typical dinner / breakfast, whatever. Fried-up, bad (quite yummy) stuff!

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* Comforting chicken macaroni soup with actual vegetables

Still, the kids liked this part of the holiday the most.

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* The lodge

Why? Because there were plenty of activities without having to walk.

A charming long-ish kind of house where up to 20 people can stay (and share common areas like a kitchen / TV room etc), there was a horse, a pony, a very gentle alpaca which looked like it got bullied most of the time, an ornery goat (Ollie) which Lu liked at first then later declared she hated because he was fussy and kept banging the gate with his horns for food and 12 chooks.

Its actually a really nice place for friends and families.

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* Jo feeding the alpaca, Denton

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* Ollie

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* The hen in the middle of laying its egg

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* Morning egg collection. Twelve eggs from 12 chooks

Which kid doesn’t love feeding animals?

Then there was the indoor space with the trampoline which the kids spent many happy hours on, together with the other Singaporean family (four daughters) whom we happened to meet there.

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* Table tennis and trampolining

* Jo and Lu's routine

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* With daughter #3 from the other family, Heidi

The lake for kayaking. I really enjoyed this, for some reason.

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* Day did the standing kayak most times. He was the only one who dared to kayak while standing

And for me, the most interesting, the (slightly wonky) pianola! It was like playing on a museum exhibit! All you have to do is to attach a roll of music (with holes in it) and step on the pedals. Music emerges, due to some mechanism of pumping air. Every roll was a new piece of music and it was utterly fabulous, for me. Took a bit of figuring out, though. The pianola didn't come with instructions.

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* Pianola scores

* Lu playing He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

Monday, November 27, 2017

sydney: leura

Stop #2 was at Leura, a small charming Blue Mountains village.

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* Leura: One row of charming shops along a small road with loads of trees

We think this is where dear little Lulu was made (while we were having our Blue Mountains hurrah) so we thought we’d bring her there.

What do the kids remember most of it, though?


We never visited the Candy Store in the past. But it’s what almost every local told us we had to visit.

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It’s a veritable Willy Wonka treasure trove of all manner of sweets. It’s where the kids spent the most time, just hopping in, again and again, to browse the shelves and “look-see” (because there’s a limit to how many sweets we will get them). Me, when I walked in, I felt a bit sick because of the sweet fumes.

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* Day's stash, inclusive of cinnamon Mentos!

The rest of Leura, all three days and two nights of it, passed by in a bit of a blur.

We did a garden (Everglades), a scenic spot (Three Sisters lookout), the kids discovered Back to the Future on TV and watched three consecutive nights of it (Back to the Future 1, 2, 3), KK was there with us in body but not in spirit as he was beleaguered with work.

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* Three Sisters, with a rare family photo

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* Everglades Historic House and Gardens

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* KK with spiffy new Panama hat

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* Glued to the laptop

Saturday, November 25, 2017

sydney: coogee

It’s taken so long because its taking me forever to comb through the old photos and find “throwback” ones. You know, the trend of putting old and current photos together where everything’s the same except the subject. Like this:

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* Jo! Eleven years on!

I give up. Way too much work! I’ve just got a few…

Coogee was where we spent six whole days. Yes, six!

The objective was to really let the kids experience the old routines, so they walk in our shoes and are a bit more familiar with our little family history, of our time in Sydney.

Like I said, they remember nothing. I’m also not sure they particularly enjoyed the walk-through because it was a time of suffering and poverty… and we walked a LOT. 

TAKING THE BUS

So, no car, of course. We had no wish to rent a car and battle Sydney’s mad downtown anyway. Just like in the old days, we bussed everywhere, using our Opal cards.

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Bus numbers remained the same. 374, 373, 313, 314 etc. I think the buses were a tad refurbished, looking at the old and new photos.

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* Then, KK carrying Jo and Day looking behind

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* Now, Jo and Lu

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* Then

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* Now

Reliable? Very. Buses turned up whenever we needed it, for some strange reason. We never had to wait.

UNSW TREK

We walked to KK’s uni, UNSW.

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This was hard and for the kids, probably the most unpleasant part of the trip. Because it’s a long walk which leads to a not-very-fun place!

During the walk, uphill all the way along Coogee Bay Road to UNSW and then downhill all the way back, I wondered: Gosh, did we ever do this with two babies? Because I felt really tired! Fitness has clearly dropped! I thought I have been keeping fit over the years but clearly I haven’t!

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* Lu's face says it all. The long road behind her is an incline

The kids tired out, fast. I kept intoning: “You know ah, Papa used to walk to school EVERY DAY like this…” its like they didn’t hear as they kept plugging on, one leg after another…

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* Then

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* Now, with the addition of Luanne who is happily waving away in the background

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And there was Bardon Park, where I used to wait with Day and Jo in tow, for KK to traipse down the hill once he finished school and when the kids would greet him with squeals and kisses.

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* Then

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* Now, like not so happy hor?

LEETON AVENUE

Apart from a coat of gray paint to cover the red, our old home never changed.

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A lump rose in my throat when I saw the old washing machines and dryers which I used to use, the patch of grass where I use to hang out the clothes, and even our old room, where I saw the ghost of Day and baby Jo peering curiously out of the window as I went about my laundry chores.

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* That window directly to her left (gray blinds) is where they used to gaze at me and where I made sure I could see that they were alive and well

And I brought all of them on our evening walk route, with the same charming houses.

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* Jo on a swing outside someone's house. The swing is new

COOGEE BEACH

What can I say? The beach is as beautiful as ever, every corner means something to us, so much so that the kids didn't get to experience it all. Never mind.

Jo concerned herself with taking lots and lots of photos for her Instagram account.

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* Then

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* Now, Jo, taking the same view with her phone

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* This one, I took of her 

For the first time, we ventured to the Baths, a place we never really went to in the past because it isn’t quite child-friendly.

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* Walking to the Baths, which is a kind of swimming pool carved out of the ocean

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* Interesting mini "aquarium" at the Baths

And when we re-lived our hilltop picnic, even though it was rather chilly with a stiff breeze blowing and we had no tent or blankets to keep warm, the children, especially Lu, thoroughly enjoyed it.

“Can we buy fish-and-chips and go back up to eat, please, please?” she said.

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* Up on the hilltop

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* Eating in the shade of our bush wind-breaker

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* Fish and chips, which attracted the birds by the dozen (just like before!)

The one difference at Coogee, however, was that we splurged on nice food. KK said, “Last time we were so broke, we could only eat fast food. Now I want to eat better.”

We did have our Oportos and fish-and-chips, North Indian food, Turkish food, even Macs, which actually meant that we actually spent a lot less than we thought we would because we were eating all the cheap junk (to re-live the past mah)

But for two meals, we splashed out at Coogee Pavilion, a place which we used to pass by and stare hungrily at all the diners eating nice stuff.

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* Coogee Pavilion, awash with light in the background. Apparently it was recently taken over by a hot-shot entrepreneur who revived the aging edifice and its now damn hip

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* The stand-out dish: Grilled hangar steak with roasted bone marrow, KK couldn't get enough of it

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* Something new too: This ladder bench

COASTAL WALK

Despite fatigue – after several days of hard walking – the kids were entranced by the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk. (we did it this way so they’d feel like they were walking “home” and be more motivated, rather than walking to Bondi and then having to figure out a way back)

Photos tell the story!

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* Near Gordon's Bay, in a place which Jody said felt like the moon

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* Approaching Coogee

BOTANIC GARDEN

We didn’t quite do exactly the same as KK and Day followed GPS this time around, and we alighted at another bus stop. 

But the garden was just the same, along with the fabulous views, and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair where we didn’t picnic this time around but instead the kids jumped all over the rocks. Because now, they can!

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* Somewhere around Mrs Macquarie's Chair

WILDLIFE

So many birds and flowers. The girls couldn't believe their eyes. Lu grabbed my camera half the time. This is a roadside parrot on a roadside bush, which she snapped.

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* The dandelions Day so loved, now in the hands of the Lu