10 things to do in the Gold Coast

Like Las Vegas, I never thought I would like the Gold Coast. But then my bestie moved there, we started making annual trips to visit and now I love it!

My favorite place in the Gold Coast is Sea World. The dolphin show, the seal show and the Jet Ski show for the boys. Dolphins, polar bears, penguins and more. My bestie and I even went on a swimming with dolphins experience there and I highly recommend it if you love dolphins as much as I do.

My daughter’s favorite place is Movie World. Last time we were there we met Daffy Duck, danced in the Looney Toons dance party, bought a superman cape and even went on the Wild West Falls (she got a bit scared on that one).

And if you haven’t had enough of theme parks by then, there is also Wet and Wild where you can get caught in a Tornado or drift round a river and Dream World where you can see the tigers and be dropped from the highest vertical drop ride in the Southern Hemisphere- I still haven’t recovered.

My next favorite place is Dracula’s– a comedy cabaret show that is to die for. I love vampires, so this is of course the best show ever. All highly themed with dressed up waiters, entertaining and the cocktails are pretty cool too.

Another good place to catch a show is Jupiter’s Casino. My bestie and I have seen a couple of musicals here and it’s always been lots of fun.

When we go to the Gold Coast, we usually stay at my bestie’s holiday apartment on Main Beach– the quieter end of the Gold Coast- conveniently located near Sea World. It’s a great apartment overlooking the Southport Life Saving Club and the beach with some funky bars and restaurants behind in Tedder Ave.

The beachfront on Main Beach also provides an excellent track for walking along the beach front in the morning, there’s a park for kids during the day and it’s always lovely to fall asleep to the sound of ocean waves crashing on the shore at night.

My bestie now lives at the other end of the Gold Coast, also a nice quiet area, near the beautiful Currumbin Beach. It also has a great Surf Life Saving Club opposite elephant rock. Dining at surf life saving clubs is a cheap option in Queensland and they usually have the best beach real estate too.

My top pick for shopping is Robina Shopping Centre where you can get anything from manicures to Myer, not just the usual bikinis and summer dresses. In fact, shopping in the Gold Coast is pretty good all around. They used to have the largest Mango and I even bought my wedding dress here.

So whether it is for a Disneyland-like theme park adventure, a relaxing week by the beach or a night out on the town- the Gold Coast has a lot to offer.

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Lady with a baby coming through…

Having just come off the back of two maternity leave roles, it gave me pause to reflect on my maternity leave experiences.

I’d had ownership of my job for three successful years when it was time for me to go on maternity leave. I soon realised that I must let go of control and pass on my knowledge as much as possible because once you’re gone, there’s nothing you can do.

Honestly, after I left, I was too busy keeping a small human alive to even think about what was happening back at work, let alone worry who was organising the next conference.

When I came back from maternity leave, I realised that the world had kept spinning without me and my replacement had actually improved some of the processes. My worry about not having a job to go back to was quickly allayed when she went on maternity leave herself.

But then I discovered that I actually didn’t want me old job back anyway. In a strange twist of fate, having a child actually gave me the ambition to have a career, not just a job. I figured that if I was spending time away from my daughter, I better be doing something that was worth it.

And so I made moves towards loftier career goals and took a maternity leave contract role in a company that would expand on the skills in the areas I wanted to work in. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of other strong career women there who supported me through my learning process and taught me that confidence is not a dirty word.

I learnt that self-belief is not arrogance, but ego can be weak and a sign of insecurity. I was also taught that it’s ok to be selfish and not selfless in order to get where you want to go.

Once my maternity leave contract ended when the mother returned, I took another maternity leave role from someone who had been in her job for over a decade and I think was freaking out, trying to control the only thing she could with the uncertainty of her first child on the horizon- her job.

And we all know better than that now don’t we?

Both the maternity roles I took gave me different opportunities and experiences, but I can honestly say that I am now done with stepping into someone else’s shoes, no matter how shiny they are. I’m ready to have this job of my own again in a new role that is mine for the taking.

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10 things to do in Melbourne

As a Sydneysider, I am conditioned to think that Sydney is better than Melbourne. As much as I love Sydney, I still enjoy visiting Melbourne and can appreciate the city for its differences. Be it for a girls weekend, a wedding, a couples retreat, or to visit cousins- I’ve always had a good time in Melbourne-town.

First of all, the shopping in Melbourne is better than Sydney. It has the flagship H & M store, which is bigger than any that I have seen anywhere else and they have the few remaining Mango shops in Australia. Chapel St also has few more different fashion options.

I love shopping in the little laneways like the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade with Suga- a shop where you can see them roll out and make yummy lollies. My favourite jewellery shop, The Rose Garden on the Walk Arcade, is where I bought all my wedding jewellery and accessories.

The next best thing about Melbourne is the shows. The theatre district near Chinatown always has a great blockbuster like Chicago or Avenue Q, sometimes before they make it to Sydney.

The beautiful National Gallery of Victoria is my top sight seeing pick. I was lucky enough to catch the Degas exhibit last time I was there- one of my favourite artists. The water-featured entry way always gets me straight away and the modern layout is spacious and light.

The Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium is also fantastic. The wonderful Emperor Penguins make it better than Sydney Aquarium, especially as they still have a shark tunnel.

Another good spot is the huge Fitzroy Gardens complete with Captain Cook’s Cottage. Melbourne loves its English style parks, and this one is my top pick.

Melbourne is known for its great restaurants from world class fine dining, to the Italian precinct on Lygon Street and casual laneway dining experiences like the Meatball and Wine Bar and Touche Hombre. All delicious!

It is also renowned for its serious café culture. And I must admit that these Melbourne-ites know how to elevate a café to the next level. My recent top pick is #hash with its signature hot chocolate science experiment served with fairy floss.

My favourite suburb in Melboure is St Kilda. It has the original Luna Park, the famous Esplande Hotel where they filmed The Secret Life of Us, the Beachcomber Café at St Kilda Baths and the weekend markets. I was lucky enough to live and work here for a couple of months and play the local, catching a tram into the office everyday.

With the newly renovated Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and me working on the conference circuit, there was another year that I went to Melbourne a lot. It was good as to discover the adjoining Southbank area with the Crown Casino and Rockpool Bar and Grill, both of which I rate better than their Sydney counterparts.

And of course the DFO is right near the convention centre for any last minute shopping emergencies, like suddenly finding out that you need to attend networking drinks at the Old Melbourne Goal.

And then there’s the tennis. Even this non-sports-lover has to admit that watching the tennis in Melbourne for the weekend was atmospheric; and I didn’t even get bored.

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A life lived vicariously

One thing I really love about having a daughter is doing all the things I love to do, what I loved to do as a kid or what I missed out on doing as a kid. This is definitely what I would call living vicariously.

The weekends become a succession of first time adventures like:

  • First time on the sand in Wamberal
  • First visit to Sydney Aquarium
  • First museum visit
  • First visit to Luna Park
  • First trip to Taronga Zoo
  • First ferry trip
  • First birthday
  • First ride on a Ferris wheel
  • First movie
  • First circus
  • First bushwalk
  • First Halloween
  • First ballet at the Opera House
  • First Chinese New Year
  • First sushi train
  • First award for dancing
  • First big girls ride at Sea World
  • First scooter ride
  • First Vivid night lights
  • First visit to the dentist

The possibilities are almost endless and I honestly don’t know who is enjoying themselves more. Of course there will be less firsts as time goes on and there will be a time when my daughter won’t want me to be a part of her firsts, but I am enjoying the special moments while I can and looking forward to different sorts of first in the future.

What are your favourite firsts with your little ones? What should I add to my list? Would you like to share a story of one of your firsts? Email me on roshan@roshansramblings.com

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10 things to do in Sydney

Here are my favourite places to go in Sydney- a top ten list, if you will. Some of them may seem cliché, but there is a reason that certain places are deemed tourism worthy.

My number one place in Sydney is Taronga Zoo. I love animals and will go to any zoo at any given opportunity. Taronga Zoo is special because you can take a ferry to get there and it has the best views of the city from its grounds. You can even take a gondola from the ferry terminal to the zoo entrance and back again. I also like Sydney Aquarium in Darling Harbour for an animal fix. It has great shark tank viewing tunnels and they have beluga whales too!

The Botanic Gardens is the place to go for its iconic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I am lucky because I used to work close enough to the gardens to go for lunch time walks there. I always enjoyed seeing the tourists stopping to take pictures along the way as it reminds me what a lovely city I live in. In summer they have open air theatre shows for kids and they always seem to be setting up for a festival or opera on the harbour side.

The Opera House is the best place to catch a show- pretty much just because you are in the Opera House. My favourite bar, Opera Bar, is also here. It’s often crowded and hard to get a drink, but you can’t beat being under the Opera House looking at the Harbour Bridge while you sip your pre- show cocktail. For a more old skool pub, I also like The London in Balmain. Rustic and sturdy, they have a large selection of beer on tap and decent food. Plus, how can you not love a pub that welcomes dogs?!

One of my favourite restaurants is at The Deck at Luna Park. It has great Spanish style seafood share platters and is not too expensive. It’s also located in my favourite suburb- Kirribilli. I was fortunate enough to live here for a while and there is no place quite like it in Sydney. Lavender Bay is beautiful, the Harbour Bridge is above you and the city is just across the water. You also can’t beat walking to work over the Harbour Bridge.

The European clothing brands have finally landed in Australia! So my new favourite place to shop is the brand new H & M‘s that keep popping up all over Sydney. I must admit that I am a little addicted.

But the best way to see Sydney is to be on the harbour in a boat– preferable at the start of the Sydney to Hobart Race. The harbour is what makes Sydney special, and it is beautiful, so if you ever come here make sure you get out on the water.

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Money vs Happiness

Three things happened to me last week:

  1. My husband said that his goal for the next 5-10 years was to continue to be happy
  2. I finished up at my first job in the for profit sector
  3. I read that 52% of Aussies would sacrifice up to $10, 000 of their salary in order to feel happier.

When the first happened, I was surprised as I thought my husband’s goal for the next 5-10 years was to own a big house in the suburbs. Mine was to travel overseas at least once a year of course.

I thought his goal was sweet and simple and definitely achievable. The lesson of just being happy is one that I thought I had already learnt and one I actually remember teaching my husband about on a couple of different occasions when he decided to move on from a job. Perhaps it was a timely reminder due to the second occurrence.

The job I left last week, was my first job in a for profit company. Perhaps, because of this, I never stood a chance. I have no regrets, as I have always been of the school of thought that it’s better to go for it and find out, then always wonder what could have been. This theory works for relationships too I find!

It wasn’t about the people- there are good (and of course bad) people in every workplace- I just wasn’t happy. I’m not sure if it was even about being a for profit company either, for as long as I have purpose and passion I find I have the drive to work. So perhaps it is just that passion that I was missing.

Which brings me to point 3. I would definitely sacrifice money in my job to feel happier (although I shouldn’t have to!). And it seems I am not alone. We all know the theory that money doesn’t make you happy. But maybe it is money that makes you happy? Or enough money to keep your wife happy? Or maybe just having enough money to feel comfortable? And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Maybe it’s not about the fight between money and happiness at all, but about finding the right balance for you. As I embark upon my next round of soul-searching interviews to find the right fit for me, this is definitely something to keep in mind. At least I feel like I am getting closer. And as they say, this is the first day of the rest of my life.

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Singapore, 2015

On the way back from Sri Lanka, my husband, daughter and I stopped in Singapore. We stayed at the luxurious Swissotel at Clarke Quay where my daughter loved the big bed, the free cow soft toy and kids toiletry pack. We all had great fun at the water slides on the roof too.

We also enjoyed exploring more of the Clarke Quay area. The art gallery with the colourful shutters, the street art and the view of Marina Bay Sands. Clarke Quay at night was also a pretty sight with all the lights.

One of the things on my hit list for this trip to Singapore was the largest fountain in the southern hemisphere- the Fountain of Wealth. And so to the fountain we went, located conveniently next to a large shopping centre with a huge Uniqlo and the best H&M I have been to so far.

The fountain was so big that you could walk into it so was definitely worth the trip. We also met my friend Cynthia and her new baby son for lunch. Dinner was with the other half of the couple, her partner Tony, and my husband’s friend Drew at Café Iguana back at Clarke Quay.

The next day, we went to Fort Canning Park, which was more of a sprawling park of walkways than an entertaining park for kids. We went to Cynthia and Tony’s for dinner at a local restaurant and reacquainted our daughters who enjoyed posing together for photos and holding hands on the walk back to the apartment.

With not enough time as always, the holiday came to an end once again, and it was time to bid farewell to our friends and fly back to Sydney.

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Pinnawala and Negombo, 2015

My parents, husband, daughter and I drove past Bible Rock, stopped in Kadurata for lunch and continued on to Pinnawala to see the elephants.

I had been here before, had loved it and couldn’t wait to show our daughter who I was sure would enjoy it too.

When we arrived, the elephant herd was on the plain, waiting to be walked for meal time. Some of the baby elephants were having shower time, which they seemed to be revelling in.

Afterwards they were all put together in a pen and our daughter was able to reach out and touch a trunk or two. And then it was time for bottle feeding- and boy did they suck it down!

I paid a little extra to feed a basket of fruit to one of the older elephants and it was worth every penny. They really are such gentle giants and our daughter thought it was hysterical when the elephant tried to suck my knee in the search for more goodies.

And then it was time for the daily trek to the river for bath time. I think the herd relished bathing as much as we marvelled in the spectacle. They flopped their big bodies into the water and stayed submerged for long lengths of time with just their trunks emerging for breathing.

Mothers and calves, younger ones tussling with each other and one who only left their ears above the water to show that they were there.

On the drive out we stopped at a Tambuli stand for some fresh coconut water, before heading to our final Sri Lankan destination, Negombo.

We stayed at an aging hotel with a pool, went for a walk along the beach and discovered part of a fishing village. My husband bought a handmade leather bag at Akram Leather Factory. The machinery in the factory was ancient, but it still did the job.

All our daughter wanted to do was swim in the hotel pool, so most of the day was spent doing that. And in the evening, we enjoyed drinks and I had a luscious seafood platter for my final meal.

After saying our fond farewells to our driver and my parents after they dropped us at the airport, it was time to leave Sri Lanka and our road trip behind. It had been nice to show my husband a country that I had always liked visiting and I am sure he now appreciated it and the people as much as I do.

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Sigiriya and Dambulla, 2015

Sigiriya Rock was the next item on the agenda for our trip. My husband, daughter and I decided to give climbing the actual rock a miss in the midday heat and took a walk around the gardens instead.

The grounds were surrounded by a moat and contained many ramparts and water gardens with lily pads and lotus flowers. The view of Sigiriya Rock from the gardens was great and we bumped into the friendly Singaporean couple from Kandy again.

Dambulla Rock Temple turned out to be one of my favourite sites of the trip. The golden temple and golden Buddha at the foot of the mountain were large and shiny and there were lots of monkey families to keep us company on the walk up to the rock temple.

Dambulla is actually 5 caves built into the rock of a mountain with over 150 statues of Buddha. Overwhelming to say the least. The temple was whitewashed and quite striking on the outside. There was also a large sacred fig tree on the grounds with coloured flags twined in the branches.

The first cave was completely filled with a reclining Buddha and there was barely room to get in and see the statue. The second cave housed the great king and many sitting Buddha’s. There were even paintings of Buddha on the roof.

The third and fourth caves had stupas and Buddha’s in various poses. The last cave was one of the smallest and most dilapidated, but also the one I like the most- there was just something about the atmosphere in there.

After the walk back down, we stopped for lunch at the luxurious Thilanka, Dambulla on the recommendation of an uncle. The resort was isolated with a beautiful long pool and tennis courts. The food was tasty and it would have been nice to stay a few days in this little oasis, but alas, it was back on the road for us.

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Disney on Ice

I recently had the pleasure of going to Disney on Ice with my daughter and it was fabulous!

The last time I saw the show I went with my grandmother when was 5. Mickey Mouse was the main attraction then, along with Snow White.

Disney on Ice has changed since my day. There is still Mickey Mouse of course, but the main drawcard are the new princesses- Rapunzel and Frozen. But they still had Belle and my favourite- The Little Mermaid- perhaps a clever marketing move to hook the parents in too?

And so, I got to relive being five, 30 odd years later. A time when life was simpler, happiness was easy and stresses were few.

Clever Disney, transporting us all back to fun times with some entertainment, light and music. Even some of the adults were dressed up as Elsa. And why not take a break from the everyday job that you are going to be at for the next 30 years and let the fantasy take over instead?

I mean, in what reality are horses on ice skates, flashes of light come out of the hands of princesses and it snows inside?

And of course, everyone knows all the songs from having watched the movies a millions times at home- so why not sing along?

Sure, you could be cynical and say Disney is a moneymaking organisation that wants go charge you $35 for a plastic cup when you leave, but perhaps that’s ok with all the joy they have brought into the world for our little ones?

My daughter loved it too of course. Having 4 stories in one kept her interested, she enjoyed an Olaf ice cream and all she wanted to know was when is Elsa and Anna were coming on.

The one thing that did get me thinking though, was the fact that princesses have to change for perfect prince, like Ariel having to change for her prince. But on the flipside, the prince has to change for his perfect princess, like Flynn having to change for Rapunzel.

Personally, I don’t think anyone should ever have to change for anyone, but perhaps it’s more a message about the right person bringing out the best in us all. I like to think so anyway.

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