Tag Archives: Kids

Belgium, 2013: The Place

Our week of nights in Belgium had filled up quickly; so one afternoon my husband, daughter and I went to our friends house- Corrine and Ben- for a traditional French style lunch: our favourite. Corrine and Ben had a multi story home in the village of Tilff which was bright with all the autumn colours on the tress outside. They had two older kids of their own and I still remember how sweet Corrine was as I was distraught when our daughter fell off the couch. She was fine of course.

We walked around Dolembreux one morning, to the war memorial, the school and the fields behind the farmhouse. It was such a pretty little village and I could see why it would be a nice place to raise kids.

Another day we headed into Liege where we all enjoyed some authentic waffles and a walk around the city. We went to H&M and Mango of course and visited one of Steve’s friends who worked in a shoe shop in town.

Finding a car seat of the right age was easy with so many kids around. Although she did mange to wriggle out of it that morning as we were driving back from the city that day. Bit scary, but I think she was just trying to look out of the window rather than open the door.

We went to visit Yves in his nice house on the hill and he gave us a book of Liege photos that he had published. One lunchtime we went to the restaurant that Ben’s partner owned in Tilff. It was bright and airy and served the best baguettes.

Bill took the day off work to take us to Durbuy- reportably the most beautiful village in Belgium and a place where neither my husband or I had been before. It was ridiculously picturesque, even in the cold weather, with small cobbled streets lined with stone houses covered with red and green vines. There was an actual castle, a fort and a spa and the small town was encircled by rocks, fountains, water wheels and the river.

Our  daughter fell asleep easily in the pram as we trundled along and we kept warm by eating Chokotoffs– hard carmel treats covered in Cote d’Or chocolate. We stopped for lunch in a nice traditional French restaurant and drove home munching on sour gummies. All in all it was a day of beauty and eating.

With so many adoptive aunts and uncles, our daughter received lots of presents and hand me down clothing that necessitated a big rethink of packing the bag when we left. It was great for her to receive French speaking toys and good quality warm winter clothing, so it was an easy choice to pass on some of her clothes that we had brought that she was outgrowing anyway and we knew that they would go to a good home here.

Related posts: Belgium, 2013: The PeopleEurope, 2006, Belgium, 1997, People vs Place

Belgium, 2013: The People

My husband, daughter and I flew from Hong Kong to Brussels via Helsinki. It was a cheap flight and the worst flight we have ever had with our daughter. At one year old, she was at that in between stage where she didn’t just eat and sleep and wouldn’t just sit and watch TV, so all she wanted to do was walk up and down the aisles. She didn’t sleep the whole way, so neither did we. Lesson learned- sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more for a shorter flight with a little one.

After a 3 hour stopover in Helsinki, she finally lost it on the internal European flight to Brussels and just screamed. We were all tired and over it so I can understand her reaction and I now know what its like to be those parents that everyone tuts as at, but there was simply nothing we could do.

She finally fell asleep when we landed and slept in my arms in the brightly lit Brussels airport while we waited for our bags. Our friend Bill picked us up to take us back to the converted farmhouse that we had stayed in before and were to do so again. We hadn’t seen the family since our wedding in Thailand and it was the first time they had met our daughter.

Between them and their partners, Bill, Isabelle and Ben now had 8 children- 5 boys and 3 girls- almost all older than our daughter, so she had plenty of kids to dote over her and keep her entertained. Being a social child, she very much enjoyed being part of such a huge family. The girls were very gentle with our daughter which was lovely to see and the grandparents had a room set up especially for the grandkids with lots of toys and a cot.

The mornings were dark until 8:30am, which didn’t help with the jetlag when our daughter still got up at 4am. She gradually got later everyday, but never slept past her usual waking time of 6am, so had already been up for at least two hours by the time everyone else rose for breakfast.

Our friend Flo visited from France one evening with presents for our daughter. It was so nice to see her. Another night we went to Bill’s house for dinner. The house was lovely and interior decorated to perfection.

The next night we went to Isabelle’s for dinner where they lived above her husbands personal training business. On another night we went to visit Guislane and George- another family that my husband had stayed with when he had been living here on exchange. I ate the biggest piece of foie gras I have ever seen.

We kept her in her nightly dinnertime and bath routine that has always been useful for sleep time no matter where we were. Her adoptive grandfather sometimes read her books and she always had a bed or cot to be put to sleep on wherever we were visiting for dinner. Then when we were ready to leave, we just picked her up and drove home while she kept sleeping. It was awesome.

Related posts: Europe, 2006, Belgium, 1997, Destination ThailandPeople vs Place, Belgium: On Exchange

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 2

One afternoon, my husband, daughter and I caught one of the double decker trams to Soho. For a toddler, the journey is often better than the destination and for my husband he very much enjoyed revisiting one of the Soho bars that he went to last time he was here for work.

I liked that the bar was cool and had an indoor fountain as well as tasty cocktails. We also took a ride on the longest escalator in the world and saw some local market stalls in the area.

On the way back to the hotel we stumbled upon some modern art installations inside a train station. There were mural of rainforests, kites and a Chinese dragon.

The next day we took the iconic Star Ferry to Kowloon. The colourful ferry was striking and the old wooden boat was lovely.

On the other side, we were greeted by the tall stone clock tower and the views back to Hong Kong were great. The buildings on this side were older, apart from the modern museum, and had flashing neon signs.

We stumbled upon a children’s fun run sponsored by Kinder and took a walk along the strange Avenue of Stars that had bronze statures of film makers, Bruce Lee and the handprints of Jackie Chan.

The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade was a bit of a disappointment, but it did have a cool modern dragon fountain. They sure do love a fountain in Hong Kong as we were to discover even further with a visit to Kowloon Park which was basically a park of fountains, lakes and even a waterfall. Plus the cartoon art installation featuring Dragon Ball-Z and a big Panda that we found.

Lunch was had in an modern air conditioned café near the ferry terminal where high chairs were not a problem, before we caught the ferry back to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong was not as overwhelmingly busy as I expected and there was more to see than I had thought. It was an easy and cheap stopover with a one year old and I could see why so many expats enjoyed living here.

Related posts: Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1, It’s an Asia Thing

Hong Kong, 2013: Part 1

Before it was time for me to return to work, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Europe with our one-year-old daughter.

Qantas Club in departures was great with a little one. Comfortable seats, fancier toilets and all the food and drink you could want. I was glad that my husband had to travel so much for work so that we were able to make use of the benefit of that.

We stopped at Hong Kong on the way and stayed in a cute little apartment in Wan Chai in the city. It was too small for a bath, but fortunately our daughter fitted in the kitchen sink.

The old surrounding buildings were multi coloured and we could see the modern HSBC building in the distance.

Our first stop was the famous red Peak Tram which we rode to the top for a view of Hong Kong. We went early enough to avoid the smog clouding the view. The lookout building was a modern Chinese style structure and there was Halloween themed paraphernalia on the roof.

A nicer view was seen from the grounds of a nearby temple structure with stone Chinese dragons on the balconies.

After we caught the tram back down the hill, we went to the beautiful oasis of Hong Kong Park. There were waterfalls, lakes and an aviary. I loved Fountain Plaza with its various water features and a fountain that you could even stand inside.

More importantly, our daughter loved to kids playground. She was a bit of a novelty with the young nannies on duty in the park as the only blonde blue-eyed child. A theme which was to continue during our stay in Hong Kong.

We went to a new dumpling restaurant in one of the many large shopping centres for lunch and a break from the humid environment. Booster seats were no problem and our daughter loved the variety of food.

Take away dinners were easy to find near our hotel and not expensive. Breakfasts were even easier with the many available local eateries offering the works for cheap.

Related posts: It’s an Asia Thing

Singapore, 2013: Part 2

My favourite sightseeing part of the trip to Singapore with my daughter was Gardens by the Bay. Due to smog from fires in Indonesia it was advised that my friend Cynthia and I stay inside with our daughters, but seeing as Gardens by the Bay is an indoor Botanical Gardens, this was not a problem.

The waterfall in the Cloud Forest Dome was fantastic and such fun to be able to walk up to, behind and above. There were many beautiful orchids, lots of colourful miniature hot air balloons and bridges in the sky to cross.

Marina Bay Sands and the Super Trees were mostly clouded by the smog, but inside the air was clear and the colours of the vegetation were bright. There were Boab trees, turtle statues, old olive trees and even windmills. I borrowed Cynthia’s ergo carrier so my daughter could have a nap while we wandered through the lovely Mediterranean garden.

The gift shop was almost as good as the gardens themselves. I left with a pair of dragonfly earrings and a clever cup that changed colours when you poured hot water in it as a gift from Cynthia.

The next day, the air quality was still bad, so I took my daughter on a quick trip to the indoor MINT toy museum. I think I enjoyed seeing Astro boy, Punch & Judy and Tin Tin paraphernalia more than she did.

That night, Cynthia and I left the girls with her husband Tony and their helper Rosie to hit Little India for a French dinner. After some good wine and great company, I almost forgot that we had kids and it was just like old times.

On our last day we went to the smick and modern Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. There was an indoor skating rink, gorgeous window displays and an indoor canal that you could take a gondola on under a bridge. The highlight was Cynthia’s favourite ice cream/chocolate shop Au Chocolat and the ingenious water fountain that dropped from the ceiling to fill the canal.

Singapore to see a good friend had been the perfect first trip to test the waters of travelling alone with the little one and I was so glad that I had come.

Related posts: Singapore, 2013: Part 1Singapore, 2012: Old vs NewSingapore, 2012: Part 1Indonesia and Singapore, 1994England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998It’s an Asia Thing

Having it all?

The concept of having it all is nothing new. We are all told as young girls that we can have it all- the handsome prince, the massive castle, 2.2 kids and the brilliant career.

But in today’s time poor society, is there room to have it all?

Being in a relationship takes work, having a big house costs money, the kids need a bit of both and the career takes up 8 hours plus a day. Factor in family, friends and finding time for yourself and it all can be a little overwhelming. Most of us, having all these things to juggle will find that one thing or the other suffers at some point.

I recently heard from a wiser woman, that what it really is about is choosing what’s important to you. But that is easier said than done. It takes time to figure out what the highest priority is and this can also change from time to time.

So what do you do?

Realise that you can’t please everyone. Sometimes that work deadline will have to be delayed so that you can pick up the kids from daycare, and the world won’t end if it does. On the flipside, maybe you are lucky enough to have a husband that can pick up the kids so that you can stay late at work if you have to.

It’s about choosing your battles. There are some wars that are not negotiable. Your husband may have to wait for their quality time until the kids go to bed, but that’s ok, as long as you don’t forget about him completely of course. Maybe you will have to take a step back from your career, but make sure you leave your options open in case you ever want to return. The grass is always greener right?

Sometimes an earlier than normal start or a later than normal finish to get in some exercise or spend time on a hobby are a necessity to feed your body and your soul. Yes, it’s time away from the family, but won’t you be happier and more present when you have been able to find this time for yourself?

Me, I’m still figuring it all out. Sometimes, that concept of work life balance and following my dreams seems very far away, but on my more positive days it feels like a distinct possibility. All I can do is make the most of what I have and not regret the decisions I have made that seemed like the best ones at the time.

Oh, and the battle about what’s more important- a big house or travel experiences- that one can wait for another day. When I’m not so busy.

Related posts: Reinvention, New Beginnings, Emotion vs Logic,  Good vs Evil, Pride vs The FallDreams vs Reality

It’s a winery thing

This month I am super excited to be going on a winery weekend away to the Barossa with a couple of my besties. This will be my third visit to the well-established wine region and it is my favourite in Australia so far due to its historical charm (i.e. old buildings).

I am an avid weekend wine tripper from way back and my husband and I have systematically worked our way around most of the states in Australia by wine region.

We have been to the Hunter Valley 6 times which is known for its Shiraz and Semillon and will be returning in June to prune my husband’s adopted vine at Drayton’s Family Wines. We also travelled to Tasmania in January to check out the Sauvignon Blanc down there.

I’ve sipped Pinot Noir at the Mornington Peninsula (Victoria) Winter Wine festival and had a personalised bottle of champagne made for me the French way. I’ve shared a Chardy with a famous wine dog at Voyager Estate in the Margaret River, WA, learned what a GSM is in McClaren Vale (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre) and how to appreciate a good Riesling in the Clare Valley, SA. Next on the list is the Yarra Valley in VIC.

We usually drag a group of friends along with us and I’ve converted a red drinker to a white drinker and myself from a white drinker to a multi drinker in the process.

So what keeps me coming back for more winery trips?

Wine regions are typically set in scenically beautiful areas and are a great way to see the landscape away from the major cities. I always enjoy discovering a new part of the country this way.

It can be a lovely romantic trip for two and is also a great relaxing weekend away with friends. Even if we have been to a wine region before, going with different people usually means finding new hidden gems along the way.

Most wine regions also have good food to go with their great wine. Some of Australia’s best restaurants seem to be popping up in wine regions.

It’s also not a bad option with the kids. They don’t get bored, you can get tipsy during the day with free tastings (with one designated driver of course) and return to your self-catered apartment at night to polish off some new wine and cheese purchases from the day.

And of course it is the opportunity to try some different wines that peaks our interest. Each winery is a new cellar door to explore and new varieties I’ve never heard of to taste. Discovering a new favourite wine to enjoy when you get back home is one of the best ways to keep the memory of a good trip lasting.

Beautiful surroundings, great friends, good food and tasty wine- what’s not to love?

I can almost taste that Barossa Shiraz now…

Related posts: It’s a French thing, Degustation Delights

New York, 2005, Part 2: Sex and the City style!

It was my 27th birthday, I was in New York and I was determined to do all the New York things I wanted to do.

I started with the International Centre of Photography as I have always had an interest in photography and very much wanted to visit this particular museum while I was here. Part of the exhibit was from the movie Kids which was a bit confronting, but interesting all the same.

The number one thing I wanted to do in New York was go on the Sex and the City tour as it is one of my favourite shows. So I did. We started at the Plaza Hotel near Central Park, went to the Takashimaya shop on 5th avenue which was where the girls had looked at perfumes and visited a Manolo Blanik store of course.

Next up was the Pleasure Chest sex shop, followed by a Magnolia Bakery cupcake (from their sister bakery) in the Abington Square Park playground. The best bit was going to Carrie’s street and apartment and Aiden’s bar Scout (actually called O’Neils in real life) for a cosmopolitan at the end of the tour.

The next best thing I wanted to do was go to the top of the Empire State Building. So I met my friend Phil at the bottom in the big line up for the lifts. The line was so long that we missed the sunset, but got an awesome view of the Chrysler Building and New York City by night instead.

For dinner I wanted my favourite cuisine of Thai. It was much harder to find a Thai restaurant in New York than Sydney, but maybe you just need to know the right people who know where to go.

The next day we took a walk down the Avenue of the Americas and ended up at the Municipal Building where I had a pretzel- very yummy and very New York I am led to believe.

We explored the famous New York Subway system and I found that I had caught a cold from the boat ride under Iguazu Falls and was exhausted after four and a half days of sight-seeing in New York. So I left Phil on his journey to Brooklyn Bridge, got off at 14th Street – Eighth Avenue and wandered through the Chelsea art gallery area to watch a movie in a cinema near Times Square.

It was Memorial Day weekend so Times Square was overflowing with people and there were street dancers performing for the crowd.

When in New York, you must catch a Broadway show. So, that evening Phil and I went to Avenue Q on Broadway with Trekkie monster who swears a lot- very funny.

5 days was definitely not enough in New York and I couldn’t wait to come back to now one of my favourite cities in the world.

Related posts: New York, 2005, Part 1: Taking a bite, Argentina, 2005, Buenos Aires, 2005