Wednesday, 17 July 2013

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Yes, sadly it's the end of stay-cation.  J is back at school, C2 is in Brisbane, and I'm back on the semi-single-parenting/homework/chauffering/ball-juggling/Child Wise-working roller-coaster which while gruelling at times also brings me great joy; so no complaints.

We completed our two-week stay-cation with a yodel and a thousand steps.  To further elaborate, on the weekend, we drove into the Dandenong Ranges,  a short distance outside of Melbourne to the twin country towns of Sassafras and Olinda.  Both towns are charming for their antique shops, arts and crafts, and delightful cafes and small restaurants.  We browsed the shops enjoying the Christmas in July atmosphere (this is winter in Australia), sipped a flat white, and relished in the region's similarity to the Canadian Pacific north-west.  Except instead of pine trees, we have gum trees.

However,  our destination this day was "The Cuckoo".   The Cuckoo is an iconic Bavarian/Swiss style restaurant/smorgasbord/live entertainment that has been in business for decades.  Think Bavarian Beer Garden meets The Flamingo in Las Vegas.  We were less interested in any potential Branson, Missouri-type experience but were beckoned by the promise of  Swiss architecture, authentic Swiss cow bells, and apple strudel.

C2 and I exchanged worried glances as we and a tour bus pulled up in front of the chalet, even J professed some nerves and worriedly asked  "is this going to be cheesy; are they going to make me yodel?"  Still, the warm glow of the gas lamps, the Christmas decorations, and the smell of food and a warm fire, not to mention the buxom cardboard cut-outs, drew us in.

We had a hoot!  We sang along to music from "The Sound of Music" - Austrian/Bavarian/Swiss, nobody was being particular, and Christmas carols.  We ate roast beef, gingerbread, and far too much apple strudel.  We yodeled, and J stuck his hand up and proudly declared himself "Swiss!"  A Santa with a very Aussie accent threw handfuls of chocolate on our table, and Jingle Bells was played on cow bells.  Seriously, what more could you want from an afternoon?

After leaving the restaurant warm and sated, we spontaneously drove a short distance to the equally iconic 1,000 steps/Kokoda Memorial Hiking Trail.  The 1,000 steps are exactly that, narrow steps of mixed size and depth that ascend about 1.5 km through thick gum forest.  Fourteen plaques commemorate the original Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea where Australians and Papuans came together in 1942 to successfuly defend Port Moresby against the invading Japanese at great cost.  The plaques were a particularly handy place to stop for a breather when I thought my lungs were going to burst from my chest.

Barely breaking a sweat

At about step 950, can you feel the love?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Stay-Cation Down Under

We’re in the last week of J’s two-week mid-year break.  School is different down under.  Here, children go to school 12 months a year, January through December with breaks after each of 4 terms.  J just finished term 2.

We thought about skiing in New Zealand but frankly with C2’s currently intense travel schedule, the thought of engaging in more travel was too much.  So we decided to vacation at home; a stay-cation.

As it turned out C2 was travelling the first week of stay-cation.  J and I hung out together and it was awesome!  I made him work out with me doing circuits in the park.  He made me play with his action figures.  I made him do three tennis coaching sessions (while I read my Atlantic Monthly in the warmth of the club house).  He made me take him for hot chocolate and frozen yogurt.  We watched for the eight hundred and forty-ninth billionth time the extended edition of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and we relished in our mutual love of J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson.  We went beachwalking with friends and dogs, and both stayed up reading till midnight.

Poor cheerleader didn't know she was walking into spinning ninja decapitating swords!

C2 returned in time for our second week and it’s only gotten better.  We’ve had towel fights, footy kicking, and lego building.  I've read the paper cover to cover with a second cup of coffee and found the time to meaningfully reflect on the state of Australian politics, the economy, and the misery faced by asylum seekers off our coast.  J has had longer hours playing computer games while C2 and I cook meals together, sip wine, and watch back-to-back episodes of “Breaking Bad” (without him) and “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” (with him).  As an aside, if anyone has missed either series, they are both remarkable and some of the best television ever made.  Visionaries Vince Gilligan and George Lucas!

J's pinboard full of things that mattter to him

My personal favorites are: photo of my dad's memorial tree in Calgary, a no-longer-in-circulation Canadian two dollar bill, a Swiss postcard, and a picture of the Tawtel family cat Garcon (he gets passed around).

Imagination has soared, bodies have been exercised, sleep has been recovered, and time has been well spent.  We’ve all three stayed up reading till midnight and reminded ourselves where our happy place is.