Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Marvelous Melbourne

Many years ago, I had the good fortune of living for seven months in Sydney’s Manly Beach, which is what you’d expect a Sydney bayside suburb to be: Lovely beach, awesome waves, beautiful people, lots of fun. In fact, Manly ‑ so named by the founder of Sydney, Captain Arthur Phillip, after his encounter with the confident, “manly” Aborigines he found there ‑ is probably the very best that Sydney has to offer.

And yet, I still must fly the flag for Melbourne (above), which is too often shortchanged when the lion’s share of the headlines go to its rival half a day’s drive north. Simply put, Melbourne is a city with its priorities in order: where a horse race is reason enough to give everybody the day off work, where substance matters as much as style and where the good things in life are there for the taking.

When I step out of my office building on the Yarra River, this is the view. Superb, no?

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Rolling through our old stomping ground

When our girls aren't at the beach, they’re on their new roller blades – and sometimes they’re lucky enough to be doing both at the same time. Today, they're tearing up the pavement in Port Melbourne, our old stomping ground, and I fear the blades will have to come with us to South Africa and beyond because I can’t imagine the girls – who begged and pleaded for wheels on bended knee - giving them up now.
On the same day we hit Port Melbourne, we also dropped in to nearby Luna Park, which is one of the great icons in my favourite city in the world, and it’s as I imagine Coney Island was in the ’50s: old-fashioned rides, rickety roller coasters, a gorgeous view of the sea and sticky and hot underfoot. Naturally, the girls lap up the atmosphere here in St. Kilda and want to know when, exactly when, we’ll be coming back to blow a heap more cash.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Cherish the good stuff

This year-long adventure may be chock-full of cool stuff and amazing experiences, but as a parent I know this much to be true: the simple things in life really are the best, and there can be few things better than snuggling into sleeping bags on a warm Aussie beach, watching the sunset and then waiting for the stars to come out, one by one, as you ponder the meaning of it all.

I'm counting on Annie and Molly to remember these nights and I hope they feel the same as we do: That time spent together - celebrating lives that are richer in simplicity than in material wealth - is really what makes us tick.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Tennis, anyone?

Miraculously, both a babysitter and a very generous friend materialize in one and the same person – our dear friend Gracie – and Travellin Mama gets two tickets for a night at the Australian Open with her hubby. If you look real close - way, way down - that’s Roger Federer near the net. (On this particular night, as on thousands of others, he was in mighty fine form indeed, and we count outselves among the lucky ones to have seen the best tennis player of all time, live, in our favourite city in the world.)

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Mom and dad, alone again

Well, OK, we’re not really alone here but dare to dream. It’s been months - and months and months and months! – since we’ve had a babysitter, although I really musn’t complain because we're about to watch the sun go down on the Mornington Peninsula as the sweet Sorrento moon comes up ... so really, what’s not to love?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The buddy system

Before we embarked on this year-long adventure, well-meaning parents asked me dozens of times how our kids would cope so far away from their friends and extended family. As Oprah would say, "what I know for sure" now is that being the new kid on the block doesn't necessarily have to be the terrible social burden it’s cracked up to be. And who knew it could be so easy?

Maybe it’s just luck or resilience or the magical clicking of personalities, or maybe where the new kid comes from is all that matters to those who’ve already staked their territory. Either way, we are very lucky indeed because Canada, it seems, is the coolest place on earth to the kids at Mornington Primary School and they’ve embraced Molly and Annie with great gusto. Joining Annie and Molly (centre and top) are (from left) Shania, Miia, Lauren and Melitta.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Flower power

Being a flower girl is a big, big honour - and one that's even more of a thrill when your beloved Toronto cousins (Leyki and Miia, centre) fly halfway around the world to join you. After their petal-throwing duties were done at their auntie's wedding outside Melbourne, the four musketeers took to the dance floor for the talent portion of the evening, and sang a few customised bars of We Go Together, from Grease (Travellin Mama's favourite). Eat your heart out, Sandy!

Friday, 16 February 2007

When bad clothes happen to a good man

You might think I’m smiling here but I’m actually about to pull a Smith & Wesson from my handbag and shoot myself before I die of embarrassment, all because my pimp – oops, I mean my husband – wanted to make an "impression" at his sister’s wedding.

And Grandma, if you’re reading this, I didn’t see what he was wearing until this very moment. THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO!!

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Grrrl power

There’s nothing like a family wedding on the other side of the world to bring my girls and their beloved Toronto cuzzies, Leyki and Miia, together again. After months of pining for each other, they’re goofing off again, this time at the magnificent ocean beach at Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Annie and Molly have decided to expel themselves from the School of Travellin Mama in favour of the real thing down the road. (Other kids! A normal life! Recess! How very novel!)

Australia being the wonderful place that it is, school uniforms are de rigeur, and my goodness, after months on the move, don’t my feral little monkeys polish up rather nice?

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Any excuse for a party, Part 2

After Melbourne Cup and all the big Group One races, one can always choose a day in the country for what Aussies call the picnic races. There are little racetracks dotted around the place, like this one in Balnarring, Victoria, and they basically involve the following: Drive your car into the bush (forest), set up among the cockies and gums (cockatoo parrots and gum trees) have a nosh (snack) and a flutter (bet) and then grab your champers (champagne) and toddle across the grass to watch the first horses fly out of the starting gate.

First-time visitors would be forgiven for thinking Melbourne is all about bets, booze and boobs at this time of year. And, um, they’d actually be right. Because it seems everyone – and I mean everyone – has a bet, everyone seems to be drinking and my God, if your boobs aren’t hanging out of your finest frock – it’s summer after all – well, you’re just not getting with the program.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Any excuse for a party

It’s been quite a few years time since Travellin’ Mama has done B52 shooters in the middle of the day ... but when you live in a place where the entire state gets the day off for a horse race and the city is basically one big party, what’s a girl to do? The racing brings it out in all of us. Damn, I love Australia! (joining Doog and I are Melbourne friends Bonnie, Travis and Alana, on my lap)

Not sure where the kids are!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

How to buy a convertible

Just a little more about Sylvia, my new best friend.

Negotiating the purchase went a bit like this:

Me (to the private seller, in his driveway) : Hi. Wow. Love the car! I TOTALLY WANT IT! (which is apparently the wrong thing to say right off the bat)

Seller: Yes, this is an excellent car for the money.

Me: GREAT! How ’bout you show me how the top goes down now?!!

Doog (under his breath): Nancy, BE COOL.

Geoff (our Tasmanian friend who knows a bit about cars): Nancy, seriously, BE COOL.

Seller: It’s got blahblah under the hood (I’m not listening, mister!) and blahblah this and blahblah that.

Me: Yup, I hear ya! Mechanical shmanical! Fine, fine, fine! Low kilometres? Dandy! One owner? Most excellent! JUST SHOW ME HOW THE TOP GOES DOWN!

Geoff (to Doog) : Why did we bring her?

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Sylvia, start your engines

Meet Sylvia the convertible SAAB. Naysayers and assorted sceptics call her my midlife crisis purchase but I call her my NEW BEST FRIEND, and she makes me want to put exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!) At the end! Of! Every! Word!

Here’s my rationale for this slightly out-of-character, moderately luxurious buy:
* When one is 42 and has never had better wheels than an ’87 wood-panelled station wagon, who’s to say one shouldn’t splash out on a convertible for the summer Down Under?
* When the pricetag for said wheels is only $5000 and when it will easily sell when the time comes to leave, what does one have to lose? (Never mind that the buyer will have to pry the wheel from my cold dead hands)
* When it’s the first car spotted on the internet and the seller is just around the corner, could there be a better omen?
* When the buyer has secretly nursed a convertible-ownership-type fantasy for years, this totally makes sense. Right? Right!
* Is there a better country in the world to have a convertible in summer? I mean, C’MON!!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Farewell, NZ, thanks for the memories

Most New Zealanders hate France and the French like nothing on earth (think Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior and froggie bombers) so it’s a bit disconcerting to find ourselves in Akaroa, a little east-coast town near Christchurch that’s as French as they come.

Famous for its French history and cuisine, it’s also a fantastic place to see the smallest and one of the rarest dolphins in the world, the Hector’s dolphin, and since this is our final stop in NZ, it’s now or never. (I’m trying to impress upon the girls that it’s far better to see even one in the wild than a zillion in a tank - I just don’t do animals in cages – and so we find ourselves on this little boat having forked out 92 bucks to see the grand total of … ONE dolphin. Still, the girls love it, and that’s cool.)

So after months on the road, it's time to bid farewell to New Zealand - it's been bloody wonderful - and say hello Australia! It'll be nice to stop for a while ...

Monday, 5 February 2007

Of hunky guides and wildlife

That big smile on Travellin Mama's face isn't because we've just seen albatross, penguins and a magnificent sea lion off the coast of Dunedin. It's because the hunky Heath Ledger-lookalike tour guide with the long funky sideburns who took this picture was just TOO DAMN DELICIOUS for words. My only regret - on this, our third-last day in New Zealand - is that I forgot to turn the camera his way ... and therefore can't share his extreme hunkiness with all of you.

Sorry, ladies.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Ice, ice baby

Dunedin may be off the beaten track but it’s also my favourite city in New Zealand, and it doesn’t hurt that we’ve discovered an ice rink here - which when you’re a little girl and thousands of miles from home and raised on daddy’s backyard ice is very comforting indeed.

Annie and Molly have hit the ice like it's second nature, mixing it with the hundreds of posing, horny teenagers buzzing around to the beat of a tinny sound system. (All I’d have to do is swap the Pussycat Dolls and Beyonce for a bit of Meatloaf and Donna Summer and poof! I’d be 14 again and back at my old roller rink in Southampton, Ontario, smoking a Player’s Light and vying for the attentions of the cute Roller Fuzz in their tight Levis.)

Ah, but doesn't nostalgia work in the strangest ways.