Friday, December 13, 2013

Margaret River and Perth area - with Six (not three)

In December, 2010, Matt, Sam and I went to Margaret River and Perth area in Western Australia, for ten days. It was Samara's first trip, and obviously our first trip as a family. I definitely enjoyed it, but the whole time we both thought that my parents would LOVE it, we wanted to come back, and I wanted to be a little less stressed on holiday next time (first trip with a baby IS scary!). So, we have spent the last two weeks back where we were, but as a family of four and with my two parents.

We arrived in Perth (wow, Singapore airlines was SO MUCH more enjoyable than our Delta flight home in October) and my parents were waving at us from the exit to customs, as if they live in Perth and were welcoming us as visitors. We were pointed to our car, a Toyota Kluger, which Thrifty said could carry seven people, two large suitcases and two small suitcases. We had one large one, three small ones plus a few more bags, but luckily only six people. I laughed when I saw the car and was trying to sort out what we would do when our stuff didn't fit in the car. Not one bag even fit in the back when the back row of seats was open. Matt and my dad got to work, I fed Elie, and an hour later, they were still stuffing bags into places no one had even noticed before. We were moving slowly, had a four hour drive ahead of us, and it was frustrating. I said, "well, at least it's not raining..." Then it started to pour. It all fit. We hit up a grocery store before we got on the highway and we set off to drive to Margaret River. Elie only cried for 50% of the drive, and though I had planned to only drive in an emergency, I drove about half of the way. Scary, but we made it.

We stayed for the first four nights at Margaret's Hideaway, a farmstay. We had a little cabin, with three bedrooms, right in the paddock with the sheep. Other than the 40 dead ants per day that fell on one spot of my pillow (only there - I'm not sure why...), it was lovely. We heard crazy bird parties in the morning, and the peacock's calls and tail kept us entertained. The first morning, when Sam woke up at 6:30, Papa entertained her, and when I came out and said, "good morning. What are you guys doing?" Papa said, "we're watching live TV." They were sitting backwards on the couch looking out the huge window at all of the sheep, goats, alpaca and peacocks. Pretty cool. If you're three especially. Sam got to feed the animals, including those above, the emus, cows and hens. She even got warm eggs from the hens for us to cook.

We spent the first day getting settled, getting food we needed (amazing farmers' market...), and we went in the afternoon to the ocean and to see where Margaret's River meets the ocean. It was lovely. We saw kangaroos on the way home - my parents' first real kangaroos.

The next day we took a hike on part of the cape to cape trail, just near Margaret River. It was a lovely combination of beach walk, trails in woods, trails on cliffs and trails on sand-ish stuff (my favorite hike we did). Elie got to ride with me in the ergo (he slept nearly the whole time) and Sam rode in her framed carrier and also did a fair amount of hiking.

The following day we drove up to the top of the cape to cape walk, to the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse. We did a few hikes there which Matt and I hadn't done previously, and they were GORGEOUS, with red sand, amazingly blue water and cool birds and lizards. Sam learned to pee in the woods - she was a natural.

We went for lunch at the Bushshack Brewery, one of our favorite places from 2010. The food is pretty eh but the beer is great, and we super enjoyed the nachos (hard to find nachos in Singapore, which is probably good for us anyways...). They had so much stuff for Sam to do there - a huge sandy playground with a few structures built in, plus a bunch of toy kitchen stuff and other things she found. She and papa had a blast.

We headed over to an apartment in Margaret River (in the town itself) for the next week, after an AMAZING brekky in the bakery. Yum. We got out to explore some inland hikes, near some of the caves in the area, but we were a bit late and were closing them all down. 

We explored Ellensbrook, a beautiful little old house on a brook, right on the ocean, though Sam was in a bad mood, and somehow I agreed to carry her in the carrier - wow - she is much heavier this year, and I can no longer hike with her.

Matt and I remembered a spectacular, fresh lunch at Cullen Wines, so we visited our first winery, where Matt tasted and I breastfed (why do I keep going to these places while breastfeeding or pregnant??). Lunch was good,  but we were way too hungry afterward, and it wasn't AS good as we remembered. But the setting was gorgeous.

The next day we drove for hours to arrive at this random mill town that we went to in 2010 - Donnelly River. The drive was gorgeous, and it wasn't quite as isolated as I had remembered. This is a place where the kangaroos are tamed and come right up to you - same with the emus. Sam was not afraid. It's SUPER bizarre and pretty cool. We did a few hikes in the woods as well, but this day started getting hot, and the flies were pretty brutal. Sam had been reading Not a Nibble, which is a British book about a girl named Susie who goes fishing a few days in a row and doesn't catch anything (but don't worry - she sees a whale as a consolation prize). Sam kept picking up long skinny sticks and telling us they're fishing poles, and then she would stab fish-shaped leaves, and say that we were Susie if we couldn't get one to stick. Pretty cute. We stopped at little town called Nannup on the way back for cake and coffee. Yum.

We drove the next day, all the way down to Augusta, the southern cape on the cape to cape trail. It was BEAUTIFUL but the flies were awful. We walked around on the rocks, right on the water, but the sun was strong and we each had at least 50 flies following us at all times, and I decided I didn't want to hike that day. We drove back up and went to Leeuwin Estate winery for a special lunch. We didn't know just how special it would be. As we pulled up, we heard a loud noise like a helicopter was right near us, or something. And sure enough, it was a helicopter right near us. It landed so close that we could feel the wind. Sam and Papa watched the whole thing. Lunch was AMAZING, the wine was also fantastic (I did have a little) and Sam even had fun with the helicopter (another landed too, while we were eating!) and enjoyed the french fries. It was our best meal of the trip.

We went to a few more breweries and back to Yallingup to hike (a beautiful hike) and watch surfers (they're amazing!). Yallingup also had the coolest playground I have ever seen. We also did a bunch of hikes/walks on the trails just outside of Margaret River - and they were so much fun and so beautiful. Sam loved finding sticks, flowers, leaves or anything else and pretending they're her microphone, baby, rake, pole, etc. Matt and I went out a few afternoons to catch a few more wineries and breweries while Sam slept.

While we were down there, with no internet, Matt got an email on his blackberry asking "Hey - are you ok? And what do you think? I would love to hear from a local." We had no idea what happened, but went to find internet and read that there had been riots in our neighborhood in Singapore. Not at ALL what we expect (or even would EVER EVER EVER happen in Singapore). This is the craziest thing to happen in 6.5 years of living there, and we're not there...Super interesting.

After ten days in Margaret River area (!!! a wee bit much for me, but they were all full), we headed up to Fremantle. Somehow I drove the whole way, and we ended up taking a short detour through a beautiful park with gorgeous trees and a huge dam. In this area we have really enjoyed the super cute shops, and amazing food and beer, but it has been brutally hot and sunny (35 C / 95 F - that's a lot). My mom was sick, so she missed a day when we went with Papa to Penguin Island, just south of here. We got to see penguins in a little exhibit there (the wild ones were all out fishing) and we saw sea lions up close. It was beautiful and so cool (but SO sunny and hot - I felt like a super irresponsible mom). We have also enjoyed the beach - we went to Cottesloe beach between here and Perth.

All in all, it's been a fantastic holiday - though a bit long for my taste. We have eaten some of the tastiest, freshest food I have had in a long while, and the natural beauty has been amazing (though not as amazing as Tasmania and the south island of New Zealand...). The coffee has also been a highlight. It is my first trip with my parents in a really long time, and it's their first trip with the kids (would they do it again? Ask them...). It's a perfect place to come with little kids and grandparents. Everything closes around late afternoon, so we did many/most dinners at home, self-catering, and we took our time doing everything.

It is funny how a three year old can determine the whole trip - in terms of where we go, timing for everything, what we eat...We found every playground in sight, we went home for a nap nearly every day, we ate in restaurants with grilled cheese and pizza...As it turns out, a child CAN survive for two weeks eating grilled cheese, pizza, yogurt, french fries, cereal, raisins and cookies (ONLY, and I'm serious)! Amazing! Let's see how she withers away (or develops diabetes) in the next few months.

Elie was awesome. His sleep got a LITTLE easier on the trip, and he was super portable and flexible. He's a happy baby. He just doesn't really like the car. I am REALLY hoping those articles about drinking while breastfeeding are accurate. Or perhaps he will have lost a few brain cells - I did taste here and there during the day and had full beers and a bit of wine in the evenings. I also had one to two flat whites each day. I tried to drown my unhealthy drinking with as much water as I could find.

Sam LOVED her time with her Papa and Savta. LOVED. She can't get enough. That's why she woke up progressively earlier the whole trip (4:47am today) to spend time with her Papa who has gotten up with her nearly every day. Oy.

Matt and I also had a good time with their Papa and Savta - playing euchre nearly every night. As of today we are tied at 16 games apiece. (they're going down...)

Pictures to come, when we're back and I can put them on my computer.

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