As we walked back to our hotel under the amber glow of the street lamps, our inquisitive five year old girl continued with her flurry of questions. ‘Why is that old man singing on the street?’ Why are the buildings so tall like giants?’ Why is everyone in such a rush?’ ‘Someone naughty has drawn on those walls and their parents won’t be happy!’ she exclaimed! To us, this was a typical evening in the city of Melbourne, but to her, this was a whole new world and one that was fascinating, intriguing and exciting!
The big kids (and little kids) were on an adventure for a two-night mini city escape to experience the magic of Melbourne. Living by the coast certainly has its perks, but it is always good to visit Melbourne with the kids and ensure they experience the hustle and bustle of this exciting metropolis, the bright city lights, different cultures, characters, city attractions and wide plethora of different cuisines available.
The kids screamed with glee as they raced into the city apartment and were greeted with their very own tee pee and a sack full of toys! It wasn’t long before there were building blocks and toys all over the floor and we settled into our new city abode – the Somerset on Elizabeth. Right on our doorstep was the Melbourne Emporium, the GPO, Chinatown and every retail outlet possible.
To kick-start our adventure, we hit the streets of Chinatown in the pouring rain, kitted out in our rain jackets and jumping puddles under the colourful street lanterns with our five year old, Daisy. After overloading on steamed dumplings, rice, spring rolls, duck and the most sumptuous Asian cuisine, we were surprised to see we had enjoyed a three-course meal (with a cheeky pinot or two thrown in!) for the whole family for under $50.
Next stop was Federation Square to experience the hub of the city. Bright lights, music, street performers and al fresco dining made this eclectic place feel so exciting! Deck chairs lined the outdoor pavilion as people congregated to plan their Friday night in the big smoke.
That night as we tucked our young ones into their beds in our two-bedroom apartment (yes, a five-year old deserves her own king size bed don’t you think?) and our 8-month-old baby into his cot, we couldn’t help but reflect on the excitement of day one through our little kids eyes.
No doubt they would dream of the old man drawing on the sidewalk with colourful chalk, the high pitched shrills of the hens party passing by, the café spruikers, the juggler and the group of Italian men playing chess on the street corner smoking their cigars.
On day two after a lazy sleep in (thanks to wearing the kids out the night before), we tucked into a special homemade breakfast of eggs, bacon, fresh sourdough and bircher muesli – courtesy of the hotel, with all the fresh condiments and trimmings to go with it! We didn’t have to queue up at the usual hotel breakfast buffet or dress for breakfast and wearily wait in line for our coffee order. Rather, we were able to wake up at late in our own apartment, cook at our leisure and feed the masses in our PJ’s before working out what the days adventure entailed.
And what a grand adventure we had planned as we secretly arranged to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine in the heart of Melbourne. “Mum, look it’s Cinderella’s carriage!’ our five-year-old shrieked in disbelief as a shiny turquoise Tiffany blue carriage pulled up alongside us. Drawn by a matching pair of mahogany hued Percheron horses with their beautiful shiny manes and greeted by our friendly coach drivers in their traditional attire, complete with white frilled blouses, red velvet coat tails, black top hats and gold buttons, it truly felt like we had stepped into a fairytale. We felt like royalty as we were guided through the streets of Melbourne seated in the open air aboard this luxurious carriage. We had a warm blanket provided to us as we relaxed to the rhythm of the horses’ hooves (clip-clop, clip-clop, clip-clop) and experienced the magic of this bygone era.
Another day of exploring the city sights including the Docklands, Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Southbank, Queen Victoria Market and some serious retail therapy, we found Hardware Lane, which was the perfect place for an early dinner al fresco style.
Walking along the vibrant cobblestone alleyway, you could swear you had arrived in Europe, with the French and Italian influence translating into outdoor cafes and restaurants bursting onto the sidewalks, accordion players under the old style street lamps and the loud chatter of diners enjoying a vino under the stars. The café spruikers all compete and jostle against each other in friendly rivalry as they attempt to woo you into dining with them… it’s a fun, lively affair and soon we had chosen a lovely authentic Italian restaurant ‘Ill Nostro Posto’ with Sicilian food including homemade gnocchi and their signature dish of Linguine Al Cartoccio (seafood).
As we departed the city the following morning with weary feet and a carload of excited chatter, we couldn’t help but all exchange tales of our mini city escape. The people we met, the ample attractions, from laid-back laneways and lush parks to grand libraries and museums, all wrapped up in a vibrant, eclectic atmosphere that will have you yearning for more. More than just a concrete playground, this city caters for kids – big and little!