Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kidaddle to the Botanic Gardens

Photo by sridgway.

I was surprised by the kids' reaction when we ended up at the Botanic Gardens by default a couple of weekends ago. I really didn't expect them to be too enthused. We had kitted up for a day on the little kids' water slide at Club Blue. It never occurred to us to check that the slide was open and it wasn't. Canberrans will understand when I say that we are Southside people and really weren't sure what to do as an alternative on the Northside.

Nanna suggested the Botanic Gardens and I had a sinking feeling ... this really wasn't going to be an adequate substitute, but I was so wrong. Why? Heaps of interesting paths and bridges and waterfalls and rocks to discover let the kids' imagination run wild. Nanna and I found a bench, threw a packet of sandwiches at each child and let them go for it. They spent two hours clambering all over rocks, racing leaves down rivulets and watching the lizards swimming in a pond.

I have to say it was paradise for a parent - a decent coffee to be had a few metres away while watching the kids play in the open air, making new friends and coming up with the most fantastic "adventure" scenarios based on little more than some rocks, water and a few sticks.

I'm sure I've though it before and I'll no doubt need reminding again: keep your expectations low and give the kids the opportunity to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kidaddle's Three Best Kept Travel Secrets

Dee at Travel and Travails has dobbed us in to expose our three best kept travel secrets. This fantastic idea came from Tripbase.

So here we go, grab the kids, are you ready?

1. Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, Rotorua, New Zealand

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools is a "must do" if you're travelling with the kids between Taupo and Rotorua (10 minutes off the main road and well sign posted). Using the natural geothermal water (no chemicals added), the complex sports a splash pool, a sit 'n' soak pool, a garden pool and two private pools.

We landed there at 6pm with the kids, having been tipped off that the pools stay open 'til 9pm and the Ponga Tree Cafe in the complex serves fantastic kids meals.

So picture it: cold, raining ... drizzling in that bone chilling wintry way. In we went and the kids hardly paused long enough to take off their clothes before they were in the toasty warm water. We soaked ourselves and our aching bones for an hour, before repairing to the cafe for nachos, pies, soup (laksa!) ... perfect! When we got back to our fabulous farm stay, the kids were asleep before their heads touched the pillows.

We went there three nights in a row!

(By the way: adjoining the pools complex is a small 20 site camp ground with shower, laundry and kitchen facilities.)

2. Jasmin, Punchbowl, Sydney

Ever spent time in Syria-Lebanon ... then got home to Australia and yearned for the authentic cuisine? Here's where you find it. It's a classic case of follow the locals and eat the food they eat ... Jasmin is clearly popular with every Arab in the Punchbowl vicinity, and why not? They have all the classics - hommos, babaghanoush, grilled chicken with divine garlic mayonnaise, pink pickles, kebabs, fattoush, kofteh ... all the staples - and the BBQ plate is perfect for feeding a family of four for lunch for under $20. But it's the fateh that got me - that fabulous brunch dish of grilled meat, pine nuts, tahina, yoghurt and toasted Lebanese bread. I felt I was once again in the Hotel Sham in downtown Damascus, with a short Arab coffee at my side and a bubblepipe not far away ...

If the food weren't enough - the interior decorating is fantastic - faux marble and outstanding murals of the Cedars of Lebanon and the Sydney Opera House. You'll wonder if you have fallen into a black hole and popped out in Beirut.

This is the perfect lunch stop on the way into Sydney from Canberra - look for the Boulevarde in Punchbowl and you can't miss it. You park at the railway parking opposite and enjoy the local ambiance.

3. Houseboating on the Murray

We boarded our boat ... the Margaylea ... and enjoyed four days of gentle drifting, fishing, watching the river banks glide by. Put it this way: it was a real holiday for everyone principally because the kids did not require entertaining and everyone has to see the Murray, from the river, once. http://www.allseasonshouseboats.com.au/ is what you're looking for ...

Kidaddle is tagging:

Author Tania McCartney
The Planning Queen
Red Cordial Revolution
It's the things that make you go mmmm
Amman Man