Melbourne, Australia


We may have found a new favorite city! The six days we spent in Melbourne were so much fun and we feel like we barely scratched the surface of things to see and do. We found the city to be beautiful, easy to navigate, and filled with family-friendly activities. Add to this the fact that it is teeming with affable Aussies and boasts the most fresh, sleek architecture we’ve seen since Copenhagen…we all just loved the short time that we had to explore here.

Along the river that winds through the city

Along the river that winds through the city

We are starting to see some Australian Christmas spirit!

We are starting to see some Australian Christmas spirit!

It had been quite a while since we spent an afternoon at a museum, and the Melbourne Museum proved to be the perfect re-introduction to some structured, educational sight seeing.  We took the City-Tram to get there, which is a free trolley car that runs a big circuit around Melbourne for tourists to hop on and off, explaining the various parts of the city and famous landmarks along the way.

In front of a beautiful art gallery on our way to the Melbourne Museum

In front of a beautiful old building on our way to the Museum

The Melbourne Museum was contemporary and sleek, like much of Melbourne's architecture

The Melbourne Museum was contemporary and hip, like much of Melbourne’s architecture

The day was hot and humid, so we began our visit to the museum by cooling off in the IMAX theater and enjoying a film about the annual migration of the Monarch butterfly. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s a MUST – spectacular and fascinating!

3D butterflies were awesome

3D butterflies were awesome

Then, inside the museum, each adult paired off with a child to explore the exhibits that most interested her.  Schuyler and Mumsy headed straight for the Aboriginal Peoples exhibit.  Zoe and Jeff went toward Science and Nature, learning about some of Australia’s creepiest insects and ancient beasts, and Thayer and Blair wandered through the History of Melbourne exhibit where we could see how the earliest settlers lived.  

Zoe meets up with the dinosaurs

Zoe meets up with the dinosaurs

Thayer sits on an old fashioned potty

Thayer sits on an old fashioned potty

All of us took time to wander through the incredible Hall of Mammals, a veritable Noah’s Ark of the mammals of the world.  There were small video cameras attached to computer screens that you could use to focus on any animal, tap the screen with your finger, and find out all about that particular creature. It was amazingly interactive, as was the entire museum for that matter.  

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Help! I’m being eaten by those animals I just saw on safari!

Interactive mammal exhibit was mesmerizing for all of us

Interactive mammal exhibit was mesmerizing for all of us

ZOE: I loved the insect section where we saw 3 to 5-inch beetles and got to smell the stick bug’s poop which smelled like Eucalyptus!  I also loved seeing the fossils and watching the video clips about how they were discovered and removed.  The Hall of Mammals was amazing because I got to learn about which animals were endangered, extinct, or in good shape.  Also, the 3D butterfly movie was so fun. All the butterflies seemed like they were going to hit your face!  All of the little kids in school groups throughout the audience were reaching their hands up trying to catch them during the movie. It was an amazing story about a scientist who finally solved the mystery of the Monarch butterflies — they go all the way to Mexico to a remote mountain top each winter to wait for warmer temperatures back in North America.  It’s an incredible migration! 

SCHUYLER:  I learned a lot about the Native Australians, or Aborigines with Mumsy.  We saw some of their shields and canoes, and there was a display of children’s toys and games from a long time ago.  One thing that stood out to me were some possum robes made by Aboriginal children.  They had sewn patches on the robes, each patch representing a memory.  They were really beautiful! 

THAYER: I loved the museum! It was so fun, I even learned about a famous horse back years ago named Phar Lap from Melbourne. He was a race horse and he won a race in America which no Australian horse had ever done. I got to see a video of how he lived and raced and then the video said he died but they didn’t tell us how he died.  I have been asking mom to get me a book about it so I can learn how he died. It was a sad story to me, but Australians think he was the best horse ever.  Mumsy bought me a stuffed animal of Phar Lap at the gift shop that takes up my entire suitcase.  I love it! 

When not exploring the sights of Melbourne, we spent quite a lot of time planning and prepping for Thayer’s 6th birthday celebration on December 4th.  In the days preceding the big event, Blair puttered around the city picking up some presents that qualified as both packable and happy-making for Thayer. This translates directly as small items that are pink, plastic, and involving lip gloss, fake cell phones, or the word “Barbie” which we finally gave in to after 10 years of strict avoidance — traversing the globe has opened our eyes to the realization that Barbie is indeed an international sensation, gracing the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets in just about every country and city we’ve been to.  We just couldn’t escape her intoxicating  (toxic) charm!  While Blair and Mumsy fretted over where to buy party plates and streamers (this took multiple excursions to sort out), Schuyler and Zoe embarked on a 2-day project designing a fairytale themed scavenger hunt for the birthday girl.  Details below.  When not working away on this, they found time to join Jeff and Thayer at the ice arena for some winterish recreation in the midst of summer! 

Being back on skates felt great for all 3 girls, but especially Schuyler!

Being back on skates felt great for all 3 girls, but especially Schuyler!

Thayer’s birthday request was to go to the Melbourne Aquarium, so we spent the morning of her big day roaming through yet another impressive city-based attraction.  We hand-fed sea horses and gaped at the largest crocodile we had ever seen, walked beneath Manta Rays and cozied up near sea turtles and penguins.  It was an awesome way to begin our day! 

About as close to sharks as she'd like to be

About as close to sharks as she’d like to be

Cool jellyfish

Cool jellyfish

This is actually a prehistoric Crocodile, but we did see a huge live one as well

This is actually a prehistoric Crocodile, but we did see a huge live one as well

Jeff had fun with his arctic friends

Jeff had fun with some arctic pals

The girls could literally climb up inside this tank and peek out at us

The girls could literally climb up inside this tank and peek out at us

Stamping their aquarium "passports"

Stamping their aquarium “passports” after each exhibit

Naturally, like all exhausted parents, we made the classic mistake of exiting through the gift shop. The birthday girl made out like a bandit.

The gift shop on your birthday is akin to winning the Triple Crown

The gift shop on your birthday is akin to winning the Triple Crown

After the aquarium it was back to the hotel for the big party.  Mumsy’s room was decorated with balloons and streamers, and we set up a “make-your-own-cookie” station at the birthday girl’s request — she’s over the whole cake thing apparently.   Schuyler and Zoe handed out name tags for each of us bearing names like Old King Cole and the Fairy Godmother.  

Welcome to the party, please take a name tag!

Welcome to the party, please take a name tag!

Blair and Lee in birthday attire

Blair and Lee ready to party

YUM cookies!

YUM cookies!

Making a wish

Making a wish

Proud parents

Proud parents

After cookies we played pin the tail on the donkey for a little old-school entertainment. 

Thayer mysteriously pinned the tail exactly in the right place each time

Thayer mysteriously pinned the tail exactly in the right place each time

We might have spun Mumsy around a few too many times

We might have spun Mumsy around a few too many times

Schuyler had less luck with her tail pinning.

Schuyler had less luck with her tail pinning.

Thayer was unaware that Jeff found prime real estate on which to pin his tail

Thayer was unaware that Jeff found prime real estate on which to pin his tail

Time for the long-awaited, much fretted over Scavenger Hunt!

SCHUYLER: For Thayer’s birthday we needed to come up with something really special, so Zoe and I decided to set up a scavenger hunt around the hotel. The theme was “fairy tales” and it involved goblins, tooth fairies, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and a few others.  It was so fun to get the concierge staff in on it and to hide the presents between our three rooms, the pool, gym, and lobby!  Each of us had to wear a name tag with a character on it:  Dad was Old King Cole, Mumsy was Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, Mom was the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, Zoe was Alice in Wonderland, and I was Wendy Darling from Peter Pan.  The birthday girl was Thumbelina, Princess of the Fairies of course! Each clue had a particular theme depending on the location of the gift, and we illustrated them with characters from the fairy tales. It took a LONG TIME to organize, but it was worth it when we saw Thayer’s reaction at finding each gift.  I think she felt really special on her birthday. 

Reading her first clue, with older sisters hovering as close as possible

Reading her first clue, with older sisters hovering as close as possible

Taking the elevator in search of clues was part of the fun

Taking the elevator in search of clues was part of the fun

Discovering the clue hidden near the pool

Discovering the clue hidden near the pool

Finding a gift that says Barbie on it!

Finding a gift that says Barbie on it!

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Tearing into a gift found behind Reception

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Thank you Reception Staff for hiding my gifts behind the counter!

Thank you Mumsy for my amazing party and gifts!

Thanking Mumsy for her party and gifts!

It was a birthday to remember, for so many reasons.  We were especially grateful that Mumsy could stay long enough to make the celebration so special.  We said goodbye to her on December 5th with heavy hearts and teary eyes.  After one more night in Melbourne, we headed off as well, this time for a road trip along the famous Great Ocean Road toward Adelaide.  Post to come soooon – G’Day!

Posing by a Melbourne sculpture

Bye from Melbourne!

Categories: AUSTRALIA, Melbourne, Australia

7 comments

  1. Loving the adventure updates! Blair, Thayer looks so much like you 🙂

    Holiday Hugs from Portsmouth!

    Sent from my Samsung Epic™ 4G TouchDemers Gone Global wrote:

  2. Best birthday ever, especially thanks to some fabulous sisters!

  3. I love you guys! You guys seriously know how to have fun! Thayer, you are one lucky (and very loved) girl! I love your donkey tail by the way. I can’t believe your 6 already! Woohoo!

    Zoe-please tell Kaya how semi-good stink bugs really smell. Eucalyptus isn’t all that bad. Did you know that stink bugs petrify Kaya to the point of hysteria? She will not go near one! One time I jokingly acted like I was going to throw one in her face and she cried like a baby!

    We’ve seen the monarch butterfly IMAX movie. I loved the part when all the butterflies were covering an entire tree. After I saw that movie a few years back, my heart would sort of ache anytime I saw a monarch killed by a passing car. It made me sad that it didn’t get a chance to complete it’s journey with all the others.

    Schuyler– i love that white dress! So pretty! You look so grown up!

    Can’t wait for your next post!

  4. Jeff’s “prime real estate”discovery is incredibly alluring. Great blog as always, and I will miss reading it when you are finally home!

  5. Despite our radio silence the ‘boys’ (and their mom) of martine cottage road miss ‘the girls’. Just the other day we got a dumping of snow and they were thinking about the snow day on the pond we spent with you guys! will have to wait for next winter to recreate i guess as you lucky dogs are basking in the sun. The boys are making the best of it of course up skiing in conway where the temperature IN TOWN is -11. i am back in portsmouth catching up on your blog! think you guys are well behind in the video exchange! we miss you! francie

  6. Annika wanted to say something to Thayer (sorry we are late to read this one!): I think that it’s really cool that your sisters put together a scavenger hunt for you all over the hotel. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that. I didn’t get a really good look at your presents, is there a way for you to show me a picture of them? Happy belated birthday!!

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