Weekend in Healesville

We had a four day weekend last weekend, due to the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday. Gotta love Melbourne at it's sports themed public holidays (there is another on in October for the AFL Grand Final). Monday wasn’t an official public holiday but most schools in Melbourne are closed, which is a nice mid-term long weekend for us. 

Initially a group of our friends were going to spend the Saturday of that weekend at the country races in Healesville. This has become somewhat of a yearly tradition with our friends, although last year I didn’t go because Ella was only four months old. I was looking forward to taking her this year though - I think she would have really loved seeing the horses, and it is a pretty kid-friendly venue. Unfortunately due to all the rain we’ve had lately the races were cancelled as the track was too wet. Andy and I had already decided to get an Airbnb and stay in Healesville for the weekend, so although we were disappointed that there were no races, we still went, looking forward to getting out of the city for a few days.

We drove to Healesville on Friday after Andy finished work. It’s normally about an hour from Melbourne but it took us about 90 minutes due to the Friday night traffic. We arrived just in time to put Ella to bed, and thankfully she didn’t seem to have any problem going to sleep in her portacot in a new room. She is such a seasoned traveller! While I put her to sleep Andy went and got us take away pizzas and some local wine, which we enjoyed while watching the film "Catch Me if You Can". (I'm a sucker for anything with Leo in it! I really want to watch his new documentary on climate change called "Before the Flood".)

Our Airbnb was a cosy two bedroom house just off the Main street in Healesville. The furniture was a bit older styled, but otherwise it was perfect for us. The kitchen was well stocked, complete with fresh bread, milk and butter (very helpful with a baby) and there was a huge garden that backed onto a stream and had a very full orange tree. Ella absolutely loved this, oranges are a favourite of hers at the moment, and she happily tried to pick a few for herself.

Picking oranges
Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning and the promise of a high of 25 degrees. Finally, some warm weather! It seriously feels like winter has gone on forever this year. Andy went to get us some coffees from Beechwood Bakery which was a convenient five minute walk from the house. We had a leisurely morning eating breakfast together and playing with Ella, and before we knew it, it was time for her to have a nap. Recently she has transition (most days) to having one big nap for 2-3 hours at around 10:30/11am. During her nap I realised one of the huge appeals to going away for the weekend - there are no chores to do when you are in someone else's home! Usually during Ella's nap time I am always thinking of what needs to get done around the house, or trying to catch up on this blog (what I'm currently doing) or on work. But that morning I just sat outside in the sunny garden, drinking tea and reading the weekend papers. Bliss! I wistfully remember the days when I used to read the paper EVERY weekend while Andy played soccer, back when we were living in London. Oh, how indulgent that now seems!

Reading the paper in the garden at our Airbnb

Once Ella woke up we met with Charlotte, Adam and another couple Jim and Sophie, who had all driven to Healesville for the day. Our first stop was Four Pillars, a gin distillery located on the main street in Healesville. We did a gin tasting, which I can't really tell you much about except that I definitely do NOT like gin on its own! It was a fun change from your regular wine tasting, however it wasn't the most child friendly venue so we decided to move on after about an hour.

Inside the gin distillery

Gin tasting
We drove 15 minutes to Yarrawood Winery, which is VERY child friendly and my favourite Yarra Valley winery at the moment, for that very reason. They have an unpretentious restaurant with good food with both indoor and outdoor seating. Alternatively, there is a huge lawn with picnic blankets where you can sit and enjoy your wine and food, the beautiful views, and also some live music they have on the weekends. There is a croquet lawn set up, along with a few other games. We even saw a kangaroo and some ducks waddling around, which delighted Ella. Her favourite animal sound to make at the moment is "quack quack" (sounds more like "kak kak"), which she does when she sees any animal, and I'm not sure she associated the live duck with the bright yellow one she has in her bath, but it was cute nonetheless.

Kangaroo spotting with daddy

Playing croquet
Ella wants to play too!
We got kicked out once they had closed at 5pm, and decided to go to Innocent Bystander for dinner. This was a bit of a gamble with Ella, as she would have to sit in a high chair for a long period of time, but she was in excellent form that day. I'm sure it was at least partly due to Adam, who was sitting on one side of her for dinner, entertaining her pretty much the whole time. We discovered that day that ice is a good toy, and she had the best time putting it in and out of a glass, finding it pretty interesting that it just disappeared and turned into water after a while. As it was a hot day, and we were sat outside, she didn't make too much of a mess. 

Yum oysters... let me have some Uncle Adam!
Ella and Adam, playing on Snapchat
Around 8pm Ella started to crack it (fair enough as it was well past her bedtime), so Andy and I got some dessert from the bakery section to go and walked back to our Airbnb, which again was helpfully only a five minute walk away. I can highly recommend the brownie and canalé (a french pastry) if you are ever in the area. I'd never heard of canalé before, it has a thick pastry/custard centre flavoured with vanilla and rum, and the outside is caramelised, giving it a pleasant burnt taste. Yum!

Sunday morning we were less leisurely and got ready in time to ride the Yarra Valley Railway, a restored railway line starting in Healesville that meanders through the Yarra Valley. I wasn't sure how Ella would go on this, I thought it might be a bit boring for her, but boy was I wrong! She loved it. She was excitedly bouncing around in her seat and looking out the window when the train pulled away from the station. It was about half an hour long, which was about perfect for her. Once back at Healesville station we played at the pretty epic train themed playground outside, and then took Ella home for her nap. 

Ella and bunny, waiting for the train
Ella loving the train ride!
Family selfie!
Playground outside Healesville station
After nap time we went to the Healesville Sanctuary. Healesville Sanctuary is one of the three zoos that are part of Zoos Victoria. The other two are the Melbourne Zoo and the Weribee Open Range Zoo. We have a yearly membership now as the Melbourne Zoo is pretty close by and good for an afternoon outing with Ella. We spent an hour or two there, getting pretty up close with the kangaroos and checking out the koala bears, before heading back to the house. 

I'm coming to get you, kangaroo!
Koala bears
Ella seemed pretty tired (as I mentioned, she mostly has only one nap now, but if that nap is under two hours she will normally need a power nap around 4pm to get her through until bedtime), so we decided to check out the Black Spur scenic drive, from Healesville to Marysville. The drive winds and curves through massive mountain ash trees, with huge ferns that cover the ground, almost looking like something from Jurassic park. Ella nodded off and we enjoyed the drive listening to the podcast Sophie's Law (a Melbourne based true crime story - very interesting).

Black Spur scenic drive
Monday morning we packed up and were all set to leave in time with Ella's nap, when our first (and only) glitch of the weekend occurred - our car wouldn't start. We called the RACV and they said they would have someone out to help us within the hour. Ella was pretty cranky by then so we had to set up the portacot again and put her to sleep while we waited. I took the opportunity to walk over to Innocent Bystander to get us some coffees, and of course couldn't resist picking up another brownie and canalé to snack on - a silver lining to our car troubles! Luckily there was nothing seriously wrong with the car, just a cold night something or other, blah blah blah, Andy knows what to do if it happens again. And then we were off, back to home to Melbourne and reality, already planning our next family weekend away!


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