Puffing Billy

Last weekend, our first of the school holidays, was a very busy one with Dave and Bunny. On Saturday morning we woke up to much cooler weather - the fresh autumnal mornings are upon us! We got going early and headed to the Dandenong Ranges to take a ride on Puffing Billy.

Puffing Billy is, apparently, one of the most well-preserved steam trains in the world. It runs along a 25km track from Belgrave to Gembrook, through the mountainous terrain of the Dandenong Ranges. Belgrave station is about 45 minutes from Melbourne, so it is a very easy day trip. We decided not to do the whole track, because we thought it would be too long for Ella. Instead we booked one-way tickets from Belgrave to Emerald (about halfway to Gembrook), which is a 50 minute journey. Andy drove between stations, dropping us off at Belgrave and picking us up at Emerald so we didn't have to do the return. We took the first train of the day, which was at 10:30am. We were not able to pre-book tickets online for a one-way journey, only returns, so we had to just take a chance that it would not be sold out. It was pretty busy as it was the first weekend of the school holidays but luckily we were able to get on the train.

Ella loves watching trains pass in Melbourne, so we thought she would like this. She did, although it was challenging to keep her seated the whole time. I had a range of snacks for her; bribing her with food was pretty much the only way to keep her seated. I did have to hold her up against the open sides of the train so she could see outside better. She loved it when the train went around a bend so she could see the front of the train, pumping out steam and tooting its horn. The train passes through some gorgeous scenery of leafy fern and tall Mountain Ash trees as it meanders through the Dandenong Ranges.

The next station after Belgrave is Menzies Creek, about 30 minutes away. We stopped here for seven minutes. There isn't much at this station, so the stop was mostly just so people could use the bathroom. Once we got going again we passed Andy, who was stopped at a train crossing in the car. We all waved at him, which I thought Ella would love, but instead she burst into tears. Oops! We then had to try and convince her that we would see him at the end of the train ride. 

About 20 minutes later we arrived in Emerald which was where our journey ended. There is a great playground next to the station where we let Ella run around while we waited for Andy to catch up with us. There were a few cute shops in the town which Bunny and I would have like to go in, but of course Dave and Andy kept us marching along! We went for lunch at an excellent café called The General Food Store. It was about a 10 minute walk from the train station, and there are a few others that are much closer, but this was well worth the walk. Tummies full, we headed back to Melbourne for the afternoon. Andy and I had an engagement party to attend, while Dave and Bunny helpfully babysat Ella for us. 

Waiting for daddy at Emerald Station

Checking out the plants at The General Food Store

On Sunday the clocks went back an hour to end daylight savings. What a great time of year this is for people without children. An extra hour of sleep! For us, it meant a wake up time of 5:30am. Yawn. 

By 8am we were all ready to get out of the house (read: Ella was driving us crazy), so we ventured to a kid friendly café for brunch that I'd been wanting to try for a while called Miss Marmalade. It's in Brunswick, but unfortunately just a bit too far to walk to on a regular basis. What a find this was though! The café has two separate seating areas. The front if for your regular brunching adults, and the back room is geared towards families complete with play area. Ella did some colouring at a small table while we waited for our food, although she was a bit shy so Andy and I had to take turns staying with her. There are also tons of high chairs and booster seats available and a very good kids menu. For the first time Ella drank the entire babycino we ordered for her, helped, I'm sure, by the fact that it was sprinkled with chocolate! It was also served in a child-size coffee cup which I think she liked. The whole experience at Miss Marmalade was great. A delicious menu and staff that are very attentive and patient with children, along with things to occupy the little ones while you wait for your food. Once we finished eating Ella went back to the play area, a bit more confidently on her own this time. In fact it was hard to get her to leave!

Mmmmm babycino!

Play area at Miss Marmalade
One block away was a playground so we went for a play here before heading home for her nap. (Side note: I am so grateful for the amount of playgrounds there are in Melbourne. Seriously, they are everywhere. The amount of green, open space in the city is one of my favourite things about living here.)

Swinging with daddy

Something for all ages at this park!
Sunday afternoon Andy was coaching soccer, so once Ella woke up we all went to watch the game. We arrived just before the end of the first half, and his team was down 1-0. Ella happily ran up and down the field, sometimes watching the game, but mostly just playing her own games of who knows what in her head. She does this thing now where she starts walking backwards, going "beep beep beep" as if she is a truck backing up. Hilarious. Andy's team went down 2-0 at the start of the second half, but then scored a goal with about five minutes left. So it could have been an exciting finish, but unfortunately there was no last minute goal to tie the game and they lost 2-1. Ah well. It was pretty cold and windy at the game so I was pretty happy to go home after that!

Watching daddy coach soccer
So it was a pretty full weekend, but a great start to our school holidays. Next up: my mom arrives (tomorrow, yay!) and the Bali on Wednesday (double yay!) 


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