Thursday, 26 November 2015

Hoyts Crying Room

When I was pregnant, one of the main things people told us to do before having a baby was to go to the movies. According to these experienced parents, we wouldn't be able to do this for YEARS once we'd had a child. This wasn't hugely devastating news to me as we are not major movie goers anyway, however I will admit it can be pretty nice to go and see an excellent movie on the big screen with a huge tube of popcorn and just chill out for a few hours. 

I had heard of cinemas here doing "Mums and Bubs" movie sessions during the day, which is one of those things that sounds fun at first, but then when you really think about it sounds kind of horrible. A dark room full of babies all crying at different times while trying to watch a movie, anxiously waiting for your own baby to start crying? No thanks. I think I'd rather stay home and watch a movie for free with just my own crying baby to worry about.

The closest cinema to us is Hoyts Victoria Gardens in Richmond. When I went to enquire about the Mums and Bubs sessions they told me only ran once a month. However, they told me, they do have a "crying room". A crying room?! This I had never heard of, but it is a fantastic idea. Two of their biggest theatres have a small, soundproof room with seven seats at the back of the theatre. There is a big pane of glass to watch the movie through and the sounds is piped in through speakers. So you can watch the movie with your baby, safe in the knowledge that if they start crying you are not disturbing other customers, and you can continue to watch the film. Brilliant!

Ella at 6 weeks in the crying room

I've since been twice to the movies and its been a great experience. The first time was with my mom, we saw the movie "Trainwreck" when Ella was about six weeks old. She did indeed cry during the adverts at the start, but then slept through the whole movie on my mom. Success! The great thing about the room is that it is like you are in your own personal movie theatre, so I could also talk to my mom during the film without annoying anyone else. (When we went it was actually a Monday afternoon so I think there were like two other people in the main theatre anyway, but you get the idea).

Yesterday I went again with two of my other mummy friends to see "Mockingjay Part 2". We decided to go as the weather was 33 degrees and windy, which is not fun weather to hang out in with an infant. A cool air conditioned cinema seemed like a much better idea.  This time I didn't think Ella would sleep the whole time as she is older and doesn't just drop off for a sleep after a feed like she used to. However luckily she woke from her morning nap about two hours before the start of the film, so she actually did sleep most of the time as she was due a nap anyway. I brought the Hug a Bub wrap for her to sleep in, and she cuddled up inside next to me from the start of the film until about 15 minutes before the end. Well done Ella! The only thing was it was quite a loud movie, even in the crying room, so I spent most of the movie with my hand covering her exposed ear thinking a loud sound would wake her up. (This never happened... it is amazing what babies sleep through when they are in a deep sleep!)

Ella at 4.5 months - checking out the Maltesers!

So there you go, Hoyts cinemas are amazing. This is just another example of how child friendly this city is, I love it! The only real downfall is that you have limited selection of the movie you want to see as there is only a crying room in two theatres, but hey, when it comes to being able to get out of your house and do something with your baby that isn't stressful you tend to be less picky about things like that!

Friday, 20 November 2015

City 2 Sea

Last weekend I participated in City 2 Sea, a 15km run from... you guessed it... the city to the sea! Andy and I did this run back in 2013, when it was 14km and started at the Arts Centre on St. Kilda road. For whatever reason the race organisers extended the race by a kilometer and this year it started at the MCG.

Now, back in my pre-pregnancy days a 15km race would not have been a huge deal. Not that I am some sort of amazing runner, but I did get out and run a few times a week, and have done a few half and full marathons. While pregnant I stopped running altogether after the first trimester, and wasn't able to start running again until about two months after Ella was born. I stupidly thought that signing up for this race, four and a half months after giving birth, would be good motivation to get back into shape. Quite an attainable goal, I thought to myself. Unfortunately it didn't quite work out like that! Not only has it taken me longer to get back into shape physically (and I am no where near where I used to be), but I don't actually feel like I have the time to go running anymore. During the day I am obviously with Ella (and I don't have one of those cool jogging prams... maybe I should get one?!) and in the evenings Andy and I sort of alternate who gets to go out and do exercise. This is one of the things I really miss about our pre-baby lives: being able to exercise together. Andy and I both like running, swimming, cycling and yoga (ok, I like yoga and Andy would grudgingly join me sometimes) so it was nice to do those things together. Now we do go on walks with Ella together but anything else is on our own really.

Anyway, back to the race. Andy and Ella came with me to the start and then drove down to St. Kilda to meet me at the end. Pre-race I had these lovely images of running to the finish line, and then spotting Andy and Ella cheering me on, Ella's face lighting up when she saw me, and then having a burst of energy to finish the race. HAHAHA. The reality was a bit different...

We arrived at the MCG at 8am to meet Adam, Charlotte, and Charlotte's brother Luke. I, of course, had to use the toilet before starting. The toilet lines were pretty much the longest I have ever seen at the start of a race. It was ridiculous. I waited in line for about 40 minutes and there were still over 20 people in front of me to use two toilets. I'm not sure why there weren't more toilets, or why they didn't some in the MCG. This was a huge mistake on the race organisers, in my opinion. Having to go to the bathroom while you are running is the worst! Especially if you have just had a baby. Everyone from my start group had started before I go the chance to go, so I panicked and left the toilet queue and started my run, hoping to find a toilet on the way. What a mistake! About 200 metres in I seriously thought I was going to have an accident, and thankfully there was an empty cafe that I ducked into to use their toilet. I'm sure the girl working there thought that hoards of runners were going to start streaming in after me, but luckily no one followed me in. After that I felt much better and was able to settle into a nice, steady pace.

I had my phone with me but hadn't put together a specific playlist, which is always a pre-race mistake. I just had my whole library on shuffle which meant I was constantly flipping past songs that were too slow, or I just wasn't "feeling" on my run. The course was good, nice and flat, and the weather was cool in the morning, about 14 degrees and cloudy, pretty much perfect for a run. I just didn't have a great time. The whole bathroom thing was a terrible start, and it meant that I didn't even get to start the run with my friends and was running alone the whole time. The longest run I'd done in "training" was 7km, which wasn't even halfway, so I think in my mind I kept questioning what the heck I was doing! I did have a loose plan which I stuck to of walking at each drink station, every 3.5km, and for the last 4km I walked about 100m every kilometer. That sort of kept me going, because I only ever had to run 900m at a time and at that point my legs were starting to tire. 

As I ran down Fitzroy street towards the finish I pictured Andy and Ella waiting for me and searched for them through the crowds. However traffic and parking was so horrible that Andy only arrived in St. Kilda just before I completed the run, and didn't have time to get to the finish line. So that was a pretty big letdown! When I found them after the race, Ella was cranky as she was now hungry and the milk we had for her was too cold, so we left quickly and walked 20 minutes back to the car with an unhappy baby. Andy had to carry her the whole time so that she wouldn't cry. Once we got back to the car we realized that she'd had a huge poo and that was probably why she was so upset. We changed her in the back of the car (always a fun place to change a baby) and then left the busyness of St. Kilda to find a quiet cafe to feed Ella and ourselves.

Basically, this was one of my worst races ever, mainly due to things that were my fault: Not training properly, not having a good music playlist, not having a plan of how to warm Ella's milk. I do blame the toilet situation on the race organisers though!

Once we got to the cafe it was like a huge relief to just be in a calm, quiet environment with Ella. We are realising more and more that lots of the things we used to love doing are just not as fun with a baby. I know that it will only be like this for a short period of time though, and things like this will get better as she gets older. However, it is times like these that I feel the absence of close family - I know either of our parents would have happily watched Ella and the race so that we could have both run it stress-free. It really is a different experience being new parent expats, and I find myself again questioning why we chose this life, and how much easier things would be if we had just stayed in the UK or gone to Canada! But, there is no point in dwelling on this, and of course we need to enjoy the time we have here in Melbourne - just maybe at a slower pace while Ella is still small!

Charlotte, Adam and me at the finish 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Swimming Lessons

A couple of weeks ago we started taking Ella to swimming lessons. Most of the pools around us, in Yarra Council, will only let you start lessons with babies that are at least six months old, but the pool that is owned by Andy's school, part of Paul Sadler Swimland, starts with babies that are four months old. And even better, babies that are four and five months old swim free. Four months old is the recommended starting age by Swim Australia, as by then babies' immune systems have started to mature and they have established a bond with their primary carers. They also say to start earlier rather than later, as babies naturally like the water (they were in water for nine months in the womb, and usually bath time is very pleasant for them), but they can start to develop fears about water as they get older. This does mean that we have to trek across the city to the western suburb of Sunshine for the lessons, so once she hits six months we might look for a pool closer to home. 

Ella has had three lessons so far, and she seems to really like them. I wouldn't say she is loving them yet, as she isn't smiling or giggling heaps, but she isn't crying either so we are taking that as a good sign. Andy has gone in the pool with her every time so far, but eventually I will get in with her as well. They have not had hot water in the showers at the pool the past two weeks, so there is no way I am going until that is fixed! I'm actually having a ball watching them... before having a baby I thought that watching your kids do all their various activities must be SO boring, but I couldn't have been more wrong! It's like, the best thing ever! I'm the crazy one taking loads of pictures at the side of the pool. To be fair, there are other mums doing this as well!

Ella's lessons pretty much consist of her being in an inflatable ring and Andy pushing her around the pool, kicking her legs for her, singing songs, and tummy time on a floating raft. The older babies crawl across the raft, but Ella is not quite there yet. At some point we will have to completely dunk her head under water, but for now she just gets the side of her face wet, prompting her to close her eyes when her face touches the water.

After swimming we've started a little family tradition of going for brunch (What? Brunch? On a Saturday morning? In Melbourne? How original...) I thought we'd sample some new cafes from the west side of Melbourne but so far we've ended up going to the same place twice, called West 48. Both times we have been there the food and service have been amazing. The first time we both ordered the special, which was waffles with bacon two ways (I'm not even sure what that means...), poached eggs, blueberry mascarpone cream and honeycomb. It was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury for me, although Andy said he found it too sweet by the end. I actually would go as far to say that it was one of my favourite brunch plates ever, and that is saying something. Ella was so tired after her first swimming lesson that she fell asleep on Andy's lap in the cafe, and stayed asleep while we put her in the car and drove home. Being pushed around a pool is hard work!

Post swimming brunch at West 48
This week we ordered two different meals to share, which I can hardly ever convince Andy to do, so that was a win. We again tried the special of the day which was soft shelled tacos with pulled beef and beans, corn salsa, avocado and fried eggs. Our second dish was a sweet one, ricotta hotcakes with vanilla mascarpone cream, poached pears and topped with a white chocolate and macadamia crumble. Amazing!! This week Ella stayed awake through brunch and stared at our food while we ate. She now will follow the fork from plate to our mouth and makes chewing motions while she stares at the food... I think she is telling us she wants some! So this week we will start introducing solids to her by way of cooked and pureed veggies. I am looking forward to this new milestone and also to the look on Andy's face when he sees what a mess she makes!

Give me some food!!

I don't usually talk about current events on here, but I do feel the need to mention the atrocious acts that happened today in Paris. We have been fortunate enough to have had a wonderful day with Ella, those in France have suffered a day of horror after the coordinated shootings and bombings across the capital. I have contacted those that I know living there and have heard back that they are ok thankfully. My thoughts are with those who have lost someone. It is sometimes sad and scary to think about raising a child in a world where attacks like these are becoming more and more common. I hope that those in power and they media start to think about and report on the underlying causes of terrorism and what we can do without responding to violence with violence. This TED talk called "The Surprising way groups like ISIS stay in power" is very interesting and though-provoking. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cup Weekend in Lakes Entrance

Last Tuesday was Melbourne Cup, which is Australia's biggest horse racing event, held on the first Tuesday in November every year. It is a public holiday in Victoria, and most schools in the Melbourne area have the Monday off as well. We decided to spend the four day weekend in Lakes Entrance with our friends Charlotte, Adam, Chris and Ness. Lakes Entrance is in Gippsland, about 320km east of Melbourne. The Gippsland Lakes are the largest inland network of waterways in Australia, and Lakes Entrance is located where these lakes meet the Southern Ocean. 

Sleeping baby in the car!
We headed off on Saturday morning in two cars, girls (including Ella) in one and boys in the other. I have no idea what the boys talked about although I can guess it consisted mostly of football, the activities we would do that weekend, and moaning about their respective wives/girlfriends ;) All three couples are going through some big life changes at the moment: Obviously Andy and I just had a baby, Chris and Ness are expecting their first child in March, and Charlotte and Adam just moved in together. So lots of deep and meaningful conversations about life in the girls car. (No moaning about husbands and boyfriends in our car... nooooo, of course not!)

We drove for about the first 2.5 hours straight, our first stop dictated by when Ella woke from her nap in the car. We had lunch at a place called Wa-De-Lock Cellar Door in Stratford, fed Ella, and then headed back to the cars for the last hour and a half. Ella slept most of the way, which was very considerate of her!

Lunch break with Uncle Adam!
We stayed in a five bedroom holiday home with an amazing view over one of the lakes (located on the aptly named View Street!) Adam did the booking for us, and as usual came up aces. We had two big lounge rooms, three bathrooms, two deck areas, a pool and BBQ - more than enough room for six adults and a baby. Our only real complaint was that some of the decor was a bit tired, mainly the bathrooms, and also they could have done with a new BBQ (or so I'm told from the boys!)

View of the lake from the lounge room
Kitchen area in our holiday house
We arrived in the late afternoon. Chris, Adam and Ness went to get groceries for the weekend while Charlotte stayed home to get some work finished off. Andy and I dealt with Ella - early evening is her notoriously fussy time, so we took her for a walk through the main street in town to get some fresh air after having been in the car most of the day. Andy also had to work out the nearest place for his daily morning coffee run!

That evening we had the first of three amazing BBQs. Chris and Adam did the majority of the cooking on the trip, and we enjoyed a variety of barbecued meat along with fresh local prawns, halloumi, corn and salad each evening. Because of this we didn't end up sample any of the local restaurants, however I think we probably ate much better this way, and of course saved money in the process. 

On Sunday we rented a small boat to explore the lakes and waterways. The weather was calling for thunderstorms, but luckily these held off until the evening and we had beautiful blue skies up until then. I was a bit apprehensive about having Ella on the boat all day. I wore her in the Hug a Bub most of the time while on the boat (when I say boat... it was a pretty small motorboat that went a maximum of 5 knots) which worked well until the afternoon when it got pretty hot. We stopped off to check out the Ninety Mile Beach, which is the third longest uninterrupted beach in the world. We only stayed a short time there though, as the ocean was freezing and probably too rough to swim in. Or second stop was on a beach on a lake, where we had some shade to lay Ella in. She seemed to enjoy the beach, and the boys got in a game of skim ball so of course they were happy!

We're on a boat!
Ninety Mile Beach
Beach selfie!
Skim ball in the lake

Beach baby
We then set off to find a place for lunch, and ended up scoring an amazing table. As we moored our boat next to some tables on the dock, overlooking the lake, the family at the table next to our boat asked if we wanted their table as they were just about to leave. Awesome timing! Andy and I split the fish and chips which was delicious. It ended up getting pretty hot through the afternoon and having Ella in the Hug a Bub started to get pretty uncomfortable. Andy and I decided we would head back to our house after lunch, thinking the others would want to do a bit more exploring, but it turned out that everyone was happy to go back as well.

Lunch lakeside
We spent a bit of time in the pool when we got home... well the other four did while Andy and I tried to settle Ella to sleep for a nap for about an hour! The thunder and lightening storms arrived in the early evening, which made for a pretty good show out the full-length windows overlooking the lake. Everyone was pretty tired after the full day in the sun so we all had pre-dinner naps, because, why not? That's what holiday weekends are for.

We had another amazing BBQ that evening along with games of Uno, Cards Against Humanity (Aussie version, not nearly as funny as the UK version), and "that game with the words" which has no name but those that know us will understand!

Monday was pretty cool and rainy all day. Andy and I were up early with Ella while everyone else had a lie-in... parenthood... sigh... But then we both went on a nice long run (alternating of course, sadly we can no longer go on runs together.) Adam, Charlotte, Andy and I are meant to be doing the City to Sea run on 15th November, which is a 15km run from the city centre down to St. Kilda. None of us have done a huge amount of training so it should be interesting to say the least. I have already conceded to doing this as a walk/run, and am definitely not worried about getting any sort of PB!

Tuesday we packed up the house and started our long drive back to Melbourne. We had two stops along the way. Well we tried to stop for brunch first only to realise that everything was closed because of Melbourne Cup. There was only one small bakery that was open and seemed overwhelmed by the amount of people there that day, as it was the only place to get a coffee and something to eat. So after that our first real stop was Raymond Island, located in Paynesville in Gippsland. To get to Raymond Island you catch a ferry which costs $11 for cars or is free for pedestrians and departs every 20 minutes. We took our cars across as we didn't know how far we would have to drive to get to the famous Koala walk... turns out it is basically on the other side of the river. Oops! So not recommended to bother paying to take your car!

Chalotte and Adam with Ella - great friends and so helpful with the baby!
The Koala walk is about 1km long and you are pretty much guaranteed to see a lot of koalas. We saw koalas sleeping (of course), eating, climbing a tree, and we even saw one sitting on the ground at the base of a tree. We also saw a few echidnas just walking around on people's front lawns. The only downside to this walk was there were quite a few mosquitoes and I ended up with about 10 bites on my legs and back, and also stressing that Ella would get bitten. I can only imagine how annoying a mosquito bite would be for a baby. 

Koala spotting

Our second stop was at a pub somewhere between Lakes Entrance and Melbourne to watch the Melbourne Cup. So much fuss for a three minute race - I will never understand it, but who I am to question a public holiday?! This year for the first time a woman jockey won which was pretty cool. Unfortunately none of us thought to bet on her, so no big winnings from our group.

The rest of the ride home was not that fun with Ella as she was pretty cranky and tired from being in the car a lot of the day. We ended up having to stop a few times to feed her or just cuddle her to calm her down. Poor Charlotte was in our car with us and had to put up with the crying and also Andy and I getting stressed about it! We did finally calm her down and she slept the last 45 minutes or so back to Melbourne, and then thankfully had a good nights sleep when we got in.

And that was our weekend. Whew, that was a long post. Thanks for reading to this point!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Back to the Motherland

Well, back to Andy's motherland anyway, and my adopted one! After spending a week in Portugal we flew back to England for nine days. We split our time between Andy's parents house near Portsmouth and Lee and Claire's place in North London. Lee is Andy's best friend who we met up with in Vietnam earlier this year.

A few highlights and observations...

  • Ella had the opportunity to meet her only living great-grandparent, Andy's paternal grandmother. Ella is also her first great-grandchild so the meeting was pretty special all around. Andy's family is full of boys (his dad is one of 2 boys, and they have two boys each) so Ella is the first girl as well. Andy's grandmother gave us some of her jewellery to pass on to Ella which will be such a lovely way for her to be remembered by Ella.

Ella with her great-grandmother
  • We had a great afternoon at the pub The Alwyne Castle in Islington where lots of our friends came to say hello. That night was the England/Wales rugby match which meant the pub got pretty rowdy once that started... I did the responsible mum thing and took my baby back to Lee's with Claire. Although she was in a deep sleep in the Hug a Bub, even through all the yelling and cheering.

Ella meeting Alison at The Alwyne Castle

Alwyne Castle - Ella and Sinead (aka Sweaty Betty), before the pub got packed!
Mmmmmm hamburger!
  • The tube is not a fun place to have a baby. Not all stations have lifts, and for many of those that do you have to walk miles to find them (I'm looking at you, Green Park). It's also super loud and screechy. Actually all of London is loud. You notice these kinds of things a lot more with a baby.

Ella's first tube ride
  • Living in Melbourne we are obviously massive coffee snobs, and wouldn't be caught dead in a Starbucks anymore (not totally true... airports are an exception!) Luckily Harris + Hoole has a branch outside of Southgate Station which is where Claire and Lee live.  It's almost like being in Melbourne, except of course its a chain and we don't have any of those here in Melbourne ;)

Morning Coffees at Harris + Hoole, Southgate

  • My dear friend Guillaume unfortunately got sick right before Kristin's wedding which meant he was not able to attend. Luckily I found an evening to travel down to Brixton to visit him when he was feeling better, and we were joined by our friend Jamie for a few beers at the Trinity Arms in Brixton. It felt just like old times and I was so sad to have to leave them at what would have been considered ridiculously early before baby Ella came along! Miss those guys :(

The Emirates Spinnaker Tower

  • We spent the day before we left in Portsmouth with Andy's parents. We did Dave's favourite walk along the seafront, the Renaissance Trail from Old Portsmouth to the Spinnaker Tower. Earlier this year Emirates sponsored the tower (making it the Emirates Spinnaker Tower) and they wanted to repaint it red and white, the colours of the airline. However, those also happen to be the colours of Southampton Football Club, Portsmouth's biggest rivals. After huge public outcry they relented, and they were in the process of repainting part of it "gold" (yellow) when we were there. Looked much better when it was all white, if you ask me!

Portsmouth Harbour

Walking along the seafront in Portsmouth

Last night snuggles with Grandad

  • All in all we had a lovely time in England, and as usual it went by way too quickly. We are so grateful for the quality time Ella got to spend with her grandparents, and for Lee and Claire for being such amazing hosts while we were in London. We are going back to London in June/July next year for Lee and Claire's wedding (Andy is best man), and we are already looking forward to that. 

Gearing up for our 25 hours of travel!
Apologies in advance for any typos... I am frantically trying to publish post before we go away for the long weekend!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Colares and Sintra

So, whenever we go on holiday I feel like I have to completely update this blog with every detail of what we did. Then I feel completely overwhelmed with writing and end up writing nothing. So I am going to keep this short and sweet in order to get it done, so that I can move on with the blog!

After my friend Kristin's wedding, we had a couple of days in Colares to spend with Andy's family before going back to England. Colares is in the region of Sintra (which, confusingly, is also a town), about 30km west of Lisbon. It is about a 10 minute drive to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. There is not much to do in Colares itself (although we were surprised to learn there are 20 restaurants listed on Trip Advisor!), however it has a beautiful, calm old world feel to it, and the restaurants we ate at (especially Sussegard) were very good. One of the highlights of the trip for me was walking five minutes down to a local coffee shop for a morning coffee and a Portuguese custard tart (Pastéis de Nata).
Walking through Colares near our airbnb
Colares old town square - Sussegard Restaurant on the left
Colares town centre
Coming back from our morning coffee and 'Nata' run

We spent two days exploring castles in the Sintra area. The first was the Park and National Palace of Pena. The Palace itself is brightly coloured and almost looks out of place surrounded by the natural beauty of the park. The castle is a good 45 minute walk uphill through the gardens, although there is an option to get a bus. The park/gardens surrounding the castle are lush, and there are pretty spectacular views once you get to the Palace. You can walk through the interior which Andy's family did, however Andy and I decided to walk back down to the car as it was getting pretty hot and Ella was in need of food. We ended up feeding her in the car, ah, the life of a breastfeeding mom, so glamorous!

Palace of Pena

The second castle was Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors). This castle was built in the 10th century so all that is left of it are the ruins. You can walk along the fortress walls high in the hills (where you have a great view across to the Palace of Pena) and again there are pretty amazing views all the way around. Not great for those afraid of heights, there are no guardrails along the walls and it was quite windy at times so it's important to watch your step!

Castle of the Moors

We also spent an afternoon in the town centre of Sintra. It's cute and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was VERY busy and touristy. The first time we tried to visit we ended up turning around and going home as we couldn't find a parking spot. 

The Hug a Bub wrap came in really handy while exploring the castles and Sintra as walking around with a pram would have been pretty annoying. Lots of cobblestone, narrow paths, and plenty of other tourists to contend with. We weren't the only ones that thought this - we saw plenty of other babies being carried by their parents on these trips. I am a little bit obsessed with "babywearing" at the moment (yes that's actually a word) and am currently on the hunt for a more structured carrier for Ella as she gets bigger. I have actually booked a "babywearing consultant" to come and help me choose the right one... Yes I am aware of how ridiculous (and middle class) that sounds but there are so many to choose from and they are pretty expensive so I've decided this will be the best way to find one that both Ella and I find comfortable. Andy just rolled his eyes at me when I told him. I will update next week once I've had the consultation.

 We had a fantastic time in Portugal once we got over the initial rush and stress of getting there. It was wonderful to have the opportunity for us and Ella to spend some quality time with Andy's family, and I know his parents loved being able to get to know their first grandchild.

After Portugal we flew back to England spending time between Portsmouth and London which I will write about in the next post. Hopefully it doesn't take me too long to write that one!

Auntie Lauren
Uncle Russ
Changing diapers... a three man job!

Playing with Grandad

Friday, 2 October 2015

A Wedding In Portugal

Our primary reason for travelling to Europe at this time of year was so that I could be in my good friend Kristin's wedding. Kristin is Canadian and her (now) husband Dan is English, and instead of picking one person's country over another for the wedding, they decided to have it in a place they had enjoyed travelling to together a few times. So Portugal it was, and luckily they chose a date that fell within school holidays so we were able to attend.

Originally Andy and I had booked flights to arrive in England on a Sunday, and then fly to Portugal on Thursday in time for the wedding on Saturday. We figured that would give us enough time for us and Ella to adjust to the time difference, while giving us some time with Ella's grandparents in Portsmouth before going. Alas, it was not to be, due to our issues in getting Ella's passport in time we ended up arriving in England on Wednesday afternoon, just in time for our flight to Portugal on Thursday. I will do a separate post on flying with an infant later, once we have survived the flights home, however suffice to say I don't recommend doing 25 hours from Melbourne to London and then immediately returning to the airport for another flight the next day!

Nevertheless, we were thankful that we got to London in time to make our Portugal flights, and we arrived without any major incident in Lisbon on Thursday afternoon. So far, so good. We collected our rental car (complete with infant car seat) from the airport and were on our way to our airbnb in the small village of Colares.

A big lesson learned once we left the airport: If you are driving in a foreign country and have no idea where you are going, it is helpful to use the airport wifi before you leave to get Google Maps to download a map of the area. Although you can't use the directions function in the app if you don't have 3G, you can still see the roads and the little blue dot that tells you where you are. We did not do this, and instead relied on the Sat Nav given to us by the car rental company. This is all well and good until you miss the exit to the main highway and the Sat Nav re-routes to take you though a major city during rush hour. Cue an angry Andy, not only trying to get used to driving on the right side of the road, but also cursing me for renting a manual car... Oops!

Long story short, it basically took us three hours to get to our airbnb, when it should have taken less than one. The address of our airbnb was not recognised in the Sat Nav, and it kept taking us on small, windy, dangerous (in my opinion) roads. We should have just tried to follow an old fashioned map rather than relying on the Tom Tom, as when we went back to the airport the next day to pick up Andy's parents we realised our mistake and the drive was rather straightforward. 

We arrived pretty exhausted and thankfully found an amazing restaurant a five minute walk away called Sussegad. We had a delicious meal which Ella thankfully slept through and then went straight to bed. Unfortunately Ella did not get the memo that we had changed time zones and woke pretty much every three hours through the night. Infant jet lag... it's just like going back to having a newborn!

Friday morning we went to visit Kristin at the wedding venue, which was a rustic, vintage style Quinta in Colares. It was so, so great to see her, especially as we had come close to not being able to attend the wedding. Kristin was probably the most relaxed bride you will ever meet, totally chilled and in control the morning before her wedding. I think I was more stressed than her, I only tried on my dress for the wedding that day, and had to rush out and buy shoes and some accessories that afternoon. Thankfully everything worked out, my dress just fit (not quite at my pre-pregnancy weight yet!) and I found some great shoes and a handbag in a shopping centre nearby. Who doesn't love an excuse to buy new shoes?!

We had a quick visit and then Andy and I left for our shoe shopping and to pick up Andy's parents back at Lisbon airport. We were all staying in our villa (along with Andy's brother and his girlfriend Lauren, who arrived a day later) for a bit of a family holiday after the wedding. While at the airport I purchased formula for Ella for the first time. I was getting majorly stressed that I would not be able to express enough milk for her to get through the wedding and would have to leave part way through the reception to feed her. This was to be the first night that Andy and I would both be baby-free, so I did want to try and enjoy myself! I did feel guilty about the formula, however she has been exclusively breastfed for three months so a little formula so mummy can have one night out surely won't kill her!

Saturday morning started with a huge breakfast at the Quinta for the wedding party. After that we went to meet up with all my London friends who were staying at a nearby villa. It is because of friends like these I still get homesick for London. These guys have been my friends for most of my seven years of London and have seen me through my many ups and downs of living there. It was so amazing to see them and to introduce them to Ella. I don't often think I want to move back to London, but I do wish I still lived nearer to these guys. If only they would just all move to Melbourne!

After that Betty and I went back to the Quinta to get ready for the wedding. From this point on I was baby-free for the day, and I must say, I love my daughter, but it was nice to not be a mum for a while! I will admit that I did have some pangs of longing for my child-free days when I saw all my friends staying together at their villa, free of any responsibility, not thinking of anyone but themselves. Ahhh, I do miss those days! It goes without saying that of course I wouldn't trade what I have now though :)

Ultra-relaxed bride Kristin did her own make-up and her sister did her hair, and we were free to do our own as well. I am a pretty crap girly-girl and am hopeless at hair and make-up so was feeling slightly stressed about this until I reminded myself that no one would be looking at me! Kristin looked absolutely gorgeous and I was so, so happy for my friend.

The ceremony was simple and classic, with Dan's dad singing an Irish folk song that he wrote, bringing tears to everyones eyes. After the ceremony there was a drinks reception in the garden of the Quinta, which was surrounded by gorgeous gardens and set up with quirky, vintage furniture. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies and nearly 30 degrees, and soon enough it was time for dinner. This was also outside on a long table for all the guests. The speeches were great - not too long and very funny, especially the best man speech. Kristin is one of four children, and her three siblings did a very touching speech together. At the end Andy turned to me and said "We need to have more children... three, four at least!" Awwww! (But seriously... No)

I lasted until about midnight until a mixture of guilt and tiredness took over. Ella was apparently very good for her grandparents, sleeping most of the time we were at the wedding. Of course this meant that she was up quite a few times in the night, and I was glad that I had been easy on the alcohol. Oh, and she didn't even end up needing any of that formula in the end - as usual, a lot of worry over nothing!

The next day lots of people from the wedding went to the beach. We attempted to join but discovered very quickly that a baby on a beach is pretty much the least fun thing ever. They can't go in the sun, or the sea (which was freezing anyway!), you don't want them to get sandy, etc, etc. Basically it will be a few more months until we can enjoy taking Ella places like that. 

And then that was it! All the wedding fun was sadly over, and it will be Christmas when we are able to see the bride and groom again when we stay with my parents in Canada. But it was a great weekend, and I am so glad that we actually made it and I was able to take part in such a special day!

Me with the beautiful bride

Fun times during the reception

Lovely dinner table

A beautiful sunset during dinner