Monday, 20 April 2015

Nha Trang

Ah, what can I say about our time in Nha Trang? It's the beach capital of Vietnam, located on the southeastern coast. We flew there from Ho Chi Minh City, which took about an hour with VietJet airlines, Vietnam's low cost airline. I must say for a budget flight it was pretty good, nice new planes with decent legroom. If you don't want to brave the trains to travel around the country, this is a good option.

Our taxi from the airport took us along the beautiful coastline, past posh resorts and lush golf courses. And then, about half an hour later, you arrive in Nha Trang. I feel like Nha Trang is Vietnam's version of Surfer's Paradise, or Magaluf in Spain. A beautiful beach, but you don't really want to turn around and look at the city behind you. If you like bright, neon signs out front of every single shop/restaurant/hotel, you will love this place.

We stayed at the Dendro Hotel, on the main road Tran Phu, which runs parallel to the beach. Upon arrival, we were told we had been upgraded to a Sea view room. Fantastic! We did have an excellent view of the sea... unfortunately this also came with the noise of the road and Russian Karaoke until about 1:30am in the morning. I have a sneaky suspicion our "upgrade" came as a result other guests demanding to be moved rooms, as we did after the first night. There was nothing wrong with this hotel per se, and the staff were lovely as we'd come to expect in Vietnam. However there is no way I would stay here again, even for the low price of $35US/night that we paid! 

View from our Sea view room
Nha Trang Beach
After dropping our bags off we headed straight for lunch and the beach. We ended up at Louisiana Brew House, located beach side, complete with swimming pool, lounge chairs, pool table, and brewery. The food here was ok, not spectacular, with a range of Western and Vietnamese dishes. Andy and Lee had the tasting flight of beers, sampling four of the beers brewed on site. The sun loungers here cost 40,000 for the day, and there is no expectation that you will order food or drink from them (although of course you will). Around 5pm they start to pack up the sun loungers which was a bit of a shock as we were enjoying our relaxing beach time, so we went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. 

Louisiana Brew House
It was a bit of a mission finding a place to eat on our first night. Good old TripAdvisor recommendations didn't seem to help, and the neon signs and picture menus can really put you off a place. I forgot to mention that Nha Trang is very popular with Russians, as there is a direct charter flight straight in from Moscow. I'm assuming it's the quickest and cheapest sun destination for them. We ended up at Olivia, a really nice Italian where we all had satisfying thin crust pizzas. After dinner we headed over to the Sailing Club for a few drinks on the beach. There was a bonfire on the beach and pretty good music, I think this is the kind of place you would come if you were looking for a bit of a party!

The next day Lee and Claire left for a day and night at a very posh resort. Little did Claire know, but Lee was going to propose to her! She said yes, so it was all very exciting when they came back the next day. Andy is going to be best man, and so we will have our third wedding in three years to go back to the UK for next year!

   

Andy and I spent the morning getting coffee and breakfast (Our hotel offered breakfast but Lee and Claire told us it was pretty bad so we decided to go out). We loved Cuppa Coffee for our Vietnamese drip coffee, where we discovered there was a TOMS shoe store. I love TOMS. If I could just wear them and Havaianas for the rest of my life I'd be pretty happy. Anyway we had a great time trying on loads of different styles, unfortunately for Andy they did not have big enough sizes for him. I ended up getting 2 pairs, and at about $30 (Australian) each I was pretty happy that I'd got a bargain. Until later, when we came to the realisation that they were probably fake :( Devastated! I went online and there is no record of stores in Vietnam on the TOMS website. The store looked so legit, I can't believe we were totally scammed! There is nothing wrong with them or anything, it's just that one of the great things about TOMS (besides being super comfy) is that for every pair of shoes you buy they give a pair of shoes to someone in need. So, if these were fake, then obviously this hasn't happened. Sigh. Well, there is nothing I can do about it now. 



That afternoon we decided to go to a different beach, called Bai Dai, about 20km north of Nha Trang. This beach was beautiful and much quieter than the main beach in Nha Trang. We hung out at a place on the beach called The Shack, which is a restaurant and also a surf shack owned by a French couple where you can rent surfboards, stand-up paddle boards, jet skis and kayaks. We spent the day reading and dozing in deck chairs, which was just perfect!



Pho!
For dinner back in Nha Trang we had one of the cheapest/best meals in Vietnam. At Galangal they serve street food and authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a "safe" environment (aka not from some dodgy street vendor - critical when you are pregnant!) Highly recommend this place, the food is not adapted to Western tastes, and like I said it was really cheap, the two of us feasted like kings for under 300,000 dong.

For our last day we decided to hit the sun loungers at Louisiana Brew House again. We briefly considered checking out the Egg Mud Baths, but it was just too hot to do anything but lay around and take occasional dips in a pool! We feasted at Galangal again for dinner, this time taking Lee and Claire, before heading back to the Dendro to clean up and get ready for our overnight train to Hoi An.  What an experience that was!
Pork wraps at Galangal
Overall, Nha Trang was good for a beach stop on our trip. However it was our least favourite place in Vietnam and not somewhere I would return to if we were back in the country. 


Friday, 10 April 2015

Ho Chi Minh Highlights

We arrived in HCMC on a Saturday night around 6pm. Lee and Claire were meant to arrive half an hour later, but unfortunately their plane had been delayed nearly 2 hours, so it was quite late by the time we set off for our hotel. We changed over some money at the airport, as the research I had done prior to the trip said we'd get the best rate if we changed our money once we got to Vietnam. The rate we got was $1 AUD = 16,500 dong, which was close to the rate quoted on xe.com, which was just over 16,600 dong. Other than change money, there is not much to do at this airport - it's big and clean but pretty boring! 


This trip is the first time I've visited Asia so I wasn't sure what to expect. HCMC is huge; much, much bigger than I thought it would be! Traffic is what I imagined, seems chaotic to a Westerner, but actually compared to India it seems pretty tame. Our first couple of times crossing the street were pretty scary, but we realized that you basically just have to go... walk straight and keep a steady pace! Those on scooters will slow down and avoid you. Once you've been here a while you realize that the way traffic flows is pretty impressive. Everyone seems to drive the same speed not many are swerving in and out, and there is little to no road rage. A sort of organized chaos. 


HCMC is very hot and humid this time of year, temperatures were in the mid-thirties and so you basically start sweating the moment you walk outside. 

The city is divided up into Districts, making it sound like you are in the Hunger Games! We were staying in District 1 which is where most tourists sites are, along with District 3 which is apparently the posh bit of the city.

Here are some high (and low!) lights from our 2 days spent here:

The hotel we stayed in was the Beautiful Saigon 3 (there are 2 other Beautiful Saigons nearby). Our rooms were small and windowless, but are clean and relatively modern with good air-conditioning, free wifi and free breakfast. All of the Beautiful Saigon hotels are in the main backpacker area called Pham Ngu Lao, in District 1. It's pretty noisy and hectic at night. In this way I'm glad for the no windows as we can't hear a thing from the streets! Also for $50 per night including breakfast it was a pretty good deal. The staff were very good here, and I'd stay here again if it wasn't for the no windows (I think if you pay for a better room you get windows).

Beautiful Saigon breakfast area
Bui Vien from above

Our first morning here Andy and I both woke up at 3:30am and could not get back to sleep. We finally got up around 6am and ventured outside for a coffee and walk around. We discovered Sozo, a coffee shop about a five minutes walk from our hotel on Bui Vien, one of the main streets in the Pham Ngu Lao area. The Vietnamese coffee was a bit more expensive there than you'd pay at some other places - 25,000 dong for a black coffee and 40,000 if you want it with condensed milk (which I did - so yummy!) but we went here as this cafe trains and employs disadvantaged people to work there. Getting up early to enjoy the slightly cooler mornings and less traffic, walk around and go for a coffee turned into a routine for us while we stayed in HCMC; it was a great way to people watch and start the day.

Watching the world go by at Sozo Cafe
We discovered that if you go to a Western looking coffee shop you pay Western prices for a coffee! We made the mistake of this once, but never again!

Traditional Vietnamese "drip" coffee
Our first morning we headed to the War Remnants Museum (which used to be called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes). It was a very confronting experience, and I must admit I know very little about the Vietnam war. There are American war planes and tanks outside, and inside are photographs from the war. The ground floor shows posters and photographs from antiwar movement internationally, while the top two floors are mostly photographs of those affected by the war. It is pretty horrifying to see the civilian cost of war in such detail, however it is an important part of history and I would recommend checking it out. Entry is 15,000 dong.

Walking through Culture Park on our way to the War Remnants Museum
Fighter jet outside the War Remnants Museum
After the museum we were so hot we decided to pay $6 US to use the rooftop pool at the Rex Hotel. It was a lovely afternoon spent relaxing, swimming, reading, and drinking overpriced beers (for the boys) and coconut juice (for Claire and me). We also ate lunch here which was a HUGE mistake, it was expensive and not very good. They also had an amazing looking gym however it was about $20 US if we wanted to use that as well which was pretty steep! I'd pay the $6 again and again on a hot day though!

Chilling out at the Rex Hotel
Ben Thanh Market is a huge covered market selling pretty much everything and anything. I could only last so long in here, it was very hot and stuffy and mainly full of knock-offs and tourist junk - not my kind of thing! They also sell food, kitchenware, candy, fresh flowers, etc. I think the key here is to know what you want and to bargain as apparently they will quote tourists 50-100% more than what they would normally sell things for, no surprise there! 

We treated ourselves to some spa treatments at the Beautiful Saigon Spa, which was affiliated with our hotel chain. There are millions of spas around HCMC ranging from dirt cheap to comparable to what you would pay at home. This one was somewhere in the middle, I had a spa pedicure and foot massage for 270,000 dong, and Andy had a 45 minute massage for about 300,000. Both were well worth the price!

Eating was a bit hit or miss for us. I've decided (after our first night) that I am pretty much done with just wandering around a new city hoping to find an amazing restaurant to eat at. I guess that makes me a pretty unadventurous traveler, but frankly I don't care! There is so much information on the internet now, between other bloggers and sites like TripAdvisor, that I feel like a little research can go a long way. Our first stop after dropping our bags at our hotel was at La Casa, which was a Mexican on the corner of Bui Vien and our hotel. I know, I know, Mexican?! But it was really just to stop and get a drink and catch up with Lee and Claire, who we hadn't seen since July. We had some nachos as a little appetiser before moving on to find dinner. 
First beers with Lee at La Casa Restaurant
Bui Vien is full of small restaurants that are packed with people, with seating spilling out onto the entire pavement. We went to a BBQ place that looked ok, and was just that, ok. Hence the desire to actually look something up the next time we ate! The two restaurants we ended up at over the next two nights were called Papaya and Propaganda. Propaganda was by far our favourite, a self-described "Vietnamese Bistro". The food is not traditional Vietnamese apparently, but we were all very satisfied with our meals. Dinner with appetizers and drinks ended up being about 300,000 each. Papaya was highly recommended, as the chef has a lot of experience working in top hotel restaurants. The food was traditional Northern Vietnamese. We were less satisfied with this, our meals were good (although Andy hated his) but nothing amazing




As far as drinking goes, there is a huge variety in prices depending on where you go. The main beer here is called Saigon, and the cheapest price we found was 12,000 for a bottle at a little stand on across from La Casa restaurant called Coffee Break. On the other end of the spectrum, we went to the rooftop bar at the Sheraton Hotel where you pay for the spectacular view. Cocktails here were about 180,000 (still way cheaper than in Australia, but expensive for Vietnam). I was obviously a very cheap date this whole trip being pregnant! I must say I've had enough fruit juices and smoothies to last me a while, although I did love that you can get fresh coconut juice pretty much anywhere! 

Cheap beers and deep conversations at Break Time Coffee


On our second day we went on a tour of the Mekong Delta. We booked this hastily through our hotel, and it think it was through TNK Travel. It was probably our least favourite day in Vietnam. Probably not worth doing just a day tour as it was over 2 hours of driving each way and even then you are just at the start of the Mekong Delta. We stopped at a pagoda, went on a boat ride, ate a horrible lunch, then visited a coconut farm. This was probably the best bit, they showed us how they made delicious coconut candy and we bought some to take home. We also went on a smaller boat ride through narrower rivers and saw a group of men hunting amongst the huge reeds which was cool. We then visited a beekeeper who helped people dip their fingers into a swarm of bees to taste fresh honey, and then listened to a live performance of traditional Vietnamese folk music. It was a full day tour, we were picked up at our hotel around 7:30am and then dropped back at 5pm. It was only 210,000 dong each, so I guess you get what you pay for! I would not do this again, or find a better tour company. 

Biggest Buddah ever!

Mekong Delta


After 3 nights in Ho Chi Minh we packed up and headed off to our next destination, Nha Trang, to get some sun and beach time. I really liked HCMC and would spend time exploring more of the other Districts if I ever go back. We also didn't have time to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, however my pregnant belly would not have fit through them anyway! 


Saturday, 28 March 2015

MEL - SGN

Hello holidays!! Term 1 is finally over and Andy and I are on our way to Vietnam for 2 weeks. We both had really busy ends of term and are very glad for the break from work. At our morning tea briefing our Head Teacher thanked us all for our hard work and getting through such a busy term. He does this at the end of every term... I don't think I've ever worked at a school and thought and the end of term "well, that was an easy one!" Do schools like that exist? I don't think so. I woke up with a sore throat this morning, which used to happen to me ALL THE TIME at the start of school holidays... I would be so exhausted from the term that I would enivatably spend the first few days of the holidays sick! Thankfully that doesn't happen to me as often here in Oz, as I have a much better work-life balance than I did in London. I've been drinking lots of water today since getting up and it feels much better, so hopefully it was just a temporary thing. 

Anyway, after some last minute packing yesterday after school (I don't think I've ever actually packed my bags earlier than a day before a flight, and very few of my clothes fit at the moment, so it didn't take me long) we were up at 4:45am for our flight this morning. I am pretty impressed at how light we've managed to pack, this is all we have between the two of us (plus 2 small carry on backpacks):

We drove and parked at the airport, and got through security and immigration pretty quickly, especially seeing as it's the start of school holidays. We had a tasty (but overpriced) breakfast at Bar Pulpo by Movida and then boarded our Malaysian Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh City via Kuala Lumpur. 

Andy absolutely hates flying Malaysian, even though they are the same as any other major airline to me. Flying economy on a long haul flight is just never going to be a fun experience! Obviously they have had a disastrous year, but it means they are waaaaaay cheaper than any other airline by far. These flights were about $300 cheaper (each) than the other option, which was Vietnam Airlines. I would much rather have that extra money to spend while we are on our holiday than spend it on a flight that may or may not be more comfortable, but would get us to the same place anyway!

The first part of our flight has been fine, and we are now in Kuala Lumpur Airport waiting for our connecting flight. We've sat down at Starbucks to have a snack, coffee, and most importantly use their wifi. (KL airport supposedly has free wifi but I've never been able to get it to work).

I had it in my head that I hated this airport, but I think that was because the first time we were here was when we went to London last year. Our flights from Melbourne were delayed - their system was down and they had to hand-write everyone's boarding passes - and then it was a nightmare getting our connecting boarding passes when we got here. It was very stressful and disorganised and so my first impressions were not good. But now that we're more relaxed this time around I actually think it's not bad! There seem to be lots of shops, including Lonely Planet shop that is good for killing a bit of time while daydreaming about your next trip, it's modern and there is a jungle walk in the centre which is kind of cool. The "jungle" is actually outside so it's nice to get a bit of fresh air while hanging out in the airport. Only the air is about 34 degrees and humid so we only lasted a few minutes before wanting to go back into the air-conditioning!


Our next flight is only an hour and a half long and then we will have arrived! Really looking forward to this, our last child-free holiday for a long time!


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Last days of summer?

Autumn in coming! Ok, it's actually already here. The mornings are getting colder, only 10 degrees in the morning earlier this week! But we are still having some lovely sunny and warm afternoons. We took advantage of what could be our last hot weekend and went to the beach on Saturday with Adam and Charlotte. They took us to Mills Beach on the Mornington Peninsula which was both stunning and empty. It was about an hour drive out of Melbourne, but totally worth it to avoid the crowds in St. Kilda, Elwood or Brighton. 

Mills Beach, Mornington Peninsula
On the way there we introduced them to the Serial podcast, which I mentioned in my last post, and Andy and I are both hooked on. They are also now hooked, to the point where when we arrived we had about 6 minutes left of episode 1 and we had to sit in the car and wait until it was finished before getting out and going to the beach. Podcasts are like my new favourite thing, they are making my commute to work much more interesting!

The beach was great, like I said there were not many people there, and it was lined with those pretty painted beach houses. We saw an older couple outside of theirs, with their table and chairs and newspaper, basically just living the life! A very peaceful and stress free way to pass the afternoon. 


Sunday we woke up and it was absolutely freezing! The temperature said 14, but it was super windy and felt a lot colder. They never give you a "windchill factor" temperature here which I feel is misleading! I trekked out to Flemington Racecourse on public transport (never again! There is no direct train if there is no race on so its a pain to get too) to a Baby and Kids Market. Stalls and stalls of people selling new and used baby and kids clothes, toys, furniture, etc. We have bought nothing for the baby yet so I thought old go along and see what was on offer. Lucky Andy was coaching soccer that morning, as I don't think he would have enjoyed it! It was very packed with parents and kids and prams, but there were some excellent deals. I ended up buying some second hand clothes, all in great condition and at a fraction of what they would cost new. Going there made me think I never want to buy new baby clothes when you can go to things like this and buy them so much cheaper!

Andy spent the day at the Grand Prix, for the 3rd year in a row. This time he splashed out and bought James Boags VIP tickets, a special reserved area on one of the turns, with its own bar and seating. I think he had a pretty good day - although he always says his favourite part is seeing the fighter jets fly overhead. We can see that from our apartment (for free!) so... the point of going to the actual event is beyond me, but I suppose atmosphere and all that has something to do with it! I have zero interest in going, I went once, in our first year here, and that was enough for me.





This is our second last week of term until Easter Holidays, hurray! This term has actually gone by quite quickly, but I am definitely looking forward to the break and our trip to Vietnam!




Monday, 9 March 2015

A Weekend at the Wineries

This weekend was both a bank holiday weekend (Labour Day) AND my birthday. It is so great that my birthday falls on a long weekend here in Australia, and also that it's still pretty much summer. You definitely can't complain when you have a day off work on your birthday!

We basically spent the weekend at a few different wineries. Sunday we travelled to Trofeo Winery in Dromana on the Mornington Peninsula with Laura and Dan. Both of them have been travelling a lot for work lately so it was great to have a catch up with them. Also, they are most likely going to move to Sydney sometime this year for Dan's work which is a bit sad, so we have to spend as much time with them now as we can. 

We arrived and the restaurant was packed, and the hostess pretty much told us that there was no chance of us getting a table that afternoon. She helpfully gave us a map of the wineries and we started calling a few other places to see if there were tables available, figuring they would all be just as busy due to the long weekend. Booking things like restaurants ahead of time was not something we really had to do in London, and I still forget that on weekends you need to do that here. Australians love to plan ahead!

Trofeo Winery



Anyway we had only called one other place when the hostess came back to us and said that actually a few tables had left so she could now squeeze us in. What?! I'm not sure how we she didn't know a few tables were just about to leave... the ex-restaurant worker in me was instantly critical of her hostessing abilities... but anyway we happily sat at our table outdoors overlooking the vineyards. The weather was beautiful, a perfect blue sky and not too hot. The food was pretty good, and we all went for dessert after our main meals. Laura and I ordered a salted caramel chocolate mousse with peanut brittle which was divine but VERY rich and by the end we were both wishing we had shared it instead of getting one each! After lunch we had a little rest on the lawn by the vineyards, digesting our lunch and enjoying the weather.






Today we headed out to the Yarra Valley to the restaurant Tram Trak Winery, Zonzo. This time I was smart and called and booked ahead, and it was a good thing I did as the place was absolutely packed! They were only doing a $45 set menu with Antipasto, salads and pizzas, which were good but I think a little over-priced. Although being at a winery I guess you have to expect a bit more of a mark-up. Downside was I couldn't eat the amazing looking blue cheese and prosciutto on the Antipasto plate... not eating and drinking certain DELICIOUS foods/wine is definitely the biggest downside to pregnancy! (I know, I know, it's a small price to pay. I'm not complaining, but I am looking forward to when I can enjoy these things again!)

Zonzo Restaurant at Tram Trak Winery

Boys discussing boy things (probably football)

Beautiful view at Tram Trak

Andy and the girls!

Mmmmmm Chocolate@



After lunch we headed to the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. I'd never been here before and was looking forward to something sweet after our lunch. However it was completely packed, and crawling with kids! Everywhere! I guess it is really the only kid friendly attraction in a wine region, but still, we were a bit overwhelmed. We ventured into the Chocolate shop (forget queueing for ice cream!) and it was HUGE and packed with loads of... well, chocolate. They have massive bowls of white, milk and dark chocolate chips at the front that you can taste for free, so we loaded up on those and then got out of there! To be fair, the chocolate WAS pretty good, but I could not be bothered to pick something out and then wait in a huge line to pay. Also, they sell some of their products at Coles at cheaper prices than at the shop, (one of our friends that was with us is a chocolate buyer for Coles), so it seemed silly to buy it there overpriced. 




Adam on the way home... the wine was pretty good!
Andy and I then had to go home as he coaches soccer on Monday nights now... A bit ridiculous that they still had practice on a long weekend, but whatever. I went home and listened to the first episode of the podcast Serial... wow, I am already totally hooked and can't wait to listen to the rest of the episodes. If you don't already know (as I'm a bit behind on this one, I think it came out in October and has been hugely popular), Serial is a re-investigation of a murder of a high school student that happened in Baltimore in 1999. She was strangled and buried in a shallow grave, and discovered about a month later. Her ex-boyfriend was charged and convicted of the murder, but has always maintained his innocence. The story is told by the journalist investigating the murder 15 years later, and she has doubts about whether or not the ex is the murderer. Anyway, I really enjoyed the first episode and had to stop myself from immediately listening to the next one. I highly recommend, it would be perfect to listen to if you have a long commute to work!

Anyway, a pretty good long birthday weekend... oh and I forgot to mention the best part... that as a present Andy and I will be enjoying a spa day at Weribee Mansion later this month. Can't wait for my pregnancy massage!

Thanks Binns for taking all these great pictures!


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Baby News!

So, the big news around here lately is that we are having a baby in July! Exciting (and scary) times. We found out just before my family got here in December, so it was great to be able to tell them all in person. As soon as my parents got home they booked flights back to Melbourne and will be here for the month of August to help out, thank goodness, as I really have no idea what you do with a newborn baby!

The pregnancy has been pretty straightforward so far. I haven't really been sick or had any weird food cravings, just a bit of nausea in the mornings at the start, and of course I am really tired some days. "Exercise" has taken on a different meaning... no more running or cycling at the moment, more walking and yoga. I find I get out of breath a lot quicker these days! It's been a bit up and down when it comes to the medical care we've had here. Our private health insurance does not cover pregnancy, so we are at the mercy of the public system. Having lived in two countries where there is universal health care (Canada and the UK), the whole private/public thing is new to us. We looked into getting private health care briefly, but a friend of ours had her baby through the public system and said it was all fine. Plus, the private health care system is VERY expensive - I think you still end up paying thousands of dollars even though you've been paying a premium for health insurance every month. I don't really get it!

We went to a GP nearby in Prahran when we first found out we were pregnant, back in December. This was the first time either of us has ever visited the doctor. It is SO expensive!! I've had longish appointments, lasting around half an hour or so, and each time the cost is $130! We get back $70 from Medicare (usually the next day, it's pretty quick) but the out of pocket cost is still about $50 each time you visit. We've been less than happy with our GP. She seems a bit... vague. I feel like she doesn't really explain things very clearly to us, or she assumes we know things that we don't, even though she knows this is our first baby. She's also messed up a few things, like not ordered all the right blood tests, and she took ages to do our hospital referral. As a result, we have felt a little bit stressed as we feel like have no idea what is going on! 

Last week though we went to our first hospital appointment and met with a midwife. She was much more helpful and we feel a lot more informed about what is going on and what to do next. Today was our 20 week scan which was exciting. Everything seems fine so far, but we will know more when we go back to the hospital in two weeks time to discuss the most recent blood tests and the scan.

I guess one of the more difficult things is that we don't have many friends with babies here. So we're a bit afraid that we will be isolated from the friends we've made since moving here once the baby is born. I already feel a bit left out at times, as I can't drink and am usually too tired to stay out very late. I have been going to a few meetup sessions with a group of women that I found on the website meetup.com. The group was started a few years ago by a girl in a similar situation to me, she was the first of her friendship group to have a baby and wanted to meet some other "new mums". The group has grown and there are some people who already have small children and others that are pregnant with their first and due in the next couple of months. Lots of them are expats as well, in a similar situation to me. It's been nice to have some people to talk to about all of this, and I think I will meet some other new mums that live around us once the baby is born, through a mother's group.

It's all very exciting but there is a lot to work out! We haven't bought any baby items yet... I am hoping to buy a lot second hand and not get too caught up in buying more than we need. After the scan today we have an idea of the sex... they can't guarantee that it's 100% accurate so we could still be surprised, but I think that happens pretty rarely these days. So now I can start to buy some gender specific clothes and items, hurrah! I am looking forward to that!

We both had the day off from work today for the scan (it was in the middle of the day, and our hospital is at the other end of Melbourne from where we both work) so on the way back we stopped at a random National Trust location that we passed, the Rippon Lea House & Gardens. It's a historic mansion from the 1930's set within 14 acres of gardens and lawns. The weather was gorgeous so we had a nice time walking around and digesting the news from the scan. The gardens feature a windmill, lake, orchard and the world's largest covered fernery, so it was a relaxing place to spend the afternoon. Afterwards we went to get some lunch - Andy requested a pub beer garden as opposed to the usual cafe, so we headed over to College Lawn Bowl on Greville St. in Windsor for some burgers and chips! Back to reality tomorrow...



World's largest covered fernery

Rippon Lea Mansion