A Change of Scene

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We were eating breakfast when Dave proposed the idea. Both of us a little apprehensive of the division of labour over the coming weekend – me heading up to Newrybar with Ivy for my Aunty Louise’s 60th birthday celebration and Dave remaining home with the boys.

“I think I just need a change of location for a bit, to reset the parameters…” He mused. “How about an overnight trip to the city?”

“Hmm. I guess so, but how can we fit it in?” I responded. “….Unless we go tonight?”

And so we did.

A last minute deal scored us a two bedroom, two bathroom Art Deco apartment on Collins Street in the shadow of the elegant Regent Theatre. We hastily threw our belongings into bags and set off on the adventure.

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Eli could barely contain himself, excitement brimming out as we waited to get the keys for “our new home” as he put it. He dashed up the stairs to explore the second level almost before the door swept inwards. Ivy squealed with delight at the staircase and promptly made it her mission to crawl up and down…and through every makeshift barrier we erected to prevent her attempts. Hudson just walked up to to the nearest form of technology – the television – and settled on the couch for a cooking show.
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The air was unseasonably warm, sunlight glinting off cobblestones and windows as we set off on our first venture of exploration. The boys dragged their hands through the vertical fountain, rearranging floating leaves and may have even tried to stick their tongues in the water until we realised and quickly vacated the scene. Perhaps we should have pretended not to notice because it was a matter of mere minutes before Eli insisted he was practically dying of thirst.

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By the time we entered the restaurant, getting access to water was the foremost task on all of our minds. If only to prevent the rapidly escalating hysteria being emitted from the back seat of the pram. After rectifying the ‘life and death’ situation, we were able to better appreciate our surroundings. Vapiano, a family friendly Italian eatery on Collins Street greatly impressed us with its decor, woodfired pizzas, friendliness and the speed at which the kids pasta was delivered – I’m talking literally two minutes. Eli and Hudson were chuffed to discover that their tropical pizzas were bunny shaped and Dave and I savoured every bite of ours – his a Calzone and mine a Diavolo with spicy salami. It didn’t hurt that our early dinner coincided perfectly with Happy Hour. Winning all round.

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Adequately hydrated and fed, we wandered the streets. Eli pointing to the exquisitely designed buildings from another era, Hudson almost folded in two peering out of the storage compartment of the double pram. Ivy lounging, one foot dangling out as she soaked it all in. We toured Degraves Street, breathing in the character, stopping to gaze at the tubes of paint neatly fanned out in an artist’s rainbow, to listen to the clink of cutlery and china as steaming plates made their way to hungry patrons, and to rise on tip toes to hand over money in exchange for a nutella donut.

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This photo makes me laugh so much. Poor Hudson!

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I’m not sure if it was the spur of the moment whim that brought us to the city, or the hum of others joining us in savouring the final beautiful night of Indian Summer, but there was something almost tangible in the air as we settled at Christmas Square on Swanston Street. The boys leapt onto the temporary stage and struck up an easy friendship with others who began teaching them break-dancing moves. Ivy had a permanent grin on her face as she finally escaped the confines of the pram and staggered unsteadily on the artificial turf, exploring then staggering back. I may have even hacked a portal or two in our recently discovered game of Ingress. Night fell before we reluctantly called the kids back and made our way ‘home’.

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When the over-excited boys finally drifted off and Ivy conked out in her cramped quarters in the bathroom, Dave and I shared a bottle of our favourite ‘Rock it Like a Redhead’ wine along with a selection of cheese and olives. For once we just sat, no computers or distractions, talking and making plans for the next morning.

And then it happened. Rain. Bucketing down. Grey, relentless drizzle.

The kids all awoke early and a little grumpy. Dave and I were thrown by the weather and the instant reversal of all our hopes for the day. I tried to recapture some magic with the individually packaged cereal boxes of (pure sugar) Fruit Loops, Coco Pops and Nutrigrain, but the contents soon ended up in fistfuls all over the couch when Hudson tried to share his with Ivy… and then Ivy dumped hers all over the floor. There was much angst, frustration and vacuuming.

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(This was taken before the scene of the crime)

Dave and I tried to tag team, one stuffing belongings into bags and the other kid-wrangling and stopping Ivy from tumbling down the stairs, but it wasn’t our best work. We were all a little frazzled by 8am. Dave decided to escape the frigid atmosphere of the apartment by heading into the rain with the kids in the pram, but his flimsy footwear of thongs almost turned the experience into a sledding mishap down Collins Street. After frantically organising the luggage, I went to rescue him, eventually finding him huddled in an arcade next to a coffee and waffle shop.

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Something about those dense, sugary, steaming hot waffles altered the mood and we were able to find the magic in the grey streetscape – setting out to discover secret passageways and alcoves that would never have shown themselves on a sunny day.

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The Museum offered itself as an appropriate wet-weather diversion and we made our way there, stopping to explore the grounds of the Royal Exhibition Building in the wait before opening hours. Hudson’s sandals were ‘wetty’ and our clothes stuck to our dripping bodies, but we were determined to stay positive and make the most of the adventure. We discovered an exquisite fountain reminiscent of the Roman offerings in Piazza Navona and the kids were mesmerised by the ‘merpeople’ eternally suspended.

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During the walk across the grounds I asked Eli what he would do if he got tired while walking. “I’ll  just choose the happy and throw away the tired.” He profoundly replied. When he began complaining of malfunctioning legs half an hour later I reminded him of this promise and he immediately brightened. “Just joking!” He responded.

The crisp, oozing cheese and ham croissant that we savoured in the Museum Cafe whilst thawing was potentially the best version I’ve sampled. Not necessarily because of the culinary genius behind the pastry, but it was such a warm and comforting experience after the hours spent in the elements.

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Most other parents in Melbourne appeared to have happened upon the same outing choice as we did, so we didn’t linger in the crowded spaces, choosing to call it a day fairly early. Nevertheless, it was a positive end to the trip.

Despite the dashing of expectations with the turn of dreary weather, there really is something quite magical about changing location. On the way home, we mused that we weren’t even away for twenty-four hours, but the heightened sense of our surroundings, the kids’ contagious excitement and the satisfaction in sharing wonder together made the duration seem multiplied. On the flip side, returning home to a house with a play room, toys, technology safely stowed away above ‘Hudson height’, bedrooms for each child and a well-stocked fridge and pantry seemed remarkably satisfying. Perspective reoriented, memories made, adventure achieved- check, check, check.

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