Aug 6 2016

Day 12 – Final Day WPC

Today was the final day of the Microsoft Worldwide conference.  I got up, made breakfast and headed down to the MTCC for the final session of the conference.  The last day, commonly referred to as ‘the graveyard’, lived up to that expectation.  The APAC session was long winded, and didn’t really add a lot of value.  However the main presenter was humorous and informative.  I hung around until lunchtime for a final lunch, before returning to the unit.

Sonic Boom Records

After midday, I took to the streets of downtown Toronto attempting to find a few things to buy.  I went to H&M to try and locate some clothing Toni had found on their website, but they had none of the items in stock.  I found a decent record store, but realised I’d left my LP list back at the unit. Ultimately I ended up back at the unit, then I walked to Union Station and caught the metro out to a shopping centre in a suburb called Dufferin.

Union Station Main Terminal
Dufferin/Kops Records

Here I bought the boys some toys from Toys R Us, and attempted to locate clothes for Toni in the H&M – still no luck.  I returned to the Metro and took it back into downtown.  I wanted to drop off the toys, so looped back through the unit.  At this point I ended up looping back up to opposite the Hotel Rex, and had a look through a different record store.  Ultimately I returned to the unit for a rest, and I was greeted by a complete rainbow adorning the view outside.

Rainbow Sight

After spending some time on Skype talking to home, I finally decided to get off my butt and go eat dinner.  I took a recommendation from my friend Sylvain, and booked a table for one at the nearby Baton Rouge steakhouse, close to the base of the CN Tour.  I ordered a Mexican inspired chicken tenders in Dijonnaise sauce.


Baton Rouge Menu/Dinner

After I’d eaten, I received a text from some fellow Canberrans; they were at another restaurant further north called Michael’s on Simcoe.  I walked up and joined them for a plate of cheese, a bottle of Italian sangiovese and two bottles of red Canadian icewine.  What a great way to wind down the conference!  We called it quits close to midnight, and I waled back to the unit for a well deserved sleep.  The next day I needed to be at the CN Tour, to hopefully be one of the first people to ascend.


Michael’s on Simcoe

Jan 4 2015

Day 19 – Melbourne

Trip Index

We woke at the Mercure Treasury Gardens, roughly opposite the location of the wedding ceremony.  The ceremony wasn’t until 10:00am-10:15am, and as we were all up at 8am, decided to try to find a cafe to eat breakfast.  It turns out that the travels had finally caught up to me and I was hit with a level of lethargy I’ve rarely encountered.  It’s not an understatement to say I could barely stand up.

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Near the cafe / catching a tram back

We ended up on Swanston Street and found a 24 hour cafe – it turns out the Mercure is located smack bang in the business district and on weekends is essentially dead.  I had a bowl of bircher muesli which I could barely eat.  I was throwing down water most of the time, trying desperately to rehydrate after yesterday’s shocker of a heat wave.

We caught a tram back down Collins street once we’d finished with breakfast.  The heat was up again, and it was getting intolerable..  We got back to the hotel and got dressed for the wedding. 

The Wedding Ceremony

We’d mistimed a little, and were rushing to get across Spring Street in time to head off the bride who had arrived not much before we’d left the hotel.

Spring St

The ceremony was held in the marriage registry in the gorgeous old treasury building.  It was slightly cooler inside, but there was some delay in getting the registrar, so the ceremony did not start until well after 10:30am.  For some reason the boys were not ready to behave, and we had to frequently step outside during the ceremony.

Fortunately, I was present for the key parts, i.e. the exchange of vows and the presentation of the rings.  Once the formalities were taken care of, the bride and groom walked down the aisle together and we then followed.  On the steps of the old treasury building the guests gathered forming as tunnel, and the new married couple emerged to applause and hundreds of bubbles blown from supplied equipment.

Newlywed couple emerges

We had to abandon the crowd and head back to the Mercure as the checkout time had arrived.  I went and retrieved the car from offsite parking while Toni mustered the boys.  We had been somewhat prepared, and had our luggage ready to go.  Once we’d completed checkout, we packed the car and headed off for nearby St Kilda and the wedding reception.

The Reception

The location was a former mansion on St Kilda road, a venue with history and character.  It was still stupidly hot and now came complete with gale force winds. 


The Willows

Once at the venue, I continued to drink as much water as I could get my hands on; it was helping, but I was fast running out of energy.  The boys were very active, and poor Toni had difficulty keeping track of both while I was effectively an invalid.  I skipped all the canapés, half the battle was avoiding feeling sick!

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Wedding reception menu / Newlyweds arrive

The entrees were served, and to underscore how ill I felt, I selected pumpkin risotto as it was the only entree that I felt I could eat.  Not long after the entrees, the speeches began.  The co-best men roasted the groom slightly, and it was well received.  Then the groom had an opportunity to toast his lovely bride.

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40 Year old bottle of port

My duties on the day involved a 40 year bottle of port which the groom’s father had bought when he was born.  I had the responsibility of opening and decanting the delicate wine.  With experience, I managed to carefully uncork the bottle without corking the port, and then successfully poured 4/5 of the bottle into the antique decanter.

Cutting the cake

Shortly thereafter the main course was served.  I had the porterhouse steak which was slightly overcooked, and still stuck to water for drinks.  The boys kept disappearing off to odd places inside the venue, and Toni and I had to keep tracking them down, which made socialising difficult.  I ended up nearly asleep on a couch near the photo booth, trying to recover some energy.

By 3:30pm I was too tired to continue.  As they were preparing for the bridal waltz, I gathered Toni and the boys together and we said our farewells. 

Wyndham Melbourne

The phone had run out of charge and we had no idea where in the city we were staying.  Toni found the pre-printed paperwork for the car parking and while the phone charged off the car, I had map capability restored.

We parked the car and then realised that the hotel was about a city block away from the car park.  We checked in, making note of our disappointment about the parking situation.  The Wyndham Melbourne has only been open to owners for six weeks, and is still basically brand new.  It is certainly a new benchmark for the Wyndham Resorts, although the level of customer service could do with some improvement.

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We had a two bedroom apartment reserved which was large and roomy and modern.  All I wanted to do was sleep, but the boys were still antsy and Toni needed a break just as much.  So we gathered some towels and headed to level 23 which contained a rooftop pool.


Unfortunately, the gale force winds were making life impossible for those making use of the pool and deck chairs, as the idiot who designed the building didn’t bother to include any features to mitigate excessive wind speeds(!).  So we did not spend too much time in the pool, which was cold but refreshing and after only about 20 minutes we were heading back to the room.

We showered and changed myself and the boys and then put Damian into the red stroller and carefully ventured out into the waiting CBD.

Melbourne CBD

It was approaching early evening when we made our way out.  It was still pretty hot, but had come down a fair bit due to cloud which had come over the city.

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The shot tower at Melbourne Central

We were principally looking to get to the Coles Express at Melbourne Central to pick up milk and some infant formula, which we eventually did.  It’s worth noting that the CBD is not particularly stroller friendly.

While we were out, we did look at some of the little alleyways which contained an assortment of bars and restaurants, but couldn’t find the right food to take away for dinner.  So we returned to the Wyndham and later I went out by myself and eventually found a Japanese restaurant on King street which did takeaway.

By the time I returned, Damian was fast asleep and Toni and Jake were curled up on the couch watching the movie “Matilda” on TV.  We ate Unagi (Eel) and teriyaki salmon as well as some California maki (sushi/sashimi) and eventually put Jake down to bed.  We turned in ourselves just past 9pm and had decent sleep until about 2am when the boys woke. 

More on that in tomorrow’s article.

Trip Index

Dec 20 2014

Day 5 – Rotorua

Trip Index

Our last full day in Rotorua was a slightly shorter day than our average.  As we had some prep work to perform to be ready to depart tomorrow, we time boxed our activities until 2pm, which means that we were back at the resort around 2:30pm.  Today was also unique for the fact that it was the only day we’ve spent exclusively in Rotorua/Mourea.


Today’s activities

We  started the day at our usual 8:15-8:30am timeframe, with all showered and fed by 9:30am although we didn’t get underway until just after 10am.  We arrived in downtown Rotorua at 10:30pm and to our first destination of the day.

Kuirau Park

It turns out that the park hosts local markets every Saturday, so we were blessed (unexpected bonus) and cursed (lots of parking/traffic issues).  The park is a free public space which also happens to be on top of more geothermal activity.  Although there are no hot springs which you can swim or bathe in, the park does feature a foot washing facility which is quite pleasant.

Local Markets

Geothermal park with sculptured gardens

Enjoying the foot spa

Sulphur comes from somewhere!

After the foot spa, the boys found a splash pool for kids and decided to enjoy it a bit too much – Damian in particular ended up soaked. 

Kid’s splash pool located conveniently next to a geothermal area 

We spent an hour and a half at Kuirau Park noting that the time was fast approaching midday.  The boys were starting to get irritable, so we decided to drive a few blocks into downtown Rotorua.

Downtown Rotorua and lunch

The first logical stop was the Rotorua visitor’s centre to pick up some more detailed maps and a brochure on eating options.

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Rotorua Visitor’s Centre/Jake gets new threads

We decided to try a place not far from the centre, two blocks away.  We moved the car and eventually found parking – 90 minutes free.  As both Jake and Damian were still quite wet from the splash pool, and we happened to park almost directly opposite a children’s store which was having a up to 50% off sale, both boys got new shorts and Jake a new T-shirt.


Capers Epicurean / Smoked Salmon omelette

We had lunch at Capers Epicurean which featured a kid’s room and plenty of space.  It wasn’t exceptionally cheap but it did have the ambiance of a boutique brasserie, and the food was pretty good.  Jake had an iced chocolate and some chips, whilst Damian enjoyed part of a crumbed schnitzel.

Once everyone was done, we did some window shopping up and down the street before returning to the car.  Our next destination was decidedly prettier..

Government Gardens

Occupying first rate real estate on the lake’s edge, the Government Gardens are home to the Rotorua museum, a theatre, an events centre and manicured gardens. 

You enter through a set of wooden arches which lead to to lawns and a roadway which takes you up to the impressive looking museum which looks suspiciously like the visitor’s centre.  If you turn your head to the left whilst looking at the museum you’ll notice a children’s play area, which is exactly what Jake did.


Wooden arches form the entrance/Rotorua museum


Jake charges the camera / roses in the Rose Garden


Damian peeks through the play equipment

So naturally we killed about half an hour watching the boys scamper around the playground.  Jake in particular was fond of the multiple slides, shooting down each one in short time.  Damian is getting much more adept at climbing up to, and sliding down the slides as well.

By this stage, the weather looked ominous, so I decided to backtrack and get the car which was parked near a heritage hotel just outside the gardens.  I brought the car into the gardens and parked it closer to the lake.  Toni and the boys met me and we walked to the lake side.

Lake Rotorua

We didn’t linger too long at the side of the lake because the weather looked like it would turn at any moment.  We rationalised that we needed some quality time back at the resort to get ready for packing, so after a brief time near the water, we headed back to the car.

Rotorua Lake

Lake side

As we were on our way out, Jake noticed a sea plane preparing for take off.  At the same time I noticed an old riverboat steamer coming in to dock, so I put the car in reverse and we took a few minutes to watch the water craft.

Maori boat

Toni spied a covered Maori long boat, so I stopped and got out to take some photos.  It was quite a magnificent specimen, very large and sturdy looking, inlaid with shells.  After taking a few shots and trading exchanges with an older foreigner who jokingly expressed a desire to move the bars around the boat cage, I returned to the car.  We drove back to the resort stopping by a Gull petrol station which featured car vacuuming and car washing facilities which we took advantage of.

Back to the resort

Once we were back at the resort, I downloaded photos onto the laptop.  Not long after, I proposed a swim and spa – Damian and I went down to investigate the water temperature and returned with a report of ‘acceptable’.


The Resort

Pool and Spa

The whole family went down to enjoy some time at the pool.  There was a slide to one side for children 3-7 to launch themselves into a wading area, which Jake (and surprisingly Damian) thoroughly enjoyed many, many times.  In between, we took turns in the spa to warm up.

Resort pool / Spa fun

We spent an hour in either the pool or spa before deciding to call it a day.

Dinner and packing

Toni cooked a lamb rack for dinner and Damian went to bed early after a day without a meaningful sleep. 

We have much to do to be ready to fly out tomorrow!

Trip Index