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It is time of the year for us to escape the hot weather in Singapore and this year, we have decided to venture to Perth (somewhere I have not been in decades). As usual, planning a road trip with a little one is never easy especially with the need to have toilet breaks and leg stretches (for a 6 month preggie mum and a 4 yo girl off diapers) at appropriate intervals.
Given Ashley’s traveling habits, it always seemed wise to take the night flight out in which she can sleep through the journey. Bearing in mind that Colin is the only licensed driver of the family, I planned for a weekend stayover in Fremantle so that little driving is required on arrival. Fremantle can be a little tad boring for the adventurous individual but for families with young kids, it can be leisurely to just travel around town on the free CAT bus and visit the Fremantle Market, Round House, WA Shipwreck Museum and Fremantle Prison. Alternatively, one can choose to travel down an hour to John Forrest National Park to visit the National Park Falls and Hovea Falls for a nice breezy walk.
Our second accommodation of the trip was Ferguson Farmstay which was about 2 hours drive away from Fremantle. Ferguson Farmstay is a working farm managed by a friendly family. We stayed two nights in Chalet 1 (double room can be a little squeezy if your little one is bunking in with you). At 8.30am every morning, farm activities commence which includes animal feeding (goats, kangaroo, emu, Lenny the sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens), a pony ride for the kids (Fred is a real gentle pony) and a tractor ride to the cows for feeding. Ashley repeated the farm activities over both mornings and she enjoyed every moment of it. However, there are little attractions around Ferguson Valley on weekdays (wineries are closed between Mon-Wed) except Gnomesville, Wellington Dam and St. Aidan Winery.
After 2 nights at Ferguson Farmstay, we headed south towards Margaret River to our third accommodation, Ramada Resort Dunsborough located right next to the sea. Given the short 1 hour plus drive, you will have ample time to visit the wineries, farm gates and providores in the vincinity such as Bettany Wines and Margaret River Nougat Co (not to be missed, the nougats and sparkling non-alcoholic and alcoholic wines are just yummy), Margaret River Chocolate Co, Margaret River Nuts and Cereal, Margaret River Dairy Company and Gabriel’s Chocolates (for a hot chocolate drink) on the same day.
On the second day in Margaret River region, we headed down to Lake Caves to make the first tour at 9.30am (might not be friendly for preggies and families with young kids due to the steep stairs down to the caves. According to the guide, Mammoth Caves is kids friendly). Luckily for us, Ashley did an awesome job in climbing up half of the steps on her own. After visiting one cave, I have exhausted all my energy and I wanted to take it easy for the rest of the day. For the food and wine lovers, one can consider visiting Cookies Galore for nice shortbread cookies and Voyager Estate for their fine wines and 4 course set lunch. We also made it in time to visit Cape Naturaliste lighthouse and Sugarloaf Rock before the sun sets.
With Margaret River being the last southern part of our Perth trip, we went back north towards Mandurah to our fourth stay in Seashells Resort (beautiful resort for families situated next to the Indian Ocean). In the 2 hours drive back north, we had a stopover at Bunbury for lunch and visited the Bunbury Dolphin Visitor Centre and King’s Cottage. Seafood lovers can look forward to fresh and sumptuous seafood at Mandurah which boasts a variety of restaurants serving fresh seafood.
After a week’s stay in the outskirts, it was time to head back to Perth CBD which is a stone’s throwaway from Ashley’s staple food, Chinese cuisine. We spent half of our stay in Sage West Perth and Attika Hotel in town and I must say that Attika Hotel is a better location with restaurants and cafes within walking distance. Furthermore, a drive up to Swan Valley from Perth city only takes half an hour. For children who love to interact with animals, a visit to the Swan Valley Cuddly Animal Farm would be fun as they get to have hands-on with feeding sheeps with milk and cuddling rabbits and guinea pigs etc. However, pony rides are only available on weekends so do plan accordingly if you do not want to miss out on that. Another fun place for the children in Swan Valley would be Whiteman Park which houses Caversham Wildlife Park, Vintage Train Ride, Tractor Ride and museums (again, do note on the days of operation as some rides do not run on a daily basis). For the wineries, we did a stopover at Ugly Duckling and Sandalford (lunch and wines at Voyager are better in our opinion). Therefore, one can consider Voyager if you are keen on having lunch in an wine estate.
If you ask people about Perth, I guess most would mention Pinnacles National Park. One should note that there are no cafes within the park and that the nearest town with cafes and restaurants would be Cervantes or Lancelin. Therefore, one should be prepared to pack some food or snacks along the way as it is a 2.5h drive from Perth.
We have skipped the visits to most of the museums as Ashley loves the nature and hence we planned for more animal interactions and walks in National Parks for her to fully enjoy the nature away from the bustle in Singapore.
Planning for a road trip with a toddler is never easy and requires many thoughts and considerations. This year, we planned yet another 2 weeks long road trip around Sydney to escape the 365-day long summer in Singapore.
Upon arriving in Sydney Airport on the first day, we drove on to our first pit stop of the trip, Martys at Little Beach located at Nelson Bay which took around 2 hours 45 minutes. This was not a very wise choice as we realized that (1) there is nothing much at Nelson Bay for a toddler to do and (2) accommodations around Port Stephens and Newcastle have strict regulations that children between 2-12 of age are required to have a bed of their own (most other hotels/motels typically allow children of the same age to stay for free if they are sharing the existing bedding). Fortunately, we only had to spend one night before we proceed on to Port Macquarie the next morning.
Port Macquarie is a beautiful place to visit for families with young children with its local attractions such as Koala Hospital and Roto House. There is a big grass area around Roto House that the little one can run around freely. Another place in Port Macquarie that shouldn’t be missed by young children is the Pancake Place. There is a nice corner set up for children with stuffed toys and story books during their time there.
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We first noticed Ashley’s love for music and dance when she attended weekend classes at LeapSchoolHouse. Not a big advocate of stressing the little one with education at a young age, we enrolled her for weekend classes with LeapSchoolHouse which conducts one hour class comprising of gym, story telling, singing and dancing when she turned 1 year.
Seeing her sing and dance every time the music starts playing is nothing but pure enjoyment (I guess all parents are alike when they see their little ones enjoy what they do). Hence, we wasted no time in enrollig her with The Ballet and Music Company once she turned 2 and a half years old (Note: different schools have different age restrictions with some starting at 2.5 years old and some at 3 years of age).
Some points for consideration prior to enrolling your little one for weekend classes:
1. Time of class (Ashley attended the trial class at the Tampines One outlet which starts at 9am which was way too early for her and not surprisingly, she was clingy during the trial class).
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It has been almost a year since I last went for manicure and pedicure services as they tend to not last beyond 2 weeks (yes,even for gel manicure).
And given the market price of classic gel mani/pedi, it makes it harder for me to spend over $100 bucks for gel mani and pedi that can only last for 2 weeks. Hence, I checked out groupon deals on mani/pedi services since they offer great deals with great customer service from time to time. I have to agree that purchasing mani/pedi deals off these deal websites are all about luck. I have had great experiences as well as mediocre experiences with manicurists who just wants to get it over and done with with the customers who purchased the groupon deals.
Casamia is one that I feel that regular walk-in customers do not differ from customers who were on groupon deals. Conveniently located at bugis cube (just across Bugis Junction), it has a nice and classy ambience which makes one feel relaxed throughout the session. Most importantly, I was amazed with the nail art templates that were displayed in the shop. Not only was the display of a wide variety, the designs were impressive as you can see the passion and skills of the manicurist.
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A kitchen set is a must-have for all children regardless of age and gender. We started noticing Ashley’s interest in cooking toys when she was attending Saturday lessons at Leap Schoolhouse prior to attending full day preschool. The Step 2 Fresh Accents Kitchen is not the first set of cooking play we have gotten for the little one. As with most parents, it is hard to make impulse buys of Step 2 Kitchen given the price tag in Singapore.
Hence, we started off with simple kitchen and supermarket toy sets sold at Baby Fairs and Kiddy Palace which cost us a quarter or less of a Step 2 Kitchen. However, quality does comes with a price as we soon see with the earlier toy sets we bought for Ashley. As opposed to the pictures of the toys shown on the packaging which appear sturdy and rather decent, it came as a dismay to us when one of the fridge door was made of flimsy plastic combined with what seemingly looked like a transparency slide in the middle and dysfunctional knobs for the cooking hob which had to be turned at a specific angle to work.
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