Easter holidays 2019: trains, buses, taxis and crowds.

Well we’re about to hit day 2, week 2 of Term 2, and I can’t believe we’re nearly in the middle of 2019. George was not excited about school starting last week, still being in “holiday mode” he said, the night before. I was still in holiday mode too last Monday morning but now back into the swing of things well.

This holidays, after our afternoon of bath products window shopping, I worked for a couple of days and then we hot-footed it to my Dad’s in the Blue Mountains. This involved a Murray’s Bus from Canberra then a train from Sydney’s Central station. Why did I not drive? I’ve caught the anxiety of the M5 from my parents. So 6 hours after leaving Canberra, we arrived in the Blue Mountains, about 90 minutes west of Sydney.

We witnessed an altercation on the train between two young women over one of the women saving a seat for “a friend getting on at Parramatta”, and taking up four seats (2 for her luggage, one for her bottom and another for her legs). George was quite interested in all the lively high-school/uni student conversations, including from a group of six skateboarder-types perched on chair arms, as there weren’t enough seats.

“Next time, we’re driving!” I whispered to George in a wave of middle-aged defiance against my parents.

In the mountains we met up with Dad’s partner’s daughter and her boys aged 8 and 11, so George had plenty of play time with them. We had some lovely late afternoon walks admiring the red and orange leaves and Dad cooked a lamb roast on Good Friday.

Autumn parade in Blue Mountains streets.
It was a scene from a fairy tale in a local park!

We battled the crowds in Leura Mall (Pitt Street Mall, more like it) while we were coffee-chasing (me) and lolly-shopping (George) and sneakily vintage-clothing window-shopping (me). Leura on Good Friday was like Campbell Parade in Bondi on a Summer Saturday, proportionately speaking.

Bustling Leura Mall on Good Friday

George was disappointed Woolworths was shut – he couldn’t get his hot fried chicken wings, but he cheered up with pizza at Leura Garage, a cafe with Bondi-style prices in a charmingly decorated converted garage. It was very good Margarita pizza though. We bowled up to the host standing behind a lectern at the cafe entrance who informed us we could go on a “wait list” for a table and he would phone us when one was ready. To make the most of our time, we hurried over to the gourmet chocolate shop “Josophans” around the corner and selected a few items. Just as I was about to queue up to pay, I got the call from Leura Garage… a table was ready now! No time to purchase chocolate, I planned to return later. So much for peaceful village life.

Chocolate bunnies perched on some kind of car thing.

After our late lunch George felt better so was tolerant of my browsing (Yes, I was happy browsing) in a few arty and vintage shops. And we went back to Josophans for Easter chocolate gifts.

We got a taxi to Dad’s in the next town as it was late and Good Friday – I did consider waiting for a train but a lamb roast waits for no one!

The rest of our holidays was more trains, buses and taxis. Because our train to Sydney the next day was delayed by 30 mins, it meant we had time to duck across the road for this…

Easter in Sydney was a whirlwind of wheeling luggage around from Central to Bondi Junction, lunches, family, chocolate, pizza, no church, no beach and an Easter egg hunt in Granny’s courtyard.

We caught a bus and taxi (thanks, “track work” on the Eastern Suburbs train line), and then met my friend Nadia to catch a train to the Royal Easter Show with our boys aged 8 – 13, then a train, bus and another bus back to Mum/Granny’s.

Boys 8, 11 and 13 ready for the journey home

After the Show, it was a bus from Central to Darlinghurst to Nadia’s amazing new pad – location, location, location! Then we hot-footed it to Kings X to get a bus back to Granny’s. 14,000 steps later, I collapsed on the couch and George carefully examined his Warheads (sour candy) showbag.

Location, location, location! Perfect for Mardi Gras.

The next day was lunch with Sister Señorita Margarita in the very lunch-friendly Woolworth’s* express in Pitt Street Mall (Leura Mall, more like it), before catching a train and a bus to Skyzone in Alexandria to meet my cousin and her son and then catching a bus back to Bondi Junction where the thought of a train and another bus back to Mum’s was all too much so I jumped in a taxi. Which really was all too much, in the dollar sense.

George found his mothership in Sydney’s CBD. He looks a bit tired. Too many holiday late nights!

The next day, we got a Murray’s bus back to Canberra, then a taxi home to my beautiful, scratched little hatchback that gets me from A to B.

Before the Easter holidays ended, we managed to fit in another Easter, Greek Easter, with family friends of George’s dad. George found a canine friend there. I still haven’t managed to get him a dog. I can’t remember this dog’s name, but I think it was a Greek name and she’s part husky.

George and his Greek-Siberian friend

Much fun was had by all cracking these beautiful creations, by knocking them together and seeing whose egg cracks. It’s sort of like pulling Christmas crackers without the cheap plastic trinkets and hats.

I hope you’ve had a great start to Term 2, or May, if you don’t think in school terms. Less than four weeks to Winter, my second-favourite season! I’d better fit some decent Autumn walks in before then, since it’s my favourite time of the year.

Canberrans say you don’t turn your heater on until after Anzac Day. It’s not that cold yet, so I haven’t needed to. I’m really enjoying sitting with a blanket over my knees in the evening when there’s a bit of a chill. It is SO cosy.

*This post is not sponsored by Woolworths. I just go there a lot.

The trek to Tuggeranong. Or long day’s journey into night.

Spider Boy and I had a slight obstacle on the second day of Term 2 last week when the entrance of our street (a no-through road) was flooded during the big Sydney storm (well New South Wales storm actually).

My mother warned me about the dangers of driving through the flood (some would say giant puddle), worrying about water in the brakes. Without her car, it was a good 20 minute walk in the heavy rain. And I was slightly worried about precarious tree branches.

I know it’s a bit soft of me, but I let Spider Boy stay home from school. Our street situation was a tiny hiccup though, compared to what some went through; thousands of people further up the coast were without power for days (some are still without) and are dealing with bad property damage.

This week is the first full week back at school so I think a holiday retrospective is due.

Spider Boy and I make the trek to Tuggeranong, in Canberra’s south every school holidays for a few days. The day before we were due to go this time, I developed a terrible sore throat.

“You shouldn’t be going!”Mum warned on departure day. “You’ll just get sicker and and I really don’t want to have to drive to Canberra to come and get you.” I thanked her for her concern but told her to stop with the Negative Nancy talk.

At 8.30am, I called the Apple Store in Canberra to see about my four-week old MacBook Air that just wouldn’t power on (as of the previous evening) despite a fully-charged battery. The Genius Bar was already full for the day, but I was told I could just turn up as a “walk-in” on arrival in Canberra.

We got on to the bus with cheese-flavoured snacks, hand-sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, a box of tissues, and my broken Macbook Air. And a Ninja Turtle backpack full of action figures. Somewhere in the Southern Highlands, Spider Boy, who had made it to Canberra by bus without vomiting the previous two journeys, said he didn’t feel well. He didn’t look it. I rummaged for a plastic bag and held it open on his lap.

“Mum, that bag’s got a hole in it!” He warned. He’s so sharp. It was only a tiny hole… surely there wouldn’t be that much vomit? I quickly rummaged for another plastic bag and double-bagged. A second later, there it was. A heady mix of rice-crackers and cheese balls.

There were a few more in-seat vomits (he’s very neat) and questions that alternated between, “How many more minutes until we get there?” and “How many minutes now?”, to which I would respond with answers like “97” and “about 54”, when really it was still over 100.

These questions started just after Campbelltown (Canberra is at least another 2.5 hours after that) and continued until just after we passed the ACT border sign. Poor thing. He was the only child on the bus full of hipster student-types on their (functioning) Macbook Airs, watching Game of Netflix of whatever it is they watch. The only child on the bus. Why am I still catching the bus? Am I scared of the M5? A little bit. So that, and the fact that I don’t own a car.

When we finally disembarked the vessel of vomit after 195 minutes (don’t worry, I took the holey vomit-bags with me) we stuffed our luggage into one of the small lockers ($5 for 3 hours – pretty good) at the Jolimont Centre (Canberra’s bus station) and hot-footed it to the Apple Store.

Fortunately Spider Boy had made a miraculous recovery now that he was out in the crisp Canberra April afternoon air.

I cursed as I realised I always forget how chilly late afternoons in April can be in Canberra. I NEVER bring enough warm clothes. I always seem to be at Big W every visit, buying an emergency cardigan. I really need to learn to pack more efficiently.

At the Apple Store, Kit, a charming young man with a – I want to say clipboard, but I know it was an iPad – told me there were 19 “walk-ins” waiting ahead of me. As it was 4.30 on a Friday afternoon I didn’t fancy my chances. Although the Apple Store was open till 9pm that day, I was hoping for something between 4.30 and 5.00pm, thanks very much.

Blue-eyed, 20-something Kit did his best to squeeze me in with a “genius” from said Genius Bar, as he suspected my computer problem might be resolved with the push of the right button/s. He grabbed a genius for me just as she was going home.

She pressed a few buttons, but nothing.

“I think we’re going to have to open her up,” the genius warned me, “but I’m on my way home now, so you’ll need to come back tomorrow.” We established that as my computer could be “in repair” for up to seven days, I was better off taking it to the Apple store in Sydney, since that’s where I actually live.

I managed to hold back the contents of my nose and bade the genius and Kit farewell

With a broken Apple there was nothing for it but to go to where I could get some working fruit, on a tart, namely. No trip to Canberra is complete without a visit to Dobinson’s, one of the best bakeries I have ever been to. Seriously, if you like cake and/or pie, go there.


The generous tarts of Dobinson’s in Canberra

We met Spider Boy’s dad back at the Jolimont Centre. SBD/ex-husband wanted to take us to visit his father in hospital. I told him I didn’t feel right about going into a hospital because I didn’t want to give my father-in-law, or any other patient, my germs. He said something about hand-sanitiser.

When we got to my father-in-law’s room, I stuck my head in the doorway and warned him about about my cold but he didn’t care. “Come in and sit down, Love”, he insisted. I sat in the corner not touching anyone or anything and I tried not to breath out. I was hand-sanitising every 2 minutes, everytime I had to hold a tissue to my nose.

After chatting politely to a family friend who was also visiting, stopping to buy take-away Malaysian food in the cold and dark early evening, and schlepping bags from the visitor’s carpark in my brother-in-law’s townhouse complex, we sat down and ate dinner. By the time I finally got into my pyjamas, my nose was more blocked, my eyes were stinging and watering, and a headache had developed.

I went to bed when Spider Boy did, but couldn’t sleep; we were sharing a bed, I was thinking about all the things, I kept needing to blow my nose but didn’t want to wake my little companion and I was worried about breathing on him. “Mum do you have to keep blowing your nose all night?” he implored before he drifted off.

After our long day’s journey, I finally fell asleep sometime after midnight, with a Vick’s-smeared tissue up one nostril.

Do you ever travel long-distance by bus? Do those travel-sickness ginger tablets work? Do you ever have trouble sleeping even though you’re really tired?