Our Quick Escape – Part 3

quick escape hunter valley

Our third and final day of our 3 Day Hunter Valley Escape wasn’t as jam packed as the previous 2, however that didn’t stop us making the most of our time in the Hunter Valley.

While it was only a 3 day break, our little holiday was the perfect way to spend some quality time as a family of 3 before things get a whole lot busier When 3 become 4. . . It also happened to line up with the 2nd birthday of our little guy so it was a great way to celebrate it as a family.

If you can’t tell by the title this is actually the third and final part of our adventure. I encourage you to check out our experiences on Day 1 Our Quick Escape – Part 1 , as well as our adventures with Snow (in this part of the country?) on Day 2 Our Quick Escape – Part 2.

All caught up now? Here we go. . .

Day 3

After being so excited the day before that we got up at 2am (can you feel the enthusiasm?) , Day 3 started a little slower. We knew we had until 11am to be out of the hotel (thank you late checkout), but we also didn’t want to start our day too late.

After our little guy felt the need to open the door to the balcony and proclaim to everyone “ooo its cold” over and over it wasn’t long before we were out of bed. After packing our bags, double checking under the beds, triple checking the cupboards, and quadruple checking the bathroom (I know it was only 2 days but when you have a toddler you will find things in the most surprising of places), we decided we needed breakfast.

We had avoided breakfast at the hotel buffet so far as the price was a little steep for us, but being the last day we also thought it would be convenient. Walking past the buffet and seeing the lineup snake its way throughout the lobby of the hotel cemented our decision to find food elsewhere.

taste of the country

If you read Our Quick Escape – Part 1 you will know that on the first day we found a great little cafe that did All Day Breakfast – not that it was late, just we already knew they did good breakfasts.

Breakfast was fairly uneventful, the real run began when we got to the Zoo

Hunter Valley Zoo

The Zoo had been one of our main reasons for coming to the Hunter Valley. Our little guy had always been fascinated by different animals in books and on the TV, so we thought he would be impressed to see them up close.

A short drive away, a handy voucher giving us discounted entry, and we were ready to go.

After we paid our entry fee and purchased our bag of ‘animal food’, we headed in. We immediately heard over the PA system that there was going to be a ‘Lion Talk’ starting in 10 minutes. Anyone with a toddler knows their attention spans can be short, and standing in a crowd listening to someone talk through a speaker is not going to bode well.

It also meant that the walk-in area where you can feed to kangaroos had next to no one in it so it made for the perfect first stop.

Hunter Valley Zoo

Kangaroo Joey

While I understand why they do it, its safe to say just about everyone who comes to the Zoo buys some animal food as the kangaroos were pretty well fed. Upon realising this the little guy decided that the ducks on the other side of the fence were more deserving of his attention, as well as his food.

feed kangaroo

After getting bored of feeding the kangaroos, ducks, and the odd Llama, we decided to keep moving. Next stop were the Monkeys. Kangaroos, ducks, and even Llamas were something Ollie had seen outside before, so the Monkeys were the first animals he had only ever seen in a book. You could tell he was impressed, until we moved on the only words out of his mouth were “Eee Eee Eee” – in case you couldn’t tell that’s the sound a Monkey makes.

monkeys

As we continued through the first half of the Zoo, the animals were more suited to older kids. What do I mean by that? A toddler isn’t exactly interested in birds, or any animal that’s smaller then they are, especially when they aren’t moving much.

We then moved towards the larger animal enclosures, walking past a number of Crocodiles. Again no matter how much enthusiasm Mum and Dad showed towards them, Ollie wasn’t interested unless they were moving.

Beyond the Crocodiles were the Lions – thankfully by the time we got there the crowd had already dispersed. Unfortunately that also meant the Lions were using this time to rest and weren’t being overly active.

note, I’m not 100% sure if the Lions were actually more active during the talk, however with never seeing a Lion in the wild, I’m not sure how active they are.

As we checked out the other large enclosures we noticed an Emu had come over to the fence and a couple of people were feeding it. I used this opportunity to get rid of the last of our animal food that we had been carrying around and allow Ollie to see it up close. That was were it wrong. . .

Now just to clarify nothing bad as such happened here and no one was ever in danger

With child in one arm and food in the other I reached out to the emu – with the food, not the child (I shouldn’t feel the need to clarify that), and the Emu promptly snatched the food out of my hand. While some of us thought this was funny, the look on the little guy’s face was one of shock and horror.

Let’s just say we moved away from the Emu pretty quickly. Fortunately the scare from the Emu was quickly forgotten about when the Lions decided to use that time to be more active.

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To paint a picture for you there are two Lion enclosures with a high wall between them, they each hold a different type of Lion, a male and female of each.

When the first one decided to open its lungs and Roar, the other 3 did the same. What followed was a ten minute symphony of loud roars that would have woken anyone up.

The rest of the visit was rather uneventful compared to the Emu’s and Lions.

Time to head Home

While no one was ready to hop back in the car, all good things must come to an end.

As I mentioned in Our Quick Escape – Part 1 we were lucky that our Destination in the Hunter Valley was only a short drive from our home of Newcastle . While it was only a short drive, 3 big days had obviously warn the little guy out as he was fast asleep as soon as we pulled out of the driveway from the Zoo.

quick escape hunter valley

That marked the End of Our Hunter Valley Escape. However the busy week didn’t finish there, Day 3 of our Holiday was also the day Ollie turned 2, you can read more about it in 2 Years of Parenthood .

 

 

 

Our Quick Escape – Part 2

quick escape hunter valley

While Day 1 was only really a half day, it was still a long one and had taken it out of all of us. Day 2 started a little earlier then we would have hoped, but that’s the life of a parent.

A quick escape into the Hunter Valley was the perfect way to not only celebrate our little guy turning 2 (and us surviving 2 years of parenthood), but it was also the last chance before our little family becomes bigger – When 3 become 4. . .

If this is your first stop and you have just read that this is ‘Part 2’ then you probably should check out Our Quick Escape – Part 1 first. Don’t worry ill wait for you. . . OK your back? Let’s move on. . .

Day 2 – Early Rise

Yesterday was a long day that ended up with the family in bed by 8pm, the next day started however with the family awake at 2am. Whether it was Toddler Sleep Regressions , a sick child, sleeping in a foreign environment, or simply our toddler deciding that Mum and Dad were not getting a good night sleep. We aren’t sure why the little guy decided to wake up and not go back to sleep for 2 and half hours. Fortunately once he did fall back to sleep he didn’t wake up until around 9am.

So what started as an early rise, ended up being a late one with us not leaving the hotel until close to 10am.

Breakfast

On holidays its important to not only enjoy the time with each other and the places you go, but also the food you eat. Keeping this in mind we found another cafe advertising that not only were they open for breakfast, but they had Coffee – Habit or Necessity – Definitely a Necessity at this point.

The place we found was “Oscar’s Hunter Valley”.

Note, I must be honest with you, it wasn’t so much that we ‘found’ the place, we had been given some vouchers for various places around the Hunter Valley by our family, 25% off of the total bill was reason enough to go searching.

Hunter Valley Breakfast

Was the food as good as it looks? Absolutely!

Was the experience as smooth as the Coffee? Not exactly

As I mentioned earlier, the little guy didn’t sleep the best the night before. As any parent would tell you, a tired toddler who at this stage we actually think is teething (when does it end?), doesn’t mix well with waiting for breakfast. Not that we had to wait that long, again the service was pretty good.  However as soon as our food came out, our toddler decided that something else needed to come out too and Dad and Son went searching for a more appropriate place to clean up.

Snow? In this part of the Country?

One of the reasons we decided to visit the Hunter Valley for our Quick Escape was that the Hunter Valley Gardens were running their annual “Snowtime in the Hunter” event.

What? Snow? I thought Australia was warm and sunny, not cold and snowy. Well that’s true most of the time however like the rest of the world we still have a winter. Although in our part of the country, snow is almost unheard of. Normally if we wanted to enjoy it, it would mean a 7 hour drive. While it isn’t the same, its still a good bit of fun for kids.

snowtime in the hunter While it wasn’t much, the little guy had a bit of fun playing in the snow. There was also a ice skating rink setup, however given the extra cost involved and our toddler’s mixed emotional state, we gave that a miss.

We did however try out the toboggan slide, and while the time to line up was longer then the experience itself it was still fun, at least for Dad, there was no way the little guy was having another go.

As day wore on, more and more people arrived, given the relatively small area that had ‘snow’ we didn’t hang around there too much longer.

snowtime in the hunter

We did manage to build this little snowman though – you can tell we don’t see snow often.

Ride and Slide

Outside of the ‘snow’ area had a few rides and food places setup. Our little guy was fascinated watching some of the rides as they activated, unfortunately for him but fortunately for our wallets, at the age of 2 he is still too small to ride them.

Thankfully they did have an area setup for kids in this situation – an inflatable fun zone! Of course our child being the child he is wasn’t content with simply climbing and sliding on the areas he could do himself. He needed Dad to help him climb up the biggest and slide down with him – over and over again.

slide

When we eventually were able to drag our toddler away from the inflatable fun, we did so by taking him on the merry-go-round. This was a ride the entire family could go on. While it was short lived, we did manage to get a few smiles from the little guy.

A couple of hours in the sun meant it was time for a cold drink, and? you guessed it, fresh coffee. Coffee for Dad, Hot Chocolate for Mum, and a Baby-cino for the little guy.

While enjoying our drinks we also noticed a stall selling various balloons. Now you probably know by now that our toddler is obsessed with dinosaurs. He also knows a few different animals like cows and dogs.

Afternoon Exploring

One place we had driven past a few times but not stopped at was the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company. A small cafe with a chocolate shop attached where they make there own fudge onsite. If you like your sweet stuff then it is definitely a place to visit. While Mum was having a look around it was time for another energy boost.

coffee

As we still had some daylight hours left we decided to pop into shop that advertised a huge selection of beers from around the world, along with a range of local wines, and tastings on them everyday.

This stop was purely for Dad as none of this interests a 2 year old, and as you know Down Under Mum is pregnant. This allowed me to sample a couple of Hunter Red Wines. At least that way we could say we tasted some wines while staying in the heart of the Hunter Valley Wine Region.

Nighttime Adventures

When we returned to the hotel we noticed a sign saying every night at 6pm (just after dark) the dancing fountain light show was on. Given this was our last night and we were free we thought we should check it out.

 

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While relatively short lived, it did hold the attention of our toddler until we decided the cold was too much.

It was then time for dinner, which after the previous nights attempt we were a little nervous about. It did go off without a hitch though! Turns out we must have got there just at the right time as our food came out relatively quick, and when we went back to order some dessert, there was a wait time of over an hour – so we skipped dessert and ordered it from room service instead.

As it was still early at this stage and we had now eaten we decided the little guy could have another go at driving the arcade games since he enjoyed it so much the night before. I think we underestimated how much he enjoyed them because we were there for awhile – again not actually playing them, just pretending (although he didn’t know that).

Eventually it was time for bed, and while he wasn’t overly impressed at leaving them, he was too tired to fight it.

Day 2 was a full day, but it wasn’t the end of our escape into the Hunter Valley. Stay tuned for Part 3.

Our Quick Escape – Part 1

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Our Quick Escape – Part 1

quick escape hunter valley

With baby number 1 turning 2 this week and baby number 2 fast approaching When 3 become 4. . . A few days off in a row was the perfect excuse for our little family to enjoy a break before our lives get a whole lot busier. It just so happens that our little guy also turns 2 this week so what better way to celebrate then a family holiday.

Day 1

As all parents would know, it doesn’t matter how well thought out your plans are, more often then not those plans will never go exactly how you want them to. Today Mrs Down Under had a checkup to make sure everything was going alright with Baby number 2, again as most parents – and anyone who has experienced a waiting room knows that there is no way to tell exactly how long you will be there.

Without going into too much detail we didn’t end up leaving our place until lunchtime.

Luckily our destination was the small town of Pokoblin in the heart of the Hunter Valley. For those reading abroad this is just a short 45 minute drive from our hometown of Newcastle.

Long Overdue Lunch Break

After driving past our hotel as lunch was more important then checking in, we arrived at the village attached to the Hunter Valley Botanic Gardens. A short stroll around and we found exactly what our stomachs were looking for.

taste of the country

The place was only small but the fireplace in the corner was definitely welcoming given its still the middle of winter.

One thing about this place that really stood out was the service. By this stage our little guy was approaching the danger zone AKA past his usual nap time. This was made easier by the waitress who didn’t make him sit in the high chair (a phase he is going through) but rather got him a cushion so he could sit on the normal chairs, then gave him some coloring in to do. When she found out it was his birthday this week she also gave him a car!

note, the car was a matchbox car that had been left behind by a previous customer.

Given that this is a parenting blog and any parent readers know just what toddlers can be like, I feel it important to mention that none of the over and above actions of the waitress actually improved his mood – but it was still a nice touch.

country breakfast

As you can see the food was just as good as the service. Pancakes for Mum and Son, and Corn Fritters with a home made sweet chili jam for Dad.

Afternoon Exercise

After lunch it was time to visit the park that Mum and Dad (but thankfully not son) had spied on the way in. Regular readers would know by now that our little guy loves using the play equipment in parks Weekend Adventures so this was a required stop in our eyes.

park fun

While it does look like he has the run of the grounds to himself, what you can’t see off camera is half a dozen other children sharing the park. Keyword there being sharing, something we are still trying to teach our little guy.

After we got bored, or sick of sharing – you can decide which. It was time to check in to the hotel. While the hotel did have one of those big fancy driveways where you stop right out the front (its the little things in life), it was full when we arrived, so we simply parked and walked with our suitcase. To an adult a suitcase with a pullout handle and 2 wheels does make life easier when travelling. To a toddler who feels the need to drag it by himself, it does not. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture for that one as it didn’t last long. Instead Dad had a toddler in one arm and the suitcase in the other.

The Hotel

When we eventually walked in we had 2 options, left or right. Right allowed us to deposit our bags while we checked in on the left and have them brought to the room for us. Hotels should consider this service for children as well, allow parents to deposit them while they sort out the paperwork and take everything out of the mini bar so the kids don’t accidentally open the $10 bottle of water.

One thing the hotel did give us – or rather the little guy was a stuffed animal frog with their insignia printed on the foot. While this might not seem like much to you and me, to a 2 year old it was amazing.

I do need to describe our room to you though.

  • 2 double beds – we had the illusion that at least one of us might get a good nights sleep each night which would have been great given the recent Toddler Sleep Regressions but more on that later.
  • Bath Tub – this is a big deal for us, as our bathroom at home lacks this feature. While we have perfected the art of showering a toddler, nothing beats a bath in his eyes.
  • No Microwave – something we should have considered, but more on that later.
  • A View – when we booked the room it was described as having a view over either the golf course the hotel was situated on, or the pool area. What they didn’t mention was the pool area wasn’t due for completion until 2019

balcony room

 

Our little guy got so excited about the presence of a bath tub that he decided then and there that he needed a bath, immediately.

Given the fact the only time our toddler had rested today was in the car (which is no replacement for a proper nap in my opinion), an early dinner was in order. On the way we thought we should check out the ‘games’ room we had seen on way in.

Pro-tip for parents – unless you know exactly what is in said ‘games’ room, don’t go anywhere near it, don’t even mention it.

arcade game

The games room was full of arcade games, AKA money drains if your kids understand them and want to play them. Or if your kid simply wants to sit in the car and pretend he is driving like ours, good luck getting them to leave.

It was at that time we reaching breaking point in the danger zone, While Mum and Dad tried to order a meal and then enjoy it. The little dude was not having a bar of it. Without sugar coating it, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

As soon as dinner was done it was straight back to the room for bed. Given the last 45 minutes or so we had no grand ideas about how this was going to go down especially given we were in a foreign environment. What made this more difficult was the delay in warming up a bottle. No microwave made this difficult, as did the fact the plug in the sink didn’t actually stop the water from draining away.

note if anyone has an easier way to warm up a bottle then running it under hot water from the tap when you don’t have a microwave I’d love to hear it for next time.

But Surprise Surprise, A warm bottle, a dark room, cuddles with Dad, and 15 minutes of your favorite movie, was all it took to get him to fall asleep.

That was Day 1 of a 3 Day adventure – you can find Part 2 below,

Our Quick Escape pt 2