In case you’re wondering why the roads are quieter and all the kids movies have just come out at the cinema, it’s now school holidays in Victoria. This means Teach is around, so I am a very happy camper: I’ve gone out for lunch with some friends and I didn’t have to shoo away their grabby hands on my food (too much), and brief supermarket visits for two items is less traumatic because one of us can just wait in the car, and all kinds of similar things that I used to take for granted. We usually throw in a few touristy things, though we’ve been slack these holidays – all I can remember of last week is that we went out for donuts a lot – but today we spent the morning at the pool watching eight-year-olds steal all the kickboards and sit on a big pile of them like miniature evil overlords, and after the Rocket’s post-swim epic nap we decided to go and show her the city from the top of the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere: Eureka Tower. We’d been years before on our own and had a surprisingly great time up there – we even did the Edge Experience, where they send you out in a glass cube and you’re all cool about it until the opaque floor clears and then immediately you know you will fall to your death – so we thought we’d take our little Rocket up there and see what she thought.
It was a beautiful day to be in Melbourne. Sunny, mild, t-shirt weather if you enjoy dressing impractically like I do. We caught the train in, and walked over the Southbank Footbridge which, it turns out, is now covered in love locks. We sat and had snacks by the Yarra, watching the boats and helicopters, and looking fruitlessly for ducks.
To go to the top of the tower is $19.50 per adult, less for kids and nothing for kids under four. The 88-floor ride up lasts thirty-eight seconds (they are the fastest lifts in the southern hemisphere) and your ears pop maybe three times – to the Rocket’s credit, she didn’t seem concerned, but did want to be picked up for the last twenty or so floors. Up there, the views of my beloved city are phenomenal. I could spend hours up there, circling around and rediscovering landmarks from a different angle. We did worry that the Rocket would immediately panic and need to be removed (Teach has had this experience during excursions before), but she wasn’t worried at all, and seemed to enjoy herself very much, and made friends with the stacks of other toddlers that were wandering fearlessly around the place. Her favourite part was the lit-up words on the floor that tell stories and explain which direction is east/west; she spent most of her time walking on them. We didn’t go out on the Edge, as they dramatise the whole thing with loud clanking sounds to make it more scary and effective (which it is), but we did take her to the supremely windy outdoor section, which has an airlock and everything, and which she screamed about as soon as we went through the door. We left, she yelled, “More windy!”, so we went out again, and she yelled, “No windy!” so we went back in, and she yelled “More windy!” so we went back out, and she yelled “No windy!” so we went back in, and the next time she yelled “More windy!” we had finally learned our lesson and just stayed inside. I got a coffee from the tiny little cafe front and it was a) actually very well-priced for tourist-destination coffee and b) pretty lovely, and not even searingly hot so I didn’t have to carry it around awkwardly for an hour, so, good work Eureka barista. There’s a baby change table in the accessible toilets as well, which was handy. We were probably up there for more than half an hour; we watched the sunset and it was just magical.
After we came down, we traversed the path to Crown Casino, passing by fire-twirling and friendly buskers and depleting all our change. Crown is a place I loved when I was a young adult; it was newly built and shiny and so very grown-up, with all the gambling and the booze (though I spent most of my time there either at the arcade, the movies or the Warner Brothers shop that used to be there.) I loved the lights, the opulence, the drama; the one and only time I skipped an entire day of school was to go there and watch Star Wars: Episode 1 (hey so mum if you’re reading this, I totally didn’t, I’m just trying to look cool for my friends). We haven’t gone there much in the years since we became old and uninterested in dropping upwards of seven dollars a night on the pokies, and it had changed – gone was Warner Brothers and candy stores, in was Paspaley and stores with glittering entrances. Still, there were the main ingredients we were looking for: the fountain display just off the hotel’s foyer, which we watched for a while, a food court to supply us with some takeaway felafel kebabs and pizza, and a lovely winding outdoor seating area so we could watch the columns of fire while we ate dinner. Teach and the Rocket went outside while I waited for my food to be cooked, and when I went outside and looked for them, seeing their heads together as they started in on their dinner, illuminated by the lights of the city and the Yarra dark and flowing behind them – I stopped for a moment and just enjoyed it, my little family, out for a little trip in the city.
So we timed our dinner for the flame show on the columns along the Yarra promenade, which was a good idea, until the fire did its most dramatic, big and hot blast whereupon the Rocket burst into immediate and horrified tears, causing everyone around us to laugh affectionately as she wailed, “Mummy hug!” and I held her tight. It happened again, she screamed louder, and so I took her inside until the show stopped and she calmed down, the poor poppet. After we finished eating, and she was feeling better (despite having caused another nearby kid who had coped fine with the fire to burst into tears over her anguish), she and Teach shared an ice cream cone as we meandered back to the station.
We didn’t get home until almost nine o’clock. On the train, she had melted into her father’s arms, rubbed her eyes and asked him to sing her a song, which we do to go to sleep, so he whispered Baa Baa Black Sheep for a while as she lay on his lap. She was sweet and lovely the whole time, and even forgave us the Great Fire of 2014. I know from experience these days very rarely work according to plan – but that just makes a day like today easier to appreciate as it unfurls in front of you.
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