So we slipped away for a couple of weeks for a wonderful family holiday touring New South Wales. I don't like to pre-announce or share our holidays online while they're happening, but you will have to put up with me sharing some (lots of) pictures with you now (just look away if you're not interested!). We had such a wonderful time, and experienced so many beautiful parts of God's creation in Australia. Previously, the only time I'd spent in the eastern states was a few days here and there in Melbourne.
I ambitiously took my sketchbook (and a spare) along, as I have found that our summer camping holidays tend to be prime drawing time for me. Ha ha! I've learnt that a winter road trip is quite a different event to a summer camping trip. We saw and did so much, but drawing was not on the cards (it's one of those things I dream of doing much more easily once the children are all grown up).
Travelling with five children (especially a one year old and a four year old) is no mean feat. Staying in hotels, travelling public transport, lugging seven duffle bags, sourcing breakfast, lunch and dinner, fitting in afternoon naps and reasonable bed times… And I'm fairly certain we visited all the public toilets in Sydney and Southern NSW. (Phil and I make an agreement before we left to be patient about toilet requests during the holiday, but we failed a few times “Seriously? You only just went five minutes ago, and ten minutes before that too!”). But we noted how often we got so much pleasure from the fact that the children were with us – introducing them to new concepts and experiences, enjoying little things along the way, making the most of so many teaching moments, and stopping at all the great playgrounds along the way
We started with a few days in Sydney – lot's of walking around The Rocks, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour. We enjoyed the National Maritime Museum, and also took a ferry out to Manly for a day. Just being in a big city (and staying in a hotel) was a huge experience for the children.
Then we based ourselves in a town called Berry, about two hours south of Sydney. What a beautiful place! We thoroughly enjoyed our few days there, and would go back any day – beautiful mountains and forest, antique shopping, book shopping, coffee shops and more. And of course, the Berry Patchwork Shop. It was lovely to meet you, Elizabeth! While we stayed here, we saw wombats, lyrebirds, dolphins and whales, so everyone was pretty thrilled with that.
Being a winter holiday, we couldn't miss the snow! Daniel has begged to go to 'snow country' ever since he could talk. Most of the time that we were in Jindabyne, the conditions at the snow were blizzard-like. So, not at all like the cute picture book illustrations, but we told the children that it's all part of the adventure!
As we planned this holiday, we spoke with the children about how we can make good plans, but God may just have other plans for us. We were making plans to visit the snow, but wanted to prepare them for the fact that there are many things that can prevent such plans from happening as we would like. So we often spoke in terms of 'on Wednesday we are going to the snow, the Lord willing'. In fact, this holiday came about when our initial plans to visit New Zealand in January 2015 had to be changed due to the new baby we are expecting. We were very blessed that our holiday went so smoothly. We saw and experienced everything we'd hoped to and more. But then we emerged from a beautiful morning in the snow on Friday to the shocking news that MH17 had been downed, and that family friends (I grew up calling them Uncle and Aunty) were on board. So hard to grasp and impossible to understand. I know that God has the whole world in his Hands and will call everyone to account for what they have done. And I know that He is able to carry the family and wider community through this difficult time, and that His Name will be glorified through that. May all those affected find true Peace and Comfort!
Needless to say, the rest of the trip had a different tone to it. It seemed fitting that the next day was spent at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It was a good opportunity to talk with the children about the plane incident, about the blessing of living here in a free country, about the sacrifice of so many men (and women) throughout the years, and about how God directs history.
The Australian War Memorial is such a treasure. Even though the WW1 exhibits were closed for renovation, we could have still spent more time exploring. It would definitely be a regular destination if we lived closer!
The last few days were spent in the Blue Mountains. We thoroughly enjoyed driving through the region, visiting the little towns along the way, and exploring the forest at Scenic World. The last few days of hour holiday we were all battling a nasty virus – to the extent that we had to disembark our original flight, and stay in Sydney for an extra night. A small drama, but it didn't take away from an absolutely fabulous holiday. So many new experiences. I particularly enjoyed seeing how the landscape and plants changed as we drove through the region. So much natural beauty! And the little towns, with so many old buildings!
So thankful for this opportunity to see more of this beautiful world, and to spend time together as family.