You go all the way to Australia to get away from the little rascals but somehow they always manage to track you down. Then again, when you temporarily live in the land of sun and beaches, can you really blame your parents for wanting a piece of the action?
My folks – Ros and Andy – had kindly decided to spend my inheritance by bouncing around Australia and New Zealand for five weeks. For two of these weeks we’d be holed up together. Their impending arrival brought two thoughts to mind (which was already somewhat annoying because it was two more than I was comfortable with).
Thought one: how could I survive two weeks with them? Thought two: what was the best way to spend their money? Strangely I found that the more I focused my energy on thought two the less thought one bothered me. It’s true what they say; you’ve got to make the most of your parents because one day they’ll be gone… and you’ll have to pay for everything yourself. Things got off to a good start when we agreed to go to Melbourne. Despite living in Australia for over a year I hadn’t had the chance to visit this wonderful city.
We landed in Melbourne with the fight count still on 0. Although mum and dad had at times threatened to get rowdy. When my parents are around I feel like I’m in a boxing ring. Mum’s in the red corner, dad’s in the blue corner and I’m the ref in the middle trying not to get punched in the face. But I’m also the coach rubbing down each fighter, calming them down, before the next round. It can all get a bit tiring but thankfully a pimp-daddy apartment overlooking the river puts the ref in a better mood. “Melbs”, as I like to call it, is a great place to go with your parents because there are so many things to do.
My father is a cricket lover, so we started off with a tour of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). The “Gee” is one of the largest cricket stadiums in the world and is conveniently located just a 15 minute walk from the town centre. The tour was surprisingly enjoyable considering how many times we were reminded of matches where the Aussies whooped our asses. Our grey-haired tour master not only took us to the pong-tastic changing rooms but also onto the field, where we could admire the magnitude of the ground. I looked over at my dad and was sure that he was mentally playing for England, thwacking a six high into the stand. “Go dad”, I thought.
But next it was time for mum to have some fun. For some strange reason my mum has a thing for Captain Cook. I know he “discovered” Australia, but who really cares about all that? It’s in the past. “But Joanna you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Captain Cook,” my mum droned on. I didn’t say it but thought how the hell did she know where I’d be if it wasn’t for Captain Cook? I make my own decisions. Anyway to pacify the person who I really wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for we trundled off to see Cook’s cottage in Fitzroy Gardens. What’s cooking? Why the heck is the Yorkshire man’s family home in Australia? Good question.
Well, when the Cooks’ residence was put up for sale in 1933 some prominent Victorians bought it and shipped it over to Melbourne. As the cottage was so tiny James Cook had had to share a bedroom with his sister and parents (more than likely the reason why he ended up one of the world’s best explorers). In the garden stood a cardboard cut-out off the Cook family that you could stick your head through. We took photos of my dad pretending to be Cook’s sister Margaret (see below). After all the cricket and colonialism action I decided that the next day we had to do something silly. The Eureka Tower was just the ticket.
It’s Melbourne’s tallest building and the world’s tallest residential building. Whilst the view from the observatory was breathtaking – the experience wouldn’t be complete until you go over the edge. I’m not talking about suicide (yet) but about the delightful little glass box they’ve built that slowly moves out of the building and dangles you above the world. My mother decided that she’d already had enough excitement to last a lifetime so sat it out (hmm… what’s that animal that goes cluck and lays eggs again?) But dad and I boldly went where thousands had gone before. Everyone stood around the edge of the edge clutching onto the metallic bars at the side. We stood there for what felt like years and the expectancy caused a wave of nausea to surge through my body.
Shit I was scared. Thankfully dad was there to hold my hand – and mimic cracking sounds into my ear. What a bastard. The glass walls of the box were glazed over until we reached our dreaded destination. When the glass cleared I looked down at the city stretched beneath me. The fear had subsided but I still moved very tentatively around. I looked out at my mum who was watching from the observation balcony. She waved and then pointed to the bottom of the box with a look of panic on her face. She mouthed: “It’s breaking.” At that moment I understood why my parents annoyed me so much. It boiled down to the simple fact that they are both tossers. But strangely enough, as soon as I realised this, travelling with them became a lot easier.
The rest of our time together was spent in perfect harmony. So my advice to anyone who has to travel with their elders is to take everything they do and say with a pinch of salt… then head to a nice restaurant and get pissed. Survival Tips ° Do some research – look into places that will have things for them – and you – to do ° Perhaps think about spending some time in larger cities as they’ll have more food, accommodation options as well as activities; more museums and galleries for example ° Look into car hire rather than the bus. You WILL NOT look cool on the back seat with your folks sitting next to you – plus they’ll probably pay ° Likewise, forget MacDonald’s and look into some good quality mid-priced restaurants, or ones in spectacular settings like Sydney’s SkyTower or Bondi’s Icebergs (especially for the first and last nights…) ° Pay for one of their nights out because they’ll think you’re great and be even more generous (worked for Jo anyway) ° Think they’ll like an 18-bed dorm?
Look into rented apartments, B&Bs, mid-range hotels and other accommodation options ° Bring your MP3 player and a good book for when they start arguing ° Especially when they get annoying (and tell you it’s past your bed time), keep reminding yourself they’re not hear for long, so make the most of it. We asked Lonely Planet how to travel the east coast with the folks: There are some brilliant places along the coast for those looking for more sober travel experiences.
Port Macquarie is one of the more beautiful NSW coastal towns. Sited on a spectacular headland, the row of tiny coves lining the approach road throw up some great surf. Instead of Byron Bay, which can get raucous at night, base yourself in nearby Brunswick Heads instead, which has a beach, cafes and easy access to Byron. The Whitsundays access town, Airlie Beach, is packed full of bars and smashed backpackers. Skip it and head straight to the islands or board a sailing boat and cruise the archipelago for a few glorious days. When in Cairns consider staying in nearby Kuranda, high in the hills behind the city. The village is a lovely little retreat, and much cooler and laidback than its brash big brother on the coast.