Today my partner took a day off work, I turned my mobile phone off (it has been running hot with end-of-job freneticism, as I finish up my from-home work role on Friday), and we took our three girls into the city for a day of Christmas fun.
The ostensible purpose of our trip was to see the Myer Christmas Windows. If you are an Australian, you know all about the windows; if not, this is a tradition, dating from 1956, whereby one of the oldest retailers in the city creates a Christmas story themed display in their shopfront windows for over a month. This year the theme was the Nutcracker, and both my big girls were very keen to see it, being past ballerinas themselves and avid ballet fans. (Gymnastics has claimed their affections this year, and will be their sport again in 2011, but I would not be surprised to see one or both of them return to dance at some point in the future).
The day started off with a train trip into town. Everything about riding the train was exciting - buying and validating the tickets, boarding the train, watching out the windows, and (joy! joy!) travelling through the underground loop to get to the right station. My 22-month-old was beside herself with delight.
The queue for viewing the windows initially looked intimidating, but it actually moved fairly smoothly, thanks largely to two very polite but very determined security guards who prevented every attempt at queue-jumping (I was astonished at how many people tried it on - honestly, very rude behaviour). We spent our 25 minutes in the queue very pleasantly, listening to a guitar-playing busker, talking to the older kids, and rocking the toddler (happily asleep) in her pusher. Despite being another wet, cold December day (summer? what summer!), the mood of the crowd was mellow enough and we all enjoyed looking at the unusually northern-Christmas-like slate grey skies and blossoming umbrellas in the decorated mall.
The windows themselves were lovely:
and the kids really enjoyed them:
especially the fine detail in the ballroom scenes.
Leaving the windows with three slightly fatigued children, we decided on a stroll through the Royal and Block Arcades. If you are not from Melbourne and ever visit, I would so recommend a walking tour or even just a wander around Melbourne's lanes and arcades. They are the part of the city I miss the most now I don't work in the CBD, and the girls hugely enjoyed the beauty and surprises that they had to offer.
Gog and Magog were appropriately festively attired, too.
We ended up in Australia on Collins, a more modern shopping centre than the lovely arcades, for lunch, but even there, hanging baubles captured imaginations and created fun, and we managed to complete the very last of our Christmas shopping.
Then we took a tram down Collins Street to Southern Cross Railway Station, Melbourne's large architecturally-designed railway switching point between urban and rural rail lines. The girls loved the tram ride, if this were possible, even more than the train ride. I wasn't fast enough to photograph it, but the sight of their three heads together pressed against the glass made me smile.
Before we got on the train to head home, the girls ran off some steam on the patch of lawn out front of the Age building (the Age being Melbourne's local broadsheet newspaper).
By the time the train arrived back at our home station at 3:30, just over 6 hours after we'd left, we were a very tired, very cheerful, and very Christmasified family! Indeed, the big girls are out for a drive with their Dad right now checking out Christmas light displays, so I'm sure there is more Christmas excitement to come when they get home.
It must be said - it's the most wonderful time of the year ;-)