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A Delicate Balance

A Delicate Balance

Melbourne was the perfect place for some mother-daughter bonding, recounts Fareeda Kanga. The city’s vibrant melange of activities and food culture ensure that people of all ages have a good time

MUMMY I’ve got Koalaitis!” shrieked my 7-year-old daughter in glee. Nestled in her arms was the cuddliest marsupial I had ever seen and the delight in her voice made our stint to the Koala Conservation Centre on Melbourne’s Phillip Island worth the while.

Frankly, I would never have visited this tiny island approximately 140 km south-east of the city; but it was Christina, our slender Singapore airlines stewardess, who suggested we drop anchor here. We spent the day on a boat cruise watching fur seals frolic in their natural environment and then when we had enough of the wild life; a quick trip to the shops was a perfect antidote for mother and daughter.

The great part about visiting Melbourne with youngsters is that the city offers a plethora of experiences that all age groups find fascinating . Like the Harley Davidson ride we got togged up for in leather boots and jackets.

Seated in a side car while I nervously clung onto the tattooed driver for all I was worth, it was the “Eeeh, mama this is such fun” that made me loosen up and soak in the sights of St Kilda ( a suburb worth visiting) including its powdery white beaches and stunning Moorish architecture.

Lunch was alfresco at Donovan’s restaurant, where the casual food and superb produce are expertly matched by the beach house atmosphere. My daughter nibbled on her fish and chips and doodled on the child-friendly place mats whilst I sunk my teeth into some serious meat – A generous steak with lashings of house chips and condiments before we both shared a banana split.

Back at the Grand Hyatt, on Collins Street in the heart of the city we decide to spend Sunday at the Queen Victoria Market popularly referred to as “the temple of all things gourmet” -bringing the best of Aussie produce to the heart of the city. Much like an Indian market with plenty of hustle-bustle and various aromas that assail the senses, I find my daughter haggling over a live rabbit while I was contemplating a pound of oysters…

Luckily I had a foodie for a daughter who was game to sample all the culinary delights this city had to offer. Melbourne is popularly known as Australia’s food capital, a claim it backs with variety and vibrancy yet little ostentatiousness. Our eyes and nostrils tell us this is a city that takes food seriously. Not pretentiously, mind you, but its restaurateurs are serious about providing good food at fair prices – and its inhabitants demand nothing less.

During the 19th-century gold rush, Melbourne was the fastestgrowing city in the British Empire, and the continued migration filtered through to ensure a lasting culinary diversity. To sample every style on offer would entail a dining marathon in this one-time Olympic city.

The “Mod-Oz” concept – bracingly fresh local ingredients married to chefs’ prowess that tips its hat to European and Asian techniques – is much in evidence, but from noodles to nachos, we find something to suit our taste and budget. We loved the Peking Duck at Flower Drum in China Town as much as the pasta at Carlton – Melbourne’s Little Italy.

I was amazed how quickly the days had flown by without any reference to Cartoon Network or the Nintendo DS and as a final treat we decided to splurge on a hot air balloon ride across the stunning Yarra Valley.

At 5 am we arose from our slumber and drove to the site of our balloon ride. 14 adults and one child were piled into a wicker basket (think of a giant picnic basket) and all set to disappear into thin air.

When the propane burners released amber flames into the air we soared majestically above the Yarra valley, one of Victoria’s most spectacular winery regions. Floating amidst the corridors of grape vines then over the Yarra River, silently absorbing the breathtaking views of mountains that surround us on this hour long flight.

As its time to descend we are gallantly instructed to hang on to the basket for dear life since it topples awkwardly planting us on our backsides feet up in the air The lure of a sumptuous champagne breakfast is the only bright spot to assuage the disappointment of our return to earth.

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