How to have a holiday at home

Our holiday at home came about because we were slightly bored and needed a quick break from our usual routines.

John and I had begun to talk about an overseas holiday at the end of the year. I’m amazed how quickly the mention of a holiday sends us to our tablets to research new venues and the old ones we love and return to often.

‘It would be fun to act as if we were tourists in Perth for a change,’ I suggested. ‘Let’s find some places we haven’t been for a while. And some new ones. Let’s pretend we’re seeing this city for the first time. We’ll call it a holiday at home.’

Before we go anywhere new, John and I make lists of the major and minor things that we’d like to do while we’re there. With a list that includes experiences that take a whole day to those that take half-an-hour or less, we never run out of ideas.

Because we are an old man and an old woman, we build in lots of rests – but that doesn’t mean we always find a park bench or have afternoon naps. Often we catch a passing bus or ferry to an out-lying suburb or village we would not otherwise see. Our spontaneous bus trips have yielded some of our most exciting travel events and richest memories, to say nothing of the best meals in local cafes where tourists rarely venture.

A few minutes research was all it took to find plenty of new things to do in Perth. With the scene so easily set for a mini-break, we invited my daughter, Anne to join us.  She’s a primary school teacher, and was very open to having a holiday at home. Together, we made a list of twenty places close to Perth that could fulfil our fantasy of a short holiday.

How we spent one day of our holiday at home

Each morning for a few days we set off, open to the wonder we might experience if we were in some distant location. Days with temperatures in the low 30s, sandwiched between heat waves, were perfect for our too brief stay-at-home-holiday. We didn’t always stick to the list; in the end we made several spur-of-the moment decisions which were also very satisfying.

One new place we wanted to see was the Rio Tinto Naturescape in Kings Park, opened at the end of 2011. Part of Kings Park overlooks the Swan River and the city of Perth. It is said to be one of the largest inner city parks in the world. Until a few years ago, I hated the thought of development of the Park, but having seen the changes wrought by the Kings Park Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, I now welcome the new. This innovation did not disappoint.

We knew we’d enjoy our visit better if we had a child or two with us, so we enlisted my granddaughters Amelia Nancarrow (12) and Claire Linton and her daughter (my great-granddaughter), Elizabeth, who will be three in March.

Designed and constructed with the help of a large donation from the mining company, and with the support of other benefactors, the 60 000 square metres of bush has been landscaped to provide an area where children can be free to build cubbies, climb rocks and towers of different heights, swing from ropes and trees and become immersed in free play in the bush.

The natural-looking creeks and pools took me back seventy years. That was when Dog Swamp in Yokine – now the site of a large shopping centre five kilometres from the centre of Perth – was indeed a swamp. Dog Swamp was two block from where I lived with my parents in North Perth.

It was where we built cubby houses in the bush. The ‘big kids’ made canoes from old corrugated roofing iron. We little ones watched enviously as they paddled (and often sank) their craft.  Meanwhile, we played in the murky water on the edges. I have no memory of adult supervision. In those days the big kids were expected to look after the little ones.

Two Nature Activity Officers greeted us at the entrance. They were clear that this is not a playground but a naturescape, and that there is a limited visitor capacity at all times. Bookings are essential for large groups. School classes are invited to participate in the education programs provided.

There are a few simple rules:

  • Adult supervision of all children is mandatory
  • Stay safe – watch out for the natural hazards one expects in the bush: prickly bushes, spiders, bees, snakes and water
  • Take your rubbish home
  • No picnic rugs, folding chairs or anything that detracts from the natural appearance of the area.

Other rules preclude throwing rocks; riding bikes, scooters or skateboards; pets; smoking and alcohol; balls; large shelters and birthday parties.

But the rule I like best of all says, ‘Shh…Listen and be gentle. You are entering a fragile, natural environment. Please look after each other.’

A gentle hush permeated the area for the whole time we were there. We heard birds, but no raised voices. There was laughter and obvious cooperation between children and parents. Children of all ages, including Amelia and Elizabeth, challenged themselves to climb rocks and ropes. They paddled in pools with sharp, rocky bottoms and walked on logs across streams. As well, they found tadpoles and little fish and  built cubby houses.

There was a level of intensity through the area that I don’t very often observe. Children learned about the environment by playing in and reacting with it, rather than on playground equipment and playing fields. Parents and grandparents sat on logs and watched the children, or involved themselves in their youngsters’ play.

This grandmother/great-grandmother went home feeling peaceful and full of creative energy. Our tourist outing to the Rio Tinto Naturescape in Kings Park was an eye-opener, a trip down memory lane and a joy. I can’t wait to go back.

8 replies on “How to have a holiday at home”

  1. How wonderful for you. Green with jealousy I am as I am not parent grandparent or great grandparent and mobility is not my forte. There are some wonderful places in and around our city. Go to the Mint it is worth a visit as is the Catholic cathedral IF you haven’t been there already,
    Love always Rosiex

    1. Yes, I am very lucky on many fronts. Anne had a really good time. John and I have the mint on our list, but have been to the Catholic cathedral several times. It is very lovely. There is so much to see and do. I think often that laziness stops me from being more active.

  2. My husband and I had already begun making tentative plans to visit Perth within the next year or so while on a trip from Pennsylvania, USA to Down Under. You’ve definitely piqued our interest. We may need to stay a month! Thank you for sharing your amazing city with the world and giving us the idea of exploring our own Pittsburgh in a similar manner.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sharon. I was delighted to write that snippet about Perth, and even more delighted that one of my LinkedIn connections had taken the time to read it and comment. Exploring one’s own city can be a fun activity, and is often fascinating and rewarding. I hope that when you come to Perth, you will share a meal with John and me.

  3. Excellent – I look forward to finding this slice of adventure!

    1. It’s well worth a visit, Jenny. Amelia loved it. I’m really glad we found it.

  4. Thanks Maureen.
    Sounds like a wonderful adventure place- glad you mentioned there were logs for grandmothers to rest on!
    Looking forward to your next discovery!
    I’m sure you and John have seen most of Perth. So many people travel to other countries, visiting the museums and galleries, and have never been to any of these in their own city/town.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, places for grandparents to sit are important. We were quite comfortable on logs and on the edges of the shelters provided. There is so much to see and do in Perth, and so much development taking place, that John and I will probably never see all of it. But we’ll keep going until we are on our zimmer frames – even then, there will be new places to see. I hope we’ll keep going because the journey is interesting and rewarding. I’ll keep you posted.

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