When you live in Canberra, Winters can be long and cold….. and a mid-Winter break somewhere sunny and warm is a great idea!
The last few years we’ve had big overseas trips earlier in the year, so the leave balance and budget didn’t allow for Winter holiday. This year we hadn’t been overseas since March and April of 2018….. probably something to do with a certain baby taking up lots of time and attention!
Astrid and Soren definitely have the travel bug, and thought it had been too long between adventures. It had only been 13.5 months since we returned from Europe, so they aren’t that hard done by!
Nevertheless, we were keen for a short break, so a few months earlier we’d managed to organised ourselves a June trip to Vanuatu. It seemed like a great choice for Zinnia’s first overseas adventure. Warm temperatures and reasonably short flights. Meanwhile for her more seasoned traveller siblings it’s country 27 (Astrid) and 25 (Soren).
On the 19th of June, on a typically sub-zero and dark Canberra Winter morning, we arrived at Canberra airport before 6am via the Uncle Mikl taxi service and met up with my mum (aka Granny or Di) who was tagging along for some sunshine and grandchildren time.
We had to get our traditional pre-plane shot, although it was a little rushed after a delayed check-in process, and we were all keen for some quick breakfast at the lounge. Anto and I were particularly keen on coffee as we’d been up til after midnight working and getting organised….. and Miss Zinnia was also up during the night demanding food (not unreasonable for a 7 month old). She was being very patient waiting for her morning feed and breakfast after a rather early start to the day.
Finally on our 7.20am flight to Brisbane, and Zinnia didn’t take too much convincing to go to sleep as she’d been up since before 5. Luckily we had a spare seat next to us, and after her quick nap she enjoyed stretching out, while the big kids annoyed Granny.
We had a quick stop in Brisbane where we filled in some time playing and purchasing duty free, before our flight to Port Vila. Again Zinnia managed to nap, this time for a little longer. The big kids weren’t overly convinced on resting, despite the early start to the day.
We arrived in Port Vila by 3 in the afternoon and had a short wait before our transfers to the resort. We were staying at the Ramada, only about a 20 minute drive from the airport, through town.
We arrived at the resort fairly painlessly with other groups from the same flight and ended up last in the check-in process. It’s best to resign yourself to being on holiday time when in the Pacific, and not fuss about everything taking foever. We were still down in our rooms by a bit after 4pm and enjoying a sunny afternoon.
We were very relieved that we ended up with rooms on both ground level and on the beach. It turned out to be perfect with the kids, they could run straight out to play on the sand and we were close to the pool and restaurant.
The resort is spread out on the side of a very steep hill. Rooms up near reception have fabulous views and are probably quiet, but a big hike to the pool and beach with kids. They do have a buggy service to get you around but it’s not an awful walk when you don’t have luggage. Given we were planning to spend most of our time in the water, down at beach level was the place to be.
We had booked 2 interconnecting junior suites and it turned out to be a good move. The big kids were in with Granny and we had Zinnia in a portacot with us.
This gave us the loungeroom area in our room and 2 kitchens to use between the 2 rooms – a handy feature as they were small.
The door stayed open most of the time and the kids could run back and forth. We had plenty of space, nice bathrooms, comfy beds and lovely views of the lagoon from our rooms.
The view as we stepped out of our rooms and onto the sand wasn’t half bad!
Astrid and Soren were keen to explore and have a swim. Zinnia was down on sleep for the day, so Anto stayed with her in the room and convinced her to have a sleep in her cot (she doesn’t sleep in cots at home so it was a challenge but he eventually won). Meanwhile Granny and I checked out the pool with the big kids.
Being ‘Winter’ in Vanuatu the water wasn’t all that hot, but fairly pleasant once you got in, if a little cold to start. The kids weren’t phased, and after a swim Mum and I thought we wouldn’t bother waiting for Anto to appear with Zinnia and participated in happy hour cocktails by the pool……. a reward for surviving the day travelling!
Pretty soon it was getting dark and we were all exhausted. We hadn’t planned on going into town for food until the next day, and had resigned ourselves to eating at the hotel restaurant, for convenience if nothing else. We knew the restaurant had very average reviews and wasn’t cheap. Despite our already low expectations we were still underwhelmed.
It was apparently a French buffet that night. It was mostly cold and bordering inedible. The lack of anything remotely vegetarian meant they offered to cook me something to order and I got a quite acceptable vegetarian noodle dish which was the best (and cheapest) meal of the bunch!
At least the sunset was pretty and we had some food in our tummies. No one could have coped with a trip for groceries and food after a long day so it wasn’t the worst plan in the world, but did turn out to be the only time we ate at the hotel for dinner.
We had been informed that the weekly fire show was happening on the beach at 8pm. The kids were determined to see it but poor Zinnia was beyond exhausted, so I took her back to bed while the others enjoyed the show.
This meant Anto was on both photo duty and required to stop either child setting themselves on fire, which he managed quite well, despite Soren trying!
The fire show was apparently quite good, and I wouldn’t have minded seeing it but was quite happy for some peace and quiet and a comfy bed after a long day!
Somehow the kids made it through and quickly hit the hay once they were back in the rooms. It had been a very long day, but we had a week of relaxation ahead of us.
Of course all the young ones were up rather early on the first full day of our holiday. We did have a pretty spectacular day to awaken to, even if the adults needed coffee to appreciate it.
Down to the restaurant for our breakfast (our accommodation package did conveniently include buffet breakfast). The food at breakfast was a vast improvement over dinner, thankfully, and in usual holiday style the kids all stuffed themselves on all manner of pastries, pancakes and juice. The novelty wears off after a couple of days, inevitably.
Before we’d release the kids back into the water, we insisted on a walk into town to visit the local markets and collect some food. Port Vila has a number of local markets that operate 24 hours a day 6 days a week (closed Sundays).
The kids had a wonderful time wandering around and checking out all the fresh produce. Including live crabs and chickens, neither of which I’d let them take back to the resort – for either pets or eating.
With some fresh fruit and veggies purchased we went to the nearby supermarket for some other supplies. The market food is much better value than the supermarket. We did know food was going to be expensive in Vanuatu, but it was still cheaper to buy and cook it ourselves than eat out every night!
After a hot and sweaty walk back up the dusty road to the hotel, it was time to cool off in the water. The kids went for their first ever snorkel, while Zinnia and I supervised!
Snorkelling was a hit, and then it was into the kayaks while Anto paddled them both around between swims in the pool.
We had the pool entirely to ourselves again and Miss Zinnia, a fan of swimming in heated pools back home, thought she should go in. Apparently non-heated Vanuatu pools were not great and there was some screaming and sad faces when she got in!
We suspected it was going to be on the cold side for her so she was back out to the warm sun to hang with Granny while the big kids enjoyed swimming in the water with Mum and Dad.
We ended a lovely day with a beautiful sunset and the kids playing beach soccer right out the front of our room. Not the worst way to end the day!
While her brother and sister were enjoying running and playing in the sand, Zinnia was also a fan of this ‘being somewhere warm’ thing and was enjoying not being bundled up in Winter layers!
As Anto cooked us dinner in our apartments we watched the sun go down over the lagoon and the kids were already planning their snorkelling adventures for the next day while watching the pretty fish swim past……
On the Friday we again woke to a beautiful sunny day which started with breakfast at the restaurant. The kids had requested to hang out at the resort for the next couple of days, relaxing and snorkelling, so first on the agenda was another snorkel.
Zinnia had no idea what this crazy outfit her brother was wearing was but she thought he was funny!
Post-snorkel, Astrid and Soren were again happy to play in the sand outside our room and do craft activities outside in the warm. We’d combined both our outdoor tables outside the one room, which also became the verandah full of shoes, sand and general filth. The poor cleaning ladies always had a giggle when they saw the mess the kids had made.
Another sunny afternoon and another kayak across the lagoon with the kids. Across the other side it was quite easy to see plenty of colourful star fish in the shallow waters so it was a favourite destination for the kids. They had a go at paddling back most times too while the adults hitched a short ride. Inevitably they went in circles and we had to take over but they gave it a good shot.
The water hadn’t gotten any warmer in the pool and Zinnia again declined to spend much time in the pool and was happy on the edge watching. Meanwhile the rest of us enjoyed the mostly quiet pool. It was outside of school holidays and the kids had made friends with a few other kids (mostly from New Caledonia and a few Aussies) but despite the resort being quite full barely anyone was at the pool.
Astrid celebrated her last night of being 7 with an Indian dinner at a nearby restaurant, that was both reasonably priced (for Vanuatu) and delicious. It turned out to be the best meal of the trip!
With a Winter birthday she was very excited to awaken to a beautiful warm and sunny day for her 8th birthday…………
Presents from parents, siblings and Granny and excitement from the restaurant staff and a buffet breakfast was a great way to start the day…..
Then as per Astrid’s request a day of hanging in the pool and enjoying the resort, with some fish feeding near the restaurant, playing with new friends and snorkelling. The new 8 year old was making the most of her first ever warm weather birthday!
Yep, back at the snorkelling. Miss Zinnia had to make do with Astrid’s new mermaid pencil case, while the big kids went in. All of us adults have snorkelled (and in some cases scuba dived) all over the world and the snorkelling was far from top-notch, but quite acceptable for the kids. They loved being able to go in from the beach and the stairs right in front of our room. There were a good variety of pretty fish to see, even if the visibility wasn’t great. It was enough to keep them happy though and if we dived down to some nearby bommies there was an even better selection of fish.
While her siblings enjoyed some fish and starfish spotting (there was an awesome array of starfish), Miss Zinnia enjoyed this thing called grass!
Astrid was becoming more confident with every snorkel and Soren enjoyed floating on Granny’s safety sausage so he could relax and spot fish.
Zinnia and I played and hung out in the warm while we waited for them to return. She was making the most of a break from the cold!
The birthday afternoon was filled with fresh fruit, crafting, kayaking and a surprise cake Mum and Dad organised from the resort. Zinnia was particularly pleased with getting to try cake at 7 months………. third child gets all the perks!
The weather was lovely for another afternoon kayak and a little exercise to work off that cake!
The birthday ended with another beautiful sunset, a play on the beach in their ‘good’ clothes and a dinner out to a nearby French restaurant and pizzeria.
The first half of our holiday hadn’t been too tough! More photos, adventures and our thoughts about Vanuatu and the Ramada coming up soon in Part 2!