Only about half an hour after our lunch in Creswick we made it into Ballarat and located our next motel. An upgrade on the previous night, in size and cleanliness (even if it was still circa 1970s), we fed Soren, unpacked, warmed up and decided we needed an afternoon of activity after many hours in the car.
We headed to the Ballarat botanic gardens. It was very cold and damp (but not actively raining). Soren was in his snowsuit and Astrid was rugged up so we decided to walk off our sore legs and enjoyed our wander around the gardens. They aren't huge but were full of interesting old (and big) trees, and there were lovely paths to wander around, ponds to look at and puddles to avoid.
We then headed across the road to Lake Wendouree for a wander along the lake foreshore and a chat to the overly friendly swans. There had obviously been a lot of rain as everything was soaked and the lake was trying to escape onto the paths. Despite it being freezing it was still quite picturesque and in nicer weather we would have walked further around the lake.
The playground adjacent to the Lake and opposite the Botanic Gardens was pretty impressive (again our reliable source, aka April hadn't let us down). Astrid enjoyed her play, although the dampness meant the playground wasn't utilised to it's fullest capacity. Even so, we had to drag her away kicking and screaming as it was rapidly getting towards dinner and somewhat arctic temperatures. We did promise to come back for a play again the next day.
We then drove into the main shopping area for a look around and to obtain some food. While in search of a supermarket we had a quick wander of the shops and decided on our old favourite of 'hotel picnic' for dinner. We were tired and it was getting late, so going out for dinner with over tired children wasn't particularly appealing. The hotel had a toaster and microwave, so with the aid of a Coles we found suitable microwavable meals and a BBQ chicken and headed back to the hotel to eat and get the kids into bed. Soren was unconscious before even finishing his milk, Astrid resisted for quite awhile and then gave in about 1 minute before Soren decided to reawaken and refuse to be put down.
Our dreams of uninterrupted patisserie consumption were put on hold while we tried to convince him to sleep. Eventually we consumed the French delicacies (gateaux opera and salted caramel and chocolate tart) in between patting and rocking him..... not quite the lunch time experience but still damn good patisserie! After 2 hours we gave in, told Soren he could just sleep in our bed and all tried to get some sleep.
The motel was a vast improvement over the previous night in quality and temperature but the 8 month old trying to grow teeth robbed us of quite a bit of sleep. We opted for a breakfast of fruit toast in our hotel room while we packed up and got ready for the mornings activities.
The weather forecast had promised a top of 7 degrees and possible hail. It didn't disappoint. The snowsuit and warm coats were again pulled out and we headed back to the park so Astrid could have another play before it was time to meet up with April and Eliza. Soren eventually managed to have a sleep in the ergo while we walked around, checked out the market by the lake, and the sun came out just long enough to make the lake look pretty and to lull us into believing it might be a nice day.
We met April and Eliza at Piper's cafe near the Lake for morning tea cake and coffee. Astrid was pretty insistent on wanting sticky date cake for her morning tea, and then told Nic off 'for wasting her cream' when she dared to have a taste that was deemed too big. Astrid and Eliza had a lovely play together while Soren napped and we ate, then we decided to let the kids loose at the park.
Despite being cold, it wasn't actively raining, hailing or snowing so the little girls had a wonderful time playing while the bigger girls chatted and Anto toddler wrangled. Astrid did insist that Eliza gave her lots of hugs, and they were partners in crime on the jumping castle.
After a couple of hours playing, we dragged Astrid away (complete with a tantrum) so we could get on the road for our afternoon of driving. Both girls had a whale of a time together, and it's a shame we don't live closer. Astrid did eventually get over the trauma of leaving both the park and Eliza and was placated with more Ben and Holly, for our drive South towards Port Campbell and the start of our Great Ocean Road sightseeing.