By Tilly Smith Dix
Living in an enchanting region such as the Yarra Valley and its nearby beautiful sister-region of the Dandenongs, often referred to as The Hills, has its drawbacks. The natural beauty, charm and magical gardens on our doorstep have made us more discerning about travel than ever before.
However, with Andrew being an aviator, for him, the destination often is mostly about the flight and airfield we are heading to, rather than the actual location, says I with eyes heaven-cast. As long as the accommodation is clean with hot running water, all’s good in his world. I should have stepped up the moment he told me to leave all the travel arrangements to him for our flight and overnight stay in a town called Shepparton in our spectacular state of Victoria. However, as I was busy and rushing with deadlines to free myself for a Friday morning departure, I was happy for him to plan our getaway.
I’ll try and make this brief. The flight from Coldstream Aerodrome was slow as we had wind on the nose but landing at Shepparton was a pleasure. Excellent airfield and friendly service on the ground. All good and things looked promising. Until our taxi arrived to provide ground transport to our hotel.
Suffice to say the driver seemed surprised at our flying in to spend a night as tourists and not on a working visit and looked more bewildered when given our hotel address. “Do you realise you are some distance out of town? I have never driven anyone to this hotel from the airport,” he sighed, gazing at me, with what I thought trepidation, in the rear-view mirror, decked out in my aviator’s moll getup, which I’d describe as casual flying attire on a cold, late-wintery day, complete with hooded puffer jacket and riding boots. I subsequently realised the fear reflected in this friendly cabbie’s eyes was for my husband’s wellbeing. Any discerning travelling gal would have chastised her husband but as I was trying to control my mirth at the fearful look on my husband’s face on arriving at our hotel, I decided to go easy.
Attractive features of our resort in Shepparton.
Quirk, blessed dining and the Aussie Hotel.
Secura Lifestyle Resort, yes, resort, no less, overlooked an apple orchard in early bloom, which did help soften the blow. I was not expecting a Relais & Chateaux establishment but this was ridiculous.
In our travels around the globe, I have experienced deep disappointment once or twice in the choices of accommodation we had booked online and the last time I was almost traumatised on arrival at such a hotel, was at Lake’s Entrance, where the décor and colour scheme of our room evoked thoughts of people on serious psychedelic drugs and eternally stuck in the sixties. I recall an electric-blue bathroom, fuchsia-pink shower, complemented by a show-stopping orange- and blue-themed bedroom. That particular motel was for sale and we forgave them for not updating their décor, eventually.
As this Shepparton establishment also served as a bungalow-styled residential piece of real estate, I was less forgiving. For starters, the TV, which had no reception, was in the kitchenette, and so was the built-in heater. A small table with two very hard chairs did not make for convivial hospitality in this kitchen. The fact it was a cold night was reason enough for turning in early after a post-lunch walk through the town. The bed and linen proved clean and comfortable, whilst the electric blanket almost brought a tear of joy to my eye; however, on discovering it had gone past its sell-by date, same as the television, the tear almost became a sob. However, I’m a big girl and came armed with a hefty Jeffrey Archer novel and my (mostly) trusty sense of humour.
Husband, happy about the lack of pummelling by disappointed spouse, drifted off to sleep and I must have dozed off soon after goodnight kisses were exchanged, only to be awakened by someone unlocking our unit door and entering it at midnight! Being of South African origin, I do not have to be wide awake to sound like a scary witch to frighten off intruders. My loud, deep-voiced outrage frightened said intruder to such an extent he jumped down three steps onto the room deck, looking ashen in the bright porch light, with me, now clad in my oversized winter dressing gown, towering over him from the doorway – all 5’3” of my statuesque persona.
His companion cowered behind the deck pillar, clutching the additional bedding dropped off in waterproof zip-bags by the resort staff as at this resort, you pay extra for additional bedding for an extended family, in their case, the children huddled on the back seat of their UV. I know this as I saw several pairs of big, frightened eyes visible at window-level. The thud I’d heard on the deck earlier must have been the delivery of said bedding, which I, now an Aussie, believed to be a hefty possum or kangaroo bouncing about, thinking nothing of it. If I’d heard this noise when still living in South Africa, I’d have called the night patrol, or, worse, used my scary voice to send them packing.
Once I realised we were not under siege and these people were booked into the same room as us for the night, and the man with the key expressed his concern about where they might have to spend the night, it was agreed they’d call the night manager to sort out their problem. After all, we were there first – finders keepers.
No sooner had they left to secure another room and we were sleepily discussing this annoying mix-up, there was a loud banging on our door. This time Andrew responded, bellowing, “what the hell is the matter now,“ to which the hospitality night person identified themselves and responded with, “what is your surname?” Andrew provided this information with a finale that left no room for argument, “now go away, please.” Always the gent.
Still looking at the bright side and of course, trying to live the good life, we did enjoy some aspects of this mostly industrial town, known for its prolific production of fruit.
The Aussie Hotel on the main street did a fine job of an Aussie burger for me, not gourmet, mind, but packed with fresh goodness and high cholesterol, and a vegetable wrap for Andrew. We strolled around the vibrant town and decided churches were not the rage here and saw two, on the same road, turned into business premises, one being a restaurant and the other a lifestyle boutique with a charity shop attached to it, and further renovations evident at the time of our visit. Heartening to see the Victorian architecture was being preserved and this endeared the town to us somewhat.
I don’t think we’ll be visiting Shepparton again in a hurry but during our reconnaissance of the town, we spotted some interesting and quirky hotels, any of which, I’m sure, would have been a better choice than our out-of-town resort but might not have made for such an eventful night – or lively (I hope) blog.
We had stocked up at Coles in the town with breakfast and light dinner goodies, and bubbles for me, and we managed to high-tail it out of there early enough after breakfast the following day, when our taxi driver was not in the least surprised we were not spending an additional night. This, our third driver during this brief visit, was as friendly and informative as the lads we encountered on the previous day. Another tick in the box for the town.
Breakfast before departure, the alpine snow-capped mountains and galah landing at Coldstream airfield.
On our return flight, we waxed lyrical about the picturesque terrain, mountains, woods, lakes and rivers of the delightful state of Victoria, and with good visibility, we even spotted the snow-capped mountain peaks of the alpine region in the distance. With an endearing tailwind and gentle rainfall, our return journey was much shorter and being welcomed by fellow aviators at Coldstream Airfield, where I believe some of our pals are still sniggering about our choice of getaway on a cold, wet weekend, made us realise how much we love living in the glorious Yarra Valley. Cheers to The Good Life.