Winging it in the Yarra Valley

By Tilly Smith Dix

Ask any boy what he’d like to become when he grows up, and eight out of ten times the answer would be to be a pilot. The trend is fast catching on with young girls too.

The remarkable team at the Yarra Valley Flight Training (YVFT) is passionate about flying and teaching their pupils to become competent flyers.

Given his first flying lesson by his dad as a present for his 14thbirthday, Ian Ryan, Senior Flying Instructor and Head of Operations at YVFT cannot remember a time since that magical day that he was not thinking about flying aeroplanes.

“That birthday gift from my dad while I was on a school music tour, proved the catalyst of all my adult decisions. It was an inexplicable desire that is universally understood by pilots,” says Ian.

Yarra Valley Flight Training plane Coldstream Airlfield Oct 30 2017

Yarra Valley Flight Training at Coldstream, Victoria.

He managed to get his next flying lesson at the age of 15, after which he obtained his RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence) at the age of 17. By the time he turned 19, he had his navigational and full private pilot’s licence.

A qualified analytical chemist with a BSc, Ian’s passion is his chosen profession, realising others’ dreams of becoming pilots – and flying most days of his life.

Ian is firmly ensconced in the scenic Yarra Valley and finds the locale of countryside, nature, bush, winelands and mountains and the close proximity to the city and ocean an ideal location in which to reside and work.

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Ian Ryan of Yarra Valley Flight Training.

“Many of our flight students live in the city and enjoy the easy, scenic drive into our spectacular valley. With student ages varying between the ages of 15 and 50-upwards, it is not unusual for a family of three generations to sign up for flight lessons,” he says.

Dick Gower, award-winning aviator of some 58 years with over 11,000 hours under his Senior Instructor’s belt, remains involved as a consulting instructor.

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Dick Gower of Yarra Valley Flight Training.

As a young boy aged 12 living in Townsville, a friend of his father arrived in a de Havilland Gipsy Moth and took Dick for his first flight around the satellite aerodromes built around the area during WW2. “That was it for me, I had no doubt that what I wanted to do was fly aeroplanes for the rest of my life,” he beams with that familiar twinkle in the eye.

His first solo flight took place at RVAC Moorabbin in a Chipmunk in 1961.

His technical support experience on aircraft avionics, electrical, fuel and hydraulic systems on piston, turboprop and jet transport aircraft, together with his qualifications as an electrical and electronics engineer, result in a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with new as well as fellow aviators.

As an aircraft design signatory, Dick established Australia-Pacific Aviation Service Pty Ltd in 1990, providing consulting and expert witness services relating to accident, engineering and insurance matters.

He qualified as a commercial pilot, holds a US commercial pilot licence on multi-engine aircraft on land and sea, is a seasoned flight instructor, with instructor training approval in aerobatics as well as formation flying.

Dick received the Col Pay Award for a lifetime of service in general aviation in 2017, which was reported in The Royal Aeronautical Societyand Australian Flyingmagazine last year. Further service and awards include recognition through the highly regarded Les Mason Award for his outstanding contribution to Antique Aviation in 2009.

Dick’s advice to aviators is to learn all they can and to be generous in sharing their aviation knowledge with the industry and would-be aviators.

Bob Boyd, founder and MD, remains at the helm as Chief Flying Instructor (CFI), and is confident about the YVFT school expanding and the team sharing its wealth of aviation knowledge with a new generation of young pilots. The training centre has Part 141 approval.

What is on offer to student pilots at YVFT:

Recreational and private pilots’ licences as well as aerobatics and formation flying qualifications are the norm for the flight school at present.

Scholarships are available from the Australian Women’s Pilots Association for both men and women, which can be accessed via YVFT in Coldstream.

A great demand for pilot training in the Yarra Ranges adds to the myriad attractions and activities on offer in this picturesque region.

General aviation at YVFT in Coldstream includes:

Aviators at the Coldstream Flyers Club own aircraft, lease aircraft, or invest in a plane by forming a syndicate to share the costs. Some have acquired aircraft to refurbish, while others have built aircraft from scratch as an extension of their hobby. Several commercial pilots fly smaller aircraft in their spare time to de-stress from flying passenger jets.

Many pilots opt for aircraft rental by the hour from YVFT, where the fleet includes a Tecnam P92 Echo Super, a Piper Cherokee Warrior I, a Piper Cherokee Warrior II, a Piper Cherokee Six, and a Cessna C150.

The well-established flight school provides GA (General Aviation) and RA (Recreational Aviation), including CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence), training.

How to qualify as a pilot:

In brief, to qualify for solo flight level status is competence based, as per CASA regulations; an RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence) comprises a minimum of 25 hours, to which Navigation, Controlled Airport, and Controlled Airspace credits can be added; a PPL (Private Pilots Licence) requires a minimum of 40 hours of flying; and a CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) includes a minimum of 200 hours of flying. A Flight Instructor course comprises a minimum of 50 hours of flight.

Contact Yarra Valley Flight Training at:

03 9739 1406 – 96 Killara Road, Coldstream, Victoria – www.YVFT.com.au

Media enquiries: Contact Tilly Smith Dix at tilly@dix.co.zaor call 0452247149.

 

Straight from the heart

 

By Tilly Smith Dix

We all deserve a GREAT life and we, via our communications with the Universe, our souls, our surroundings and our loved-ones, could make it a superb life – but we need to make the effort and be stoic, determined and remember to fill our lungs with the golden light that surrounds us whenever possible. Champagne, being golden, also helps from time to time, of course…

Immersing ourselves in a different culture in another country takes time and insight. We are the newcomers here, so, we have to respect the folks we have chosen to share our journey with. What I’ve gathered is not to try too hard as that seems desperate and we all know how we tend to shy away from desperados! My advice, for what it’s worth, even to self, is to be kind, be understanding as well as authentic without losing one’s identity as that is what will help us conquer plenty.

My experience has been to not take anything for granted but to keep exploring opportunities and engaging sincerely with people coming into our lives. After all, this adventure should not only become a lifestyle choice but a road to new discoveries, opportunities, people, places, animals and nature, thereby garnering unexpected pleasures.

There is much to learn from our pets. Take our previously abused cat, who landed in the lap of luxury when she walked into our home demanding to be adopted almost seven years ago. Not only did she adapt to our lifestyle, she has also embraced our new home in another country. Why? She just wants to be around the people who love her, enjoy having her basic needs catered for, a warm bed, sunshine in the garden, security and a sense of belonging.

Having been lucky enough to establish a career I am passionate about, I retained long-standing clients and continue working with them from afar, be it as a publicist or freelance writer. The internet is a bloody marvel; so much so, that a client of many years said I could produce results for his destination from the moon, as long as there was good internet service on that big cheese. Not that I’d want to go to the moon – I prefer gazing at it and howling at it with gusto from time to time. As a tiny three-year old member of my family so wisely informed me recently, “Aunty Tilly, we like crazy,” I rest my case as it obviously runs in the family, darling Olivia.

After pounding the phone, the internet and often pavements to meet, greet, impress and try to gather new clients in a new country, I did end up with some new connections. However, amazingly, while one focuses on one thing, generating energy towards some goal, this glorious Universe will send new opportunities our way, from directions we never anticipated! I like to think of it as the bounty of the ripple effect.

One such opportunity was to blog about authentic, sustainable, fabulous fashion, when a fellow South African now living in Sydney approached me through Facebook to promote her versatile designs. When this incredible woman and her admirable and equally beautiful daughter eventually brought their La Luna Lifestyle fashion and accessories to share with Melbournians in a pop-up boutique in chic South Yarra, we felt as if we’d known each other all our lives. Claude Lalouche, the veteran French movie director, called it a tapestry of life and I’ve stolen his line.

Having overcome many obstacles and challenges in her life, it gives me enormous pleasure to salute Belinda Phillips of La Luna Lifestyle for her drive, style, determination and now highly successful fashion and lifestyle boutique in the plush suburb of Vaucluse in Sydney. She is living, breathing, beautiful proof of making a success of a new life in a new country.

Just taking a drive to one of my many happy places in the nearby Dandenongs is therapeutic. When Andrew takes time out from house renovations to de-stress in an aviation environment, I often hit the road to have some alone time. Acting like a tourist in my own backyard is fun and choices of sampling delicious food, and a glass of elixir are plentiful. People watching, birdwatching, and an eye for interesting vintage architecture are further balm for this soul.

On one such occasion, a nature fire burn-off crew was working on a mountain road nearby, preparing the forest for summer before the winter rains commenced. Pleasant, informative and organised they were, and this 20-minute wait proved further therapy. Car engine switched off, soothing jazz playing on the radio and surrounded by rural mountain beauty in its finest form, afforded me and the other motorists with unexpected time out.

Striking a pose as a model is something I’ve not done for some 30 years. However living in an era where silver is indeed the new blonde, I’m having fun as a Silverfox MGMT model. Diversification is proving to be rather fabulous.

I’ve spent so many years behind the camera, the sheer frivolity of being in front of it left me slightly unhinged as I’d always strived to be appreciated for my mind and accomplishments before being revered for my appearance. Feeling so much more comfortable in my skin now that I’m sporting more silver than blonde I, quite frankly, cannot give a damn if anyone labels me a glamour puss now. I’m finally starting to feel I’m living the good life, savouring every morsel of this new life.

Enter Filip Konikowski, photographer and his team, which includes Casey Malady, make-up and hair-stylist. Being styled and buffed is bliss and I finally understand why supermodels like their jobs as you arrive looking, in my case, like a pale posy and emerge a gorgeous bloom.

Happy to declare I’ve had my first shoot, which took me away from my home office for a full day, and getting paid for being styled and enjoying seven wardrobe changes. Meeting some amazing people involved in the modelling and advertising industry proved a bonus as we all connected in the most delightful way, with much laughter and giggles shared. NOT like work at all!

As the advert is not released yet, I cannot divulge more but suffice to say the make-up and hair-stylist Grace, teamed with Sam of Style.Union, did a sterling job of turning us all into the most stunning, glamorous retirees, whilst my shoot daughter, the beautiful Sal, also of Silverfox MGMT, was flown in from Sydney.

Of course, glam grannies also need grandchildren and having had some training in the past two years since my beloved cousins moved to Melbourne with their adorable babies, spending time with little sprogs hired for the shoot proved a further joy. Who could resist a delightful child hugging you, even though they are being paid to do so? I’m liking this glam gran stuff, so, bring it on, possums.

On this particular day, the route home took me past a famous local artist’s home in Prahran. Having seen an article about David Bromley in The Weekend Australian, I had to stop to take a quick photograph during the peak traffic hour. Always passionate about vintage architecture, I have found many treasures to behold in this city – what’s not to marvel at when people of a young country value their history. The fact that this artist made such an iconic architectural building his home, proves his heart is in the right place.

I have mentioned we moved here to embrace a new culture and country. However, when you end up on a Facebook group of fellow expats residing in Melbourne, you tend to grab the opportunity to join about 26 of them for a hearty girls lunch on a Saturday. With our age-groups varying from young moms to mature moms to glam grans, it proved a triumph. New friends made, sharing our very own brand of humour in another country – a unique, resourceful, mutable tribe indeed.

New traditions are now set in motion and such keystone events create a much needed sense of belonging. Yes, it’s taken some time but it is heartening when it all starts coming together and you look forward to the next gathering.

One such event is the annual winter solstice Shortest Lunch meander through the smaller vineyards of the magical Yarra Valley, where lunch, jazz, wine and great company make for a most convivial day.

We have also celebrated yet another wedding anniversary here and have started another tradition, that of enjoying an intimate lunch at the Healesville Hotel in the quant nearby town of the same name. Warm, professional service, delicious wine, scrumptious food, just the way we like it. Elegant without pretence, ticking another box marked gratitude.

While life is turning out to be pretty good, stress will take its toll, and here’s where I’ve ventured into a further activity from my distant past, meditative yoga! The weekly sojourn has become a time of quiet, when mind and body are soothed by the gentle voice of Cheryl Jenkins, who has a vocation for teaching people to be grateful for the small as well as enormous blessings we often take for granted.

Waking up to the celestial vista of the Yarra Valley from our compact hillside home overlooking much of the picturesque valleys and mountains beyond, is a reason to celebrate. Just looking through a window at any given time of day, we encounter the most spectacular birdlife, quietly, or sometimes noisily, feasting in the myriad gumtrees surrounding our wooded region.

Cheers to the good life – just colour me grateful…

Two world-class tourist attractions in South Africa unite for epic April 2019 festival

 by Tilly Smith Dix

Iconic Blue Train joins Stars of Sandstone 2019

South Africa’s biennial Stars of Sandstone in the Eastern Free-State is recognised as the world’s most diversified steam and heritage transport festival. The Stars of Sandstone, set for 4-14 April 2019, will now be hosting The Blue Train, celebrated internationally as one of the world’s most luxurious trains, for an epic two-day stop at the Festival from 3-6 April 2019.

For more than 70 years, the Blue Train has pampered discerning travellers from all corners of the globe, enjoying top billing with luxurious international rail journeys, such as the Orient Express. Pack your silks and jackets, not forgetting your steam safari trunk for Stars of Sandstone 2019, and think movie-star fabulous when you luxuriate in the mystique of this adventure.

The memorable 3-night, 4-day Blue Train indulgence to Stars of Sandstone 2019 commences with a 07h00 check in at The Blue Train VIP Lounge at Pretoria Station. Pre-departure drinks and snacks are served after boarding. Butlers will usher you to your 5-star suite before departing for Ficksburg. Brunch and dinner are served in the stylish Dining Car, and High Tea is hosted in the glamorous Lounge Car. Post-dinner drinks, cognac and Cuban cigars are available prior to retiring to your plush compartment.

Luxe Blue Train, a 5-star hotel on wheels.

On day 2, board a Stars of Sandstone steam train after a leisurely breakfast on the Blue Train. Brunch is served in the Dining Car, whilst dinner will be hosted in the Waenhuis Restaurant at Sandstone Estate.You will then be taken on The Stargazer Express steam journey to savour the romantic night sky at Grootdraai. Overnight in your suite on The Blue Train, your glamorous home from home for four days.

A complimentary shuttle service will be ferrying guests between The Blue Train and The Stars of Sandstone Steam and Heritage Festival 2019.

The Stars of Sandstone 2019 is set to be bigger and better than ever. Featuring over 25 operating locomotives traversing Sandstone’s 30km 2ft narrow gauge railway, ranging from the 1895 Lawley used on the Beira Railway to a former South Africa Railway (SAR) Class 91 diesel engine built in the US in 1973, the unique, family-friendly festival will once again attract visitors from across the planet.

Sandstone’s most recently restored locomotive, a 1915 Baldwin US-built former SAR Class NG-10, will be unveiled on 5 April after a recently completed two-year restoration project.

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The Stars of Sandstone is a bucket-list festival for all ages.

The exhilarating atmosphere and sharing the sheer joy of unforgettable sights, sounds and experiences of vintage cars and aircraft, tractors, steam engines, military vehicles, and the Sandstone team of 24 working Afrikaner oxen pulling Voortrekker wagons, will make for everlasting memories. Small wonder Sandstone serves as a location for international cinematographers wishing to capture vintage rail and transportation of yesteryear. Located on a state-of-the-art working farm, the estate and its railway offer spectacular vistas of the majestic Maluti mountains and the sublime natural beauty of this region bordering Lesotho.

Paying homage to steam and transportation of a bygone era at Sandstone Estates.

The Blue Train has 26 suites, comprising: 23 De Luxe Suites and 3 Luxury Suites, all offering breathtaking views of the diverse South African landscape. Private en-suite bathrooms, butler service and gourmet dining, not to mention sumptuous interiors, make for an idyllic adventure.

This bespoke Blue Train and Stars of Sandstone 2019 excursion includes:

  • Three nights’ pampered accommodation on board The Blue Train from Pretoria Station to Sandstone Estates return;
  • Snacks, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), cognac and Cuban cigars;
  • Blue Train gifts and butler service on the train;
  • Two days’ entrance to Stars of Sandstone 2019 plus shuttle service between the Blue Train and the festival.
  • Excluded: French Champagne, caviar, purchases from the boutique shop, telephone calls on the Blue Train and any purchases/extras at Stars of Sandstone.

Contact: 

Dave Richardson for fares and bookings for The Blue Train Stars of Sandstone 2019 journey at: daver@sandstone.co.za – mobile +27 (0) 82447 9167 – landline +27 (0) 11 805 4692

For more information on the Stars of Sandstone 2019 Steam and Heritage Festival, go to: www.starsofsandstone.com – and watch the 2017 event at https://youtu.be/937ZkuLyj7w

Stars of Sandstone 2019 bookings:

http://www.starsofsandstone.com/index.php/info-booking/southern-african-residents

http://www.starsofsandstone.com/index.php/info-booking/international-residents

Follow us on Instagram: @sandstoneinaction – Twitter: @SandstoneHerit – Facebook: Stars of Sandstone – LinkedIn @Tilly Smith Dix

 

Nostalgia and magic in South Africa

By Tilly Smith Dix

Our recent visit to the land of my blood and Andrew’s home of so many years, proved not only an eye-opener but a reminder of how affordable it is for visitors from abroad to savour the luxury and beauty of South Africa. I try not to let politics spoil my travels and I am delighted to report the ousting of a corrupt president and a new dawn, in which hope springs, made for a memorable as well as nostalgic journey.

After the long flights, which were smooth and superbly catered for on Singapore Airlines, we arrived at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport, from where we travelled to Sandton on the fast and secure Gautrain, which took a mere 15 minutes. A short walk across the road from the station and we were in our preferred car hire office to drive to Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank.

Urban chic at Clico

The secure parking at Clico, exceptionally warm welcome and service at this chic gem only 10 minutes from bustling Sandton, turned the long flights from Melbourne into a distant memory. Having stayed in Room 9 before, with its generous view of the gardens and sparkling pool, it was a welcome respite from an aeroplane seat and my, did that firm and inviting king-size bed beckon after a leisurely soak in the tub! However, as we always try to get into the new time-zone from day one, we soon felt refreshed and ready for a light lunch in the restaurant.

This was our first dining experience in the chic Clico Restaurant, now firmly established as a preferred dining destination according to TripAdvisor. The bijou hotel, now in its twelfth year, is ideally located within minutes from the Rosebank business, shopping, Rosebank Gautrain and entertainment precinct, yet, stylishly tucked in the surrounds of its private urban garden tranquillity, complete with birdlife, with just a distant hum of the bustling road on its doorstep.

The mild summer’s day following welcome gentle rain earlier proved ideal for the staff to open the stacked glass doors to offer that effortless garden and home ambience, where the indoors blend seamlessly with the garden spaces, and guests are easily tempted to dine in romantic, private spaces.

Judging from the other diners’ chatter and body language, they were as relaxed in this spacious yet intimate restaurant as we were. I noticed a lunch meeting in a quiet corner and a group of first-time visitors to the restaurant surveying the interior and surrounding gardens, nodding their approval. They became even more convivial when the service and cuisine exceeded their expectations.

I opted for a quiche and green salad of the day and Andrew selected a substantial biltong (succulently moist dried beef), and goats cheese salad, and a glass, or two, of South African brut bubbles for me. That long trek from Aussie was soon forgotten! The freshly baked, feather-light rolls were irresistible to Andrew, who savoured every morsel. Not bad for a guy who claimed not to be hungry.

The menu offered delectable choices, such as confit quail and mushroom ravioli but as we’d had way too much food served on our flights, we simply could not do justice to the fine-dining menu and were happy to have the choice of a lighter menu choice for lunch. Dietaries are catered for by arrangement too, no problem. Another tick in the box.

Owner Jeanette Schwegman, GM Sabine Seeger and their stellar team’s efforts result in this hotel and restaurant constantly ranking among the top-ten on TripAdvisor and I am not in the least surprised.

Refreshed by morning, we were ready to take on the rest of our journey after a breakfast fit for royals. Andrew’s poached eggs were perfect and my light cheese omelette was served with a smile. The choices of fresh fruits, artisan breads, cold cuts and hot breakfast combinations will satisfy any traveller and we were reluctant to leave this luxuriously cosy haven – www.clicohotel.co.za

Magical safari at Tau

After spending some quality time with some of our dearest friends and family, whom we do miss enormously in our new far-away land of choice, our next stop was Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Reserve, bordering Botswana, which is just over four hours’ drive from Johannesburg.

Listening to LM Radio brought back memories of my youth, with hits by evergreen artists such as The Beatles and Santana, which made the journey seem so much shorter.

I suggest visitors use the toll roads as the secondary roads are not always ideal. Most of the road is in good condition, and during our visit there were some road works in progress to enhance and improve the journey for future travellers. The short dirt road to Tau once entering the Madikwe Reserve was easy to traverse.

This Groot (great) Marico region, offers many yarns and historical tales of settlers of long ago, making for fascinating campfire conversations. Now home to the fourth largest nature reserve in southern Africa, the welcome sight of the Tshwene-Tshwene hills and the dramatic ridge of the Dwarsberg Mountains, exposing rocks of up to 2,630 million years old, with artefacts of the Stone and Iron Ages still evident in the dust, was a sight for sore eyes.

Our expectations were exceeded many times over during this visit. The rains had come early and the malaria-free region was clad in picture-perfect shades of green. The spectacle of myriad game at the waterhole, which is visible from all room and hospitality decks, proved highly addictive.

The newly enhanced Reception, Lounge, Dining Room, leisure decks, Bar, Boma and two pools, of which one is an infinity design, is the stuff leisurely safari dreams are made of.

On arrival in our Room 4, a Luxury Room, one glimpse of the waterhole from our private deck convinced us this would be the place to relax our travel-weary bodies after lunch. We were captivated by the pecking order right up to twilight, when reflections in the water of game parading at cocktail hour made for magical photographic memories.

The lodge is enclosed within the reserve, resulting in the humans being subtly fenced in, while the abundance of game, prolific birdlife and several crocodiles, roam free in this safari haven.

Dinner in the boma on our first night made for warm conviviality, complemented by wholesome South African food, including chicken curry, eland steak, succulent lamb chops, pap (firm African porridge) with chakalaka (chef’s special recipe of tomato and onion gravy). As for dessert, my hot favourite, baked ginger pudding with fresh cream, hit the spot. Dietaries are catered for on request too.

After a gloriously deep and satisfying sleep, it was time to arise for the 5,30am game drive. What a thrill!

Ernie, our game ranger, knows his turf and not only did his knowledge of the game, their proximity and habits impress us, but also his respect for the bush in allowing the creatures of the wild their space.  Within minutes, we were photographing aged bull elephants, delicately foraging and breakfasting on new green flora after the rains, then white rhino and their young.

Ernie parked in a spot known as Ernie’s Golf Course, from where we could observe further game while savouring Amarula coffee and delicious buttermilk rusks. The scent of the African bush holds its own allure and never leaves your blood.

On our return to the lodge for breakfast, we came across two young lion, sleeping in the road. A concerned German guest whispered, “are they dead?” Our vehicle came to a quiet halt, where another Tau safari group was already parked alongside to observe this early morning catnap.

The two boys in their late-teens finally showed signs of life, rolling over, looking kittenish in the morning sun, before sitting up, sniffing the air and looking regal. As we drove further down the track, we saw some wildebeest with their calves and realised those two boys had sniffed breakfast.

Breakfast for the humans was a jolly affair on the modern Out of Africa-  designed dining deck as guests were on a high after the wealth of game sightings on their morning safari. Here, again, we lingered as vistas of game at the waterhole proved mesmerising for all.

Watching the pecking order around the waters, where smaller game arrive, all with their own group activities and agendas, such as blue wildebeest trying to drive off an overly zealous bull, guarding their young, which were frolicking like happy kids, to zebra, often referred to as the clowns of the bush, galloping and playing, including myriad foal. Then there was a reminder why the magnificent waterbuck indeed ended up with such a name, complete with the white round circle, which we Africans refer to as the prettiest loo seat, wade into the water to dine on a buffet of water plants. I was a tad nervous about the crocs wanting to sample this perfect specimen but as the crocs are youngsters and feasting on fish and waterbirds at present, all was well in the drink, for now.

Birds nesting at the water’s edge at this time including the elegant blue heron, spoonbill, and comical Egyptian geese, to mention but a few. The smaller waterbirds, including those silly coots, did complain bitterly when a young crocodile, currently feeding on fish and small water birds, was circling for swim-through breakfast.

Back at our room, while freshening up for dinner, I managed to snap some images of elephants arriving outside our room deck at twilight for their own sundowners. This is wildlife photographic heaven, I kid you not. All you have to do is sit around and it happens right there at the waterhole, where the glorious creatures of the wild come to you. This, after all, is their domain. You are safely ensconced on higher ground and behind a fence low enough not to spoil your vision but strong enough, with just enough electrical current, to warn off the creatures of the bush.

Of course, the little creatures roam freely between the lodge and the reserve and we took delight in the playful interaction of the cute ground squirrels, which reminded me why they have always played a big role in children’s animated movies. Speaking of cute, the vervet monkeys and their offspring were up to their usual antics of affirmative dining, and staff had their hands full in chasing these impish thieves off the dining deck, where they would even nick the sugar sachets, with the smarts to tear and pour the contents down their throats. Andrew went to the cloak room and while I was taking pictures, a blue-bottomed male got away with half a cheese sandwich within seconds! Crafty little critters, so, don’t leave your room or deck doors open – word is they love bling and your smartphone could end up ringing from a tree.

Lodge Manager Tumi Senne and his team make it their business to memorise every guest’s name, to the delight of my husband, who was surprised when he was addressed by his name when served at mealtimes or when addressing a staff member for information.

Tumi knows this lodge and region like the back of his hand and extended a welcome of such warmth and efficiency, I fear he has ruined us for other safari destinations. He started work here years ago on Reception, working and undergoing training from grass-roots level, resulting in his now highly respected position as GM. He employs people with a passion for the job, trains and empowers them with dedication, resulting in an unforgettable experience for locals and visitors from all corners of the globe.

Chef John Karelse worked at Tau for several years, went off to the Cape for a while but missed this special place. As it happens, his job was available again and he stepped back in as head of the kitchen, this time with an accomplished sous-chef, who knows how to spruce things up for a special occasion. Here, it is about teamwork and therein lies much of the success of Tau, where the pride works as one.

On Valentines morning, the day of our departure, we were indulged further, with delicious chocolates, bubbles and orange juice to celebrate romance in the bush. Eggs to order, from fried to omelettes with fillings of your choice, sausages of many flavours, fresh fruits, breads and sweet cakes of delectable descriptions, my favourite being the mini-Danish. After a mochaccino and further sublime views of game at the waterhole, the time had come to tear ourselves away to hit the road as duty called and we had people and places to see. Of course, a new group of guests had arrived to savour a Valentines safari of the highest order.

The Tau Cubz Club, Tau Spa Oasis and Tau Conference Centre make this an ideal destination for family, leisure as well as corporate travel.

Tau Game Lodge opened its 5-star safari doors in 1995 and offers 30 rooms, from Standard to Luxury to Family Suites – www.taugamelodge.co.za

Glamorous fun at Fairlawns

The next day I had a lunch meeting with close colleagues who had become special friends over the years and this reunion was celebrated at the sensational Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa in Morningside.

Since our last visit, the garden hotel was rejuvenated into a trendy hub, offering cocktail and dining choices to entice anyone, from corporate to leisure guests, to indulge in a feast not only for the designer eye but also the refined eye on service, good taste and fabulous vibes.

MD Michael Kewley has captained this delicious urban ship for some years and his vision has paid off. The reception is elegant and welcoming, and my first stop was to be served a glass of bubbles in the newly launched Muse Champagne Room, presented in collaboration with Perrier-Jouet. This oasis also has a charming atrium, making for a sumptuous mix of elegance and contemporary, where the service matches the trendy ambience, and exotic cocktails are a speciality.

My lunch guests were blown away by this transformation too and it took us a little longer to vacate this glamorous bar to be seated in the semi-private Manor House Bistro, which spills out onto the lavish Terrace overlooking the magical gardens and pool. Wisely, we were advised to dine in this location as Amuse-Bouche, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, was busy and we’d enjoy quality time for our group in the bistro.

What a lunch, what a gathering, what a venue, what service, what a menu. In two words: scrumptiously divine.

My starter of prawn tartare was perfectly portioned, the delicate flavours harmonising with the bubbles. My choice of main proved one of the most succulently seared salmon steaks I’ve ever savoured, served with another favourite, avocado.  Perfection on plate and palate. I was not going to succumb to dessert but, pressure from my guests, who threatened not to have any unless I joined them, made for a delectable surprise, Amarula panna cotta. Wow, my second Amarula experience during this trip and my, oh my, did this sweet perfection hit the spot. Judging from the murmurs, grins, smacking of lips of my mates, their menu choices did not disappoint either. I know Twitter, Instagram, TripAdvisor and Facebook got busy but who could blame us? Sharing is caring and they are media buddies, after all.

Hats off to Fairlawns, its MD and stellar team – you’ve hit the jackpot and we will ALL be back. Thank you for making my day with you yet another amazing memory during this brief visit to Johannesburg and the beautiful country of my blood –  www.fairlawns.co.za

 

 

 

Finding G.O.D’s chair on King Island – and other quirks

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

On this, our second flight in the Sling 4 over the Bass Strait, I found myself less nervous as the Roaring Forties, the Tasmanian wind, and ocean, were calm. As much as I love the ocean, when flying in a small aircraft, it is heartening to see land so as not to feel totally ‘at sea.’ After all, this strait is believed to be twice as rough as the English Channel and twice as wide at about 200 km , with a maximum depth of 155 metres.

Flying over the Mornington Peninsula, which was mostly shrouded in cloud from Coldstream, visibility allowed for enough gaps in the fluffy stuff to see land and beaches. It seemed a short hop over the Bass Strait, which delivered crystal clear skies. The sight of Cape Wickham, which is the northern tip and our entry point to King Island, brought a wide smile to this passenger’s face.

Our destination, Currie, is a charming little port almost halfway up the western coast of the island and on such a clear day, it was evident that agriculture form the bulk of King Island’s industry, including cheese, beef, dairy, teamed with the delectable fruits of the ocean, rock lobster.

After a smooth, 1.5 hour flight and a gratifyingly gentle landing, we were picked up by the manager of the Airbnb we were booked into. I was so astounded at the sight of her vehicle, which was a brightly painted pickup of undetermined age and in need of some body repairs, I forgot to haul out camera and iPhone. As for the interior of this artistically adorned choice of road transportation, I believe some of the agricultural sand, seed and sea shells scattered in the interior of the vehicle, could see a whole new mobile farm sprouting forth in no time if some water could find its way in there too. I did manage to snap a picture of the colourful Caroline’s second vehicle, which is just as artistically adorned as her airport pickup, this one serving as her town car, seen parked outside her pottery studio.

Our arrival at Lighthouse Rocks B&B was nothing short of spectacular.  The vivid colours, murals, quirky exterior and interior, reminded us of the bohemian Seventies, when surfers, artists and boho not-always-chic made for ideal island vacations. Ah, say you, but this is 2018. Exactly, and this spacious abode takes you back to a different time, which is part of the charm of escaping to an island, albeit just for a few days.

Pictured above, our dinner at the Currie Club, art and boho design at our B&B, and the Currie Lighthouse and harbour almost on our doorstep.

As one of three islands forming the New Year Group, and one of over 330 islands that make up the state of Tasmania, King Island has a welcoming disposition.

Unbeknownst to us until our arrival, it was the Festival of King Island (Foki, I kid you not) weekend, with horse, horse-and-buggy racing, and music of several genres on offer. Sadly, the jazz session had come to an end by the time we landed. Our landlady, being a jazz lover and all, advised she was afraid of running late for our airport pickup as she had indeed been enjoying the concert.

Naturally, the art in our little weekend villa was all her doing. I’d say her son, who owns the establishment and is a marine biologist currently working in Fiji, must be chuffed about his artistic mom, complete with flowery straw hat, flowing flower-power skirt and girly walk, as she adds panache to the town. Reportedly Currie is the largest settlement of about 600 people, of which the current population of King Island is estimated at 1,600.

At The Boathouse, The Restaurant with no Food,  you bring your own food and drink but if you liaise with Caroline, she could arrange catering for an occasion. On our final evening, we spent a quiet evening here, savouring a picturesque island sunset and vistas of the quaint harbour on the calm Tasmanian sea. A pilot and his companion were cooking stir-fry for their dinner under the stars and offered us a taste of their delicious meal, which they enjoyed at a secluded little table facing dockside.

The quirky location has become a popular film and photographic location and on our first day, we observed the renowned chef Tetsuya Wakuda of Sydney at work while being filmed by an international film crew.

Pictured above, chef Tetsuya on a shoot at The Boathouse, views from this restaurant with no food, and a blue-tongue lizard spotted along the path.

Included in this film shoot and happy to discuss their craft, we had a brief conversation with Ueli Berger, cheese master and John Wiseman, international photographer. Ueli is based in Burnie, Tasmania at The Heritage cheese factory, lived on King IslandI and worked as head cheese maker at the dairy from 1998 till 2008. In 2008 Lion bought Lactos which is now The Heritage, where he is now Technical Director. This friendly Belgian came to Tasmania in 1975 as cheese maker to Lactos. He now travels to King Island every few weeks to oversee operations.

On one of our walks, Andrew was pleased to find a chair near the harbour he thought was made for him, G.O.D’s Seat, in memory of Gladys Olivia Day, a respected deceased local resident. Just another touch of whimsy on the island.

Pictured above, Andrew finds his perch, the Calcified Forest, Currie Harbour, the honesty box at The Boathouse, and the dinky Currie Museum.

Two of the world’s best golf courses, according to Craig Tamley’s article in Traveller Australia of August 2016, are located on the island. Don’t expect high levels of sophistication around the island but I am told glamour is evident at the golf clubs. The hospitality, beauty, history and interesting sites we visited make for a most desirable and relaxing island getaway, as sophistication was not our focus on this visit.

With 145 km of coastline, the wind and solar renewable power generation in use befits the island’s drive towards eco-friendly resources.

Daily air services between Melbourne and Tasmania make this an easy destination and I suggest at least a leisurely week to explore the many sites and relics, from shipwrecks to settlers’ graves of long ago, who showed true grit. The site of the Cataraqui disaster saddened me immensely, so many lives lost, but my mood lifted at the intense, stark beauty of the Calcified Forest.

We saw the little penguin colony beach at Grassy but of course, the little creatures were out to sea, only to return at sunset.

Pictured above, kelp on the beach, Tasmanian island sunset and a whale bone from days of old when whaling was an industry here.

Walking or cycling in Currie is recommended and we met some interesting folks who’d arrived for the festival. We joined them for a drink after a hearty meal of wallaby shank for Andrew and deep-fried scallops for me at the local Currie Club. Our new friends included a charter pilot and an executive of a large boat charter company based in Hobart, as well as a charming couple who flew in from Devonport with them. Contact details were exchanged and we look forward to spending time with our new friends in the very near future.

King Island is a place where everyone will know your name in no time and the warm hospitality and picturesque sunsets will make you linger much longer – http://www.kingisland.org.au

Summertime and the living is sassy…

Resort-style glamour

By Tilly Smith Dix

I must have done something right at some point as I’m getting to review stunning fashion and dining delights on our doorstep. What’s not to love.

I was treated to an early birthday gift by way of the versatile, fun, stylish  Belinda Phillips’ La Luna Lifestyle designs. A perfect summer fest of fashion fabulous.

Having been fortunate enough to indulge in the summer pleasures of the French Riviera and the like in my past, I’m tempted to book a passage on a cruise liner or check into a luxe beachfront resort closer to home as I’m set for the jolly season – in style!

Tilly La Luna summer resort and sun Sydney Dec 2017

Luxe resort-style summer fashion by La Luna Lifestyle.

I’m also pleased none of my relatives and yaya sisters would try to persuade me to part with my new fashion stash as they don’t wear my size. So, I get to be girly and selfish, indulging in the exquisite La Lunda Lifestyle designs for many years to come.

There are fifty ways to wear three delightfully versatile garments, anywhere your travels happen to take you, from St Kilda to Mornington to Sydney or a romantic resort in the Seychelles. The easy elegance of these designs is evocative of exotic living, in our own back yard if we prefer.

The La Luna Lifestyle cotton caftan with sequin, bead and tassel detail, comes in colour choices of blue, brown, khaki-green and orange. My colour of choice was the orange on white and it did the trick to set the mood for a fun summer. The free flow of the design makes for an exhilarating mood. Worn over a bathing costume as beachwear or glamorised over a pair of jeans with heels, this caftan secures belle of any summer party status.

Caftan heaven.

Never having been much of a baby doll fashion follower, I have changed my mind, as any lass is entitled to when it comes to fashion. The cool flow of the fine rayon fabric of the La Luna Lifestyle swing dress, gorgeous colour choices, ranging from watermelon to black, white or putty, makes this a shining star in any summer wardrobe. Wear it over a slinky under-dress, or on its own, or over pants or a camisole, with flats or heels, depending on the occasion, and you’ll feel like a million-dollar woman!

My colour choice is the provocative watermelon, what’s not to love?

Swing dress or shirt, delicious comfort.

The third fashion find this summer is the La Luna Lifestyle Zen tunic, available in white, black and stone. I favour white and the combination of bamboo viscose and cotton, with subtle lace and tassel detail, makes this soft, body-skimming garment a new classic. Worn as a short dress, or over jeans, or over silky evening pants, this is a hero piece for any occasion.

Zen shirt with feminine lace and tassel detail.

Yes, La Luna Lifestyle has created joyful chic this festive season. Make merry, feel and look fabulous, and pour me some bubbles, please…cheers to the good life.

Go to www.lalunalifestyle.com and order online, better be quick…

Ordinary pleasures and bucket list pursuits in our valley

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

Walk this way

 

I have tried many forms of exercise in my life, with a superficial understanding of maintaining a certain level of fitness, paying it forward, so to speak. Must strengthen bones and preserve pesky joints as well as vital organs to try smoothen the inevitable ageing process.

Finally, I have reached the conclusion that a brisk walk, tapered to a leisurely stroll after 20 minutes, is my preferred choice of constitutional.

It is, however, rather off-putting when my walking partner husband gets all cracked up when I, in earnest, do Pilates stretches and twists after the brisk walk as a prelude to my leisurely stroll. My meander is usually interrupted by frequent stops to snap pictures of the verdant gardens and wildlife along our trails. After all, what’s the use of walking in this garden of Eden in our magical Yarra Valley in the outer-east of Melbourne if one can’t stop and smell the roses, or, at least take an iPhoto to preserve yet another beautiful memory.

In Andrew’s defence, he does take his walking seriously and tends to keep up a steady march in whatever time we have designated for our early morning walks. My little arrows of revenge do hit home, though, when, after my frequent photographic pauses, I catch up and outwalk him every time – during the cooler days, anyway. I know this is a family blog, so, I won’t share his remarks when I purposefully march right past him to gain time for my next Kodak (photographic, to you youngsters), moment. I must also add that I am almost a foot shorter than him, ha.

Walking in Lilydale.

The beauty of the region resonates with me on so many levels and those who know me, or even those who don’t, have heard my thoughts on the pain of renovating one’s own home and while himself is doing a sterling job, I do wish we could have at least another 5 of him to speed up the process so I can finally nest and unpack the rest of our many boxes still stored below stairs.

The walks offer vistas and close-ups of sublime landscapes, flora and fauna – as well as superb therapy for my yet to be identified emotional condition.

Sightseeing in our valley and around the magnificent Dandenongs is a joy and we have become so countrified, we hop on the train when we need to go into the city, finding the trams, busses and train services a civilised convenience. No stress of traffic or parking in a world-class city.

Scenic walking trails of the Yarra Valley.

One of our recent sojourns into the city comprised a visit to the Sun Theatre in Yarraville, a less than five-minute stroll from the train station. During the Inaugural Australian 70mm Film Festival held early November 2017, we saw Laurence of Arabia, luxuriating in the spacious, comfortable seats, conveniently kitted out with drink stands for a tipple and freshly popped popcorn.

Watching this epic movie, directed by David Lean in 1962 in the Jordanian Desert in dynamic proportions, was mind-blowing and it brought back a memory of my first visit to Wiltshire, where I drove along the very narrow country lane where T.E. Laurence’s love of speed on his motorcycle resulted in his final turn.

Marlon Brando and Albert Finney both declined the lead role which made Peter O’Toole, up to then a Shakespearean actor, a household movie-star name, teamed with a young Omar Sharif, and luminaries such as Sir Alec Guinness and Anthony Quinn. Maurice-Alexis Jarre was the composer of the award-winning, and at times spine-chilling, soundtrack and it is to film history’s advantage this engineering student from Lyon in France switched to music, against his father’s wishes. His son Jean-Michel Jarre needs no introduction as a musician either.

King Hussein of Jordan lent an entire brigade of his Arab Legion as extras, securing authenticity of the soldiers in the movie. In fact, the King fell in love with a young British production assistant, who became his second wife in 1962 – their eldest son became King Abdullah of Jordan in 1999 and remains king to this day.

A most liveable city, Melbourne.

Sir Winston Churchill deemed T.E. Laurence one of the greatest beings alive and predicted his name would live on in history. I think Sir Winston would have loved this movie. We were lost in the extravagant visuals, music and history, and did not want it to end.

Keep an eye on the Sun Theatre, where the Right Stuff, Pink Floyd – The Wall, The Hateful Eight, Hamlet, Dunkirk, and the newly released Murder on the Orient Express were on offer last time I looked – www.suntheatre.com/au/70mm

Come fly with me

“Many people believe you need to be wealthy to learn to fly, and lease or own an aircraft at some expense. If the passion for flying is within us, we make a plan,” says Bob Boyd, MD of the Yarra Valley Flight Training centre in Coldstream.

Whilst an electronics technician, every opportunity to fly was seized with open arms. It could be a city orbit or a fishing trip to Sweers Island, Bob flew around the length and breadth of Australia in myriad aircraft with mates and chartered passengers to gather flight hours, absorb knowledge about different aircraft, conditions and terrain.

Bob Boyd at the Yarra Valley Flight Training centre in Coldstream.

Today, the established flight school provides GA (General Aviation) and RA (Recreational Aviation), including CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence), training.

Many flyers opt for aircraft rental by the hour from the YVFT fleet.

Some aviators realise their love of aviation in their teens, when presented with a bucket-list gift of a flying lesson. CASA has a minimum age requirement of 16 years to qualify for a RPL (Recreational Pilots Licence), and a minimum age of 15 years to fly solo, with the required supervision and training. Bucket-list gifts, ‘tis the Season and all…

Bob and his team have trained many pilots. His students vary. Some are on a tight budget and still at college or university, some are captains of industry wishing to fly their own planes, while some folks take on a second job to pursue their love of flying. All you need is the passion to fly a plane. Call Bob at 03 9739 1406 – www.YVFT.com.au

Cheers to the good life – come visit spectacular Victoria…

A river flows through it

Back to nature – in style at

The Eastern Golf Club and Yering Gorge Cottages

 

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

Living in the magical Yarra Valley east of Melbourne, is like being on a permanent holiday. From award-winning winemaking to fine dining, the region is steeped in natural beauty and has become a major attraction for Australian as well as international tourists in search of something special. 

Having seen some spectacular golf courses in my travels, from southern Africa to Europe and the US, several visits to the Eastern Golf Club is inspiring me to take up the game, even if it is simply for the walk along this idyllic course, designed by an Australian who knows his business, especially golf courses. Greg Norman lives in the US but has always kept businesses and homes in his birthplace, Australia, so, who better than him to design a course that embraces the natural beauty of this magical region.

On arrival, having driven past several wine estates along the meandering Victoria Road to Yering, I am perpetually enchanted by the pristine course, enveloped by indigenous trees, and majestically presided over by Yering Gorge.

The welcoming committee comprised a kangaroo having an early siesta under a tree, lazily surveying the golfers, and me, and the charming Tracy Hore, who handles the media and marketing for the golf club and cottages.

Eastern Golf Club Yering Gorge cottage view

Sublime vistas at The Eastern Golf Club and Yering Gorge Cottages.

The elegantly appointed Eastern Golf Club offers conference and events facilities, some of which I have had the pleasure of attending recently. From the plush carpeting, lighting, décor and mutable facilities, to the sublime views of the golf course, gorge and nature reserve, much thought went into its design.

The extensive lunch menu included delectable dishes such as freshly baked Turkish bread, ceasar salad, roast vegetable salad with quinoa, beetroot puree and house made dukkah, pepper fillet dusted with spices on hommus, scallopini in white wine cream sauce. The sinful dessert comprised from chocolate marquise with salted caramel and espresso ice cream, to pineapple and coconut mint parfait with coconut and lime sorbet. An impressive menu to complement an equally impressive club.

The specials for the day included salmon fettuccini with baby spinach and capers, and spice-dusted snapper fillet on hommus, cherry tomatoes, roasted eggplant, tahini mayonnaise, and a fresh garden side-salad to share.

Scrumptious snapper, salad and salmon fettuccini in the luxe clubhouse.

My companion thoroughly enjoyed the snapper, while I savoured every morsel of the delectable salmon fettuccini, which was perfectly coated in virgin olive oil, enough to make any self-respecting Italian mama proud. We agreed, the newly appointed chef is a keeper.

Washed down with a delicious Coombe Farm Pinot Gris (also in the Yarra Valley), we were ready to move on to our afternoon meetings, fortified and in good spirit on a bright, sunny spring Yarra Valley day.

The club and golf course are set in a private nature reserve, which is home to over 200 eastern grey kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, some 200 species of native birdlife. The feathered species includes the spectacular eastern and crimson rosellas, sulphur-crested cockatoos, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, several owl species and a nesting pair of wedge-tail eagles, to mention but a few.

Yes, it gets even better. The Yarra River flows through three kilometres of the Yering Gorge. Victorian fishing permit holders may cast a line, with many having abandoned those lines to immerse in sightings of the mesmerising platypus residing in this slice of paradise.

The 120-acre Nature Reserve offers 12km of easy bush walking trails, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding Yarra Valley from the gorge summit, against the backdrop of the Christmas Hills and Dividing Ranges of this valley of plenty.

The unique geological structure of Yering Gorge results in the river flowing from a plain into a gorge, creating a catchment area for the nearby Sugarloaf Reservoir State Reserve, based in the Christmas Hills.

Yering Gorge Cottages was established 10 years ago and The Eastern Golf Club was opened in July 2015, creating a golf and tourism destination par excellence. On par to nurture every sense of wellbeing this close to nature.

As many visitors are non-golfers, further wellness activities are on offer, such as fitness as well as tennis coaching, and, of course, one-on-one tuition to an extensive range of golf clinics. Then, of course, there is the fishing and walking.

The cottages offer self-catering facilities with a continental breakfast as well as dining services in the elegantly appointed golf club, where attention to detail includes the environmentally friendly L’Occitane bathroom products, which are also used in the luxe cottages.

Vistas from the cottages vary, from the imposing Yering Gorge to the Nature Reserve to superb Golf Course. The cottages are generously spaced for optimum privacy, making it an ideal destressing destination – as well as romantic.

Speaking of romance, weddings are immensely popular, with a superb events centre and Wedding Pavilion cocooned by the gorge and its enigmatic surrounds.

View:  www.easterngolfclub.com.au and  www.yeringorgecottages.com.au – tell them I sent you. Ah, cheers to the good life

Anything goes for spring

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

          Keep your heels, head and shoulders high – Coco Chanel

I am in awe of the smart marketing tricks employed by switched-on fashion outlets. Fashion is a cruel business and a captive market is the ideal target. However, too many email and social media messages on what’s hot, cool and must-have for spring are doing my head in.

Of course, I love a bargain, like most women, and if I like a brand, I don’t hesitate in providing them with my email address to get word of special offers, and, of course, a peep at their latest arrivals, which I often use as a guideline to haul out some treasured item from my Pandora’s box to get the look.

Jeanswest shirt, scarf and jeans – fresh, red, white and blue.

Jeans and trouser styles change every few years and I do confess, here I also keep the good stuff but update with current designs that suit my shape. Loving skinny jeans as well as palazzo pants, a further throwback to yesteryear would be an old favourite, the Capri pants. I remember the lace-up variety in bright candy colours when I was about seven years old. No, I don’t have those anymore and alas, I’ve grown somewhat since then.

Vogue UK shares some pearls of fashion wisdom, advising us the pinstripe straight-leg cut is in for smarter wear – I call it cigarette line but as smoking kills, I guess that’s no longer PC. I still have those pinnies from about 12 years ago, tick, ideal for a meeting, and worn with a crisp white shirt and heels for businesslike va-va-voom.

Back to smart marketing ploys by fashion houses, such as capturing our email and mobile numbers, which qualifies us for discounts, loyalty cards and the like. So, when I received a less 25% alert from Jeanswest, my favourite jeans go-to with its ideal cut for any frame, I remembered getting a glimpse of their spring tops and, a little bell tinkled in the fashion portion of my blonde frontal lobe, reminding me of the fresh seasonal colours on offer. Strawberry red, blended with bright white and ice blue, evocative of sunny skies and golden beaches, worn with white jeans or spruced up with straight-line pants for a dressier look, floats my boat, be it in Capri, Como, Portofino – or Melbourne.

Having blogged about the delightfully wearable La Luna Lifestyle designs, I am getting loads of wear from designer Belinda’s stylishly body-shaping bamboo lycra long-sleeve t-shirts this spring. My current favourite colour is yellow, teamed with white or blue jeans, another box ticked for spring feel-good casualwear. I even wore the tee to a meeting with a white slim-line trouser suit (approximately 14 years old), heels for extra pizzazz and felt like a million bucks. Got the contract signed too.

La Luna Lifestyle yellow bamboo lycra t-shirt, ideal for business and leisure – love the vibrant yellow on white.

A girlfriend and I recently chuckled about fashion that keeps coming back to haunt or taunt us, when her daughter asked her opinion on a hot new style she wanted to buy. My friend’s response was, “honey, I was around the last time this one came around and I hate to say, it’s not flattering on anyone, unless they’ve been starved of anything resembling a carbohydrate or sugar for the past eleventy (a new number with its origins in South Africa), years. (Yes, I am proving a bad influence on my Aussie mate’s vocabulary.)

Ageing has many advantages and we see fashion come and go but certain staples will return more regularly – because they work and make us feel good and look fabulous. Remaining in a Coco frame of mind, she did say, “a woman can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty, and irresistible for the rest of her life.”

Colours are fun again, and I love mixing fuchsia pink with powder pink – softly feminine and it just oozes summer, waving a welcome au revoir to winter’s 50 (plus) shades of grey.

Opshopping (opportunity shops) are big in Melbourne and I am starting to understand the fun in bargain hunting for previously adored clothes and accessories. I recall popping into vintage stores in London and New York some years ago, where many of the garments and accessories, even designer shoes, seemed never to have been worn! Well, here in Aussie one often discovers such lucky strikes as clothing or accessories may have been purchased on a whim or gifted, only for the purchaser to realise it either did not suit them, or, horror of horrors, it was a bad fit.

The right thing to do is to donate this to a good friend who genuinely wants the item, or to a local Opshop to bring joy to a bargain hunter. With the cost of living escalating rapidly, this is a great way of giving to charity as that is what Opshops do – they provide a large portion of their revenue to worthy charities. I have dropped car loads of home- and fashion-wear at charity shops over the years and continue to do so.  It makes me feel good as it’s as good as donating cash to people or animals in need. Another box ticked, good deed done, more wardrobe space for new acquisitions, shhhhhhh …

I recently spotted an article in which Joanna Lumley, our AbFab Patsy, claimed not to have shopped for clothing for years as she had plenty to see her through from years of fashion gathering during her modelling days. She is a savvy woman, as it is indeed a thrill wearing something slightly retro, with that exotic vintage feel but brought into the current season with great aplomb. Fashion,  indeed, is about feeling gorgeous and wearing it with panache. I agree with the late great Coco: ‘fashion fades, only style remains the same.’

I do feel a bit of spring attitude coming on, now where did I pack those white palazzo pants I’ve had for more than eleventy years! Life is short, love thyself and the good life…

Celestial spring lunch at Café Immerse

By Tilly Smith Dix

 

After many years of fine dining, as a publicist and travel writer, I have developed a few pet peeves, such as pretentious deconstructions and too many frothy reductions. I am thrilled to report none of those peeves were challenged during a delectable lunch at Café Immerse at Immerse Winery on Melba Highway, Dixons Creek, in the Yarra Valley.

I previously blogged about the delicious wine, facilities and service at the winery, which is home to a bespoke wedding and conference facility, complete with chic accommodation and chapel. Suffice to say, the cuisine and service surpassed our wildest expectations on a perfect spring Saturday.

Hosted by the charming owners, Helen and Stephen Myles, we were in good hands at the restaurant, which is open for lunch to the public on weekends.

Olives marinated in orange, Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay, and gin and beetroot-cured kingfish.

Arriving at Immerse is enough to get one into a relaxed mood, with its verdant vineyards, now reflecting glorious green shoots, and magical gardens, further enhanced by the budding blooms of lovingly tended roses.

Of course, I am already on board with the wines at Immerse, with my daily favourite tipple being the Immerse Sparkling Chardonnay. You can smell joy, I kid you not, as the fresh, fruity crisp apple notes refresh the nose and palate. Andrew is now also an Immerse convert as he swears the 2016 Oscars Reserve Cabernet with its floral, black cherry and raspberry notes ticked all the boxes for his love of a cool cab.

The plump green orange-marinated olives, creamy pesto dip and freshly baked herb bread, served with olive oil for dipping, was a superb appetiser and of course, ideally complemented by the bubbles.

Opting for the gin and beetroot cured kingfish entrée, complemented by radish, asparagus, apple, baby beets, crème fraiche and lavosh, which I regard as authentic cuisine as you recognise the appearance and taste of each morsel, proved a superb choice. Not only was the presentation perfect, in fact Picasso could have gone to town in a red phase, but the flavours evocative of spring.

Roast pork belly, roquette (rocket) pear parmesan salad, and rosemary garlic roasted potatoes.

The roast pork belly with a YVBCo cider reduction in an entrée portion as my main was a wise decision as it is generously portioned. This perfectly glazed porker was accompanied by a cucumber peanut salad that popped and crackled in perfect harmony with the divinely tender meat, which I’m happy to report only had the teensiest slither of creamy fat and crackling, just enough to make it slightly sinful.

Andrew’s choice of main was the grilled salmon fillet, perfectly teamed with vanilla bean potato puree, asparagus, caper and cornichon butter sauce. These are our kind of reductions, where you can indeed identify each flavour, while the unpretentious plating was an artistic titillation.

The texture of the salmon was just right, remaining scrumptiously moist, with bright pink flesh in the centre.

Grilled salmon, wedding decor and blood orange cheesecake.

The sides of golden sliced rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, as well as the roquette pear and parmesan salad with balsamic, could not be faulted.

Having had more than our fill, we did get our arms twisted to indulge in a dessert tasting plate for four and our choice of blood orange cheesecake with ginger biscuit, passionfruit and berries certainly were the berries, or rather, the strawberry on top. This is my kind of deconstruction dessert: light, airy, creamy, fruity with the ginger doing the trick to cleanse the palate of the after-glow of the mains, with the fruit in its honest form.

Resolutely unstuffy, the ambience, service, cuisine, wine and charm of this property makes this a favourite in a valley of plenty. Having checked on TripAdvisor, it is evident we are not the only diners who’ll return soon. We also thought the prices competitive – another tick.

A wedding party was being styled as we were departing and I could not resist sneaking a peep and snapping a few images. I bet that bridal party was in seventh heaven as the flow of natural light, chandeliers, romantic décor, fresh flowers and garden vistas reflected happy ever after.

We have some friends visiting soon from abroad and no prizes for guessing where we will be securing our reservation for lunch. See more at www.immerse.com.au – ah, cheers to the good life…