Sixty is the new 40

By Tilly Smith Dix

Turning forty was a gloriously delicious experience for me. I finally felt I’d arrived at an age in which I felt more comfortable in my skin. It was also a time of new beginnings for me. Slightly scary, as I’d moved city, returning to a metropolis I’d lived in before but it was different now as most of my friends from my twenties had either moved country or were too engrossed in family life to deal with a newly single old friend.

A new job made for exciting times as I’d been shaken out of my small-city comfort zone and set about reinventing myself, shedding an unhappy skin and promising myself success and happiness onwards.

Turning fifty proved another milestone and I celebrated it with gusto by embarking on a fabulous winter holiday in London, Italy and Switzerland – solo. Spending time on long-distance trains, from Milan to Genoa, then on to Portofino and Florence, offered much time to reflect and I loved every moment. A few days in Zurich, from where I flew back to South Africa, and I felt it in my bones that my fifties were going to be a blast. 

Photography by the amazing Jessica Apap, logo by fabulous Chiz Judge of Out of the Cage design.

By then I’d achieved success in my job as a publicist and copywriter, owned a luxurious, spacious terraced apartment in glamorous Sandton, and now I realised I might be in a position to slow down slightly and start taking notice of people wanting to spend time with me – men! No, I’d not cut them out of my life in the past ten years but my priorities included quality time with great friends, my business, my family and savouring the fun side of life, such as travel, great food, champagne and gardening for therapy out of my hectic home office!

Shortly before my fifty-third birthday, I met a man with whom I fell in like and then in love. We got married and after a few years moved to another country with our cat.

The day I turned sixty, my husband wanted to know if I wanted a party and I opted to celebrate this big birthday quietly and under the radar as I somehow did not feel ready to tell the world I was now officially a senior citizen – I simply did not FEEL sixty and according to loved ones, I did not look it either. So, being in a job in which most clients were younger than me, I felt owning up to my age would create a category labelled ‘past it’ – and I don’t like being categorised as I feel we all have so many facets to our personas.

Well, to cut a long and winding story short, I have finally come to cherish this new age as it feels incredibly powerful and liberating. Thanks to iconic, fabulous and smart women all over the world, this silver phase is NOT the final stage and there are new adventures and journeys to embrace.

So, taking the bull by the horns, I’ve come out, so to speak, as a now silver blonde passionate about the magic of life. The beauty of this phase is I can do what I like! Whilst there are still many lessons to be learned, I also feel I have plenty to say and teach, thanks to the ever-evolving school of osmosis. Dealing with life on MY terms, knowing when to say NO, or yes, without feeling guilty, is amazing. The stars are also aligned as my planet Jupiter (yes, I like being a mutable Sagittarius) is also positioning me for some spectacular years forward.

 

Whilst now living with one foot (no, not in the grave), close to the city of Melbourne and the other planted firmly in the magnificent Yarra Valley, I still enjoy stylish dressing and after some prompting by old and newfound friends, including a modelling agent, I’ve now officially launched an Instagram account: Sixty_is_the_new_40– let me know what you think of the gorgeous logo designed by my special friend Chiz.

Dabbling in modelling, which is a throwback to my teens and twenties to have fun and earn extra cash, I’m also trying to keep this silver brain active by continuing to work with a small, select clientele as a publicist and copywriter, while blogging and travel writing remain part of my many passions. My photography is also improving and living in a spectacular region with an abundance of colourful birdlife and glorious nature, I don’t even have to be great at it to produce excellent photographs.

As for social media, I’m working it, darlings, as between Facebook, Linkedin, my now two Instagram accounts, one private and Sixty_is_the_new_40, I think it a small miracle I manage to keep the house clean as well as cook and bake for my husband. Busy, busy, busy, ah, then there is the yoga to keep the bones strong and muscles toned, not to mention elevating the soul to remain mindful. Namaste, just colour me grateful.

Cheers to the good life, darlings…

Sunshine on my shoulders…

By Tilly Smith Dix

The warmer season is spreading its sultry kisses across our Yarra Valley & Ranges, with vivacious shades of cerise and powder pink rhododendrons, pink peonies, lavender wisteria, and bright white jasmine bursting from the constraints of their spring buds. The bees are lazily sampling nectar from this smorgasbord of heady fragrances lingering like a gossamer mist. The parrots, red wattle birds, thrushes and cheeky ravens are chorusing their joy.

We’ve entered the daylight saving phase of the warmer seasons, and identifying the different bird calls in our garden, from the sweet whistle of the crimson rosellas to the joyful chirp of the little black thrushes, the choc-choc of the red wattle birds and the demanding cawing of a juvenile crow, this happy cacophony makes for a spectacular daybreak.

Clockwise from top left: crow feeding in our garden; pink peonies at Art at Linden Gate garden; cerise rhododendrons in our garden.

The young crow is always demanding treats from its bustling mother at the bottom of the garden, which makes for all-day comic relief as it has such a feisty personality. Testing its running skills around the little fish pond, it has taken command of this small territory. Unafraid, it will even try to chase our cat, to her obvious and often vocal irritation. If this pushy juvenile had attempted such antics on our Cathy some years ago when she was younger and more agile, it might have been missing an eye by now.

As I have mentioned at nauseum, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic meanders and just as our long winter was coming to a close, we embarked on a drive on a rainy day for a long overdue visit to the picturesque town of Marysville. The late snow on the nearby slopes had already melted and the drive through vineyards and forestry via Healesville, past the postcard-perfect Maroondah Catchment Lake was magical.

The historic little town of Marysville was rebuilt after a devastating fire some years ago and has managed to reclaim and maintain its alpine village charm.

Clockwise from left: burgundy pot pie at Fraga’s Cafe in Marysville; Steavenson Falls; the road from Healesville to Marysville.

After a delicious lunch of burgundy beef pot pie with golden fries and a fresh garden salad, accompanied by a glass of Yarra Valley bubbles for me and a local cider for himself at a cosy eatery called Fraga’s Café,  we drove to nearby Steavenson Falls. Described as one of Victoria’s most imposing cascades, we were not disappointed.

Interestingly, the falls light itself by night by driving a small hydro-electric turbine which provides power to the floodlights. How neat is that?

The Steavenson River starts its life at an elevation of 350m on the crest of the Great Dividing Range. The forested catchment ensures a year-round flow, resulting in a captivating tourism attraction.

The falls and the river were named in the early 1860s when the Victorian Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, John Steavenson, set up a base in Marysville, which he named after his wife. From here, he supervised the construction of the road to the Woods Point Goldfields.

Having previously flown over part of the Great Dividing Ranges from Coldstream Airport, it was a treat visiting Marysville by road. Locals are friendly and welcoming, resulting in many visitors from near and far returning to this delightful locale.

Art in our valley and ranges comes in many forms as this certainly is an ideal location for anyone with a creative bone in their body.  The enveloping beauty and prolifically defined seasons would bring out the creative in the most dyed-in-the-wool accountant – no disrespect to bean-counters intended, just saying…

Tarrawarra Museum and gallery in Healesville.

Attending a Yarra Valley & Ranges Tourism presentation at nearby Tarrawarra Museum proved an enlightening evening. The vistas of vineyards, hills, woodlands, dam, wood-ducks and impressive architecture of the museum, not to mention delicious food and wine, made for a most convivial event. The captivating art created by local artists were a perfect diversion during a busy week. My next visit will include sampling lunch in the restaurant to further explore the chef’s culinary alchemy as the catering on the night was a triumph.

During the effervescent tourism presentation, and yes, we had delicious bubbles, I met another art gallery owner, Reggie Clark, who manages Art at Linden Gate, a short drive from Tarrawarra on the Yarra Glen-Healesville Road.

No arm-twisting was required for me to pay a visit to her gallery after a quick lunch at a Yarra Glen bistro a few days later. The property offers self-catering accommodation which has been popular with city folks wishing to savour panoramic country life, the fruits of the vine, art, vineyards, cheese, cuisine and spectacular birdlife of the region.

Clockwise from right: Leaving the Yarra Glen Grand Hotel Bistro; views, sculpture and gallery at Art at Linden Gate near Yarra Glen.

Horses and cattle can be seen in the meadows through the gallery windows and from the room decks by day, whilst kangaroos, wombats and other wildlife complement the post-card charm of Art at Linden Gate by night.

Reggie’s father is the highly acclaimed sculptor Ernst Fries, who transforms stainless steel into art with meaning and enduring emotion.

Naturally, my (often) better half would feel ignored if I did not mention aviation in my review. A 40-minute flight from Coldstream Airport to Lake Eppalock to attend a fly-in to a private airfield named Unusual Attitudes on a bright sunny day, offered superb visibility over our valley of plenty.

Clockwise from top: cloud clearing over Coldstream; Coldstream Airport rural vista; Nanchang CJ-6 at Unusual Attitudes airfield.

The glorious tapestry of life never ceases to amaze me as not only did this bring-your-own-barbeque-picnic prove an intimate gem of a day but new friendships were forged.

While the boys played with and admired each other’s (winged) toys, the gals clustered and chatted like happy hens, known as chooks here in Aussie. Over an ice-cold bottle of Yarra Burn Brut, I met a South African couple who has survived heartbreak and hardship, some of which were covered on Carte Blanche, the actuality television news programme in South Africa some years ago. They are now happily settled in Melbourne and I salute them for their determination to overcome a ‘hard yard,’ as they so bravely describe their past journey.

Stories of woe improve when accompanied by crisp bubbly and a chop or two from the barbie and it did not take long for laughter to once again lift our spirits to remind us that this, despite its ups and downs, is a good life indeed.

Sharing heart-warming stories with a bevy of like-minded women, who treated me like one of their own, resulted in contact details being exchanged and this newbie feeling like she belonged.

Naturally, we admired the aviation demonstrations, of which the Chinese replica of a Soviet Yak, the Nanchang CJ-6, is a real beauty, mate, before resuming our ya-ya sisterhood bonding.

Cheers to the good life, here’s to a fabulous season, wherever you are…

Flight of Angels

By Tilly Smith Dix

Quietly giving his time, resources and the use of his aircraft, Bob Boyd, Managing Director and Chief Flying Instructor of Yarra Valley Flight Training at Coldstream Airport, has been flying Angel Flights to assist families who need to travel to Melbourne for medical tests and treatment since 2011.

I only came to hear of Bob’s kindness when my aviator husband recently accompanied him on a return flight to Hay in NSW, not far from the Victorian border. Bob had flown there several days earlier to collect a young mother and her epileptic child in need of ongoing medical attention.

Bob flies out of Coldstream to towns mostly within the state of Victoria, from where passengers need to be transported to either Essendon or Moorabbin Airports for Melbourne’s top medical facilities. Once his charges have been safely handed over for Angel Flight ground transportation to the required hospital, he returns to his base at Coldstream Airport.

Yarra Valley FT Bob b2 Oct 30 2017 inside cockpit

Bob Boyd of Coldstream Flying School at Yarra Valley Flight Training.

He explains the difference between a mercy flight and an Angel Flight as follows: a mercy flight is required for urgent and life-threatening situations, whilst an Angel Flight assists people to attend their scheduled  medical tests and treatments not available in most country towns. This provides some leeway should weather conditions or other factors compromise a mission flight.

What decided Bob to contribute his valuable time and utilise aircraft of Yarra Valley Flight Training for no remuneration to help people living in more rural outlying regions? “Donating our time and resources to help a sick child, or adult, is the right thing to do,” he says.

“Sometimes an aircraft also needs utilisation, so an Angel Flight serves a practical purpose for our training centre as well,” he states.

Bob welcomes student pilots and other licensed pilots to accompany him on such flights. They gain experience and it helps him to focus on the logistics, whilst his co-pilot ensures luggage loading and the comfort of the passengers are taken care of.

Sharing the responsibility of such a flight with a fellow aviator is of benefit to all concerned, he says.

The qualifications required to participate in this worthy cause are higher than the basic CASA requirements; a private pilot’s licence with a minimum of 200 hours in command, and a minimum of 10 hours experience in the particular aeroplane utilised for the Angel Flight.

Bob encourages other experienced pilots to do the same and suggests they register online at www.angelflight.org.au

Bob and his team’s day job comprises flight training at Coldstream Flying School – Yarra Valley Flight Training.

Contact Yarra Valley Flight Training at:  www.YVFT.com.aucall 03 9739 1406 – 96 Killara Road, Coldstream, Victoria –

See more on youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqPH62FNJ9Q https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eb20PSxChc

 

Spring Diversions

Time for the birds and the bees

 By Tilly Smith Dix

Each one of the four seasons holds its own unique beauty. The balmy heat of summer, evocative of lazy days spent near water, preferably with something tall, cold and refreshing to drink while watching someone else in charge of the braai, or barbie as we call it in Aussie.

The golden hues of autumn have always enthralled me, when it’s time to light the fire and cosy up with woollen wraps.

Winter in Melbourne is cold and often wet, which reminds me of winters spent in a place forever stamped on my heart, Cape Town. I have always found winter to be a time of reflection, a bit like looking inwards as you tend to spend a lot more time indoors with your thoughts.

Then, there is that all-time favourite, which has inspired poets and composers through the ages to wax lyrical about the arrival of a chrysalis-shedding time, when the birds, the bees, hibernating animals, plants trees and humans unfurl and shed their winter covers in celebration of this enchanting season.

Spring is a time to pursue the best nature has to offer in its most spectacular regalia. Fancy a safari, when game will behave in the most delightful way to celebrate the abundance of nature, or the winelands and beaches of the Cape or KwaZulu-Natal? The Garden Route remains one of my most favoured spring getaway destinations on the planet, where all the special components of nature merge to thrill the senses. South Africans are spoilt for choice and this is the time, before peak season, to grab a special package before it escalates into that ever-increasing summer rate.

Want to go further afield? Take a river cruise in Provence in France, where the food is authentic, fresh and unforgettable, stop in Avignon, or head for the charm and magic of Italy’s Lake Como instead, where you can still buy freshly baked bread from a little bakery on a corner for breakfast.

One of my favourite spring holidays has been in the Istrian region of Croatia, in and around the picturesque Rovinj, a place I could have happily called home. The sublime scenic splendour of mountains, valleys and coastline will feed your soul and belly – and it is still affordable for South Africans with champagne tastes and beer pockets to travel to.

Croatia 2011 rovinj boats IMGP2171

Rovinj, Croatia.

Of course, you could pop over to our neck of the woods in the magnificent Yarra Ranges near Melbourne. The velvet moss and lacy ferns of the forested mountains, lakes, rivers and creeks, vineyards, delicious food and wine in the magical valley and sublime Dandenongs might just captivate you as much as it did us, resulting in our eventual great trek across the ocean. The birdlife is prolific and their colours and plumage will astound you. They still enchant us every day.

If you prefer vistas of azure ocean, take a meandering drive from Melbourne along the coast of the Mornington Peninsula, spend at least a night in picturesque Sorrento, board the ferry to Queenscliff, from where the exquisite drive along the Great Ocean Road will take your breath away. Don’t forget to stop to take in the iconic Twelve Apostles…

Whether you prefer welcoming spring to the strains of Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto or Billie Holiday singing about spring, (April in Paris), savour every moment. Cheers to a fabulous new season, mate!

As Published in Diversions magazine, spring 2018 edition:

Tilly byline foreword Diversions spring 2018

 

A (late) winter’s tale

by Tilly Smith Dix

Flights of fancy – and piggery

“It will be fun,” he said. “The food is good, I hear,” he said. “The weather is perfect,” he said.

These are some of the sales pitches my pilot presents when he wants me to join him on a flight. I’m usually content with a scenic drive in this magnificent region of the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, trying to get lost, dining and quaffing vino at a back-road vineyard. Meandering has always been a favourite pastime, especially when the terrain is this panoramic.

Dutiful wife that I am, I capitulated, having buried that recent visit to Shepparton in the recesses of my selective memory-loss app…

So, on a chilly July morning, we set off for Coldstream Airport to uncover numero uno wife for a lunch flight in Deniliquin, NSW. Yes, we hop the Victorian border within an hour and 20 minutes with a healthy tailwind in the Sling 4.

Flying over the thick meringue-stacked cloud, offering sublime vistas of hilltop farmhouses, is captivating and we landed at Deniliquin Airport sooner than I expected. Serving as an RAAF Station back in the day, the superb runway makes for a smooth landing. A taxi arrived in five minutes to transport us to town, where we were told the best spot to have lunch was the Crossing Café.

This little gem is located on the Edward River, which gently flows near the restaurant. Not expecting fine dining but hoping for something that borders on aesthetically pleasing and delicious, the Crossing Café delivered with gentle aplomb. Homely and spacious, the service proved friendly and efficient and the menu choices comforting.

The seafood chowder and garlic pita looked scrumptious and my pilot attested to it indeed tasting as good as it looked. My menu choice of sticky ginger pork belly with Vietnamese peanut slaw was everything it should be. Crispy crackling, deliciously sticky and succulent meat, with the slaw complementing the dish with an exotic twist.

A trio of ice-creams, including orange, berry and salted caramel, proved a perfect finale for us to share.

After a leisurely stroll around the town, which has a delightful park and duck pond at its centre, it was time to meet our taxi driver for our return trip to the airport.

The mantra of most recreational pilots, “time to spare, go by air,” became reality as ominous weather unfurled rapidly more than halfway through our flight home as we were about to soar over the Great Dividing Range, or Eastern Highlands, resulting in my safety-first captain diverting to Mangalore.

Another superbly appointed small airport, this is a bustling pilot training centre during weekdays. Lucky for us, a gentleman pilot spotted us landing and offered us a ride into town. Turns out this nice man from Melbourne was spending the weekend here to play with his plane and visit his daughter.

We spent the night at the Comfort Inn, which proved better than expected. To show appreciation for taking pity on us, as pilots often do for each other wherever they happen to be in the world, we took our friend to dinner at the best show in town, which was not much but we were not hungry and our kind Samaritan was. I’m not going to name and shame as it was one of those club-type dining joints with pokies but no dancing girls, praise be.

I’m not going to tell you I was miffed, worried about the cat back home without food for the night, no toothbrush and the usual cosmetics women require for a night away…

Himself checked the weather online and we managed to get a taxi and grumpy driver to the airfield early on Sunday morning after a light breakfast, when fine weather ensured a smooth flight home.

Suffice to say our feline was overjoyed at our arrival back home and after about 3.6 seconds of showing her love and gratitude, she tucked into a late breakfast with her usual gusto. Luckily I always leave enough water and pellets for her, so she was not at death’s door.

Himself says our diva could have gone without grub for another week without perishing as she is a pudding.  I believe he is being crass about her cuddly middle-age spread and I may just use the same line next time he squeals about lunch being late, remind me, will you?

Having enjoyed the pork belly in Deniliquin, I headed off to Paperbark Café on Mt Evelyn, a ten minute drive from our home, where I met up with some girlfriends for lunch a few days later. Their pork belly spinach roll with sweet potato proved an unpretentious triumph, and my friends declared their calamari with fries equally delectable. The bubbles, as always, were delicious. The girls decided to linger to buy plants, shrubs and rummage through an impressive selection of homeware choices in the nursery and gift shop but I resisted and went home to meet work deadlines instead. Funny how my brain improves after a glass of elixir …

Heavenly sounds

Melbourne Town Hall is home to an organ built in 1929, producing anything from a delicate whistle to a deafening thunder. At four storeys high, the celestial sounds cascading from that magnificent instrument brought a tear to my eye and the audience applauded thunderously in appreciation of the young music students’ performances at a free recital some weeks ago.

The impressive Melbourne Town Hall was designed by architects Reed & Barnes and the foundation stone was laid in 1867.

I am forever grateful to a Facebook friend, who alerted us about this All Stops Out concert, featuring students of the classical organ in Australia and New Zealand.

The hall was packed, proving the strains of evergreen classics appealed to folks of all ages, not just us ‘silver is the new blond or brunette’ brigade!

As a former student of classical piano, music has always affected me profoundly, especially when performed on such a grand scale. If there is a heaven, I had a delightful whiff of it that day. I can hardly wait for the next concert to be announced for 2019 as I’ll be back to be further enthralled!

What made this outing into the now second most liveable city in the world – Vienna stole the erstwhile Melbourne title this year – even more delightful, was meeting up with a Facebook friend, another former South African, with her gang of Aussie girlfriends for lunch on Federation Square before the concert.

The world was a fine place on that day and strolling along Swanston Street to that glorious town hall, looking at city folks and tourists all seemingly joyful on a perfect day, made me feel lucky to be living in such a wonderful city. I’m certain one of those lovingly maintained horses carting visitors around the CBD in their romantic buggies winked at me – probably the bubbles …

I hear spring is on the way but more about that next time as I’m still enjoying this cosy winter and the predictions of more snow in the alpine region this week thrills me to bits. Our neighbour, whose chooks I look after when they travel, has a small vineyard in Mansfield and he has kindly presented us with a bottle of his mulled wine. Time for a hearty evening of gluhwein, I’d say.

Woolly tails

Alpacas are some of my favourite animals and enjoying a day out at Omaru Alpaca Stud in nearby Cottles Bridge proved a captivating experience.

Sian Rickards has turned the stud into a sustainable tourist and photographic attraction, offering tours of her pristine bijou alpaca wool-processing factory. The piece de resistance is a chance to handfeed these woolly beauties residing in rolling hills, complete with their own natural pond.

One of the females recently gave birth to a creamy kid, which stole my heart. Sian explains this was too early for a birth as spring would have been ideal but the daddy committed a peccadillo by managing to break free of his generously proportioned enclosure to go make a lovechild with a willing blonde.

Because of the sins of the father, the poor kid is now named Jailbreak. I think Daddy should be renamed Jailbreak and the gorgeous offspring should be baptised Bambolina. Comfortable being handled by Sian and her visitors by now, the pampered mother and child seem to welcome a cuddle and a chat. Go meet them, tell them I sent you.

Nature works in mysterious ways. I was fascinated to see how the pretty galah was feeding on alpaca poop! Sian, for whom this stud is certainly a labour of love, explained how clean the alpaca waste was and the galah pick the nutritional bits to snack on. Recycling in its purest form and certainly the most spectacular pooper scoopers I’ve ever seen.

Cheers to the good life, no need to wonder about the other side of the rainbow, the pot of gold is right in front of us. We just have to open our eyes and engage with nature, life’s unexpected intersections and the good folks of the world.

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.

yvft-ian-ryan-office-june-20181.jpg

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.

yvft-dick-gower-lwr-2015-pic1-e1531115080266.jpg

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.

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