dog vacation

Dog Vacation Victoria – Luella Rise

Our dogs are such a huge part of our lives, so why not treat them to a holiday too. A dog vacation is the perfect way to have a get away with our beloved fur kids.

Well, the last twelve months for me, and for everyone else on the planet, has been all about staying safe and keeping out of COVID-19’s way. I don’t know about you, but never in my wildest imagination would have thought that I would, we would, spend a year at home, literally. And no travel? Ouch! It kind of makes me very grateful for my very indulgent 2019. Three overseas trips travel in one year was epic!

With Japan travel plans cancelled back in April, the furthest I got in 2020 was to Ballarat on Boxing Day and a couple of much needed trips to my hairdresser in Richmond. 8kms from home. Whoo!

So, when Melbourne’s COVID restrictions started to ease my travel planning brain went into overdrive.

Then my little family of three suffered a tough blow. My poor lil man, my fur kid soul mate, my 15-year-old little smooch of a dog, Ralphie, was diagnosed with Cancer and given a few months.

My lil Ralphie

So, our days are filled with making sure he is happy, loved, eating and drinking and can still enjoy his walks. So far so good. But I really wanted to do something special for him. But what?

Then it hit me when out walking with the dogs one morning. They needed a change of scenery. We ALL needed a change of scenery.

A dog vacation was was my first idea so as soon as I got home from our walk, the research started.

My findings. There is a lot of information out there about benefits of holidaying with pets and why animals also need a break! While Covid-19 has given me the opportunity to be at home for a year with my dogs (and I have treasured every moment), they have also been stuck with me and the same routine. Day in, day out. For over 12 months.

Poor things. So yes, a dog vacation was definitely a must for my little family of three.

Within an hour of the idea popping into my head everything was booked and paid for. Yes, I move quickly but time is of the essence when you are dealing with cancer. As I have learnt.

While there are quite a few organisations that offer pet vacation options in Australia, trusty old AirBNB came through with the goods this particular time. I didn’t actually realise that they offer dog vacation but really happy that they do. (I am affiliated with airbnb and you can use my booking page to book your accomodation any time).

After a small search on AirBnB one particular place stuck in my mind as the perfect get away for the three of us; ‘Luella Rise’ at Macclesfield.

Macclesfield is approximately 50 minutes from Melbourne CBD, past Emerald along the winding roads of the Dandenong Ranges. A quiet little village that hosts a few small shops and restaurants. Luella Rise was about a 3-minute drive further on from Macclesfield.

And what a stunning place it is set amongst the hills of the Dandenong Ranges. Luella Rise is the perfect place to get away from city life to relax and unwind whilst feeling like you are being utterly spoilt. It is a great base to explore the Dandenong and Yarra Ranges, visit Puffing Billy and many of the other attractions in the area.

Set on 10 acres, the property is run and owned by Victorialee, who lives on the property, but Luella Rise is separate from her place. She is warm, inviting and an amazing conversationalist. She will leave you alone if that is what you wish or stick around to have a chat if that takes your fancy too.

Victorialee is also a qualified massage therapist and I cannot recommend strongly enough that if you book in to stay at Luella Rise, that you treat yourself to a massage! Mine was incredibly relaxing and my body feels so much better for it. Victorialee is a fantastic host. Kind, generous and just really lovely. I especially enjoyed chatting and connecting with her.

What is so great about Luella Rise is having the ability to holiday with your pets. I hate leaving them home when I travel (you can read all about that ‘What to do with your pets when travelling’). I know they are always so well looked after but I miss my kids. So this was perfect for us and great to be able to give Ralphie something special and create some good memories.

I think that as much as I absolutely loved the place, my two dogs; Ralph & Maisie loved the open spaces even more. A big treat for them considering their space at home is a small courtyard with a bit of grass. They especially loved being able to meet Victorialee’s two horses, Hunter and Pippy. The first time either one of them had seen horses, so loads of excitement!

If you are looking for ultimate relaxation, the pool, spa and sauna are an absolute must. I enjoyed a swim and drying off in the sun while reading a book and having some music playing. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did something as simple and as relaxing as that. I also REALLY enjoyed the spa, with a bottle of Prosecco of course.

I did almost have a disaster with this though, I mean what would a travel vacation of mine be without some sort of stuff up on my behalf. Hint to anyone using a spa who does not know this; go very easy on the radox or bubble bath unless you want a mess spilling out of the bath and over everything on the floor. Luckily for me I saw this unfolding and avoided disaster.

There are a few walking tracks from Luella Rise if you feel like a bit of exercise and roaming around the area. The house is equipped with everything you need for your stay, shops and restaurants are not too far away either. As I was only staying the one night, I chose to cook myself dinner in the fully equip kitchen. Victorialee did mention that the restaurants in the area are quality and worth a look.

The bed was so super comfortable, I had a brilliant night’s sleep and woke to the beautiful sounds of birds chirping away. A nice change from waking to my neighbours or the cars on the street zooming past my place.

What was really lovely about our stay at Luella Rise was leaving the city behind and for the first time in over 12 months having a night away from home, in the hills with nothing but the sound of the wind through the pine trees, stunning views of the hills and landscape and nothing to do but relax and spend time away from life with the two things I love the most, Ralph and Maisie.

If you are after a peaceful getaway for you and your fur family in a fabulous, clean and nature filled environment, Luella Rise will not disappoint. Do yourself a favour, just book. You can thank me later.

Remember as much as we all need to get away from time to time, a dog vacation is the perfect way to treat yourself and your beloved pooch. Mine has a fabulous time away and I enjoyed the change of scenery with them. Something that I hope to be able to do again with Ralph & Maisie soon enough.

You can book Luella Rise through my AirBNB affiliation here.

Thornbury Fromagerie

Thornbury Fromagerie

Welcome to my new favourite place in Melbourne. In Thornbury. Where I live. The Thornbury Fromagerie. A short $8 AUD Uber from home. I could walk there it is that close.

Winning in life!

Imagine my absolute pleasure and utter delight in finding out early in 2020 that there was FINALLY a Fromagerie in my area. This cheese loving wine swilling lady of the inner north was in her element upon hearing this news. So, imagine the impression I was going to leave on this place when I finally visited!

Alas, I only managed to get one visit in with my equally as crazy wine loving cheese eating bestie before Melbourne’s first Covid Lockdown. But an impression we did make. I think the owners underestimated the amount of wine and cheese the two of us could put away. It was a lot but being seasoned connoisseurs of all things French we provided a classy round of entertainment. Expect no less people!

The impression however was what was left on us. The owners of the Thornbury Fromagerie are people that really love their cheese and their wine. And are not afraid to be proud of it. On that first visit, we received such a great introduction to French butter (who would have though that butter and bread could taste so damn good) and the most amazing of cheeses from around the world.

I can safely say now that no Australian soft cheese comes anywhere near as mouth-watering as the Delice de Cremiers. I’ve since eaten my fair share of the Delice and really cannot get enough of this creamy heavenly beauty that has made my eyes roll back into the nether regions of my head on a number of occasions.

Worth an honourable mention is the cheese that makes your tongue tingle (can’t quite remember the name of it), the sharpness of the Pyengana 24 month Vintage Cheddar, the Moliterno Al Tartufo (pecorino laced with thick veins of truffle), delightfully salty Le Conquérant butter and the Merlot infused Bella Vitano. The wine list changes from time to time but they pair it with what your cheese selection is.

In July 2020 in Melbourne, we were treated to 6 weeks of freedom between Covid lockdowns and the first place on my list to eat at was the Thornbury Fromagerie. Imagine my delight walking in and having owners Taz & Liv not only remember us but welcome us so warmly. Another night of fine butters and cheeses pared with beautiful wines and great banter. I have been a few times since, but not nearly enough.

During Melbourne’s first and second Covid Lockdown I was adamant that I would support and buy local and the Thornbury Fromagerie was first on my list to buy from. Adapting a new business model, the Fromagerie moved their store online, much to the relief of the local community. Within 30 minutes of submitting my first order online, cheese, crackers and wine was delivered by Taz (owner). That is the kind of service that goes beyond exceptional. Service that that will endear a cult following, and it would be totally deserving.

Thornbury Fromagerie
Special Delivery

Speaking of the owners, Taz and Liv are two of the kindest and loveliest people in hospo that I have ever met. And I have met quite a few! They know their cheese and they know their wines and they are not afraid to sit and chat with you to talk about what they know and just life. Cause they can and that is what makes the Thornbury Fromagerie my favourite place in old Melbourne Town. They are hospitable, friendly and proud of what they have built, and so they should be.

Post second lockdown the Fromagerie has expanded outdoors with a quaint little courtyard where you can eat drink and be merry. On Sunday’s they host musicians in the courtyard providing a perfect backdrop to a lazy Sunday session of wine and cheese and great entertainment.

Thornbury Fromagerie

In a year of utter chaos and uncertainty the Thornbury Fromagerie has been my shining light. I look forward to more sessions of delightful cheeses, butters and wines pared with exceptional service, banter and happy smiles.

Do yourself a favour, just visit. You will not be disappointed.

The Thornbury Fromagerie is located at 666 High Street Thornbury. Plenty of on street parking on High Street or on the surrounding side streets. The 86 tram stops close to the front of the Fromagerie.

Check out my other reviews of the Thornbury/Northcote/Preston area in Keeping it Local.

Zsa's Bar Bistro Deli

Zsa’s Bar Bistro Deli

Zsa’s Bar Bistro Deli is a Mediterranean inspired one stop shop/café/bar/bistro located on High Street, Northcote.

Opening a business in the middle of a global pandemic is definitely no easy feat. Trust me I know (I started my business Smart Artist Management *** at the start of 2020). But to open a restaurant while Melbourne in the middle of a Covid induced strict lockdown would ordinarily be a recipe for utter disaster.

But not if your reputation and your food is beyond exceptional. You at least have a fighting chance. And so with that Zsa’s Bar Bistro Deli opened amongst all the chaos.

I watched Zoe post on our local facebook page Northcote, Thornbury & Fairfield Takeaway about decorating the unopened bar, building the excitement, leaving us wanting to know more. The feedback she was getting and the excitement that was built by a community of people that have been if not nothing but amazing in support of our local restaurants, cafes and bars was incredible. And once opened, the pictures and the reviews that were coming back of what was on offer at Zsa’s was anything but lacklustre. My mouth was huuungray for the panino. HAHA….

So, it was on my mum’s birthday that I made my first visit to Zsa’s to get a takeaway Porcini Panino. Driving home was almost nauseating (in a really good way) from the smells that were emanating in my car. My stomach obviously craving what I had ordered. And let me tell you, I’ve had nothing like it. The best slow roasted pork, the creamiest of melted cheese, crustiest panini and whatever sauce was in that thing… um HELLO can I please know what it is? DELICIOUS!

Zsa’s is now a lunch favourite of mine and I have been several times. Now that we can, I like to eat in and have a glass (or two) of spritz. Which they do exceptionally well. Worth a recommendation also is the fish & chips panini.

There is a little store and deli at the front of Zsa’s where you can buy some condiments to fill your pantry (think Italian, French & Spanish) as well as fresh salads, cheeses, meats, pastas (the gnocchi is amazing) and breads.

Out the back Zsa’s now has a courtyard and they are open for meals that are equally as amazing as the panini’s you can takeaway or order in. My favourite is the gnocchi. I’ve never had one so tasty and fresh before.

The staff are super friendly, the food incredible and the spritz really does hit the spot on a warm summers day.

Well done team Zsa’s, what a delightful place to visit.

Zsa’s is located across from the Northcote town Hall at 202 High Street. Parking is available on High street or in the side streets. The 86 tram stops not far from the front.

Check out my other reviews of the Thornbury/Northcote/Preston area in Keeping it Local.

Le Café Flo

Le Café Flo Thornbury

What is now fast becoming the ‘French Quarter’ of the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne is the local staple Le Café Flo.

Located on busy High Street, Thornbury, Le Café Flo has been around for several years and I have been a happy patron for as many years as they’ve been open.

Owned by Frenchman Florian, the café is quintessentially a French café with a Melbourne twist. The specialties (well for me) is the savoury galette and of course sweet crêpes.  You can choose off the menu or you can create your own which leaves you to devise your own delightful creation. Same goes for the sweet crêpes if you are looking for a yummy dessert option.

Staple French options such as Croque Monsieur and Madame, charcuterie platter, baguettes and quiche Lorraine are very tasty options as well as the delicious French pastries and breads. It is really hard to go wrong choosing something to eat.

The coffee is strong, as you would expect and always my first go to when ordering. I highly recommend one or even two cups of their delicious brew.

My favourite is the Breakfast Galette with mushrooms, the eggs oozing with freshly cooked goodness of yellow yolk that soaks into the Galette itself. Tasty, delicious. Paired with a strong coffee. Of course!

Prior to Covid lockdowns and restrictions, Le Café Flo would host a dinner twice a month where you would get a 3-course meal dedicated to French cuisine. I look forward to these nights recommencing in 2021.

Le Café Flo is located at 709 High Street, Thornbury. Plenty of parking on High Street or in surrounding side streets. The 86 tram stops close to the front of the cafe.

Check out my other reviews of the Thornbury/Northcote/Preston area in Keeping it Local.