THE BIRTHDAY TRADITION
BY MARIA THATTIL
Number five had rolled around. In the blink of an eye, we had spent four birthdays together, venturing to lazy beach towns, a tropical island and the magnificent harbour of a bustling metropolis, and now the time had come to pick yet another location to retreat to for Birthday #5.
My partner Matt and I have the uncanny fortune of sharing a birthday. Both born on the same day (but four years apart), we couldn’t believe the fact when we first stumbled upon it way back when we first encountered each other in Mykonos in 2014. A few months into dating and we had soon arrived at the first birthday we were to share as a ‘semi-couple’, and the territory was unfamiliar. It’s bad enough when you are dating someone new and don’t know the “rules” about what to buy, what to spend, what they like and how extravagant you should be. Too expensive and well-thought out a gift early on, and you could be branded a desperate, over-eager stalker. Too small, general and inexpensive, and you could seem indifferent. The ‘first-birthday-gift-game’ is my least favourite in the realm of dating.
So to play it cool that first year, we decided to retreat for the weekend to a beach house in Inverloch – an Australian beach town on the Gippsland coastline in Victoria and thus: The Birthday Tradition was born. No longer ‘my’ or ‘his’ birthday, but ours.
With Europe on the cards in August and Mexico in December, it seemed excessive to try and fit in a third vacay into an already busy 2019. So, we mutually decided to opt for a quiet beach town retreat again. It permitted us to getaway and indulge our mutual love of the sun & sea. This year, as it was the big three-oh for Matt, my age seemed relatively insignificant and so I insisted on organising the weekend and retaining an element of surprise. I must say, if you share a birthday with or, have one close in proximity to a partner – a little getaway tradition is not a bad idea. I know both Matt & I have all we need, materially especially. And when it comes to material wants, we are fortunate enough to be in a position to get things for ourselves. That is not to say that a cheeky pressie resulting from *subtle* hints is not a good idea. When it comes to presents, if we really want to go down that route, we do. But typically, material goods and their use have an expiration date, whereas experiences create memories that last.
THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
One of the most prolific and picturesque locations in Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road (GOR) is a perfect stretch of coastal heaven nestled away between Torquay and Allansford. I personally find it difficult to search and find restaurants for Friday night date night so naturally, booking an entire weekend away seemed daunting and high-pressure. I mean, deciding on good Japanese in my own city is a difficult feat. But I decided to be tactful and research several travel blogs that talked about must-see getaways for Victorians. Apart from feeling shamed at having to resort to a travel blog to navigate my own backyard, I found it so overwhelmingly complicated to navigate. So many blogs, so little time – and each had links to different websites with different prices and too many options. Streamlined? No. Stressful? Yes.
So you can imagine my gratitude at stumbling upon the Great Ocean Road Holidays site. A curation of beautiful real estate in the GOR, here I had a selection of the best properties on offer skirting everything from Airey’s Inlet to Wye River. Booking on short notice, there weren’t any small properties for two left, so I opted for a spacious three bedroom apartment in Lorne.
Overall, the booking process does require some tweaks as I did have to follow up three times to secure my booking and ensure that the owner of the property approved our stay, but once locked in it was a seamless process. We drove for three hours soaking in breath-taking views before arriving in the heart of Lorne, picked up our keys from the Real Estate Office on Mountjoy Parade and drove a block to reach our home for the weekend. Not without a supermarket stop, we were armed with Pinot Noir, the makings of a great cheese board & an eagerness to settle in with Netflix. The apart was clean, the air was fresh and the night was relaxed.
In the morning, ceiling to floor glass windows welcomed a bath of sunlight as dawn broke. Over the next two days, we spent our days dozing on stretches of white sand and cooling off in the freshest water at Lorne Beach. For those of you that don’t know, I cannot swim. Matt is hopelessly confident that I can be taught and every time we are beach bound, he tries to fit some kind of a lesson in. When we travelled Europe in 2017, he convinced me to leave the shore behind and venture into deep water – naturally I clung to him like a spider monkey, at times holding on to his foot as he led the way and swam. Cute, but majorly awkward to witness. This time, my phobia of water was confronted head on as he convinced me to accompany him into the heart of the waves. As the water rose from ankles to shoulders, regret washed over me but quickly dissipated as Matt lifted me up over the waves. As scared as I was, I found it thrilling and fun to do something seemingly scary with someone who made me feel safe.
Spending most of our day soaking up the sun, pre-dinner we took a walk along Lorne Beach and found ourselves greeted by the quiet serenity of blue horizons. Stretching endlessly over what seemed like limitless miles, our walking trail was wondrous to take in. There is a little part of me that craves adventuring and seeing the beauty that nature has to offer. We found ourselves climbing into rock pools in search of tiny, evasive little crabs, and laughing at the squelchy sounds of bubble like seaweed. Simple, but perfect. Wandering along till we reached Lorne Pier, it grew colder and more beautiful.
WHERE TO MANGIA
Residing a stone’s throw away from Mountjoy Parade, we were fortunate that everything we needed was within arms reach. Supermarkets, cafe’s, restaurants, dessert. Excellent choice of location, if I may say so myself. By day, we gravitated to the same cafe every morning: The Bottle of Milk. Apart from the interior aesthetic boasting postcard-worthiness, I quickly became a huge fan of the truffled mushrooms garnished with watercress - my breakfast of choice every day.
By night, we enjoyed dinner locally, including a meal at Saporitalia – traditional, authentic Italian cuisine in an outdoor setting illuminated by fairy lights. It was odd, truly. Finding a little piece of Italy nestled in coastal Victoria. By the glow of the fairy lights and with a bottle of red, we had a lovely meal and enjoyed our Birthday Eve.
The weekend passed as quickly as it came and on the morning of our birthday, we began the journey back to Melbourne as I had to be home for an Armani Beauty event that evening. But staying along the GOR meant that we were not shy of options for day sights. Around the corner was Erskine Falls.
THE BEAUTIFUL VICINITY
An endless blanket of green, Erskine Falls is tucked away within canopies dipping 30m down into the tree-fern gully of Erskine River. 240 steps later and we reached the base of the Falls, surrounded by beauty, lush greenery and the fine mist of water cascading from the rocks. As someone who is always on her phone, busy, and thinking in ‘to-do lists’, I greatly value any time I have to switch off and connect with nature. To sit at the base of the falls and just listen and FEEL the water was healing, and absolutely enchanting. It would’ve been the perfect afternoon, had Matt not spent the entire time telling me the Asics I wore belonged in 1989.
So for my readers - both international and domestic, the GOR is a must-see. A scenic dream, there is more on offer than I divulged, including bush-walking, biking expeditions or surfing. But if like us, you just need some R&R, quiet peacefulness and salty air - it’s perfect for that too. Til next time, enjoy the trip down Memory Lane below of Matt & I on all our shared birthdays to date.