Recently my husband and I reached the milestone of our 15 years wedding anniversary and decided the feat was worthy of celebration. So we begged and bribed friends and relatives and were able to give ourselves the gift of twenty-four magical hours of childfree time.
Not wanting to waste a single precious moment of our time, we decided to book a room in a hotel within easy driving distance of our Bayside home. The Wotif.com deal was enticing – "A spacious Superior Room with stunning views of Port Philip Bay, the Esplanade and St Kilda beach" all for the special price of $243.95.
So within twenty minutes of dropping off the children, and after a leisurely cruise along Beach Road, we had parked our car in the Novotel St Kilda's underground car park and were ready to check-in.
The room matched the website photos – always a relief. The furnishings and fittings seemed new, and were tasteful and modern in various muted tones. The day bed underneath one of the large windows was a highlight and I had visions of lying there for hours reading the papers.
But the view we saw through the many windows in the room were of a stunning blue sky and sea, the kind of day where the colours are so vivid it almost hurts your eyes to look. The outdoors called to us and so reluctantly abandoning the day bed, we took off hand-in-hand to take our very first walk along the St Kilda Jetty.
We sat at the outside bar of the Restaurant and as the sun beamed down us (should have remembered sunscreen) we enjoyed the view of the marina, Catani Gardens, the St Kilda Seabaths and the city skyline. We gazed longingly over the yachts berthed at the marina and dreamed about which one we would want to own while sipping on a glass of one of the several Sauvignon Blancs on offer.
My husband finally procured his first caffeine hit of the day and described the brew as "very, very good." The staff were helpful but never pushy, and did not make us feel we had overstayed our welcome despite spending more than an hour at our spot and only ordering the one drink each.
We felt the only drawback to the time we spent at The Pier was the "doof doof" music blaring a little too loudly over the speakers. We reluctantly left The Pier so we could explore other areas and meandered back along the jetty, past the St Kilda Sea Baths.
We wandered through Republica (part of the Sea Baths complex), which seemed very 'hip and happening,' and was filled with patrons much younger than us.
Leaving the energy of Republica behind, we circled back past Beachcomber. There we found identically dressed girls in short white cotton dresses handing out vouchers for free stubbies of White Blonde beer.
How could we let the opportunity of a free beer pass? So accompanied by a large and tasty bowl of hot chips (there goes the diet), we pulled up a chair on one of the outside tables and enjoyed the view.
We sat 40 metres from the sea, with the St Kilda Promenade directly in front of us. We were endlessly entertained by the parade of people passing us by, although we did feel like pointing out to a number of people on the beach that it was not, in fact, a particularly hot or summery day. We wanted to shout a warning: - "Put those bikinis and snow white bodies AWAY people".
After some leisurely time back in our hotel room, we again ventured out for our next dining experience. This time we headed to The Stokehouse for dinner.
Sadly a week earlier we had been unable to secure a booking at the more intimate and sophisticated Stokehouse Restaurant, and so we headed to the Beach Bar and Grill ground floor Café. Our very helpful waitress managed to find us a relatively quiet corner and we tried valiantly to ignore the noise of other patrons, particularly the children. Someone, somewhere needs to pass a law prohibiting children being allowed into restaurants when couples are having a rare 24 hours away from their own offspring.
But I digress. We felt our waitresses on the night truly looked after us. After being told the special of the day - Tasmanian Oysters had run out (at only 7.30pm), we were so disappointed by the news and our waitress went to the upstairs restaurant to see if they had any in stock. Alas, they also had run out.
Instead we feasted on pork and fennel sausage pizza with olive and chili. For our main meals we decided it was a red meat night and shared lamb back strap and grilled sirloin with a broccolini side salad. We washed the food down with a carafe of Shiraz – the carafe was a nice half way measure between individual glasses and a bottle of wine.
Somehow my husband decided he had room for dessert and duly reported his satisfaction with the Afforgata - house made icecream, espresso and biscotti. We finally left The Stokehouse so full from the food and wine we had enjoyed, we decided to go for a late night stroll along the beach. Unfortunately the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees while we were dining and so our walk was only a short one.
The next morning we woke up ready to go exploring again and rather than take the easy option of dining in the hotel for breakfast, headed to nearby Fitzroy Street in search of a suitable café. We chose Bar Santo as we thought we had been there one other time and enjoyed it. I am not sure if our memory deceived us, but either way, we were unhappy with our decision.
Breakfast at Bar Santo turned out to be a disappointing way to end our romantic break. The coffee, particularly for a café on Fitzroy St, was quite simply, appalling. It was watery, with no depth and little discernible flavour. The service was very slow – although there was few people in the café, it took well over half an hour to receive our uncomplicated orders.
On a positive note, the French toast made of panatone was a hit.
We checked out and returned home to our children rejuvenated, refreshed and reminded why we had married each other in the first place. If you can arrange the babysitting, I highly recommend you arrange a break away from both the children and the daily grind. Even though our break was only 24 hours, we managed to cram so much in and St Kilda was such a great place to spend our time, we felt like we had been on a real holiday.