We decided to have a short change of scenery by heading up to Melbourne for a few days before the madness of Easter school holidays. The last few Qantas Frequent Flyer points from Lee's many business travels covered most of a two-night stay in an apartment in the bayside suburb of Brighton, close to where we spent many years living in Aspendale and Mentone.
After packing up all of our gear (including Lola's!), we headed off at about 10am on Wednesday and it was a straightforward drive up to Melbourne with no real traffic woes despite the Westgate Tunnel roadworks, so we were parking up in Docklands by 11.45. We wandered up to HOME Vegan Bar to source food for our lunch, dinner and breakfasts, making the most of the Midweek Melbourne Money scheme to score 25% off the bill. We enjoyed our lunch food in Docklands City Park in pleasant sunshine, before a walk around Newquay to The District shopping centre to drop off some old clothes for recycling at the H&M store. It was very quiet all around Docklands with many empty restaurant spaces along Newquay, but the District was a bigger shock with almost every shop closed down (no doubt not helped by the nearby tourist attraction, the Melbourne Star observation wheel, going bankrupt during the long COVID lockdowns). The two years of harsh lockdowns across Melbourne have clearly taken a very heavy toll on hospitality and retail businesses and it was sad to see places looking so empty, rundown and dirty. Walking back to the car, we then crossed town to Fitzroy, where Ky had an appointment on Smith Street. Lee & Lola walked the streets of Collingwood while Ky was there and it was again sad to see how rundown, tired, dirty and feral this area has become post-lockdowns. While Smith Street has always been edgy (and was voted the coolest street in the world), it's been a great spot for vegan food and shopping but it felt very unpleasant with so many empty shops and many people literally camping out on the streets. With her appointment done, we drove along busy Hoddle Street to get to St Kilda before the final run down Beach Road to our home for the next two nights, Quest Brighton on the Bay. We received an incredibly warm welcome with Lola at this dog-friendly property and our studio apartment was spacious and very clean. After unloading the car, we took the manager's recommendation to check out the nearby dog beach and Lola had a great time running around and interacting with a few of the local pooches while we had friendly chats with the folks there. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the city skyline looked stunning from this beach. Heading back to the apartment, we dug into more of our food from HOME Vegan Bar before relaxing in our comfortable apartment.
After a broken night's sleep thanks to incessant noise from Beach Road traffic in our apartment, we made a lazy start on Thursday with a yummy chocolate chia pudding for breakfast (again from our HOME Vegan Bar haul). We then unloaded the fold-up bikes and went for a ride along the excellent track alongside Beach Road, heading South as far as Hampton Street before returning towards Brighton, stopping at Raw Galore for a nice St Ali coffee and smoothie on the way back to the apartment. It was fun exploring the back streets of Brighton to get to Raw Galore, with some incredible modern properties amongst the historic estates in these multi-million dollar entry point streets! After a short rest at the apartment, we drove along Beach Road to Mordialloc in the lovely early afternoon sunshine. It was interesting to see the changes along this familiar stretch of road (from our time spent living in Aspendale and Mentone) and we were excited to try some food from the fairly new vegan cafe in Mordi, Conscious Cravings. We ordered various take-away dishes and eat them just across the road overlooking Mordialloc Creek, a lovely spot - and delicious food! We then walked to Aspendale beach with the intention of enjoying a long beach walk there but, alas, no dogs are allowed on the beach until after 31st March so we just missed out on that opportunity by a few days. Heading back into Mordi, we decided to return to Conscious Cravings for coffee and cake (and one of their doggie biscuits for Lola), dining in on a swing out the front (since no-one asked us for proof of vaccination status this time!). Despite being right on Beach Road, this was a surprisingly relaxing spot and this cafe is offering lovely food and drinks with a great vibe. We also grabbed some more food to take-away for dinner. It was then time to unload the fold-up bikes again for another ride, this time from Mordialloc to Mentone Lifesaving Club (currently undergoing massive renovations), and it was cool to check out the changes along this strip from the slower vantage point of the bikes. After returning to Mordi, it was an easy drive back to Brighton and we took Lola back to the same dog beach where she had a great time letting off some steam. Back at the apartment, dinner comprised of more tasty food from Conscious Cravings before a relaxing evening and very early night.
We had another night of poor sleep so didn't make a quick start on Friday morning. A lovely mango chia pudding (our last food remaining from HOME Vegan Bar) did the job very nicely for breakfast and we packed up to check out shortly before 10am. Leaving the car in the basement car park, we jumped on the fold-up bikes once more to enjoy the pleasant sunny morning, riding North as far as St Kilda marina along the excellent beachside track (which has completely separated pedestrians and cyclists since Lee last rode it many years ago), with Lola as always enjoying the riding experience and drawing lots of admiring glances and comments along the way! Returning to Brighton, we drove the short distance to Elwood to stock up at the great little Elwood Organics shop and it always feels good to support a genuine vegan business (with the owners doing so much for the vegan community in Melbourne for decades). From there, it was another short drive up to St Kilda in search of lunch. We had planned to revisit the splendid Sister of Soul but it was sadly closed "due to ceiling issues" (probably due to relatively recent hefty storms in the Bayside area) so we instead opted to get takeaway from Matcha Mylkbar. This was once a very popular and trendy vegan eatery but it looked quite rundown and quiet - and the opening of a KFC literally next door has done nothing to improve its chances. We walked across to the beach to enjoy the food, making the most of the newly-renovated Beach Pier and Circle of Reflection. The food was very good, perhaps the best we've had from this cafe over the years, and Lola was a big fan of the sweet potato chips! A walk to St Kilda's main pier rounded out our time there before jumping in the car for the drive back to Geelong. The freeway traffic was terrible and it was slow-going but we made it back to Geelong by about 4pm to run a couple of errands in the city before making it home by about 5.30pm.
It was great to explore our old areas again and to get in some nice bike rides and walks with Lola. Our accommodation was super dog-friendly, but the proximity to Beach Road really impacted our sleep there unfortunately. We still had a good time, though, and going away is always an excuse to splurge on vegan food from various places!
Review of Quest Brighton on the Bay accommodation