Although this post is about a wonderful trip I had recently to the beautiful Daylesford in Victoria, famous for their spas and fantastic restaurants, I would be lying if I said the entire experience was rosy. Yes, I just have a tiny little complaint I wanted to vent out before I start rambling about the beautiful food we tried and lovely people we met.
Most of you are probably familiar with online group discount coupon sites and have probably bought a few yourself. I was an avid lover of these coupons as sometimes a true bargain can be discovered and a wonderful experience to be had, but what was to be an unforgettable birthday present from Yuye somehow turned into a part disaster. What I meant by part was because the experience itself was fantastic but definitely not the organisation of it.
Yuye bought a coupon for a ‘romantic Daylesford retreat’ at Spa Country Villas for my birthday in November 2011. The coupon specifically said I could stay in any of the THREE spa villas available – the El Camino, Oscars or Avalon. I loved the look of El Camino on their website and so I was instantly sold. I emailed to make a booking the week following my birthday but as El Camino wasn’t available, I told the lady that I’d contact her again. It wouldn’t be until a month ago that I actually got back to her and finally made the booking (the coupon was valid until October 2012).
My first shock was the fact that she emailed back and said my voucher had already been ‘used’ according to the Groupon website. I obviously hadn’t stayed there so she rechecked and got back to me the next day that it was all sorted out. Phew.
I proceeded to making my booking via email, stating exactly which villa I wanted and listing all the information required. She got back to me with a single document that started as ‘Thank you…for your stay at Oscars…’ Oscars?! I thought my eyes were playing up on me. I immediately called her and asked whether it was a mistake but no it wasn’t. She failed to tell me that apparently I was only allowed to stay in Oscars (which just happens to be the cheapest villa on their website) because of some issues with past Groupon patrons.
After much heated discussion about how I think this would make the Groupon information very misleading and unfair for purchasers like myself since I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, I gave in and just went with Oscars. ‘It’s not negotiable’ she said in a stern voice.
There goes my happy bubbly self eagerly anticipating the perfect belated gift that was meant to be perfect. I hate imperfect holidays, makes me feel like all the time and money spent was wasted.
If I didn’t also purchase another coupon for a horse riding session also in Daylesford, I would have totally contacted Groupon to make a refund. Whether or not they’d allow me was a different matter but I would have tried. That was quite upsetting since I purchased this coupon with my eyes set on that one particular villa. Oh well, life is never as expected I suppose.
It was difficult for me to find Oscars when I got there because it literally looked like the garage for El Camino (which I would have stayed in if I booked back in November 2011). But the inside was surprisingly beautiful. There was no view from anywhere which was partly the reason for staying there, but with the curtains closed, the air conditioning turned on and woodfire started, we felt like we were in our own little world, away from all our worries and away from all things social (there’s no internet or any form of phone reception on my Vodafone phone). I was actually content with what I received.
There was a bottle of red wine and glasses on the table as described (although we ended up just taking the bottle home) and a helpful guide about Daylesford as well. The bed was soft and the villa was very overall very clean, although some parts seemed slightly aged.
However, I was a bit cheesed about the breakfast. Nothing wrong with self cooked organic eggs and bread with milk and cereal but it was just the fact that the Groupon information made it sound like a proper hot breakfast would be cooked for us, or maybe that was just me being stupid as always.
The spa was quite large and there was bubble bath liquid in a soap dispenser for us to play with. But what does a ‘bonus romance package and arrival platter’ mean? There was no platter in sight and if the bubble bath from the soap dispenser was meant to be a romance package, then I have nothing to say.
Putting aside all the negativity, if the information posted wasn’t so misleading and inaccurate to say the least, I would have been quite pleased with staying at Oscars. It was romantic in its own right just because of the location and because we were able to enjoy each other’s company and our company alone. No annoying games to take his attention away, no chatting via text or on social media sites and there was no blogging, just a lot of photo taking.
The location of the villas (I thought) was fantastic. It was actually located just above Hepburn Springs, off a tiny windy road with no lights and lots of kangaroos and wild birds.
For 2 kilometres along that windy road, I only saw 3 houses and the villas. The rest were just trees, wildlife and rolling hills. It was so very tranquil and quiet, too quiet perhaps that Yuye was scared we might get murdered by some evil person and we’d have no one to help us because there was no phone reception!
I woke up early the second morning, excited by the morning dew and sunshine on the hills. I couldn’t wait to get out and breathe the fresh air and hear the birds sing. I was glad I didn’t refund the coupon.
I loved what was left of the autumn foliage or how little of it there was to begin with – most of the trees there are gum trees and other local species that do not shed leaves.
I loved the abundance of blooming flowers, even though we were well into late autumn.
I loved the view of the villas hidden amongst the trees from the road.
I loved the fact you can bring your pets (for a small fee) and that there was a pond with a bridge and chairs to enjoy the serene atmosphere.
I also loved the town of Daylesford. The people were lovely and the restaurants were surprisingly very good! As we arrived in the late afternoon, we were only able to enjoy dinner on the first day. I had sat in Yuye’s living room planning exactly what I wanted to eat and do as I knew I wouldn’t have internet to look anything up when I got there. I did however, make the mistake of not printing out some maps. Silly me!
I wondered into a small shop on the main road, asking for directions to Farmers Arms Hotel where I had read great reviews about and we headed there. If you have your directions panned out, Daylesford is actually quite easy to navigate since it’s so small. Farmers Arms is on a corner off the main road leading into Daylesford from Melbourne, I can’t believe I missed it on the way in.
It was a hotel and pub that was quite large and welcoming. The board listed all the dishes we could choose from which consisted of hearty meals that you would expect from pubs like it, just hearty and unpretentious.
Yuye ordered a pint of beer ($9.50) while I ordered an iced coffee ($5) which was specially made for me as it wasn’t on the menu. Yuye’s beer was nice, but I loved my iced coffee. It was made from a fresh espresso and was so strong and aromatic I could almost taste the coffee beans themselves. It was also very rich and creamy with the addition of the ice cream and cream.
The restaurant was quite dark as you can see so sorry for the poor photo quality. I ordered the slow cooked lamb shanks with creamy mash for $25. It was just as expected with deep, rich flavours and succulent, tender meat falling off the bones as I dug my way through it. It was unexpectedly very large and I barely managed to finish the dish.
Yuye ordered the pork belly with mash and broccolini ($26) which was equally as hearty and equally as delicious if not better. The crackling was so crispy it was to DIE for. I savoured every bite of what Yuye allowed me to have and every time I took a bite, the crunch gave me shivers. I love crackling, if I haven’t made that point clear yet. Mmmmmm. The mash was very creamy and beautiful again and the broccolini was nice and al dente. It’s definitely a dish I would love to eat again.
We should have gone there a bit later because just on 6pm, we were not all that hungry which was such a shame! It’s definitely a restaurant worth visiting if you find yourself in Daylesford.
I’m sorry for such a negative start to the post, I assure you my next post about Daylesford is all positive and there will be even more fantastic food and beautiful scenery. We went horse riding for the first time which was SO exciting (and bum hurting), so stay tuned my dear readers!
Also, for those of you with coupons left for Spa Country Villas, just a reminder to expect only being able to stay at Oscars. I think it’s still worth while to visit even with this setback because Daylesford is really beautiful and the villa was quite sufficient for two people wanting to have a good time away from the city. We paid $289 for 2 nights at this villa which was really not very expensive, but for the full price of $425 on weekdays or $475 for weekends and public holidays, I’m not sure if I would pay that price (this is for Oscars only, the other 2 villas are more expensive by $50).
Question time: Have you ever had a bad experience with a coupon purchase or any travel mishaps? Did it turn out ok in the end?
Farmers Arms Hotel
Phone: (03) 5348 2091
1 East St, Daylesford VIC 3460
Spa Country Villas
Address: 127 Charlies Rd, Hepburn Springs, VIC