It’s almost three months since our short stay in the Blue Mountains about three hours drive away, and I meant to do this post so much earlier. Better late than never, as they say.
As you can see, it was a special occasion – our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and so we spoiled ourselves with two nights at the luxurious Lilianfels Resort and Spa, splurging on a Deluxe Valley View room. We arrived in time to have a walk around the formal English garden, which includes the original owner’s country mansion – now a restaurant called Darleys. Why? Because the original owner was the New South Wales Chief of Justice Sir Frederick Darley (1830 – 1910). His ghost lives on in Sir Fred, a lovable teddy bear mascot who can be found relaxing in the lounge area, and who is always ready for a cuddle.
Darleys is closed on a Monday night, which turned out to be an opportunity, as we discovered Silk’s Brasserie in Leura who treated us like royalty for our special anniversary dinner. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it. I wrote a Tripadvisor review in which I got quite carried away by the whole experience!
The next morning we woke to mist shrouding the valley, so, forgoing breakfast, we set off to explore before the tourist buses started to arrive from Sydney. Rather than take the cable car to the other side of the Jamison Valley, we followed an easy walking path, taking care not to take the branch that goes down to the valley floor, as we heard that was steep and hard on the thighs. It was magical to be in the bush so early in the morning, while it was still cool and quiet and moist. We even had a cheeky magpie keep us company part of the way.
In the below photo with the cable car in the distance, even further in the background you can see the famous Three Sisters. Later we took a closer photo from inside the cable car, and I have cropped it so you can get a better look. Another formation in the photos is called Orphan Rock. . . . On one day trip to the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters could not be seen from the usual lookout. I overheard one little child whining to her father. “Well,” he said, “I guess they’ve gone shopping!”
When I was a child of eleven, my aunt and uncle brought me for a two week holiday to this area. The story even occupies a few paragraphs in my book. Even then, 1966, the old mining railway had a couple of decades before been converted for tourism, and there was a gondola spanning the valley, but the whole thing has been given a make-over. It is now called Katoomba Scenic World, and for an all-inclusive price, tourists can ride the Railway, Skyway, and Cableway as many times as they like. Each of the rides affords different views and experiences of this beautiful area, without much effort on the part of the tourist, apart from queuing.
The Scenic Railway is very special. It is the steepest cable-driven cliff railway in the world (so they say) inclining 52 degrees over a distance of 310 metres (1,020 ft). It was constructed in the 1880s to haul coal and shale from the valley floor up to the escarpment. In true “reliving my youth days”, I made Bill ride it five times 🙂
The ticket also allows you to walk along the Katoomba Scenic Walkway, a 2.4 km elevated boardwalk through ancient rainforest on the valley floor. Within this commercially developed perimeter, the experience is more of a walk in the bush, rather than a bush-walk. Very easy-peasy. You see lots of bush, and lots of placards telling you about the flora and fauna. It’s a bit rough nick-naming a plant the Lawyer Vine, don’t you think? (see photo below) We were lucky enough to spot a lyre bird, busy scrabbling for food. You often hear them, but rarely see them. It’s a surprisingly plain looking bird, with long trailing tail feathers which the male uses as part of its courtship dance. They are amazing mimics, even taking off the sound of a chain saw or a camera clicking.
Motivated by this experience, we got up early again the next day and walked in the National Park area of Leura Cascades. It is a really tough job to narrow this down to just a few photographs! We took over 80 in the space of a couple of hours.
Finally, for a complete change of scenery, we drove on a bit further to Medlow Bath, to the Hydro Majestic Hotel, which was originally built to be a health spa along the lines of Bad in Germany. It had fallen into disrepair and was closed for several years, much to the disappointment of many who remembered the beautiful high teas and fabulous views from its restaurant and terrace. It has now had a revamp, (although the Health and Safety police have closed the terrace, so you can no longer stand on the edge of the precipice and gaze dreamily into the distance). The hotel is a string of buildings built along the escarpment, so each area has a different feel and not all are accessible unless you are a paying guest. They do, however, offer a one hour historical tour, which I also recommend. I posed in front of the fireplace, as it triggered a memory of an old photograph I had at home.
With the help of the Hydro Majestic historian, I was able to identify that the photograph of my grandmother was indeed taken at this hotel, but in front of a different fireplace in the lobby of an accommodation wing called the Belgravia.
Garrulous Gwendoline, February 22-24, 2016