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Archive for March, 2017

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s wife visits Hydro Majestic

(l-r) Professor Cheng Hong accepts a gift from Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen during her visit

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

The Blue Mountains was the destination of choice for the wife of visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday [March 25] when she made a surprise trip to the region.

After an endless cavalcade of police escort, Professor Cheng Hong and her entourage of Chinese media and advisors retreated to the glamourous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath, where she was welcomed and presented with a hamper of local wines, gourmet jams, teas and honey.

The heritage hotel unveiled spectacular views over the Megalong Valley from the Wintergarden restaurant, matched by a palate of pasties and sweets.

With military precision yet a surprisingly relaxed pace, the delegation sampled the regional produce and sipped freshly brewed teas while taking in the views and history which has made the Hydro Majestic famous.

Taking time out from the trade-drive visit to Australia with her husband, Professor Cheng Hong then visited Echo Point Lookout overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation and lunched on grass-fed Australian Angus beef tenderloin at the nearby Echoes Boutique Hotel and Restaurant, which overlooks the lush valleys from where the meat was sourced.

Modest and reserved, preferring to keep a low profile, Professor Cheng Hong is more interested in tranquility and natural environment than politics, business or fashion.

An English professor specialising in naturalism in American literature, she has translated many books in the field including Wake-Robin, The Singing Wilderness, and The Outermost House.

In the abstract of her book Tranquility Is Beyond Price (2009), Professor Cheng Hong wrote that she developed her interest in American and British writing on nature and the environment when she was a visiting scholar at Brown University in the US.

The university website lists her as one of its “renowned scholars’’ and a member of the institute’s academic committee.

Escarpment Group director Huong Nguyen said while the visit was very tight lipped, it was not a surprise given that China and Australia were keen to extend tourism and cultural exchanges.

With more than 1 million Chinese visitors to Australia, tourism was an area of tremendous economic growth in terms of tourism and hospitality related employment, vocational training and education, she said.

“Professor Cheng Hong was mesmerised with the ever-changing views of the Blue Mountains escarpment and seemed happy to relax and enjoy a leisurely lunch featuring regional beef, wines, cheeses and chocolates.

“It was a great opportunity for the management team at the Hydro Majestic and Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant to highlight cultural diversity, language capacity and vocational education and training focus in the Blue Mountains.’’

The Escarpment Group team welcomed the visiting Chinese delegation to the Blue Mountains in Mandarin and gave Professor Cheng Hong a brief history of the Hydro Majestic, reflecting on its eccentric and entrepreneurial beginnings including a glimpse of early Chinese heritage and in the Blue Mountains.

Premier Keqiang, Professor Cheng Hong and their delegation’s visit to Australia marked the 45th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was “an opportunity to reflect on how much we have achieved and take steps to ensure our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership continues to strengthen into the future’’.

* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Professor Cheng Hong and her party enjoyed high tea and a spectacular view during their visit

Blue Mountains: Cheeky fun returns to Hydro Majestic

Opera singers (l-r) Damien Whiteley and Brad Cooper will perform at the Hydro Majestic Hotel

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group            Photos: David Hill

Seat-swapping, hand-crossing bravura, drama, passion and cheeky fun will return to the original Blue Mountains party palace as a string of musical events rolls out during the next few months.

Tenor Brad Cooper performing at the Hydro Majestic Hotel last year

The music program will see the return of popular opera and classical instrumental performances, reviving the traditions established by original Hydro Majestic Hotel owner, Mark Foy, in the early 20th century.

General manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Ralf Bruegger said: “The Hydro Majestic and Foy himself were famous for their revelry and decadence and we’ve reignited the celebration by filling the calendar with festivals, events and performances and an endless round of public and private parties.

“Guest are welcome to swap seats, cross hands and indulge in cheeky fun but please keep the passion and drama to yourselves.’’

Choose one or more from the following performances:

Cellist Teije Hylkema performing at the original Blue Mountains party palace recently


Le Grand Tango, June 11: Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra principal cellist Teije Hylkema and internationally-awarded pianist Grace Kim will present a program to ignite passion and fire featuring Le Grand Tango by Astor Piazzolla.

4 hands, 2 pianists, 1 piano, August 19: One of the busiest pianists in Australia, Kristian Chong, will team up with Grace Kim to present a brilliant program of seat swapping, hand crossing bravura. You will see why four hands are better than two.




There will be plenty of operatic humour from bass Damian Whiteley

2017 Blue Mountains Opera Festival, September 30 – October 1:

  • High tea, Saturday: Mozart’s magnificent masterpiece, his Clarinet Quintet, will begin the weekend on a high note featuring Sydney Symphony Orchestra clarinettist Frank Celata with the Enigma Quartet.
  • Opera Gala Dinner Concert, Saturday: After a glowing inaugural success last year, Opera Australia tenor Brad Cooper, mezzo/soprano Sally Wilson and bass Damian Whiteley will take guests on an evening of drama, passion and cheeky fun.
  • High tea, Sunday: The festivities crescendo when eight of the finest string players perform with the ever popular Mendelssohn Octet.

Teije Hylkema will return to the Hydro Majestic

Each high tea concert package ($85pp) includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival with a sumptuous three-tier offering including an indulgent selection of gourmet sandwiches, warm fluffy scones, delicate pastries and the finest selection of handmade desserts served with Vittoria Coffee and La Maison Du The teas. The concert will be from 12pm to 1pm.

The Gala Dinner Concert package from 5.30pm to 9.30pm on Saturday, October 1, will include drinks and canapes on arrival followed by a two-course dinner with beverages. Cost: $150pp.

Go to www.hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book concerts, accommodation and dining.

  • Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media


Getting back to reality – without reality TV

By Ellen Hill

Twenty-one years ago, when people heard I was to move in to a home without a television, numerous wedding guests offered to gift one to us. Colleagues began a collection for an office present. Friends offered hand-me-downs to this poor young couple beginning a life together deprived.

We declined them all, diplomatically at first, patiently explaining that our No TV policy was a lifestyle choice just like our jobs. People believed we thought ourselves superior because we chose to shield ourselves against gratuitous violence, immorality and consumerism. In reality, we knew we were just as susceptible to the insidiously numbing forces of repeated exposure as everyone else and the best way to self-control our viewing was to eliminate it altogether.

For years we were the brunt of office jokes and labelled hippies, weirdos, freaks and luddites. Co-workers would strike up conversation in the tearoom “Hey, what about such-and-such on TV last night?’’ before petering out and fumbling for milk in the fridge in awkward silence – they had nothing else to talk about.

People were perplexed: how could journalists keep up with the news without TV. We’d explain that we continued to gather news how journalists had done for generations before us – we answered the phone, we listened to the radio, we nurtured contacts, we talked to people in the street and we sticky beaked, noticing our surroundings and were genuinely interested in other people. We went to the pub.

“What did we do for leisure after work and on weekends?’’ they asked. We read books, we ate out, we went bushwalking, lay under trees in the park and saw pictures in the clouds, we went to the movies, gazed at the stars and talked, really talked, together, soul to soul.

When our son was born, the banter and bewilderment intensified to become unveiled criticism. Some people were downright rude and hurtful. How could we deprive our child of entertainment? He’d be picked on at school. He wouldn’t know the latest trends and characters and shows. His schoolwork would suffer. He needed TV for homework research. How could we deprive ourselves of a babysitter?

The result was a child who was happy to eat what was served to him, who never asked for fast food, shiny gadgets and toys or expensive outings because he didn’t know about them. Hence, birthdays and Christmas were magical occasions of true delight. Our son has never been greedy or consumer driven and we have never felt pressured to live beyond our means to please or appease him. On my days off from my part-time job, he and I gardened together, we read books, we baked, we walked and explored our neighbourhood, we sat in cafes reading the newspaper together and sat on the front fence for hours watching trucks and trains go past our home.

Our friends and family were amused when each year for a month, we hired a screen and a video player to catch up on movies and nerdy documentaries. Then, about 10 years ago we bought a screen and a DVD player for ourselves but restricted viewing to weekend nights only.

We still don’t have TV access by choice, and from the little we understand about the medium today, it is now beyond our comprehension. Apparently there are sub channels to the major five and non-commercial stations show ads! We’re told you can even pause and rewind programs.

However, with a gnawing abhorrence, we recently realised that we had instead succumbed to possibly a greater zombification: the wonders of the worldwide web, with its endless news streams filled with useless information designed to hold us in a perpetual state of breathy anticipation, worthlessness and fear as we gorge our minds on titbits of inflated minutiae of bland people’s meaningless lives and gulp in as inspired word the wild imaginings of anyone with a YouTube channel.

We have decided to reflect on and review how we as a family juggle the obvious benefits of the digital age with personal contact communication with everyone in our lives from family and friends to commercial clients and story subjects.

* Ellen Hill is a writer, journalist, communications consultant, wife and mother who occasionally feels the need to vent about random topics that are usually of no interest to anyone else.