Writing, photography, content creation & communications

Author Archive

Christian fellowship tours a world vision

Christian Fellowship Tours managing director Jason Cronshaw is excited at the new partnership with World Vision Australia

A partnership between a travel company and a charity is set to transform the way Christians consider and conduct holidays.

Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) guided trips to remote World Vision projects supporting  First Nation Communities in Australia will give donors firsthand insight into how their donations are being spent, with half the profits of each tour going to World Vision Australia to fund its community development work, along with 50 per cent of profits from all CFT international tours.

The first trip will be a 26-day trip to Oberammergau for the Passion play, which is staged once every decade, and foodie destinations throughout Europe in July 2020.

Also in July will be a trip from Broome to Darwin with the opportunity to meet World Vision staff in the Kimberley.

CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw said the initiative would help reduce the perceived distance of the charity work to the donor and personalise the cause to donors.

During some trips, donors would have the opportunity to meet World Vision program recipients and learn about their circumstances and needs.

Each would have a Christian tour leader, daily devotions and Sunday worship, along with sightseeing and activities, with accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers included.

The partnership aligned with the CFT philosophy of travelling with purpose and offered travellers a more meaningful holiday with like-minded people, Mr Cronshaw said.

It helped both organisations expand and diversify their charitable capacity, a fundamental goal under their Christian charter.

World Vision Australia Strategic Alliances acting manager (private funding division) David Towill said teaming up with CFT made sense, given the shared philosophies and goals of both organisations to care for all people regardless of race, gender and creed.

It was also a creative way of encouraging charitable support in a growing pool of worthy causes and would encourage staff working in those areas.

And the partnership was the ideal vehicle to drive the Bush Church Aid model of tours to remote Australian destinations to give encouragement to far-flung Christian communities, which CFT had conducted for 40 years, into a more public and global arena.

Mr Cronshaw said while CFT and its sister companies (Fantastic Aussie Tours and Blue Mountains Explorer Bus) had given 10 per cent of profits to charity for many years, studying for a Masters in Business Administration (Social Impact) at the University of NSW helped him clearly identify charitable initiatives within his company.

“There were things we were doing as a company without really knowing that there were actual names for them or that they could – and should – be woven into our business model to stretch our giving and good works further.’’

The World Vision partnership has also helped Mr Cronshaw become a proud Christian businessman.

For years, he struggled as “an embarrassed Christian’’, giving the impression of simply continuing his Anglican lay preacher father John’s business.

“And then I thought: `How stupid Jason, you also say that you run Christian Fellowship Tours’. It’s probably rather obvious.

“I had a lightbulb moment where somebody on stage at a conference said: `Don’t think there’s a Christian world and a separate secular business world. If you’re in business, God’s called you to be in business as a Christian’.

“It’s still a work in progress for me, but I now truly believe there is no line – it’s just one Christian life.’’

While World Vision was the first such partnership for CFT, Mr Cronshaw hoped it would lead to many more relationships with like-minded businesses, of which he had several on his wish list.

“It’s certainly not an exclusive deal. I believe in this model, and if we can get it right with World Vision we’ll be able to get it right with everybody else.’’

  • The 26-day Oberammergau & a Taste of Europe tour will depart July 7, 2020. Highlights of the international World Vision partnered tour will include the Oberammergau Passion Play as well as food and sightseeing activities in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.
  • The 16-day Visionary Top End tour from Broome to Darwin will depart July 22, 2020. During the trip to the Kimberley, passengers will meet the inspiring people of the region, visit with World Vision staff and learn more about programs the tour helps to support. They will also be awed by the spectacular Outback landscapes and thrilled by unique experiences along the way.

Bookings and information: christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.

 


Christian Fellowship Tours’ new world vision

Christian Fellowship Tours managing director Jason Cronshaw is excited about the new partnership with World Vision Australia

Charity donors will have firsthand insight into how their donations are used, thanks to a new partnership between Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) and World Vision Australia.

During some trips, donors would have the opportunity to meet World Vision program recipients and learn about their circumstances and needs.

Christian Fellowship Tours (CFT) guided trips to remote World Vision First Nations projects in Australia will give charity donors firsthand insight into how their donations are spent, with half the profits of each tour going to World Vision to fund its community development work, along with 50 per cent of profits from all CFT international tours.

The first tour will be a 26-day trip to Oberammergau for the Passion play, which is staged once every decade, and foodie trail throughout Europe in July 2020.

Also in July will be a trip from Broome to Darwin with a visit to remote World Vision projects in the Kimberley.

CFT managing director Jason Cronshaw said the initiative will help reduce the perceived distance between charity work locations and donors and personalise the cause to givers.

During some trips, donors will have the opportunity to meet World Vision program participants and staff, learn about their circumstances and see firsthand how their donations are making a difference.

Each tour will have a Christian tour leader, daily devotions and Sunday worship, along with sightseeing and activities, with accommodation, most meals, airfare and transfers included.

Such tours align with the CFT philosophy of travelling with purpose and offer travellers a more meaningful holiday with like-minded people, Mr Cronshaw said.

He had the idea for a World Vision partnership 10 years ago, and it began to take shape when he heard Platinum Foundation’s Joshua Nicholls speak about his high profile One Van One Child sponsorship project.

That prompted Mr Cronshaw to instigate the One Bus One Child program under the World Vision umbrella, through which CFT and sister companies Fantastic Aussie Tours and Blue Mountains Explorer Bus sponsor 14 children in Zambia.

While the company has long given 10 per cent of profits to charity, charitable works became part of the company’s official business strategy when Mr Cronshaw began to study a Masters in Business Administration (Social Impact) at the University of NSW.

The course has helped him identify initiatives and expand the company’s social impact potential, which is a large part of his Christian faith.

“We were doing stuff out of the generosity of our heart more than weaving it into the business model,’’ he said.

The first step is the World Vision partnership, which will help both organisations expand and diversify their charitable capacity.

Mr Cronshaw said he was pleased to see that philanthropy is becoming a larger part of Australian business culture, particularly among young entrepreneurs who are now likely to make ethics and cause-based decisions.

“Any business out there can do something. You don’t have to be an established business. If every business did a little bit it would help society enormously.’’

World Vision Australia Strategic Alliances acting manager (private funding division) David Towill said the CFT partnership makes sense, given the shared philosophies and goals of the organisations to care for all people regardless of race, gender and creed.

Teaming up with CFT is also a creative way of encouraging charitable support in a growing pool of worthy causes and visits will encourage staff working in remote areas in challenging circumstances, he said.

While World Vision was the first such partnership for CFT, Mr Cronshaw hoped it would lead to many more relationships with like-minded businesses, of which he had several on his wish list.

“It’s certainly not an exclusive deal. I believe in this model, and if we can get it right with World Vision we’ll be able to get it right with everybody else.’’

  • The 26-day Oberammergau & a Taste of Europe tour will depart July 7, 2020. Highlights of the international World Vision partnered tour will include the Oberammergau Passion Play as well as food and sightseeing activities in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France.
  •  The 16-day Visionary Top End tour from Broome to Darwin will depart July 22, 2020. During the trip to the Kimberley, passengers will meet the inspiring people of the region, visit with World Vision staff and learn more about programs the tour helps to support. They will also be awed by the spectacular Outback landscapes and thrilled by unique experiences along the way.

Bookings and information: christianfellowshiptours.com or 1300 635 358.


Now & Zen wins gold at landscaping awards

 

The Blue Mountains has cemented its place at the leading edge of landscape design, after Now & Zen Landscapes won two gold awards at the industry’s most prestigious awards earlier this month [Nov 8].

All NSW & ACT Landscape Industry Awards were for work completed in the Blue Mountains by a completely local team.

Headed by master landscaper Shannon Decker, Now & Zen Landscapes took out best in category and gold for Residential Construction $100,000 to $150,000 for work on a property in Sublime Point Rd, Leura.

It also brought home bronze awards in the residential construction section ($100,000 to $150,000 category) for projects at Leura and Wentworth Falls and $150,000 to $300,000 for a Leslie Rd, Glenbrook property.

The highest accolades in the industry, the annual TLA Landscape Excellence Awards recognise innovation, creativity and outstanding craftsmanship in landscape construction, design and maintenance residential and commercial sectors.

Sublime Point Rd, Leura, property owners Jane and Alan Cooper, who have commissioned Now & Zen for garden design and maintenance work for more than a decade, said they were “thrilled with the final result and the attention to detail’’ and not surprised their new outdoor living area and kitchen won the top award.

“We wanted to have a beautiful and functional outdoor area that blended with the modern lines of the house design and the water feature.’’

The Now & Zen design gave the space a modern feel and made the most of the magnificent view over the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Committed to excellence, Mr Decker said he was proud to continue the tradition of landscaping excellence the likes of Danish-born Paul Sorensen who created renowned Blue Mountains gardens such as Everglades and Leuralla.

“It’s nice to swap our cargo pants for a bag of fruit now and then and celebrate the collective achievements of our industry.

“I was stoked to win these awards, but I was even more excited at the number of talented people in our industry, including here in the Blue Mountains, doing some truly outstanding work, which pushes us all to reach higher standards.

“It’s such an exciting time for landscaping, with new technology and products coming out all the time and property owners who embrace sustainability, water-saving designs and drought resistant gardens yet without compromise on beauty.

“I’m especially excited that regional landscaping has been recognised and the possibilities that presents to landscapers in some of the nation’s most significant rural and country areas, where the scope of design can be greatly magnified by the scale of the landscape.”

Now & Zen (derived from the common saying “now and then’’) has operated in the Blue Mountains for 20 years supporting sustainability and resourcefulness and is the yardstick for the highest end bespoke garden market in the Nepean valley, Greater Blue Mountains and Central West.

Mr Decker himself is the local industry authority, recently headhunted by one of Australia’s oldest recognised training organisations, The Management Edge (TME), to run its NSW and broad horticultural training program working with employers and was recently invited to sit with the board of directors of The landscape Association, given his cohesion with metropolitan and regional areas and passion for training.

As well as an 80-acre property at Mt Victoria where concrete and soil is recycled and green waste composted, Mr Decker has built an off-the-grid ironstone and iron bark house and he and his family recently opened The Source bulk foods store focusing on zero waste shopping with an old charm shopping experience.


Talisman Gallery creates upscaled jewellery to adorn the home

Traipsing the Victorian goldfields with his father in the 1960s, a young Ron Fitzpatrick could never have known how those gold hunting jaunts would influence an art show at Hartley, NSW, in November 2019.

The Blackheath metal artist’s show, Adorn, at Hartley Historic Site, blurs the line between jewellery and sculpture by upscaling jewellery designs into forged iron sculptural pieces incorporating semi-precious gems and opals.

Every time I go prospecting or to a gem fare I think of my dad,’’ Ron says.He had one of the first metal detectors around. He actually made himself a special tripod with a winch on it so he could lower himself down mine shafts.

“When I was young I was interested in being a gemstone dealer and a jeweller. It’s like its coming full circle and melding into my forged work.’’

Ron’s artistic journey began at school with a teacher who taught mechanics and metal skills. He left school for a fitter and turner apprenticeship at age 15.

During a trip around America when he was 20, Ron “met this guy in San Francisco who made the most amazing handmade knives, just beautiful – all etched on the blades’’.

On his return, Ron opened a shop in Caulfield, Melbourne, in the 1980s and sold the knives and Thai Chi dancing swords he made.

“It was a pretty tumultuous kind of time in my life and I probably didn’t have the discipline and the life skills and marketing skills needed, so I didn’t pursue that.’’

Ron next took up tree surgery work, travelled to India, worked as a cook, then got a job installing security grills, where he was introduced to the wrought iron work he is renowned for.

Today, in an old woolshed clinging to the side of a hill overlooking a clutch of sandstone colonial buildings, the circle meets at Talisman Gallery.

But this time, Ron has brought to the forge the experience and skills needed to understand the metal and coax it into the shapes of beauty and art from his imagination.

“It feels like the older you get, the more you gravitate towards what’s in your soul,’’ he says.

Ron’s work has changed tack several times since he opened Talisman Gallery at Hartley.

There was wrought iron pieces, polished dragons and mirrors. Then came the exploration of driftwood and large coloured glass garden sculptures.

Through it all have been recurring themes – gemstones, ammonites and nautilus shells, Fibonacci spirals and the Balinese jewellery he imports.

So the upscale jewellery concept for the Adorn range was no great stretch.

Meaning “to decorate or add beauty to, as by ornaments’’, the Adorn pieces are embellishments for the house or environment in the way that small-scale jewellery is for the body.

The new pieces show Ron’s experimentation with gemstones such as labradorite, moonstone, tiger’s eye and opal.

Their shapes reveal the feminine balance of fine jewellery design with the masculine of metal and scale – “the balance we’re all looking at in ourselves ‘’.

The new range also shows Ron’s new skills like splitting metal to make fine features such as strands of hair, feathers or claws.

“Every time I teach myself a new skill, it opens me up to a new piece in a new direction and new design possibilities,’’ Ron says.

Adorn will be held in the historic Corney’s Garage below Talisman Gallery throughout the November 30-December 1 weekend, with an official opening at 2pm on the Saturday.

Talisman Gallery at Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details: Ron 0407 723 722, talismangallery@bigpond.com or the Facebook page @Talisman Gallery Hartley.

  • Create your own piece of art on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape at a guided workshop. Cost: fire poker $45, decorative wall hook $60, sculpture $65, additional element costs vary. A great family activity available to anyone aged 13 years and older on December 28 & 29. The 2-hour Creative Fire experience is also available as a couples’ workshop activity anytime at the special price of $275 per couple until February 15, 2020. Bookings essential. Gift vouchers also available.


`Tis the Blue Mountains Australia season

Easy gift voucher shopping, all-inclusive party packages and cleanup-free feasts, memorable experiences, endless pampering and sublimely beautiful timeout zones – the Blue Mountains is a stress-free Christmas and New Year’s Eve destination beginning just 60 minutes from Sydney.

From daytrips to multi-day stays, festivities begin at the foothills where a river cruise into the far reaches of the Nepean River laps at the edges of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler owner Carol Bennett said: “Christmas should be a season of joy and fun with loved ones where you can take time out to relax after a busy year, be pampered, indulge in tasty food and create memories through exciting activities.

“But YOU shouldn’t have to put in the effort. Treat yourself to an unforgettable experience in one of the world’s most recognisable landscapes and let us do the work for you.’’

From the banks of the river, Mrs Bennett encourages visitors to spend at least one night in the region to fully explore the bushwalks and nature, attractions, dining options and activities available.

Here’s a sample of Christmas cheer and New Year’s Eve options available:

TALISMAN GALLERY, Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west)

Gift idea:
Millennia in the making, shaped in fire on the forge and presented in a piece of colonial heritage, metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick’s collection includes large high-end pieces along with signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders, an extensive collection of imported jewellery and crystal pieces.

A show of Ron’s new range inspired by jewellery-inspired designs will be held in the historic Corney’s Garage below the gallery at 2pm on Saturday, November 30. Can’t choose? Gift vouchers are also available.

Memorable activity:
Unleash your inner creative fire, work off some energy and learn an ancient art under guidance. Create your own piece of art on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape of a fire poker, decorative wall hook or small sculpture. Cost: fire poker or decorative wall hook $45, small piece of metal art mounted on sandstone $65 (additional element costs vary). A great 30-minute family activity for anyone aged 13 years and older, the Creative Fire experience is also available as a couples’ workshop activity at the special price of $275 per couple until February 15, 2020. No experience necessary. All materials supplied.

Creative Fire sessions available December 28 & 29. Talisman Galley is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Bookings, details and vouchers: Ron 0407 723 722 or Facebook page Talisman Gallery Hartley/events, website: www.talismangallery.com.au.

ECHOES BAR & RESTAURANT, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba
Christmas cocktails
Perched on the very edge of the Blue Mountains escarpment just 200m from the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, drink in sublime uninterruped panoramas of the Jamison Valley while sipping on a Christmas cocktail. Renowned for its modern Australian cuisine using fresh, local produce with an Asian influence, the award-winning fine dining Echoes Restaurant is idea for a casual lunch or romantic dinner for two.

Bookings: echoeshotel.com.au

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath
Christmas Day (December 25)
LUNCH: Indulge in a three-tier festive lunch in the Wintergarden overlooking the magnificent Megalong Valley while you tuck into fresh seafood, charcutier and carvery selections, followed by traditional desserts. Package includes a three-hour beverage package, Christmas decorations, bon bons and even a special visit from Santa for the children. Cost: $199 adults, $125 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $85 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating only.

DINNER: Treat yourself to a decadent five-course degustation dinner featuring fresh seafood, traditional roasts and dessert with glass of sparkling on arrival in the Wintergarden Restaurant while soaking up the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Includes Christmas decorations and bon bons. Cost: $125 adults, $99 teenagers (13-17 years), $65 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating only.

Boxing Day (December 26, 10.30am to 3pm)
HIGH TEA: Take full advantage of the holiday season and nibble on high tea delicacies in the Wintergarden Restaurant while gazing over panoramic Megalong Valley views. Cost: $65pp.

LUNCH: Extend celebrations over a two-course casual lunch and a glass of sparkling arrival in the Boilerhouse Restaurant with unrivalled views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults, $65 teenagers (13-17 years old). Bookings: reservations@hydromajestic.com.au or 02 4782 6885.

New Year’s Eve
Bid adieu to 2019 and welcome 2020 with a vibrant evening of live entertainment from The Australian INXS Show, magnificent sunset views and a five-course degustation dinner with glass of midnight sparkling.

The covers band celebrates and honours the memory of rock legend Michael Hutchence and brings back to life the halcyon days of INXS from their self-titled debut to Elegantly Wasted with songs like Need You Tonight, Never Tear Us Apart, Don’t Change, Live Baby Live and New Sensation. Cost: $199 adults, $159 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $95 children (4 – 12 years) and children under-4 complimentary seating.

Bookings: reservations@hydromajestic.com.au or 02 4782 6885.

BLUE MOUNTAINS LIMOUSINE
Party transport:
The team of professional chauffeurs is always alert and always sober 24/7 – so festive partygoers don’t have to be.

Two luxury sedans are at guests’ service, along with the only stretch limousine in the Blue Mountains ready to transfer passengers between functions and venues.

Guests ($59pp, minimum two passengers per trip) will be collected from and returned to any location between Hazelbrook and Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains (hotels, guesthouses, railway stations or private homes) between 4pm and midnight any Friday and Saturday from November 15 to December 30, and until 3am on January 1.

Bookings: Rob on 0400 500 542.

BLUE MOUNTAINS VINTAGE CADILLACS
Gift idea:
An ideal romantic gesture or retro reminisce, a sightseeing tour of Australia’s first tourist destination in a 1929 Cadillac LaSalle car is a gift as distinctive as the vehicle itself.

The vintage ride will pootle past the breathtaking scenery of one of the most recognisable landscapes on Earth – the Three Sisters rock formation at Echo Point, just as the well-heeled of the Roaring `20s era used to do. Cruise upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect. Take in the sights of historic Cliff Drive, pausing for reflection at jaw-droppingly gorgeous vistas along the way.

Details: info@bmlimo.com.au or phone Robert on 0400 500 542 or Don on 0455 352 976.

THE POLISHED OPAL, Leura
Gift idea:
Opal polishing under the guidance of expert Sonja van As is ideal for gemstone buffs and people difficult to buy for. Each participant receives three opals to polish, as well as a small display case in which to take them home.

Memorable activity:
Experience the thrill of releasing the iridescent fire from stone and learn about Australia’s national gemstone at a hands-on workshop.

Opal polishing with Sonja van As is available at 9am and 1pm daily. Limited to four people per session, children aged under 15 must be supervised by an adult (not suitable for those under 8). Sessions last up to three hours.

No prior experience necessary. Participants should wear short sleeves and tie long hair back.
Cost: $195 per person. Bookings essential: Sonja on 0448 725 830 or contact@thepolishedopal.com.au.

NEPEAN BELLE PADDLEWHEELER (Tench Reserve jetty, Tench Ave, Jamisontown)
Gift idea:
Perfect for those difficult to buy for, vouchers are available to explore the deep reaches of the aquatic heart and lifeblood of the region. Experience the natural wonders of the landscape and its fauna over morning tea, lunch or dinner.

Christmas party venue:
Smooth water cruising, an ever-changing 40 million-year-old backdrop at the foothills of the Blue Mountains and old-fashioned hospitality makes for an ideal festive venue. Choose from lunch or evening, weekday or weekend packages. Passengers on each are served hearty festive fare and may book a public cruise (price from $53 per adult) or charter the vessel for a private function with onboard PA system and optional DJ (price from $84pp). Cash or tab bar only.

Bookings and vouchers: nepeanbelle.com.au, info@nepeanbelle.com.au or 02 4733 1274.


Western Sydney aged/disability care jobs blitz

Dozens of aged and disability care jobs are available in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains with leading care support organisation Wendy’s Home Care – close to home, with flexible hours and opportunities to link into training to help build a career.

The company’s annual recruitment blitz emphasises life experience, character and attitude, not just qualifications, and targets those seeking meaningful work that helps their community yet also gives them an ideal work/home balance.

The organisation, which offers in-home aged and disability care, needs more than 20 new casual staff to meet increasing demand in The Hills, Penrith, Blacktown, Blue Mountains and Parramatta regions.

Information sessions will be held at:

  • Castle Grand, Wexford Room, Castle Hill Cultural Centre, Pennant St, Castle Hill, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Wednesday, August 21.
  • Vikings Club, 35 Quarry Rd, Dundas Valley, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Friday, August 30
  • Penrith Library Theatrette, High St, Penrith, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Wednesday, August 28

Operating between Parramatta and Lithgow, Wendy’s Home Care is an approved service provider for many non-government agencies, government services including the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Veterans’ Home Care and is an aged care provider approved by the Federal Government.

It also services private clients and now offers government subsidised home care packages through MyAgedCare.

Wendy’s Home Care general manager Alannah Norman said the casual positions are ideal for people wanting a career or lifestyle change which offers a more flexible work/home balance but involves learning new skills in a rewarding community role.

“Our staff are the best in the business, which is why we have such demand for our services. We just need more of them.

“People new to the industry often underestimate themselves – life skills and experience are extremely important and we can then provide training to build your knowledge and competencies. One of our team was a swimming coach for fifty-five years before joining us, John was in retail, Sandra was a hairdresser.

“And don’t use age as an excuse – most of our staff are aged over thirty-five, one is seventy-one and many came to us in middle age from other industries without previous aged and disability experience.

“What’s more important to us are practical people with a great attitude and life skills, who love people and want to help them.’’

Staff are matched to clients to suit their needs, which may vary from domestic assistance (housework, shopping and meal preparation), personal care, respite, emergency or short-term care, monitoring and supervision, social support and transport.

“Care support work is an opportunity to make connections, especially in areas where there are lots of new people looking to forge relationships and find their place in the community,’’ Ms Norman said.

Community care roles would especially suit people who had worked in a high intensity facility such as a nursing home, who would like to work more flexible hours close to home and give one-on-one support to clients.

However, people new to the industry were also encouraged to apply, as were those from varied cultural backgrounds, especially people with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Care workers must have a reliable vehicle, a mobile phone, a current driver’s licence and a first aid certificate with additional opportunities available to those who have Certificate III in individual Support, Aged, Home Care or Disability Care and/or other industry qualifications.

Register your interest in the information sessions with Wendy’s Home Care on (02) 4587 5999 or at hradmin@wendyshome.com.au.


Spring in the Blue Mountains

Cool sun-splashed days, crisp evenings, leisurely sightseeing tours, charming accommodation and a blooming abundance of cool climate flowers – it’s time to shed those winter woolies and rejuvenate in Australia’s original romance destination this spring.

The National Trust’s manager of the famous Everglades House & Gardens, Guy McIlrath, said the Blue Mountains in spring was breathtaking.

“After the long winter months of short, cold days, bare tree branches and even snow, it’s wonderful to see nature burst forth with the vibrant colour of azaleas, daffodils, rhododendrons, tulips and, of course, the many native wildflowers in the bush.’’

Mr McIlrath encouraged visitors to spend at least one night in the region which had lured lovers for more than a century to fully explore any number of bushwalks, activities, dining options and gardens within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Book your romantic spring getaway early for maximum brownie points with your love:

 

Springtime Deal: Shelton-Lea B&B, 159 Lurline St, Katoomba

Relax and rejuvenate in the romantic surrounds of a delightfully restored 1920s Californian-style bungalow a short stroll from the eclectic Katoomba café/restaurant and retail strip, interesting art galleries and the world-famous Three Sisters landmark.

Enter your classic Blue Mountains accommodation via your own private entrance and soak up the ambience with open gas fires, spa baths and period decor.

Book a romantic minimum two-night getaway any day of the week between September 1 and November 30, 2019, to receive a 10 per cent discount, complimentary bottle of local wine and chocolates.

Use the promotion code “Spring Deal 2019’’. Bookings open August 1, 2019. Promotion only available at www.sheltonlea.com.

 

Western Wine Tours

Indulge in the distinctive flavours of wines from the Central West and freshly crushed apple ciders from the upper Blue Mountains straight from the cellar door.

Guests can choose from a range of half and full-day tours which take in vineyards and cider sheds between Bilpin, the Megalong Valley and the Mudgee wine district. Each includes luxury chauffeured transport, wildlife sightings, food refreshments and spectacular views.

Guests of Shelton-Lea B&B receive a 10 per cent discount on all Western Wine Tours.

Bookings: www.westernwinetours.com.au or 0437 746 833.

 

Botanica Touring

Board the brand new Blue Mountains Shuttle to access seasonal fruit picking, cellar doors, eclectic shopping, exquisite gardens, dining and spectacular views along the Bells Line of Road between Katoomba and Richmond for the first time by public transport.

The twice-daily 57-seat air-conditioned coach service will stop at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah and Bilpin along the way.

Featured pick-up and drop-off locations will include the world-famous Echo Point Lookout, seasonal orchards, Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mt Tomah and a cider shed.

Along the route, passengers can learn about the region from the on-board video, surf the net using free wifi or watch the untamed landscape while charging technology in provided USB ports.

The bus service will run from Katoomba at 9.30am and 1.50pm and Richmond at 11.35am and 4.10pm Thursday to Monday.

Details: www.botanicatouring.com or 0423 361 616.

  

Blue Mountains Limousine & Vintage Cadillacs

Be transported back this Spring to the most romantic of retro eras when Australia’s first tourist destination was at its ultimate flamboyant luxe.

Explore the breathtaking scenery of one of the most recognisable landscapes on Earth, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, just like the well-heeled of the Roaring `20s era. Cruise upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect. Take in the sights of historic Cliff Drive, pausing at Echo Point overlooking the Three Sisters rock formation along the way.

Arrive for refreshments at a grand hotel, restaurant or cafe in the upper Blue Mountains in the glamorous style of old Hollywood in the magnificent Ava (Gardner) 1928 five-passenger Coupe LaSalle model Cadillac, Ella (Fitzgerald) the 1929 convertible Landau Cabriolet or Flora the cherry red coloured 1929 four-passenger Phaeton named after the owner Donald Millar’s mother.

There’s a timelessness to the shape of Cadillac LaSalles, and that’s part of that art deco era,’’ he said.Old cars can have a beauty because they’re old, but these cars have a beauty inherent in themselves. They have a distinct beauty, class and rarity.’’

Bookings: info@bmlimo.com.au or phone Robert on 0400 500 542 or Don on 0455 352 976.

 

 Everglades House & Gardens, Everglades Ave, Leura

Amid a spectacular kaleidoscope of floral colour, from flowering cherry trees, carpets of daffodils and early bluebells to tulips, azaleas and rhododendrons, the historic art deco property will host a vibrant round of events and activities against an awe-inspiring bush backdrop throughout spring.

Events will include art exhibitions showcasing the talents of youngsters in a Schools Reconciliation Challenge (August 2 – September 29) and established artists Owen Thompson (September 7 – 29) and The Wild and the Cultivated of Gardens and Beyond collective (October 5 – 27), a Japanese tea ceremony event (August 31), The Fabulous Fifties luncheon fashion event (September 14) and the famous Leura Gardens Festival (October 5 – 7 & 11 – 13).

Details: www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/everglades-house-gardens/.

 

Nepean Gorge Discovery Tour (September 28): Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler, Jamisontown

Explore the deep reaches of the historic heart and lifeblood of the Nepean and Blue Mountains region aboard the iconic paddlewheeler.

Cruise as far as possible along the tranquil waters of the Nepean River into the Nepean Gorge and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, pausing along the way at spots with historic significance to learn interesting facts and anecdotes.

Experience the natural wonders of the landscape and its inhabitants, including eagles, cormorants, azure kingfishers, bellbirds and more. There have been reports of a dingo and those with binoculars may even spot an echidna hidden among the scrub.

Tickets: $125 adults, $110 seniors, $65 children 3 – 16 years (0 – 2 years free) includes 5.5-hour cruise (9.30am to 3pm), Devonshire tea, two-course lunch and light afternoon tea. Bookings: www.nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.

 

Mountain Whispers The MW Collection

From beautifully manicured Edwardian and sprawling English cottage gardens, magnificent vistas across the Jamison Valley to being conveniently located to the Three Sisters landmark, each Mountain Whispers property offers guests the perfect setting to take in as much – or as little, as they please.

French champagne on ice, in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds, private picnics and sunset watching. At Mountain Whispers, your every detail matters.

Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “With the smell of spring lingering in the air already and a healthy anticipation for the newness and warmer weather, the gardens at Mountain Whispers promise a show-stopping natural display for our guests.’’

Spring is the perfect time to come out of hibernation and be one with nature. Shed the winter blues and escape to the Blue Mountains for the perfect mind, body and soul rejuvenation.

Mountain Whispers offers five luxuriously appointed self-contained escapes. Each of the multi-award-winning properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promise a bespoke getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.

Details: www.mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.


Chasing rainbows with expert opal polisher

Experience the thrill of releasing the fire from stone and learn about Australia’s national gemstone at hands-on workshops at The Polished Opal.

Each visitor receives three opals to polish under the guidance of opal polishing expert Sonja van As, as well as a small display case in which to take them home.

Opals are the Leura artist’s latest obsession.

More specifically, the roulette game of polishing them to discover hidden treasure and release the iridescent fire – and value, within a gem of rare bank balance-boosting proportions.

I think I've found my nirvana – this is all my loves in one,’’ she says.It’s the damn colour. I just need to capture iridescence, that three dimensional depth. I don’t know why – I’m in love with rainbows maybe.’’

Opal polishing is like chasing the rainbow’’:It’s like gambling, very exciting.’’

Van As’ artistic journey began “the day I was born’’ in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1962.

“I think every Dutch person has a famous artist in them somewhere in the past,’’ she says.

Her grandparents were artists, her brother, father and grandfather were photo lithographers.

“I just always loved to draw and create. Everybody else would be outside playing and I’d be drawing my hands or feet in every possible way.’’

After earlier dropping out of art class when her children were babies, van As achieved a TAFE fine arts diploma in the 1990s and was introduced to the whole gamut of mediums.

In 1999, she was one of 15 sculptors involved in the Blue Mountains Council Wentworth Falls Sculpture Project using local sandstone to create seed pods of local native plants.

She has been involved in many exhibitions and community events, and in 2013 won the Artifact, Art Based on Waste competition locally, going on to claim the NSW title in the Dubbo Art To Waste competition in the “open functional’’ category with a necklace made with resistors with resined butterfly wings as pendants.

During the years, she has dabbled in pen and ink works, focused on resin layering and polymer clay, felting and stained glass, and mastered printmaking.

Silver jewellery is a latest fad – along with metal stamping, soldering, 3D resin painting and stone polishing.

However, her art is always inspired by beauty and nature, like her bark pieces, silver jewellery and the butterfly wings she sets in resin.

“I think nature is amazing and I want to set it off as well as I can because nature is better than anything we can make. I try to capture the beauty of nature but I also try to imitate it.’’

Opal polishing with Sonja van As is available at her Leura studio at 9am and 1pm daily. Limited to four people per session, children aged under 15 must be supervised by an adult (not suitable for those under 8). Sessions last up to three hours.

No prior experience necessary. Participants should wear short sleeves and tie long hair back.

Cost: $190 per person. Bookings essential: phone Sonja van As on 0448 725 830 or email contact@thepolishedopal.com.au.


OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Hydro Majestic Hotel (Escarpment Group, Blue Mountains)

Source: Escarpment Group operations manager Adam Holmes

We have a long history of hosting interns from multi-racial multi-cultural backgrounds. They are qualified, skilled and highly motivated to train and progress in hospitality.

All of our trainees apply for a training internship with the Hydro Majestic Hotel through government-approved internship agencies who conduct a skills audit and develop their training plan for them.

Escarpment Group does not charge any fees for their training. Rather, we pay the trainee a full-time salary of at least $49,950 pa plus superannuation to undertake work-based training with us for an average of 12 months.

We deny any allegations of underpayment or exploitation. All trainees are paid in accordance with the award and have a minimum salary of $49,950p.a plus superannuation. We do not deduct their rental and they receive their salary in full.

The boarding fees are paid separately and the cost is at market rate of $67 per day (or $480 per week) for 3 meals and furnished accommodation with internet, laundry, linen. This is similar to the Blue Mountains International Hotel School which charges around $495pw.

Most interns arrive in Australia without property rental history and understanding of rental requirements. As their host and as per our training agreement lodged with DOHA, we have the responsibility for their personal safety and welfare and, being in a location like the Blue Mountains, it is essential for trainees to be supported with a training package that provides full boarding so that they can focus on the purpose of their internship which is to undertake work-based training under a training visa for 12-13 months only.

References to Escarpment Group churning through cheap labour from India, the Philippines and Vietnam is certainly not true. These are skilled trainees who are well paid and we proud of their achievements. They are not “cheap labour”. We find this derogatory and offensive for the multi-racial staff at the Hydro Majestic, who are well paid professionals. As mentioned, all of our trainees are offered a minimum salary of $49,950 p.a plus superannuation and they pay market rates for full boarding, which they approve separately and there is no deduction.

Most of our staff are paid full-time annualised wages which include 25% loading to cover overtime, which is monitored and managed by relevant department heads.

We are a multicultural and ethical company which respects people’s rights. We are disappointed to see this being portrayed differently. We have always assisted new migrants in this country and any references of exploitation are simply not true.


Brushes poised for annual Springwood Art Show

Brushes, lenses and pencils poised – artist registrations are now open for the annual Springwood Art Show to be held during the August 2-4 weekend.

The Musician by Glo Hill.

The first and longest running art show in the Blue Mountains, which helped establish the Blue Mountains’ reputation as an arts hub and recognised “city of the arts’’, will again showcase the best established and emerging talent in the area.

The art show, which will feature more than 400 pieces of original art from more than 100 predominantly local artists, is an opportunity for artists to showcase their work to shrewd investors and art collectors as well as casual buyers.

As well as painting, sculpture and photography, the art show will include a range of quality artisan crafts such as leather handbags, jewellery, woodwork and textiles.

Held at Springwood High School and co-ordinated by the Parents & Citizens Association (P&C), the event directly supports students of the school with 25 per cent of all sales of artworks and crafts, and all money raised from admission, café and raffle used to buy educational resources.

Artworks by 2018 featured artist Robyn Woodward.

Generous local and corporate sponsors will ensure a prize pool of more than $4000 which, this year, includes categories for portraiture, landscape and a viewers’ choice, along with a new still life category and the coveted $1500 Rose Lindsay Award.

This year’s show will be judged by photographer Ben Pearse, landscape painter Corinne Loxton and mixed media artist Tim Newman.

P&C president Elaine Tjoelker said: “The art show without fail uncovers so much fabulous talent from within our student and wider community.

“It’s so exciting to see our kids’ masterpieces hanging alongside established artists and, going by the number of student pieces bought by savvy investors and talent scouts, art lovers obviously think they are of a high standard too.’’

The P&C appreciated the involvement of the professional arts community, including Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and established artists for many years, she said.

School principal Dr Mark Howie said Springwood Art Show was a long-recognised event on the wider community calendar attended by several thousand people.

“Not only do artists have the opportunity to sell pieces directly to an interested market, the 25 per cent retained from sales is a competitive gallery commission which directly benefits the wellbeing of students of the school,’’ he said.

Springwood Art Show will be held at Springwood High School, Grose Rd, Faulconbridge, from August 2 to 4, with an official opening program on the Friday evening and activities and a café throughout the weekend. Go to springwoodartshow.org.au for more information.

Register your interest in submitting art to springwoodartshow@gmail.com.

 

A violinist performs in front of a portrait of Blue Mountains State MP Trish Doyle by Victor Alejandro Peralta.


Historic Blue Mountains airfield plans public

Plans to upgrade an historic Blue Mountains airfield vital to emergency services during bushfires and as an air “safety ramp’’ have been made public.

Opened on October 5, 1968, and operated continuously as a commercial venture since, Katoomba Airfield is located about 4km east of the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath in the upper mountains.

(l-r) Floyd and Derek Larsen

With a dirt pothole-scarred runway, it is currently open only to helicopters and to fixed-winged aircraft for emergency landings.

However, a plan to upgrade the site by new lessee FLYBLUE Management Pty Ltd will see the dilapidated property upgraded and brought in line with modern safety standards and leading edge environmental initiatives.

The plans for Katoomba Airfield are outlined in documents now available on the Department of Industry (Crown Land and Water) website at industry.nsw.gov.au, which also includes a link through which to submit letters of support for the plans.

They include higher flight levels, residential no-fly zones, a new enforceable Fly Neighbourly policy, “light footprint tourism’’, community charity events and a suite of green initiatives.

FLYBLUE voluntarily published their vision on flyblue.com.au following the department awarding the company a three-year commercial licence in February 2018.

While Katoomba Airfield had operated continuously since it opened in 1968, its runways fell into dangerous disrepair from 2016 when long-term lessee flying instructor Rod Hay died in a single engine plane crash in nearby scrub.

(l-r) Derek and Floyd Larsen

The level of disrepair resulted in FLYBLUE temporarily closing the airfield to fixed-wing aircraft except in emergencies, although helicopter operations including emergency services and Defence Force aircraft have continued to land and take-off there as usual.

FLYBLUE director Floyd Larsen said the recent decreased use of the airfield had led some people to believe it had closed.

It hasn’t,’’ she said.In fact, its original purpose continues as it has done for the past fifty years.

“For example, Katoomba Airfield has provided an air `safety ramp’ for general aviation since it opened in 1968, and twice in the past 18 months (that we know of) aircraft have made emergency landings here.’’

FLYBLUE had already begun restoration work on the 36ha site.

Obsolete and dilapidated structures had been removed, along with abandoned waste materials and equipment. Two new windsocks had been installed, along with a weather station and camera for use by general aviation (katoomba.skycam.net.au) and the site made more secure to prevent illegal access.

FLYBLUE plans to restore, protect and enhance the site including sealing the main airstrip and tackle weed invasion, soil erosion and other issues.

The environmental centrepiece would be a Greenfleet carbon offset program which would see one tree planted for every flight which left the airfield.

FLYBLUE’s plan includes a new enforceable Fly Neighbourly policy with appropriate flight paths away from residential zones, operating hours and general use of the airfield with noise abatement procedures.

“While FLYBLUE can’t influence aircraft that originate from other airfields because they fall under the control of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), our Fly Neighbourly policy already has the support of Blue Mountains Aviators Club and pilots who do not comply with our Fly Neighbourly policy will not be permitted to use Katoomba Airfield,’’ Mrs Larsen said.

“FLYBLUE will manage all aspects of the airfield, including noise abatement procedures, curfews and flight paths within an approved lease.

“However, we can assure the community that our Fly Neighbourly policy categorically bans flights over populated areas.’’

She emphasised that Katoomba Airfield and FLYBLUE did not encourage or conduct “joy flights’’ (short low-flying swoops over populated or sensitive areas such as Echo Point, the Three Sisters, the Grose Valley or up the Grand Canyon).

Rather, they actively fostered “light footprint tourism’’ which had minimum negative impact on the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

(l-r) Floyd and Derek Larsen of FlyBlue Management Pty Ltd

Mrs Larsen expected the airfield upgrades to help lure more tourism and overnight stays to the Blue Mountains including private plane and helicopter owners who would stay in local hotels and B&Bs at least one night, visit attractions, dine in restaurants and shop – in line with Blue Mountains City Council’s original intent for the airfield.

A report to the council on October 29, 1968, showed how the airfield was a long-time major part of the council’s tourism strategy, stating that it was established “to encourage tourists and visitors to fly to the Blue Mountains area’’.

FLYBLUE’S other future plans included forming a stakeholder group, new hangars (subject to approval), community and charity events, public aviation viewing areas and dedicating half the airfield to non-aviation uses such as bushwalking, a radio club, star gazers and RAAF cadet and school bivouacs.

A public exhibition period will be held in June and the airfield lease proposal displayed, along with a fact sheet, on the Department of Industry (Crown Land and Water) website at https://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/lands/public/on-exhibition/proposed-lease-of-katoomba-airfield until August 4.

Letters of support may be submitted to https://www.nsw.gov.au/improving-nsw/have-your-say/katoomba-airfield-lease/ or emailed to airfield.submissions@crownland.nsw.gov.au using the reference number LX 602686 in the subject line.

The department will also hold two drop-in information sessions at Hotel Blue, Lurline St, Katoomba, from 11am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm on June 19 and 25.


Katoomba Airfield: public submissions invited

Higher flight levels, residential no-fly zones, a new enforceable Fly Neighbourly policy, “light footprint tourism’’, community charity events and a suite of green initiatives.

These are just some of the plans that new lessee FLYBLUE Management Pty Ltd has for Katoomba Airfield which are outlined in documents soon to be available on the industry.nsw.gov.au website of the Department of Industry (Crown Land and Water).

FLYBLUE voluntarily published their vision on flyblue.com.au following the department awarding the company a three-year commercial licence in February 2018.

While Katoomba Airfield had operated continuously since it opened on October 5, 1968, its runways fell into dangerous disrepair from 2016 when long-term lessee flying instructor Rod Hay died in a single engine plane crash in nearby scrub.

The level of disrepair resulted in FLYBLUE temporarily closing the airfield to fixed-wing aircraft except in emergencies, although helicopter operations including emergency services and Defence Force aircraft have continued to land and take-off there as usual.

FLYBLUE director Floyd Larsen said the recent decreased use of the airfield had led some people to believe it had closed.

“It hasn’t,’’ she said.

“In fact, its original purpose continues as it has done for the past fifty years.

“For example, Katoomba Airfield has provided an air `safety ramp’ for general aviation since it opened in 1968, and twice in the past 18 months (that we know of) aircraft have made emergency landings here.’’

A report to Blue Mountains Council on October 29, 1968, showed how the airfield was a long-time major part of the council’s tourism strategy, stating that it was established “to encourage tourists and visitors to fly to the Blue Mountains area’’.

(l-r) Floyd and Derek Larsen of FlyBlue Management Pty Ltd

“Joy flights are scheduled every Sunday at a cost of $3 per flight.

“This matter has been reported for information the Council’s Public Relations Department will include these features in future advertising of the area.’’

However, Mrs Larsen emphasised that Katoomba Airfield and FLYBLUE did not encourage or conduct “joy flights’’ (short low-flying swoops over populated or sensitive areas such as Echo Point, the Three Sisters, the Grose Valley or up the Grand Canyon).

Rather, they actively fostered “light footprint tourism’’ which had minimum negative impact on the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

FLYBLUE’s plan includes a new enforceable Fly Neighbourly policy with appropriate flight paths away from residential areas, operating hours and general use of the airfield with noise abatement procedures.

“While FLYBLUE can’t influence aircraft that originate from other airfields because they fall under the control of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), our new Fly Neighbourly policy already has the support of Blue Mountains Aviators Club and pilots who do not comply with our Fly Neighbourly policy will not be permitted to use Katoomba Airfield,’’ Mrs Larsen said.

“FLYBLUE will manage all aspects of the airfield, including noise abatement procedures, curfews and flight paths within an approved lease.

“However, we can assure the community that our Fly Neighbourly policy categorically bans flights over populated areas.’’

FLYBLUE had already begun restoration work on the 36ha site, located about 4km east of Medlow Bath.

Obsolete and dilapidated structures had been removed, along with abandoned waste materials and equipment.

Two new windsocks had been installed, along with a weather station and camera for use by general aviation (katoomba.skycam.net.au) and the site made more secure to prevent illegal access.

FLYBLUE plans to restore, protect and enhance the site including sealing the main airstrip and tackle weed invasion, soil erosion and other issues.

The environmental centrepiece would be a Greenfleet carbon offset program which would see one tree planted for every flight which left the airfield.

(l-r) Derek and Floyd Larsen

Mrs Larsen expected the airfield upgrades to help lure more tourism and overnight stays to the Blue Mountains including private plane owners who would stay in local hotels and B&Bs at least one night, visit attractions, dine in restaurants and shop – in line with Blue Mountains Council’s original intent for the airfield.

Other future plans included the installation of new hangars (subject to approval), community charity events, public aviation viewing areas and dedicating half the airfield to non-aviation uses such as bushwalking, a radio club, star gazers and RAAF cadet and school bivouacs.

A public exhibition period with dates to be confirmed but expected to be held in June and the airfield lease proposal displayed on the Department of Industry (Crown Land and Water) industry.nsw.gov.au website for at least 42 days.

Letters of support may be submitted to the NSW Government via a link on the website.

The department will hold public drop-in information sessions at Hotel Blue, Lurline St, Katoomba, from 11am to 1pm and 5pm to 7pm on June 19 and 25.

(l-r) Floyd and Derek Larsen


Book now for Blue Mountains Yulefest

The first flurries of snow have fallen over the wild Blue Mountains landscape – just in time for Yulefest in Australia’s first tourist destination.

Bookings are now open for warming winter activities such as toasty fireside dining, river cruising, vintage motorcar tours and heartwarming classic humour, all just 90 minutes from Sydney.

A regional tradition since 1980, mid-winter Yulefest is the season for which the Blue Mountains is most famous.

Darley’s Restaurant

After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining and rousing entertainment.

Numerous hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, cafes and restaurants celebrate the winter festival, enlivened by warming entertainment.

Guest services manager of Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels, Meagan Iervasi, encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside with roaring fires, hot food and drinks, traditional decorations and festive music, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’

Book your Yulefest bed, table and experience early so you’re not left out in the cold:

Flemish Flavours, 117/121 The Mall, Leura (restaurant from 5.30pm Thursday & Friday, from 12pm weekends; beer garden from 12pm til late Thursday to Sunday)

Celebrate Yulefest in traditional European style – with a modern Australian twist – overlooking the enchanting village of Leura from June 20 and throughout July. Dine on a five-course menu featuring distinctive European flavours of juniper berry and horseradish-cured salmon, pickled mussels, wakame, black bean, miso and sesame paste; maple bourbon glazed ham, star anise and cloves; turkey stuffed with salsa verde, cranberry and chestnut, duck fat chats; followed by mulled wine sorbet then sticky date pudding, honey comb, salted butter crumble and tonka bean ice cream. Retreat into the wooden cosiness of the 19th century mansion for roaring fireplace dining, or take in the spectacular mountains view in the crisp fresh air from the beer garden while sipping on a Belgium beer.

Further details and bookings: flemishflavours.com.au or 02 4784 3265.

Blue Mountains Chocolate Company, 176 Lurline St, Katoomba (open 10am to 6pm seven days)

Wrap your hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate within this warm cocoon right in the scrumptious centre of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Shelves are dripping with an extensive range of luscious handmade goodies crafted from the finest Belgian couverture and locally sourced premium grade flavour fillings.

Grab a fireside seat, sip a hot chocolate drink melted over a romantic candle and nibble on a luxuriant cake while watching the in-house chocolatier create mouthwatering decadence.

Afterwards, drench your tastebuds in velvety sweet ooze from the selection of chocolate bars, individual treats, gift boxes and other items.

Blackheath Golf & Community Club, Brightlands Ave, Blackheath

 The most magnificent golf club in the region will celebrate Yulefest with a special mid-winter dinner in its restaurant from 7pm on Saturday, July 20.

Tuck into a belly-warming two-course buffet feast of all your favourite roasts accompanied by an array of side dishes and dessert, heralded by carols and other entertainment, with a special appearance by Father Christmas especially for the children.

Surrounded by glass, daytime diners have a spectacular view of the 18-hole golf course and its spectacular cool-climate gardens and waterways, and the club has plenty of cosy spots heated by slow combustion fire in which to relax anytime.

Cost: $55pp includes glass of red wine on arrival. Bookings: 02 4787 8406 or barmanager@blackheathgolf.com.au. 

Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs

Blue Mountains Limousine & Vintage Cadillacs

Vintage vroom or modern glitz: you choose how you make a grand entrance this Yulefest.

Guests (minimum two passengers per trip) will be collected from and returned to any location between Hazelbrook and Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains (hotels, guesthouses, railway stations or private homes) in a stretch limo ($59pp) or LaSalle model Cadillac ($69pp), driven by a local driver dressed in formal attire, between 4pm and midnight any Friday and Saturday during July.

Arrive the long way round after exploring the breathtaking scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area or cruising upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect.

“Whichever car you choose will make for an unforgettable, head-turning experience,’’ co-owner Robert Spitz said.

Go to bluemountainslimo.com.au, email info@bmlimo.com.au or phone Robert on 0400 500 542 or Don on 0455 352 976 for more details and bookings.

Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms, Grose & Megalong streets, Leura

Yulefest luncheon is served at 1.15pm every day among one of the world’s largest private collections of teawares, including more than 5500 teapots from all over the world and spanning five centuries, most of which were collected within Australia.

Guests can tuck into a traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas-style feast with all the trimmings (bon bons, serviettes and table decorations), beginning with a canape platter and soup, followed by a traditional roast with seasonal vegetables and plum pudding or pavlova dessert, tea/coffee and homemade shortbread.

Minimum of four people per booking. Cost: $79.50pp, $69.95pp groups of 10-19 people or $66pp groups of 20 or more and complimentary teapot talk, $29.95 children under-12.

Bookings essential: (02) 4784 3117 or info@bygonebeautys.com.au. Details: bygonebeautys.com.au.

Mountain Whispers Luxury Collection

Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba

French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.

Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’

Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.

Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.

The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show

The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.

It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.

Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.

The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.

Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown

`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.

The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.

Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.

A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.

Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’

Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274. 

Opera tenor Brad Cooper

Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath

A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 22. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.

Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.

Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany your repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.

Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba

Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.

Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba

For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.

Flurries of snow swirling around the Three Sisters,


Blue Mountains: Winter warmers for cool Yule

Darley’s Restaurant

Bon bons and plum pud among myriad teapots, belly laughs at classic humour, river cruising, and luxury digs and dining accessed by vintage motorcar and modern glitzy wheels. There’s even a chance of snow flurries around one of the most famous landmarks on the planet.

Visitors to the Blue Mountains are in for a cool Yule this July.

A regional tradition since 1980, mid-winter Yulefest is the season for which Australia’s first tourist destination is most famous.

After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining and rousing entertainment.

Numerous hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, cafes and restaurants celebrate the winter festival, enlivened by warming entertainment.

Guest services manager of Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels, Meagan Iervasi, encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside with roaring fires, hot food and drinks, traditional decorations and festive music, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’

Book your Yulefest bed, table and experience early so you’re not left out in the cold:

 

Co-director Robert Spitz at the wheel of a limousine

Blue Mountains Limousine & Vintage Cadillacs

Vintage vroom or modern glitz: you choose how you make a grand entrance this Yulefest.

Guests (minimum two passengers per trip) will be collected from and returned to any location between Hazelbrook and Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains (hotels, guesthouses, railway stations or private homes) in a stretch limo ($59pp) or LaSalle model Cadillac ($69pp), driven by a local driver dressed in formal attire, between 4pm and midnight any Friday and Saturday during July.

Arrive the long way round after exploring the breathtaking scenery of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area or cruising upmarket Leura Mall for head-turning effect.

“Whichever car you choose will make for an unforgettable, head-turning experience,’’ co-owner Robert Spitz said.

Go to bluemountainslimo.com.au, email info@bmlimo.com.au or phone Robert on 0400 500 542 or Don on 0455 352 976 for more details and bookings.

 

Bygone Beautys is home to more than 5500 teapots from around the world

Bygone Beautys Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms, Grose & Megalong streets, Leura

Yulefest luncheon is served at 1.15pm every day among one of the world’s largest private collections of teawares, including more than 5500 teapots from all over the world and spanning five centuries, most of which were collected within Australia.

Guests can tuck into a traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas-style feast with all the trimmings (bon bons, serviettes and table decorations), beginning with a canape platter and soup, followed by a traditional roast with seasonal vegetables and plum pudding or pavlova dessert, tea/coffee and homemade shortbread.

Minimum of four people per booking. Cost: $79.50pp, $69.95pp groups of 10-19 people or $66pp groups of 20 or more and complimentary teapot talk, $29.95 children under-12.

Bookings essential: (02) 4784 3117 or info@bygonebeautys.com.au. Details: bygonebeautys.com.au.

 

All about the romance at Mountain Whispers collection of luxury venues

Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba

French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.

Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’

Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.

Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.

 

Guffaws and belly laughs in store with classic humour

The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show

The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.

It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.

Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.

The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.

 

Cruising a mighty waterway with all the festive trimmings

Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown

`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.

The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.

Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.

A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.

Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’

Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.

 

Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath

The Hydro Majestic Hotel is magic in winter

A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 22. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.

 

Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.

 

Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany your repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.

 

High tea is a highlight

Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba

Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.

 

Historic setting for fine dining

Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba

For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.

There’s even a chance of snow


Blue Mountains: Echoes Restaurant to serve Lindsay lunch musing

Muse, nurturer, creative force and “feminine dominant’’ Rose Lindsay circa 1919. Photo courtesy of Norman Lindsay Gallery

Blue Mountains actresses are invited to audition to play muse, nurturer, creative force and “feminine dominant’’ Rose Lindsay in a monthly artistic theatre lunch event at Echoes Restaurant from May to October.

The event will be part of the new Art of Lunch series to be held simultaneously at five Blue Mountains restaurants every last Sunday from May 26 and October 27, featuring a different theme, exhibition and performance at each venue.

The works of Norman Lindsay will be showcased at Escarpment Group-owned Echoes Restaurant in Katoomba by Norman Lindsay Gallery under the theme Blue Mountains Bohemia, during which his wife and muse Rose will make a theatrical appearance in period costume to deliver a series of vignettes drawn from her memoir, Model Wife, evoking the Lindsay’s artistic bohemian lifestyle.

Escarpment Group head chef Saran Sasikumar will dream up an exotic menu with a mysterious Magic Pudding.

After the sumptuous meal there will be a 30-minute concert with a musician, varying each month starting the season with jazz giant James Greening and concluding with classical composer/musician Me-Lee Hay.

Norman Lindsay has a lasting reputation as the Blue Mountains’ most luminary and controversial artist, although he does not overshadow his second wife Rose – his muse, model, wife and mother of their two daughters.

Rose Lindsay in costume for the 1928 Artists’ Ball. Photo courtesy of Norman Lindsay Gallery

Rose was also an exceptional printmaker and archivist who editioned Norman’s etchings, as well as an astute business manager.

 The couple’s granddaughter Helen Glad wrote: “Rose Lindsay’s commanding personality assured she would never be overwhelmed by her husband’s genius or that of anyone else.

“A forthright individual all her life, she personified Norman’s concept of the `feminine dominant’ – woman as nurturer and creative force.

“Rose was essential to his continuing and prodigious creative output. Rose stood in no one’s shadow – during her long life she made sure she was acknowledged. She survived many things, all without loss of dignity or style.’’

Auditions for the role of Rose Lindsay will be held at Norman Lindsay Gallery, 14 Norman Lindsay Cres, Faulconbridge, at noon on Sunday, May 5.

The actress must be available to perform each last Sunday of the month between May and October 2019 at the Art of Lunch at Echoes Restaurant, Katoomba.

The actress will be paid for performances and rehearsals.

Contact meg@artoflunch.com.au by close of business May 2 to express interest in the audition.

The Art of Lunch project was created by Earthly Delights Events and has received funding from the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, as well as support from local enterprises such as Scenic World and BMR Accounting. Details: artoflunch.com.au.

The Art of Lunch will be held at Echoes Restaurant & Bar, Lilianfels Ave, Katoomba, the last Sunday of each month from May to October 2019. Bookings: reservations@echoeshotel.com.au or 4782 1966.


Global flavours for Blue Mtns majestic Harmony Day

The uniting force of food will be the binding tie of inclusiveness, respect and belonging when the multicultural staff at the Hydro Majestic Hotel celebrate Harmony Week with international cuisine from March 18 to 31.

Visitors will embark on a global food journey when they nibble on a special multicultural high tea of duck rice paper roll, Aussie beef mini pie, Sri Lankan fish cutlet, pulled pork adabo, green papaya slaw, chicken tikka wrap, mint chutney, kachumber salad, mini naan followed by sweet pastries, berry pavlova, Gajar ka halwa, Maja blanca, pandan cake, Watalappan and scones.

The dishes will be prepared by the international kitchen team.

Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said more than 30 languages were spoken and staff ethnic origins from six continents, from Asia to Africa: “The only continent we haven’t interviewed anyone from yet is Antarctica.’’

While all Escarpment Group properties, which also include Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Miss Lilian Teahouse, Darley’s Restaurant, Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant and Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, align well with the strong national multicultural population today, the Blue Mountains and the Hydro Majestic have a multicultural heritage stretching back to the days of original owner Mark Foy.

During the post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century numerous Chinese workers reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses.

One was Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at department store doyenne, sportsman and flamboyant playboy Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885 to book a Harmony Week high tea.


Wolfe Brothers play majestic Blue Mtns venue

By Ellen Hill

Tamworth Country Music Festival Golden Guitar winners The Wolfe Brothers will rock the Blue Mountains escarpment when they bring their Country Heart National Tour to the most majestic live gig venue in the region on March 30.

Riding high after taking home the genre’s top gong, the Tasmanian country rockers also continue to celebrate after their latest offering debuted on the ARIA Charts at #9 last March.

Since then, the former postman, refrigeration mechanic and builder’s labourer and carpenter have played to packed houses around the country as a standalone act as well as alongside mate Lee Kernaghan on his Boys From the Bush 25th anniversary tour.

Bassist Tom Wolfe said touring with the established legend had been a dream come true: “He has taught us so much and it is still a little surreal to look across the stage and realise we are actually performing with one of our childhood heroes.’’

Second place-getters in the 2012 Australia’s Got Talent, The Wolfe Brothers are riding a massive wave after snagging an ARIA nomination for Best Country Album last year and five Golden Guitar nominations at this year’s Tamworth Country Music Festival.

All four Wolfe Brothers albums have entered the Australian Top 20 charts, with the last three (Nothin’ But Trouble, This Crazy Life and Country Heart) all debuting at #2.

The band penned the latest album in Nashville.

Lead singer Nick Wolfe: “None of us were interested in playing it safe this time. We basically took the process we have used to make our albums previously, turned it on its head and came at it from a completely different angle. The goal was to give each song its own personality, not just set up some guitars, amps and drums and bash out 12 tracks with the same core set up as we have done in the past. The interesting thing is even though it’s very different, it’s still us and, if anything, the songs are more real and honest.’’

The Wolfe Brothers will play the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath under the Live@theHydro banner on Saturday, March 30. Tickets: $40 show only, $135 dinner and show. Bookings: 4782 6885 or reservations@hydromajestic.com.au.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Winter in the Blue Mountains – Yule love it!

Tenor Brad Cooper performs at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The enchantment of opera at a legendary party palace, river cruising along a mighty waterway, belly laughs at timeless humour, the intimate luxury of crackling fireplaces and even the possibility of snow-dusted landscapes. Yulefest in the Blue Mountains is the most magical season.

After the exhilarating zing of a chilly day spent exploring the lookouts and bushwalking tracks of the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, shopping at charming villages and visiting attractions, sojourners are warmly invited indoors for steaming drinks, fireside dining, festive decorations, music and rousing entertainment.

A regional tradition since 1980, Yulefest is held mid-winter (officially throughout July but often beginning in June and extending into August), with many hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs and restaurants taking part.

Escarpment Group of luxury hotels guest services manager Meagan Iervasi encouraged visitors to immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere by staying at least one night: “Yulefest in the Blue Mountains offers the European-style atmosphere people associate with Christmas – a chilly landscape outside and cosiness inside, but without the stress and frosty relatives. Sometimes there’s even snow.’’

Here’s an early bird Yulefest list to choose from:

Mountain Whispers, Leura and Katoomba
French champagne on ice, handmade chocolates, scattered fresh rose petals, a private chef to cook a three-course festive dinner and a personal waiter to serve it, followed by an in-house massage and/or facial in opulent surrounds. Yulefest equals romance, an escape with the girls or a group of great friends at Mountain Whispers MW Collection, where every minor detail matters.

Owner Lorraine Allanson said: “While Christmas is about family, Yulefest is a great time to take a mid-year break to focus on romance or time with your friends to indulge and escape the daily grind.’’

Each of the multi-award winning self-contained immaculately restored heritage properties – Varenna, Leura Rose and Strawberry Patch in Leura and The Gatsby and Chatelaine in Katoomba – promises a luxurious getaway in total privacy and comfort for couples and small groups.

Details: mountainwhispers.com.au or 1300 721 321.

Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath
A Night in Vienna: In the lead-up to Yulefest, relish the romance and nostalgia of Austria’s operatic golden age led by Opera Australia, Oper Köln, Opéra Comique & Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and English National Opera tenor Brad Cooper against the magnificent backdrop of the Megalong Valley on June 1. The Wintergarden Restaurant performance will be matched with a five-course degustation dinner. Tickets: $135pp. Bookings: (02) 4782 6885.

Diesel Live@theHydro: One of Australia’s favourite adopted sons, Mark Lizotte (aka Diesel) will entertain fans on July 20, three decades after he stepped off a bus with his band Johnny Diesel and the Injectors and set off on a chart-topping 15-album career. Cost: $150pp dinner and show, $40pp show only. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au/events/diesel.

Traditional high tea: This elegant three-tier serving will feature nostalgic flavours such as ginger, cranberry and roast pork in the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant overlooking the Megalong Valley. Accompany you repast with a delicate blossom tea, freshly brewed coffee or a glass of sparkling wine.

Lilianfels Resort & Spa, Katoomba
Sink into the refined 5-star surrounds to nibble on delicate finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, and a selection of Yulefest sweet treats beside a cosy fireplace.

Darley's Restaurant. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Darley’s Restaurant. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Darley’s Restaurant, Katoomba
For the ultimate Yulefest decadence, the hatted restaurant in the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley will serve five and seven-course degustation dinners each Friday and Saturday throughout July with special winter flavours.

 

Nepean Belle river luncheon cruise, Jamisontown
`Tis the season to cruise the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon on your way to or from the Blue Mountains.

The heritage-style Nepean Belle paddlewheeler will be festooned with festive decorations and guests will board for luncheon to the strains of popular carols against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.

Tuck into two-course Yulefest fare with all the trimmings, beginning with a shared platter of succulent roast turkey with fruit seasoning and tender roast pork with apple sauce and gravy garnished with honey-roasted vine tomatoes and accompanied by creamy sautéed potato; a selection of hot seasonal vegetables; steamed broccoli, carrots and peas; and a Greek salad with feta.

A dessert platter of festive favourites will follow, with White Christmas, chocolate rum balls, fruit cake, chocolate mud cake and rich butter shortbread biscuits washed down with your choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee.

Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We love Christmas so much that we’re holding it again in July – but without the in-laws, expensive pressies and weather that matches the heat of the roast dinner.’’

Cost: Monday to Friday – $59 adults, $53 seniors, $39 teens (13-16 years), $20 children (3-12 years); Weekends – $65 adults, $58 seniors, $39 teens, $25 children. Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.

The Goon Show LIVE! Dinner and show
The cult comedy tour de overacting incorporates loads of sound effects, silly voices and a platoon of crazy characters which promise to have audiences belly laughing all evening.

It regales the stories of Neddie Seagoon, a good-natured and hairy sort, albeit short and rotund and the victim of a terrible weakness – greed. Coupled with his innate gullibility, Neddie’s covetous nature makes him easy prey to confidence schemes courtesy of the conniving cads Grytpype-Thynne and Moriarty.

Peppered with one-liners, the high energy show will feature a plethora of characters including the world’s most famous idiot Eccles (yes, even more infamous than Neddie), the squeaky-voiced boy-scout Bluebottle (who reads his stage-directions out loud), Major Dennis Bloodnok a devout coward, and Miss Minnie Bannister the sexy senior citizen who lives in sin with crumbling, fumbling old man Henry Crun.

The dinner and show will be held in le Salon Grand at the Palais Royale, Katoomba, each Saturday night from June 29 to July 20, with a special afternoon tea on July 14. Tickets: $135 Saturdays, $80 Sunday afternoon tea, seniors and group discounts available. Bookings and details: www.goons.com.au.

 

Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Miss Lilian’s lucky Blue Mtns Lunar New Year

By Ellen Hill       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Celebrate family unity, vitality and respect for your elders with the exotic flavours of the Orient when the Miss Lilian Teahouse heralds the Year of the Pig throughout February.

The new Echo Point dining venue which serves a tasty array of popular Asian street foods, will serve a special Chinese Lunar New Year tasting menu this month.

Escarpment Group, which also operates the adjoining Darley’s Restaurant and the Hydro Majestic Hotel among other tourism ventures, the venue is already festooned outside with coloured lanterns and inside with latticework, dozens of bird cages and other Eastern decorations.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said the Miss Lilian Teahouse was well placed to greet thousands of Asian tourists who flocked to the region during Chinese Lunar New Year given its blend of local and international staff and authentic dishes.

“Lunar New Year is the only time of year in China when people really rest, relax and take time out to focus on family unity, vitality and longevity. This is often the only time of year when people can go home to visit relatives, especially elderly ones. It’s also the time when Chinese people spend money, believing that one must spend money to attract more money.

“We can help you fulfil all those requirements.’’

Lunar New Year and all things Oriental is not new to the Blue Mountains, with Australia’s first tourist destination experiencing Eastern obsession during the roaring 20s’’ including at department store doyenne Mark Foy’sPalace in the wilderness’’ and modern sister property to the Miss Lilian Teahouse, the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.

During the post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century numerous Chinese workers reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses. One was Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.

Lunar New Year will be celebrated at the new Miss Lilian Teahouse on the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property, Echo Point Rd and Panorama Drive, Katoomba, with an evening tasting menu. Cost: $75pp includes complimentary sparkling cocktail. Bookings: misslilian.com.au.


Chutzpah returns for majestic vintage festival

By Ellen Hill       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

The chutzpah of the golden age of jazz music, elegant fashion, speakeasies and all things Oriental will return in majestic style when the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels hosts Roaring 20s Festival events on February 23 – 24.

The annual celebration of modern freedom, fashion and fun between the drabness of World War I and the restrictions of the Great Depression will high kick off at the Hydro Majestic Hotel with the popular Charleston Dance for Charity at 11am on the Saturday.

The community event is open to anyone dressed in 1920s costume (a feather boa, Mary Jane-style shoes and string of pearls for the ladies and a Fedora hat and pair of spats for the gents will do) and will be led by the Swing Katz and Music in the Mountains.

Gold coin donations will raise funds for Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service. There will also be prizes for the best dance performances and costumes.

The Charleston Dance for Charity will be followed by the Majestic Long Lunch, an indulgent shared feast showcasing the best regional produce and presented by event ambassadors food luminary Lyndey Milan OAM and The Darnell Collection fashion anthropologist Charlotte Smith.

Guests will graze on decadent fare from the Hydro Majestic culinary team with offerings from Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Lushious Gourmet Catering, The Carrington Cellars & Deli and Josophan’s Fine Chocolates under the ornate vaulted ceiling of the Majestic Ballroom.

Tickets: $95pp includes complimentary cocktail on arrival, live entertainment and dancing, a fashion show of 1920s garments and prizes galore.

Hydro Majestic guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The Roaring 20s Festival relives the golden age of the Blue Mountains generally and the hotel specifically, when exquisitely dressed glamorous people lived a hedonistic life of endless parties.

“It was an era of great social change, of new freedoms and, for some, sumptuous excess.

Thousands of visitors streamed off the trains to check into the guesthouses and grand hotels of Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Mt Victoria and, the grandest of them all, Mark Foy’sPalace in the wilderness’’, the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.’’

Retro enthusiasts can fully immerse themselves in that ultimate vintage experience on February 23 by riding into the art deco era aboard the Hydro Express from Central

station to the world-famous hotel in time for an evening of decadence, fine dining and mischievous revelry.

Travel in your choice of carriage class aboard our heritage train hauled by restored NSW Rail Museum-owned 1950s diesel locomotive 4201 from Sydney to Medlow Bath and return.

Tickets: from $130.

The Hydro Express will revisit the original Blue Mountains party palace for a 1920s-themed afternoon high tea on Sunday, February 24.

Upon arrival, passengers bedecked in elegant 1920s attire will nibble on a selection of petite pastries, finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones served with homemade jam and fresh clotted cream, with freshly brewed specialty teas and coffees.

Photo submitted

Visitors can also be wowed by the opulent refurbishment of the famous hotel on an optional complimentary history tour.

Tickets: from $110.

The Charleston Dance for Charity, Majestic Long Lunch and Hydro Express Deco Dinner will be held at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Great Western Hwy, Medlow Bath.

Bookings: 4782 6885 or hydromajestic.com.au/events/roaring-20s-festival.


Blue Mountains sweetheart options for Valentine’s Day

Plenty of elegant options to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Greater Blue Mountains. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill

Cupid’s day of love is almost here, and lovers of all ages can celebrate amore in unforgettable style with fine dining, majestic venues and even a private table aboard the region’s very own love boat.

Sweetheart options include:

Nepean Belle Paddlewheeler, Tench Reserve:

Float along the tranquil waters of the Nepean River aboard the regional aquatic icon against the picturesque backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment.

After exploring Nepean Gorge while sipping a complimentary beverage, passengers can request songs special to them and slow dance on the dance floor.

For those planning a milestone romantic event such as a proposal, two specially decorated private balcony tables surrounded by fairy lights and lanterns are available. A dedicated waiter will serve sparkling wine, and a red rose and chocolates will help set the scene.

Nepean Belle owner Carol Bennett said: “We’ll provide the dinner and unique experience. We’ll even set the scene and present each lady with a rose and a gift on boarding. The rest is up to you.’’

Cost: $110pp, $338 special table (cruise not suitable for children aged under 16 years). Bookings: nepeanbelle.com.au or 4733 1274.

 

Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Hydro Majestic Hotel, Medlow Bath

Begin your majestic experience with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine before indulging in a three-course menu of seasonal delights featuring oysters, lamb and chocolate with truffle-infused vegetarian options overlooking panoramic views of the magnificent Megalong Valley.

Cost: $95pp. Bookings: hydromajestic.com.au, reservations@hydromajestic.com.au or 4782 6885.

 

 

Darley’s Restaurant, Echo Point:

Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Located within the historic home of former Chief Justice of NSW Sir Frederick Darley, the hatted restaurant is within the Lilianfels Resort & Spa property and offers ultimate indulgence with outstanding service among sumptuous décor.

Dine on a five or seven-course seasonal degustation menu featuring the flavours of foie gras, elderflower, caviar, wagyu beef, black garlic, marigold and almond.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “Darley’s Restaurant has long been recognised as the ultimate venue for romantic dinners.’’

Cost: $135 five-course, $165 seven-course. Bookings: darleysrestaurant.com.au, reservations@lilianfels.com.au or 4780 1200.

Romantic views abound at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

 


Blue Mountains landscapes for now and then

Now & Zen Landscapes director Shannon Decker

By Ellen Hill for Now & Zen Landscapes       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

CRUISING the tree-lined avenues of Wentworth Falls, the vibrant rhododendron gardens of Blackheath and the heritage properties of Leura encased by drystone walls, Shannon Decker envisages his own garden designs a century from now.

“I can see the moss and lichens on the stones, how tall the trees will grow and where their canopies will span to a hundred years from now,’’ he says.

“When I drive around and I see a beautiful copper beech tree planted 80 years ago I am so thankful to the forefather who planted it for us.

“Likewise, what we’re planting today is for people to enjoy in the future.’’

Inspired by Danish garden designer Paul Sorensen, whose work can be seen throughout the upper Blue Mountains, and Edna Walling whose garden designs are renowned around the Dandenong area of Victoria, Shannon was grateful that “plenty of people have had that vision up here in the Mountains’’.

“A hundred years ago, fifty years ago even, properties were bigger, materials were cheaper, the stone was readily available and labour was much more affordable.

“Stunning gardens also evolved because people had time, valued quality and the architecture, design, engineering and craftsmanship of the pioneers was second to none, with a lot of those skills applied to the gardens.’’

Shannon acquired an appreciation for quality during his apprenticeship as a teenager working on upmarket estates in The Hills district, landscaping properties to complement the mega mansions constructed by premium builders.

The boy larrikin who left school at age 14 on the brink of expulsion now heads a multi-million dollar business incorporating landscaping and garden design, a civil division, a recycling and composting property and an organic bulk food store.

Now living at Wentworth Falls, he was introduced to Blue Mountains life during a break from landscaping while he managed the Lapstone Hotel between 1997 and `99.

Now & Zen Landscapes (derived from the common saying now and then’’) was established the year heneeded to step up’’. In 1999 he bought a house at Lawson, his then fiancé became pregnant and their son was born.

With only a few other such businesses in the Mountains at the time, Shannon’s drive to succeed and the work ethic his parents instilled in him, the business was an immediate success:

“In 2000, my second year of business, my turnover was the same as it is today.’’

Now & Zen has maintained that strength and market share during the past 20 years

Just 22, he had four vehicles and a skid steer machine, an acreage property and a landscape supply yard at Blaxland.

Then in 2005, Shannon’s life underwent personal challenges and he lost everything, moved to

Wollongong and commuted to a part-time TAFE teaching job at Richmond.

Now & Zen lay dormant.

Now & Zen Landscapes foreman Ben Lane (r) discusses plans on site with director Shannon Decker (l)

“But we had 15 years of trading history in the Mountains and the phone didn’t stop ringing, so after a while I’d say `No worries, I’ll do it’. I just made it happen.’’

After two years shuffling between Wollongong, Leura and Richmond, Shannon moved back to the Mountains in 2012.

Seven years later in a local industry that now sustains more than 20 landscaping businesses, Now & Zen Landscapes is the yardstick of the highest end market in the Greater Blue Mountains and Central West where projects are limited only by imagination.

“Although we consider ourselves to be at the peak of our game, we’re surrounded by other great landscape companies who keep us on our toes and keep raising the benchmark, which is wonderful for the area.’’

Shannon himself is the local industry authority, responsible for the education and training of the next generation in landscaping.

He was recently headhunted by one of Australia’s oldest recognised training organisations, The Management Edge (TME), to run its NSW and Victoria landscape training program working with employers.

Using as examples the master landscapers of the past, the bedrock of Decker’s Now & Zen Landscapes business is enduring quality, timeless beauty and sustainability, principals he hoped to pass on through TME and his own apprentices.

Garden design has given me a creative outlet, it’s an expression of me,’’ he says.It’s a timeless piece of art.’’

While skills were being lost generally through quick builds and cheap alternatives, master landscapers such as Now & Zen created and maintained bespoke gardens to a long-term vision featuring individual pieces created by artisans, stonemasons and expert gardeners.

Shannon also owns an 80-acre property at Mt Victoria, where concrete is recycled and green waste composted, which provided a solution to expensive transport and tipping costs.

Shannon has constructed an off-the-grid ironstone and iron bark house, and Shannon and his family will soon open an organic zero waste bulk food store in late February in Katoomba.

“But underlying it all is the soil we stand on and being grounded to the earth.’’


Majestic tree-topper at Hydro party palace

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

A piece of Australian sporting and cultural history has been brought back to life at the grandest of the grand hotels of the Blue Mountains this Christmas.

Standing taller than 6m, Candy the Kewpie doll has taken her position under the grand chandelier in the famous Casino Lobby of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.

Along with Scarlett, who now lives at the Powerhouse Museum, and Betty who resides at the National Museum in Canberra, Candy is one of 12 giant Kewpie dolls that twirled around Stadium Australian during the unforgettable Sydney 2000 Olympic Games closing ceremony.

Candy and her Kewpie sisters were designed by Brian Thompson based on the Marcella Kewpie, a flapper-girl Japanese version of American magazine illustrator Rose O’Neill’s cowlicked, roly-poly original.

O’Neill created her first Kewpie doll in 1907 for Ladies Home Journal.

The name refers to “little Cupid, spelling it with a K because it seemed funnier’’.

The characters were an instant hit and O’Neill drew them for magazines and advertisers for more than 25 years, with the dolls spawning a range of merchandising and given as popular carnival prizes.

Characterised by big eyes in shy, sideways glancing expressions, a single topknot of blond hair, splayed “starfish’’ hands, and an exaggerated potbelly, the mischievous baby-like elves were children’s guardian angels in her stories (specifically, they protected the human girl Dottie Darling).

While Cupid “gets himself into trouble. The Kewpies get themselves out, always searching out ways to make the world better and funnier’’, O’Neill said.

Visitors to the Hydro Majestic can see Candy as they assemble for hotel history tours and enter the elegant Wintergarden Restaurant for high tea or fine dining meals until early January.

Escarpment Group Christmas theming creator Greg Tomkinson said Candy was right at home in the flamboyance of Mark Foy’s “Palace in the wilderness’’.

Candy, Betty, Scarlett and friends were the centrepieces of artistic director David Atkins’ backyard-themedparty to end all parties’’ and the Hydro Majestic is the original Blue Mountains party palace.

“The Christmas tree in the Casino Lobby must fill one of the grandest spaces in the country and competes with the famous dome in scale and design. Needless to say, it has to be fabulous.’’

Along with elaborate decorations throughout the hotel, the Hydro Majestic will celebrate the festive season with a schedule of music and dining events beginning with an opera dinner concert on December 22, Christmas lunch and dinner, a global fusion evening on December 29 and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

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

 


Creative fire unleashed at Talisman Gallery blacksmithing workshop

An example of what participants will make. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill for Talisman Gallery

Unleash your inner creative fire, work off some energy and learn an ancient art under guidance from an experienced artisan at Talisman Gallery this festive season.

Burgeoning metal artists will create their own piece of art in the 30-minute blacksmithing session on the anvil by beating red hot steel into the shape of a fire poker, decorative wall hook or small sculpture.

Extra decorative elements such as crystals may also be added.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work. Photo submitted by Talisman Gallery

Talisman Gallery metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick of Blackheath said the activity would interest beginners as well as those who had previously taken the Fire Poker Challenge at the gallery, located in the historic woolshed behind Hartley Historic Site.

“Creating metal art is very satisfying. It’s quite physical and people love the fact they can make something with their own hands, which we don’t do a lot of anymore in this modern society.’’

While the location amid undulating pasturelands with the dramatic backdrop of the Blue Mountains escarpment helped, Fitzpatrick believed the attraction to lay in the metal itself representing the romantic notion of a lost era; a simpler lifestyle; clearly defined values; and endurance and quality.

“It’s an ancient material that comes straight from the earth. That you can make something so beautiful out of something with such strength fascinates me and draws me to it. I think it’s the same for a lot of other people.’’

An example of what participants will make. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Fitzpatrick’s artistic journey began in the early 1980s, creating handmade knives and Tai Chi dancing swords in a small shop in Melbourne.

Since moving to Sydney in the late 1980s, his art and business has evolved from a need to provide for his family by making his own furniture from scrap metal to trendy inner west wrought iron work to finally settling in the Blue Mountains and Hartley.

He and Lithgow-based metal artist Steve Cunningham will be on hand to guide you through the process.’’

“You remove the red hot steel from the fire, bringing it to the anvil you begin to beat the hot metal. You watch as it changes shape, yielding under the blows. Working quickly before it cools, you wrap it around a form into a spiral shape. Before you know it you have created your first piece of metal art.

“So put your phone down and come and make something!’’

A great family activity available to anyone aged 13 years and older, the Creative Fire experience will be held daily from December 27 to 30. Cost: fire poker $35, decorative wall hook $40, sculpture $65, additional elements costs vary.

A participant in action. Photo submitted by Talisman Gallery

Visitors to Talisman Gallery can browse the collection of large high-end pieces along with signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders and an extensive collection of imported jewellery and new crystal pieces.

The gallery, Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details and bookings: Ron 0407 723 722 or Facebook page Talisman Gallery Hartley/events, website: www.talismangallery.com.au.