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KCC considering options after DA refusal

By Ellen Hill for Katoomba Christian Convention

Katoomba Christian Convention (KCC) management is considering its options after a Sydney Western City Planning Panel refused its development application to upgrade its site.

KCC executive director Jonathan Dykes said: “We’re disappointed.

“We were willing to be flexible with various aspects of the design and had hoped to work with Council and the Rural Fire Service further for a mutually beneficial outcome, but that didn’t happen.’’

While the panel chairman, who acknowledged the excellence of the design, voted in favour of deferral to allow KCC time to work with Blue Mountains City Council and the RFS further and present amended plans, the four other panel members voted for refusal.

The development application was submitted to Council in February and outlined a $63 million staged plan over 30 years to revamp outdated facilities at the bushland property next to Scenic World in Cliff Drive and Violet St.

The proposal for an environmentally-considerate overhaul of a portion of the property included a 3500-seat auditorium, new bookshop, toilets, meeting rooms, dining hall and café, revegetation and landscaping and replacing existing accommodation buildings with eco lodges.

The improvements would have benefited both Christian and secular groups who use the site, the largest conference facility in the Blue Mountains.

“We would simply like to improve our existing old assets by upgrading buildings,’’ Mr Dykes said.

“Our use of the property and number of people we have there would not increase.

“In fact, the upgrade would reduce the current noise impact on neighbours and the fire safety of the buildings would be improved.’’

An improved KCC facility would also create more jobs and ensure visitors kept coming and spent money locally while they took part in events at the site, Mr Dykes said.

“This will allow KCC to support sustainable tourism in the Blue Mountains, which is a primary economic driver for the area.

“KCC’s development aspirations are responsive to a significant number of local, regional and state strategies for increasing overnight visitation to the area.’’

A not-for-profit interdenominational Bible-preaching convention ministry that relies on volunteers, donations and financial support of visiting delegates, KCC was founded in 1903 in the tradition of the Keswick Convention in England.

“We’ve been around for nearly 120 years and we plan to be around for the next 120 years,’’ Mr Dykes said.

While “we’ll be considering our options’’, with the usual busy-ness in the lead up to Christmas and the need for meetings among the KCC board and consultants, a pathway forward would not be decided until next year.

Asperger’s syndrome explained in Noah’s Story

By Ellen Hill for Grace Kim       Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

How does a child with Asperger’s syndrome experience everyday life? How does it feel to be child who is different?

New children’s book Noah’s Story answers those questions and more, and gives children with the condition a tool with which to explain their condition, their symptoms and how they feel.

Bullaburra resident Grace Kim wrote the book to help her son Noah Hylkema, his friends and teachers understand his Asperger’s diagnosis in 2016 after a long period of challenging experiences at school.

Noah illustrated the book.

Written in Noah’s “voice’’, it uses examples of behaviours a person whose brain works differently and offers practical suggestions for how others can respond.

Ms Kim wrote the book after Noah’s diagnosis after she and husband Teije Hylkema had read numerous books and attended workshops and seminars about autism to understand the condition and find a way to disclose the information to Noah and his classmates.

“After reading a mountain of books, I still couldn’t find a book that resonated with us personally,’’ she said.

“So one desperate night, I decided to write a story from Noah’s perspective to help him, his friends and teachers understand him and his diagnosis.

“I showed it to Noah to check with him if I represented his feelings correctly (thankfully, yes!) and asked if he would like to do some drawings for it to take it to school the next day.

“This ended up being a wonderful way to introduce the subject and for him to be fully involved and in control of his `coming out’.’’

Hazelbrook Public School student Noah, 9, who has written stories and illustrated since he was four years old, said the book was a way to explain Asperger’s to his classmates in a format they would understand and relate to – “my class likes stories’’.

He summed up Asperger’s in one sentence: “I have a brain that’s a bit different to yours – I find some things easy that other people find hard (like computer coding and haiku poems) and some things hard that other people find easy (like handwriting).’’

Endorsing the book, Friends and Ben Bumblefoot author Teena Raffa-Mulligan said Noah’s Story “presents the message `Sometimes I will make mistakes but I am learning just like you’ with beautiful simplicity’’.

A concert pianist, artistic director and Churchill Fellow, Ms Kim said she never intended to write a book for public publication but hoped Noah’s Story would encourage others to share their own stories.

The book complemented the Sensory Concerts she instigated last year to provide access to quality live music to people with sensory issues that prevent them from attending public events such as concerts.

Run by the Your Music Inc registered charity and always featuring Ms Kim and often cellist Mr Hylkema, the concerts have been designed for people of all ages, especially families with sensory or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, physical or intellectual disabilities who experience feelings of being overwhelmed by crowd, noise, light, smell and touch.

Performed to small groups in a relaxed atmosphere, they have a range of seating options and a retreat space where audience members can self-regulate or seek support from the onsite occupational therapist and psychologist.

Your Music Inc also holds tailored concerts in aged care facilities, hospitals, schools and private homes.

Noah’s Story ($37.80) is available on Amazon and from publisher Karen Mc Dermott ($26.77).

The free Noah’s Story book launch will be held at Bullaburra Village Green (wet weather option Bullaburra Progress Hall), Noble St, from 10.30am to 12.30pm Sunday, December 16. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase, and there will be live music, reading and a playground for children. RSVP.

Queen of Hearts Foundation closure final

By Ellen Hill for Queen of Hearts Foundation

A proposal to continue Penrith-based child sexual abuse and domestic violence support service the Queen of Hearts Foundation under a revised business plan has been declined by the board.

The final decision was made “with heavy hearts’’ by the four-member board at a meeting on Tuesday [November 27].

It follows an approach to operate the charity service under a revised business plan with a new CEO after the notice to Queen of Hearts Foundation members in October of the board’s intention to wind up the charity.

Last month it was reported that the foundation established in 2014 had become increasingly financially unsustainable.

A planned restructure from a service orientated not-for-profit charity run almost entirely on community donations to a pre-funded program model with timeframes and monitored outcomes could not be successfully implemented by a board of volunteers, all of whom were small business owners in the Penrith community.

Despite the generosity of the Penrith community, the growing number of charity organisations in the area had broadened the giving pool, meaning less available funds for each worthy cause.

The proposed revised business plan was seriously considered by the board and discussions held with Penrith Council.

However, a board spokesperson said it relied on community funding and grant success as well as charging for counselling services.

“Whilst considerable effort would be required to continually fundraise to meet the financial obligations set forth in the proposals, a fee for service model is not in line with the stated mission of the Queen of Hearts Community Foundation.

“Unfortunately, given the parameters of the current economic climate, the inability to rely solely on fundraising and the generous donations from our community and the chance of being successful with any grant applications, the board did not feel that the proposed plan would ensure long-term success of the foundation.’’

The proposal was discussed at length at a November 15 meeting, which was adjourned until this past Tuesday [November 27] to allow further time for the proposal to be worked through.

“Given the experience of the board and the member in attendance, we did not believe it would be a viable long-term solution given the struggle it has been the past twelve months to fundraise funds.

“Should Queen of Hearts stay trading, we believe it would likely be in the same, if not worse, position than it is now in another twelve months’ time.

“On that basis, and with heavy hearts, the board resolved to place the Queen of Hearts Foundation into the hands of a liquidator to wind up.’’

Surplus funds will be donated to the national Bravehearts Foundation and unfulfilled grants will be returned to their respective government agencies.

The Queen of Hearts Foundation board encouraged the Penrith community to continue to support similar organisations such as the Bravehearts Foundation, The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter and Penrith Women’s Health Centre.

Silent Night fills majestic Blue Mtns venue

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

Indulge in a feast of the senses this festive season as the Konzert Kollektiv fills the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels with majestic Christmas music on December 22.

(l-r) Tenor Brad Cooper and soprano Catherine Bouchier

Accompanied by fine food and sublime sunset views, soprano Catherine Bouchier will join tenor Brad Cooper and concert pianist Katherine Day for an unforgettable evening at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains to mark the 200th anniversary of loved Christmas carol Silent Night.

The event will include well known pieces by Adolf Schulz-Evler, Percy Grainger, Richard Strauss, Peter Alexander, Peter Cornelius, Franz Lehár, Erich Korngold, Adolphe Adam and more.

As well as favourites such as Joy to the World and The Holy City (Jerusalem), the great carol of peace will receive special attention on its 200th anniversary.

According to legend, Silent Night was sung for the first time on Christmas Eve 1818 in a little church in the Austrian village of Oberndorf outside Salzburg. The story goes that the choirmaster hurriedly penned the hymn to be played on a guitar when it was discovered mice had chewed through the bellows of the church organ.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “The story of Silent Night pefectly complements the Hydro Majestic, with that just right blend of magic, mischief and majesty.’’

The program will be accompanied by a five-course “taste of Christmas’’ degustation dinner of fresh regional produce showcasing the culinary talents of an international team of chefs.

Tickets: $145pp includes welcome cocktail, dinner and concert. BOOKINGS.

The Silent Night event will open a Christmas and New Year’s season of operatic proportions at Escarpment Group collection of luxury hotels.

Christmas Eve – December 24

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Inspired by the sparkle of Christmas lights and the warm glow they bring to the festive season, the Wintergarden Restaurant will host a decadent five-course degustation with all the trimmings overlooking the spectacular views of the Megalong Valley. Cost: $125 adults, $65 children (3-12 years), children aged 0-2 years complimentary. BOOKINGS.

Christmas Day – December 25

ECHOES RESTAURANT

Lunch: five-course lunch infused with Asian flavours overlooking the Jamison Valley. Cost: $189 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).

Dinner: five-course Asian-inspired degustation with a glass of sparkling cocktail on arrival. Cost: $169 adults, $65 children (4 – 12 years).

DARLEY’S RESTAURANT

Lunch: seven-course contemporary Australian degustation featuring the freshest seasonal local ingredients served in the historic multi award-winning building. Cost: $229 adults, $119 children (4 – 12 years).

LILIANFELS RESORT & SPA

Lunch: five-course degustation featuring hot and cold traditional Christmas fare including a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks). Cost: $199 adults, $179 teenagers (13 – 17 years), $90 children (4 – 12 years).

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Lunch: sumptuous three-tier feast featuring fresh seafood, charcutier selections, carvery and traditional Christmas desserts as well as a three-hour beverage package (standard beer, wine, soft drinks) in the understated elegance of the Wintergarden Restaurant. Cost: $199 adults, $149 teenagers (13 – 17 years) and $85 children (4 – 12 years).

Dinner: lavish five-course degustation featuring an elegant array of seafood, traditional Christmas roasts and dessert, with a glass of sparkling on arrival while enjoying the sunset over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $159 adults and $85 children (4 – 12 years).

  • Each venue will be decked in traditional decorations, with bon bons on the table and even a visit from Santa for the children. Children aged under 4 years complimentary.

Boxing Day (Wednesday, December 26)

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

High Tea: Take advantage of the holiday season and extend celebrations to a three-tiered indulgence in the Wintergarden Restaurant against the backdrop of sublime panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75 adults and $45 children (4-12 years old).

BOILERHOUSE CAFÉ, Hydro Majestic Hotel

Lunch: Two-course casual meal in a funky venue with a glass of sparkling on arrival and views over the Megalong Valley. Cost: $75pp.

Rio to Rome – December 29

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Celebrate global fusion with an evening of world music, a five-course degustation meal featuring outstanding fresh seasonal produce and the culinary talents of our team of international chefs. Tickets: $135pp includes glass of sparkling on arrival, degustation dinner and performance. BOOKINGS.

New Year’s Eve – December 31

HYDRO MAJESTIC HOTEL

Retro Grooves: Dust off those platform shoes and Motown moves for a night of `70s DJ dance music. Make your New Year transition unforgettable with an extravagant five-course degustation, glass of sparkling on arrival and live entertainment and panoramic views over the Megalong Valley. Smart casual dress code applies. Cost: $159 adults, $85 children aged 4-12. BOOKINGS.

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

Memorable send-off aboard Penrith river icon

(L-R) Nepean Valley Funerals owner Jim Mueller and Nepean Belle owner Chris Bennett have teamed up to offer Funerals on the Water

 

By Ellen Hill for Nepean Valley Funerals         Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

A new business partnership between two Penrith mates has created an opportunity for local residents to celebrate the life of a loved one aboard the iconic Nepean Belle paddlewheeler.

Exclusive to Nepean Valley Funerals, the closed coffin funeral and wake package includes exclusive use of the Nepean Belle paddlewheeler, a non-denominational funeral service, coffin, flowers, celebrant, printed orders of service and condolence pack, with further additions such as a photographic tribute available.

After a memorable and respectful farewell ceremony, the coffin will be removed from the paddlewheeler and friends and family then continue to remember their loved one during a catered wake on a calming river cruise into the private nooks of the Nepean Gorge.

Nepean Valley Funerals owner Jim Mueller partnered with long-time mate and Nepean Belle owner Chris Bennett after the St Dominic’s College old boys sought to combine their love of Penrith, community, the Nepean River and their respective businesses in a joint venture.

Mr Mueller and wife Janet had identified the changing trends of funerals. Although traditional church/chapel funeral services will always remain important, some families now seek a non-denominational “celebration’’.

Incorporating the iconic paddlewheeler on the tranquil waters of the region’s most recognised geographic feature was the ideal solution, offering a unique weekday option for up to 150 guests with traditional customer service and values.

(L-R) Nepean Valley Funerls owner Jim Mueller and Nepean Belle owner aboard the paddlewheeler.

Everyone knows the river,’’ Mr Mueller said.It has so much meaning and holds so many memories to so many people with associations with the Nepean region.

“It might be a case of Dad always loved being on the water’ orMum always wanted to go on a cruise’.’’

While Mr Bennett worked on the Nepean Belle as a deckhand when it was first launched as a tourist attraction in 1982 and bought the business in 2013, Mr Mueller was “kind of born into the funeral business’’, cared for when his mother was at work by an aunt who worked at a local funeral business.

“There are few services that are as sensitive or as personal as those provided by a funeral director,’’ he said.

“We’re helping people through the worst possible time in their lives.

(L-R) Nepean Belle owners Chris and Carol Bennett with Nepean Valley Funeral owners Janet and Jim Mueller

“We aim to make this challenging time as bearable as possible, and our new funerals on the water option on the Nepean Belle will offer family and friends an opportunity to celebrate their loved one’s life at a personal, unforgettable event.’’

Like all services arranged by Nepean Valley Funerals, Mr and Mrs Mueller arrange and attend each one after liaising with all relevant parties including hospital, doctors, coroner, clergy, civil celebrants, cemeteries, newspapers, Births Deaths and Marriages, order of service and DVD providers.

“From the moment you contact us, we will be there for you,’’ he said.

All customer families receive a complimentary online memorial through Heaven Address.

Go to funeralsonthewater.com.au or phone 4722 8222 for more information about this unique celebration of life.

  • Nepean Valley Funerals and the Nepean Belle are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media

Blue Mountains: Life-changing journey

(L-R) Urban Caves owner Guy Brown with Nova client Wayne Marmion

By Ellen Hill for Urban Caves       Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

For the past five months, Wayne Marmion and Guy Brown have traversed a shared path of self-discovery, reflection and challenge.

Their journey has earned Mr Brown and his business, Urban Caves, a place among the finalists in the 2018 Blue Mountains Business Awards in the Employee Inclusion Award category.

Mr Brown employed Mr Marmion under a Nova Employment and Training subsidy program he learned about after meeting a Nova representative at a Blue Mountains Regional Business Chamber event.

It has been a life-changing experience for both of them.

Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, former navy marine technical hull specialist, Mr Marmion struggled to leave his Wentworth Falls home before becoming a Nova client and being placed in a job at the Katoomba-based Urban Caves.

These days, he works alongside Mr Brown installing pre-fabricated cabins (urban caves), micro shelters and glampervans between Glenbrook and Lithgow.

“I like to give people a go,’’ Mr Brown said.

“It’s been a really good experience for me because I had a lot of prejudices about hiring people who were older, but Wayne is a bloody good asset to the business.’’

As well as having a wealth of experience and maturity, Mr Marmion was well presented, friendly, reliable and confident making suggestions.

“I’m definitely happy and proud to have Wayne onsite with me and I’d recommend people be open-minded and give people a go.’’

As well as investing again in his tool kit, Mr Marmion has regained his passion for building, creating, drawing, playing guitar and writing stories, pastimes he was emotionally unable to engage in for years.

“I’m reconnecting with who I was even before I was in the navy. I’m using my hands again,’’ the father-of-five said.

“Guy says he doesn’t want to take credit for this, but he should. There’s been a lot of benefits for me working for him that I don’t know how to quantify.’’

  • Urban Caves is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    (L-R) Wayne Marmion and Guy Brown work on another Urban Caves cabin

Penrith: Queen of Hearts Foundation to close

Penrith-based child sexual abuse and domestic violence support service Queen of Hearts Foundation will close.

The four-member board has distributed a proposal to its members to fold the organisation at its next meeting and anticipates majority support.

The decision was a difficult one for the board and took some time to reach. However, the Queen of Hearts Foundation has become increasingly financially unsustainable.

A planned restructure from a service orientated not-for-profit charity run almost entirely on community donations to a pre-funded program model with timeframes and monitored outcomes could not be successfully implemented by a board of volunteers, all of whom are small business owners in the Penrith community.

Despite the generosity of the Penrith community, the growing number of charity organisations in the area has broadened the giving pool, meaning less available funds for each worthy cause.

The board has been unable to fill the part-time volunteer CEO position vacated when Queen of Hearts Foundation founder Michelle Ellery resigned from the role in March. The major fundraiser, a charity ball in July, also failed to raise sufficient funds.

Surplus funds will be donated to the national Bravehearts Foundation and unfulfilled grants will be returned to their respective government agencies.

Queen of Hearts Foundation was established in 2014 by current Penrith Citizen of the Year Ms Ellery and operates from the old Penrith Council chambers building in Henry St.

A board spokesperson thanked Ms Ellery for her tireless efforts and passion in raising awareness for the needs of survivors of child sexual abuse and domestic violence: “Everyone involved in the Queen of Hearts Foundation is proud to have been part of such a high profile organisation and is disappointed to have to make this decision.

“However, we are realistic and know that a charity that struggles to keep its doors open week to week cannot provide the ongoing support and services our customers need.’’

The Queen of Hearts Foundation board encouraged the Penrith community to continue to support similar organisations such as the Bravehearts Foundation, The Haven Nepean Women’s Shelter and Penrith Women’s Health Centre.

  • Queen of Hearts Foundation is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Discounts, deals & specials reward Greater Blue Mountains locals

Locals are rewarded for dining at Leura Garage

 

Free rides, discounts, two-for-one deals, birthday bubbly – just some of the perks handed out to residents by some of the region’s most popular tourist businesses just for being a Greater Blue Mountains local.

Bilpin Cider Co, Leura Garage, Miss Lilian’s Teahouse and Blue Mountains Explorer Bus reward locals for living in a tourist zone that attracts an estimated four million visitors from around the world every year.

Here are some special offers you are entitled to simply for choosing to live here:

 

Locals ride Blue Mountains Explorer Bus free with a paying passenger

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus. Operates 9.15am – 5.30pm every day. Details: explorerbus.com.au.

The fleet of red double-decker sightseeing buses operates 15 times a day between 29 stops around Leura and Katoomba. Passengers can stay on the bus for the entire one-hour circuit or hop on and hop off anywhere along the route, which takes in retail strips, tourist attractions, lookouts and bushwalking tracks leading to secret waterholes and hidden picnic spots.

Managing director Jason Cronshaw said: “We know that lots of residents have visitors from outside the area, and we want to reward locals for the fantastic job they do promoting this region to their visiting friends and family.’’

Locals deal: Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon residents ride free when accompanying a paying passenger.

 

Choose from a menu of locals deals at Leura Garage

Leura Garage, 84 Railway Pde, Leura. Open all day, every day from 12pm. Details: 4784 3391 or leuragarage.com.au.

The converted mechanics workshop, now award-winning funky eco café/restaurant, serves a menu of seasonal, regionally-sourced produce accompanied by regional wines and craft beers.

Owner James Howarth said: “Most locals want to avoid the weekend tourist crowds and we rely on our resident community during the week, so everyone wins with our locals deals.’’

Locals deal: 10 per cent discount off the final bill Monday to Thursday or two pizzas for the price of one; a free meal for the birthday person and free glass of bubbles on arrival for the table group when the party table is booked BYO (birthday cake allowed); free bottle of wine per couple with every main meal or large share meal (unconsumed open bottles may be taken away); or a free chef’s choice dessert per person with every main meal or large share meal. Conditions apply.

 

Receive 10% off your Miss Lilian’s Teahouse bill just for being a local

Miss Lilian’s Teahouse, Echo Point Rd and Panorama Drive, Echo Point. Open 11am – 7pm Sunday to Thursday, 11am – 8.30pm Friday and Saturday. Bookings: misslilian.com.au or 4780 1200.

Decorated with bamboo screens, colourful teapots, antique urns and myriad bird cages, the newest dining venue in the area offers an immersive culinary journey to the Orient blending the freshest local produce with generations-old recipes in a dine-in and takeaway. Guests can savour Asia’s favourite comfort foods infused with cinnamon, star anise, cloves, chives, chillies and lemongrass and elegantly served in a refined setting within the grounds of the magnificent Lilianfels Estate.

Escarpment Group guest services manager Meagan Iervasi said: “You can be an international tourist right here in your own backyard. And your culinary journey will be so much tastier when we roll out our new locals loyalty program soon.’’

Locals deal: a 10 per cent locals discount after the venue opening in August/September will be followed by a new loyalty program soon.

 

Locals get 10% off everything at the Bilpin Cider cellar door

Bilpin Cider Co, 2369 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin. Open 10am – 4pm Monday to Sunday. Details: 4567 0704 or bilpincider.com.

Nestled in the “land of the mountain apple’’, the Bilpin Cider cellar door is a great rural activity for the whole family. With alpacas and lambs, outdoor games and picnic spots, the property is ideal for leisurely moments. Grab a gourmet picnic hamper and a drink and pause from everyday life to take in the view of rolling hills and orchards before stocking up on the range of seasonal local fruit, vegetables and honey, and fresh ciders crushed and bottled on site.

Owner Sean Prendergast said: “There’s nothing better than a relaxed natter over a drink with family and friends. We want to make that pastime as affordable as possible for the locals who are so loyal to us.’’

Locals deal: 10 per cent discount on any items sold at the cellar door.

  • All businesses mentioned are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media

Blue Mountains Explorer Bus: Locals Ride Free

By Ellen Hill for Blue Mountains Explorer Bus    Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

What’s big, red, the only one of its kind in the world in a national park and the only one that doesn’t live in a city? The hop-on/hop-off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus.

And Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon locals can use it to explore their own backyard for free for one weekend only – September 22 to 23.

The Locals Ride Free weekend will be a chance to check out secret swimming holes, waterfalls and lush rainforest as well as cafes and restaurants offering special locals-only deals along the route of 29 stops around Katoomba and Leura.

Owned by the Katoomba-based Fantastic Aussie Tours (FAT), the buses run 15 times a day between 9.15am and 5.30pm, 365 days of the year.

FAT managing director Jason Cronshaw, whose father John started the Explorer Bus in 1986, said the free weekend would also help locals connect with community and familiarise them with facilities and attractions available to them and their visitors within their neighbourhood.

“The Blue Mountains has seen a mass migration of new residents, mainly from Sydney, and this is an opportunity for us to extend a hand of welcome and show our new neighbours around,’’ he said.

“It’s also a chance to experience what the four million tourists from around the world do each year and appreciate the fantastic blessing of living within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

“I recommend bagging a seat on the top deck for a truly inspiring perspective, and make sure you jump off at Echo Point to see the Three Sisters rock formation to remind yourself of the extraordinary patch of earth we all call home.’’

Environmentally conscious locals can trundle the highway and byways with a clear conscience after Blue Mountains Explorer Bus became the first tourism operator in Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a big fat zero last year.

It was the first tourism operator in the country to be certified under the Australian Government’s Carbon Neutral Program as 100 per cent carbon neutral. The company also signed the pledge to join the Climate Neutral Now initiative run by the United Nations.

Locals Ride Free will be held during the September 22 – 23 weekend. Simply show proof of residency (eg: driver’s licence, rates notice) when boarding. Register your interest on the Locals Ride Free event on the @bmexplorerbus Facebook page.

  • Blue Mountains Explorer Bus is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

    Explorer Bus promo pics. Client: BMAG.

Blue Mountains: Majestic entertainment line-up at Hydro

 

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group         Main photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Australia’s first tourist destination – the Blue Mountains – has wooed and wowed with luxurious romantic hideaways, fine food and sophisticated nightlife for more than a century.

Hundreds of the Sydney well-heeled poured off the steam trains and motorcades into the upmarket guesthouses and grand hotels to “take the air’’ on exhilarating bushwalks through untamed wilderness, indulge in spa treatments and embark on automotive adventures to charming picnic spots and thrilling cave systems.

At night they retreated into the opulence of sumptuous restaurants and lounges filled with exotic furnishings and artwork from around the world to indulge in cigars, cocktails, gossip and mischief.

The smoke has now cleared but the essence of that halcyon era remains in the dining rooms, ballrooms and discretely lit nooks under ornately decorated vaulted ceilings and domes of heritage establishments around the upper Blue Mountains.

The grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels (the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath), which once hosted legendary costume parties and opera performances by the world-class likes of Dame Nellie Melba, is again gearing up for a vibrant spring entertainment line-up accompanied by a host of seasonal food offerings.

First to command the iconic venue under the Live@theHydro banner will be Havana Nights, an evening of authentic Cuban music and seductive Saturday, September 29. Musical globetrotters can journey to Havana as they sway to the soulful sounds of Cuba, dance the salsa, rumba, mambo and cha cha cha and sip on rum mojitos and daiquiris in the Majestic Ballroom.

Then, on Saturday, November 3, the original Blue Mountains party palace will be taken over by retro grooves when The Australian Bee Gees Show – A Tribute to the Bee Gees performs the greatest hits of the adored `70s sibling trio. Straight from Vegas, the covers band featuring lookalike Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb will rock the Blue Mountains escarpment when it recreates hits like Staying Alive, You Should Be Dancing, How Deep Is Your Love, and Jive Talkin’.

Guest services manager of Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic, Meagan Iervasi said: “Combined with fortnightly live music gigs in our Boiler House Café space, fine dining and opulent architecture and décor, the Hydro Majestic is fast becoming THE place to be for anyone looking for sophisticated weekend nightlife at reasonable prices in a seriously upmarket venue.’’

Tickets for both shows: $40pp entertainment only includes complimentary welcome cocktail; $135pp three-course dinner and show package featuring the freshest seasonal produce sourced by an internationally-trained team of award-winning chefs.

Dinner, show and accommodation bookings: hydromajestic.com.au or phone (02) 4782 6885.

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