Sunday, 3 May 2015

A trip across the ditch - Part One

From 23 to 27 April, David and I had an absolutely fabulous long weekend with our daughter Kirsty in New South Wales - bookends of overnights in Sydney sandwiching two nights in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. I wrote the whole saga in one hit, but whern I looked at how long it was, I decided to chapterise it - partly to make it easier to load for me, and partly to save you, dear reader, from the terminal ennui of reading a post the length of War and Peace...

Kirsty is an amazing woman - funny, smart, generous and sharp. The last two may seem contradictory, but they are not, trust me ...

The flight over to Sydney on the Thursday was very very very bumpy when over the Tasman as the remnants of the severe storms that the city had been suffering were moving offshore. I am not a happy flyer at the best of times, and I have to suspend my fear as best I can so that I can get to faraway places fast. Suspending my fear that day was impossible - at one point I uttered very rude expletives quite loudly. And fear makes me feel overheated so I cannot hold David's hand or arm as he is a central heating unit that feels like it is set too high. So we linked little fingers - I needed the contact to keep me calm enough not to shout expletives loudly all the time, and to help me control the shaking (mine, not the plane's) ... What an absolute wuss I am. David did note that when I swore loudly the bumps stopped for a while. I will need to keep that technique in mind as we head for the UK in 11 days' time.

Kirsty was at work for the day so we checked in early to our hotel, a funky place in Newtown not far from her flat. The Urban Hotel had everything we needed to be comfortable without the high prices of the 5 star places. Even tho it's on a busy road, the double glazing kept most of the noise away. Brian on the front desk gave us what proved to be an excellent recommendation for a cafe for a great brunch, the Shenken Kitchen on Enmore St. As it turns out it was also where Kirsty was going to suggest we went. So out for a stroll, great food, a conversation with the barista who is an English fireman on an exchange to Oz, then a wander around and back for a snooze - we had been up since just after 4am.

Later we shopped for food and wine - one strange aspect of NSW is that supermarkets are not allowed to sell wine, so we had to find the bottle store. After the food shopping I asked for directions to it, and of course I had passed it a few times already that day without noticing. Doh! As all three of us drink different wine we ended up with chardonnay, a rose for David and Kirsty's favourite pinot noir, Rabbit Ranch from Central Otago in NZ. I am a kind mother.

When Kirsty arrived, we had dinner in our room. I'd prepared it in the little kitchenette and we ate at the wee table (me) and sitting on the bed (Kirsty and David) with a spare towel as the picnic cloth. Lovely cheeses, fresh french bread rolls, salad with a lime, ginger and honey dressing (thanks, Adair, it's one of our favourites and I make it often), ham and salami. All of the pinot noir was consumed, most of the chardonnay and only a moderate portion of the rose - you can tell who Kirsty takes after. The conversation was hilarious and it was a wonderful evening. Later we walked Kirsty home so we could visit with her lovely tabby cat, Morrie, and then back to the hotel for a solid night's sleep.

We met in the morning at the Newtown station for our trip up to the Blue Mountains. Because, as is usual, we had packed too many clothes by a factor of about 5 (why do we do this? It drives me nuts but I seem congenitally unable to desist, even if I remove stuff before we leave home!), we left a full big suitcase in the hotel and travelled reasonably lightly with our carry-on bags ... We (ie David) also had the groceries to tote, but they had been cunningly packed in the backpack - I am a narrowboater who shops on foot, so effective packing of a backpack is a key skill that has been learned and was deployed often till we got the granny trolleys last year in Stoke on Trent.

It was a pretty amazing train trip but I didn't like looking out over the edges of the embankments and bridges - told you I was a wuss. We walked to collect our hire car at Leura and then proceeded to get lost getting to the self contained B&B we were staying in. I find it does help if I tell the navigators the correct address. Waratah ROAD is in Katoomba North and does not have an 84, in fact it has no numbers as it is just a track off the main road. However Waratah STREET does have an 84, and very nice is is too. A semi-detached house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms (both very modern) and a good kitchen, dining and lounge area. You can find it on the airbnb site, and it is called JenChi.

On the maps, the streets of Leura and Katoomba show as pretty near perfect grids, and before we had arrived I wondered if they had been built on the only flat bits of land. But no, they are as hilly as Wellington, but the roads are straight - they have not let the contours dictate the road shape as has happened in Wgtn, where houses cling precariously to the hillsides and the roads snakily wend their way from place to place up into the hills and down into the valleys, and no road is straight for more than 100 metres, if that.

First on the plan was a surprise for us - Kirsty shouted us high tea at the Wintergarden Hotel not far from Katoomba. Yummy, fun and fabulous food that obviated the need for dinner.
Our wonderful girl and her adoring mum - she (like Tim) has been taller than me since she was 12 ...

Waiting for food and taking in the view

Kirsty chose an interesting tea that looked like a blob of compost

The blob of compost expanded to look quite acceptable
Daughter and proud parents

The view from outside down to farmland

Some emergency supplies were purchased on the way back through Katoomba though in case of late night munchies - pizza, soup, pate, cheeses, crackers and more wine ... By accident I found a rose that David decided is his all-time favourite - a muscato which is of course very sweet. But if the man likes it why fight it? Means I don't have to share my chardonnay and Kirsty doesn't have to share her pinot noir , so it's a win all round I reckon.

An evening in followed watching crap free to air Oz TV and a DVD that was so memorable I have totally forgotten it.

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