This week I went up the mountains with an old friend Annie to celebrate her upcoming birthday. I chose to visit Lilianfels in Katoomba as I had been wanting to check it out for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity!
Lilianfels is just outside of Katoomba, sitting near Echo’s point, overlooking the Jamison Valley and is a five star hotel with an award winning restaurant, Darley’s, attached.
|Annie in Leura|
It was a surprise for Annie and so I hoped that she had no idea where we were going but when we pulled into the driveway of the hotel she did a little squeal and said that she had hoped it would be here. Apparently I had mentioned my desire to go there to quite a few people.
|Shopping in Leura|
We stopped by the hotel but it wasn’t check-in time yet and so we trundled back to Leura for some lunch. We went to Fresh cafe on a recommendation and ate chicken, avocado and aioli wraps and corn fritters as well as fantastic coffee. I don’t often drink straight coffee; if I’m buying a takeaway cup on the way to work it is a mocha or chai. But as soon as I step into a warm cafe with that beautiful brewing smell, I don’t care about anything else until I get a latte!
It was a great day, cold outside but sunny and still so that when we sat by the window in Fresh the sun warmed us all over. Out in the main street of Leura we trundled from candle shop to stationary shop to chocolate shop to homewares rugged up in coats and beanies. Leura has such a nicely laid out main strip with grass and trees in the median strip and park benches everywhere for sitting and enjoying delicate chocolates in the sun. I would recommend the Lavender and Honey one; it tasted like green and mauve!
When we went back to the hotel we checked into our room (007!) and Annie was just thrilled. We had a pink room, the wallpaper was a fabric print of children and goat herds and trees and it matched our curtain and the drapes over our beds. I had mentioned when I made the booking that we were celebrating Annie’s birthday and so there was a letter and a little bag of chocolates on the bed for her. Of course we tried on our bathrobes and slippers and tested out the beds a bit before we went to explore the rest of the hotel.
|Annie in our room.|
We discovered the lounge area with a large fireplace at each end and French doors spanning one side of the room overlooking the valley. It was scattered with leather lounges and beautifully upholstered arm chairs arranged around various coffee tables. There were a few people having high tea overlooked by the man in the bar in the corner. Further down the hotel we found a reading room with a gorgeous old worn reading desk, a games room with a huge pool (or billiards?) table and the indoor heated pool. The pool room had three walls of windows allowing plenty of light in. The fourth wall had large columns spanning it making it feel a lot like a roman bath house.
|The indoor pool|
Outside we wandered the gardens, they reminded us of English cottage gardens with their laid out beds and scattered fountains and benches. The outdoor pool was locked, we assumed that was because it was winter although it is advertised as heated but we didn’t mind too much as we were happy to stay inside in the warm!
|In the gardens|
After our full tour we went back to our room to collect our swimmers and headed down to the spa. A lovely young girl showed us the facilities and then left us on our own. The only unfortunate thing that I thought was that the spa areas we separate for male and female, which was just fine for Annie and I but might be kind of disappointing for couples on a romantic weekend. We made full use of the spa, steam room and sauna as well as the pool and went back to our room feeling refreshed and energised.
|The view from the hotel gardens|
For dinner we went to Avalon in Katoomba’s main street with Annie’s brother and his family. Annie and I agreed that the place looked like a mix between Professor Tralawney’s room and the tea shop in Hogsmead (that was a Harry Potter reference in case there are any non-readers out there!) It had mismatched plates, chairs, vases, tables everything! And the women serving us were older women in long skirts and knitted jumpers. The food was hearty so it really felt like you had just popped by grandma’s house!
Back at the hotel we played a long drawn out game of pool as neither of us has any skill for it, but we laughed all the way through so it was fun. Then we relaxed in the lounge area with books, chocolates and Gin and Tonic’s from the bar!
The next morning we were babysitting Annie’s niece Elke. We picked her up and went out to brunch at the Hatter’s cafe on Katoomba’s main street. Elke devoured a babychinno and chips whilst Annie and I had pesto mushrooms on toast which filled us for the whole day! We walked Katoomba’s main street but it was not as good as Leura’s, we still enjoyed some antique shops and hippy clothing shops before heading into another cafe to escape the freezing wind that had turned up! This cafe was called Common Ground and was like walking into the inside of a tree that someone had turned into a cafe. There were so many nooks and crannies and dark corners and ups and downs that it felt like it could have been a fairy house. We sat in front of the fire and drank Chai and danced with Elke and people watched.
|Chai at Common Ground|
After we dropped Elke home our last mountain stop was Blackheath to show Annie a fantastic antiques shop I had been to before. We spent an hour turning over all the treasures and trying on hats and coats and finally I bought a fantastic pair of Dame Edna style glasses for my road trip.
|Lollies in Leura|
We wound down the mountain in the afternoon, dropping in on some friends as we went and finally making it home after dark. It had only been one night but it had felt like we had escaped for a lot longer! I always forget that wonderful and different destinations are so close to us and so easy to get to. Everyone should try and spend just one night away occasionally to see just how revitalising it can be!