Posts Tagged ‘rainforest’

Blue Mountains adventures

November 7, 2009

Please excuse my silence over the last week—with only a three-day working week after our short holiday, it’s been rather busy here. But I’m sure you’re eager to hear how the Blue Mountains were.

We drove up to our cottage in Leura on Friday evening. Tired and disinclined to cook, we ordered Chinese takeaway in nearby Katoomba. It was while we were waiting for our meal that we discovered almost all the poles, signs and trees along the main street had been yarn bombed. A good start to any holiday, I think.

yarn bomb!

Our cottage turned out to be the loveliest little place, tucked away amongst the trees on the side of a hill, and surrounded by gardens. Inside had a quaint and homey feel, from the retro kitchen fit-out, to the wood-panelled bedroom and the brown tiles in the roomy shower. I was particularly taken with the sweet-smelling jasmine that trailed over the fence.

cottage

This is the view from the kitchen window. Lovely.

the view

On Saturday we explored the antique shops in Katoomba, and treated ourselves to dinner at a restaurant right on the edge of the Jamison valley, with the most amazing views.

jamison valley

Sunday brought breakfast in a garden cafe in Leura, and a walk to Wentworth Falls. I like waterfalls—they’re so lovely to look at, to hear, and to swim under. Unfortunately (as it was quite a hot day) these ones weren’t for swimming in.

wentworth falls1

The falls turned out to be very high with several parts—above is a small fall near the top, just at the point where the track crosses the river. Below is the main part of the falls. We were standing at least 200m above the valley floor.

wentworth falls2

After climbing many steps back up to the carpark (and during the next few days Phil repeatedly expressed the wish of never seeing stairs again) we cooled off with an ice cream and continued down the highway to Faulconsbridge. Here we visited the Norman Lindsay gallery, a collection of Lindsay’s drawings, etchings, oil paintings, sculpture, watercolours and more that is housed in his former residence. Although I first discovered Lindsay through The Magic Pudding (as did every Australian child since 1918), these days it is his drawings and paintings that speak to me more. He had such a talent for making his subjects (both human and animal) come alive, and was definitely the most prolific artist I’ve ever heard of.

On Monday we visited ‘Scenicworld’—a name that smacks of tourist traps, I know, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds. After taking a steep, fast trip down the scenic railway to the valley floor,

steep railway track

we spent a lovely hour wandering through the rainforest on raised boardwalks, spotting aged coalmining equipment from the days before this was a national park.

rainforest

We managed to catch a glimpse of the three sisters through the ferns,

three sisters

before taking the cable car back up

view from cable car

and hopping on the glass-floored skyway to the other side of the valley.

my feets

We managed to squeeze in a bit of scrambling over the Katoomba cascades before the storm broke and we headed back.

cascades

Feeling we’d now had enough exercise to last us the week, we slipped back to the cottage for a rest and a quiet evening.

On Tuesday we spent the morning in Leura, and caught the race on the radio as we drove home. All in all, it was a lovely a break—a good mix of exploring and relaxing.

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Brisbane, part two

October 10, 2009

Thursday morning dawned on two ladies recharged for another busy (but exciting) day. Washed and dressed, Mum and I headed into the city to meet Tina for a girls’ day of shopping, coffee and gossiping. We caught up with her at Anzac Square, where you can stand next to the eternal flame on Ann Street and look over the Bottle Trees to the city beyond.

anzac square

Our first stop was a buffet breakfast at the Sofitel, definitely the nicest hotel in Brisbane, and without doubt the grandest and most varied breakfast buffet I have ever seen. It was lovely to take our time, lazily going back for more watermelon or croissants or poached eggs. Full to bursting and regretful that we couldn’t manage just another mouthful of that roast tomato, we started for the shops.

Our first stop was the heritage-listed Brisbane arcade. Filled with marble floors, panelled wood and stylish shops, it’s one of those places that Canberra is missing, with all its buildings no older than sixty or seventy years.

brisbane arcade

Here we found The Tea Centre, and Mum stocked up on some of the necessities. I picked up some of their Stockholm Blend, having tried it at High Societea on Tuesday. It’s one of those teas that I, a no-milk-no-sugar-thankyou-very-much purist, love—light, low tannin, and fragranced by a collection of flowers (no fruits or pieces of caramel in my tea, thankyou all the same). It goes very well with cinnamon buns, I have just discovered whilst writing this.

Avoiding the chain stores in the mall, we and our tea traipsed to Queen’s Plaza, in search of things a little nicer and a little different. There are some pretty fancy shops in Queen’s Plaza and while some are within my means (just), the rest you go to simply for the experience. So while Tina and Mum bought mineral makeup at Mecca Cosmetica, and I got some cute pyjamas at Peter Alexander, we went into Tiffany’s purely to feel like Audrey Hepburn, and only imagined making purchases in Alannah Hill. Soon our sore feet turned towards a cafe and a sit-down, but before long we were off again.

a welcome cup of tea

We eventually wandered back out onto the street, tired and hungry but carrying packages that spoke of success. Tina left to catch the ferry to Kangaroo Point, and Mum and I discovered that the hill up which we needed to walk had somehow become steeper since the morning. The sight of some Dalek-like sculptures on a corner underneath a huge fig tree did cheer us up though.

tree

We spent a quiet evening at my Oma’s place, where I showed her my knitting and a knitting magazine I’d brought with me. After that we were more than ready for bed—it’s funny how the excitement of shopping can spur you on, but suddenly you realise you’ve got no energy left.

The next morning we were glad of the chance for a sleep-in, but were still up in time to meet Tina, Andrew and the boys at the Old Botanic Gardens for morning tea. Sitting under the trees was lovely, and the Gardens Cafe was much better than such cafes usually are.

family morning tea

Two coffees apiece was enough to get us going, and we all dawdled over the footbridge to Southbank, where Tina and her family could catch a ferry back to their apartment, to meet their lunchtime visitors. On the way, I couldn’t resist taking more photos of those amazing Moreton Bay Figs.

fig tree

After the others caught the ferry, Mum and I walked along the riverbank to the Art Gallery, where we spent a few hours before it was time to walk back down to Southbank for some lunch. I was particularly taken with the fountains outside one of the windows—I think they look just like dandelions ready to be blown apart by the wind.

fountain flowers

I grumbled a little at all this walking, but the cafe was worth the walk, and we did get the chance to put our feet up.

lunch on the deck

Lunch over, we caught the ferry back to the city, and soon we were meeting Dad at our apartment. He’d been working hard all week—unlike us! We took a few hours for some much-needed couch time, and then it was time to get ready for the big family birthday party.

Tina’s 50th party was held at the Brisbane Jazz Club. Inside a band played traditional jazz while couples danced, and outside we had a huge table on a platform next to the river, with a fantastic view over to the city. Tina’s family and friends, stylishly dressed, chatted, ate and drank the night away. It was lovely to see everyone, and lovely to be outside at night without catching our deaths. Andrew had arranged a bar tab so the champagne was almost endless, and Tina’s favourite cake—Sacher Torte—crowned the birthday table. Towards the end of the night some of us managed to make it inside to hear the band play, nursing a snifter of cognac. They were jazz veterans, relaxed and skilled, and the music made us sway and wish we hadn’t drank too much to dance.

Somehow, somehow, Mum, Dad and I managed to make it out of bed early enough on Saturday morning to meet Suzie at the West End markets. These are fantastic markets which I’d never managed to visit before—combination farmers’ markets, craft markets, trash and treasure, and international food fair. Held in a park in alternative West End, shaded by huge trees.

west end markets

Then we headed into West End proper for a much-needed coffee. On the way I finally managed to find some photo-worthy Jacarandas. These beautiful trees, come spring, replace all their leaves with lavender-coloured flowers, which later fall to make a carpet around the tree. They don’t grow in Canberra, and I miss them.

jacarandas

We sank gratefully into cool armchairs at the Three Monkeys, definitely the funkiest cafe I have ever been to. I ordered their signature drink—the Edith Piaf, a latte-style coffee that comes in a bowl. That’s not just perspective that’s making the cup in the background look small.

edith piaf

Saturday was also the lovely Emma’s birthday, so that evening I joined her family birthday dinner, under the stars in her parents’ backyard. We all wore sparkly party tiaras, at the insistence of ‘Chicken’, her gorgeous three-year-old.

party

On Sunday, Mum and Dad’s last day in Brisbane before heading back for work on Monday, the three of us took a drive up to Tamborine Mountain, behind the Gold Coast. It was good to get out of the city and see some nature. On the way we stopped at a rainforest treetops walk, and wandered through the canopy and along the forest floor in a happy daze.

dad

tree with strangler fig

mum

We had lunch in Tamborine Mountain Village, at a cafe in a converted house. We ate on the back verandah, with this view

cafe

and then explored some of the shops on the main street, discovering a very good chocolatier. All too soon it was time to drive back to Brisbane and then, after a farewell meal of Thai, for Mum and Dad to leave for Toowoomba. I’m always sorry to part with them and feel blessed that we have such an easy and friendly relationship. I spent a last night in the flat in Spring Hill, knitting and thinking about my wonderful family, and the wonderful week we’d had together.

On Monday morning Emma picked me up and I spent my last day in Brisbane with her and adorable, cheeky little Chicken. Even a few hours with an energetic three-year-old gave me a new respect for Emma! I don’t know how anyone does it. It was fun, and I amazed myself and made Emma laugh as I continually came out with old sayings and parent-jokes, that I hadn’t heard since my parents said them to me as a child. It’s funny how these things lurk under the surface, and appear unbidden on your tongue as soon as you encounter a child. It’s also funny how you never get sick of taking photos of children doing funny things.

adorable

My Brisbane trip came to an end that evening as Emma dropped me back to the airport for my flight home to Canberra. It’d been a fantastic week—packed with family, friends, shopping, food, happy times and nice places. I miss you Brisbane, and I’ll be back.