Sunday, April 21, 2013

Katoomba in the Blue Mountains

After a fun day at the Shaws in Orange, NSW we made our way to Phillip Shaw's home/winery.  Mindi climbed through a window as the key wasn't where it was supposed to be. She opened the door to a massive tasting room.  Much to our surprise an elderly Irish Setter was in residence. She was very friendly but a little agitated.  We were hesitant to let her out as it was pitch dark and who knew what lurked out there. 

Mr. Shaw was attending an event and Mrs. Shaw was out of town. Mindi and Aaron had obviously stayed here before but I don't know if she ever climbed through the window to get inside.  Straight away Mindi hurried around picking up plates of dried up cheese and dirty wine glasses, her Tasting Room Manager's instincts kicking into high gear.  When the winery is open there is cheese paired with the wine offerings. A very civilized way to taste.  A huge chunk of Parmesan cheese was sitting on the cutting board.  I covered that with wrap so the critters that were scurrying around wouldn't devour it before morning. We had a sip from one of the open wine bottles while Aaron put the boys to bed. It was delicious. All of the wines are made from grapes grown in Koomooloo vineyard on the property. Phillip Shaw's varietals are many. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cab, Cab Franc, Merlot and Shiraz.  Unfortunately it was so late that anymore than one taste was out of the question.The guest room where I slept was the winery office with a wall of windows overlooking the vineyard.  I so wanted to see Kangaroos hopping around and woke up often but they didn't show.  The morning light was unbelievable.
I know this because we were up at 6:45 am, babies racing around yelling at the top of their little lungs.  It was like being in an echo chamber.  Mindi said we had to pack up and head back to Dan & Tracey's so as not to wake Phillip whose bedroom was adjacent to the tasting room. How could he not be awake I wondered?  Sure enough a loud booming voice came from the direction of his room, "Is that Harrison?"  Harry ran into greet him. Phillip was awake! 
Soon he came out and introduced us to "Luna" the Irish Setter.  We happen to glance at the floor and she had had an accident which was the reason for her agitated state the night before. We all felt bad for not letting her out but would have felt worse had she disappeared.
Phillip Shaw Winery/home

Koomooloo Vineyard

We packed up and headed back to the Shaw homestead. All of the little boys were watching TV, someone was in the shower, Tracey had baby Jasper in bed with her, Dan was in the kitchen already whipping up coffee, tea and amazing softly scrambled eggs with sauteed ham plus toast for the lot of us and it was 8 am.  I love Aussie hospitality!!

As we headed out of town at 10 am there was a DUI checkpoint! This was Sunday morning. They had a few motorcycles pulled over. Aaron explained that the pubs stay open until 6am.  So what did these guys do for 4 hours? Can't be too careful as it wouldn't look good at all to be mowing down the good folks on their way to church. After a good laugh we were on our way to the Blue Mountains and the city of Katoomba, my overnight destination. This area is a vacation spot where tourists come to escape the heat of the lower elevations and experience a little Aboriginal history.
The Blue Mountains are blue!

One of my fav views, looks like there are faces in those sandstone cliffs

I booked the "hotel" I stayed in online as it looked sort of charming plus it had a bathroom in the room as opposed to down the hall. It was also very affordable at $99/night. The fact that it welcomed backpackers should have been a clue that is was budget city.  Further up the road in town is the luxurious Carrington Hotel.  Choose that one if you travel to this part of the world even if the bathroom facilities are shared (they have separate facilities for females and males). I would have gladly paid the extra $29. if you get my drift, or fork over $205. for the luxury of having bathroom facilities non shared.
Where I wished I had stayed-Carrington Hotel

Anyway my "hotel" room was less than charming but it was only for one night. Lunch was in order so we walked around the main street of Katoomba and decided on the above Carrington Hotel. It has outdoor tables in a lovely setting.  On their way out of town, Mindi and Aaron decided to drive me over to the next town of Leura Village- a shoppers paradise highly recommended by Mindi and the tourist brochure. It was very nice but I got the old "sensory overload" after a few hours.
  The two men that ran the hotel that I was checked into were nice but not that helpful.  I nearly got stuck in Leura Village because it was Sunday so buses were limited and on top of it all the trains weren't running due to track maintenance even though one of the nice men assured me that the buses ran regularly. Fortunately the train company sent a bus in place of it's services and fortunately someone told me about it.  I stood at the bus stop in a light rain for a good hour only to find out you had to have a train ticket. A helpful woman told me not to say anything and just get on the bus since Katoomba was the very next stop albeit via the freeway. It worked!

Back in town I immediately found a nice pub and settled in for a glass of Sangiovese. After walking around a bit I headed back to The Carrington for another glass of wine on their beautiful wide veranda.  The restaurant wasn't serving food but they have a wine shop and deli on the premises. This proved a perfect solution.  With a few provisions a bottle of wine and my Kindle I was back in the musty drawing room of my hotel.  You wouldn't want to eat in your room, trust me. I packed up the rest of my "meal and wine" for the trip to Sydney on Monday.
I looked forward to the tour of the Blue Mountain attractions as I climbed into bed but was a little nervous about what might fly through the screen less windows. It was too warm to close them. 

The next day  I took a bus out to the Three Sisters World Heritage Plaza at Echo Point. It was breathtaking!  There I saw the famous rock formations called the "Three Sisters" and vistas for miles. You can choose from easy to difficult hikes to see much more than the visitors center plaza offered. 

Three Sisters rock formation

My train to Sydney was at 2pm so I took a shorter trail. It dropped down a wooded path to the viewing point for the "Three Sisters".  I was happily snapping pictures when about 50 school children came bounding down the path onto the small platform.  School children in Australia all wear uniforms no matter what school they go to but today they were on an outing so weekend clothes were allowed.  Anyway the lead teacher was trying to control them so he could give his little lecture. I was trapped. Actually I was lucky they didn't push me over the side of the cliff as they jostled to take pictures.  After the lecture they filed further down the steps in the direction opposite to where I was headed. Good way to use up their energies, climbing down, then up about 100 giant steps.
Children for miles

Near my bus station was The Aboriginal Center with gift shops and a stage for shows put on by authentic Aborigines. Unfortunately there wasn't one until later that afternoon. I did see Aborigines walking around setting up for the show and the tile floors were very beauty. It would have been nice to see that plus get some questions answered like where do they live now? I think most live in towns and cities but they were a nomadic people, living off of the rugged lands.

I made it back to the hotel to collect my luggage and trudge up the hill to the train station.  This wasn't a foodie adventure for sure but it was a very nice cultural experience. 
 Sydney here I come, and the last posting of this adventure. Phew!