We woke up on Tuesday back in Sydney with the sun shining brightly and the temperature so much warmer that we contemplated not moving an inch. I had booked the Blue Mountains trip at the get-go so John and I could have a few days away together, just the two of us. When the whole thing happened with his back I considered canceling the trip to the Blue Mountains. But, you never know when we’ll get back here, so I kept the reservation and Mum and I were off late morning to the train station.

I know that I’ve said that the Australian’s are friendly people, well they really are. I hadn’t planned on taking the 10:10am train to Katoomba, but it happened that we managed to get to the Central Train Station just in time to make the earlier train. An elderly train station master (and I mean a man in his 80s), used his master key for us so we could get to the platform just in time for the train to depart. And once on the train, a lady showed me how to flip the seat back over so Mum and I could sit together and not be bothered by the older man sleeping behind us. So that was a good start! Such friendly people here!

After two pretty comfortable hours on the train we landed in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains. Once a coal mining area, it has been dominated by resorts and inns that dot the landscape all around the Blue Mountains and welcome the overnight guests as well as the day-trippers from Sydney.

The only way that I can describe the area is to think of the Blue Mountains as the Grand Canyon with trees. Lots and lots of eucalyptus trees dotting the landscape in a dense canopy.

We arrived via taxi at Lilianfels, a really old resort right near Echo Point – the main lookout for the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters. Lilianfels is a lovely English-style hotel with all the amenities of home. The grounds are lush and with Spring springing here, the flowers are in bloom all over the property. The rooms are draped in toile – so not John’s favorite and a-okay with Mum, but very appropriate for the setting. Our room wasn’t ready on arrival, so we had a bit of lunch in the Lounge before taking a walk around the grounds and down to Echo Point which was a 5 minute walk from the hotel.

What can I say about Echo Point except it is totally amazing scenery. For once we got lucky with the weather and it was as clear as can be. The view is reminiscent of the view from the railing of Niagara Falls… the view goes on and on… just utterly spectacular [many pictures to come, I promise!]  We took a few snaps, but the wind really kicked up and we headed to the Visitor Information Center, which turned out to be the usual gift shop with info before heading back via another gift shop to the hotel. I know that everyone hates the typical gift shop variety no matter where you are visiting as much as I, but sometimes they have their purpose – I scored some of the best postcards of the region that I’ve seen… so it was worth the drop in.

Our room was ready when we returned and it is truly lovely with traditional furnishings and incredibly comfortable “Manchester” 😉 The Lilianfels staff is really lovely and they really take their job seriously. You know when you are not just in any hotel anywhere in the world – the staff is attentive and very friendly without being too much and obviously fake. By the evening, Patrick, the Concierge, knew me by name as we discussed dinner reservations in Leura.

So… dinner in Leura was very, very good…. So much better than Rick Stein’s I have to say – and at a much more reasonable price. We ate at Silk’s, which Patrick recommended. The restaurant was a small, French-style restaurant with about 20 tables, no more. For a Tuesday evening, it was well occupied. Mum had the red snapper and I tried my luck at the filet. Both were excellent and we enjoyed a great cup of coffee – I would say #2 on the ranking list of coffee so far….such, such good coffee and I can’t get enough!!!!

There is a whole jargon to the coffee here – and it is nothing like home. I can as most everyone, can walk into Starbuck’s and order anything with ease. In Australia, there is an entirely different protocol. Here’s how I’ve figured it out…

Flat White is an espresso coffee with steamed milk, but no foam. It is “flat” as the steamed milk goes right to the top of the rim of the cup.

Flat White Non-Fat is an espresso coffee with steamed non-fat milk, but no foam.

Flat White mug is the same as above, but a double / sometimes with a splash of cocoa on top.

Cappuccino is just like we have at home.

Mocha is just like we have at home / either a mug or as a single (in a cup).

Black coffee is a normal cup of coffee that you would have at home (this has taken me 10 days to figure out how to order, seriously as some coffee places don’t offer it and it isn’t an option — really). One day Mum confidently asked for a “regular cup of coffee” and incredulously the server just looked at her with a blank stare. Ian realized that they didn’t sell regular coffee and helped her by ending up with a Flat White.

Okay… so you may think that that isn’t that hard to figure out… well guess again. Some coffee shops vary the ordering process themselves as chains are non-existent here and every coffee shop has their own lingo that you have to sort out. Sydneysiders LOVE their coffee and take it incredibly seriously as I’ve said. They’ve pushed Starbucks pretty much out of here and that is a mean feat indeed!

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