The Journey Begins


Thanks for joining us!

Our names are Vanessa and Ian.  We’ve set this travel blog (does that mean it’s a “trog”? haha) up to post stories of our travels so others might also enjoy the places we visit, and maybe gain knowledge from our experiences.

We’re from Australia (just in case the blog name didn’t give it away lol) & currently planning our 3rd trip to the Greek islands.  Our first trip was in 2015, our second in 2017 and our next visit will be in 2019.

There will also be posts from trips we make to other destinations, both within Australia & outside.

As we learn more about blogging (trogging? lol) there will be posts related to our past travels, as well as images we captured during those journeys.  If you, dear reader, choose to copy and re-publish articles and/or images from this site, please respect our copyright and add the appropriate recognition of the source of the image.  Thank you 🙂

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton



Our third trip to Greece – 2019 – Update 3

Map courtesy of the Guidebook "MAKE YOUR JOURNEY TO GREECE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE" by Matina Psychogeos

Hello dear readers and followers.

We have had to change our plans again, although not in a big way.  We decided against the extra day in Athens, and will now only spend the one night there on both our arrival and departure dates.  This will give us extra time to spread across our time on Paros and Crete, and allows more flexibility with the ferry schedules.

The itinerary has been sorted and is now in the hands of the travel agent to check if the accommodation we have chosen is available for the dates we selected.  The various websites we checked, both travel sites and the actual sites of the venues, all indicate availability when we want it so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we read the information on those sites correctly.  The current plan is to spend 5 nights on Paros, and 14 nights on Crete (7 nights at the eastern end and 7 nights at the western end).

Stay tuned!

Our third trip to Greece – 2019- Update 2

Map courtesy of the Guidebook "MAKE YOUR JOURNEY TO GREECE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE" by Matina Psychogeos

Hullo dear readers and followers.

Planning for our next trip is booming along.  Our original plan was to return to Milos for a few days to re-visit some of the places where we had captured video records (such as our day cruise around the island) and which were lost when the storage hard drive crashed before we had a chance to back the videos up.  Lesson learnt.  This time we will take at least 2 back up drives.  Ideally I would like to back the footage up to a cloud storage solution but, from past experience, the WiFi internet speeds on the islands aren’t fast enough to allow this.  Maybe one day they will get to at least 4G speeds.

After Milos we intended to travel on to Crete and spend a couple of weeks travelling around the island, basing ourselves in (or near) Chania for one week and then somewhere on the eastern end of Crete for the other week.  Unfortunately, the ferry routes and timetables don’t work out favourably to allow us to follow this itinerary.

So, after a bit more research of islands and ferry timetables, we have decided on staying in Athens for an extra day (normally we only stay overnight in Athens before catching a ferry to the islands), then head to Paros for a few days, then off to Crete for a couple of weeks before heading back to Athens to stay overnight before catching our flights back to Oz.  Disappointed as we are at not being able to re-visit Milos (we enjoyed our last visit a lot, apart from the unfortunate accident that befell Vanessa on our second last day there – see here), maybe the travel gods decided we needed to see more of the islands before returning to one that we had already visited.  Maybe that’s a good thing as it will give us another island to add to our list of places we’ve been and seen, and that we can offer opinions about.

Vanessa, my beautiful wife, my partner in life, fun, and all things, is, as usual, doing the preliminary research on accommodation options before she narrows it down to a short list that we will go over together to finally settle on our preferred options.

Our levels of excitement and anticipation grow daily as we mark off each of the little steps on our planning list.

Our third trip to Greece – 2019

Map courtesy of the Guidebook "MAKE YOUR JOURNEY TO GREECE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE" by Matina Psychogeos

To all our followers and readers.  Thank you for taking the time to read our stories.

Stay tuned for our next adventure to the Greek Islands in 2019.

The featured map is courtesy of the Guidebook “MAKE YOUR JOURNEY TO GREECE AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE” by Matina Psychogeos

UPDATE 27 April 2019: Flights booked and airfares paid.  Now to sort out accommodation!

Day 4 of our short break in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. Australia – May 2018

Up early (well, relatively early) this morning as we had to finish packing and clean up the house before we left.  After a quick breakfast we finished packing and cleaning, packed our stuff into the car, and headed off.

First stop was in Katoomba to extract some cash from an atm, then we headed off to the first place we wanted to visit before heading home.  We headed westwards from Katoomba rising higher into the range towards Blackheath.  On the way, we stopped off at the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath to check the Pavilion, an area of the Hotel where they sell a range of local regional produce and tourist keepsakes, and also have a cafe.  A very interesting time spent wandering around this part of the Hotel complex, with its displays, photos and storyboards about the history of the Hotel.  Well worth the visit.  There is quite a large parking area on the site of the Hotel, so travelling there by car is ok.  The Hotel is also only a short distance from the Medlow Bath train station and there is a bus stop on the highway immediately out the front of the Hotel.

From what we could see, a weekend or even a long mid-week break at the Hydro Majestic would be quite relaxing.  Be prepared, however, for an expensive stay.  The Hotel sits on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the Megalong Valley, and is ideally situated for visitors to sit in the various bars or restaurants, or even in their room, and take in the sunsets.  The Hotel is unashamedly marketed as being up-market and this is reflected in the room prices, and the prices of meals in the restaurants and for their renowned high teas.

After purchasing a few things from the shop, we kept heading westwards to the next place on today’s itinerary, Govett’s Leap Lookout at Blackheath.  The Lookout sits on the edge of an eastern facing escarpment and has stunning views of the Grose Valley and beyond.  On the road leading onto the Lookout is the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre where visitors can find information about the local Aborginal history and culture, plants and animals, obtain maps and information about the various walking tracks, and purchase tourist mementos.  Visitors can also purchase coffee here.  The area around the lookout has plenty of parking, and there are picnic facilities and toilets.

There hadn’t been much rain around in recent times, so the Govett’s Leap Falls were quite unassuming although the height of the lookout and 180 metre drop of the falls is very imposing.  It really makes one feel quite small.  The falls would be quite spectacular after some heavy rainfall.

There are several walking paths through the nearby bushland.  Some of the paths are sealed, all-weather paths with the occasional protected seating area where one can stop and enjoy the view and the sounds of bushland.  We decided on the Fairfax Heritage walking track that flows from Govett’s Leap Lookout along the top of the escarpment and then into the bushland and finally exits near the Heritage Centre.  It’s a relatively short walk of 1.8 kilometres over very easy terrain and we found it quite enchanting, despite the fact the weather was overcast clouds and quite cool.  On a warmer day it would have been a very enjoyable walk, today it was what you would describe as “invigorating.”  A short distance along the track you reach George Phillips Lookout where there are more picnic facilities including a stone shed with seating where you can rest and enjoy the view.  Also at this lookout is a memorial to National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who have lost their lives in service to the NSW community.  From here the track turns away from the escarpment into the bushland and eventually winds it way to the exit near the Heritage Centre.

We arrived back at our car and were glad to start up the engine and get the heater running to warm up our hands and faces.  We then headed off to our next place of interest, Walls Cave.  This is a cave furrowed out of the local sandstone many thousands of years ago when the fast running waters of Greaves Creek changed course, carving out a canyon through the soft sandstone and which eventually carved out the cave at a bend of the creek.  At some stage the creek again changed course leaving a wide and open cave with an overhanging roof and a small flow of water running past the cave.  At some time approximately 12,000 years ago the cave became a home for some of the local Darug Aboriginal tribe.

To access the cave requires a walk along a marked track through bushland and down into the canyon.  We parked the car at the small parking area at the end of Walls Road (you have to access the parking area via an unsealed track which is easily driven in a normal passenger car, but take it slow to avoid hitting any potholes) and then walked to the start of the track, which is marked by a large signboard that provides some background information about the site and the track.  The walk is about 1.4 kilometres each way and involves some sections of steps, some of which are relatively steep and/or slippery.   There are also long sections of raised walking stones that require good balance to navigate.  There is no access for wheelchairs, and people with walking disabilities might also find the walk difficult.  At the very least, people with walking difficulties should have an able bodied assistant with them to help them with some of the trickier sections of the track.

Arriving at the cave the track finishes at a viewing platform where visitors can look at the cave environment and imagine what life must have been like for the people that lived here.  The local plants are gradually taking back possession of the cave and it is quite overgrown now with vegetation, which makes it difficult to gain a full appreciation of how large the cave is and what it might have looked like when it was occupied by the Aboriginal peoples.

It was finally time to head home and we decided that we would stop for lunch at a local place at Wentworth Falls that we had found during our pre-trip research had quite a good reputation, Mountain High Pies at Wentworth Falls.  The venue clearly gets a lot of business – the carpark out the back is huge!  We were surprised how busy it was for a weekday, and could only wonder how busy and crowded it would be on a weekend.  the range of pies is incredible, from savoury to sweet dessert pies, plus a varety of sides and coffees (hot and cold), tea and other non-alcoholic beverages (a range of hot and cold types).  They do not serve alcoholic beverages, nor are they licenced for BYO, so forget about imbibing in anything stronger than coffee.

There is plenty of indoor seating, as well as outdoor seating for days when the weather is more pleasant than it was on the day we were there.  Service is quick and friendly, although there is no table service.  Once you make your choice you order and pay at a counter and they put your selection(s) onto plates, and you select your cutlery at a side bar.

We opted for a gluten free lamb pie (made with rosemary and shiraz, (a gluten free pastry base and topped with a mixture of polenta and mash potato), a chunky beef pie, and a side order to share of what is described on the receipt as “the lot” (which is actually a serve of mash potato, mash pumpkin, mushy peas, and a rich gravy), plus a bottle of soft drink.  Prices appear a bit high at first glance, although not unreasonably high.  However, the pies were very tasty and we felt they were worth the price.

That’s it for this episode, and brings us to the end of this series of our adventures.  If you’ve been following Vanessa and my adventures, thank you for taking the time to read our stories.

Keep checking back to see what we get up to in our next adventure.

Travel safe, enjoy the experience and make great memories.

Day 3 of our short break in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. Australia – May 2018

We awoke this morning to another sunny day, although the air temperature was still quite cool and warm clothing was a must due the rather fresh breeze upping the chill factor.

Our first stop today was the Everglades property at Leura.  The sprawling property was named thus by its original owner when it was built in 1923.  In the 1930s the house and property changed ownership and the new owners decided to retain the original name, and commenced a program of garden construction that remains world renowned today.

The property is today owned and maintained by the National Trust of NSW, part of the network of community based, non-government, not-for-profit organisations that work to conserve and promote Australia’s heritage through their advocacy work and custodianship of heritage places and objects.  More information about the valuable work these organisations perform can be found here.  The property can also be hired for wedding ceremonies, however not for any after ceremony receptions, as well as other events such as intimate musical recitals/concerts, and small scale theatrical plays.

Entry to Everglades requires payment of a small entry fee at the main gate and then you are free to explore the property for as long as you wish, capturing images both inside the house and around the gardens.  The house also has tea rooms on the ground floor, with tables inside the house and outside on a ground level porch looking over the courtyard and some of the gardens.  The upstairs part of the house is purely for display and the rooms are furnished in the style of the period, some of the furniture being the original furniture from the last owners before the house came under the control of the National Trust.

The house and gardens are beautifully maintained, with winding paths wandering around the property where you can take in the views and enjoy the solitude of the lookout and the grotto.  Being there in May meant it was near the end of autumn in the southern hemisphere, so much of the gardens were lacking the profusion of colours that would abound in spring.  Nevertheless, the colours of autumn foliage as it turned from the greens of spring and summer to the reds, oranges and yellows of autumn provided a riot of colour in amongst the various evergreen trees and shrubs.  Also located throughout the grounds are many storyboards explaining the history of many of the features of the gardens, especially some of the architectural features.

The views of the surrounding bushlands and to Mount Solitary and the Jamison Valley are beautiful and are a feature of the vista revealed in the Garden Theatre and from a number of the upstairs rooms.

Similar to the outside grounds, there are storyboards throughout the house providing information about some of the rooms, and expanding further on the construction of the gardens.  An interesting feature are the “his and her” bathrooms, perhaps throwing some light on social mores of the time when the house was built.

The master bedroom upstairs.

The formal dining and reception room upstairs.

The small dining room upstairs.

As we walked the paths through the grounds, we noticed sculptures apparently carved from the trunks of trees that had died (for reasons unknown to us).

We eventually made our way to the grotto, which looks like a natural feature but is actually man-made.  As the weather had been fairly dry recently, the stream flowing into the grotto from above was a mere trickle.  We imagined it would have been quite an imposing sight after heavy rains as water poured over the cliff creating a waterfall.  The gentle trickle did, however, mean that the surface of the grotto was mirror-like and made for some interesting image captures.

We then headed off to find somewhere for lunch before heading to the next location on our list for today.  We decided to head to another of the places on our list of eateries, the Grand View Hotel at Wentworth Falls, about 15 minutes drive from Leura.  The front of the hotel overlooks the highway, however the bistro is at the rear and looks out onto an outdoor eating area that looks out onto the car park (although there is a lot of shrubbery and hedging trying to hide the car park).  It was fairly quiet, being mid-week.  The food is pretty much typical pub bistro style and quality.  So much so that we didn’t even take note of what we ate.  Don’t get me wrong, it was good quality food, but nothing exceptional.  We think “pub bistro style” pretty much sums it up.  Tasty, good quality, seasonal food.  Would we go there again?  Maybe.  It seems a bit unfair to write an establishment off on just one visit.

We then headed off to another place on our list of places of interest, the Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum of N.S.W.  More information about the museum can also be found on the Museum website.  Not all of the house is open to the public, with access being restricted to certain rooms at the front of the house.

The current house is the second one on the site, the first one having been destroyed by bushfires in 1909.  The current house was completed just prior to World War 1.  For me, the most prominent feature inside the house is the extent and detail of the woodwork.  There is much fine detail, all of which would have been hand carved in the day.   It has been well maintained by french polishing and does not seem to have suffered any detriment from the passing touch of the hands of countless tourists.  A few rooms have been maintained in their original condition, such as the dining room, whilst others have been filled with displays of various toys and model trains.

A reception room on the ground floor.

Some of the detailed woodwork in the entry foyer and the staircase.

The dining room on the ground floor.  The picture hanging over the fireplace is the first house on the property, the house destoyed by bushfires in 1909.

Sadly, some of the furnishings are in a sad condition and need replacing.  One very apparent example is the curtains on the windows next to the main staircase from the ground floor to the 1st floor.  In parts, they look like they are about to fall apart under their own weight (they appear to be a heavy velvet type of material).  Also, the ceilings in some of the upstairs bedrooms are showing signs of water ingress which we can only surmise are a result of leaking roof tiles.

In the grounds at the rear of the house is an area devoted to railway memorabilia, all of which appears to have come from various N.S.W. railway stations.

The displays include operational model train sets.  These can be set in motion by placing a dollar coin into a special control box at the sets, and the trains then run for a few minutes.  The images below are of the outside display.  There is another display inside, however, the lighting wasn’t suitable for capturing any images.

Across the road from the Toy Museum is the Leuralla Amphitheatre (owned by the Leuralla Toy & Railway Museum) with spectacular views of Mt Solitary and the Jamison Valley.  The Amphitheatre is part of the Leuralla Gardens and is available to hire for weddings or other grand functions, and has also been a venue for theatrical plays and musical concerts.  When not under a hire arrangement, it is usually open to the public, although the day we were there the gates were closed so we couldn’t access it.  As it turned out, we discovered a walking track down the side of the Amphitheatre that took us to the Elysian Rock Lookout, one of the lookouts on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

One of the things we wanted to capture was a sunset over the mountains, and after some time spent poring over maps, we settled on Cahill’s Lookout that we felt would give us a great sunset opportunity.  There were a few clouds near the horizon, and we thought these might provide a nice display as the sun set.  There are a number of vantage points for capturing images, and we opted to make our way down to the one that we felt would give us the best angle.  We were not disappointed and we captured some great images.  The only downside was the very cool breeze that was blowing, so we were glad to get back to our car once the sun had finished it’s display.  Below are just a small sample of the images we captured.

We headed back to Ribbon Gum Lodge and got the fire going as well as the gas heater to warm up again, made dinner and relaxed for the rest of the evening before heading off to bed as tomorrow would be our last day on this short break and we had to depart the Lodge by 10:00 am and we still had some places to visit before we headed home.

That’s it for this episode.  If you’ve been following Vanessa and my adventures, thank you for taking the time to read our stories.

Keep checking back to see what we get up to in the next episode in this series, as we continue exploring some of the attractions around Katoomba and the surrounding areas.

Travel safe, enjoy the experience and make great memories.

Day 2 of our short break in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. Australia – May 2018

We were in no rush to get started today.  It was a little chillier than we were used to (we live on the coast almost at sea level, so a much lower elevation than the lodge at Leura plus the moderating effect of the ocean on air temperatures), so, even though it was a bright, sunny day, we thought we would make the most of our holiday and relax and stay warm inside until the outside temperature warmed up a bit.

Our plan for today is to visit the major tourist attractions in and around Katoomba.  First on the list will be to visit Echo Point and the rock formation known as the Three Sisters.  After that we will head over to Scenic World and ride the Scenic Railway, wander the Scenic Walkway through the Jurassic rainforest at the bottom of the escarpment leading into the Jamison Valley, then take the Scenic Cableway back to the top of the escarpment, and then ride the Scenic Skyway across the valley, then take a stroll along the path to the Katoomba Cascades waterfall, then walk back to the Skyway and take a ride back across to the Scenic World hub.

Scenic World is a privately owned series of attractions developed and managed by the Hammon family, and is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  The attractions allow visitors to access and view the area around the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley below Katoomba with a minimum impact on the environment.  The Scenic Railway is constructed on the track originally put in place for the coal mines at the bottom of the escarpment.

The day dawned bright and sunny, so that seemed an auspicious start for the day’s activities.  We slept late and had a leisurely breakfast before getting ready to head out for the day.  First stop, Echo Point.  We found a car park on the street near to the main viewing area and walked down to take in the view.  We had a fairly clear view, although not long after we arrived the first of the large tourist coaches started arriving.  These coaches are usually loaded with overseas tourists staying in Sydney and the trip to Scenic World is a day trip included as part of their “package.”  Apparently there are even some that come straight from Sydney’s international airport as soon as passengers have disembarked from their flights and passed through immigration and customs checks.  Personally, I don’t think I’d be too keen on this if I had just spent 8 or more hours on an international flight.  I’d much rather prefer a day at a hotel to allow my body clock to adjust and also be refreshed and ready for the day ahead.

The Three Sisters are named so because of aboriginal dream time legends.  There are 2 different legends that explain the story of the rock formation.  The legends can be found here.  As part of the walking path running along the top of the escarpment, there is a bridge across to the first of the sisters to a small cave with seating for those that want to have a rest and enjoy the view.  Also visible from Echo Point is the Scenic World hub and some of the attractions (or “rides”).

We had a brief look through the small shop selling a variety of souvenirs, and then drove over to Scenic World.  We parked the car in the multi-story carpark near the main entrance and walked up to the entrance to check out the procedure for entry into the complex.  It was quite busy outside the entry as there were already a few tourist coaches arrived, as well as many cars in the carpark.  Fortunately, our timing was good and there was only a short queue of people ahead of us, but long enough so we had time to sort out the order in which we would take in the various attractions.  As it turned, out, we were able to enjoy each attraction in the order that we had pre-planned prior to our trip.  We purchased combined tickets (AUD 39.00 each) that gave us unlimited all day access to each of the attractions and headed over to the entrance for the Scenic Railway.

The railway has certainly changed a lot since it was first built in 1878.  Back then it was used purely to transport coal from the mine at the bottom of the valley.  Sometime around 1928, the mine operator, Katoomba Colliery, started supplementing its income by offering rides on weekends and public holidays.  Members of the public could ride the 14 passenger “Mountain Devil” which was a far cry from the comfortable, all-weather, 84 passenger 4 car train in use today.  I remember visiting and riding the railway as a child many years ago, and back then the carriage was capable of carrying up to 28 people, before another upgrade in 1974 saw the introduction of a 2 car train carrying up to 56 people.  When I last visited, the carriages were not fully enclosed although they did by then have a frame over the heads of passengers with mesh to prevent anything falling onto the heads of the passengers.

Once we arrived at the bottom station of the railway, we opted to take the Walkway down through the valley and work our way across to the bottom station for the Cableway.  The Walkway is a raised platform that weaves it’s way through the forest, with several rest stops available for those that find the walk a bit strenuous, or want to stop and take in the atmosphere of the surrounding forest.  The first part of the Walkway goes past the old coal mine and then it delves down into the forest proper.  Along the way there are many signboards that provide information about the coal mine, and then the flora encountered in the forest.  If you are quiet and careful, you will even see local fauna in the forest to the sides of the Walkway.

We found the Walkway very peaceful, listening to the sounds of the birds and the slight breeze blowing through the treetops.  There are a couple of alternate pathways, and we opted for the longer one as the weather was benign, although it was quite cool in the valley as the cliffs and the trees above us shaded the Walkway.  Eventually, we arrived at the bottom station of the Cableway and joined the crowd of tourists waiting to take the ride back to the top of the escarpment.  We were a bit puzzled as to where all these people came from, as we passed almost nobody while on the Walkway.  We can only surmise they all took the short route along the Walkway, or had taken the Cableway down, walked a shot circuit, and were now waiting to go back up.  The Cableway car can carry a large number of passengers, so we all fitted in without problem.

On the way up we considered having lunch at one of the cafes at Scenicworld.  On arrival at the top of the Cableway we made our way into the main area of Scenicworld where the cafes are located, and we were stunned at the crowds.  Just where did all these people come from?  As we surveyed the scene before us, we soon realised they were groups from various tourist buses as they were all following tour guides waving flags or plaques (amusingly, it was a bit like watching a mother duck and her ducklings).  The eating areas were packed and clearly there would be a wait to get any food and then find a table to sit at, so we cancelled any thoughts of trying to get something to eat at that time.

Instead, we thought now might be a good time to take a trip across the valley on the Skyway, as the queue would be relatively short.  We made our way to the entry for the Skyway and joined the short queue of people waiting for the next departure.  The current Skyway cabin is quite unique, with a glass bottom floor that goes opaque as the cabin approaches the stations at each end of the trip yet is clear as it crosses the valley, enabling a wonderfully different perspective on the bushland far below on the valley floor.

When the cabin arrived at the east station, we decided to take a walk around to the cascades, instead of following so many others heading the opposite way towards Echo Point and the Three Sisters.  After all, we’d already done the Echo Point thing and there didn’t seem to be much point heading back in that direction.  We made our way down a stairway down the side of the cascades and then at the bottom we could step off the trail and onto a rock platform at the bottom of the cascades.  As you can see from the images below, there was not a lot of water flowing down the rocks.  A couple of months after we visited the area, the east coast of NSW around Sydney and inland was affected by a severe low pressure weather system and received torrential rains for several days.  I saw some images of the cascades during that time, and the rock platform area in my images below was under about a metre of raging, angry water hurling itself down the cascades as it headed down the stream to throw itself off the cliff at Katoomba Falls and plunge more than 200 metres down to smash onto the rocks in the valley below.

We sat and enjoyed the sound of the running water as it tumbled down the rock face of the cascades, with the sounds of the local fauna adding to the calming atmosphere.  It was almost mid-afternoon by now, and our day of exploring, which included a deal walking, in the clear mountain air had invigorated our appetites.  We made our way back to the Skyway station and when we arrived back at the main area of Scenic World, the food service areas were still quite busy.  We decided to head off elsewhere to find some sustenance.  As it turned out, we stopped at the local supermarket in Leura, purchased a few supplies and returned to Ribbon Gum Lodge.

We got the fire going, opened a bottle of wine, set out some food and just relaxed and idled away the afternoon before heading out to The Leura Garage for dinner.

Quite an unassuming venue from the outside, but inside is quite modern and they have created a semi-industrial feel with the furnishings.  It was quite busy on the night even though it was mid-week, however the service was very good.  We ordered a serving of polenta chunk chips (served with a house made tomato relish and grated parmesan cheese over the top) to share as our entree, as we had decided to order the lamb shoulder (braised for 12 hours and served bone-in, with a pomegranate glaze, confit garlic and rosemary) for our main, plus a side dish of steamed broccollini (served with toasted almonds and lemon) and a side dish of truffle mash (potato mash infused with house made truffle salt).  The menu states there is a 45 minute wait time for the lamb shoulder, however, we didn’t seem to have to wait that long.  The lamb shoulder is HUGE (1.2 kg), hence our decision to share all our meals.  The food arrived steaming hot and was very tasty, with the lamb juicy and tender.  It was a very filling meal so we highly recommend a light lunch if you plan an evening meal here.  The all up cost of our meal was $133.00, including $25.00 for drinks.  We felt that was a pretty good price considering the amount and quality of food received, the quality of service, and the general environment of the premises.  We’d certainly go back for another meal.

That’s it for this episode.  If you’ve been following Vanessa and my adventures, thank you for taking the time to read our stories.

Keep checking back to see what we get up to in the next episode in this series, as we continue exploring some of the attractions around Katoomba and Leura.

Travel safe, enjoy the experience and make great memories.

Day 1 of our short break in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. Australia – May 2018

Our wedding anniversary falls in May, and 2018 is our 15th.  To mark the occasion we decided we would spend a few days of that week away from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines.  We chose to spend the time in the Blue Mountains of NSW as the area is only a few hours drive from where we live.  As she always does, Vanessa spent quite a few hours in the months prior to the week researching options for accommodation, places to eat and things to see in the area.

Quite early in her research she found that the most cost-effective option would be to rent a house.  It would be far cheaper than staying in a hotel, and we could cook our own meals if we didn’t feel like going out or the weather turned nasty, and we could happily relax in comfortable surroundings rather than be stuck in a hotel room or restricted to whatever guest areas the hotel had available.

Vanessa found a nice cottage (which the owner describes as a lodge) that had an open plan living dining area, an open fireplace, gas heating, and a modern bathroom with a heated floor.  Plus, she was able to deal directly with the owner (who lived in Sydney and this was an investment property) to make the arrangements.  The cottage is called Ribbon Gum Lodge and is located in a tree filled gully a short drive from the main street of Leura.  The name for the lodge becomes immediately apparent when you arrive.  As these huge gum trees (that’s eucalypt trees for those not familiar with the way Aussies describe these beautiful trees) grow, the bark falls away in long thin strips, or “ribbons.”

The description of the lodge contained in the above website link is accurate, although the carport is quite short and the “off street parking for up to 5 cars” would require those cars to park nose to tail.  We drove there in one of our Subaru Imprezas, and about half of the boot was not under cover in the carport.  In the first image below you can see the carport at the bottom left corner of the image.

Image of Ribbon Gum Lodge front balcony
The front balcony at Ribbon Gum Lodge, Leura, looking towards the hillside rising above it

At the top of the hillside in the above image is the main railway line from Sydney heading westwards.  Surprisingly, we didn’t hear any noise from the trains when we were inside, only if we happened to be outside when a train went past.

The following image shows the driveway leading to the carport, looking back towards the road and some of the bark “ribbons” lying on the driveway.

Image of the driveway at Ribbon Gum Lodge, looking from the carport to the road
The driveway at Ribbon Gum Lodge, looking from the carport to the road

We arrived around mid-afternoon and unpacked our things from the car and settled in before heading to the supermarket in Leura to purchase some supplies for our next few days at the lodge.  We returned to the lodge with our small lot of groceries and packed them away.  It was late afternoon by now, and the sun had long passed by and the lodge was in the shadow of the hill.  The chill of the night air was starting to make its presence felt so we started the gas heater to quickly take the chill out of the air, and then got a fire going in the open fireplace for the atmosphere created by the flickering of the flames and the crackle of the burning wood.  We also switched on the oil-filled panel heaters in the bedrooms to take the chill out of the air in those rooms.

Image of a fire in the fireplace at Ribbon Gum Lodge
The fireplace at Ribbon Gum Lodge

As nice as an open fireplace is, they go through firewood incredibly quickly.  If any readers are inspired to take a holiday and stay at Ribbon Gum Lodge during the colder months, be prepared to make extra trips to purchase additional firewood and kindling from local sellers of these materials (there’s a Bunnings Hardware outlet just a few minutes away where pre-packaged firewood is available, and most of the petrol stations in the area also sell pre-packaged firewood).  We brought 6 bags (each about 10 kg) of good hardwood firewood with us from home and went through 4 and a half of them in the 4 days we were there.  The owner of the lodge advises a 25 kg bag of wood and kindling can be supplied at the time of booking for a fee of $30.00, but based on our experience, that would just make it through 2 nights.  If the weather is really cold and you want the fire during the day as well, a 25 kg bag would probably only last a single day and night.

Based on personal experience, I think the owner of the lodge should consider installing a slow combustion type fireplace.  We have one at our home, and they burn wood far more efficiently and are generally cleaner and safer as ash and sparks are far less likely to spill out onto the floor in front of the fireplace.  You still get the flickering of the flames, although not much of the crackle of the logs as they burn.  As a safety feature, the lodge has a spark guard (a wire mesh screen which you can see in the image above) that can be positioned across the front of the open fireplace, however these screens don’t stop small sparks.  Furthermore, they get very hot from being so close to the naked flames and this becomes a burn hazard when it has to be moved to put more wood on the fire.

We were worried that the large picture windows that allowed in so much light during the day and allowed a great view of the area around the lodge, would make it difficult to keep the lodge warm, especially as they did not have heavy curtains to help insulate against the heat radiating out through the glass.  However, the lodge was quite comfortable so long as we kept the windows and doors closed.  The beds all have thick doonas and there are extra blankets in the cupboards in the bedrooms if the nights get extra chilly.

After dinner we spent some time relaxing in front of the fire and enjoying some wine, then called it a night and headed off to get a good night’s sleep to be ready and refreshed for tomorrow.

That’s it for this episode.  If you’ve been following Vanessa and my adventures, thank you for taking the time to read our stories.

Keep checking back to see what we get up to in the next episode in this series, when we start exploring some of the attractions around Katoomba and Leura.

Travel safe, enjoy the experience and make great memories.