Blue Mountains with Boszormeny’s and Ben and Aidan

Our return from New Zealand saw the end of the third school holiday break.  But thankfully our time with the Boszormeny family didn’t have to end when we left the South Island!  George, Julie, Amber and Abby were able to spend a week exploring Sydney and the Blue Mountains with us.

Arriving hot on their heels to the land down under were Matt’s brother Ben and his wife Aidan, who had just spent a week in Bali, Indonesia at a friends wedding. Ben arrived with what appeared to be an infection on the top of his foot, and what was originally going to be a brief 3-day visit with us, turned into a trip to the Lithgow Hospital for antibiotics, the cancellation of plans to travel up the coast, and a 6-day stay with us in the Blue Mountains!  And although we felt bad that Ben had to deal with an injury, we were certainly thankful for the extended visit!

The day the Boszormeny family arrived to Blackheath, was also the day that Matt had been invited by his friend Julian to the Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panarama.  The boys arrived home from the race and the celebrations continued while the final laps were watched from the comfort of our lounge room!

During our time together in the Blue Mountains, we explored the Jamison Valley and took both families on a cable car ride down into the rainforest, had lunch at the base, and then rode the steep railway back up to the top.  We enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner, and delighted in a bonfire and children’s talent show, complete with headlamps!

Ben was well enough to travel down the coast to Callala Beach with Caroline and Aidan mid-week, so while they were off skinny dipping in the ocean, the Boszormeny family went on a big hike down to Bridal Veil Falls at Govetts Leap where they were shocked to find a snake coiled up beside the hiking trail and Amber was dive-bombed by a nesting magpie!  They were completely mesmerized by the views.

Amber and Abby were fortunate enough to experience a day in the life of an Aussie student and attended Blackheath Public with Leina and Cohen during their week with us.  Amber was in a year 5 class for the day, while Abby shadowed Leina in her year 1/2 class.  The students were treated to maple sugar candies brought especially to Australia by the Boszormeny girls!  Some of the students at the school still rave about those treats!

While the kids were at school, the adults, and Elijah, hiked at Wentworth Falls and had lunch out at a unique spot, The Garage, in Leura, one of our favourite towns.  Although the service was mediocre, the meal was quite good.  We arrived to pick up the kids at the end of the school day and they had many wonderful stories to share about their time in an Australian school.

Our last night with the Boszormeny’s was a real treat!  We hired a babysitter for the evening, and delighted in dinner out at Thai Silk in Blackheath, and a night-cap at the local pub, the Ivanhoe.  Upon leaving the pub, the temperature outside had dropped considerably, and so it wasn’t surprising that the following morning we awoke to snow!  And it snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed!  Matt and the kids never made it to school that day.  Matt tried to drive to work, but quickly realized that the icy roads, mountainous terrain, rear-wheel drive car, and lack of winter tires, were the wrong combination!   In fact the roads were so bad that they closed them until 4 in the afternoon.  Branches were creaking and breaking off and we lost power from about 9AM.  Needless to say, the Boszormeny family didn’t make it to Sydney until late that night.  Thankfully their flight home to Canada wasn’t until the following day!  By the time the snow had turned to rain at about 1PM, we had received 14 cm in 7 hours and we had played 15 rounds of euchre by the woodstove!  And although Sydney families were flocking to the Blue Mountains to experience the snow, we were one of few families who kept their kids indoors all day!  The reasoning behind this was the combination of branches breaking and improper clothing and footwear!  Poor excuse for Canadians, eh?!  We never imagined having an authentic ‘Snow Day’ while living in Australia!

Once the roads opened, we said farewell to the Boszormeny family and then headed down to Glenbrook to Caroline and Collin’s place for a visit and to leave our kids for a sleepover with them while we partied it up in Sydney for the night with Ben and Aidan, Amy and Alex, and good family friend Chris Walker, who had come from Melbourne by bus for the weekend.

Our night was slightly overshadowed by news of Matt’s dads very serious fall and head trauma and surgery, but we still managed to leave a dent in some of Sydney’s iconic pubs and hotels thanks to our fearless leader Chris.  Our favourite by far was the ‘Hollywood Hotel’ where the beer flowed freely, the music was ace, and the urinals epic!  After experiencing the atmosphere and cocktails on the patio at ‘The Beresford’, we ate the most amazing food at a spot that Aidan found on the internet – a Loation/Burmese restaurant on Oxford Street called the Pink Peppercorn, and we continued the party at a couple more pubs before grabbing another bite and crashing at the hotel at 3AM.  It was a memorable night for many reasons.

So, once again we were fortunate to host some very special visitors from Canada.  Our afternoons were enjoyed sitting on the back deck in the sunshine, and dinners were always lively.  Everyone pitched in.  In fact, I think Julie was in the kitchen more than I was!  And she spoiled Leina by styling her hair every day!  Ben was on bath duty with the kids in the evenings, and Aidan and George were dynamic story tellers at bedtime!  We went for long walks, and we wowed them with the size of the Aussie spiders, the colorful birds, and the awesome views from the lookouts.

George summed it up best by expressing that their visit was an opportunity of a lifetime and we couldn’t agree more!  We are once again blessed with memories made with some wonderful friends and family members – George, Julie, Amber, Abby, and Ben and Aidan – our lives are richer and our year down under made memorable because you came to visit!

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The Giant Stairway

The Giant Stairway at Echo Point in the Blue Mountains is aptly named, for it is comprised of 911 hand-hewn cliff steps and 32 steel staircases.  The very steep stairway leads you to the floor of the Jamison Valley directly below the world famous Three Sisters at Katoomba.

Most visitors to Katoomba take advantage of the view from Echo Point and admire the rock formation of the Three Sisters, Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, but few take the chance to trek down the stairs to admire the view of the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters from a different perspective.

The Giant Stairway was the brainchild of Ranger James McKay back in the early 1900’s, but it wasn’t until 1932, after much politics, fundraising and effort, that the steps were completed and the official opening celebrated.

The kids nicknamed our journey, “Staircase to the Moon” after Bronwyn Houston’s book by the same title, which they have both enjoyed reading at Blackheath Public.  The hike was slow-going as the staircase was very steep in parts.  The kids were given strict instructions to keep a firm hold on the handrails at all times.  And as is customary on any hike we do with the kids there were numerous snack breaks and lots of photo ops!

We enjoyed the opportunity and the hour long round-trip hike, and although we didn’t quite make it to the very bottom of the stairway (for fear of the whinging on the way back up), we know that we’ll be back to try it again soon!  Perhaps some of our Canadian visitors will be brave enough to join us during the next attempt!

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Spectacular Sculptures at Scenic World

What an amazing hike into the Jamison Valley floor to find a fascinating display of art amongst the flora.  ‘Sculptures at Scenic World’ in the Blue Mountains at Katoomba was truly eye-candy for lovers of art and nature alike.

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We started out on our hike early in the morning, before the tour buses arrived, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  The sweaters were quickly tied around our waists, as we descended down the steep and winding Furber Steps, which were originally constructed in 1908.

We were treated to amazing views across the Valley to the Three Sisters rock formation, and one of the most impressive views of the Katoomba Falls in the Blue Mountains.  We crossed a creek at Witches Leap, and explored Vera’s Grotto at Katoomba Falls Creek.  Once at the bottom, we could walk along the boardwalk and fully appreciate the artists creations.  This is the first time that this type of display has been set up on the Valley floor, and we reckon it won’t be the last time.

There were bronze wombats, and river rocks in wire mesh, colorful clay flowers, and our favourite was by an artist from South Australia – electroplated avocado leaves suspended from a thin wire overhead.  Truly awesome!

The kids enjoyed and appreciated the art exhibit so much more because of the way that it was displayed.  In a naturally beautiful setting.

We rode the ‘Scenic Railway’ back to the top of the mountain, which also happens to be known as the “steepest” railroad in the world!  It is a 415 meter ascent through a cliff-side tunnel and up through an ancient rainforest.  Matt was not comfortable with the mechanics of the ride, but no one was interested in walking back up the mountain!  It was an exciting way to end the adventure.  We were lifted off our seats in every way that day!

Hello Blackheath!

“When you arrive at our cosy village, you have made it to the top of the hill – the highest township on the Great Western Highway in the Blue Mountains….1065 metres above sea level”. 

Well here we are at the top of the hill! In the Blue Mountains National Park, UNESCO inscribed World Heritage designation, and it is not hard to see why!

The cosy downtown area of Blackheath is lined with lovely little shops – a bakery, a butcher, a small grocery store, shoe store, gift shops to name a few.  There is also a wonderful fish n’ chips shop, an Indian restaurant and a Thai restaurant.  A revamped Art Deco picture theatre on the main street has been converted into a mecca for antique lovers with over 50 dealers inside!  On the outside of the theatre is a colorful mural and out front is a great little cafe.

Not far down Govetts Leap Road, which is lined with massive trees, we found ourselves in the area of town we’d be living in for the next year.  The roads are windy and the hills are steep.  When we arrived up the steep drive at 5 First Street, the sun was shining brilliantly, and the gardens were glowing – pink and mauve hydrangeas surround our house and there is so much greenery, bushes and trees – we felt like we had landed in a jungle!

The house is a bungalow style with a garage under the main part of the house and a large staircase to get up to the front door.  The house itself is open concept and perfectly laid out.  The dining room, kitchen and living room are all open with a wood stove in the middle.  There is one bathroom and 3 bedrooms and a den where the computer and spare bed are located.  The garage underneath the house is also referred to by Damien as the “man cave”, where all the tools, and equipment are, plus the laundry room.

Ambers mom had made a spaghetti sauce for us for our first supper in our new house and it hasn’t taken us too long to navigate our way around our new kitchen.  They have great appliances and some different smaller appliances, and a lot of tupperware!  We’re well set up.

The weather here in Blackheath can change rather quickly within the same day, and our first week here has been very rainy.  The locals are very tired of it and have felt cheated this summer, as it has been unseasonably cool and rainy for Blackheath standards.  We have since found out that some out of towners refer to Blackheath as ‘Bleakheath’!

Amber and Damien’s friends all seem lovely, and we’ve received some invitations to tea, and dinner, and Leina is set to go to her first Australian birthday party this weekend!  Thanks to their friends, we’ve acquired a high chair, jogging stroller, umbrella stroller, and many offers to loan us whatever else we might need this coming year.  We are looking forward to getting to know these friends better this year.

It was nice to have that first week upon arrival to check things out around town, but mostly to drive around and find a used car!  We’ve been grocery shopping in the nearby town of Katoomba, about 10 minutes down the highway, and home to one of the most amazing views in the Blue Mountains – the Three Sisters.  There are some wonderful little towns neaby – Leura, and Wentworth Falls – to name a couple – and we are looking forward to exploring them further and also to showing them off to our visitors throughout the year.

Blackheath truly is a picturesque town, in a great location – some fantastic parks, lots of trees, colorful birds, friendly people – we know we’re going to love it here!

It’s definitely worth the trip to the top of the Blue Mountains!

Stay tuned for details about the other side of the mountain – the town of Lithgow where Matt is teaching!  Also the kids first days at Blackheath Public School, and the amazing views from Govetts Leap!