travel australia

Weekend Getaway to the Blue Mountains

For my final #painthetownford challenge, I decided to go on a much needed weekend getaway (computer in tow as working was still required). In the typical fashion of the Murphy's and their silly laws, the day before we were due to depart for a little weekend away to the Blue Mountains, newsreaders across Sydney declared it would be best to stay indoors as "Rainmageddon" was upon us. I don't know about you, but a little apocalyptic rainfall was not going to get in the way of my break. If there's anything that makes the mountains more romantic, it's rain and mist.

I've always wanted to stay at The Carrington Hotel, it carries a decidedly "The Shining" vibe about it, and there's something about the slightly off-kilter grande old dame atmosphere that draws me in. Unfortunately it was fully booked out, so we opted for something on the opposite end of the spectrum, an eco resort called "Old Leura Dairy". There are various styles and sizes of accommodation to choose from at the dairy, we decided on the Milking Shed, which had a lovely fireplace and loft bedroom. The interior is a mish-mash of recycled building materials and found objects which gives it a lovely eclectic homey feeling. I especially loved the entryway, a couple of huge old barn doors that swung open to reveal our cosy cave for the weekend.

As we drove into the mountains from Sydney, I watched the temperature indicator on the car drop, approximately 1ºC for each town we passed through. By the time we arrived in Leura, it was a chilly 7º. Thankfully the Ford Kuga Titanium has built in seat-warmers, so we were none the wiser in our toasty cocoon-on-wheels. Despite the rain, we cobbled together another short film of our trip - I'm thinking of making this a more regular thing! It's such a fun way to preserve your memories.

Kitty & Buck | Mountain Escape from Kitty & Buck on Vimeo

Since we were unable to have a sleepover in The Carrington, we opted for a quick pre-dinner drink instead. It's the perfect way to soak up the ambience if you're just in Katoomba for a day trip, or prefer a different type of accommodation. The ascent to the front door is accompanied by the most delightful wafts from the flower garden. The only way to make the ground more appealing, would be to install a hedge maze, taking it one step closer to Stanley Kubrick's vision. The barmen were extremely obliging with my unusual request for tea instead of a gin and tonic, and my questions about the VIP room (a very appealing balcony that was built for the Duke and Duchess of York's visit in 1927 - it was never used by them and is now relegated to a structurally unsound temptation, rather than a functional sitting area).

The following day, as tempting as it was to play scrabble in our 'shed', we decided to indulge in one of the best activities to do on the mountains, rain or not: Antique hunting. Oh, and book hunting. Our first stop (always) is Mr Pickwick's on Katoomba Street, home of antiquities, a wide range of amazing vintage clothing, and around 60,000 books. We were lucky enough to find Mr Pickwick himself behind the counter, who kindly obliged our request for a photo (complete with mischievous glint in his eye). I scored a first edition of Alp by William Hjortsberg. If you love kid's books, there is an absolute goldmine of vintage children's literature in the basement book cave.

The lovely township of Leura called us back from lunch, where we shoehorned ourselves into the extremely popular Red Door Cafe. Bellies full, we trundled around the main street of Leura, taking in the sights. We discovered a Japanese Ceramic store which was disappointingly closed. It's bookmarked in my brain for a future investigation.

Since it was early afternoon and the mist was showing no signs of clearing, we decided to brave a wander down to Sublime Point. It's a little more secluded than the big Three Sisters lookout, and we hoped, less exposed to the elements. It was raining, cold and windy, but quite spectacular to see the vague shapes of the mountains in the white void. We didn't linger as the wind was doing it's best to whip our umbrellas into the great beyond and we didn't fancy following them.

Our final stop on the way back to Sydney is the best bookstore I've found in Australia and only second to the incredible backyard shed/shop full of first editions we stumbled across in Woodstock, VT. If you're in the Blue Mountains area, be sure to check in at Lamdha Books. It's a small shop, but packed full of gems. I managed to score a Flann O'Brien book that I haven't seen anywhere else and C grabbed a copy of Fantomas. We had a lovely conversation about jazz with Michael, the friendly owner and prolonged our return home as long as we could. Eventually we couldn't postpone the inevitable and we had the Kuga carry us home one final time before I was relegated back to my vintage Mazda. Thanks for the good times Kidspot and Ford, we had a blast!



I'm participating in the #paintthetownford challenge as part of the Kidspot Voices 2014 competition. Ford has provided me with a Ford Kuga Titanium for six weeks as part of this challenge. This is the final post of three in my series, you can read the previous posts here:

Post 1: Market Dreams

Post 2: Rural Escape

All opinions expressed in this post are my own. You can follow along with the other bloggers participating by searching the hashtag #paintthetownford and #voicesof2014.

On the Farm - A Rural Escape

You know when you just have one of those weeks? Months? Years? The best medicine for a hectic and stressful moment in life is an escape to the country, wouldn't you agree? With the intense work schedule I've been keeping lately, a rural escape was on the cards. While the best I could do was a single night away, I fully intended to make the most of it! Kangaroo Valley is a picturesque spot just south of Sydney, a mere 1-2 hour drive from the city. It fit my 'quick' escape criteria perfectly. Browsing the wealth of farm stays available around Sydney, I spotted a wooden yurt on a horse breeding farm called The Cedars nestled amongst the Budderoo and Morton National Parks just south of Bowral.

We captured some moving images of our adventure, and there's a bunch more photos below, so if you're having a tough day at your desk, take a small break to the country with us.

Kitty & Buck | Rural Escape from Kitty & Buck on Vimeo.

After ploughing through our work for the day, we were off to a regrettably late start on the road. It wasn't until we started out descent through the hairpin turns into Kangaroo Valley that I started to leave the city tension behind. We arrived in the valley as the long shadows began their descent from the ranges above. A quick inspection of our yurt yielded some ooh's and ahh's from me. The timber-lined interior and pot belly stove were suitably cosy for a winter's night.

We boarded the Ford Kuga Titanium once again and set out to hunt for some dinner. Thank goodness for the built-in GPS as phone reception is scarce and country roads have a habit of getting me lost. We zeroed in on the local supermarket, which was actually a petrol station, and stocked up on supplies (a frozen pizza, some chips and hummus, chocolate and soda - you know, grown-up food).

Back at the yurt, the sun was making it's final descent and we were completely alone in the middle of nowhere. After building a fire, defrosting our gourmet meal and pouring a glass of complimentary wine, we settled in with a BBC production about an incredible Dutch painter named Schalcken, a student of a student of Rembrandt. I feel like perhaps the BBC took some liberties with his story, as it included some creepy parts about a vampire. Suitably spooked, I prepared to turn in for the night when there was a very loud scratching on the window next to where I stood. Accompanied by a couple of squeaks, it occurred to me that, yes, this is a rural escape and we were going to have some (hopefully non-vampiric) company for the evening.

The following morning I woke up with the birds and it took all of my willpower to leap out of bed and stuff some logs into the fire. Sufficiently alight, I attended to the loaf of complimentary sourdough while C worked on the farm fresh eggs. Sated, we headed out for a little hike to the creek. First stop was the paddock by the yurt, which contained a herd of cattle and two magnificent Shire horses. The lady horse is with child and was extremely friendly. Covered in horse hair, we pressed on towards the creek, printed map in hand.

Somehow we became completely lost and it took much longer to reach the creek than expected. On our detour we encountered not one, but three echidnas! I've never seen an echidna in the wild before, so getting lost was definitely worth it. When the echidna heard us coming, he poked his head under some leaves with the dedication of a toddler who covers their eyes and is convinced they are invisible. After a few minutes he squinted up at us and decided we were no longer there (though we clearly were) and continued on his way. It was so adorable! I realise why echidnas have spiky spines now. They are the least graceful creatures and make about as much noise as a bear barging through the woods.

The valley lived up to it's name with several kangaroos and many wallabies hopping around. We also encountered a fox burrow where I imagined the foxes were having breakfast and Mr. Fox was all dapper in a suit like The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Eventually we reached the cool climate of the creek, which was encompassed in a rainforest section of the national park. The moss covered rocks and quiet babbling of the creek provided the perfect counterpoint to the previous day's hustle.

It was sad to wave goodbye to the Cedars after such a short visit, but we tempered our return to the big smoke with some antique hunting in Bowral, accompanied by a delicious vegetarian Croque-Madame at Raw and Wild. Book stores explored, antiques drooled over, we programmed home into the Kuga's GPS and allowed him to guide us back to reality. The afternoon traffic upon our return did it's best to erase the benefits of our rural escape, but we didn't let it win! I'm so happy to know that the babbling creek and rolling pastures of Kangaroo Valley are just down the road whenever I need them.



I'm participating in the #paintthetownford challenge as part of the Kidspot Voices 2014 competition. Ford has provided me with a Ford Kuga Titanium for six weeks as part of this challenge. This is the second post of three in my series, you can see the first post here. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. You can follow along with the other bloggers participating by searching the hashtag #paintthetownford

What I Wore - In the UFO Capital of Australia

Well, I got you with that title, didn't I? When we drove up the highway from Alice Springs, I spotted this roadhouse (diner/truckstop for my American friends) and I knew we had to stop. Since C and I were determined to reach our destination and have a well earned rest, we decided to stop in on our way back home. The town is Wycliffe Well and it is the self-proclaimed UFO capital of Australia.
It is also supposed to be ranked #5 in the world for UFO sightings! Not to start any conspiracy theories, but there is a U.S. airforce base fairly close by. I suspect the UFOs could be related. Just sayin'. I spent a lot of time peering at the stars in the N.T. but I didn't spot any alien craft unfortunately. I did meet some new friends...
Once again, I'd like you to admire the landscape more than my outfit. It's super casual for trekking around the desert and more of an excuse to show my tourist photos than pictures of what I'm wearing. Aside from Wycliffe Well, these pictures are taken on the Stuart Highway and around the Devil's Marbles, or Karlu Karlu.

*photos by C - I love this moon shot!!
cut off shorts // One Teaspoon
burnout tee // old (similar)
converse (limited edition) // Kyoto, Japan
Moomin scarf // Tokyo, Japan
badge // thrifted - Florala, Alabama
camera bag // Jo Totes


What I Wore - Outback in Bloom

I didn't take 'proper' outfit photos, since it's so hot in the outback, there wasn't much accessorising going on! Just a simple dress and shoes that I could wear walking, that's the order of the day up there. You can see more pictures from Kunjarra in my last post too. Kunjarra is a sacred women's site in the Northern Territory and is used as a dancing site for the Munga-Munga Dreaming. It is said that men especially should not come here at dusk, or the Munga-Munga will take them away.
The site is open to tourists as a campsite, and was full of people setting up for the evening when we went there. The traditional land-owners encourage visitors, but I got the impression that perhaps the visitors were a tad disrespectful of the site. Possibly not on purpose either. There are a lot of local customs and beliefs that may not be apparent to a visitor, and this was one thing that bothered me quite a lot in the Northern Territory. There seemed to be a distinct lack of information about anything. Which is fine, except, say, when a tourist uses a sacred tree as firewood. Or maybe climbs on the rocks, bringing bad luck and worse upon the 'owners' of the rock. Or even (this happened) carving their name into the sacred rocks. Or letting their dogs run loose around the campsite, which is also the home of small native animals which are already at risk from feral cats roaming the area. I think that it's really important to respect other's beliefs and if they are allowing you into their home as a guest, to treat it well.
It would be nice to see a little bit of care taken to explain the cultural significance of these sites to the visitors, so that they can enjoy the site without damaging it, and learn a little about the culture of the area too. I think it's important to preserve traditions and culture, especially in today's world where everything is homogenised into a safe, beige lump. I'd like to have some colour and different ways of thinking out there to challenge our everyday existence. C pointed out as well, that the Aboriginal stories from the dreaming all serve a practical purpose. A story of a cursed tree with an evil spirit will stop people from eating the fruit, which is in fact, poisonous. All stories serve a practical purpose and are an invaluable guide for surviving in this harsh land. It's interesting to apply this to our culture (any culture!) as well, the stories we tell shape our beliefs and the way we move through life.
I left C in the car and did another round by myself. Once I escaped the hum of generators, barking dogs, and pan pipes coming from the campsite, I could understand why this place was significant. It is very peaceful and quiet, and I suppose the rocks have an effect on the 'aura' of the place, much like standing stones in the UK.
As the sun set, I found these tracks from a big red (kangaroo). He is HUGE! I waiting very quietly to see if I could see any animals at all, but they were frightened away by the sounds of the campsite. My brother-in-law has seen this particular kangaroo though, and said that when he stands up to full height, he is 9ft tall! I would probably wet my pants if I saw him for real! He was not agressive, apparently, just curious and a little bored. He'd come here for some solitude from his mob. I took some polaroids, and bid the whispering grass farewell.
Dress // Modcloth (sold out)
Converse // Kyoto, Japan
Necklace // made by C
Sunglasses // old