It’s late summer 2022. With its inviting outdoor pool and picturesque mountain location, the Lilianfels Resort & Spa drew an idyllic picture in my mind. Its convenient location is so close to the Echo Point lookout and the weathered sandstone peaks of the Three Sisters. Looking at the weather forecast for our 10-day mountain retreat at the Lilianfels, delivered us a whole week ahead of none stop heavy rain. I had wanted to go to the Blue Mountains during the Australian winter of 2021; however, we were forced to cancel our trip due to a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. So this time around, I was eager to have a break despite how the weather might turn out. So, postponement or change of our plan was not an option.
A Train Ride From Central Station To Katoomba
We went by train, as we have done in many other countries. From Sydney, the train ride from Central Station to Katoomba is about two hours, in a luggage rack and toilet-equipped version of a suburban commuter train. After settling in his seat and preparing to read a book, Kent looked up and said: ‘If you are lucky, you might get to see a fog or two up the mountain!’ ‘Oh, well, we shall see…’ I thought, but I didn’t give it much thought. The rain covered almost our entire journey; until we reached our destination. A shy sun came out to say hello, together with a friendly local lady we had met who also alighted at Katoomba railway station…
‘Are you visiting the Blue Mountains? I hope you enjoy a pleasant time here!’ she said, with a warm smile.
Her warmth and welcoming attitude reminded us that we certainly left the notorious grumpiness of Sydney! The friendliness did not stop there. Paul our taxi driver was apologetic about the damp weather, and during our short ride, recommended where to dine and what restaurants to avoid.
An Early Check-In To Our Charming Deluxe King Room
We were one hour early than the resort’s 3pm check-in time. I was delighted that we didn’t need to wait for our Deluxe King Room to be ready. Since we were about to call this room our temporary home for the next 10 days, I was hoping it’d be cosy and… photogenic! Well, you know us, Kent and I will certainly turn it into our photographic studio! From the moment we opened the door, it did not disappoint… Matching Wedgwood wallpaper and drapes. A half-canopy bed with gold-and-black brass and iron headboard. Two tall door-size windows with views of greenery, classic timber furnishings; a marbled bathroom, and most importantly for me, a full-sized bath.
The interior of this room reflects a bygone era. I think the use of the colours: pink, red, beige, and white made it so charming and elegant. A bowl of fruit, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a welcome card written by the hotel manager rested on the desk. All of these set us in a holiday mood and made us feel welcomed.
‘A Fog Or Two’ Turns Out To Be A Blanket Of Fog
After our routine Day One hotel shoot, which always begins with the unused bathroom. Kent and I decided to take a walk back into Katoomba to look around and buy some snacks. By the time we stepped out, the shy sun was long gone. As far as our eyes could see, everything was covered by a blanket of fog. ‘What did I tell you? If you are lucky, you might see a fog or two!’ said Kent. I was astonished by the scenery, imagining I was on the set of Wuthering Heights. Even Kent admitted that he had not seen the Blue Mountains in such heavy fog. If this was the result of the exchange from a sunny holiday, then I did feel lucky to settle for this rarer, moodier, and more mysterious scene.
A Stranger In Katoomba
Kent has been to Katoomba many times. As we strolled along Katoomba Street, Kent recalled how he used to come to Katoomba as a kid and as an adult, for days out, a wedding, and even attended its Winter Magic Festival. Whereas my 30-year gap (well, almost) between my last visit and this time, made me feel like a stranger in town. All I remembered was Three Sisters and that’s about it. When we reached Katoomba town centre, the drizzle had replaced the fog.
‘It is very quiet here!’ I said to Kent. Surely it was way passed the shops’ opening hours, but we met only a handful of people walking on the main street. COVID-19 played a big part in this as we knew, to rub salt into the wound, the week-long heavy rainfall in New South Wales also put off people’s desire to travelling. And that’s why we felt good about not cancelling our trip, especially at a time when regional towns need tourists most.
Dinner At Three Sisters B.B.Q. Chinese Restaurant
The nostalgic feeling we had for the typical retro Australian Chinese restaurant in nearly every country town allured us to Three Sisters B.B.Q. Chinese Restaurant. Besides its decor we liked, I craved duck, and they had Cantonese Roast Duck. The menu is full of mouth-watering dishes such as Salt & Spicy Pork Ribs, Honey Eggplant; Chinese Hot & Sour Soup, Prawn Dumplings and more. But for me, nothing beats a plate of Roast Duck with Plum Sauce. And to accompany that, we chose a lighter dish: Stir-fry Scallops with Vegetables. There was a very generous amount of meaty scallops on the plate, but I found the roast duck just a little chewy for my liking. Overall, good serviceable Chinese food at a friendly price.
Kent and I enjoyed our last sips of Chinese jasmine tea before we headed back to our hotel on foot. The drizzle had become rain, and the temperature had dropped even further. While in Sydney I was wearing a T-shirt; here I put on a scarf and a coat over a jumper. ‘A perfect night for a hot bath!’ I thought and I loved the idea. Our bellies were full and we knew our room awaited us would be dry and warm. Our drenched holiday had just begun, and we were enthusiastic to make it interesting and memorable.