Once again, and for two weeks running this time, my Thursday was my Friday as I prepared to set off for Leura in the Blue Mountains for the weekend.
My declaration was met with playful replies at work such as, “Do you even work Fridays?” and, “ANOTHER holiday?” I cheekily replied it’s just clever to ration out holidays over the year.
A breezy one hour twenty minutes drive later we pull onto Leura Mall, the main two-way High Street separated by Cherry Blossom trees down the middle. A charming spot it is lined with quaint cafes, local produce, antique and furniture shops sat on a slope.
There are some subtle signs of modernism, stores such as Witchery, Bed Bath N’ Table and even a large Woolworths and BWS well hidden behind the parade of shops, much to the disgust of the locals I later read.
Just 100 metres around the corner is our home for the weekend. Named La Petite Maison, for once the stunning pictures on Stayz.com.au were confirmed in reality. The grey-blue slate coloured wood-panels and white detailing face a manicured front garden and deck with table set.
Opening the door immediately I felt completely at home. Never had I felt that way in any other holiday house.
Oak wood floorboards greeted us with windows all down the left side of the long hallway, the Master Bedroom the first on the right. Spacious with doors to the front deck it was immaculate.
The next room down the Second Bedroom housed solid wood furniture and an on-suite bathroom. Every detail has been thought of such as the weathered brass light switches and sockets that are throughout the house.
The bottom of the hallway opens onto the rectangular lounge full of French detailing with Parisian canvas paintings and iron, brass and copper ornaments and objects. Immediately I’m drawn to the high-backed armchair with footrest; a perfect writing spot with a beer within arms reach.
The mixture of off-white paneling and brick continues to the next room, the separate kitchen. Half provincial, half farmhouse style the L-shaped design is made of white wood and granite worktops. The vintage iron faucets feed into a ceramic Farmhouse sink.
As we both overuse superlatives such as “amazing” and “incredible” I open some of the drawers and cupboards. Even the cutlery and crockery are perfect. I laugh (and stand in admiration) when I open the drawers to see an OCD sufferer’s wet dream; laid out knives and utensils resting in line in military precision. This is my kind of house.
The Pièce de résistance is saved for the garden leading out of the terrace doors. Walking up railway sleeper steps a decent-sized lawn is surrounded by hedges with a secret, white stoned garden at the far end complete with a central fountain feature and bench.
Originally planning to find a picnic spot nearby, we need not look any further. Our newly purchased picnic backpack kit gets christened with ginger beer, blue cheese, basil dip and crackers.
I even found another textbook writing spot, sitting at the cast iron table under the ivy-roofed pergola watching Carolina frantically swat bugs and the occasional wasp away.
The only slight negative was the slight hum of the cars from the road out front but if you ignored that, you could be at a French farm on a vineyard. Minus Carolina’s occasional yelps from the picnic rug.
The French touches are everywhere. What sounds overwhelming and kitsch is actually so well placed and thought of it’s subtle. Metal birdcages and a Gallic Rooster, the French emblem, look down on top of the kitchen cupboards.
Later that evening we headed to a new restaurant Flemish Flavours, suggested by the house’s owners, sat at the top of the hill leading into Leura Mall. Arriving early we sunk obscure Belgian beers in the rustic garden with a view of the hills.
The formal style décor of the dining room, dark wood and rich red carpet suggested an older clientele. This was confirmed as the room slowly filled with couples and groups mainly double our age.
Our quirky waitress was lovely but flustered and the food was a slight disappointment. Carolina’s starter of Crispy Pork Belly Salad was good and so was the main Roast Lamb, but strangely the skin was still stamped with the red suppliers ink.
My choice of Lobster Bisque (soup) backfired; most mouthfuls were met with pieces of lobster shell as I picked bits out of my mouth. The following Beef stew was perfectly braised, melting in the mouth, but the sauce was watery. It did make a good dipping sauce for my excellent fries.
As we looked around everyone else however seemed to be enjoying their food and told the waitress so maybe it was just my choices, influenced by the filling the dentist had installed at 8am that morning.
We were keen to get home for the waiting bottle of red and Cadbury Creation chocolate. The day was capped off with central heating, feet up and watching Djokovic beat Wawrinka in the tennis.
The next day was slightly cooler and we set off for the heart of the Blue Mountains, Katoomba. Another of our recommended eateries, The Yellow Deli, was closed until February, a pattern emerging with all the best spots including Silks and Leura Garage in Leura.
Katoomba is more commercial than Leura but has a similar curved High Street, dipping in the middle and sloping upwards on each side. Lined with cafes, outdoor adventure shops but dotted with the odd Thai restaurant and Korean Café, groups of tourists were everywhere decked out in pristine, brand-new sporting gear lugging backpacks ready for their hikes.
We stopped by the busy Information Centre and main lookout for the Three Sisters. I have seen them before but they are still mind-blowing. On the advice of a helpful guide we drove to a park that led to an “easy” walk at Leura Cascades. Worryingly “Medium” difficulty walks included eight-hour return hikes.
The waterfalls were impressive and got louder as we descended down the wooden edged steps to the base. A ten-minute pit stop had us unfurling the picnic rock on a small rock ledge that had a sheer 100 metre plus drop to the sea of green treetops below.
On the way home we checked out Gordon Falls, a quieter lookout spot. A chunky Eastern Blue-tongue lizard sat watching us on the steps, expertly camouflaged.
Keen to get back to watch the Socceroos in the Asian Cup Final, we drove five minutes away into Katoomba for a beer and a bite at the Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza. A rustic pub with actual rusty stools that hosts live music. It looked like a place that got loose in the dark hours.
I promised myself I would try a new pale ale so we settled at the window bench with a Young Henrys in hand and a decent Wentworth Falls Pizza (my favourite prawn, chili and garlic).
Later the Socceroos would not disappoint, as Carolina and I shouted and celebrated through a tense 2-1 win for Australia to become champions of Asia, while all was silent around us.
The Sunday morning coffee fix would be consumed at the old church building on Leura Mall, a tiny café with outdoor stalls called Old Church Café. The particular coffee they used was sensational, from Fish River Roasters.
Josh, the barista, was one of the most laid-back, cheerful men I have ever met. With fairly long frizzy dark hair tied back with a headband, he effortlessly dealt with orders, chatting to locals and even managing to expertly calm an intellectually disabled lady that arrived frantically explaining she only had three dollars for her coffee and that, “I get very stressed.”
I warmed even more to Josh as I listened to him talk about his life with a customer friend. I was even envious that he was so comfortable in himself, talking at a customary high volume: “Ah man I was blazed last night. I smoked a huge joint and my mate asked me to go for a beer but I was in no state to.”
Josh had also just “got myself a girl” and felt on top of the world, particularly as life had been difficult for a while, even unsettled with moving around a lot and his mum’s “freaking out”. It was clearly infectious to anyone that ordered a coffee from him.
We returned to the house and left soon after. I mentally took in as much of it as possible. When home I emailed the owners to say thank you, compliment them on their gem and assure that we will be back. I resisted asking, if ever they remotely considered it, how much they would sell the house for.