Cittaslow and Australia's Blue Mountains

It's not easy getting accepted into Italy's coveted organisation, Cittaslow. There are only around 100 cities in the mix, and most are European.  A community has to really prove itself to have a focused and self-supporting individuality, and nurture an environmental policy that embraces it's local identity and surrounding countryside, artisans, farmers and producers.  I was not surprised to hear that New South Wales, Australia, region of the Blue Mountains had taken on the task admirably and now boasts on of the most active New World members of the organisation.  You can read more about Cittaslow at the end of this story.

If you have been to Sydney and not ventured up to the incredibly breathtaking Blue Mountains (Bluey's), you have missed out in so many more ways than one. Just a 2 hours relaxing train ride from Sydney Central, or 1 - 1/2 hours by car or coach, it's a must do if you have some time in Sydney to explore.

First and foremost the scenery is some of the most stunning you'll see anywhere, with craggy rock faces, cascading waterfalls, the soft blue glow haze let off by the oils in the blanket of eucalyptus trees. 

Then you have several towns each with a unique charm and character - Wentworth Falls, where you can enjoy a meal snuggled into the cliff side at the Conservation Hut, then hike down to one of the most spectacular falls, even stand under it if you're feeling like a refresher.  Onward and upward to  Leura, it's Euro-chic boutiques, cafes, restaurants and galleries offering you the best from Australia and abroad. 

Photo credit, Destination NSW
Next you'll he hub of it all, Katoomba for hippy-cum-rustic-cum-gourmet bustling mountain life, more amazing cafes, resorts and recreation such as the skyline railway, the steepest in the world, that takes you almost perpendicular down a rock face with some of the best views of the mountain; or the scenic cable way, the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. Naturally there's hiking for all - the avid overnighters, horse riders or "high-heeled" day trippers.

Here's some of my favorites for Leura:  Morning breads at the snug Bakehouse on Wentworth, a mountain hike then through the gardens of The Everglades, then, pizza and salad for lunch with a boutique local wine at the Leura Garage. 

Stroll around the corner and down the Leura Mall, and check out the many and varied stores - The Candy Store, a dream for English and Europeans candy and chocolate lovers of all ages, the shoe addicts haven, Shoes in The Attic, fashion and all other frivolous things at the Circus Boutiques, outback clothing for those rugged country looks at the Country Casual, and all things know an unknown on the culinary set at the Leura Whisk, then some respite at The Red Door Cafe for some of Sydney best espresso drinks.

 Dinner at Silks Brasserie is a must, where David Wiggington's amazing local and gloriously prepared food will set the scene for a romantic end to the evening.

Check into the Carrington for rustic old world grace and plenty of Blue Mountain history, maybe a late night cocktail,

The Carrington in it's heyday
The view from my room, walk to all the shops and a
lovely jog to the mountain trails!

Next day it's Katoomba day - where to start?? It has to be heading down Katoomba street to the base, grab a baguette from Hominy Bakery, coffee from Common Grounds and head down to the 3 sisters (see above), the stunning rock formation, aptly named.  Get the blood going with one of the many scenic hikes or for a less exertive scenic thrill, drive up to take the scenic railway or cable way for a new perspective.

 Stop and have a signature Australian Beesting to bring back the blood sugar level.... Beinenstich or bee sting cake is a German cake that is smitten with this gorgeous soft briochey/sponge type of bread filled with custard and topped with buttery sugared almonds. Hmmm, that or the lamingtons... or Devonshire tea, those fresh fluffy warm scones (just flour, butter and milk and always freshly baked), with jam and cream.

The entire Blue Mountains is dotted with Guest Houses, B and B's Cafes and even some petrol stations that will bring you what you think is the best Devonshire tea each time.  A hot pot of tea, made with loose leaf tea, strainer, jug of milk and piping hot scones!
Dinner is a must at Darley's, the most charming and luxurious restaurant in a historic cottage on the ground of the beautiful Lilianfels Resort, where you MUST stay the night too!  Chef Lee Kweiz crafts magic with local produce all paired with an eclectic blend of boutique local and international wines.  Enjoy a pre-dinner champagne in the elegant old world hotel lounge with the sunset beforehand, or try to arrive early enough for a pampering spa treatment and luxuriate in the warm pool looking out over the mist caressed mountains.
If you are fortunate enough to have more time on your hands, head on up to Blackheath for the best sourdough breads, local artisanal meats and butchers, galleries, cafes and an amazing array of small warm B & B's snuggled among the towns homes.  Mt Victoria and Mt Wilson are right at the top with THE most gorgeous gardens and my favorite movie theatre in the world - The Mt Vic Flicks!
So, think your town has the same charm, character and sense of "self" then perhaps you should join "cittaslow" too and support your local businesses and community!
For travel, location and more NSW location details, see Destination NSW, or Visit NSW.
For flights, check our only Australian owned airline, Qantas, where you'll become an Aussie en route.


  1. I remember when I traveled to Sydney shortly after undergrad a couple years ago. It is such a beautiful city! While there, I embarked on a blue mountains tour. It was a phenomenal experience! I was able to witness a first hand account of the amazing views of these natural landmarks. It was quite a treat!

    1. Thanks for your comment Donald. Glad you got up to the Blue Mountains - they indeed are one of the natural wonders of the world, not to mention great restaurants, coffee, hotels and charming guest houses and activities. I hope more people go and appreciate their natural spectacle when visiting Sydney!

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  3. Incredibly stunning images of the natural and untouched scenery surrounding Leura and Katoomba. Great picks for places to eat too :-) Will have to visit Darley's one time to feature on our blog, it sounds like an ornate cottage.

    - L


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