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Katoomba is a great place to visit if you are into hiking, spectacular views, and nature. On a previous day trip, we didn’t spend the night (coming in and out by train from Sydney is almost fast enough to make that work). This time, we opted to stay at Lilianfels which is an old school resort right near the three sisters.

Lilianfels resort has many buildings

Lilianfels was likely built back when royalty seemed to matter. NPS calls this kind of place an “old lady hotel.” Lets just say Lilianfels is most famous for its high tea in the afternoon. We missed that in favor of hiking.

See more about the Three Sisters hike and the Grand Stairway here.

When we arrived just after an early lunch at 8things (recommended), only one of the rooms was ready, so we ditched our stuff and headed off on the trail. Three hours and 6.3 miles later, we enjoyed a Negroni by the pool.

Lunch at 8things

Post hike Negroni

I was assigned room 223.

Lilianfels bedroom

No real view from 223

The bathroom was spacious and the shower was not plastic at all. Very solid.

A visit to the spa got us access to the hot tub, which after going up over 900 steps felt pretty great.

Lilianfels spa

Dinner at Miss Lilian teahouse was bad. Do not eat there.

Drinks at the bar downstairs in the main house were much needed.

On the way out of town, we stopped into Wentworth Falls for a hike there too. Absolutely worth it.

Hiking wentworth falls

All told, Katoomba overnight may be a bit of overkill. Lilianfels is a four showerhead kind of place. A bit too old school, and who lets such a bad restaurant persist?

First of all you have to go north, over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast. Guerneville is situated on the Russian River.

Up the 101 in a convertible

But before you go to the cabin, a picnic at Preston winery is in order. There is some stocking up to do in the alcohol department.

Picnic on a perfect Spring day (preston winery)

After bread, cheese, some more cheese, salami, and different salami, olives, and hummus, and a couple of bottles of wine, and those wee little pills, it is off to see some big trees at the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Preserve. Make sure to see the amphitheater, but do not dilly dally.

Amy dwarfed by a giant redwood

The band at the crest

We did make it to the cabin after an espresso in town at Big Bottom. No really, that’s what they called it.

The cabin has modern sensibilities

Drama and moss is a thing

The a pit stop by the cabin to change clothes and it is off for dinner in Healdsburg. Chalkboard is worth driving way up to the sticks for. Excellent food. Fun, friendly service. Very good indeed. (We were slightly late the whole time, mostly due to amphitheater…LOL.)

One of the many superb dishes at Chalkboard

These doughnut things were out of this world

Sadly, we ended up being on time to see the show at the Raven. Eileen Ivers played a pre-compiled show of world music (many mixed genres). The show was solid, but also phoned in and somehow cloyingly fake. Still, it was fun singing along, and the support band was filled with excellent session musicians.

Everyone joins Eileen

The show was opened by JigJam who, other than desperately needing a new name, played an opener that topped the main event. The young fiddle player was far better than Eileen will ever be.

Then it was back home in the volkswagon and to bed by 1am.

A stint in the hot tub in the morning happened first thing, followed by some delicious eggy concoction with expert-level toast. Next, we attempted to cram 20 square feet of stuff into a 10 square foot space in the car. The stuff was consolidated, and the trunk was very slowly shut over the lil tiny bass through the use of random quantum properties, black magic, and the power of wishful thinking.

A call by the Pacific was next. The Russian River pours its brown self into the ocean at Jenner.

Then a short hike (maybe 3.5 or 4 miles) through the vernal wonderland (read “muddy”) of the California coastal hills. Sonoma is gorgeous and green for at least a week in the Spring, and we got to witness it.

Uncle Jim leads the way

Also Pacific ocean.

The Pacific at shell beach

By this time we were late again, but who cares? A drive down 1 took us directly to Rocker Oysterfeller’s where we partook of Negronis and oysters. Jim found out that oysters can be cooked and smothered in various things and still be delicious.

What an adventure! We’ll do it again as soon as we make up for lost time.

The group we host on an annual basis is getting big (well over 200 now) and that means finding an appropriate venue is getting harder. Fortunately the Omni Montelucia was a great choice for this year’s conference. Gorgeous setting. Updated property. Top notch food and drinks. Well trained and attentive staff. Awesome!

About the only wrinkle with the Omni Montelucia is getting there from the east coast. Flying to/from Pheonix is not the best or the most efficient, but that can be a plus too if you want to get a bunch of very busy people “off the grid” for a couple of days of concentrated work. (BTW, American Air just sucks. My favorite thing was a twitter suggestion from American customer service to remove stuff from the seat ahead for more room. Fuck right on off!)

The conference organizers lined up suite 129 for NPS. It was “pretty not bad” as our friend Sammy says. In fact, it was just as nice as any suite we’ve ever had.

Suite 129

Greeted with a cocktail and a personal note. Very nice. Thanks! (Oh and sparkly water too.)

The bathroom was spectacular with a NPS approved glass shower also incorporating stone and multiple showerheads.

Wait for it

This shower is perfect

Are we spoiled? Should we not be spoiled?

All showers like this always come with an unused side of bathtub

But by far the best part of 129 was the large porch. Each night we entertained on the porch with candles and Liberals (Amer Picon brought from home).

129 porch

View of the porch

View from the porch

View from the porch

One minor quibble about the porch. The weather was so perfect that NPS wanted to keep the huge sliding glass triple door open all night. Sadly the resort musak also played all night in the courtyard of the restaurant. So the doors had to close at 3am.

The bar was also prepped by advance troops (in the form of Noelie) who informed them that they would need more absinthe STAT for CR#2s. That was a very good call. The barkeeps were all greatly accommodating and eager to learn.

And the resort food for 200? Very very well done. Could not really ask for improvement there.

After the conference, we left in an afternoon for play. A hike in the desert. A dip in the pool. And one of the best meals of my life at Sel in Scottsdale.

Camelback Mountain

Five showerheads and nothing to add. Heck six showerheads for the Omni Monelucia. Wishing for a quick return on any other airline than American.

The view from the bus

First you take a bus from Oslo. The views along the way are incredible. As the altitude gains, the temperature droops.

Oslo Bus Station

Then you arrive and are met by a good friend who whisks you off to the cabin in the middle of nowhere. Rustic. Beautiful. Warm. And Perfect.

The cabin

The hours spent eating, talking, playing music, drinking rum and wine, and sleeping go by fast!

Morning view

Ready to hike?

The 13.8 mile hike on day one was incredible. One of the best hikes ever.

(Read more and see more pictures about the day one hike here.)

Day two summit attempt was beautiful in its own way on a cloudy, rainy, blustery day.

(Read more about hike 2 here.)

But what made it all particularly amazing was the friends.

(Oh, and the shower was not plastic, because there was no shower!)

Hotel Christiania Teater

We’ve been here before at the Hotel Christiania Teater, even in this very room (number 620), so we knew what to expect. And it was good.

Room 620 is a large suite with an interesting layout that takes up the cupola of the building. The shower does not suck.

620 sitting room

The cupola

Oslo in the distance

Large comfortable bed

A view out the back cupola (yes, there are two sets of windows)

The extensive bathroom with multiple sinks and heated floors.

One of the best parts of the hotel is the breakfast. A generous spread with fresh squeezed orange juice. Sadly the espresso grinder broke down on day 2.

Breakfast buffet

The orange juice machine

The bad downstairs from reception is very capable. Many good cocktails thanks to Barbara and Martin, including this variation on a Hanky Panky.

A Norwegian Hanky Panky
3 cl gin bareksten
1 cl sweet vermouth mancin
1 barspoon bitters Gotlands “fernet”
2 dashes angostura
stir down. serve on a large cube.

And of course Oslo is a great city to visit. The Vigeland Sculpture Park is striking at night.

Two dinners out could not have provided more contrast. The first was a family run fish place with home style recipes and local beer. The second, Om Restaurant Klosteret, was world class food and wine. Both were delicious.

Om Restaurant Klosteret

Cocktails at Himkok were great, even if we did have to leverage ourselves in the door and into a proper booth.

Mezcal or aquavit? Why not both

Himkok back bar

The still at himkok

Five showerheads (and a new espresso grinder) to Hotel Christiania Teater.

Of course, the best was yet to come:

 

A view from the trail