I stayed in the Palais Royale hotel at Katoomba last weekend, thanks to hotels.com and their Welcome Rewards program- it’s like a coffee card, but for accommodation, and the records are held electronically
so you can’t just invest in your own novelty hole punch and get free coffee (not that I would do that, of course… really, who does that?). For those out of touch with their Australian geography, Katoomba sits at the top of the New South Wales Blue Mountains, a two hour drive from Sydney. You pass by Katoomba en route to Orange (and Ophir).
It’s a strange place, Katoomba, in a way you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s large, but it seems small. It’s exquisitely isolated– the Mountains roll and spread for countless miles around where the city sits on top a peak. Katoomba is connected by a string of smaller town with names like Wentworth Falls, Leura, Lawson and Lapstone; and they make small black map-dots all the way up and down the single highway linking the Mountains back to the Sydney suburbs via Penrith. These tiny hamlets are no more than ten or fifteen kilometers apart, twenty k’s at the most; each with a tiny train station, a general store, and each seemingly with their own unique draw card, their own tiny tourist attractions to lure travelers, cars loaded with kids and bags, to stop and rest, enjoy the local flavour as they go.
The Mountains were, a hundred years ago when they were first settled, a daunting, long and potentially dangerous journey; a trek that took days, not hours, clumping over cleared dirt rocks rather than eating up fresh, smooth bitumen at a hundred kilometers an hour.
But worth it, I imagine. As much then as it is now.
Katoomba boomed in the early 1900′s, an opulent township for the holidaying wealth of Sydney. It seems the majority of structures here where built at about that time, and very little has been changed since. While everything modern you need is here, somewhere, and it’s home to world-famous tourist attractions such as the Three Sisters and the terrifyingly ancient Scenic Railway (a train carriage does a sheer vertical drop down a rock cliff face); it’s as if time itself has simply meandered by most of Katoomba, not bothering to poke or prod on it’s way. Cafes with names like the Paragon, the Carington and the Niagra reamin in business and in their original art-deco decor. Buildings and brickwork are crusted with slow–growing lichen from the damp, chilled air; and its actually impossible to walk the Main Street without a good dose of daily exercise– the entire town is tiny hills, rolling footpaths and houses on built-up uneven slabs.
And the shopping is freaking awesome. There’s tiny hippy shops, a piercer and, to my delight, one shop that sells nothing but juggling supplies. I count a dozen funky cafes, all which smell divine, and there’s street buskers and a craft market early on the crisp Sunday morning. Op shops and recycled fashion outlets sell genuine vintage clothes and bags and shoes, all reasonably priced and all in gorgeous condition. It’s that isolation again. As in Paradise, material things seem to stick in this place the way people do…. it’s such a long way, back down the Mountain.
The Palais Royale, where I find myself in the king deluxe room 315, is just five hundred metres from the plethora of shops on Main Street, and, truly, just as old as most of them. It was built in the late 1890′s and it feels like old fashioned glamor and warmth, with chandeliers and big soft arm chairs in the lobby. My room’s big and old, and the bed is huge.
I find myself struggling to stay awake mid-afternoon both nights of my stay– I’m just so relaxed, it feels like an impossibility to keep my eyes open. I think the only reason I’m wide awake most of the time is that I’m running on anxious, nervous energy at a rate that I can only sustain for so long. I’m like a rug on Valium, once the pressure’s off.
I’m sprawled on the hotel’s massive bed, reading longform articles on my phone, belly full of chocolate, with bad TV (Antiques Roadshow, for those playing along at home) making comfort-noise in the background, chatting with the peeps on Twitter (as you do) and mulling over my tired relaxation when
KateSaysStuff Keep Cate Busy said… well… stuff. This, in fact…
… then this…
And I felt her pain. Because there, ladybugs and jellybeans, lies the crux of it. The reason, I think, that just about every person I know who is the proud owner of one or more small children (and a lot of people without small children) are so freaking tired all the time.
Because there’s always, always, always, something else to be done. Dishes or folding or blogging or email or washing or phone calls or paying bills or more washing or feeding cats or whatever. How do you find a sense of peace, relaxation and accomplishment when your inbox is always near overflowing, when there are always at least three more things you should have done today…?
Evidently, this weekend, I found the answer.
You go to hotels.com, and join the Welcome Rewards program. You check into your hotel. And, out of the 40 hours you send in the hotel, you sleep like a petrified log for 24 of them.
Then you come home, and kid-wrangle until you are on the very verge of some kind of breakdown (again). And lather, rinse, and repeat.
was not paid for this post, but I was more than happy to take a few free nights accommodation off their hands.
Cheers, jellybeans. See you Monday.
ETA- I can’t believe this post was up for 30 hoursbefore someone pointed out I’d used the wrong person’s name. Despite having an image of their name embedded beneath it.
It’s OK… I promise. I won’t hate you, nor will I cry (for long!) if you point out when I do stupid things.