Chilling out in Sydney, exploring the beautiful Blue Mountains, and exchanging vows in an idyllic country house setting - it all added up to the dream wedding
With its diverse nightlife and fantastic food and wine, cosmopolitan Sydney has to be one of my favourite cities. We had visited previously on a whistlestop tour of Australia, but were keen to spend the week before our wedding exploring the city at a more leisurely pace.
Our hotel of choice is the Old Sydney Holiday Inn in the heart of The Rocks, a lively and historic area of the city that was home to the first European settlers. The hotel’s hidden gem is a rooftop swimming pool with great views of the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge and across the city skyline. I spent a pleasant evening up there watching the sun go down with a chilled glass of wine or two whilst my daredevil husband-to-be took part in the twilight Harbour Bridge climb, one of several climbs that take place daily.
Diners are spoilt for choice in Sydney; there’s a wealth of fantastic eateries serving everything from the freshest of seafood to South East Asian-influenced fusion food. A stone’s throw from the Opera House, seafood restaurant Peter Doyle @ The Quay boasts the best views of any restaurant I’ve been to. I also love Sydney’s streetside noodle and sushi bars for a quick, affordable snack.
If you can tear yourself away from the culinary delights of The Rocks and Darling Harbour, it’s well worth catching a ferry from Circular Quay and venturing further afield. On the recommendation of a friend, we spent a lovely evening at Il Perugino, a stylish little Italian at 171 Avenue Road in Mosman. This restaurant is very popular with locals so it’s advisable to book your table in advance.
Shoppers will love the galleries and quirky little shops in The Rocks, whilst the Queen Victoria Mall at 455 George Street is the place to shop for luxury and designer goods. The Royal Botanic Gardens is the ideal place to while away a lazy afternoon - and get a closer look at the thousands of flying foxes that hang upside down from the treetops during the day! Sydney Aquarium is also well worth a visit. A harbour cruise is the best way to see the different areas of the city and appreciate the sheer scale of the harbour itself; boats leave from Circular Quay throughout the day.
A trip to Sydney wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the infamous Bondi beach, but I prefer the beaches at Manly, particularly Shelley Beach, which has a more relaxed vibe and attracts a less pretentious crowd.
With our wedding day fast approaching, we headed to Katoomba in the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. The journey to Lilianfels - the only five-star hotel in the area, and the venue for our wedding – took less than two hours. The hotel is located on the edge of Katoomba, and boasts amazing views of the great wilderness that is the Jamison Valley and of the famous Three Sisters rock formation.
As we drove through the gates, past the picture postcard-pretty rose garden and colonial country house that the hotel takes its name from, I knew that we’d chosen the right place for our wedding. The ceremony took place in that very same garden a few days later, with stunning mountain views as a backdrop. With only two witnesses in attendance, our requirements were fairly modest, but the hotel’s staff couldn’t have been more attentive. A waiter was on stand-by with a bottle of chilled champagne as we said our vows, and we then enjoyed a selection of delicious canapés with our guests before heading to Darley’s, the hotel’s highly renowned fine dining restaurant, for dinner. We sat at a table on the veranda overlooking the rose garden where our wedding had taken place and ate the most delicious food.
We’d spent a couple of days before our wedding lounging by the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool and exploring the surrounding area. As well as enjoying bush walks along trails through the forest, we took the Scenic World cable car across a deep ravine - a journey that’s not for the faint-hearted. The natural beauty of the area must be seen to be believed, and is like no other landscape on earth. At dusk. the forest is alive with the calls of brightly coloured parakeets returning to the treetops to roost.
The day after our wedding, we awoke to find the area shrouded in the famous Blue Mountains mists. This gave us the perfect excuse to enjoy some pampering in the hotel’s spa and make use of the indoor swimming pool. We also ventured out to Leura, a pretty little village with a strong arts and crafts vibe, where we indulged in hot chocolate and waffles at Café Josophan (187a The Mall). It was so good that we bought a bag of their divine hand-made chocolates to take away with us.
Lilianfels itself was everything that one would expect of a luxury boutique hotel and more. It has an old-world charm and glamour that make it the perfect setting for a wedding, honeymoon or romantic break. Our beautifully appointed room had stunning views across the Jamison Valley. I also enjoyed learning about the hotel’s fascinating history through a series of newspaper cuttings, photographs and other artefacts displayed in a corridor just off the main bar area.
I only hope that I get the opportunity to return there some day – perhaps for my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary?