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Cleopatra's Guest House


A number of Australia's loveliest houses and gardens are within an hour's drive of Cleopatra. Here are some places not to miss. Faulconbridge The Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum (14 Norman Lindsay Crescent; 61-2/4751-1067) has a comprehensive collection of Lindsay's rather lurid paintings of pneumatic naked young women. His scandalously bohemian lifestyle was the subject of the 1994 Hugh Grant movie Sirens.

At Everglades Gardens (37 Everglades Ave.; 61-2/4784-1938), visitors can tour the Art Deco mansion and gardens designed by Paul Sorensen, Australia's great landscaper.

Barmans (169—171 Leura Mall; 61-2/4784-1951), Australia's largest underground retail wine cellar, is the perfect place to stock up on Shiraz.

Mount Victoria
The best-preserved heritage village in New South Wales is chock-full of country charm.

Mount Vic Flicks (Harley Ave.; 61-2/4787-1577), a small cinema in a 1930's building, has kept its old-fashioned character but shows all the latest releases. Locals bring their own mugs for tea and coffee during intermission.

The Blue Mountains may have a serious oversupply of Devon tea shops, but the Bay Tree Tea Shop (26 Station St.; 61-2/4787-1275), a tiny tearoom with a genuine bygone atmosphere, is worth singling out.

Memorabilia from Mount Victoria's glory days fills the cases of the quirky Mount Victoria & District Historical Society Museum (Mount Victoria Station, Station St.; 61-2/4787-1190; open weekends and holidays only).

Mount Wilson
It's a beautiful drive from Mount Victoria along the Bells Line of Road as you climb to one of the highest points of the mountain range, where some of the well-to-do of Victorian- and Edwardian-era Sydney came to escape summer's heat. You'll find the wonderful St. George Anglican Church, built in 1916, and many notable gardens that are open at times to the public. (The Garden Lover's Guide to Australia, by Holly Kerr Forsyth, has a detailed section on Mount Wilson gardens, including the days and times they're open.)

Visitors are welcome to drop in on Helen and Gary Ghent, owners of Withycombe (Church Lane; 61-2/4756-2106), the former summerhouse of Nobel Prize—winning Australian novelist Patrick White. It's part beautiful estate, part inn, where guests dine together at a baronial table. There are extensive grounds to explore.

The Turkish Bath Museum (The Avenue; 61-2/4756-2006) was built around 1880 by a wealthy (and eccentric) Mount Wilson resident who wished to bring the healthy benefits of a hammam to his ailing wife.

GOVETTS LEAP One of the area's most popular mountain lookouts is within walking distance of Cleopatra, down the Braeside Track in Blue Mountains National Park. If you'd rather leave the crowds behind, visit the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre (Govetts Leap Rd.; 61-2/4787-8877) for maps and expert advice on the best walks for your fitness level. Note: Time estimates for the walks are very conservative; if you're relatively fit, you'll finish in about half the time.

MEGALONG VALLEY This beautiful valley hemmed in by sandstone cliffs feels like a hidden kingdom. It's headquarters for the mountains' most famous trail-riding outfit, the Packsaddlers (Green Gully, Megalong Valley; 61-2/4787-9150), whose owners, the Carlon family, have been riding the mountains for seven generations. The 1,600-acre Megalong Australian Heritage Centre (Megalong Rd.; 61-2/4787-8188) includes a farm, a dinner theater, and a bush wilderness reserve.

GARDNER'S INN 255 Great Western Hwy.; 61-2/4787-8347; lunch for two $21. Try a traditional Aussie meat pie at the pub, washed down with a "coldie" (a beer, of course). The pies, made on the premises, are perfect for Sunday lunch. Ketchup, or "red sauce," is compulsory.

CAMBRIA BOOKS Collier Arcade, Govetts Leap Rd.; 61-2/4787-5232. The Blue Mountains are full of secondhand bookshops, and this is one of the best. Books are clean and in good condition, and have been intelligently sorted into subjects.

VULCANS 33 Govetts Leap Rd.; 61-2/4787-6899, dinner for two $52. Chef Phillip Searle moved up to the mountains after a successful career in Sydney. But when he found this old bakery, he was tempted back to the stove by its wood-burning oven. Come here for a casual dinner, and be sure to try the checkerboard ice cream.

VICTORY THEATRE CAFÉ 17 Govetts Leap Rd.; 61-2/4787-6777, breakfast for two $13. This café serves staples — including the Big Mountain Breakfast — all day in the front room of an antiques center that was once a theater.


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