Lavender Majestic Review - "The Restoration" Australia house and Garden, March 2015

The girls’ weekend away just got a whole lot smoother, with this beautifully serviced historical home in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, writes Vanessa Walker Chief Sub Editor and Travel Editor of Australian House and Garden Magazine.

I remember once reading about a new cognitive behaviour therapy for children who had experienced a hard period in their lives. The idea was that you could help alleviate a difficult time by spending a full day or two with them, allowing them to do whatever they wanted with no restrictions aside from safety. It might involve going to the movies at 9am, buying a coke and popcorn and chips and a pie, then going to Luna Park before watching back-to-back DVDs then being read a bedtime story at 4pm. The point was that giving them the full power to direct their lives, and cosseting them in unconditional love for a short period, could help reset their emotional equilibrium.

Well, I think I might have found an analogous experience for women who want a break from their daily life and a little pepping up to get back in the groove. It’s called Blue Mountains Girls Getaway and it’s set in a magnificent historical property in Katoomba, once owned by the Foy family of Hydro Majestic fame, sequestered behind a lush garden. It caters for groups of women (up to eight) who want to reconnect with each other and take some time out from their daily lives.

Blue Mountains Girls Getaway’s (BMGG) winning aspect is that the house is given over to the group just like when you go for your average girls’ weekend, save for the fact that there is a butler at your disposal. A butler to pick up every towel, make every cup of tea, cook every breakfast, do all the dishes; in short, every menial task that many women, especially mothers, do day in day out and often can’t escape even when they’re on holiday. And I am here to attest to the fact that it is incredibly restorative not to lift a finger, even for a weekend. To have someone want to serve you, because they see its value (more about owner Nicky Vaux in a moment) is another lovely aspect to the stay. This butler experience is no old-fashioned class encounter, there is generosity behind it; Nicky is thoroughly trained in five-star hospitality, having worked at the Ritz in London and Grosvenor House in Park Lane. She can see a deep need for this kind of retreat and for women to take time out from their hectic lives to enjoy themselves with their girlfriends.

The 1890s sandstone house, Lavender Majestic, is beautifully decorated in a contemporary country style and is resoundingly domestic, making it easy to put on your comfy clothes and settle in for a natter, some reading, some film watching, some respite after a day of shopping in nearby Katoomba... Whatever it is your group decides to do, Nicky (or her sidekick Andrew, they work in 24 hour shifts) facilitates making it the best experience possible. Both Nicky and Andrew are discreet and friendly, in fact a more fitting job title than butler would be ‘enabler’.

Four of us took the train up from Sydney recently and are picked up from the railway station by Nicky; with nine children between us, we are in need of a break.  Nicky quickly settles us into the large four-bed room on the first floor where we discover a welcome package of body lotions and chocolate. One side of this room looks down onto the Jamison Valley the other directly into the luminous green leaves of a giant oak. We head downstairs to settle into the deep comfortable armchairs in the conservatory for a bit of relaxation, aided by cups of tea and a selection of gourmet cookies. Although the house was built 1890s, it’s had sympathetic additions by Derek Russell of Delbuild; an architect who happens to be Nicky’s father. The conservatory is just that kind of light-filled room you keep being drawn back to.

Soon after, we take a five-minute walk into Katoomba to pick up some finger food for dinner, returning laden with goodies. Nicky arranges it beautifully and serves it to us before asking each of us to nominate what newspapers we’d like the next morning and which facial or massage we’d prefer the next day; all part of the BMGG package. We hit our beds early, talking well into the night, marvelling at how relaxed an evening can be when you don’t have to pick up after others, wash up and get prepared for the next day.

The following morning we are shown to the dining room where a table is laid with local produce; Nicky loves to champion local producers and included in the spread are Blue M Food Co jams and chutneys, Logan Brae apple juice, Whisk & Pin muesli and various fresh pastries. We are then shown the menu, which Andrew (our relief butler) will cook up. I can’t resist the avocado and bacon on sourdough with poached egg; the others go for a tomato, mushroom and fetta omelette and scrambled eggs. Yes, there’s a coffee machine and the lattes are café quality. We read the papers and eat our fill then linger… and linger… and linger, chatting and talking like we haven’t in years. We then each have an incredibly relaxing massages and facials in the treatment room while those who aren’t simply continue their tea sipping and reading in the conservatory.

Having utterly slowed down, we stroll into Katoomba, browsing the antique shops and having a wonderful railway ride down to the floor of the Jamison Valley at Scenic World - at a 52-degree incline, the steepest passenger railway in the world. On the way home we stop at The Carrington for an afternoon cocktail, very pleased with our selection of Blue Mountains experiences. I’ll be honest though, we were booked in for dinner at a local eatery but on the way back to the house, we decide to cancel. The thought of more downtime at the Lavender Majestic is too alluring. Nicky had said she finds the house itself a nurturing space and I think she’s right. Perhaps it’s a quality of sandstone or just simply that the house is given over to nurture, but there is a pervasive atmosphere of contentment and calm. After dinner, we decide to have a dip in the outdoor spa and then start singing our favourite 80s tunes (out loud, eyes closed, almost hitting the high notes and not caring one jot). In the chilled air, with fairy lights illuminating the garden, it’s magic. Andrew laughs and smiles through it all, before delivering our warmed fluffy dressing gowns as we get out of the water. He then kindly lights a fire for us, so we can watch a movie in comfort, before we retire to our fully tidied, curtains drawn, turned-down bedroom to read and natter some more.

After another delicious breakfast, all too fast, it’s time to leave. Andrew sees us off with a care package of leftover snacks, thoughtfully wrapped for our train journey home. Arriving back at Katoomba station after just a day and a half at Lavender Majestic we feel like different people. We’re content to be quiet, and are looking forward to resuming our lives and enjoying our children. The Lavender Majestic is the kind of place and BMGG the kind of experience that mothers, brides looking for a hen’s night venue, old friends from across the country meeting for a reunion or those celebrating a milestone anniversary dream of. It’s a truly restorative getaway that’ll leave every visitor with beautiful memories, closer friendships and perhaps a better perspective on what truly matters in life. 

Blue Mountains Girls Getaway; www.bmgg.com.au or call Nicky on 0412 884061.

Vanessa and her friends stayed courtesy of Blue Mountains Girls Getaways