Scary stories from a lovely place
One of the last things I wanted to do before we left Joburg was to have high tea at the Westcliff Hotel. Stephen said he would take me for Mother’s Day, which sounded splendid to me. But our last weeks were so packed full of boring but all-consuming administration that we had no time for such pleasantries.
Last weekend we were in the Blue Mountains which was a most welcome change from my current routine of thrice weekly visits to the hospital as a high risk maternity patient. We did some very minor bush walking, a lot of reading, visiting old op-shops and one afternoon Stephen took me for high tea to ‘Bygone Beauty’s’ in Leura, which also hosts the world’s largest private collection of teapots. The assortment apparently numbers over 3000 and spans four centuries and five continents. Besides the collection they had myriad shelves and cases full of china for sale, and most of it seemed to be the real thing, with price tags upwards of $100 for each piece.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the high tea was marvelous. Accompanied by an awkward but endearingly quiet man wearing a black top hat, bow tie, tails and white gloves was our tea tray, emblazoned with two Australian flags. It was wheeled to our table to the resounding tune of ‘The Republic’ which must have been coming from a tape player concealed under the trolley. The tiered platter consisted of incredibly thin cucumber and ham and mustard sandwiches, pastries, grapes and mini scones. Our tea was poured from silver teapots into lovely china cups which made us feel markedly more sophisticated than we looked.
An article we read in a Blue Mountains tourist magazine described the high tea as being served with “a little pomp and ceremony”. This was certainly no exaggeration. I’m amazed I hadn’t heard about this wonderful place before. I’ve spent a considerable amount of my holidaying life in the Blue Mountains and also know many people who are fanatical about tea – why had I not heard about Bygone Beauty’s? Now I know where I will be taking every overseas visitor for an afternoon of pomp and teapot envy served by the man in the top hat.