Leura is an enchanting village located in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, Australia just outside Sydney. With its Edwardian storefronts and 19th century cottages, Leura sits framed upon a background of stunning natural wonders: sandstone escarpment, dense eucalyptus forests and rugged terrain. Leura is now as popular for visitors to the Blue Mountains as Katoomba itself. The area boasts many gardens which are privately owned yet open at selected times of the year to the public. Leura Garden Festival and Leura Village Fair are popular events held in October each year. We stopped in Leura on the tour for about half an hour for a bathroom break and a snack. We decided on the charming Wayzgoose café, a little pastry shop apparently famous for their “flowerpot scone”. They have the usual assortment of herbal teas but also really good hot chocolate.
Leura reminds me of a small town in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. There are the small kitchy shops and cafés along the single Main Street, the mountain air is sweet and they even have columbines, the state flower of Colorado. The Rocky Mountain Columbine was designated the official state flower of Colorado in 1899 after winning the vote of Colorado’s school children. Discovered in 1820 on Pike’s Peak by mountain climber Edwin James, the Rocky Mountain columbine (Columbine Aquilegia caerulea) is a lovely flower with a rich aroma to attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies to its nectar. The Latin word aquila means “Eagle” and refers to the claw-like spurs at the base of the flower. Columbines bloom in pastel shades of blue, violet, red, yellow and white. There are 70 species of columbines in the world and about 1/3 are native to North America. Colorado specifies the white and lavender Rocky Mountain Columbine which has blue-violet petals and spurs, a white cup and yellow center. Blue is a symbol of the sky, white represents snow, and yellow symbolizes Colorado’s gold mining history.
The building which holds the café was constructed in 1901 and was the home of the Federal Printing Works for the next 80 years. It became a cafe in 1980 and had various names before becoming The Wayzgoose Cafe in 2003. The owners wanted a name that reflected the building’s history and related to printing and dining. In the early days of printing, in England and the Flemish Lowlands, printers worked long hours. As daylight grew shorter at the end of summer, it was necessary to work by candlelight in the morning and evenings. This was very unpopular. The master printer therefore arranged an annual feast day (St Bartholomew’s Day, August 26th). He closed the works down for the day and the staff had a picnic in a field outside of town. The variety of spellings and pronunciations (including with and without the “z”) indicate that it is an orally-borrowed Dutch word that fit somewhat uneasily in the mouth of English speakers. Perhaps they sat on a “Wayz”, a sheaf of corn stubble, and ate the meal, which could include a “fatted goose”. Later versions gave them money to spend at the Ale-house or tavern at night. For almost 20 years the Letterpress Guild of New England has met in late September for their annual Wayzgoose. Modem printers learned of the tradition and the word was used in literature departments of many universities and in newspapers. This is just one explanation for the name, there are more scholarly explanations. I even found a lovely poem from 1866 on the Wayzgoose festival:
The season comes to light the tapers up,
To gild the night, and drink the festive cup;
Now darkness treads upon the heels of day,
And earlier now dispatches him away. …
We sacrific’d the goose, and mirth pursu’d;
As that delicious bird about this time,
Call’d for the knife, and was in season prime. …
The masters hence their journeymen invite,
To dine abroad, or spend the merry night.
Lloyd’s Evening Post, 1750, quoted in Notes and Queries, 4 August 1866.
So we finally get to the food. Lisa had the flowerpot scone (actually made in a flowerpot) which was quite nice and I had a chocolate scone which was even better. Lisa had a hot chocolate and I had a mocha. All told, the atmosphere was lovely, the food and service good and it was a good time for all. If you visit the Blue Mountains, be sure to visit Leura and the Wayzgoose Café.
Wayzgoose Café: http://www.wayzgoosecafe.com.au/
Colorado Columbines: http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/Colorado/ColoradoColumbine.html