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Ebb and flow of the mighty Hawkesbury River


Autumn leaf floating on the surface of the Hawkesbury River at Hanna Park, North Richmond.

Autumn leaf floating on the surface of the Hawkesbury River at Hanna Park, North Richmond.

 

By Ellen Hill                     Photos: David Hill

(Continuing the story of the Hawkesbury River, we re-publish here an article that featured in the April-May 2009 edition of Blue Mountains Life magazine.)

 

THE last tendrils of fog swirl up to meet the golden rays of a weak winter sun, mirrored on the still surface of the water.

The occasional jumping fish makes a quiet “blip’’ noise. Birds twitter in the trees and skate across the gentle ripples before settling on the surface to float aimlessly with the tide.

The Hawkesbury River has always been part of Ted Books life.

The Hawkesbury River has always been part of Ted Books life.

This is Ted Books’ favourite time of day to cruise the Windsor section of the Hawkesbury River in his boat, the Montrose. He’s alone.

By mid-morning, the water twinkles in the glaring sun, the river a silver thread pulsing through colonial Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s kingdom with the monotony of routine.

Given the majestic Hawkesbury River has supported his family for five generations, you understand Books’ attachment to it.

As the boat gently bobs along the water, Books’ shares his memories and tells the history of the stretch he knows best _ the strip of water his famous colonial ancestors eventually learned they could not tame.

Ted Books is known for expressing a strong opinion and enjoying a chat. But he’s not known for being an emotional man. A former wrestler and retired excavator, he tends to say his bit in his no-nonsense way and leave it at that.

River stones in the Hawkesbury River at Yarramundi near Navua Reserve.

River stones in the Hawkesbury River at Yarramundi near Navua Reserve.

But aboard the Montrose, I not only see a different side to Books, but the river I have known most of my life.

“Sydney’s salad bowl’’, “Sydney’s playground’’, the Hawkesbury River has supported Australia’s largest city since European settlement.

For the handful of free settlers desperately trying to survive with virtually nothing in a foreign environment, the river was their transport, it watered them, their crops and animals.

In colonial times while chain gangs of convicts were still cutting roads by hand, the Hawkesbury River was the natural highway to Sydney Cove.

In fact, ships including the 101 ton Governor Bligh were actually built on the river. Two of Books’ ancestors _ Captain John Grono and Alexander Books _ had a shipyard at Pitt Town on Canning Reach, the remains of which can still be seen at low tide.

Among the 200 cargo vessel movements on the river each year were tall ships which took three inward tides (about 20 hours) to travel from Brooklyn at the mouth of the river to Windsor.

The 100 ton SS Erringhi was the last of the big ships to trade on the Hawkebsury River between the 1920s and 1937.

“I used to dive off the Windsor bridge and there used to be 30ft of water there,’’ Books says. “We used to dive off the bridge and go with the tide to Pitt Town, about 4 miles by water.’’

Deerubbin Park at Windsor.

Deerubbin Park at Windsor.

The Hawkesbury Nepean River is part of the vast 22,000 sq km Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment, stretching from Goulburn to Lithgow, Moonee Moonee, Pittwater and Singleton.

Its tributaries and creeks begin in the higher land of the Great Dividing Range, others in the highlands to the west of Wollongong and south of Sydney.

The Nepean begins in the Camden Valley near Moss Vale and becomes the Hawkesbury at Yarramundi after being joined by the Wollondilly River, on which Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main drinking glass, was built in the 1950s.

From the 1870s, a series of dams was built on the Upper Nepean, south east of Camden and its tributaries the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon Rivers.

The mighty Hawkesbury Nepean River ends at Juno Point at Broken Bay.

“Sydney would never survive without this river,’’ Books says. “This river is the playground for the city.’’

The Hawkesbury River has been Sydney's playground for generations.

The Hawkesbury River has been Sydney’s playground for generations.

Every now and again Books stops the boat, points out a landmark, pulls out yet another packet of black and white photographs and tells the story of the place.

“See that place up there? That’s where Thomas Arndell (the first surgeon to the colony, he came out with the First Fleet) settled when he came to the Hawkesbury. His homestead’s still there.

“They built next to the river because it was clean water and there was fish.’’

The oldest church building in Australia is at Ebenezer, built from stone in 1803 by a small band of free settlers. The church used to run a punt across the river to transport people to church.

The water is deepest _ about 90ft _ nearby, opposite Tizzana Winery at Sackville Reach Wharf.

Glancing at the river banks from the boat, it seems not much has changed apart from technology. Irrigation pumps spew water across enormous paddocks of turf, veggies and flowers. The staccato bark of a dog sends drifting ducks into a flurry. The sun’s rays highlight the fur on a lowing cow staring with lazy interest at the boat. The ghostly figures of farm workers can be seen inside a row of greenhouses.

Remains of an old punt at Sackville.

Remains of an old punt at Sackville.

But then Books’ tale of how his dad and his mates used to catch more fish than they could eat up this stretch of the river is broken by the roar of a power boat towing a skier.

Books pauses and waits for silence to return before pointing out another historic property on the hill.

He revs up the engine and the Montrose slips on.

The river remains a great source of seafood: flathead, bream, mullet, hairtail, mullaway, whiting, flounder, tailor, snapper, trevally, blackfish, leatherjackets, kingfish, John Dory, shellfish and prawns.

It is also home to much bird life: shags, cormorants, kingfishers, ducks, sea eagles, pelicans and terns.

And down in the salt water near the river mouth at Brooklyn there are sharks, sea snakes, jellyfish, stingrays and fortescues.

The Hawkesbury River has ebbed and flowed for millenia.

The Hawkesbury River has ebbed and flowed for millenia.

Today, the Hawkebsury, Penrith and Baulkham Hills region along the river generates a whopping $1.86 billion worth of produce (not including the equine industry). Sydney chows through 90 per cent of it.

The vast quantities of fruit, vegetables and turf grown in the Hawkesbury have fed the entire Sydney population and beyond for generations.

The river is also a major tourist attraction used extensively for recreation (the annual Bridge to Bridge boat race attracts thousands). Tourism and recreation reap $2 billion a year, thanks to the river.

Private moorings along the Hawkesbury.

Private moorings along the Hawkesbury.

Three car ferries and several bridges provide crossings over the waterway.

Crowds of day trippers are drawn to popular swimming, fishing, water skiing and boating spots each weekend.

A startling white glare suddenly burns the retinas of our eyes. Deck chairs blindingly white in the sun, emerald green manicured lawns and landscaped yards, expensive boat sheds. The property listings at the local real estate agents would reveal that river frontages are also becoming private paradises for the wealthy.

But later, in the golden after glow of sunset, the birds and fish replay their evening ritual as the mist settles like a gossamer blanket over the water surface, melding with the gloom of dusk. The river continues to beat its slow rhythm of life just as it always has.

Ducks in flight on the Hawkesbury River.

Ducks in flight on the Hawkesbury River.

 

 


Shanghai chic at Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blue Mountains


Shanghai chic has returned to the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Shanghai chic has returned to the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group

Shanghai chic has returned to the Hydro Majestic Hotel, after the recent opening of the Salon du Thé tearoom and bar.

Decorated in rich Oriental reds, far eastern murals and luxurious furnishings, guests can rediscover the understated decadence of the Empire with a refined Asian-inspired menu and a range of cocktails and wines.

Shanghai chic has returned to the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blue Mountains.

Shanghai chic has returned to the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Blue Mountains.

Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “The Salon Du Thé is part of one of the most famous spaces in one of the most famous hotels on the planet, Cats Alley in the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

“Cats Alley is often remembered as notorious for prowling women and men seeking company from ladies other than their wives. But the décor and clothing was always classy.

“With blood red walls, peacock feathers and sumptuous furnishings, Cats Alley and the adjoining Salon Du Thé have been beautifully refurbished by interior designer Peter Reeve to reflect that naughty heritage.

“And who knows what history modern guests will make in the future.’’

The Salon Du Thé has a unique ambience in addition to its magnificent views of the Megalong Valley.

A range of Eastern snacks are now available Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

A range of Eastern snacks are now available Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Visitors can lounge in high-backed chairs while nibbling on Eastern fare such as dumplings, Vietnamese rice paper rolls and Chinese twice-cooked pork belly and sipping delicately flavoured tea or a fragrant drop from the regional wine and popular beverage list.

Cat’s Alley has once again morphed into a hip bar/gin palace where elegant visitors can meet over jazz and martinis at sunset.

The venue will complement the other dining experiences across Escarpment Group properties including the Wintergarden and Boiler House Café at the Hydro Majestic, Darley’s Restaurant at Lilianfels and Echoes Restaurant & Bar.

Nearly six years in the making, the Escarpment Group has almost completed its roll-out of the Hydro Majestic Hotel exquisitely refurbished facilities.

Visitors can experience the spectacular Casino Lobby and luxurious Wintergarden, the stylish Delmonte conference and dining rooms and casual dining at the Boiler House Café and bistro.

Eastern High Tea in the Wintergarden at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Eastern High Tea in the Wintergarden at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

One of the grandest ballrooms in Australia, the Majestic Ballroom boasts vaulted ceilings, open fireplaces and the glamour of yesteryear for weddings and formal events.

A new addition to the Hydro Majestic property is the providores pavilion showcasing quality regional gourmet food and wine and interpretive history displays.

Also new will be the Majestic Point Lookout, picnic and market grounds, providing public access to the best views of the Megalong Valley, perfect for picnics, markets, wine fairs, music and the lost art of public promenading.

“The Hydro Majestic is one of those rare hotels that is a true global icon,’’ Mr Bruegger said.

“In a way, it belongs to the people of Australia because everyone from everyday people to celebrities and prime ministers has a story to tell about staying here.

“Blue Mountains locals have also taken ownership of the Hydro, waiting (impatiently I’m sure) for the refurbishment to be complete so they can bring their friends and family here for a meal and a show, as well as have a look themselves.’’

The Salon du Thé is open from 4pm to 10pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Go to hydromajestic.com.au for more dining, event and accommodation details and bookings.

* Escarpment Group, which owns the Hydro Majestic Hotel, is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Sip cocktails while watching sunset in Cat's Alley. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Sip cocktails while watching sunset in Cat’s Alley. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Leura Harvest Festival connects with community and its sustainable bounty


Leura Harvest Festival will be held in the famous Leura Mall on May 3, 2015.

Leura Harvest Festival will be held in the famous Leura Mall on May 3, 2015.

By Ellen Hill for Leura Village Association

Discover nature’s bounty in the Blue Mountains at the second Leura Harvest Festival on Sunday May 3 and immerse in innovative sustainable living, browse more than 60 street stalls, and  witness the reinvention of the iconic Australian lamington.

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin is festival ambassador

Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin is festival ambassador

Set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall, the Leura Village Association event will showcase all facets of sustainable living including outstanding regional produce, handmade and recycled items, to the latest clever initiatives in the Blue Mountains and wider region.

Visitors and locals can learn about everything from food preserving to clean energy, permaculture, beekeeping and micro-farming from an impressive line-up of guest speakers. Visitors can also meet this year’s Leura Harvest Festival ambassador, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley executive chef Jason Martin who is passionate about sourcing the very best regional, seasonal organic produce for the resort’s restaurants.

Other highlights will include regional wine and beer tastings, jam-making and knitting competitions, the traditional art of wool spinning, a chook show and dozens of stalls exhibiting sustainable, organic and locally grown food and produce, clean energy.

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Village Association president Barry Jarrott said: “The Leura Harvest Festival is a result of a growing demand for quality locally-grown produce from a population that is disillusioned with the multinational corporations that dictate what we eat, how it is produced and where it comes from.

“The success of last year’s festival proves that the Blue Mountains and wider community craves a stronger connection with the environment, better quality food and support of local growers and manufacturers.”

The second Leura Harvest Festival has received funding from the NSW Department of Premier and State Cabinet’s 2014 Bushfire Recovery Grant. The festival’s theme is “connecting the community’’.

The event will celebrate food from a 100 mile radius and promote recycling and re-purposing and encourage visitors to notice and immerse themselves in the magnificent Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area around them.

Go to www.leuravillage.com.au to find out more about Leura and its accommodation options. Visit http://leuravillage.com.au/fairsandfestivals/ for details about Leura Harvest Festival and event registrations. To apply for a stall, email bookings@leuravillage.com.au.

 

Leura Harvest Festival will be set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media

Leura Harvest Festival will be set among the famous cherry trees of Leura Mall. Photo: David Hill, Deep Hill Media


Easter holidays eggcitement in the Greater Blue Mountains


The home of the Magic Pudding is the perfect place for kids holiday workshops. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill, Blue Mountains Attractions Group

From a chocolate egg hunt, art workshops and baby animals to religious services and natural wonders, the premier attractions of the Greater Blue Mountains will keep the whole family occupied during the upcoming Easter and school holiday period.

Blue Mountains Attractions Group president Dave Robertson said: “Easter is one of the rare times during the year that the whole family can take a break together, so make the most of it and do something meaningful as a family. Then of course school aged children continue their holiday until Monday, April 20.’’

Choose from the following special Easter and school holiday activities:

Children will love the egg hunt at Everglades.Everglades Historic House & Gardens, Leura

With numerous niches and hidey holes, the magic of Easter will become real for children at the Everglades Gardens gigantic egg hunt from 10am to 3pm on Sunday, April 5. The lower garden will come alive with colour, delicious food, entertainment and oodles of games for the kids. Cost: National Trust members free, $10 children, $5 adults, $25 families (2 adults, 2 children – $5 extra child). Details: Scott Pollock (02) 47841938 or email everglades@nationaltrust.com.au. Go to www.everglades.org.au for a program.

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah

Kid’s Story Time (Waratah Education Centre, 10am-11.30am or 1pm-2.30pm, April 10). A delightful live reading of popular children’s books for kids. Featuring live action, audience participation and sound effects, this is an excellent holiday entertainment fun for all the family presented by Entertainment Blue Mountains Cost:$25. Bookings essential: (02) 9231 8182. Each session includes a 30-40 minute interactive story performance followed by the self-guided garden adventure quest. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.

Jenolan Caves

At 9am sharp on Easter Sunday, worshippers can experience a free non-denominational church service deep underground in the Cathedral Chamber of the Lucas Cave. After climbing 252 steep steps to the Cathedral Chamber, relax while listening to the Easter message, sing songs of praise and worship. While there, see the huge limestone formations named by cave explorers after familiar stories from the Bible and church features: the “baptismal font’’, “pulpit’’, “organ’’, “belfry’’, “organ pipes’’ and “cathedral windows’’. Bookings essential: (1300 76 33 11).

Help save the bilby at Featherdale Wildlife Park.Featherdale Wildlife Park, Doonside

Two Greater bilbies will be the star attraction at Featherdale Wildlife Park this Easter School Holidays. Visitors will be encouraged to help save the wild cousins of these nocturnal long-eared creatures by buying a Save the Bilby pin for $2. The non-aggressive, shy Greater Bilby, which once roamed 70 per cent of the Australian continent, is now an endangered species.

Featherdale general manager Tim Sinclair-Smith said: “So many visitors to the display are unaware of the existence of bilbies. They think they’re a mythical creature and are amazed to meet one up close.’’

Visitors can also attend animal feeding presentations throughout the day including a giant 4.5m saltwater crocodile named Ngukurr. Go to www.featherdale.com.au for details about other school holiday activities and the Wild family fun offer.

Nana’s Teddies & Toys, Blaxland

Meet the star of the recent Paddington Bear movie at Australia’s largest and most awarded specialty bear store. Visit and see how Paddington has changed during the years. Although still recognisable as the cherished Paddington from our childhood, he has had a dashing modern makeover.

Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum, Faulconbridge

The home of the Magic Pudding will be an ideal setting to nurture creativity at art workshops for children aged 6-12 years. Bookings: (02) 4751 1067 or info@normanlindsay.com.au.

Raining Cats and Dogs, 10am to 12.30pm, April 16 ($20): Make a metropolis of cat and dog characters come alive inspired by Norman Lindsay drawings. Learn how to use scratch foam and chine colle with specialised printing inks to create a series of artworks.

Dynamic Colour, 1pm to 3.30pm, April 16 ($20): Learn how to create a dynamic painting with colour and texture inspired by Norman Lindsay and the garden grounds of the gallery.

Scenic World, Katoomba

Baby bunnies, fresh hot cross buns and those world-famous rides: Scenic World Blue Mountains will be choc full of awesome holiday entertainment this Easter. The Scenic World forecourt will be transformed into a festive farmyard where children can feed and pat piglets, chicks, calves, baby goats and bunny rabbits during the long weekend. Adults can relax with a spiced hot chocolate and fresh hot cross bun from the pop-up café while the Hot Potato Band entertains with its popular New Orleans-inspired tunes. The thrilling Scenic railway, cablecar, skyway and walkway will also run throughout the holidays. All Easter weekend events are free with the purchase of a Scenic World pass including unlimited rides: $35 adult; $18 per child (4-13yrs), $88 family (2 adults, 5 children), $32 concession.

Mr Robertson encouraged visitors to “stay a night or three’’ to fully experience the thrills and wonders of the Greater Blue Mountains region.

Remember too that we reward loyal local tourism ambassadors through our Residents Rewards program simply for showing family and friends around the region and visiting our attractions businesses,’’ he said.

Go to bluemountainsattractions.com.au for more information about what to see and do in the Greater Blue Mountains region, special offers and news and the Residents Rewards program.

A pop-up cafe, roving musicians, farmyard animals and those famous rides at Scenic World this Easter.


Bringing the Blue Mountains to Sydney CBD


Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Experience the Scenic Skyway and the Blue Mountains in the Sydney CBD

Words by Ellen Hill for Scenic World

Perch on a clifftop at Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Blue Mountains escarpment and feel small again – in the heart of the city. Capture the moment in a photo and share it with the world next Friday (March 20) and Saturday (March 21) – all from Circular Quay.

Urban residents can experience a small slice of Australia’s most visited privately-owned tourist attraction and the nation’s most accessible wilderness when multi award-winning 3D chalk artist Anton Pulvirenti transforms Customs House forecourt into a World Heritage-listed landscape.

The 10m x 15m canvass 3D drawing will offer a glimpse of the Scenic Skyway as it glides 270m above ancient rainforest between clifftops, against the backdrop of the iconic Three Sisters and spectacular Katoomba Falls.

Scenic World brother and sister Joint Managing Directors Anthea and David Hammon said: “We have grown up with the Three Sisters as our view, breathed the fresh Blue Mountains air and enjoyed the rides at Scenic World as our playground our whole lives yet we never take the size of this vast one million square hectare landscape for granted.’’

Anton Pulvirenti will create the 3D chalk drawing using forced perspective to create an illusion of scale, meaning the scene will be so realistic that passers-by could be forgiven for believing they have truly been transported to the Blue Mountains.

So “stand’’ on the Scenic World clifftop and ask a friend to take a photo and share it with the world on Instagram with #feelsmallagain and receive an instant keepsake photo from the Scenic World team.

The top 10 most creative photos will receive a family pass to Scenic World so they can experience the thrilling attraction for themselves – for real.

The Scenic World Feel Small Again 3D chalk art will be staged in front of Customs House, Alfred St, Circular Quay, from 8am to 6pm Friday (March 20) and 10am to 5pm Saturday (March 21).

The family-owned Scenic World overlooking the world-famous Three Sisters landmark at Katoomba is home to the world’s steepest passenger train, the highest and largest cablecars in Australia and the longest boardwalk in Australia.


Hydro Majestic Hotel Blue Mountains: elegant festival venue


The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel will be a magnificent host to the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on February 7, 2015.

Words by Ellen Hill                                                    Photos by David Hill

The refurbished Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath will be the ultimate period party palace at which to launch the annual Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz on Saturday, February 7.

Hydro Majestic co-owner Huong Nguyen said: “The Hydro in its heyday was the place to be for people who wanted to have fun.

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Cats Alley at the Hydro Majestic will come alive with colourful characters.

“The Escarpment Group has refurbished the buildings back to their original elegance but what really makes a building come alive is people.

“So we invite everyone to dress up in their most sophisticated 1920s-style costumes to celebrate the return of colourful characters into the venues and hallways of the Hydro Majestic Hotel.’’

The day will begin with the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge on the lawns at 11am. Practice onsite from 10.30am and register on the day or pre-register at www.roaring20s.com.au.

Participants are encouraged to arrive by train and alight at Medlow Bath railway station conveniently located opposite the hotel.

The challenge aims to break its own Guinness World Record for the greatest number of costumed people to dance the Charleston. It set the record with 276 in 2013, 319 in 2014 – let’s make it 350 in 2015.

After the dancers have high-kicked their way into history once more, indulge in decadent local fare at the Majestic Long Lunch in the Majestic Ballroom.

Immerse yourself in the era during a long afternoon of informal grazing, promenading on the lawns and dancing to the 1920s-style band.

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel. Photo: Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Majestic Long Lunch will be held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Hydro Majestic head chef Maté Herceg and other Blue Mountains food heroes will prepare a feast from regional food.

An antipasto platter from award-winning Princess Pantry will feature meats and locally grown vegetables.  Maté will showcase his culinary skills with a memorable main course, followed by delicious cheeses from the Carrington Cellars & Deli. The finale of the feast will be a wicked, indulgent dessert from Josophan’s Fine Chocolates.

Guests will meet Australian food and wine identity and Majestic Long Lunch ambassador Lyndey Milan OAM, who has visited the region often and features the Blue Mountains in her Taste of Australia TV series and accompanying book.

“The glorious Blue Mountains continue to raise the bar with fun events, showcasing the increasing number and standard of local producers,’’ she said.

“The Long Lunch was great fun in its inaugural year in Leura and promises to ramp it up in the newly restored Hydro Majestic.’’

The Majestic Long Lunch and the Charleston Challenge will begin Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism’s Roaring 20s Festival held throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region from February 7-22. (Details: http://www.roaring20s.com.au)

Take the opportunity to explore the magnificent hotel on a guided tour and stock up on local produce in the newly opened providores pavilion during your visit.

End the day with another Australian icon, music legend Richard Clapton when he performs some of his hits including Girls On the Avenue, I Am an Island, Capricorn Dancer and Best Years Of Our lives. Cost: $57.50 + booking fee (show only). Doors open at 6pm, support act Chris Rose will perform at 8pm with Richard Clapton onstage at 9pm.

Dinner, show and accommodation packages available. Details and bookings: www.hydromajestic.com.au.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel has long been associated with fun.