An unexpectedly cool city,… and another mishap
(A page from my Travel Journal)
I’m not sure what I was expecting of Perth. Definitely not a sleepy hollow. What I knew of Perth beforehand is that it’s the capital and by far the largest city in Western Australia; that it’s located on the banks of the Swan River; it’s close to the Indian Ocean; and that it’s also one of the most isolated cities in the world (a massive desert on one side and a massive ocean on the other).
What I found was a pleasant surprise. To start, after the stifling heat of the past four weeks in Southeast Asia, the cooler weather was a welcome change. When I arrived, I was greeted by clear blue skies, a gentle ocean breeze and a temperature in the low-20’s. Fab.
Then the city itself. Perth is very clean (even the trains are spotless), very green and it has a beautiful riverside setting that’s totally unspoiled. The pace is noticeably laid-back and the many (trendy) bars, terraces and restaurants certainly invite guests to lounge around for hours for lazy chats and people-watching. Very cool. Perth is also booming, fuelled by high commodity prices, and the wealth is very visible: the ubiquitous expensive cars, designer shops, large villas and waterfront condominiums, and gleaming skyscrapers. In addition, the people here seem to have a slight spring in their step that seemingly conveys the message that life here is indeed good.
When I wasn’t visiting relatives (I have many living here), I was out and about, exploring the city. I took the train to Fremantle one afternoon. Fremantle is located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, at the mouth of the Swan River.
It’s a rather sleepy town with gorgeous heritage buildings and a lovely waterfront. I had an amazing lunch there at the Mussel Bar.
On my way back to Perth, I stopped at Subiaco, one of the western suburbs. Subiaco’s atmospheric tree-lined streets are just chockful of trendy shops, bars, restaurants and the like. I stopped by for a beer at the bar of the Subiaco Hotel – lovely courtyard, beautiful restaurant, and a bar that was designed for people-watching.
I spent one afternoon exploring the Perth city centre. Hay Street and Murray Street are the main shopping areas. Just off Hay Street, there’s a beautiful alley with an authentic English feel. That’s one of the things I like about this city: there are the glass and steel skyscrapers but in between you’ll find some real gems: gorgeous Tudor or Victorian-style buildings that add a unique touch to this city. After a few hours of walking around, I stopped for a beer at the Belgian Cafe. I ordered a Hoegaarden (a white beer) as it’s pronounced in Dutch and the bartender didn’t understand me so had to switch to the English pronunciation (i.e. without the guttural ‘g’ 🙂 ). The guy next to me at the bar smiled and said, “you must be Dutch”, in Dutch. Turns out, he’s a tourist, just like me, from the Netherlands, who’s travelling around Australia. Really, the Dutch are everywhere!
I had a rather weird day today. I’d booked myself on a Swan River wine cruise a few days back (there are many vineyards along the banks of the river). My cousin dropped me off at the jetty in the morning. Before the boat departed, I went to the loo for a pee and when I was done, I turned to adjust my belt and as I did so, I heard a loud clang (the sickening sound of metal hitting ceramic) and quickly after, a splosh. I turned around and was instantly gripped by terror: my camera had fallen into the toilet bowl (straight out of my jacket pocket)!!! Two camera mishaps within a week (read about the first mishap in Krabi). Unbelievable! Anyway, the camera’s a goner and I resorted to taking pictures during the cruise using my phone (thank you SonyEricsson for making decent camera-phones).
The cruise was beautiful… it would’ve been better if the weather was good; it was overcast throughout, very windy (and cold) and rained from time to time. Still, we managed to have a good time. The wine-tasting started as soon as the boat left the jetty (at 10:00am :-). We had four different Swan River wines to start (wines from the Houghton estate – the classic white blend was good). Oh, along the way, we saw many pelicans and other colourful Aussie birds (I’m not an ornithologist, ok). We even spotted some dolphins in the river but strangely enough….. no swans! Anyway, back to the vino.
“No spitting out the wines here when you’re tasting… it’s considered rude!”
By the time we arrived at the first wine estate, we’d had six different wines to taste paired with a big cheese platter with crackers. Then there were more wines to taste at the winery (I can’t for the life of me remember the estate’s name!!). This was like 11:30 am. After that, we got back into the boat and we made our way to the next estate – there were two more wines to ‘taste’ on board (as you can imagine, by this time, they all tasted the same! No spitting out the wines here when you’re tasting… it’s considered rude… this is Down Under after all, haha!).
We got to the second estate safely (the scenery along the way was lovely – I do remember that – beautiful waterfront houses, parklands, etc, etc… 🙂 and we had a marvellous lunch there. Gorgeous roast chicken and the Chenin Blanc which accompanied it was exquisite. All in all, I was not too impressed with the reds; there were many Merlots, Cab Sauvs, Shiraz and blends available but they were not as full-bodied as I like my reds to be, and I thought the finish was rather flat. On the other hand, the whites were great. There were some beautiful blends such as the Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay. After lunch, we were taken on a quick tour of Western Australia’s oldest wine cellars, then had to run back to the boat as it started to rain rather heavily. We had another three more tastings on board before we arrived back at the jetty in Perth (at about 4:45pm), feeling rather giddy.
I walked (the rain sobered me up very quickly) to the main shopping area on Hay Street and found a camera shop. The specialist/salesman confirmed what I’d suspected (the camera was basically useless and it would probably be more worthwhile to buy a new one than to get the old one fixed). He was probably just trying to sell me a new camera (though he did seem honest enough) but after two camera incidents in a week, I was starting to get the idea that my camera was tired of me. So, I heeded the salesman’s advice and bought a new camera…. I decided to call it an advance birthday gift to myself! Hopefully, I’ll have better luck with this new camera.