Australia – Part 6

Wednesday 21st September

Another day another city, this time Perth in Western Australia. We were lucky to be able to get up at our normal time, have breakfast and finalise our packing before checking out of the Grand Chancellor and making our way to the airport for our flight west. We enjoyed our time in Brisbane immensely, it was a much more relaxed city than we expected, but having seen and experienced enough of it, it is time to move on.

On arrival at the airport, after being picked up by our driver, we got through check in and security with ease then spent the time waiting for our flight with our books. The flight went very well, although it was a 6 hour flight and not 4 hour as we had thought, we had forgotten about the 2 hour time difference in Western Australia.

We were picked up at the airport and made our way to the Pan Pacific hotel in the city centre to check in for our stay here, once in our room we unpacked and had a quick call with Graeme and my cousin Betty who lives nearby, we then went out for a look around our surroundings. Unfortunately it had started raining on our arrival but we still managed to see a bit of the city before choosing somewhere in Globe Lane for dinner and a beer, before returning to the hotel.

Thursday 22nd September

As it was the Australian national day of mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, a lot of shops were closed or only opened on Sunday hours, despite this we had a super day.

We went to visit the Visitor Centre in town to pick up a city map to find that we were just in time to join a guided orientation walking tour of the city, off we set with our knowledgeable guide Patricia, to visit all the main point and locations, with her explaining how to travel about using the excellent public transport system, which is totally free within the city, this was a wonderful way to spend a morning. Coincidentally the tour ended near the Little Island Brewery where we had to stop and try one of their ales, which were very nice indeed, whilst there, we bumped into and had a chat to a couple who were visiting Australia from Hamilton.

Once the tour had ended we decided to buy some picnic food and visit Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens for lunch, we really enjoyed an afternoon lazing away for a couple of hour in such beautiful surroundings, as it is spring here all the wildflowers are coming into bloom providing a colourful display. In it’s elevated position the park also gave us some great views of Perth and the Swan River, again this was a wise choice of a way to spend an afternoon.

In the evening we went into town to meet with my cousin Betty, her daughter Adrienne and her family, Cameron, Katie and their partners Georgia, Kaylum and Katie’s toddler Noah, unfortunately, Adrienne’s husband Craig was feeling ill and couldn’t make it. Adrienne had booked us all into a really good Chinese restaurant called Uncle Billy’s and we had a great time catching up on each others news and just having a good old blether. We then dropped them off at the station for their return home to Mandurah and we used a free bus back to the hotel. Despite the reason for the public holiday, we had an other wonderful day.

Friday 23rd September

Following yesterday’s orientation tour, we returned to the visitor centre in town to take up their street art walking tour, although I had done this 4 years ago, I thought it would be good to do it again, this time Joan, our guide, approached it differently, with slightly more emphasis on the sculptures. It was good to see that almost all of the good murals in Wolf Lane and Globe Lane still remained.

For our afternoon adventure we bought a train ticket and headed out to Cottesloe Beach where we had heard that there was a display of sculptures created for a Sculptures by the Sea project, we did see some of them but the main attraction was having a lazy day on the beach and one of our picnic lunches. On our return to the city we went over to the Art Gallery of Western Australia to the roof top terrace to see the sculptures there, coincidentally there happened to be a bar there so we had our first beer of the day there.

We returned to the hotel and decided that we would just stay there for the evening to have dinner and to prepare for Saturdays trip.

Saturday 24th September

Up and at ’em this morning ro get to the ferry terminal in time to catch the Rottnest Express over to the island, the boat, a large catamaran, gave us nice cruise down the Swan River to the port of Fremantle, where we stopped to pick up more passengers. Once out in open water, the sea got choppier, which caused problems for some on board.

On arrival on the island we took advantage of the hop on hop off island explorer bus before heading to a local bistro for lunch. After lunch we strolled through the main town, called Settlement, watching the little Quokkas wandering about. We then went for a run on the islands little railway to visit a wartime gun emplacement, it certainly was a feat of engineering in getting all the parts there and building it in the first place, by the time we returned to the Settlement it was time to board the ferry back to Perth.

On our orientation tour we heard of an Illumination display at the ….. library after sunset, we went to see it only to find that it didn’t start until next week, whilst in the Northbridge area we went to Mr Ming’s BBQ place for a very good Chinese meal, one highlight of the Northbridge area on Williams Street we found was Cafe Pastels a place selling genuine Portuguese custard tarts, we had no option but to test them , they were very good indeed, just gooey enough with crisp pastry, this finished off another great day in Australia.

Sunday 25th September

This morning we took the train to Fremantle, the train was mobbed due to the Perth Royal Show being on nearby. Once in Fremantle, or Freo as it’s called locally, we had a great time wandering around this pretty cool town, covered in very good street art. Dan had sent us the names of some of the coolest streets in the world that we could visit, which we did, however we both felt that the whole town of Freo could be added to that list, it’s a pretty cool place.

For lunch we eventually managed to get some Aussie pies from the Fremantle Market before continuing our wanders. We than took one of the free CAT buses to South Fremantle to visit the spectacular murals on the East-West Designs warehouse, a place where they sell quirky furniture and decor items, both the frontages on South Terrace and South terrace are covered in fun humorous murals created by Graeme Miles Richards in 2013, it was so good to see that they were still there, it’s worth watching the linked YouTube video to see how it was created Finally, no visit to Freo is complete without a visit to the Little Creatures Brewery, producer of one of Graeme’s favourite beers, so we had to make a pilgrimage there to test the product, it was very good indeed

Later in the day we met up again with Betty, Adrienne and Craig for a farewell dinner, we were booked into Benny’s, a restaurant near Craig’s Camera House shop, the mea,l and especially the company, was very good, it was a pleasure to meet with them again. Craig wes still a bit ill and receiving intravenous antibiotics which left him a bit groggy, so we finished off early leaving us plenty of time to catch the train back to Perth.

Monday 26th September

Yet another public holiday here in Australia, this time for the King’s Birthday, so once again we had closed shops and 10-15% surcharges on purchases. We had planned to do a Swan Valley wine tour today or tomorrow and after checking online we went to the booking office only to be told that they only run them on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and that they do not run them during the week, we were extremely disappointed as this was not mentioned anywhere on the brochure or on their website.

Feeling adventurous, we researched how to get out to the area on our own and quickly headed for the train station to take us out to Guildford where the Swan Valley visitor centre is located. The staff in the centre were very friendly and helpful providing us with maps and suggested walking routes which we followed to take us up into the valley to visit vineyards in Benara region and the Funk Cider farm where we stopped for lunch, again, as it was a public holiday many of the places were closed but we enjoyed the walk in the nice sunshine.

We returned to the city getting off the train in the Northbridge area where we saw some remarkable street art, which will be appearing in the street art section of the site shortly, unfortunately the Portuguese Tart cafe, the other reason we wanted to revisit the are was closed for the public holiday. A free CAT bus took us back to the hotel a bit weary but happy to have had a fun day.

Tuesday 27th September

A morning trip to a nearby laundrette started the day for us, this meant that we were due to depart Perth quite soon, this time Lava, the laundrette was a ultra modern facility that is fully automated and very speedy and we both enjoyed a bit of quiet time with our books whilst waiting.

To try and satisfy Jim’s search for the perfect Aussie pie, we visited the renowned Mary Street Bakery outlet near our hotel for lunch, Jim’s verdict was that it was one of the best pies he has had whilst here, nice crisp flakey pastry, loads of chicken and veg filling with a nice little sauce on the side, he said he much preferred Aussie pies to the UK versions.

We then jumped onto one of the CAT buses to take us to the Matagarup Bridge where we had looked at the zip wire running from the top of it, we found that we were unable to do it as, at over 70’s, we were too old.

Fortunately for us, situated next the spectacular Optus Stadium and inside The Camfield, reputed to be Australia’s largest pub, was the Bevy Brewery, and to keep Fiona back in Hamilton happy, we had to try out a schooner of their fine ale.

Once back in the city centre we went exploring to fond a restaurant suitable for our last night in Australia, it’s strange thst over here most resturants do their business at lunch time and shut very early in the evening, this made our choice difficult, eventually we chose the Grand Lane Fish House, a traditional fish restaurant, since we would be eating mainly Asian food in Singapore.

One of the biggest surprises we found in Western Australia, we couldn’t meet Dan’s Challenge, there are no Starbucks in WA and we couldn’t find a Lego Store either. But that was one of the few problems we encountered in Australia.

We returned to the hotel to finish our packing and to reflect on our time in Australia, we’ve had a great time, each city, state and region provided us with new and exciting things to see and do, there were a few advetures and surprises along the way but we certainly enjoyed them all.

Roll on Singapore.

Australia – Part 2

Sunday 21st August

For our our first day in Australia we headed out for a walk along the beach to G&B’s local town of Mordialloc where we stopped off for a nice lunch in the Bridge Hotel before having a stroll around town and picking up some shopping in their local Woolworths.

In the afternoon, Briony’s parents Pat and Kay came over to visit with Briony’s nephews Jensen and Ollie, it was good to catch up with them again.

In the evening, after a nice meal we sat and watched one of the Aussie Rules Football games on TV, and enjoyed learning all about the rules etc, it was great fun. At this point jetlag started to hit us, so we opted for an early night. This was a good first day in Australia.

MONDAY 22nd August

This morning we took the train from Mordialloc to Flinders Street station in the city centre, we intended taking the city circle tourist tram to see the sights, there seemed to be a problem with it so instead of waiting for it to arrive, we took another one down to the Docklands area, it certainly was interesting to see all the pleasure boats instead of the large cargo ships that I visited on in the 1970’s.

Back at Flinders Street we gave up waiting for the tourist tram and went over to the Timeout cafe in Federation Square for lunch instead. The meal was made all the more memorable by the waiter spilling a whole pint of beer over Jim, soaking his trousers, they then had the nerve to try and charge us for the beer. We visited an Optus store to get our phones to connect to the internet correctly before setting out on Jim’s quest of finding the Lego Store and a Starbucks, we were successful in this and managed to track them both down. After a nice refreshment break (tea and coffee) we caught the train back to Mordialloc.

We had another nice night at home with G&B chatting and watching some Aussie TV, Jim is certainly getting hooked on some of the shows over here.

Tuesday 23rd August

Another trip into town after breakfast saw us heading down through St Kilda Road where we stopped at the National Gallery of Victoria to see an augmented reality exhibition, the technology was a wee bit flakey and it was difficult to find all the installations, perhaps it was a case of first day bugs and it will be set out soon.

After visiting the NGV we carried on down the St Kilda Road to the Shrine of Rememberance, an impressive memorial to Australian Armed Forces lost in the many and varied conflicts over the years, the memorial and surrounding gardens were a fitting tribute and a nice place to visit, we then went on further down the road to Gentlemans George’s where we met Graeme for lunch, it being close to his place of work. After lunch Jim had us make a pilgrimage to the nearby Albert Park, the home of the Australian grand prix, it was fun to walk on part of the circuit.

Once back in the city we had to visit a station to sort out Jim’s travel card, unfortunately the station was inside one of the giant malls and we found getting back out onto the street a wee bit difficult, by the time we reached the street and arrived at the Queen Victoria Market where we want to go, it was closed. We opted instead to pay a visit to Melbourne’s St Paul’s cathedral, which was very impressive with some spectacular stained glass windows. To finish off our day in the city we stopped off for a pint in the Duke of Wellington pub on Flinders Street before catching the train home, this was another interesting and fun day.

Wednesday 24th August

After our train ride this morning we went to the north of the city to get to our hotel, Brady’s on Jones Lane, which we had booked into for a couple of nights, fortunately our room was ready so we were able to check in and leave our bags before going back downtown to visit the Eureka Skydeck 88 floors above the city, although there was a bit of rain, we were still presented with some spectacular views of the city and the surrounding area.

We experienced what they call ‘The Edge‘ a glass box which moves out of the building leaving you suspended above the streets, it wasn’t as terrifying as they described it but good fun nonetheless, we were not brave enough though to try the ‘Plank Walk’, a virtual reality zip line over the city.

After lunch on the Skydeck we went uptown again to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol, unfortunately due to some flooding part of the tour was cancelled but what we saw was very good and gave us an insight into life in times gone past, we were amazed at the things people, children included, were imprisoned for, apparently you could get 6 months for swearing in public, if that happened today the prisons would be crammed.

Having missed the Queen Victoria Market yesterday, we were lucky that there was a Winter Night Market every Wednesday. This was ideal for us with a wide and diverse selection of stalls and food from all over the world, after wandering around we both decided to try the devilled chicken and rice from a Sri Lankan outlet, this was a great choice. A bottle of wine purchased on the way back to the hotel finished off the day perfectly.

Thursday 25th August

Our hotel was a great place to spend the night prior to our tours, the first of which was the Philip Island Eco Tour, after being picked up by our Go West (formerly Bunyip) guide and driver, Hilda, we headed of to our first stop at the Brighton Beach Huts, a row of colourful iconic huts, before heading to the Moonlit Sanctuary where we came face to face with kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and various other wildlife, it was great fun feeding the kangaroos and wallabies.

Next stop was at the Nobbies, overlooking the Bass Strait, the Nobbies boasts spectacular clifftop views., which we explored on the winding boardwalks, looking out to Seal Rocks, the home of Australia’s largest fur seal colony.

Philip Island Penguin Parade

It was then on to the largest Little Penguin colony in the world. We experienced the magic of watching these amazing little seabirds waddle home from the ocean to their burrows from the viewing platforms and boardwalks. Unfortunately you are forbidden to use your camera after sunset, but this video from Bunyip Travel lets you see some of what we experienced. A 2 hour journey back into the city meant thst we were a bit late for most of the restaurants, so a Chinese takeaway and a glass of wine in our hotel room finished the day off perfectly, It was certainly an interesting and fun day.

Friday 26th August

An early start today for our trip down the Great Ocean Road, we were picked up outside the Marriot, this time by Sheridyn from Go West and once all the other hotel pickups had been made off we set.our first stop was in the coastal town of Torquay, the traditional home of surfing in Australia, it was nice have some cake and coffee at this stop. Our next stop was at the memorial arch, commemorating the returned WWI servicemen who built the Great Ocean Road, we made a quick stop at the Kennett River where we were able to see Koalas and many colourful birds in their natural habitat.

After stopping off for a welcome lunch of a pie and a pot of beer, in the nice town of Apollo Bay before heading to Maits Rest for a walk through the rainforest to see the magnificent trees and ferns.

Next on our trip was the 12 Apostles, Gibson Steps and The Loch Ard Gorge, all equally impressive. We topped it all off with a stop at a noodle bar in Colac for dinner before returning to Melbourne. A quick well earned pint in a pub near the station were we were to catch the train to Graeme’s topped off a great couple of days.

Saturday 27th August

This afternoon we met the rest of Briony’s family when we went to the nearby Chelsea. RSL, a club for returned servicemen similar to our British Legion, we were there to celebrate Kay’s, Briony’s mothers, Birthday, it was nice to meet her brothers Sean his wife Moni and their children, her brother Andrew was there with his children but unfortunately his wife Sheree was unable to attend. The club was quite a special place and the food was very good, some of the portions were enormous, especially Andrews’s lamb shank.

After lunch came what must rank as one of the highlights of the trip for Jim, Briony took us for a drive around Melbourne’s Grand Prix circuit and he was stunned when she gave him the chance to drive around a section of it himself, his face was a picture to behold.

After the excitement of the afternoon we returned home, picked up Joffrey the dog then went to a local food court in a venue called Urban Ground, the pizzas there were pretty spectacular. After dinner we went round the corner with Graeme to a local brewery, Braeside Brewing for a couple of ales, this was a great way to finish off a very special first week in Australia