February 21: Fremantle, Australia. Hosted by Jan & Ken.
A few years ago on a cruise from Barcelona to London, we met our Australian friends Jan and Ken. We got together with them in London after our cruise and have since then kept up with each other by email. They live an hour or so south of Perth, so we were thrilled that they were able to drive up to see us when our ship was in their part of Australia. We spent a lovely day hanging out together as they showed us some of the highlights of Fremantle.
The ports lecturer on the ship had told us about a maps store in Fremantle, and Jan and Ken wanted to go there as well, so that was our first stop (Chart & Map Shop, 14 Collie Street, Fremantle). What a great store. It was mostly about sailing and maps but had a good collection of travel narratives as well. The staff was pleasant and accommodating, and they particularly liked that we bought Insight guides for 12 different cities! We then went over to the waterfront to look at a newly developed recreation area and from there walked into an 1850s building which now houses the Western Australian Museum – Shipwrecks Galleries. The coastline of Western Australia is particularly treacherous, and this museum displays artifacts recovered from many of these shipwrecks: fishing tackle, pottery, fabric scraps, machinery, nails, belt buckles, buttons, lace fragments, cannons, etc., etc. Next, we drove to an arts center which is housed in a building that once held the women’s insane asylum. Today, it has a happy and restful courtyard with tables and chairs and people and children lounging and playing all around. We ordered coffee/tea and sat outside under the plane trees for a while, which was very pleasant, even though the ravens, which Jan says are now protected and have become pests, were quite loud and raucous at times. On our way into the arts center, we got sidetracked by the shop, spending a bit of time there looking at the wonderful local handmade items for sale. We were able to leave there without buying anything, but we did like several ceramic, glass, and fabric pieces. So we continued on to the arts center but got stuck in the entrance by the collection of art books on display. We never made it in to see the art galleries, so who knows what we missed?
We left there and headed to the Fremantle Sailing Club (Ken is a member) for a lunch reservation at 12:30. With the marina just outside our window, we had a lovely conversation and lunch. Our next stop was the maritime museum of Fremantle. This is a tall building – tall enough to hold an America’s Cup sailing vessel – with an irregular shape, which enables it to hold all sorts of boats and their equipment. We spent some time there, learning about the history of ships and boats in the western part of Australia. Jan and Ken both have ancestors whose names, ships, and dates were inscribed on outside panels listing those who immigrated into Australia via Fremantle. They both came from England in 1830.
Late in the afternoon, they drove us back to the ship, and we said our goodbyes. We are happy to say that we’ll be seeing them again in a few months. They’re making a 9-week trip to the U.S. in April, and we’ll see them when they’re in New York in May. A large part of our conversation today centered on their plans and how we can best help them have a good time when they’re in New York. We look forward to seeing them again.
February 22: Perth, Australia.
The purpose of today’s excursion was to introduce us to Perth via bus and river ferry. We boarded the tour bus about 9am, drove out of the Fremantle port area, and headed through shore towns in the direction of Perth. Our first stop was the very popular beach community Cottesloe, where we parked by the town beach for 20 minutes or so. Aside from the beach itself, what was interesting here was the children’s lifeguard training that was taking place on the beach. Pre-teen and younger children were engaged in different beach activities such as swimming, foot races, beach ball games, and paddling. What a great way for them to spend a Saturday morning.
Back on the bus, the guide told us a little about the European history of Western Australia, mainly that it was explored first by the Portuguese and then the Dutch and the French and then settled by the English. We drove through busy beach communities that were bustling, rather than quaint, and next stopped at King’s Park, a botanic garden and park on the edge of the city of Perth. Two-thirds of this park is natural bush, meaning that it’s not manicured or landscaped and that plants natural to Western Australia are featured. The rest of the park is lawn and flower beds with native plants. It also has an ANZAC memorial section dedicated to the contemplation of peace. Our favorite part of this park was the Aspects Gallery Shop, a museum-type store full of hand crafted pieces, some of which we were hard-pressed to leave behind. After the park, we drove through the central business district of Perth. It’s an attractive city, with street trees, gardens, and sculptures, particularly sculptures of kangaroos. In one installation, the kangaroos are holding briefcases, indicative of nearby office workers, I suppose.
Our last stop on the tour was the waterfront, where we boarded a ferry for the 75-minute ride back to the port in Fremantle. From the water, we had a panoramic view of the city, with its striking, modern skyscrapers. We got a better idea of the size of King’s Park from this different perspective. Numerous marinas, expensive-looking homes, and several natural park areas also came into view. It did not seem to be a particularly busy river, although both motor boats and sailboats were present for our whole trip. The guide mentioned that it’s a clean river, which we know because they can eat the crabs and fish they catch! As we approached Fremantle, we were struck by the number of containers lined up on the wharf. One huge container ship was docked, and we could see others out in the ocean waiting for their turn at the port.
We left the ferry and made our way through a cheap mall across the train tracks and toward a shopping center a few blocks away. We manufactured a need for more groceries (fruit, avocados, granola, sparkling water) and enjoyed the time just walking the aisles and seeing what they do for groceries in Australia. Back on the ship, we participated in another compulsory safety drill and got a chance to chat with some of our shipboard neighbors.