It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a place in my own country, and though it has been almost a year since I went to Perth, it probably won’t hurt for me to revisit one of the world’s most remote cities, in particular its famous port of Fremantle.
Okay, it wasn’t all that cold, and the thing with Perth was that despite it being the middle of winter, the weather was actually really nice, and in fact it only rained once while were were there. This is in contrast to Adelaide, and Melbourne, in which I have literally experienced constant wind and rain since I’ve been back (though the last couple of days have been quite nice). However, Fremantle is a harbourside town, and it does border the Indian Ocean, meaning that beyond the small hunk of rock that happens to be Rottnest Island, there is basically nothing until you reach South Africa, which means that when the wind blows in off the ocean – colloquially known as the Fremantle Doctor – it can get quite chilly.
So, here we were in Perth, with seven days to kill, or at least seven days to try and squeeze as much in as possible, and of course one of those days does involve a train trek down to Fremantle. There are a couple of ways to get there, though the boat only leaves in the morning, and the trek takes about an hour (where you have to put up with some guy blabbering for the whole journey). Actually, I suspect that you can’t actually get off the boat at Fremantle because it happens to be the one that heads out to Rottnest Island, so I guess the whole traveling there by boat is out of the question. Which basically leaves walking, driving, riding a bike, or catching a train. I’m sure there are other ways as well, but we will leave it at that (I guess swimming is a possibility).
Being a harbour you would probably expect it to be quite rough and tumble – Port Adelaide has a reputation like that – however it isn’t. In fact it has been jazzed up significantly over the years, though one of the major reasons for that happened to be when the Australians won the America’s Cup back in the early eighties (and a rather intoxicated Prime Minister made a declaration that any employer who disciplines his staff for not turning up to work the next day was unaustralian, and if that isn’t a declaration of a public holiday, I don’t know what is).
So, when the cup took pride of place at the Royal Perth Yacht Club Fremantle, which was to be where the next race would take place, started to undergo a transformation. Gone was the seedy docks and the drunken sailors, and suddenly it was transformed into a goto place in Perth. Needless to say that the prison was also shut down and moved off elswhere (though I believe that was about twenty years later). In a way the place is still undergoing some transformation, but since Mossman Park, Perth’s most exclusive postcode, is just across the river, then there is going to be a bit of money flowing into this suburb.
The first things we encountered as we entered the town was the river, or at least the bridge over the river. From here we could see the inner harbour, which is basically Australia’s second largest port, after Melbourne. Well, not quite because Port Hedland in the north is much bigger, and much more busier, than either of these two ports, however if we take mining related shipping out of the equation, then we do have these two massive harbours. However, as I mentioned, the first thing I saw was the harbour, and the next thing were these huge car carriers all unloading cars for sale across Australia.
Actually, on the northern side of the river you basically have the industrial area – factories and warehouses, and trains passing through at all hours of the day. We actually jumped of the train at North Fremantle at one stage, just to go and visit a pub in the area. In my mind this pub would be a classic wharfies’ pub, since it is surrounded by factories. When we were there the pub was dead quiet, but maybe that had something to do with it being a Monday, though we did have an interesting chat with a Ukrainian out in the beer garden (all the while a goods train was roaring past).
I probably should get around to inserting a map of Fremantle, so here it is:
Anyway, as is usually the case when I hop off a train in an unknown location I tend to be a little disorientated, even if I happen to have Google Maps available on my phone – in a way looking at a map, or even looking at a place on street view simply doesn’t have the same effect as actually being there. Colour is probably one thing that happens to change, but also the fact that the world exists around you in reality whereas on Google you are basically staring through a screen. Sure, there is always the option of VR (virtual reality), but a part of me feels that it is more of a fad than anything that is going to take off (at this stage at least).
Before we actually arrived in Fremantle I decided to stop off in Subiaco for some breakfast and coffee. Since I had already had two I really wasn’t in much of a mood for another coffee at this stage, so it was basically a wander into the commerical district to have a look around, which I have to admit really wasn’t all that fantastic – like the multitude of other shopping districts that I have visited there really wasn’t anything here that made this place stand out from the fact that it is basically another shopping district.
Well, not quite – it still has a bit of an old school charm, though when you move out from the original settlement the buildings end up becoming rather tacky. In fact it looks as if they are attempting to redo the post office, since the building seemed to lack the typical colours that such buildings seem to have. In fact it appeared to be little more than cement grey, which gave it a rather dull tone. However, the town square was rather interesting, particularly with the sculptures, and the table tennis tables.
One of the reasons we wandered off in the direction that we did was because I wanted to check out the Catholic Cathedral – a building that I have been making a habit of wandering inside of late, if only to check out the art. We had wandered into the Perth Cathedral the day after we had arrived, and my initial thoughts where that it was small, and rather modern. In a way it seemed as if the church had been renovated. As such I decided to check out the one in Fremantle, but unfortunately it was only open when there was a service on.
One of the reasons that we made our way down to Fremantle was because of the old gaol. It is on the World Heritage List as being a convict site, though it turns out that the prison was used right up until the 90s. A part of me was simply expecting to wander around some old convict ruins, such as the ones that you see in Sydney, however it turns out that this is not the case. In fact I’m not even sure if any of the original prison remains.
The other thing was that you simply cannot just wander into the prison and walk around – you have to actually go on one of the tours – and there are three options available. The standard one is the ‘Doing Time’ tour, which basically takes you around general population, as well as showing you what the prisoner’s went through when they first landed up there. The tour finishes up at the former gallows, where we hear stories of executions. We even get the opportunity to look in the cells, and as it turns out, they didn’t even have electricity until 1980, but then again these are prisoners we are talking about, and theoretically, because they have demonstrated that they are incapable of living in society, then their rights to live in society have been taken away from them.
It would have been nice to have gone on the hidden tunnels tour – not that we are looking at tunnels where prisoners managed to escape (though I’m sure they have had their fair share of escapes), but rather delving into the tunnels underneath the prison. Oh, I probably should also mention that our tour guide was a former prison guard, so no doubt he was quite familiar with the area. Anyway, that was enough of the prison, particularly since we had further places to explore, and not much time to do it in.
There was the oval, but they don’t play AFL games there (namely because the facilities aren’t up to scratch, though they do occasionally play in smaller venues), which I suspect is the home to the Fremantle Dockers. There are also the markets, but they are only open on certain days, and the Monday we were down there didn’t seem to be one of those days. Along side that there are numerous terrace houses, though I should note that along the outside of the prison walls you also have a number of houses, namely as the home of the warders.
Anyway, it was now time to visit a couple of pubs, have some lunch, and finish off exploring, before heading off to see the new Spiderman movie (there aren’t any cinemas in the City, so we had to hold off until we got somewhere where there were cinemas, and that happened to be Fremantle, though they aren’t that big). The first hotel was the Federal Hotel, which was gorgeous. One thing that I suddenly realised was the lack of gaming rooms, and gaming machines, and sure enough the bartender confirmed that in Perth, and in fact in Western Australia as a whole, the only place where you can play pokies is at the casino.
I should mention the Cappacino Strip – a specific part of Fremantle where you find the trendy pubs, restaurants, and of course cafes. Unfortunately we didn’t end up visiting any cafes, but that had a lot to do with the lack of time, and the fact that we had already had some coffee in the morning. However there was a bookshop there, though it wasn’t as fantastic as some of the shops that I have visited.
Finally, well not quite finally because there was the adventure where we caught the train to go one stop, and ended up going five because it was an express, as well as our trek through the industrial zone simply to visit a pub. However, I will finish off with our visit to the Little Creature’s Brewery, a beer that you pretty much find in every pub in Perth (well, sort of). In a sense this is one of the first craft beers that I heard about, and is probably one of the most famous. As for a pub it is pretty large, and sure enough you can see the brewing vats. As well as the restaurant, and the beer gardens, there is also a art gallery containing art for sale. Since the artist is trying to sell the art I do show them the respect of not taking photos, though I did take photos of the rest of the place.
Oh, and like a lot of breweries, they tend to have other beers on tap here, ones that are generally not available elsewhere (unless, of course, you are buying takeaway). Anyway, I’ll finish off with a picture of some street art that I saw.
Take a trip to the town of Nagcarla in the Phillipines.
Some beautiful photos from Restless Jo.
Experience life in slow motion on the Otherside of the Mountain.
Some more amazing birds from Cindy Knoke.