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Window on Perth & Fremantle

 

Brunch, bargains, big black birds - and a yabby.

wha-a-at?

Meet our fearless leader, Jacqueline, sharing a foodie street in Perth. But more of that soon! 

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What better start to a mini-tour of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, than to glimpse a few of the indigenous birds which mystified early white settlers in this state? Those British people had only ever seen white swans and so they must have wondered, perhaps, if all the white birds in the northern hemisphere were black in this unfamiliar downunder land!

They were so charmed by these water birds that, when establishing the third settlement in Australia, 60 kilometres upstream in 1829, they named the river the Swan River. That area has become now a market gardening centre and prime wine-growing region with over 40 wineries, the earliest of them begun in 1859. Called the Swan Valley, it is an easy day trip from Perth and well worth visiting. There are river cruises upstream to it too.

And there it is, the Swan River which curves 60 kilometres from its source in the Darling escarpment east of the city, to empty into the Indian Ocean at Fremantle. A vantage point in Kings Park provides some of the best city views anywhere in the world, I think.

The black swan features on the state flag - see it here on the War Memorial in the centre of the yellow circle. Can't quite see it? Try this:

It is quite likely that visitors to Perth may see swans near lakes and ponds. Like this species anywhere, you might know that they do not have the gentlest disposition, so be careful about approaching them or trying to touch them.

At Perth's lovely new airport, due for completion in 2020, we stop for a coffee before our flight home. There is one final 'black swan moment' when the barista draws our attention to the coffee specially blended for WA - and you can see what it was called.

Beer drinkers, of course would know Swan Bitter from the Swan Brewery,  established in 1857. Some say it is too bitter, but that's because it was made with the yeasty residue from the manufacture of Marmite, a dark spread similar to Vegemite.

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Our time this trip was short and sweet, however we did want to look at some new arrivals on the Perth scene. The Bell Tower is not new - it was opened in 1988 and its chimes are made by one of the largest sets of change ringing bells in the world.

These were new to me. Following the trend of countries overseas, these love locks have caught on. I was interested to test the weight of a padlock and find it was much lighter than a regular one. Heavy locks have caused problems in places such as the Pont des Artes in Paris where they had to be removed to save the structure of the bridge and its railings.

Hop on-hop off buses are a great way to see a new city. We happen to know Perth well, so with limited time available, we decided to walk around the foreshore area. This tour takes passengers on an educational trip around Perth and Kings Park.

The Elizabeth Quay area is a work-in-progress, we discovered. An ambitious development costing many millions of dollars it began in ... and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. Like many bold city building ideas (the Louvre's Pyramid, and, indeed, the Eiffel Tower come to mind) not every local is positive about the outcome - but time will tell.

Some parts have been completed though. There is an eye-catching eight-storey white sculpture that draws attention to this part of the Perth waterfront, which now also has a vintage Venetian carouselThe adjacent marina has cafes and restaurants, and after the opening of The Towers at Elizabeth Quay, an apartment block which is said will have the best views in Perth, then this area should be a magnet for locals and visitors alike.

Watch the video....

Nearby, we found this interesting project.

The Duyfken is not directly linked to WA, but the state had several visits from Dutch sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries before Australia was formally colonised by the British. Often they were not trying to discover this landmass, and were merely blown ashore in storms while on their way north to take on a cargo of spices from Indonesia - or Batavia as it was then known.

Notable among them was Dirk Hartog who came ashore on what became Dirk Hartog island in the mid-north coast. He nailed his pewter dinner plate on a post and thus earned to title of first-recorded landing of a European on what would later be called Australian soil. The 400-year celebrations took place in 2016. See the plate...later in this feature.

The Duyfken was captained by Willem Janszoon, another Dutch sailor and explorer who, according to his journal, landed on in the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1606, a decade earlier than Hartog, but he left only a journal entry, and no tangible record. 

 

On 27 March 1997, Dutch Crown Prince William-Alexander laid the Duyfken Replica's Keel at the Duyfken Replica Ship Yard in front of the Fremantle Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Despite the Queensland link, the Duyfken has been adopted by WA, and this replica has been recreated in as careful and exact way as possible, as these pages show. 

Guided tours of the Duyfken are now available behind Little Creatures at the Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour. 

As part of the Elizabeth Quay project, a bridge and walkway has been constructed along the mouth of the new harbour.

And if you are looking for yet another way to enjoy the Swan River, you could book a gondola complete with properly attired gondolier.

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No visit to Perth is, for us anyway, complete without a trip to Kings Park. It seems that a lot of people feel the same way as the park welcomes about seven million visitors annually.

The 270-degree view stretches in one direction as far as the hills which source the river, and almost to Fremantle the other way. Key to this part of the park is the Flame of Remembrance with its vital reminder, and the Cenotaph beyond. What many do not know is that there is a memorial here to those who lost their lives in the Bali bombings in 2002. That memorial - positioned so the sun’s first rays on anniversary fall on plaque  - is inscribed with the names of the 16 Western Australian victims. 

Perth has a small but efficient railways system, with more stations being added continuously. A recent one is this line which runs down the middle of the Causeway bridge. it operates trains from the city to Mandurah, a beachside town over 70 kilometres south, a great place to see dolphins.

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Back now, to Jacqueline Baril, who you met at the top of this page. Here she is again without a plastic bib, disposable gloves and a yabby in her hand. We had been invited to join one of her tours and so, at 9.30 one sunny morning we joined her and two others to do our best to Eat Beaufort Street.

Eat the Street is her own concept and she and her partner have other options for tours.

The tour began at Rochelle Adonis, a delightful cafe, serving weekend brunches and high teas, and we could understand how they are popular for wedding receptions too. The purposely mismatched antique crockery and flatware make you feel you have dropped back a generation or too, and time slows appropriately.

While there is a range of loose-leaf teas, they make an excellent coffee too, I am happy to say.

The charcoal cone holds a chicken mousse, and for 'dessert' there is a lemon curd tart, a perfect beginning to what we suspect will be three hours filled with similar temptations.

The restaurant is a tranquil, and classy backdrop for the magnificent cakes produced here. Take a visit to the restroom to try the fragrant oils also created by this company.

So why Beaufort Street, we ask? Jacqueline has carefully researched the food component of several blocks in Highgate which serve a wide variety of foods at the highest level. The area also has a mandate to incorporate art in many ways, one of which is this (above) - maybe Perth's hugest street sign......

...and this scantily clad pair! OK, so you get the idea: this northern end of Perth can be  a little alternative.

Yabbies have been a favourite seafood in WA since long before marron became fashionable in South Australia. Their sweet meaty flesh pairs well with other flavours and the only problem is that they are not as easy to source as prawns, for example.

Jacqueline led us to Grab a Yabby, at the end of an arcade off Beaufort Street. It's described by the owners as 'the messiest and most fun place in Australia'. A local couple, they realised the potential for their business, a few years ago when their Melbourne start-up began pulling in repeat customers who begged them to open a shop somewhere. They did and now have opened outlets on both sides of the country, in Melbourne and Perth. 

 Jacqueline carefully explained our meal to us. Ribs first, served with salad and several dipping sauces, then....

...the main  event - freshly cooked yabbies along with mussels and clams, served with a range of butters.  

Bibbed and gloved, we followed her careful tuition of how to break open the yabby to enjoy a taste treat that is all too rare.

Back down the street we stop by Five Bar, a pub-bistro, hang-out so-named because of its five owners.

There's a retro French feel......

...which works with the excellent French Effervescence menu which is available on Thursday evenings: ratatouille gruyere mini croissants, Burgundy escargot with garlic parsley pernod butter, and orange duck rillette on a garlic crouton with cornichons, from the French-born chef. Ooh la la!

French food again from Scents of Taste French Patisserie just a couple of blocks away, near the Astor Theatre, something of a landmark in the area. Run by two French chefs, one of whom creates the savoury offerings such as this delicious ham and cheese pastry...

.. and the other who takes change of the sweet things. Eating these outside in the sunshine under an umbrella, we felt ourselves transported to a small town somewhere in the south of France.

One last place, said Jacqueline, and we gamely crossed the road to Fez Cafe. This corner cafe serves luscious fruit drinks and healthy lunches and was the perfect spot for a brownie and a coffee to add a fitting finale to our food tour.

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Fremantle - Perth's port and playground

Just 24 kilometres from the centre of Perth, Fremantle (often simply called 'Freo' by locals) is the relaxed coastal suburb that rose to world fame in 1987 when it hosted the 26th Americas Cup. A fever pitch of renovation and restoration hit the place in preparation, a vibrant cafe and bar scene erupted, and Fremantle grew in confidence and style.

Little matter that the Cup went back to the US. The locals had a ball, and Fremantle attained maturity.

The story of Fremantle goes back to the beginning of the white settlement in the area. Captain Charles H. Fremantle when he claimed the west coast of New Holland as it was then called, as a British Territory in May 1829. Little wonder the port was named after him. The first British soldiers arrived in June 1829, and the settlement was built by convict labour.

Fortunately, many of the older buildings remain. These markets have reached their own milestone this year: 120 years, and it still remains a place that should be on the To Do list of anyone visiting over Friday to Sunday.

Watch the video to get more of an idea of the markets and what they offer, but for starters you need to know that the food can range from the unusual, like this addictive potato spiral, dipped in batter and deep-fried then sprinkled with a choice of flavoured salts, to gozleme, burgers in coal-black buns, dim sum, doughnuts and icecream.

There's fresh fruit and juices, meats, confectionery and produce such as these local WA honeys. And then, of course the bags and bangles, hats and handbags you would expect from any major market. Outside you might watch a sword swallower or a juggler, or be roped in to help with some magic. It's all fun.

The streets around the markets offer many other places to eat - and drink. Western Australia 's climate is hot and Mediterranean, and a cold beer is always popular, although good coffees are easy to find too. Streetside dining, especially if near the markets within sight of the buskers is an even better option.

Western Australia seems to be the home of innovative craft breweries, and this is just one of them where you can enjoy a meal, or tapas along with tasting a variety of beers.

And then, for a little fun (and a chance to rest your legs) this is the ideal way to see a lot, and learn the history.

As you approach Fremantle from Perth, this cenotaph high on the hill overlooking the town is worth a detour.

The view over Fremantle towards the port where cruise ships dock will orientate you. That's the Indian Ocean ahead, and on a clear day you could see Rottnest, an island named by yet another early Dutch adventurer. Willem de Vlamingh came ashore on the island in 1696 and saw the hordes of small marsupials which he mistook as rats. He named the island, in Dutch, rat's nest (or Rottnest) island. The quokkas, for that is what they are, remain there and are friendly and delightful to photograph.

The names of the many locals who sacrificed their lives in past wars are honoured with a listing here.

Aboriginal mean and women have been given a rightful accolade here as well.

WATCH THIS VIDEO.... TO SEE MORE

Hop on a tram in Fremantle to see a number of the most important sights.

Of major interest to many is the old gaol. Planned to accommodate 1000 prisoners, from 1850 it was built by up to 10,000 male convicts. After the end of the convict system it was used as a regular gaol for many years until 1991. The prison is the most intact convict establishment in the Southern Hemisphere.

Now its use has changed you may tour this World Heritage-listed site, viewing the harsh conditions in which early detainers lived - and died!

Oh, and if you like you can even stay in the YHA part, complete with (maybe) a few ghosts?

Popular with groups of school children...

....by day, it remains a reminder of the past.....

... while the gift shop offers its own souvenirs.

Accommodation in Fremantle varies from motels and apartments to hotels such as this grand old place, the Esplanade Hotel, a warehouse first, then a hotel from 1895.

Opposite the hotel, Esplanade Park offers something for everyone from skateboarders.......

... to couples....

... or, just across the road at Little Creatures Brewery,  those with a well-earned thirst. 

Little Creatures Brewery was begun in 2000 by 'a group of mates'. Its premises now extend across this part of the waterfront and include a restaurant, bar and sales room, and of course the brewery itself. It is a lovely place to relax, close to the Fishing Boat Harbour.

For those curious about what else the state offers, they can discover more at these two places represented in a side street of Fremantle. Plantagenet Wines, may sound as if it is a UK import, but instead these wines come from the south of Perth, towards Albany on the south coast. The Plantagenet region is now a major and well-respected vine-growing and wine producing region.

Harvey is closer to Fremantle, south, on the road to Margaret River. The beef from this region is excellent and sought after by chefs all over Australia.
 
 
Fremantle had one last thrill for me on this trip. While travelling a year ago in WA's northern part, we had seen a replica of Dirk Hartog's plate in Denham, the hopping-off sport for Dirk's island.

The 400-year celebrations took place in the town last year and, as a mark of respect and generosity, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, loaned the plate to the Western Australia Maritime Museum to be on display for several months. The plate has been protected in The Netherlands ever since a later explorer, Vlamingh, brought it back to Holland (leaving a plate of his own as a replacement) in 1697. This is the first time it has been in Australia in almost four centuries.

 

I was lucky enough to be in Fremantle just one day before the exhibition finished, and was able to view the original plate. I know, it doesn't look much, but consider its journey: over four centuries old, nailed to a post in the hot northern sun with the effects of sea and winds for eighty or so years, then carried back to northern Europe. And now, back again.  What a journey.

And remember, it did start out as the captain's dinner plate!

Fremantle - feisty, flourishing and fun to visit. 

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A word of disclosure is necessary here from Sally: 'I am Western Australian born and bred and as this is my home state, I could perhaps be a little biased. But I doubt it!'

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More information on Perth and Fremantle...

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Words and pictures: ©Sally Hammond

Videos: ©Gordon Hammond

 
 

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