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Queensland, Australia
I'm an Australian author of Contemporary Romance, Romantic Action/Adventure, and Historical fiction. I live in Queensland, Australia. www.noelleclark.net

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fremantle, Western Australia

Freo.        “Rio?”    –   “Not Rio dummy, Freo, Freo de Jennero”
It was a lovely sunny, winters day in Perth so I decided to catch the train from Perth Central down to Fremantle for the day. The locals call it “Freo”. I love that quality in all Aussies to shorten names, making them sound more like mates than cities or towns. For instance, Brisbane is Brissy; Alice Springs is ‘the Alice’; Kaimkillenbun is ‘the Bun’, Toowoomba is ‘T-Bar’, and hence, Fremantle is ‘Freo’. Not Rio, as in Mike Nesmith’s sensational sixties hit ‘Rio’, but ‘Freo’ dummy - Freo de Jennero. Ha ha.
For a mere $3.80 I was able to buy a one way ticket on the suburban train and arrived in the port city of Fremantle about a half hour later. I strolled through the streets of the city centre, admiring the colonial architecture of this maritime town which dates back to the early 1800s.  Narrow lanes cross the major streets and the town has a major campus of Notre Dame University, mostly catering to maritime studies and arts. I enjoyed browsing through the bookstores (some good quality second hand bookshops too), and picked up a couple of bargains.

At the end of High Street is the Round House, once the first prison in Western Australia. It has a curious tunnel carved right through the rock and out to the beach. This was carved through the yellow sandstone to allow the whalers to haul their hideous victims up to the street for eventual flensing and carving up.  An upside to this place is that the tunnel opens out onto Bathers Beach, a small crescent of white sandy beach lapped by soft and gentle waves creeping in from the Indian Ocean.

From here I could see Rottnest Island, a rugged and windswept isle about an hour's launch trip from Fremantle docks.  I have been told that Rottnest Island is now the number one destination for ‘Schoolies’, that horrid group of school leavers who descend upon places where they can be obnoxious and drink without their parents for the first time.  So I decided not to go there but instead to invest my time into another wine trip which I would take the next day, to the Swan Valley.

I strolled down towards the Maritime Museum, a fine looking sandstone colonial style building which charts the history of this important port, as well as the numerous shipwrecks that have occurred on this coast. It is also home to the first Australian yacht to win the America's Cup, the 'Australia II'. I remember that day back in1982 when skipper John Bertrand triumphantly beat the opposition and sent the entire  nation into a long, exuberant party the likes of which have never been seen since.  I also remember our then Prime Minister, Bob Hawk, declaring that any employer who docked pay from an employee who didn’t turn up to work on this auspicious day was indeed ‘a bum’.  I bet he lived to regret that one!  Ha ha.
I found myself at the lovely fishing marina, a complex of big, family style restaurants, that specialise in fresh, sumptuous seafood meals at a reasonable cost.  The tables out on the boardwalk were the best, overlooking the fishing boats at anchor in the deep harbour.  I ordered the barbecued lobster with salad.  Very nice, low calorie, and tasty.  Naturally, I had to wash it down with a cold Corona.  Aaah. The harbour area is lovely, with lots of boardwalks to stroll along and lovely views of harbour life to be had from every angle.

After lunch, I went to the Cat bus stop, a free, commuter bus service that primarily caters for locals but is a total boon to day trippers like myself who wish to gain a look at the real city of Fremantle, and to get their bearings on the layout of the city.  There is no commentary, but there is really no necessity to have one.

After doing a few loops of the different Cat bus routes, I walked out to the O’Connor Jetty and bought a ticket for a boat trip with Captain Cook boat tours back to Perth.  Unfortunately I mistimed my boat and had to wait over an hour for my trip back.  There are some basic amenities at the wharf such as a cafĂ© and toilet facilities, but not much else, but as it is a reasonable walk back to town, I spent the time waiting for my boat by watching the incredibly busy shipping traffic on the river.

The shipping activity in the river is awesome.  The harbour has recently been dredged to a depth of 80m and caters to ships of awesome size.  I saw massive container carriers being guided by tugs both upstream and downstream.  Quite an impressive sight.
At last my boat arrived and I boarded a lovely cruiser to take me back to Barrack Street Jetty in the heart of Perth CBD.  It was a lovely, comfortable craft, with free wine tasting aboard – so who was I to argue with that??  The trip cost $25 but was, I thought, good value for a one and a quarter hour, relaxing cruise with stunning scenery and commentary (but not too much commentary which was good).
Until now, I had thought that Sydney Harbour had the best inner city harbour or waterside situation of any place I had seen in the world.  Seeing the lovely, voluptuous Swan River, as she snaked her way seductively upstream towards Perth, I have now changed my mind.  This river swells out into magnificent, um, I don’t know what to call them, but shall I say ‘significantly large areas’, so that it seems like you are on Sydney Harbour, complete with sail boats, and every other conceivable type of craft.

The free wine tasting (amounts not monitored), the gorgeous sunny, winter afternoon, calm conditions, all contributed to my sense of wellbeing and happiness.  I loved my cruise back to Perth, and was transfixed by the mansions and expensive river-side homes that lavishly lapped the edge where water met land.

It was a beautiful cruise, which ended at the Barrack Street Jetty, home to the Perth Bell Tower which is a stunning piece of modern architecture in an otherwise pretty conservative Aussie city.

After disembarking the boat, I walked along the river embankment taking in the view, the peace, and taking numerous photos of the sunset on the Bell Tower behind me.
A lovely day in Freo.   No, not Rio, dummy!!   Freo!  Freo de JENNero!

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