Having ended my last missive with our arrival in Perth, we since traversed the country from the west coast back to the east to spend time with Will, Nicky and Caden in Sydney. What a blessing and a joy it has been too. So this time we’ve been focussing more on people than places – although there’s still been a fair share of those too!
Frolicking in Freo
No, this is not us regressing to some 60s hippy state, but rather soaking up the delights of time spent in Fremantle (Freo to the locals) and in particular North Freo as this is where Tim’s old school friend, Ray, and his good wife Sally live and they were kind enough to give us the opportunity to have a couple of nights out of Bob and stretch our limbs a bit. Reunions can be strange affairs as I understand it. I have to confess that I have never attended a school reunion and I can’t say that I have any desire to either. Not because I wouldn’t like to see people from those days, but to be honest, I wasn’t a great fan of school and so it would feel a bit hypocritical of me to make the effort to go back there. I have kept in touch with a couple of lovelies, but having moved away from the home town for such a long time, it’s not so easy. Well, or so I’d convinced myself. Tim, on the other hand, puts me to shame a bit. He was schooled down in Ramsgate at boarding school as his father was in the army overseas. This was the case with a number of the boys there so it would be easy to see how strong ties could be forged in such close confines over long periods. When he left boarding school, however, it was no surprise that those same boys woud soon scatter to the far winds. Two of said friends actually ended up, in their late teens, working their passage to Australia and live there still. Now we are talking 52 odd years since that parting of the ways, and there’s been no face-to-face contact since so imagine how significant and amazing it was for us to be so kindly invited to have a sleep over! It was if the years just melted away and there was such a lot for the two ‘boys’ to catch up on. What’s more, the other friend was in touch at least electronically with Ray and so Tim was able to catch up with John too. Very emotional and such a fantastic thing to do whilst the opportunity was there – this is what, for me, travelling is all about. Making connections. So, note to self: reunions are not everyone’s cup of tea, but can be quite a powerful experience and not one to be missed. There, sort yourself out girl.
Anyway, back to North Freo which is a very beautiful city with lots of historical buildings and facades. We were so lucky to have Ray and Sally to show us the ropes – from a lovely stroll down to the beaches for coffee, to a car tour of the aforementioned lovely architecture to highlighting some of the more interesting historic buildngs and museums. The Round House is the oldest public building in the state of Western Australia and was opened in 1831 – just 18 months after settlement. It was built to hold anyone convicted of a crime in the settlement up until 1886. It continued to be used as a police lock-up, accommodation and store and thankfully avoided demolition in the 1920s. A beautirful old building with stunning views.
Another highlight was the Shipwrecks Museum and specifically the recontructed remains of the wreck of The Batavia was wrecked in 1629 off the coast of WA near Geraldton and excavated in the 1970s. A great reconstruction which gives a real sense of size and scale of these ships with a good collection of artefacts to illustrate its story. Well worth the visit.
The day finished off down at the harbour at the Gage Road Brewery where we enjoyed a lovely meal and a couple of drinks in a lively and engaging environment. Places always seem to be buzzing full of people of all ages enjoying their free time to the full. Love it!
What was also great is that not only was Tim’s reunion experiences like linking up with his ‘old family’, we were able to meet Ray and Sally’s family. A couple of highlights would have to be spending the morning in the company of their two grandaughters who promptly set up shop as a hairdressers and beauty salon. Grandma Sally got a very natty rainbow hair do, I had my nails painted – two different pink shades let me tell you – but the piece de resistance was Ray’s beard and Tim’s eyebrows in a natty shade of yellow and green and also pink nails (whch we all showcased on our sightseeing trip and to the restaurant and bar!)
It was also lovely meeting their son, Jack, and a quick visit to his new house which was being renovated. Tim was fascinated as it was an original miner’s cottage which had been transported to Freemantle from Kalgoorlie – just the thought of the logistics involved was mind bending – but was so traditional and had such character it was sure to make a superb family home. Ray had worked as a mine consultant for many years and was able to chat to Tim about his experiences at Kalgoorlie but the downside was that Tim was even more determined that we do a mine visit and underground tour on our travels if we can.
We then had a couple of days exploring Perth from our campsite just on the outskirts of the city. We were able to cycle all the way in on cycle lanes on our trusty steeds (with a couple of detours due to roadworks) which took about 45 minutes so that was great, but only when we set out on our first reccie did we appreciate the bizarre sense familiarity given that we were in the suburb that was Ascot and we the cycled past Ascot racecourse with a meeting in full swing! It was quite a treat actually as we were literally just next to the starting line and were able to enjoy the sights and (more impressively) sounds of those incredible creatures at full pelt. The city itself was, well, city-like, and we had hoped to get the ferry over to Rotto (sorry, localism again, Rottnest Island) but the weather forecast was so grim, the ferry company booking office recommended that we save it for another time – quite honest of them I thought – because it’s all about the cycling, the swimming and snorkelling that is available from beautiful traffic free lanes and beaches. Ah,well, next time maybe.
Instead, the next day, we braved the elements and cycled in to the city from the campsite again and decided to visit the botanical gardens at Kings Park. It was a great cycle all the way in and then all we seemed to find were steps and gradients more suited to a ski jump. After several attempts, and an increasing amount of annoyance and harrumphing, a couple walking past us (Tim had thrown the bike on the floor by then so it was pretty clear we needed assistance!!) intervened to avoid WW3 breaking out and pointed out a longer, but more achievable route. With renewed enthusiasm and restored equilibrium, off we set and I have to say that the views from the park were quite something and well worth the faff.
A nice ride back to base and a good meal and a few drinks at the Ascot pub round the corner, and all was well with the world.
and more family
The time had come. After an early arrival, our intended gap from birth to visitation of 4 weeks had extended to more like 7 and finally it was time to fly back to Sydney to see Will & Nicky and to meet Caden. What a lovely time it was too. We’d left Bob back in Perth and had found a well-located AirBnB for a couple of weeks which was ideal as a base both in terms of the layout of the apartment and also how handy it was for shops, bars, Turner HQ and beach which were all within walking distance. Our visit gave us opportunity not only to see Caden in the flesh, but to re-visit what are now familiar places from a whole new perspective. One such example would be the famous Bondi Beach itself with Will and Nicky doing their first patrol of the season in their volunteer role as North Bondi Surf Life Savers!
It was so nice for them (even if probably adding to their tiredness) to get back in the swing of it and into the water, and lovely for us to be able to look after Caden – any excuse to be honest. In fact it enabled Nicky, particularly, to be able to get back not only to ocean swimming – I tell you she’s like a dolphin when she’s in there – but also a couple of stints in the fantastic Icebergs ocean swimming pool. Not an overly enthusiastic swimmer myself (I like it, but it’s not my very favourite thing) but I can easily imagine how liberating and theraputic it must feel when it is. Even Timmo did a couple of swims in the pool and in the ocean. I was happy to just look after Caden, drink coffee and hold the towels. It was also a great opportunity to meet up with some of their friends and some of their new arrivals – especially on a very exciting first big adventure on public transport for Caden when we did the bus and ferry up to Manly for lunch and drinks with old friends and new. It was also lovely to catch up with Stuart and Lyn who were back home following their travels and who we had last seen back in the UK for Nicky’s sister’s wedding.
Sculptures by the sea
Not that the coastline from Bondi to Tamarama needs anything to enhance it, we were fortunate enough to be in town when the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition was on. There were lots of them too and all of a very high quality – well, some I would happily do without, but most were very skillful and thought provoking. The 24th exhibition, it boasts being the world’s largest free public sculpture exhibition with over 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and across the world transforming the coastal path over a 2km stretch.
Our walk continued as far as Clovelly (no, not that one) which on our previous visit in 2017, we had enjoyed barefoot bowls in the sunshine at the Bowls Club. Not this day as it was well cloudy but was still nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the views for a bit (oh and have a cheeky glass of beer/wine of course). What was very exciting, though, was the fact we could wear our new Akubra hats that Will & Nicky had very kindly bought us as a very Australian souvenir. Tim had been lusting after one for a while and I wasn’t so sure until I had it on my head and I felt like a full-on stockman! All I need now is the boots, the check shirt, the farm, a horse ……
On a rare day when I wasn’t clamouring to hold/cuddle/walk with Caden, we took our own bus ride into the big city to have a look at the Botanical Gardens and intended to visit the Australian Museum. It was great to see the Opera House again and the gardens were great but we got waylaid on our route to the museum when we reached Hyde Park (no, not that one) and espied a large monument which we had noticed on our way in and wanted to know what it was. It turned out that it was the Anzac memorial and although we thought it was just that – a memorial – we then noticed there was an underground bit. On exploring further we found that it was in itself a museum dedicated to the armed services and it was very well put together with a strong emphasis on people stories – loads of anecdotes and memories of personal experiences of war and conflict across the ages. As impressive was the Home Soil exhibit – eight walls displaying soild from 1,701 NSW towns, cities, suburbs and homesteads given as a home address by WW1 enlistees. Mind bogling still to consider how devoted they were to the war so very far away from their adopted home. Well, suffice-it to say that we spent a good hour or so in there and then decided to head back to base and leave the Australian Museum for another day. Given that it’s Autralia’s oldest museum established in 1827, I’m sure it won’t go away.
Bikes of a different kind
Another advantage of spending a bit more time in one place – especially back in Bondi – meant that Timmo could nick Will’s motorbike and explore the local area a bit more that way. It’s a lovely bike (he was even keen to give it a bit of a polish !) and it was a great way to get around. We even did a little jaunt two-up to La Peruse – which literally means the view – where we could enjoy said view, a quick drink and a good chat with a Ducati owner from Edinburgh. ‘What’s not to like?’ as Tim would say.
Finally, though, the two weeks were up and we needed to get back to Bob and check that the mice really had gone….. It had been such a treat to spend so much time with the kids and so lovely to see just what a great job Will and Nicky were doing. What a team! Caden is certainly a lovely little chappie and we’re so looking forward to seeing them all again soon in a few weeks to see just how much further he has come on. The rate he seemed to have developed in just two weeks, I’m half expecting him to be walking, talking and showing us the sights himself!
More miles to do before then though…. Next stop Margaret River.