Perth. We came for the holidays, we stayed for a refurb, and after two months in Oz, we’re now on the road again heading back to SE Asia.
We camped, we fished, we road-tripped. We met up with friends and spent time with family. We festivaled, Foo Fightered and cricketed. We surfed and swam in some of West Australia’s most gorgeous beaches, and watched the super blue blood moon total lunar eclipse over the skyline of Perth. We celebrated Christmas, New Year, birthdays, a wedding, and Australia Day. We spent endless hours with cousins, and swam to our hearts’ content. And we enjoyed a personal tour of New Norcia, a Benedictine Monastery dating back to the turn of the last century, and a vibrant boarding school until about 20 years ago. We made the most of Perth, and then settled in for some work.
After three blissful weeks of Aussie summer fun, we went to take a look at Mark’s newly vacant house in Perth to see what work (if any, we naively thought) it might need before we could rent it out again.
Twenty years of providing shelter to a series of blokes, we found the 1970’s ranch style home in desperate need of a facelift. Time was our luxury, and so we spent the next five weeks refurbishing Mark’s former bachelor pad into something that was more respectably rentable, with more than a little help from our friends.
From lending a hand at the painting and gardening, laying flooring or fixing tiles, to connecting us with trusted tradesmen, or lending us the use of a car for six weeks, we were blown away at the kindness and generosity of our Perth friends and family. We couldn’t have turned it around in a month without them, and it gave us a chance to spend time with them somewhere outside the Whitford’s Brewery.
We are now keen hands at painting, plastering, gardening, pool maintenance, shelf papering, installing doorknobs, roof repair, and even installing a new pool filter. I can’t say we ever want to do any of those jobs again, but if my life suddenly depended on me fitting a doorknob in under 3 minutes, I just might survive.
I also learned new words for the various types of skilled labourers in Australia, and of course, this being Australia, they all have endearing nicknames.
So let’s play a game: Guess the trade based on the nickname: Sparky, Glassy, Tradie, Plumber, Postie, Fiery, Boaty, Bricky.
Okay, I might have made up one or two of those, but not the ones you might think! You have to love Australians for their never ending ability to create an endearing nickname for just about anything or anyone.
But it wasn’t all work in Perth. We made the most of what this beautiful city situated between a river and a stunning white coastline has to offer.
Perth natives can at times seem down on their isolated city, but I personally think they are dead wrong. It’s a beautiful city that’s been lovingly invested in, from it’s parks to its roads, services, events and natural beauty.
What do I think is great about Perth? Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? In Perth, that’s just what you get.
The stars: I found myself looking up at the blanket of southern stars every night, amazed at how clear the air can be when you have no humidity or appreciable cities for thousands of kilometres in nearly every direction.
The beaches: Perth stretches North and South along a pristine coastline of white sand and clear blue water. With strong environmental protections keeping development in check, the beaches are clean and natural, providing a spectacular playground for Perth’s residents. And since the city runs along the coastline, you’re never more than 15 minutes’ drive from sand between your toes.
While the beach is uninterrupted for miles and miles, it does transform as you travel along it. There are surfing beaches, dog beaches, reef beaches and family beaches. Beaches with shark nets, and beaches with scenic lookouts. Locals take to the water for distance swimming, surfing, and even a bit of boating. Every one of the beaches are looked after by the local volunteer surf lifesaving club, a uniquely Australian institution. If ocean views are your style for exercise, then the coastal path running from way down there to way up there is at your service.
Down south: If the beaches in Perth aren’t enough for you, then the beaches of Albany and Denmark on the South coast of West Australia will have you swooning. It’s hard to imagine that you really are looking out across the open sea toward Antarctica and not in a tropical paradise. From emerald green pools with otherworldly rock formations, to wide sandy beaches and windy cliff tops, “down south” is outdoor living at it’s pinnacle. It also doesn’t hurt that you have to pass through the lush Margaret River Valley, renowned around the globe for it’s new world wines in order to get there. I hear the fishing is pretty good too!
Australia Day: On my fifth trip to Australia, I finally was there for Australia Day. Only Australians can turn breakfast into a Lion’s Club barbecue, and bring out the entire neighbourhood to eat sausage and eggs on picnic blankets. We capped off the day by watching a fantastic fireworks show over the river in downtown Perth, to celebrate the land down under.
Cricket: We saw a lot of cricket. We played a lot of cricket. We watched cricket on the television, and listened to it on the radio. While I still miss the point of a five day test match, I can get behind the Twenty/Twenty matches, their big hits, faster pace, and much more reasonable three hour duration.
I mean seriously, a sport that has tea and lunch breaks built in should really re-evaluate its purpose in the world! (My opinions, not Mark’s)
Intelligent design: Clearly a lot of thought has gone into how people live and move around in Perth. Perth’s roads can be a favourite victim of Perth’s complaints, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. There are three major roads running the length of the city, with a clean, bright and well run train system running down the middle. There are four lane “tributaries” that cross to the East and West.
That’s all great. But the real genius is in the residential and local level streets. At any main intersection, there is a slip lane for turning left, bypassing the light altogether, and keeping traffic flowing. Most thoroughfares are divided by a median in the middle with turning refuges in the middle so that you can cross one lane of traffic at a time — keeping traffic flowing. And there are roundabouts everywhere so that you don’t have to arbitrarily stop when you don’t’ have to. And what do those roundabouts do? They keep traffic flowing.
The transport system is cheap, growing, and most importantly – intelligently designed. The city fathers even had the foresight to plan, seven years ago, for their new stadium to be accessed only by public transport. No acres and acres of parking lots covering over the landscape, sitting empty except during event time. Nope. They upgraded the transportation to and from the stadium, and included the fare in the price of a ticket. How genius is that?
But the infrastructure intelligence doesn’t end at the roads. Twice a year, you can request the council to come deposit a skip bin on your front lawn (that’s a dumpster for the Americans), and you can fill it to your heart’s content before they come take it away two days later — free of charge. How’s that for waste management?
Parks: While it is thousands of miles from everywhere, Perth is situated in an ideal location: on a wide, deep river, on the coast, with some hilly bits, and near some pretty prosperous mines. Resources abound, and it’s been invested back into the city in the form of its parks and public spaces.
King’s Park is one of the most spectacular parks in the world. On a bluff overlooking the river and the shiny buildings of downtown Perth, its manicured lawns, natural landscapes, purpose built play areas and sweeping views make it a pretty special place.
But it’s not just King’s Park that Perth has invested in. The land along the river has been maintained as parkland, with spaces for the ubiquitous Australian Barbie, and picnic areas. Local neighbourhood parks are well looked after, and dotted all around the city, as well as regional reserves – land retained as natural bushland where you really can see herds of kangaroos hanging out just doing their kangaroo things.
And speaking of Kangaroo things…how about the Pinnaroo Memorial Park? You’d be hard pressed to call it a cemetery, but that’s exactly what it is. However, you won’t find rows and rows of cold headstones here. Instead, you’ll find small memorial stones, nestled among the natural landscape, with your loved ones looked after by the local kangaroo herd.
Perth people (Perth-ites?): I couldn’t write a post expounding on the glories of Perth without mentioning its people. Generous, kind, gregarious and outdoor enthusiasts – Perthies are among the best people in the world, second almost to my beloved Texans.
Perth is for families: I have a full post on Perth for families– it’s amazing for kids. From the brilliant Scitech planetarium and children’s museum to wildlife parks, kid’s beaches and surf lessons, we never ran out of things for our little grommet to do.
For all of its resources – natural and monetary, Perth is very expensive. I was in tears the first time I ordered a $25 salad at a brewpub. By the time we left, I had become accustomed to $100 grocery bills and $10 beers. But the wine was cheap and plentiful, and so were the laughs, friends, family and fun. And that goes a long way to ease the pain on the wallet as you navigate Perth.
So that’s where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks catching up on past blogs that didn’t get posted while we were prepping, priming and painting, and then look for us to pop up in Vietnam or Cambodia soon!