City Strolling, Freeway Driving, Friends Reunite

Today we planned to visit the city centre of Perth so we rose around our body clock time of 0800 and dined to our standard fare on the balcony overlooking the Swan. The sky was marginally overcast this morning and the breeze was blowing early. “The Doctor” must have had an early appointment here in Perth.
After our 13th floor dining experience we prepared our bodies, packed our backpack and headed out the door for a walk to Mends Street cafe. One needed to start the walk around the foreshore with a warm substance in hand. We opted to walk across the western footbridge into the city centre – a pleasant 40 minute flat walk along the foreshore on the southern and northern side of the Swan River. The breeze kept us cool despite the sun being at it’s midday apex.

The walk along the foreshore takes you past some lovely fresh water billabongs and under the shade of beautiful native trees. It was a really nice midday walk and great way to take in a different view of the city and the Swan. We stopped at the bell tower at the Barrack Street ferry terminal and took a few photos and listened to the bells playing – a nice end to the foreshore walk. The Barrack Street ferry precinct had changed a bit since my last visit to Perth.

We strolled through the beautiful Government House gardens before walking along St George Street and then made our way up to Hay Street. One of the lovely features of this river city is that many of the historic buildings have been retained and modernized and makes the city street walking a real tourist experience. I wonder how many of the locals appreciate the foresight of the city planning department?

We left Hay Street and paid a visit to St Mary’s cathedral. The cathedral has been renovated inside and out over the past decade and it was a real treat to view the craftsmanship of the builders and the vision of the archeticts. The blend of modern materials with the historic structure is a work of art.

Our meandering continued past the original Town Hall and into Hay Street mall. The mall is the central business district’s hub and today it was full of Christmas shoppers, workers on their lunch breaks and tourists like ourselves. The perfect weather and the bustling atmosphere meant that we got to experience Perth at it’s best. We took in a couple of the arcades then settled on a place to eat in Murray Street mall just opposite the imposing structures of the original Commonwealth Bank and General Post Office.

We enjoyed two very tasty panninis and a carrot juice in a lovely outdoor dining setting. Our meal was complemented by the moving sidewalk that surrounded the raised dining area.

With our bellies full of food and drink we continued our walking tour of the two malls before returning the Barrack Street ferry pier via the London Court arcade. This beautiful old English style arcade is a great link from the Hay St mall to St George’s Terrace and before exiting it we made sure we explored some of the shops – in particular a lovely little coffee shop right at the exit on the southern side.
We had decided to make our way back to South Perth on the river cat ferry and when we returned to the pier the ferry was only 5 minutes away from departing. The short trip back across the Swan only took 8 minutes so we were disembarking at the Mends St pier before too long.
The short walk back to the apartment took about 8 mins – up the now well trodden Mends Street and past the zoo. The Princess keeps threatening me with a visit to my cousins – the monkeys!
This evening we had arranged to catch up with some friends that I hadn’t seen for around 10 years – Shane and Clare. They live about 45 mins south of Perth in a beachside development called Secret Harbour. We had arranged to arrive at their house just after 1700 however I planned to leave around 1500 so that I could take The Princess on a sightseeing trip around the area near the naval base that I had served in around 1986.
The drive down to Rockingham and Safety Bay didn’t take too long on the relatively new freeway that has been built however, the afternoon exodus from Perth did slow us down a little.  We could only view the naval base from a distance because it is located on an island off the coast. Garden Island is the home to HMAS Stirling and it is the site of Fleet Base West – the Royal Australian Navy’s western fleet’s home port. The island is accessed via a very long causeway and, apart from the naval facilities, it is a pristine natural environment. I was based there on a ship, HMAS Swan, during 1986 & 1987.
I drove to a lookout area to show The Princess the view of Safety Bay however, the Fremantle Doctor was blowing hard so we returned to the car pretty quickly for fear of being sandblasted off our feet!
Further around the bay The Princess enjoyed the opportunity to photograph the kite surfers that call this part of the coast home. The one bonus of The Doctor’s visits – steady winds that kite surfers, sailors and wind surfers love. After a short and windy tour of Safety Bay we drove the final 10 kms to Shane and Clare’s house and arrived just after 1715.

We received a very warm welcome at the front door and after some hugs, kisses and introductions (The Princess had not met Shane and Clare) we settled down to some catch up conversation over a light beer, some wine and delightful pre-dinner nibblies. We enjoyed a sumptuous home cooked rack of lamb, fresh vegetables and local wine for dinner and dessert was a platter of fresh fruit accompanied by chocolate. Mmmmm…. what a night.

There was a lot of catch up conversation to be had after 10 years and we talked into the night before realizing it was close to midnight. With early starts for the family the next day we said our farewells and made our way back to Perth – a much quicker trip at midnight! The trip only took about 40 mins. We laid our heads down around 0130 and drifted off to sleep rather quickly.

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