Towards the end of my 2-month Down Under odyssey, I took a day trip to the fabulous gardens overlooking the city of Perth, Western Australia, and although it was only just the start of Spring, the flower beds and meadows were filled with colourful wildflowers and trees indigenous to Australia.Many years ago, as a child, we would often take family Sunday drives through the acres and acres of bushland in the heart of the city. This time, I got to go with my kid sister, Jenny, and traveling companion Suzi, reliving so many memories and realizing how much has changed over the past 50+ years. There used to be a massive fallen tree trunk, either a Jarrah or Kari tree (Australian hardwoods), where we would pose in front for photos but it had long disappeared from the park. There used to be a giant flower clock as well as a fancy-schmancy restaurant where my father would often host business dinners that I actually attended as a well-behaved (!) little kid. But my memories of school trips from up in the hills down to the park every ANZAC Day (April 25) to pay respects to all the fallen & wounded old Diggers (Aussie soldiers) from WWI and II came rushing back. I remember standing to attention as WWI veterans marched by, some on crutches some in wheelchairs and some a little bent over but marching proudly.
The trees were magnificent, especially the Queen Elizabeth II tree she planted as a sapling on her first visit back in the 50s. Look at it now…So many plants and blooms to view…and the fragrances were heady and exotic, too.We also visited at night to view the spectacular city lights and skies….wow!Just typing this brings back memories of the scents and sounds, as well as the views I saw a few months back. I really hope I can make it back to Perth again…such a beautiful city – clean streets, mostly graffiti-free, friendly and welcoming. Am buying more lottery tickets this week…I just got a feelin’. LOL
Some of you may know that I am a history junkie…my father was in the RAF just at the close of WWII – he worked on engine maintenance and was stationed in the middle east incl. Palestine and Cyprus. As a little girl he used to show me his book on enemy aircraft recognition (silhouettes of planes) as well as British and Allied planes; I learnt to tell the difference between a Spitfire and a Junker at an early age. This past September, my sister Jenny took me to Perth’s amazing aviation museum where I geeked out on all the aircraft displayed in the huge hangars, as well as all the exhibitions on the history of Australia’s air force, outback transportation and flying doctor service. I was in my element, as was my young nephew Maclean, who has already started flying lessons at 16yrs old.
I remember learning about aviation hero Charles Kingsford Smith, above, for whom Sydney airport is named and it was cool to see/touch his belongings. If I remember correctly, I wrote an essay on him in primary school that scored me an A.I stood in front of the Spitfire and read all the details for quite some time before I was drawn over to the spectacular Lancaster bomber, one of the planes that flew the legendary damn buster raids over Germany in WWII. Maclean joined me in front of the giant plane (below) and one of the knowledgeable guides kindly explained the mechanics of the “bouncing bombs”.I was thrilled to be invited to climb up into the belly of the beast…the guide was kind enough to explain what it was like inside for the crew (bloody scary and very uncomfortable)… Earlier that same day, I received a “butt dialed” call from back in Toronto from my friend, Christopher, whose stepdad, famed Hollywood director, Michael Anderson, had directed the award-winning “The Damn Busters” movie (1955)…what synchronicity, eh? So I made a video for Christopher which I’ll share here so you can see just how huge the plane was.
I was amazed to see how many women were involved with the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) during the war…and pleased to see they got the recognition they earned. So many incredible artifacts are on show and Maclean loved his experience in a virtual reality simulated bomber flight, courtesy of Aunty Glenda! I encourage you to explore the museum’s website for lots more info as well as visiting hours & directions – this is a not to be missed tourist attraction when visiting my home town of Perth, WA. https://aviationmuseumwa.org.au/
Suzi and I were sad to say goodbye to Broome…we’d had so much fun on our adventures with pearls, crocs and art. So along with Eduardo we flew down the coast of Western Australia to Perth, my home town where I grew up, went to school, got my first job and had my first kiss (thanks, Alan Mitchelmore).
My sister Jennifer picked us up (with lots of hugs and kisses) at the airport and drove us to the hotel/motel on the South Perth shore – 2 blocks away was the magnificent view of the city across the Swan River (pictured above). Our first sight-seeing trip was to Fremantle, the world-famous seaport for Perth where we had the most delicious lunch at Cicerello’s – when I was little, this was a small family seafood diner/shack on the fishermen’s jetty but now…OMG, it’s a huge dining and entertainment centre, out front of which there’s a big bronze statue of the late Bon Scott of AC/DC fame. Suzi was thrilled to touch the figure and take lots of pics…yes, she’s a huge fan.We took a walk around the city centre with its historical buildings, and just about every small side street had wine bars, cafes and boutiques. What a difference from my childhood days when Freo (as it’s known to locals) was a rough and tumble area that wasn’t too safe after dark.The Fremantle Market has been around since the 1800s and has become a must-see tourist attraction. It sells all sorts of touristy things as well as yummy foods like this awesome fudge. Being diabetic, I had to walk past…but not before taking photos of the deelish treats.Jenny then drove us up the coast to visit my favourite beaches including Cottesloe where we stood overlooking the surf and even saw lots of container ships and other cargo vessels waiting to get into port.Along the way, we passed an iconic image – the Dingo Flour silo. Every true-blue Aussie knows this one!Back to the hotel to relax before a wonderful dinner with the family. More adventures ahead including an emotional visit to the family home (below) up in the hills of Lesmurdie and a visit to the neighbouring town of Kalamunda where I went to school in the 60s.
So now that I’ve been back in Toronto for 5 days, I’m finally catching up on sleep (crossing the int’l date line twice plus going thru numerous time zones creates havoc with mature bodies!) but am still re-adjusting my body clock. I’ve uploaded all my photos – over 1,000 snaps – to my laptop and will start to post blogs featuring the wonderful towns and cities I visited, the beaches and the bush, the flora and fauna (in particular the stunning gum trees and wildflowers), the cool people I met and the unique events, historical places and indigenous arts and landmarks. I was also able to re-connect with my sister, her husband and my nephew in Perth, Western Australia.Some places exceeded my expectations while others somewhat disappointed, but the nearly 2 months I spent Down Under in August & September took me to childhood homes and fun places I remember so I look fwd to sharing these unique experiences with you all. Thanks to my friend Suzi Stewart who made all the travel arrangements plus undertook all the driving, everything went well and we encountered no disasters…just a missed flight in Brisbane which resulted in Qantas putting us up for free in a 5-star hotel with food and taxis – how sad! And thanks also to Marilyn and Jeff Bromley in Brisbane for their kind hospitality. Marilyn, Suzi and I met through the Aaron Pedersen (pictured below) Fcbk fan page and the bond was strengthened when Suzi and I planned our trek to the beloved actor’s film & tv locations in the outback, and quest to find the actor himself after his sudden & mysterious retirement… sadly our efforts were all for naught so the Big Man is safe in his secret happy place!!Time now to put the coffee on and get cracking with my tales of outback travels, yummy food (esp. meat pies), extraordinary experiences and great friendships. SO over the next few weeks, you’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me…..