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
My final 10 days in Perth included a visit to my childhood home in Lesmurdie, up in the hills overlooking Perth that, in the 60s, were considered “the bush” but now is very much a bedroom community for the city. My parents designed our house up on top of the big hill (my father was a draftsman so it was easy for him to create the blueprints), it was set in a half-acre lot filled with gum trees and wild shrubs. There were incredible stone walls along the boundaries built by a hard-working Italian stonemason, and our house soon became well-known as the house behind the great wall, and was considered a landmark for locals and visitors on their Sunday drives in the country. It was here that I experienced the frightening Meckering earthquake in 1968, and the birth of my kid sister, Jennifer, who was now my tour-guide on this outing. I had planted a beautiful magnolia tree in the front garden in 1965 or 6 and was hoping it would still be there – it surely must be at least 60ft high by now?! We drove the back way, down Shasta Grove, and saw the overgrown back/side garden…sigh!It was so overgrown and I could barely see the house which had been so altered and expanded over the past 5 decades – all the beautifully groomed wildflower beds and lawns were unrecognizable. Jenny drove around the corner of Basildon Rd and pulled up in front…Here, I could see all the “improvements” previous owners had made, completely changing the integrity and beauty of the building. The wall had fallen into disrepair and only a few sections were still there. My heart was heavy… BUT the lovely new owners who had just moved in were in the garden so I decided to put on a smile and go introduce myself. What a lovely welcome – we spent about 20 minutes chatting about the house’s history, and I got shown around inside to see what has been change…OMG, the beautiful Toodyay stone fireplace was gone (stunning sparkly stones from Toodyay, north of the city), and the kitchen had been reconfigured (much better) but my bedroom was still there – I took a photo of bro-in-law Geoff from the window.Sadly, as you can see, my magnolia tree was long gone. It would have been right there in the middle of the grass. The greenbelt across the street was still there, though, and I remembered fighting a huge bushfire there along with my parents and neighbours in 1969 (I think it was) – with water-soaked hessian sacks, beating the ground and scrub, trying to damp down all the vegetation so it wouldn’t catch fire. The flames rolled in across 2 valleys to the left of this photo…we saved the house and our neighbours’ homes along the street but all around us, the devastation could be seen for a couple of years with burnt tree stumps and blacked ground.
We then drove into Kalamunda, where I went to school (primary and high), about 5 miles from home. Yay, the old Kalamunda Hotel was still there so we went in for a nice pub lunch.The toilets were a treat – they still had the old dispensing units hung over the sink. Aaah, I think I’ll take some “vanity mints”.Next door to the pub, we found The Cheese Shop of Perth Hills, a wonderful cheese emporium where we all picked up cheeses for the night’s dinner. OMG, yum yum yum…I discovered cheeses I had never seen or tasted before.And the cheese mongers were all so friendly, making suggestions to suit all our varying palettes. So deelish! The store has since moved around the corner to the main Kalamunda drag to Haynes Street. Congrats, mates. https://www.thecheeseshop.com.au/
Jenny then drove to the famous “zig-zag” road that winds its way down the hills from Kalamunda and although the road had definitely been improved and paved over, the thrill of seeing such beautiful views of the city in the distance as well as seeing all sorts of wildflowers was so exciting for me….weeeeeeeee.
I hope you enjoyed my visit home to the hills…it was quite the emotional rollercoaster for me. Next blog or two I’ll share my visit to the big museum & art gallery of Western Australia as well as the awesome aviation museum where I had the privilege of climbing up inside a Lancaster bomber that flew in the Dam Busters’ raids over Germany in WWII. Yeah, you’ll see me geek-out on all the RAAF memorabilia!