Australia
Sir James Mitchell Park

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3 travelers at this place:

  • Day60

    Final Days

    December 19, 2017 in Australia

    Unbelievably, we have reached the final couple of days of our second Antipodean Grape Escape and tomorrow will be the big repack before heading home via Hong Kong. As ever, it has all gone so quickly. Yesterday was something of a non day, in that the weather had taken on English mode. It blew and rained on and off all day. We had the opportunity to go to the WACA, but decided against it and had a quiet day instead - one of the few! Sadly, we had a jolly good idea of the result following the final session, which was neatly sandwiched in between squalls. Whether it should have been played at all, is of course another story. Australia were by far the better side, but clearly the gamesmanship going on both on and off the field has been vicious and I would have to question the manner of the win. However, our batters have failed to perform and I cannot see our bowlers bowling Australia out twice. We expect an Oz wash, which is not a surprise unfortunately.
    Thankfully, our trip is not purely defined by cricket and we do have other strings to our bow! Today, normal service has been resumed weather wise and it's back to the shorts and tee shirts. We have taken the chance to have a final look around Perth, incorporating some of the unseen items on our list. We walked miles and by the time we arrived back at the flat knew it! Cathedral Square is at the heart of the city and a newly revitalised area that we were keen to see. Here is a classic example of gracefully mixing older style federation architecture with the modern. St George's Anglican Cathedral (1840s English gothic revival) sits in a sea of grass faced by Perth Town Hall, The Treasury building and the new Perth Library. There is modern sculpture as a feature and amidst it all a wedding party were having photographs taken. The sun shone and it did somehow represent Perth as a modern city. We moved on to look at St Mary's Catholic Cathedral on its high point in Victoria Square. It is an interesting building, being a clever mix of old and new in one building and the interior is gloriously flooded with light as a consequence.
    Further down Hay Street is The Perth Mint, perhaps an unusual find in such an isolated city. There was a tour on offer, so we took it and the full story of gold in Western Australia unfolded. A gold rush had been underway elsewhere in Australia since the 1850s, but the first significant find in the West was registered by Arthur Bayley and William Ford in 1892 from the Coolgardie region to the East of Perth. Western Australia went mad as gold fever tightened its grip. Perth's population trebled in short order and fortunes were made and lost. Conditions in the goldfields around Coolgardie were appalling and many miners died in their effort to find what the Incas described as the 'tears of the sun'. The goldfields were out in the desert, where temperatures regularly soared to over 50 degrees. Huge nuggets were dug up in those early years, mostly being broken up and melted down. All the gold was then shipped back to England, until the British government was persuaded to built a mint in one of its most isolated outposts. It was built of local limestone and opened in 1899, continuing to operate in very much the original manner until 1970. Those wishing to apply to work in the mint had to take exams in English Literature, Mathematics, Latin, Greek and French; in effect a civil service examination! If you managed to pass the exams, there was then a two year apprenticeship! Commemorative coins are still produced on this site, but the major refining now takes place out of the city near the airport. It was a fascinating insight into one of the building blocks of Australia. We watched 200 Troy ounces of fine gold, 99.99% pure, melted at 1064degrees centigrade and poured into a Christmas Star ingot mould. It sets in 20 seconds and is then turned out and cooled in a tank of water. It came out a glistening brilliant gold. Quite incredible. Gold continues to be mined throughout Australia, which is the 7th highest producer in the world. Kalgoorie is the name most closely associated with gold mining today. It is very close to the first Coolgardie reef, but mining is now a high tech affair. What great oaks from little acorns grow.
    And so, our journey through the south and parts of the west of Australia comes to an end. In seven weeks we have of course only touched the surface, particularly here in Western Australia. Distances are vast. I spoke to one father who had driven up to see his son, who is working at an iron ore mine up in The Pilbara. it is a 16 hour drive one way and immense freight trains of ore passed him, taking nearly 3 minutes to pass, so great is their length. South Australia we loved and could relate to, but here in the West, I think the word is awe. Almost by osmosis, one develops this feeling of a molten and scarred ancient land, that is scarcely tamed and fit for human habitation. The Australians are a tough, doughty pioneering breed that don't suffer fools gladly and nowhere is this more apparent than here in Western Australia. I suspect the further north one travels the more this is the case. The north or Top End is the one area we have not yet touched on. Who knows whether we will yet have the chance, but it is on our bucket list!
    Advance Australia Fair.
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  • Day53

    Cape Lodge and around.

    December 12, 2017 in Australia

    We have spent our final two days in Margaret River at Cape Lodge some 20 miles north of the town. As you might imagine from the name the buildings are in the Cape Dutch style, which whilst very attractive, are somewhat incongruous in a Western Australia setting. The Lodge is set in 40 acres of natural bush and lakes and is quiet and peaceful. The restaurant is also pretty special both for its setting by a floodlit lake and the food. it It is probably just as well we are only here two nights! However, one other reason why this venue will remain in my mind, is that we hadn't been on the property an hour, when there came the unmistakable cackling laugh of a Kookaburra from the nearby trees. I couldn't see the bird in question, but just to hear it in the wild was enough.
    We visited some beautiful wineries, more for their setting and accompanying gardens than the wine in truth and of course the superlative coastline.
    I am no beach afficiando, but those running up from Dunsborough to Cape Naturaliste have to be seen to be believed. It is a series of bays, the water is clear turquoise blue, natural bush comes right down to the fine white sand and the rocks create a fabulous coastal vista. This is of course a protected area, so everything remains unspoilt by over commercialism. The sun was hot and you literally couldn't walk down to the sea without shoes, but boy was it stunning. I can see why in Australia it is all about the outdoors and the coast. They can of course rely on the weather, which makes a huge difference. Plan a Christmas beach picnic here and it will no doubt be a perfect day. They will to up at dawn to grab the best spot on the beach; (it's not just the Germans you know!) the awnings and the barbie will be out, the drinks will flow and it is all so laid back and as far from an English festive season as you can imagine. I spoke to a lady who has lived here for 30 years and she said, whilst she would never want to return to the UK, she still misses a wintry Christmas and all that goes with it. After the past weeks weather, would you agree with her my friends?!
    The east coast of the Peninsula is a complete contrast; much more rocky and spectacular, crashing waves and towering cliffs. At Canal Rocks we encountered what I think was a juvenile albatross of some type (I'm unsure exactly what ). He was bobbing about in the sea close the the jetty where we stood. To our surprise he swam right alongside us and hopped out of the water and sat down next to us. He was a big lad. There was no fear, which is perhaps worrying, but it was certainly another experience to savour. Peter was also hopping about a bit, as he is not over keen on anything that flaps, until I reminded him that if he backed up any further he would be in the water on the other side of the jetty!
    This morning we said goodbye to the glorious Margaret River area with regret and headed north back to Perth, stopping at Busselton for a coffee. It is a lovely town set on the fabulous Geographe Bay and has the distinction of the longest jetty in the world. We arrived in South Perth in the afternoon and have settled into an apartment overlooking the River Swan and Perth CBD. I think we will be very comfortable for our final week.
    There are parks and walks along the river bank with the Perth skyline forever in your sight line. We hope to have a quieter week, but are not of course renowned for that, but will try! 'Speak' soon.
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  • Day56

    Up the Swannee!

    December 15, 2017 in Australia

    For a second time in fact, this time on a wine tour. We chose the half day version, as being lightweights these days, we thought that was all we would manage. Judging by the jollity we encountered on joining the all 'dayers' at midday, it was probably as well! They were a good group from all parts of the world, friendly and fun and a good time was definitely had by all.
    We had to make our way to Guildford (yes familiar, as is Bayswater close by) to join up with the revellers and decided to go by train. We caught the local bus along with the cricket crowd this morning (fun!) and walked up to the main railway station to catch the Midland train. We were in plenty of time, so had a coffee in the station cafe. In came two guys dressed in Santa short suits. English of course and you had to see it to believe it. They settled down to a full 'Lapland' breakfast. As we departed I said to the closest "Hope you have a good day Santa!" Back came the reply, quick as a flash "If you're a good girl I'll see you next week!!" Poetic licence of course, but message received and understood. Bet they went down a storm at the WACA with all the other Santas.
    The Swan Valley is the oldest Wine producing area in Western Australia. Margaret River has been spawned from here in much more recent times.
    The entrepreneur involved was one Thomas Waters, who sailed with Captain James Stirling in 1829 as ships botanist. Stirling is a big name here also. They stopped at the Cape for supplies and Thomas purchased some Verdelho vines and brought with him. He was granted a small section of government land in the Swan Valley, planted his vines and the rest as they say is history. Some interesting facts for you picked up during the day.
    Western Australia is so huge an area, that if it were a separate country it would be the 10th largest in the world. Quite something to try and take on board isn't it?
    It takes on average 125 grapes to make one standard glass of wine and 83/84 percent of a bottle of wine is water. Water is terribly good for you, so clearly we all need to drink more wine!
    We visited three wineries: Windy Creek Estate in Herne Hill (yes, another familiar name), Sittella for a tasting plus lunch and Heaford Glen. Lots of different wines on offer, some more drinkable than others, but it of course very much personal taste. We selected those we thought we would find interesting and left the others. We then moved on to a German beer tasting at Elmers in the Valley, for the guys mainly. I gave my share to Peter, who said they were ok but there was nothing he would purchase, which is the acid test with all of it naturally. This was followed by a chocolate tasting, yum yum, which completed the afternoon, followed by a very good quality ice cream. We trundled back to Perth and made our way back to the apartment with the cricket crowd again, catching up on the day's play as we did so. Some good news, some not so good. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
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  • Day54

    Initial Impressions of Perth

    December 13, 2017 in Australia

    We crossed the Swan River today to gain our first impressions of this spectacular city. Until now, our view had been from the South Bank and our balcony window and that alone would give any famous city skyline a run for its money. I have to say the reality is equally impressive. We alighted on St George's Terrace and walked the centre. What immediately strikes one is the juxtaposition of the old and the new and the clever way this has been achieved. There is a huge amount of building going on here and clearly the amount of money poured into Perth over the last twenty years is phenomenal. Every major mining corporation seems to have a stake here, reflecting the massive wealth produced by mining in Western Australia.
    Rather like Adelaide, there is plenty of green space and of course a beautiful river, but everything is on a much grander scale. This is a major city that is over a thousand miles from its nearest neighbour and is possibly the most isolated on earth. Perth was always something of a joke in Australian terms until recently and that is most certainly a thing of the past. Business, architecture, arts and culture, plus the food explosion has put Perth on the map like nothing else. The waterfront has and is undergoing great alterations. Dodging our way around the cranes and building sites we decided to visit the Swan Bell Tower. The tower is a focal structure on the Perth waterfront and it struck me as a modern day Venetian St Mark's Campanile. It's construction was Western Australia's Millennium Project and kick started by Laith Reynolds, a local international businessman with a passion for English bell-change ringing. Whilst in London, he heard that the bells of St Martin in the Fields on Trafalgar Square, were to be melted down and recast. He persuaded Western Australia to provide the metals needed to cast new bells for St Martins and managed to negotiate the transport of the 1727 bells, financed by King George 11, to Perth, where they were ceremonially renamed The Swan Bells and installed in the newly constructed bell tower in the year 2000. There are 6 levels of exhibition and viewing. It is tall, as you probably gathered and some of the viewing platforms are transparent. This is where Peter scored. He might not like things that flap, but I couldn't walk out there and had to view from a solid floor distance!
    We are quits!
    We took the ferry back to South Perth and walked back to the apartment along the river, with that skyline in view all the time. This is not a natural wonder, it is man made, but it does hold the eye.
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  • Day55

    The Upper Swan Valley

    December 14, 2017 in Australia

    We headed for the Upper Swan Valley this afternoon, after watching the toss for the 3rd Test Match and some of the first session this morning. We can sit on the apartment balcony and see the WACA floodlights with ease, but will not have the opportunity to visit until the fourth day, match and weather permitting. Yes, you've guessed it, rain is forecast. You couldn't write the script! This is the final test match to be played to here at the WACA and its replacement, the new Optus stadium, is practically ready. It is over the river on the Burswood peninsula and is stunning visually and state of the art. Everything has been thought of and I understand they are to play one of the ODI's here. It is not limited to cricket, which in the modern world is only sensible. It is a real tour de force and can only add to Perths attraction.
    We are booked on a Swan Valley Wine Tour tomorrow, but it will be limited to the Lower Swan, so we thought we would investigate further by ourselves. It is about a 30 minute drive, so close for a major city. We drove to the north end of the loop and found 'Lamonts', which had been recommended for not only its wine, but lunch. The wines were super and lunch just as good. We were driving, so limited ourselves to the one Winery, knowing that there would be more to come. At the far end of the Swan Valley, the great river has shrunk to a trickle of its lower self, quite amazingly so in fact. There are many more produce outlets beyond wine within the Valley. In fact, I think one could say there is something for everyone. Chocolate, ice cream, nuts and nougat, cider, vinegars, preserves and so it goes on. We had a good tasting and came home knowing that an evening meal was out of the question. Cheese and wine would do - we brought it home with us.
    Of the three wine regions we have 'studied'(?!) The Swan Valley is by far the smallest and less intensive and we will be able to have a better idea after tomorrow.
    We had a walk along the river on our return. It was a beautiful afternoon. There were black swans on the ponds below the apartment building and as the sun lowered, the view was special. The cricket was not quite as disastrous as we had feared. Dawid Malan scored a hundred and Johnny Bairstow is going well also. Fingers crossed things will improve
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Sir James Mitchell Park

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