Perth, the most isolated city in the world: No longer a well-kept secret.
I consider myself lucky…again… to have had the experience of visiting one of Australia’s other great cities, for an entire month, and as the guest of a well connected native, my friend and travel mentor, Gayl. I had planned this to be the final destination of my Australian travels because I knew I could let my guard down and really relax, all the while enjoying 5 star hospitality.
Perth, the most isolated city in the world, is the capital of the Australian state of Western Australia and is the fastest growing capital in the country with a population close to two million. It also became known as the “City of Light” when city residents lit their house lights and street lights as American astronaut John Glenn passed overhead while orbiting the earth on Friendship 7 in 1962. The city repeated the act as Glenn passed overhead in the space shuttle Discovery in 1998. By all accounts, Perth is a fantastic, sunny place to live, especially for those who love outdoor living.
A center piece of the city is Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, one of the largest inner city parks in the world( 400.6 hectares/989 acres). It’s a restful place to amble through grassy lawns and cultivated gardens containing a diversity of Western Australia flora or explore untamed bush land. During the summer months, residents can enjoy outdoor cinema, listen to concerts under the stars, or run with their children in play areas. One thing I immediately noticed about Perth was its good city planning. Public access to river frontage, beaches, and reserves on beautiful walkways and bike paths are plentiful.
I happened to be visiting Perth during the late winter/early spring (late August mid September) and found it quite cold–and that coming from a Northern New England woman! The fact is a lot of folks don’t heat their homes much since most of the year is quite warm. Funny how quickly you can become acclimated to warmer temperatures!
Perth has a bustling central business district that includes a 700 million dollar Cathedral Square redevelopment. At the center is the former state Treasury Building (called by locals “The Treasury”) that now houses numerous high end shops and restaurants and the luxury Como, the Treasury Hotel. Featured at the Como is a diverse collection of art works including a series of botanical illustrations by well known WA artist Philippa Nikulinsky. A neighbor of Gayl’s, I was able to meet her and visit her studio.
Fremantle is a neighboring part of Perth’s metropolitan area and a port city known for its maritime history, Victorian architecture, and Fremantle Prison, which housed convicts from the 1850s to 1991. Home to Gayl’s husband Tom growing up, he treated me to a private tour of his favorite hang outs in this trendy, and laid back city.
Ever the consummate host, Gayl kept me busy with a wide array of activities, great books to read, and, especially, interesting people to meet, many living right in her neighborhood, in the suburb of Dalkeith. Through a friend of hers, I was invited to join a group of women artists who get together each week to paint. I met yet another artist and neighbor, Jennifer Hopewell, known for her beautiful landscapes of WA, who was getting her home studio ready for big exhibition in December.
Another neighbor, a vivacious and spry 80 year-0ld Betty, is an expert in Orthomolecular Medicine (nutritional medicine) and gave me a reading of vitamin and mineral deficiencies I had by looking at my face and hands and doing some muscle testing. Another time Gayl took me to a yoga sound healing class where for almost two hours, the instructor played an assortment of vibrating instruments like the didgeridoo, while we lay prone or in any comfortable position. I tingled for two days!
A short walk from Gayl’s home is the Chapel at Carmelite Monastery. The chapel features paintings of the stations of the Cross, done by the well know Australian artist, Wim Boissevain when he was only twenty-two.
Other excursions included a trip to Tom’s farm in Keysbrook, an hour south of Perth. Tom grows a variety of fruits and vegetables including edible, sweet, lemons called lemonades, which are delicious!
A neighbor of Tom’s near Keysbrook recently completed building a spectacular home high is the hills and celebrated with a Friday night bonfire/ cookout party featuring fabulous views.
I visited with Gayl’s friend Robyn and husband Jon, who over the years, have created a beautiful home and garden oasis. Robyn has started a second career creating The Short Street Kitchen, which includes her raw food cooking demonstrations, a gourmet lunch, and garden tours, proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
My visit to Perth was really a family affair and even Gayl’s mother Mabs got in on the act and took me to a reserve of native flora and introduced me to many of Western Australia’s unique flowers that grow in the wild.
There are many places to eat and enjoy the scenery in Perth, but a favorite is the Odyssea Beach Cafe in City Beach, with its stunning ocean views and modern Australian menu.
But there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal to feed both body and soul, and most nights Gayl put her culinary talents to work with a dinner that rivaled any restaurant in town.
How was I ever going to leave all his behind and return to Maine? This question kept replaying in my mind as the weeks went by and my departure day drew closer. Of course, I missed family and friends, but returning to my old life is impossible because I am not the same person. I”m reminded of a quote I heard some where: “Each stage of your life will require a different you.” I’ve since rented my house for another 10 months. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
In the meantime, the Porters had one more treat in store for me before I left, and that was a three day trip to the Margaret River region three hours south of Perth. Tucked away in Australia’s southwest corner, the area is known for its premium wines (over 120 wineries to explore), food, and surf beaches on the Indian Ocean.
I really don’t want this adventure to end. Big question: Does it have to?