Perth, the most isolated city in the world: No longer a well-kept secret.
Kings Park state war memorial looking out over Matilda Bay, Perth.
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.
View of Kings Park in the late afternoon.
One of many beautiful gardens in kings Park seen in late winter/early spring.
At Kings Park amid the many everlastings in bloom in early spring in September.
A view from Matilda Bay to downtown Perth.
One of several large Sugar Gum trees in Bishop’s Reserve, in the neighborhood of Dalkeith, where Gayl lives.
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.
A view of St. George’s Cathedral, the Mother Church of the Anglican Diocese of Perth, from the Treasury Building.
Outside the Como, the Treasury hotel, part of the heritage listed state building called The Treasury.
One of several shops Inside the renovated Treasury Building, prominent Australian fashion house, Aurelio Costarella’s flagship boutique.
Flower arrangement of Western Australia wild flowers including the Banksia on the right featured at the shop, Flowers by Aneura at the Treasury.
Working primarily in watercolor, one of Nilulinsky’s botanical paintings in progress at her studio. Incredible!
A visit to Philippa Nikulinsky’s home studio located in Gayl’s neighborhood.
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.
Lunch at one of Fremantle’s favorite restaurants, Bread in Common
Enjoying coffee at Moore & Moore Cafe, Freemantle.
Inside the “Little Creatures” brewery and restaurant in Freemantle. Considered by some to be one of the top ten beer gardens in Australia.
Looking out on the beer garden at Little Creatures brewery.
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.
Acrylic on canvas by Jennifer Hopewell.
Trying to finish a still life I started at with the womens’ group, in Gayl’s lovely kitchen!
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.
A view inside the Chapel at Carmelite Monastery in Dalkeith.
Detail of one of the Stations of the Cross series at the Chapel painted by well know Australian painter, Wim Boissevain when he was just twenty-two years old.
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!
Looking out at gardens and the “chook” house at Tom’s farm. He supplies bountiful harvests of fresh eggs, fruits, vegtables, and herbs that will go into great dishes prepared by Gayl.
A small waterfall at Tom’s farm.
Inside the “Shed” at Tom’s farm called Myaravale which boasts 160 acres of natural bush located in Keysbrook about an hour south of Perth. (Kind of a man cave according to Gayl)
I saw lots of wallabies during my travels, but finally saw my first kangaroo at Tom’s farm!!
A Bobtail Goanna–monitor lizzard found in Australia. This one on Tom’s farm! They have sharp teeth and can be venomous. Pretty creepy even though this one is small.
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.
Gathering for a bonfire/cookout party outside of Perth.
Chicken stew served up with Tom on the left and me, center.
In front of the bonfire with Gayl!
High on a hill, a raging bonfire at sunset, good food and drinks, great company: Doesn’t get much better than this.
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.
I visited in early spring before flowers really pop, but the amount of sweat equity is apparent. Hand-built rock walls, fencing, and garden paths showcase years of work.
Paved walkways look out to Jon’s workshop.
Taken in early summer, you get a better idea of the lush, green gardens that surround the property.
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.
One of south Western Australia’s favorite plants, the Banksia. Colors usually range from yellow to red. One of my favorites!
Another species called Kangaroo Paws.
The shape of this flower gives it the common name Granny Bonnet.
This beauty is commonly known as the Spider Orchid, the best known of the native species.
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.
Lunch at the Odyssea restaurant on the ocean from at City Beach. It was so good, we had to go again!
Another view of the ocean (Indian Ocean!) at City Beach.
Incredible deserts to share at lunch at the Odyssea with Jasmine and Gayl (taking the picture).
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.
One of many terrific dinners prepared by Gayl, with Tom, Gayl, Katrina, and Gayl’s mom, Mabs.
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?