Tag Archives: perth

William St, Perth

Australia: you fluent, then?

An observation that I present without comment (ok, I present it with amusement actually, because this cracks me up every time): everyone I talk to here, when I tell them that I live in Italy, replies with some variant on “Oh wow! You must be fluent in Italian then!”

Which I invariably respond to with awkward laughter because, well, fluent is not a word I’d use to describe my Italian usage. Unintentionally hilarious would be a better fit. Or maybe, vocabulary of a 4 year old.

The one exception  was when I went for a haircut yesterday, and the hairdresser said, “No way! You marry an Italian or something?” But she was herself from Naples so I think this falls under the heading of Italians Who Can’t Believe An Australian Would Move To Their Country, which should maybe be the subject of another post.

Dinosaur with Christmas hat in West Australian Museum

Australia: it’s all about the festive dinosaurs

I feel like a dinosaur in a Santa hat with a tinsel garland pretty much sums up the Christmas season in Australia. Spotted this guy in the foyer of the Perth Museum. I know the tendency to dress up statues isn’t exclusively Australian (the Wellington Statue in Glasgow is world-famous after all) but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in Turin.

 

The Swan River, Bassendean, Perth

Australia: afternoon by the river

Late afternoon. The sky an exaggerated blue. Later as the sun gets lower, the eucalypts reflecting bronze. The sea breeze not properly set in yet and instead a light easterly blowing warm and dry against my skin. The shade just cool enough to be comfortable, as long as you realize you won’t feel cool until after the sun’s gone down.

I’m sitting by the river with a novel. Bull ants are crawling around my feet, but I can’t be bothered moving. Nearby, a family is fishing. I wonder if you can swim this far upstream in the Swan? I’ve never seen anyone swimming near here, but is that because of water quality issues, or folklore? I grew up being told the River was nasty. We went canoeing sometimes for outdoor ed in high school, and were half-convinced that if you couldn’t keep your canoe upright you’d die of horrible river diseases. But I’ve seen people swimming in water a lot worse than this elsewhere in the world.

And it definitely does my head in to think this is just a park in the suburbs, an everyday part of this city.

Australia: gone down the beach

Hello from Perth! I’m here until the weekend and very much in holiday mode (ahhhhhhh…) but I thought I’d kick off the new year with a short post every day between now and Friday about my time in Australia.

Met a friend for lunch the other day at Clancy’s, an… assertively nautical-themed pub-restaurant at City Beach. Think fishing nets draped from the walls and brightly-painted buoys hanging from the ceiling, and a seafood-heavy menu. Comes with an alright view, but:

beach_view

Just before I took this photo, my friend and I looked at the view, looked at each other, and said, “We do live an enchanted life, don’t we?”

On the way there I thought, “Here I am, it’s summer, I’m going down the beach, listening to Triple J, I am so Australian.”

And then I thought, “When I lived in Australia, I never did this.” I’ve never owned a car. I’ve never been to the beach more than a handful of times in a year.

And then I thought, “Well, my internal monologue did just say ‘going down the beach’ for ‘driving to the beach’, so I must still be at least a bit Australian.”

Mandurah foreshore, Australia

Continuing the great Aussie road trip tradition. Also, a jigsaw puzzle museum.

Taking a road trip has become something of a Christmas/New Year in Perth tradition for me. Never anything too ambitious, just get together with friends, pick a spot a few hours away where we can stay cheaply, pack a car, and get out of town for a couple of days.

I think the low-key expectations are important here. It’s easy to imagine some kind of movie scene, with the open road, perfect weather, background music exactly matched to the emotional tone of our conversations. Of course, the actual experience is more like mad traffic on the freeway, stonking hot weather and a broken car stereo.

Or, in the case of 2013’s trip, a 5-hour BONUS PICNIC STOP when we broke down 10 km from the nearest town and about 150 km from the nearest tow-truck operator open December 30th. Fortunately, we had a shady spot to wait on the side of the road, an esky full of food, and the people in the house up the hill brought us cool drinks and made sure we were ok. Unfortunately, there was some kind of decomposing animal in the gully just behind us and every time the wind came from the north, we got a good whiff of it. Also, by the 2 hour mark we’d exhausted most of the possibilities of “I spy” and couldn’t think of any other games. (“I spy” only made it to the 2 hour mark because “star picket” took a very long time, since there was only one of them visible in the whole area and it was halfway behind a tree.)

RIP, B.'s mazda :( You were great until your head gasket blew and cost too much to repair.

Turns out cars need functioning head gaskets to go anywhere.

This year, between “I’ve been there twice in the past 6 months” considerations, “I don’t want to drive that far” considerations and “I don’t want to camp but we need to stay cheap” considerations and the general unavailability of places that met those contraints, we wound up staying in a cottage on a property not far from where last year’s breakdown happened. Fortunately, Donnybrook is much nicer if you’re staying there deliberately.

20141231_094211

Our digs. 5000% better than sitting on the side of the road.

In fact, we seemed to avoid mishaps entirely. The biggest problem we encountered was that at our designated leaving time I was still at the bank trying to sort out access to my money. My card had been reissued 6 months prior and because I’d never used the new PIN, I’d forgotten it. And then they wouldn’t let me change the PIN in person, I had to get them to mail a new one to me. Which they did, except to my Italian address. Let’s just say my bank genuinely tries to have good customer service and I would recommend them to anyone based in Australia, but they are not set up for expats.

In the end I borrowed some money from my parents (want to feel decades younger? hit up your parents for cash) and we were off. And the late start gave us an excuse to stop for lunch in Mandurah, which has an unreasonably nice foreshore. (Am I allowed to say that if I’m from Perth?)

20141229_131339

Too bad no-one can afford to buy property here any more.

Once we arrived, a lot of our time was spent hanging around playing cards and admiring the local wildlife. By which I mean my friend A. — who is very much a city person — valiantly survived her fears about the numerous spiders, moths, large ants and small lizards to be found in rural Australia. We did also see a kangaroo. This did not make up for the other animals.

But a road trip isn’t a road trip without some oddball attractions, so the next day we went out for lunch (and some post-lunch cider tasting) and then wound up in the Bridgetown Jigsaw Puzzle Museum.

Worth it for the carpet alone.

Worth it for the carpet alone.

Those pictures on the walls? Are all jigsaw puzzles.

20141230_152627

One of the less intricate ones.

Look, I’m not saying you should travel all the way to Australia to visit the Bridgetown Jigsaw Puzzle Museum, but I am going to point out that it’s entry by donation and it kept us occupied for far longer than you’d expect. Which is more or less the opposite of most world-famous museums, where you pony up 15 euro and get bored after 20 minutes. Just saying.

On our drive back to Perth the next day we detoured to the coast at Busselton, a town with an amazing beach and an amazing lack of a good route into/out of town. Well, it’s probably fine most days, but none of the roads are designed to take a lot of traffic and on New Year’s Eve it seemed everyone in the south west wanted to be in Busso. We got stuck in the only traffic jam of our trip, complete with people driving on the footpath to get into the turning lane (WHO EVEN DOES THAT?), but it was worth it for this:

Good spot for lunch on New Year's Eve.

Look I know there’s only, like, 5 people on this entire beach but there really was a traffic jam to get there. Australian beaches are just magically empty.

Aw yes.

Practical info for future reference: We stayed here and would definitely recommend it as a quiet getaway spot. (Power comes from solar only, so be prepared to go low-tech!) Beds were comfy and the kitchen was well-equipped. Also, a road trip tip from my sister: if your car has a cd player, whenever you’re at an opshop (thrift store/charity shop), keep an eye out for 90’s hits going super cheap. No road trip can’t be improved by Backstreet Boys.

Les Miserables ticket

Les Miserables at the Crown Theatre: Review

I’ve been wracking my brains and I honestly think this is the first musical I’ve ever seen live. Heck, I think the last time I went to the theatre might have been a highschool excursion. I know I’ve seen a couple of operas in my life — Madame Butterfly in a free concert on the Perth foreshore several years ago, and another I can’t remember anything about except that it was in an actual theatre. (Maybe I dreamed it?) At any rate, I am in no way qualified to say anything about the show. But lack of qualifications never stopped me from blogging…

20150108_092411

I did actually buy a ticket and not sneak in. Which is a pity, because sneaking in would have made a better story for the blog.

The short version of this review is: So! Much! Fun! If you’re in Perth and were wondering if you should get tickets, then this non musical theatre person says, do it. Well, I imagine tickets are sold out by now. But you should have done it. The singing and orchestra were very good, the set was cool, it was worth seeing just for the innkeeper’s wife. 100% serious, I would pay money to see a musical that’s just the innkeeper and his wife getting up to shenanigans.

My biggest annoyance was that the woman playing Cosette simply couldn’t act. Which is awkward when she’s a central character.

Of course, she’s not helped by the plot, which has her and Marius seeing each other for the first time and then 1 minute later singing a bunch of ridiculous songs about how in love they are. Unromantic grumps that we are, my friend B. and I giggled through that entire section. Can people really fall in love so fast? sings Cosette. Nah love, that’s just your hormones.

And can I add: Poor Eponine. If, like I was until recently, you’re unfamiliar with the story: Eponine is in a love triangle with Marius and Cosette and apparently the only way for this to be resolved is for her to die. I mean, death is probably better than being stuck with that drip Marius, but still. Add to my musical theatre wishlist: a musical in which Eponine tells Marius to go jump in a lake and then goes on to lead the student rebellion to glorious victory. Again, 100% serious that I would pay money to see this.

In summary, I would give this 5 stars if it were a completely different musical (get writing, musical theatre people!) and/or if Cosette could act well enough for me to care about her. So I guess 4 stars it is.

Finally, I promise I will never shoe-blog ever again, but I have to show these off. Going to the theatre gave me the chance to wear these for about the 3rd time in 3 years, but considering I got them for $10 from the opshop, the cost per wear is pretty decent.

Much more walkable than you'd think.

Much more walkable than you’d think.

Perth, Australia, from the air

Coming and going and the annual Perth trip.

I’m writing this from Perth, where a cloudless day has turned into a breezy summer’s evening. I’m listening to the neighbour’s windchimes and the rustle of leaves. I’ve traded my winter coat and thick socks for a tshirt and skirt. This morning, I did a load of laundry and it dried within an hour or two of me hanging it outside. Earlier this evening I sat around with my family drinking Spritz Aperol.

Sorry (not sorry) to my Northern Hemisphere readers for telling you all this.

A hastily-taken plane window shot -- it gives the general impression at least.

A hastily-taken plane window shot — it gives the general impression at least.

I always find landing in Perth a surreal experience. I’m sure it’s partly the sleep deprivation — this year, I had Christmas in Munich with extended family which was super-fun but not sleep-conducive, then a day-long stopover in Dusseldorf on Boxing Day (more on that in another post), then Dusseldorf-Beijing-Singapore-Perth1.

Perth doesn't have sheep grazing on the banks of its river. Dusseldorf does.

Perth doesn’t have sheep grazing on the banks of its river. Dusseldorf does.

But landing in Perth is also weird because it has become something that marks the turning of the year, a point where time folds in on itself. Every year, I have a head-spinning moment of wondering if I’d ever really been away or if my life is Perth in late December/early January and everything else is a dream.

Yes ok, the sleep deprivation definitely contributes to the literal dizziness of that feeling. But the annual cycle is real. Except it’s not quite a cycle. People have gone on living a year here while I’ve been living a year elsewhere. Friendships evolve. Places change. New buildings go up, others get knocked down. And even after living in Perth for years and years, and visiting regularly, there are still things I notice for the first time when I arrive again. This time, it was the smell. A warm dirt and eucalyptus smell, a smell which I instantly recognized as “Perth smell” even if I’d never realized it before.

So for now, this coming and going is part of my life. I like it, even if it does make things more complicated. Like the immigration entry form. I am yet to decide whether I’m a “visitor from overseas, country of residence: Italy” or an “Australian returning to Australia”. Can I be both?


[1] Pro-tip for anyone attempting a similarly stupid-but-cheap itinerary: in Beijing, you have to line up to get your passport stamped even if you’re transferring from one international flight to another and don’t leave the airport. It’s a long queue, maybe have a snack on hand? But don’t get caught out like the people ahead of me in line did — they got almost to the front of the hour-long queue before they discovered that since their connecting flight had a stopover in Shanghai, it was actually a domestic flight and they had to go to a completely different desk to get a Chinese entry stamp.