We landed in Perth in the evening (very late in Canberra time), picked up our rental car and drove about 45 minutes to our three bedroom apartment in downtown Fremantle. We spent the next five days exploring Fremantle, Perth and the Swan Valley wine region.
Our first day was spent exploring the markets in Fremantle, followed by a wander around the waterfront and the esplanade. On Mother's Day, I scored a nap with the kids and while this is quite possibly the best gift ever, Brian returned from a mother/son hot chocolate outing with a stunning opal necklace for me. What an awesome fella, that one. Then it was on to the Little Creatures tasting room before having fish and chips on the pier. (Note to beer enthusiasts - give Little Creatures a miss and go straight to The Monk brewery and restaurant).
The next day we drove a half hour north of Perth to the Swan Valley for a visit to Feral Brewing and several wineries. Since I was the driver for the day and didn't intend to sample any wines, Jan and I dropped Carl and Brian at the Sandalford Winery and headed off to the Margaret River Chocolate Company with the boys. Ari was less than thrilled at being prevented from pulling every bar of chocolate off the shelves (read screamed the whole time) and Riker zoomed around trying to decide if he wanted a giant chocolate cookie covered in rainbow sprinkles or a chocolate chicken. He chose the chicken in the end and back in the car, both boys were placated with copious amounts of chocolate.
Riker cradles a melting chocolate chicken with affection before biting off its tail.
Heading back to the Sandalford Winery we found Carl and Brian ready to leave as the tasting room was closing. I was pleased that Brian had found a nice bottle of 2009 Shiraz that will cellar for up to twenty years. My colleague and friend, Barry, had mentioned that in his wine cellar, he had special bottles of wine in the same vintage as each of his children and he was planning to enjoy them with his children when they turned eighteen. (Legal drinking age here is eighteen FYI.) We liked the idea and had been on the lookout for suitable bottles from 2009 and 2011. While Riker probably won't have an appreciation for expensive red wine at eighteen, at least we'll enjoy it! He keeps talking about drinking it for his eighteenth birthday so if you hear him mention that, you'll know why my three year old is talking about wine!
The Prendiville Reserve 2009 Shiraz from Sandalford that we'll sip in fourteen and a half years.
The next day we decided to take advantage of Perth's public transport system by taking the train from Fremantle into the city. The boys enjoyed the train ride at first but at some point they seemed to forget that they were on train. At least they could look at them out the window!
It wasn't long until we reached our destination, the Scitech Discovery Centre and interactive science museum in West Perth.
The boys enjoyed the hands on activities all over the museum (as did the grown-ups).
After a morning at SciTech we boarded another train and a bus to find ourselves at King's Park and Botanic Garden. With beautiful views of the city and the Swan River, we all had a really peaceful afternoon wandering through the trees. Of course, it helped that both children were asleep in the pram :)
I don't recall what variety of native plant this is, but it was one of many uniquely Australian flowers we admired.
The park was filled with thoughtful details that caught my eye like this leaf embedded in a rock. It reminded me of a pottery series I did in high school with leaves all over everything. Anybody remember that?
The images below were found on the footpath around a small pond.
Another morning was spent visiting the Fremantle Arts Centre. Carl and Jan went off to visit the Maritime and Shipwreck museums and Brian and I went to the Arts Centre with the kids because we'd heard that the traveling Buster the Bus was going to be there. Somewhat similar to Paint n Play in Canberra, the traveling toymobile is stocked with books, paints and toys of all varieties and we were so glad we made the effort to get there!
Set in a beautiful 1860's limestone castle-like complex on five acres, the Arts Centre has previously housed a lunatic asylum, a women's home and midwifery training school, an American naval base, a technical college and a museum.
Brian and Ari just starting to explore some of the fun toys spilling out of Buster the Bus.
Ari in particular loved these red plastic toy motor bikes. Just the right size for a toddler, the wide wheels made it very stable for a two wheeler.
The Arts Centre had all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies filled with drawings and artwork and thoughtful little features all over the grounds, like the clay model house above and the concrete sofa below.
To top off stumbling upon a great place with a fun activity for kids and interesting art exhibits, we had a terrific lunch at the Centre's cafe. Situated in a cozy courtyard full of greenery and natural light, the food and coffee were deliciously memorable. Highly recommended.
Can't complain about the company either. Okay, they could be quieter and less messy but still, I like 'em.
After five days in the greater Perth area, we see why everyone we've met from there raves about the city. It's big enough to be interesting, the weather is terrific, the public transport beats Canberra's and it feels laid back and comfortable. I was already glad we made the long journey to the other side! Hopefully we'll get a chance to return to explore more of the area in the future.