Thursday, July 09, 2009


One other thing we really liked about Perth was Fremantle. “Freeo,” as it’s often called, is a suburb of Perth on the coast of the Indian Ocean. (Perth itself is several miles inland, connected to the sea by the Swan River.)

Approaching Fremantle on the tram, I saw a dolphin frolicking in the river mouth, which seemed to bode well. It was a gorgeous fall day, and the first thing we did was have lunch at a brewpub right on the water. On the way to lunch, we passed through a park full of wild parrots, and I was struck by how odd it is that people pay money to go to zoos in Australia when exotic wildlife is hopping around free.

We also went to a chocolate factory, because every municipality in Australia seems to have one and we felt obligated to explore them all. We spent much more time than we expected to at a museum devoted to shipwrecks. In the early days of international shipping, when the southern continent was hardly more than a rumor to Europeans, traders used to bump into Australia all the time on the way to Indonesia. The western coast is littered with wrecks dating back to the early 17th century, and the Fremantle Maritime Museum has artifacts from many of them. The most impressive is a large section of hull from the most famous Australian wreck, the Batavia, which foundered on a reef in 1629.

Because we had spent so much time looking at skeletons and rusty things at the maritime museum, we found we didn’t have time to tour the Fremantle prison, which is the Alcatraz of Western Australia. We did see a moving art exhibit there devoted to English female prisoners transported to Australia. You hear a lot about the male prisoners who were the first Europeans down under, but less about the women, although there were thousands of them.

We also spent more of the day than we realized we would just walking around the downtown. Fremantle is much smaller than Perth, and a little bit greener. It’s full of Moreton Bay fig trees just like this one. They grow all over coastal Australia, and I really like them. Like Fremantle, they seem to invite relaxation.

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