A bit late for Christmas but just in time for the New Year!
A few photos taken around Christmas-time here in Perth – a far cry from the heatwave of last year where we sweltered through relentless days of 40 degrees plus. This year, it’s been far milder with strong south-westerly winds. We’re not complaining though and next week it is forecast to get quite hot again (though hopefully not 40 degrees)!
Wishing everyone a very happy and peaceful New Year!
I’ve just been collating all the posts I’ve done over the years from London (see here). I have a few photos to add, which were taken on my last visit to London at the end of August/September 2022. Most of the time I was up in Yorkshire visiting my family but did have a couple of days in London, one at the end of the trip just after the Queen had died which I posted about before (see here) and one at the beginning.
Since this was Mlle’s first trip back since she’d left London (virtually overnight when borders were closing at the start of the pandemic in March 2020) we revisited some of her old haunts in the Queens Park and Maida Vale districts. It was interesting to be back in London after a long hiatus – it was August Bank Holiday so quite a few places were closed but we had morning coffee at Gail’s Bakery, a pleasant stroll around Queens Park where the leaves were just starting to turn autumnal and lunch (pizzas) at the Salusbury Pub, “Queens Park’s original gastro-pub”.
As usual we walked miles and miles in London, far further than we normally do in our day-to-day lives here in Perth!
After lunch we did take the tube, though, as it was bit too far to walk into central London and we wanted to explore the Covent Garden markets (I’ll do another post about that). Earlier in the day we caught the tube from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station using the newly opened Elizabeth Line. It was about 6.00 am so maybe not surprising that we had the carriage to ourselves. The rail link had been opened by the Queen just three months earlier in one of her last public engagements (see here). We certainly managed to visit London at an historic moment in time quite by accident – quite surreal to think of the shift that occurred between the day we arrived in London and the day we left just over two weeks later!
I visited the UK at the end of August for just over a couple of weeks to see my family. With the Covid pandemic and closed borders, this was the first time that I’d ventured overseas in 3 and a half years. Most of the time was spent up in Yorkshire where my family live. I did, however, spend a couple of days in London and Paris at the start of the trip with my daughter Mlle. She’d flown over with me in order to catch up with her London-based friends and go to a wedding in Portugal. I’ll be writing about those trips (London and Paris) in upcoming posts.
However a few days before we were due to fly back home to Australia, came the news of the Queen’s sudden deterioration in health and subsequent death. It certainly felt surreal being in the UK at this epoch-changing time. Like many others I have only ever known one monarch namely Queen Elizabeth II and it certainly felt strange to hear proclamations of the new King (Charles III)!
On my last day in the UK I went back down to London to reconnect with Mlle. With train delays (due to signal failure) causing utter chaos I didn’t get there till dinner time, a couple of hours later than planned. Despite being pretty tired after the stressful journey, we went down to Buckingham Palace on a whim to see all the floral tributes. London seemed especially crowded – clearly there were a lot of people who had the same idea as us and some of the underground stations were closed on safety grounds.
It took us about an hour to wind our way through the circuitous security cordons set up around the vicinity of the Palace. At least we had a pleasant twilight walk up and down St James’s Park before we finally reached the palace gates.
My dad had been on the Mall on the Queen’s Coronation night in June 1953 so it felt fitting to be there again at the end of her reign. Whatever your views may be, it did feel like a significant moment in history and certainly the end of an era.
A pleasant ferry ride across the Puget Sound from Seattle Docks, Bainbridge Island, is a popular destination for a day trip from the city and a magnet for tourists visiting the area.
We went on a Sunday, which was quite busy, but not unpleasantly so. Perhaps the lingering smoke haze from the nearby wildfires in the Washington State hills had deterred visitors. We noticed quite a few people taking their cars across on the ferry. The short boat ride takes just over half an hour. I sat up on deck rugged up hoping the sea breeze would help my flu symptoms (alas not).
The island is quite small (27 square miles in land area) and has a number of different attractions. There are popular walking and hiking trails in particular the Grand Forest and the Fay Bainbridge Park and Campground in the north east of the island, which is a beautiful marine park overlooking the Puget Sound. Since I was feeling quite unwell and feverish we couldn’t do any of the walking trails – it took all my energy to walk the few minutes from the ferry terminal to the “Main Street”, which as its name suggests is the centre of town. I did find a good guide to the “12 Top-Rated Things to Do” on Bainbridge Island here.
Along the Main Street, there is a laid-back arty vibe with plenty of quaint shops and eateries. There are also several museums and places of cultural interest, namely the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. The Suquamish Museum is actually just across the water on the mainland from Bainbridge Island but you can make the short drive across the Agate Pass Bridge which links the Port Madison Indian Reservation (on which the museum is situated) with the island. The Suquamish are the original inhabitants of the Puget Sound area, “the People of the Clear Salt Water”. The Suquamish Museum sounds a fascinating place in which to discover more about the land, the people and their culture and traditions.
After a brief walk up and down the street and a bit of window shopping we headed into the Amelia Wynn Winery and Bistro for a platter and sampling of some of their delicious wines! Monsieur did more of the wine tasting than I did – the staff were really friendly and welcoming and the ambience charming and laid back.
It was such a pity that I was feeling so under the weather I couldn’t enjoy our visit to Seattle or Bainbridge Island as much as I would have liked. Hopefully the pictures from this post and the previous ones here and here have given you an idea of some of the potential activities on offer and a feel for the area.
We did manage a short stroll by the waterside en route back to the return ferry to Seattle (where we met some local chickens!).
Unfortunately I had to spend the next couple of days in bed trying to recover from the flu (luckily Monsieur was absolutely fine). We did do the short trip on the Seattle Center Monorail out to the Space Needle one afternoon but for some reason I can’t find any photos!
King Street Station Seattle is an impressive building which deserves a mention – I’ll finish with a few photos of the station and a couple of slightly blurry ones of the journey up the coast back to Vancouver (from where we flew back home to Perth).
The welcome note from the tourist website gives the following introduction,
“Welcome to the birthplace of Seattle. Laying claim as the city’s “first neighborhood”, Pioneer Square is a richly historic place known for its Renaissance Revival architecture, First Thursday art walks, night life, delicious lunch spots, and quirky boutiques. Explore the depth and beauty of Seattle’s first historic district”
I do remember the buildings were elegant and appeared to date from the late 1800s. A huge fire in 1889 destroyed many of the older timber-style homes of the middle 19th century when the city was first built. The town was subsequently rebuilt at a higher level than the original foundations. You can explore the old town via a tour which takes you on an interesting walk through a series of underground passageways and networks called the “Seattle Underground”. I believe a number of tour companies offer underground tours but we didn’t do one, mainly as I didn’t feel up to it and we also heard that the conditions below ground are rather damp and mouldy. I found a company (see here) offering tours but can’t give you a personal recommendation.
However I can highly recommend the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, which gives an overview of the whole Gold Rush era and explains more about the starting-off point for many would-be prospectors in Seattle. We had already visited Alaska and in particular the Skagway township, which was the final port of call before the gold fields themselves (see here, here and here). It was fascinating to go back to the starting point and take up the story from Seattle.
I took so many photos that there are really too many to share. The following give you a glimpse of the exhibits at the museum and also take up the stories of some of the characters and personalities who came to Seattle in search of adventures! Soapy Smith, whom we had “encountered” before up in Fairbanks, was one of the them (see here)!
Certainly the museum visit was one of the main highlights of our short sojourn in Seattle. On the way back to our apartment in Belltown we wandered through a pretty vertical green garden complete with a small waterfall – it was in the vicinity of Pioneer Square, a pleasant and leafy part of town. We are always more drawn to older style buildings and historical areas when we visit new places.
I still have a post to share about our day trip to Bainbridge Island and our train journey up the Pacific Coast on board the Amtrak Cascades.
Perth Zoo has always been one of our favourite outings over the years (see here, here and here). We first went there on our elder daughter’s 3rd birthday back in October 1990 when we were newly arrived from the UK!
Since then Perth Zoo has developed considerably to reflect more progressive ways of accommodating wild animals in captivity.
It now has an African Savannah area, home to amongst others two Southern White Rhinos, lions and giraffes, and an Asian Rainforest enclosure, home to tigers, elephants, Sun Bears and a colony of Sumatran Orangutans.
In recent years a visit to the zoo has been a favourite family outing with the next generation (our two young granddaughters now aged 9 and 7) – a chance to see not only the animals but learn about the zoo’s important conservation work.
It was therefore with heavy hearts that we heard this week that one of the zoo’s most treasured residents, Tricia the elephant, was in steep decline and in her final days. She passed peacefully away at the ripe old age (for an Asian elephant, especially in captivity) of 65 years on Wednesday evening surrounded by her beloved keepers.
Tricia arrived in Perth in 1963 (along with another elephant Tania) from an animal dealer in Singapore in less enlightened times when “exotic” animals were just seen as an attraction for entertainment. She had been born in the wild in Vietnam and somehow had found her way from Saigon to Singapore. Until the mid 1980s she was housed in a concrete enclosure not free to wander about as she would have been in the wild nor provided with the companionship and stimulation she needed to flourish. Tania, her companion, was re-homed to an Australian circus in 1971 (again common practice at the time). Tania passed away from a long-standing liver complaint in 2003 aged 46 having been retired to an exotic garden and animal park on the Gold Coast in Queensland.
Happily for Tricia, in 1992, three young elephant calves (then 3 years old) arrived from a Malaysian Zoo to start a small herd in Perth. A new enclosure had been built for them all in the Asian Rainforest Zone (at least before then in 1986 Tricia’s concrete enclosure had been demolished and she had been moved to a far more open enclosure with vegetation, plenty of sand and a pool).
Tricia took on the role of matriarch of the elephant family and became known as a gentle giant – she went on daily walks with her keepers through the beautiful gardens and enjoyed enrichment activities such as swimming, playing ball and trunk painting. Sadly one of the younger elephants, a female called Teduh, passed away due to ongoing health problems in 2007 (deeply mourned by Tricia) but the second young female calf, Permai (now 33) has been Tricia’s constant companion, in effect her adopted daughter. The bull elephant, Putra Mas (also 33) has his own enclosure as the males live more solitary lives than the far more gregarious female elephants.
I’ve compiled a selection of photos that we’ve taken over the past few years at the zoo (somewhere I’ll have some older ones but these are the digital ones). Tricia is the slightly lighter of the two female elephants. Permai is a little darker and seems to have more fur on the top of her head. Also Tricia appears to have some sort of bandage on the side of her back in some of the photos (not sure why, she only had it on the one visit). We don’t seem to have taken any recent photos of the bull elephant, Putra Mas, but there are a couple on an older post here. You can recognise him by his tusks. The female duo seem to be far more sociable and easier to photograph!
On one of our visits in 2019 we were fortunate enough to encounter Tricia on one of her regular walks through the zoo grounds. It was an amazing experience at the time – she just calmly sauntered past us with her two keepers so close that we could have touched her (though of course we didn’t!). She was so gracious and majestic – truly beautiful. Fortunately we managed to get some wonderful photos to treasure forever.
Times have again moved on and best practice for elephant animal husbandry now is for them to live with herds in open range zoos or sanctuaries where they can have far more space to roam than in an inner city zoo, plus be part of a larger herd.
Therefore, in 2018, Perth Zoo announced that, when the time came and Tricia passed on, the remaining elephants would be moved to a more suitable location either within Australia or overseas in their best interests. The process won’t be rushed least of all because Permai and Putra Mas need to be given as much time as possible to grieve their loss (especially Permai who was constantly by Tricia’s side). Also there are considerable logistical problems of safely transporting elephants even when a suitable open range zoo or sanctuary has been found for them. So for now the two remaining elephants will continue to live in Perth Zoo and in time we will hopefully see them back in their respective enclosures even if it is not going to be permanent.
Deepest condolences to Tricia’s dedicated carers, Permai and Putra Mas and everyone at Perth Zoo at this heartbreaking time. What a special soul she was – the tributes from her carers are so poignant, loving and beautiful (see here)
Her memory will live on through the many people she touched during her long life and the important conservation work for endangered elephants set up in her name (Tricia Tribute to Conservation Fund).
Sorting through old photos on the computer recently, I came across some pictures of our Seattle trip back in August 2018 (see here and here for the previous posts about the rest of the trip in Canada and Alaska).
At the end of our travels in Alaska, we flew down to Seattle from Fairbanks (just below the Arctic Circle). You only have two options by air out of Fairbanks – one is to Minneapolis and the other to Seattle. No flights go back directly to Canada, from where we had started our trip up to Alaska, so we decided to break our journey back to Vancouver by spending a few nights in Seattle.
Unfortunately courtesy of a gentleman in front of us in the boarding queue who coughed and spluttered everywhere, I went down with the worst case of flu I’d had in a long time, which marred our 4-day Seattle sojourn. Monsieur was happily not affected but I think I took a hit for the team! Imagine if that had happened nowadays in the Covid era? I would have been stranded for a while, unable to fly anywhere.
Anyway I had about a day to enjoy Seattle (simply putting my growing headache and tiredness down to our busy schedule in the previous 3 weeks) before the onset of full-on flu symptoms. I was so sick – hence the Seattle holiday has become rather a blurred memory and curtailed most of our sight-seeing plans.
Nevertheless we did still manage to get out and about on the first couple of days before I was confined to bed in our Airbnb flat, unable to even watch TV. Monsieur went out in search of medications and immune-boosting supplements so by the last day I was just about able to walk around the block and have a small evening meal in Belltown (the locality in which we were staying).
That is the story of why I never posted about Seattle but given it’s a while ago and we’d actually taken some interesting photos I thought it would be cathartic to write about our trip there!
As I said before, we had chosen Belltown as our base. According to the Visit Seattle website (here), Belltown is “walkable and cool” and “has an artsy laid-back vibe”. We saw street markets, quaint cafes, larger bars and restaurants in the short time we were there but didn’t get to explore as fully as we hoped. One thing I do remember is how hilly it was – not great when you have the flu.
We did however get to one of Downtown Seattle’s main attractions, the Pike Place Market, about a 10 minute or so walk from our apartment in Belltown.
Down by the waterfront, Pike Place Market is truly an amazing place. With so many stalls, shops and little boutiques it is easy to get lost! You can easily find the fish market though by the aroma of freshly-caught seafood. The fish stall is particularly famous for the zealous fishmongers, or more accurately “fish throwers” who throw the slippery catch of the day around to the cheers of the onlooking crowd. I found an article here in National Geographic, which explains the origin of the tradition. Apparently on an icy cold day back in the 1980s, one of the customers ordered some clams and the employee had to to go from the counter to the stand where the fish was kept. Although it wasn’t too far it was so cold that he yelled out and threw the bag at another employee serving at the counter where the scales were kept. It proved to be more efficient so the tradition was started and continues to this day. It was rather like watching a theatrical perfomance hence we took quite a few photos there.
I should also add that when we visited (towards the end of August 2018) there had been a terrible wildfire season in the north west Pacific region. We had encountered wildfires and the consequent smoke during our trip to Canada, in particular in Banff and the Rockies. Now smoke from the Washington State fires had drifted down to the Seattle and Puget Sound area causing an unpleasant smog. In fact if we’d been arriving the day before, our flight would have been cancelled due to poor visibility. The airport was only reopened on the day of our arrival.
The smoke haze does affect the quality of some of the photos. In no particular order is a pictorial snapshot of the Bellown and Pike Place neighbourhood – the industrial look is quite typical of what we saw in downtown Seattle.
The pier area is interesting and the Seattle Aquarium is highly recommended though we didn’t visit ourselves.
There is a thriving pub and bar culture and I did struggle to find healthy food options but I think we often just settled on the first place we saw as I wasn’t feeling too great even on our first day there.
I didn’t like the idea of the chewing gum wall at all though. You can make your own minds up from the photos (if you can spot it, enough said)!
I’ve got a couple more posts to share about Seattle, which hopefully I can post up soon. I hadn’t realised I hadn’t posted since the end of April. All the family except myself and Monsieur have had Covid. We’ve escaped so far though I have had a heavy winter cold (non-Covid as I’ve done several tests). Back on track in time for the school holidays where we have some outings planned and currently enjoying crisp, clear Perth winter weather.
It is a beautiful time of year, which signals the end of the intense heat of the summer months. The welcome change, however, is also a harbinger of cooler and wetter weather to come. There is a chill in the air in the evenings and overnight, a flurry of bird life starting to build their winter nests yet it is still pleasantly warm during the days.
One of our favourite walking spots is Star Swamp, an area of preserved and protected bushland just down the road from our home near the coast. We tend to avoid it during summer when it is simply too hot. We are also not keen on encountering any local snakes who might be sunning themselves but by early autumn the conditions are perfect. There is an overall loop (the Heritage Trail) that extends right round the reserve but in between there are a variety of smaller trails with delightful names such as the Fairy Wren Trail, the Paperbark Trail and the Jarrah Trail.
As their names suggest, many of the trails take you through tree-lined pathways. We saw a large number of the pretty little fairy wrens the other day darting between the trees and bushes. Although also a Quenda habitat area, we have yet to spot any of the little marsupials though our friends spied one on a walk a while ago.
Over Easter the banksias were in full bloom with their distinctive spiked orange flowers (they do vary in colour depending on the type).
Another interesting feature is the wealth of historical information provided along the trails. You learn a lot about the local history, how the local aboriginal groups lived with their innate knowledge of the land plus the early history of European settlement in the area.
At the Hope Street entrance to Star Swamp you can also find one of the oldest olive trees in Perth. Apparently it dates back about 160 years and is still producing a large crop of luscious-looking black olives!
Sadly, as you may be able to see from some of the photos, there is an ever-present threat of bushfires (alas often deliberately started) and one part of the Heritage Trail is fenced off to allow the bushland to recover from a recent fire a few weeks back.
The bush is however remarkably resilient and soon new shoots will start to appear. We feel incredibly lucky to have access to this beautiful natural bush reserve so close to our home in the midst of the Perth urban sprawl.
Lacking a bit of inspiration recently for the blog as I haven’t much in the way of new travels though hopefully that will change going forward now we are starting to open up.
I captured these photos on a late afternoon walk a couple of days ago. The cloud formation was really unusual – storm clouds mixed with light golden rays as the sun was starting to set. You can spot Monsieur and Winston le Schnoodle in the distance if you look closely.
It’s been an interesting few weeks here as Western Australia finally starts to open up to the wide world and gets used to “living with covid”.
We have increased restrictions as a result and so many places have reduced capacities at present. The weather has remained unpleasantly hot (it’s been the warmest summer on record) though there are signs of autumn with our vines and plane trees starting to turn golden.
Nevertheless we’ve been busy and had an interesting evening last week watching a highly acclaimed film, “Flee”, part of the Perth Festival’s summer film festival (see film details here). The film is very relevant to many events in the world at present – harrowing at times and poignant, it is an animated documentary of the story of an Afghan refugee who managed to flee to Denmark in the 1990s but held on to trauma and guilt for so many years.
The summer film festival is held in the idyllic setting of Somerville Auditorium in the grounds of the University of WA. We have been there many times before (see here for a previous visit). On a warm summer’s evening with pretty fairy lights adorning the pine trees it is the perfect venue, although don’t forget insect repellant!.
I managed to take some photos beforehand along the Swan River foreshore. The sun was starting to set and the light was quite soft as the clouds were starting to roll in. Sure enough, we had a brief storm the next day.