An American Couple in Delft
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Perth

Our third and final stop in Australia was Perth. Perth is in southwestern Australia and it is one of the most remote cities in the world, many hundreds of miles from any other Australian or southeast Asian city. It also holds another distinction. Perth is the farthest place on the earth on land from Philadelphia. If one were to go from Perth in a straight line through the center of the earth, he would emerge near Bermuda. That means that Perth is the end of the earth, the last stop, as far as you can go. Any direction you go from Perth is coming back. In practical terms, this was the mother lode of frequent flier miles. We were more than 11,600 miles from home.

Perth is a beautiful place with lots of water all around.  It doesn’t extend very far inland but it does go up and down the coast of the Indian Ocean for more than 40 miles or so. Almost everyone lives near the beach. We spent much of our time near the downtown area next to the Swan River which is part of something referred to as "Perth Water." There’s a spacious open area next to the river about 300 feet wide in front of our hotel. The downtown area starts next to the open area and is not really that large. Traffic is relatively light compared to what we see in the U.S. It reminded me of a lot of what San Diego looked like when I lived there in 1970 while in the navy. While we were in Perth there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we understand that’s the way it is much of the time. Summers can be very hot and winters pleasantly cool.

The first Europeans (a Dutch navigator, Willem de Vlamingh) arrived in the area in 1696 or 1697 but a colony wasn’t established until 1829 by the British. Perth is named for the city in Scotland of the same name. The original settlers were free people, unlike in the east. However, the hardships and a labor shortage created the need for the convicts to come about 1850. Their labor was used to build public buildings and infrastructure. Even so, because it was so remote, transportation to Perth terminated in 1868. Things changed in the mid 1890s with the discovery of gold. Funny how gold does that. (We have the San Francisco 49ers name from the gold rush but Perth does not have a football team called the Perth 92ers – more on that soon). The gold brought prosperity to the area and with it, lots of ornate Victorian buildings were constructed. Many still exist. Soon came telegraph cables connecting Perth to London and South Africa, and eventually the railroad was built to the east.

Just west of downtown there is a large open space on a hill called King’s Park. There’s a memorial there to Australian veterans of World War I. The view from there looking toward downtown and the open expanse of the Swan River toward South Perth is beautiful. In the park there are lots of hiking and biking trails all within a few blocks of the central business area. While walking in the park near the cliff, I encountered a gardener tending to some plants. She offered me a map of the park. A thought went through my head but it seemed trite so I kept my mouth shut. Then I heard her utter the same words I was thinking. "Sometimes I take it for granted," she said, "but I have the best office in town."

Perth has several square blocks in the downtown area that are pedestrian malls. Lynn and I have seen these now in many places, in both the English and non-English speaking worlds, and they seem to work everywhere but in the U.S. I’ll never understand why. They are bustling with people and have lots of shopping activity, restaurants, and outdoor entertainment. I am frequently referred to as "the mule" in our house. This isn’t because I’m stubborn (although I most definitely can be such). It’s because of a mule’s other function. Lynn shops; I lug. She went into some shop and I took advantage of the break in the action to sit on a bench. An old man was sitting on the bench next to me. He leaned over and said something to me. In other places, I can’t always understand the locals but I learned to speak reasonably fluent Australian a long time ago so I engaged this fellow in a brief conversation. "You’re not from around here," he observed. I agreed "Where are you from?" "Philadelphia," I said. "Where’s that?" And here I thought we were world famous.

There was one website, no longer available, about the history of Perth that had this little blurb.

       

      Perth is known as the City of Lights, not only for its visibility and brightness, but also as a result of the first Mercury spacecraft passing over the city in 1962. Perth became a blaze of light as thousands of street, porch, house and office lights were switched on to greet American Astronaut Colonel John Glenn on his orbital flight. Over 35 years later, Perth once again lit up its sky to welcome back John Glenn during his Discovery space flight in 1998.

But back to football. Football is a big deal here. They don’t play American football or the similar Canadian variety. It’s not even anything close to soccer. Aussie Rules Football, as it’s called, more closely resembles rugby, I think. The local team is called the West Coast Eagles. That’s right, sports fans, The Eagles! They’re in first place in the AFL. At this site, there's even a reference to the "most annoying teammate." Sound familiar? In doing a little research for this piece, I discovered there’s also a team in Sydney called the East Coast Eagles. So there you have it. Sydney and Perth. They’re not Chicago but they’re my kind of towns. How ‘bout them Birds??

See all my pictures of Perth.

See a video from Perth

 

2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008