Adelaide is often used as the butt of many jokes in Australia – the city is often branded as a backwater and conservative compared to the other capital cities. However, after experiencing Perth – I know for sure that Adelaide isn’t as ‘backward’ as people think it is.
I was in Perth last week to attend a conference that started on Monday and ended on Wednesday. It was a big group that came from our Institute in Adelaide – we quietly took in the big city atmosphere, realising that there aren’t that many skyscrapers in Adelaide. Perth is an excellent specimen of 80’s and 90’s architectural extravaganza with business-type towers lining the main streets. However, when we expected the big-city experience from Perth, some serious cracks became apparent. Food seems to be more expensive than Adelaide – understandably because of the ‘higher standard of living’ here; however, if you want to enjoy a low-key supper in your room, tough luck. Convenience stores are a rarity and if you can find one, it’s probably closed after 11pm. Stores close at 5.30pm in the city except for Friday and unlike Sydney or Melbourne, the city is pretty much dead after business-hour. If you are the partying kind and want to visit a pub or club on a weekday after midnight, well, sorry! Pubs in the city close their doors at midnight. You will need to head over to Northbridge to find a pub or club that may still be open. Of course, Perth is nowhere as big as Melbourne or Sydney but as Perth positions itself as a major city, I had come to expect Perth to have all of the wrappings of a big city.
All is not lost, by the way – Perth does have its charm, tucked away here and there and congregated far away from the city centre. On one of the
strolls from the hotel to the conference venue, I passed a little alley with an old building that caught my attention. It’s almost like a shy face peering from the concrete jungle. I’m happy to say that there are a lot of spots like that in Perth – a stroll along the eastern part of Murray Street gave me a sense that I was walking along in a charming town. You just need to get away from the city centre. I also got to travel to Fremantle – an easy 45-minute train ride from Perth, in a quest to find the real soul of the city. Fremantle is beautiful with its handsome old buildings lining High Street – the goldrush in late 1800’s certainly contributed to the development of the city. As I explored Fremantle during weekday, I didn’t get to experience the market but I had the chance to walk up to the imposing Fremantle Prison on top of the hill. I also joined the walking tour around the complex and got a glimpse of how horrible it was to be incarcerated here. If you happen to be in Fremantle, the tour is a must! I also tried the locally known sausage roll from Culley’s Tearooms in High Street. It certainly hit the spot after I walked around the city!
On my last day before I left Perth, I also travelled around the city, guided by a dear friend and accompanied by her two children. Perth does seem very beautiful when you drive along the Riverside Drive. We drove past Matilda Bay – passing the photogenic Matilda Bay Boathouse – on our way to Cottesloe. With the blinding white sands, the beach is popular with the locals – we stopped by for fish-and-chips lunch at the Indifish & Chips before continuing our journey for a quick stopover at Chez Jean-Claude Patisserie in Subiaco. Esther, my friend, insisted that I should try their cheese stick, and although I was very tempted to try their decadent offering of cakes, I was still full from the fish and chips. They only had one cheese stick left, so I was given the honour to have it while she bought something else for the children.
In Subiaco – a reportedly quite upmarket area around Perth – we caught up with Esther’s husband, Robby. We walked around ‘Subi’ as the area informally called by the locals and stopped by Chocolateria San Churro before Robby was due to return to work. I ordered some churros to share with the family, along with some dark chocolate, milk chocolate and dulce con leche dip. If Adelaide has an outlet such as this, I’m sure I would be a frequent visitor! As I had to fly back to Adelaide in the afternoon, we had a quick stop over at Corica Pastries in Northbridge – before I collected my bags at the hotel and headed to the airport. Corica is famous for their apple strudels and blueberry strudels – and as my friends in Adelaide expected me to bring some, I had pre-ordered four of their strudels.
All in all, Perth has a lot of gems outside of the city centre. If you have to spend the whole time within the boundary of the city, I would suggest that you stroll around and enjoy the side-streets. You may find some charming old buildings, dwarfed by corporate towers – like a little boy lost. I just wish Perth didn’t try too hard to fit in with the big cities.