28 August 2010

No 35 – Laid-back Boxing…… Day – Penultimate day in Perth & final visit to Freo

Boxing Day is always generally a chill out day, although for me during the noughtees, on quite a few boxing days I had to work so that was not so much the case especially when I worked as a sales advisor for electrical retailer Comet and customers had nothing better to do with the day after Christmas than to que up in their hundreds from the crack of dawn to be amongst the first in for the Sales!

In Oz though Boxing day is full of B’s Beer, BBQ’s, Beaches, Ball games etc and is the perfect chill out day to follow Christmas.

My Flatmates who I spent 3 months living with in Perth had gone home to their families in Sydney so for the Christmas period I decided to go back to the Lodge right in the city where I first stayed in Perth.

During Christmas day (Which will feature higher up in my countdown) I got chatting to 2 Norwegian guys, Jonas & Eirik who had only recently arrived in Perth I mentioned Fremantle how I planned to make one final trip there on Boxing Day and as it happened they had just purchased a car and were planning to drive there on boxing day so it worked out extremely well that I had a lift and they had a tour guide to show them around Freo for the first time.

So off we drove, Eirik, I think driving and he soon started taking about how it was strange to be driving on the left side of the road, oh dear what have I let myself in for I thought!

However we had an uneventful drive to Freemantle and found somewhere to park, we walked alongside the coast a little before having a good look round the roundhouse, famous for being the oldest surviving building in Western Australia.

Then we had a good walk around the pleasant harbour.

By now it was time for a quick beer so it was onto Little Creatures brewery for a quick pint, their pale Ale in my opinion the best beer in Australia, we would return there later in the car to pick up a supply on it in bottles for the evening ahead!

We had a good walk through the streets and onto the fantastic Markets where I was desperate to get one last slab of the best cake in the world, home made carrot Cake, I had first sampled it on my previous visit to Perth 4 years ago & I was delighted when I made my first visit back to the markets in August that the lady that baked & sold the cakes was still there & so it was always my number 1 item to buy at the Markets!

But Alas she was not there today, I guess she had been too busy cooking her family dinner over Christmas to cook Carrot cakes to sell at the Market.

We then went back to the car sad to be carrotcakeless but soon cheered up when we picked up plenty of Pale Ale drinking supplies from little creaturs, I then directed them the scenic backroads route back to Perth, which I had done on my bike several times but was a route that motorists would not usually find.

This spot has got to be the best viewpoint in Perth from it you can see the Indian ocean, Freemantle and the mouth of the Swan river, then you can see most of the stunning river as it winds its way towards Perth city cenre 18km away and in the distance you can even make out the skyscrapers of the city center! the best way I can do it justice is with this panoramic picture I made from several shots taken a month previously when I was up there on my bike click on it to enlarge and enjoy the view!

Upon leaving this spot we drove off and made a brief excursion onto the right hand side of the road, which alike the UK is of course the wrong side of the road, there was thankfully no other traffic around, I have to say though that other than that brief moment his driving was far superior to any Australians! ...... I guess I have to say that as he may be reading :) 

We stoped at another viewpoint about halfway between Fremantle and Perth, it shows just how big the river becomes it looks more like a lake!

It was great to visit these stunning viewpoints of Perth for the final time, I would sure miss them.

We arrived back into the city and back at Townsend Lodge that evening there was still loads of meat left to BBQ from Christmas day & as a consolation for not getting my Carrot Cake I realised I had some Christmas pudding & cream left in the fridge along with the our bottles of Little Creatures Pale Ale it made for a great evening of eating and drinking, I would then make sure the following day to have a decent final bike ride in Perth to work it off!

07 August 2010

No 36 - We all live in a Freo submarine – Freemantle – 21st November 2009

I had many great days out in Freemantle, or Freo as the locals call it, the port town 19km (12 Miles) Southwest of Perth, from cycling out there via the Swan River, visiting the fantastic markets, great fish and chips to stunning sunsets.

But one of the best days out there was when my Flatmate & I visited the Maritime museum and did their Submarine Ovens tour. I have been on many Ships, planes etc in museums but despite having been to places that had Submarines tours had new got to do such a tour before.

Arriving at Freemantle station it was only a few minutes walk to the impressive museum which architecturally has some similarity's with the Sydney opera house.

We had an hour or so to look round the museum before our sub tour they had the Americas cup winning yacht Australia II on display there along with the story of the Boxing Kangaroo which was the official mascot.

Time soon passed and it was time for the Sub tour, we had an very enthusiastic tour guide who actually served on this sub during it’s early years from 1969-1972 and even told us he was now 79 - before he ran up the ladder to the entrance at the top without even breaking sweat while the rest of us were all gasping for air time we reached the top especially given that it was something like 32 degrees!

After a bit of time admiring the views from the top and taking some photos we then descended down a ladder into the rear of the Sub and ended up in the Torpedo bay!

Everything was so impressive I almost felt that I was on some Space station especially given the the sub had several airlocks to divide it into sections in case of emergency's

Do I look like an astronaut on a space station going though that airlock?

Carrying on through the sub we soon passed through the living quarters, not quite so impressive, narrow triple bunk beds making some of the 10 bed hostel rooms I've stayed at seem like 5 star hotels!

We then saw the main control center of the sub which for 60's technology was very impressive.

Things continued to amaze me as we went into the engine room, I have never seen such a huge engine!

We were told how the sub could if necessary stay underwater for 6 months and travel the distance of twice around the world without refueling!

There was one more section of the sub to see before exiting up the ladder and for the crewmen it was the most important section of the Sub, Can you guess from the pic below why?............................

 The fact that a fire extinguisher is right by it just proves it's importance, have you guessed yet?

OK here's a Clue

Yes it was where the beer was all stored, each crewman was rashend to a bottle per day.

After about half an hour in the Sub  it was time to climb up the long ladder to exit the Sub It sure was a fascinating tour and a Bargain at only $8 (£4.50) including the museum entry

We had some more time on the roof of the sib before saying goodbye the the fantastic tour guide.

We then went off to have some fantasitic Fish n Chips before going for a walk round Freemantle to walk them off!

30 May 2010

No 37 – Across the USA, Seattle to Philadelphia, and a 14 hour Stopover – 26th March 2010

Isn't it nice when a plan works to perfection! 
I was on my way from Seattle to the Caribbean island of St Maarten and had 2 flight options to get there either take an overnight red eye to Philly and rush to connect in just 90mins to the St Maarten flight or take the daytime flight and have a 14 hour overnight stopover in Philly.

I took the 2nd option, I’m sure many people would see a 1 night stop as an inconvenience, but for me it was the chance to see another new American city, have a daylight flight over the whole continent and to be able get a few hours sleep at a hotel rather than try to any in a cramped airline seat, so it was the only option I considered.

It also had the bonus of being on a US Airways Airbus A320, which in case the need arose, was perfectly capable of landing on water! (Was the same airline and aircraft type as the New York Hudson River landing)

My flight left Seattle at 8:30am but wouldn’t reach Philadelphia to 4:30pm  due to it being a 5 hour flight and a 3 hour time difference! I was surprised it was 5 hours with tailwinds, it made me realise how big the USA is.

We flown over many states much of it was cloudy until we were flying over the lakes of Minnesota, my favourite US state! I had recently extended my trip to go back to Minnesota for 3 days in 10 days time, without that extension I would have found flying over and seeing Minnesota without actually going there hard to take and may have even thought about the possibility of demanding a parachute and opening an exit :) thankfully though due to the extension that thought didn’t have to cross my mind!
It was great visibility from this point as we flew over Milwaukee, over Lake Michigan, then over Detroit and Lake Erie before we stated our descent into Philadelphia where the sun was also shining, and had some great city views upon landing.

So here was another new American city for me to visit even though it would only be for a few hours.

I had planned it out really well to stay at an airport hotel just 2 miles from the terminal with free pick up and drop off and just a 5 minutes walk to a train station from where it was only a 20 minute train journey to get into the heart of downtown Philly. 

Got on the train, it was a very traditional
old fashioned system where the conductor would come round and issue huge old fashion paper tickets where the date, ticket type and price paid was punched out, arrived downtown and headed straight for
independence park one of the most historic sites in the USA. I had a good walk around the park and around Independence Hall the building in which the Liberty bell is housed, unfortunately it was all closed up, you could only go in between 10am and 5pm.

I then just wondered around for a while checking out some of the cities architecture before ending up at the impressive City Hall which was the world's tallest building from 1901 to 1908

It is a fantastic bit of architecture and I  walked around it for quite some time viewing it from every angle, 
it remained Philadelphia's tallest building until as recently as 1987 when One Liberty Place was completed since then several more skysrapers had been added to the skyline which having just lit up for the night was a pretty impressive sight too!

After all my walking around it was time to find somewhere to retire for a few pints and a meal, ended up at McGillan's Olde Ale House, which was a fantastic pub that happened to be Philadelphia’s oldest bar it had a brilliant selection of tap beers complete with some free samples to decide on my selection! Now I wouldn’t activity go seeking out a pubs like this… Honestly it just happened to be on my print out from Goggle maps and was near City Hall.

I had a fantastic Philly cheese steak sandwich and chips which went down very well with an McGillin's 1860 IPA. I got chatting to the bartender about my travels and how I was just making a very brief stopover in Philly, but had to get on as have an early flight to St Maarten the next morning, he was impressed that I’d chosen to make a stopover in Philly and come into the city for a look around and he insisted that he bought me a Pint. How could I refuse? another great example of friendliness and generosity that I experienced from people all over the States!

Went to the nearby 8th St Station for my train back to the hotel an impressively spotless Station that is partly above ground and partly under, once on the train the conductor was the same one as on my outward journey earlier he reconised me and guessed I was British and stopped to chat to me for a minute, the friendliness of Philidelpians was really fantastic!
Got back to my hotel by 11pm which really was only 8pm for me due the time difference but had to be up in 5 and a half hours so went to bed feeling like a kid on Christmas eve as I was very excited about the going to St Marteen the next day, somewhere that's had always been at the top on my togo list for many years but had always seemed off-limits until now!

I finally got about 3 hours sleep in what was the middle of what will have to go down as a golden week of my trip, several more Top 40 days from this week to come later!