Fremantle, the only place that you can see Italy from Australia…

February 26, 2011

The quaint, bustling city of Fremantle is situated west of Perth on the juncture of the Swan River and the Indian Ocean. This Australian landmark boasts a prison (long since retired from it’s original purpose and now a tourist attraction), several markets, a university (Notre Dame), and is home to Bon Scott of ACDC fame. Although I had just been there, I had to return today. I just had to see this place in the light of day having only experienced parts of it at night with Siddique and his wife, Almaz when they took me for dinner last evening.

By ferry, I made my way from the Barrack Street Jetties at Bell Tower to Freemantle. Once there, I wound my way through the quaint little streets lined with shops, galleries and restaurants marveling at the monochromatic, yet ornately embellished, colonial architecture. I then stopped to enjoy an iced coffee on Fremantle’s infamous cafe street. Market Street is a strip lined with numerous coffee shops. With today’s temperature of +38, the Street was sparsely populated, relatively speaking anyway. I assumed that most folks had opted for a day at the beach or were patronizing the local pubs or the boutique brewery, Little Creatures, down at the Harbour. Not a bad idea, I had thought to myself. I mentally added that to my checklist of things to see.

As it turned out, I didn’t get to the brewery, per se, but I did get a ‘beeah’ down at the Fishing Boat Harbour. I stopped at Kailis where Siddique, Almaz and I stopped, post-meal, for gellato last night. The sea birds, seagulls (whatever they are) are the most aggressive, nasty wing-ed things I have ever come upon. As soon as a table was abandoned, they descended upon it in flocks tearing through the leftover bits like ravenous wolves, clucking and cawing in a most annoying manner. It was really quite a display. Despite the odd gull-terruption, my ‘sit’ at Kailis was lovely and the small table beneath the umbrella near the water provided a welcome respite from the smothering heat. I also managed to get some journalling done.

Later, on my way to the Esplanade to grab a cab back to Trinity, I made a pit-stop near the commemorative statue of Bon Scott to take yet another touristy photo shot. In the scope of my camera lens was this scruffy, young jewellery street vendor. Fine boned, tall, deeply tan and dressed shabbily in fatigues, the young man was most congenial even though he kept his head bent diligently over his work for the most part. He asked where I was from and I didn’t immediately catch his accent.

“Canada,” I responded. That got his attention.

“You?” I asked.

“Italy!” The young man grinned proudly. Then, “You-a know Montreal?”, he queried. With that, we launched into the pleasantries of Canada; it’s expansive geography and its glorious landscapes.

Wanting to make a deal, and sensing my capacity for long-winded conversations, ‘Italy’ finally waved a hand towards the neatly organized collection of beaded wares laid out on a 20 x 10 square foot expanse of tarp. Obligingly, I checked out the massive display but honed in on some Maori carvings. ‘Italy’ explained the significance of the symbols, and appeared to be quite enlightened about the Maori culture and history. He apologized, however, for forgetting the meaning of one particular symbol – the whale tail.

‘Italy’ slapped his forehead in frustration. “Ah! I forget theees!”. Then, gesturing widely with hands the size of platters, he said: “Look-a lady, I don’ wanna giv-a you any of-a da crap so-a I think-a it’s betta you Google it.” He gave me wide grin.

Charmed, I picked up a shark tooth necklace for Hayden (on his wish list), passed ‘Italy’ a twenty and was on my way.

Postscript: To the Maori, the whale tail symbolizes wisdom and long life. I Googled it. *grin*

Highlight of the day: ‘Italy’ in Australia

Lowlight (minor, really) of the day: slight sunburn and the behaviour of nasty, carnivorous-like seagulls.

Can you spot ‘Italy’ below?