Perth from the air

Perth: Or… Was that Just Australia in the Rearview Window?

From Singapore our exploration of travel in the front half of the plane continued with business class flights on Thai Airways (or in their lingo, Royal Silk Class. Highlights… got to check in in a fancy little room at the Singapore airport and go right through a ‘dedicated’ security check, so much quicker. We were on a 777 to Bangkok that while certainly comfortable, was a very odd design. The seats were of some sort of molded plastic. Maybe they were going for a streamlined look, but the configuration meant that there was no seat storage, odd design choice.

TA 777 business class

Thai Airways 777 business class, why no seat storage?

Once at the Bangkok airport we got to visit the Royal Orchid Spa and got a fantastic 30-minute foot massage. The next leg, from Bangkok to Perth, was in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Another plane I’d wanted to try. This design was much nicer, and had at-seat storage, so not everything had to go in the overhead bins. All in all a super way to travel with great food and service.
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This then landed us in Perth at about 7 am, well before our check in at our second Airbnb of the voyage. I got a very decent coffee at an airport kiosk and we sat down and got online (as opposed to many airports, the Australian and New Zealand ones let you get online without having to give your blood type, four last known addresses, etc…. ok a bit of an exaggeration, but hopefully ‘free’ Wi-Fi providers will learn soon that filling out all those fields on a mobile phone is very frustrating, and with no check on accuracy, what’s the point). All was going well until the building crew came in, seemingly right above our heads. So we moved on to the next terminal, figured out how to get into town, and went to a fantastic café where I got my first truly good coffee in months at Daphne. Owned by a couple who also curate shows by local artists. Australia and New Zealand are thankfully “into” coffee, kind of like parts of the US. Local roasters, well and ethically sourced beans, quality espresso machines and trained baristas. From there we again were lucky to check in early and get a chance to clean up and refresh.

Australia is enormous, nearly the same size as the US. And Western Australia, WA, (not Washington, which I kept seeing when I saw it written) is huge. About a third or Australia’s total land mass, and about the same size as all of Western Europe. We saw the equivalent of a pinpoint, but it was a good taste of Australia. Highlights of our drive by:

Jacaranda trees. Fragrant, purple trees all over town. We got there perhaps just after their peak, but most trees still had many blooms, and they were everywhere. Big purple trees are not anything I’m used to seeing. Loved them.
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Flat whites. I love France and their food is amazing. But not their coffee. After a month of very so-so coffee, was great to get back to snobby coffee. Plus, Australians have a drink called a flat white. I first tried this in London and loved it. Looked it up and basically it’s similar to a latte but with higher proportion of espresso to milk, plus the milk if done right is slightly foamy all over. I always think lattes are too milky, and cappuccinos are impossible for most people to make well. The flat white is my Goldilocks “just right” coffee drink. While Daphne had great drinks, they had no Wi-Fi, which is not great for blogging or travel planning. Luckily even closer to our rental was Get Ya Fix a friendly, coffee/bicycle shop. Great drinks, relaxed, interesting owners, good people watching, slick-looking bicycles, etc. This was my morning spot.

Indian Ocean. Not only did this visit to Australia add a continent to my travel list, it also added an ocean I’ve now played in. I wouldn’t say swam in because the waves dominated the action, and mostly it was just jumping around in them. We had lunch (yes, with local oysters) in Freemantle, interesting historic town, looking out over the ocean. Not part of the ocean, but if anyone goes to Freemantle, the Freemantle Arts Centre is definitely worth a visit. After lunch and browsing through a great Aboriginal art gallery, Japingka, we took the train up to Cottesloe (fun to say) and jumped in the ocean, then sat on the terraced grass banks just above the beach. (Note that the art pieces were displayed in the Freemantle Arts Centre. One by Poppy van Oorder-Grainger the other by Colin Story.)
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Feeling right at home… Perhaps part of what I liked (and simultaneously did not like) were all the similarities between Portland and Perth. Obviously the coffee culture. But more than enjoying and doing coffee well, the cafes themselves had a very similar style to those in Portland. I could easily have been in a café back home (though better because I could get a flat white and the accent is fun). Kings Park is considered one of the world’s largest inner city parks. Boasted in the same way as Portland’s Forest Park (though Kings Park has an amazing botanic garden and more infrastructure).
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The weekend we were there coincided with Open House Perth an annual event to showcase local design. While Portland is not part of this international group of open houses, it has a similar open studio event every year. Which brings out the similarity of both cities having a strong youth culture with a focus on design, creativity, cuisine and outdoor pursuits. That plus looking at the wine menu in any restaurant, had to keep reminding ourselves that the “WA” after the name of the wine meant it was from Western Australia not “Washington State, but it made the menus look very familiar! Oh, and hipsters, lots and lots of hipsters…

And now, the “finds”.

First up in Australia was finding a new backpack. The Adidas bag I took from Portland was never intended for New Zealand hiking (or tramping as they say), plus it had already started to fall apart weeks back in France. So we visited a number of outdoor stores. I now have a granny smith apple green waxed canvas backpack made by Wilderness Equipment. Perfect for now and it will make a great bag back home as well. Looked at another Australia brand, Crumpler. Some tempting bags but the other won out. I do completely approve of Crumpler’s tag line…

Crumple Australia

Love the tagline

The other benefit of looking for a backpack in Perth was that, seemingly, all outdoor stores are staffed by Kiwis (New Zealanders, after the bird not the fruit). So we got a number of great recommendations of places to visit, and even books to read. The Luminaries is on iPad now courtesy of the Multnomah County Library.

As mentioned earlier, Perth has a strong youth and design culture. That definitely translates into some interesting products and shops. Some design is already past the “I just found this great new designer” stage, such as the brother and sister clothing line of Alpha60 (but look at these great clothes).

Perth Alpha60

Alpha60, stylish Australian design

Others are a bit ‘smaller’ scale. Generics is a brand by designer Lisa Chau. Some fun clothes (if I were 20 years younger…) and a pure, clean line of body products.

Perth Generics brand

Perth Generics, how does black and white look so good?

A bit outside the downtown area, the store Arrival Hall jumped out at me when I read about them. Described as a garage turned into a store to house the beautiful design products found on Lisa and Clem’s travels, how could I miss it? The store is a beautiful space with some sleek, attractive home design objects. Enjoyed a conversation with Lisa. Their business is nine months old so we talked about starting a business inspired by love of travel and beautiful objects. She had some great advice and lots of encouragement. Much appreciated at that time as I was going through many questions and doubts about this venture, whether it made any sense, whether too many other people had already ‘done it’, etc. Found some new inspiration to keep exploring.

Arrivals Lounge Perth

Lisa smiling in her personal Arrivals Lounge

Arrivals Lounge home design

Arrivals Lounge west wall

Final word from Australia comes from our couple of hours spent transiting the Brisbane airport. It wasn’t the arrivals lounge, more the departure, but more airports should look like this…

Brisbane international airport

Brisbane departure garden, oops gates