Day 43 Feb 16 (Freemantle-Perth)

After a Lido breakfast I boarded the shuttle bus and rode around the loop. Freemantle is the port which serves Perth (inland about 40 minutes by train). We had a shuttle bus which made a loop through Freemantle and stopped at several places for shopping, sightseeing and the train station. After going around once to get the idea I went back in to the train station and took the train to Perth. The train system is reminiscent of ones in Europe. Very efficient and pretty much automated.

I left the train station in Perth and explored the surrounding area. Found a large shopping mall (two stories high with perhaps 30 different stores) at the south exit of the station. I discovered a discount store which resembled a Big Lots and decided to wander through it to see how it compared with the US equivalent. Most prices were a bit higher and the selection was about the same. A few more tools perhaps but very similar. I didn't find any irresistible bargains although I was looking for a tool to replace the Leatherman Micro I either left behind or was removed from my luggage. Fortunately I could not find one. More on that later.

I finally succumbed and ate lunch at Mickey D's. (Mc Donald's to those of you who don't recognize the familiar nickname.) I had a Mc Value meal (the Aussie equivalent of an Extra Value Meal) Big Mac. Pretty close to what I remember from the US but it has been quite awhile.

After lunch the day took a turn for the worse. It was Saturday and all the Information stands seemed to be closed. Not only that but the restrooms in the train station were too. I found some information and a restroom in a nearby library. Very helpful librarian. I was apparently not the first lost American she had seen. Oh, the light in the restroom in the library was a blacklight! Pretty weird!

Thinking I was back on track I followed the librarian's instructions to a bus stop which was supposed to provide me with a Tourist Tram bus which would give commentary and a tour of the city (Perth). Well, after sitting at the stop for over an hour I decided I was at the wrong place or the tram wasn't running and figured I had wasted enough time. I went inside a nearby bus station (attached to the train station) and
inquired but nobody was any help. Ah me. Travel adventures aren't always successful stories. I have three sad pictures of Perth taken while I sat at the bus stop. That's it.

Somewhat disappointed I returned to the train station and took the train back to Freemantle. I did pick up a thing called a Lamington in the train station bakery. This is a cube of white cake which has been lightly coated with dark chocolate which in turn is dusted with coconut. Highly acclaimed by our travel lecturer, Barbara, but not all that great if you ask me. I think I expected something far richer and more chocolatey. Anyway, Freemantle was kinder to me but not without its surprises. I decided to try a local beer. Stopped in a restaurant which had a Stella Artois sign up (beer brand to those of you not in the know). I sat and the waitress came by and asked what she could get me. I told her I needed a beer and she said sadly that the law would not allow them to serve alcohol unless it accompanied food. It was about 3 in the afternoon and I had eaten that Mc Value Meal so I was not really hungry. Nor would my waistline appreciate an extra meal. I considered leaving and continuing the search for a more proper pub but the day's travails had taken their toll. I decided to order something cheap and have my beer. I figured I had "Tourist" or "Cruise Ship" tattooed on my forehead so I was going to probably hear the same thing wherever I went. So I ordered some brouchette and asked her to choose a local beer for me after telling her my general preferences. The beer was a Rogers and it was pretty good. Actually so was the brouchette (an Italian thing where onions, tomatoes and whatever else is handy is chopped up and put on a fairly thin slice of toasted Italian bread) so I ate it all. (I know, I know. I tried to eat lighter at dinner a couple of hours later.) I was done with my sightseeing. Still needed to shop for a souvenir of Australia so I took my leave of the restaurant after spending a bit of time people watching. Lots of tourists here. Many eateries and shops.

As I approached the bus stop location (in front of the Freemantle train station) I saw Daphne and she seemed in a bit of distress. Poor baby. She was upset because she didn't know exactly where the bus for the boat (shuttle bus) was supposed to stop. She had apparently been waiting awhile and was beginning to get that panicky feeling that she might never find her way back. She's about 80 and does very well most of the time but can get frazzled and this was clearly frazzle I was seeing. I calmed her down and showed her where the bus was supposed to stop. Then one came and went right by where we were to stop a couple hundred yards past us at the entrance of the station. This is not where we had been dropped off but I told Daphne to stay put and I'd go investigate. I did and the driver said he would wait while I went to get D. By the time I got back to where she was she was not there. Another shuttle had come and stopped in the right place and she was aboard. I got on too and we asked the driver and he said the other driver was wrong and that they got in trouble for stopping right in front of the station. Hmmm. It had just been that kind of day. Travelers need to be flexible. It's an adventure right?

I left Daphne on the bus and got off at a shopping stop called E-Shed. I was confident she could ride the bus to the ship without further difficulty. Apparently I was right because later in the evening she was her old composed self. The ship had a barbeque on the Lido deck and Daphne had the good sense to go early to hold a table for those from our normal dining room table who wanted to eat barbeque. Well, the tables on Lido are big enough for about 4 people. We wound up with eight! I was able to go around the deck and "borrow" extra chairs for everyone. We did have to eat in shifts to share the small table but we all enjoyed the challenge and the music provided by the local group which sang mostly sea shanties. Well all of us but Jack. Jack doesn't like anything but classical music. Other than that he is a great guy. It is fun to hear him rant about the fact that other types of music aren't music. It is amazing how well we get along (my tablemates). I was mentioning this to another traveler after the BBQ and they said something about how sometimes all the people at a table have such similar backgrounds that they get along. I thought that was an interesting idea but it didn't apply. We are such a varied group it is amazing. We have Jack, a retired coorporate banker who never worked in the US and his wife Anita (American but they met working in a bank in Italy many years ago). Daphne, an Episcopal Priest (for the last 20 years or so) from Wyoming - born in Houston. Brian, a retired realty guy who worked some years in Korea for the US military and his wife of 57 years, Pat. Darryl, a retired electrical engineer who started building and maintaining vacuum tube computers (can you remember Univac?) and his wife Carol and finally, Claire, the other Physics teacher in the group. She and I are the only ones with anything in common and other than our ages and the physics thing we don't share much either. I think the only thing we really have in common is a willingness to get to know each other and pretty good senses of humor. Whatever it is it seems to work. We spend a lot of time together.

Well, that was Saturday. Farewell to Australia. It has been interesting but I think I need to return with more time to spend in the cities I choose to visit and also some time to tour the outback. I have some kangaroo and koala pictures but don't really feel that I've gotten to know the country. I'm beginning to understand why some people keep taking world cruises. You could eventually do enough to see a country this way but I think a couple weeks in Australia would be a better idea. We'll see.

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