Today, we take a break from the spotlights on our workshops to bring you an article about Fremantle. I’ve never been, so I asked Claire Boston to tell us about it.
It’s a beautiful autumn day, sunny but not too hot, blue skies with the occasional puff of cloud and I’m sitting outside one of the many cafes on the Fremantle strip. As I sit here I think about the RWA conference which will be held in Freo in just a few months’ time and I can’t wait for other people to discover the wonders of this vibrant city.
Let me paint a picture for you. I’m sitting at a small table under a big umbrella so I’m nicely shaded. I have a fresh cappuccino and some French pastry that smells delicious but whose name I can’t remember. I have my notebook out so I can fill my writer’s well full of the characters and ideas that just flood over me as I survey my surroundings.
There are a couple of young hippies walking towards me complete with full dreadlocks, hemp clothing and sandals, debating something as one waves his hands to emphasise a point. I jot down a few notes in my notebook before a young girl catches my eye. She’s a toddler, no more than two wearing a pretty pink dress and pink shoes. She’s stopped and is bending over almost in half to stare at something that’s captured her attention on the pavement. I check to see where her parents are and they’ve stopped a metre or so away and are watching her with an expression of love and delight. When she finally straightens up, her dad holds out his hand and she toddles over to clutch it and walk on beside him. I notice a young couple watching her as well and they say something to each other and kiss. Maybe there’s a baby on the way, or one in the planning.
To one side, where the buildings give way to expose a hidden alleyway there is a busker playing his guitar. His case is set up in front of him to catch the coins of passers-by. Today he’s playing the blues but on other days it could be flamenco, or jazz, or folk songs. Next to him a woman has set up a rug and she’s selling homemade, beaded jewellery.
I know if I walk past them both I’ll enter a hidden treasure of shops such as The Pickled Fairy and Joan of Arc which sell fabulous fantasy and medieval items. I might go for a browse when I’m finished.
But I’ve been distracted. I was supposed to be telling you about Freo but I guess part of what makes Freo the city it is are the people. It’s such an eclectic mash of young and old, rich and student, hippy and yuppie that there’s always something to see.
If I walk north up South Terrace I’ll pass the mall and then further to the train station and the maritime museum. If I don’t feel like the walk I can just jump on the free CAT bus which passes most of the main tourist attractions in Fremantle.
To the south I hear cheers and look towards the Fremantle markets to where a magician has set up and has drawn a crowd. The Freo Markets is one of my favourite places to visit. It’s an old brick building with bull nosed verandas and inside it’s a delightful warren of shops and stalls. One section is the farmers’ market where fresh produce is plentiful and cheap. I’ll definitely head here on the conference weekend to stock my room with fresh fruit so I can have a snack or in case I oversleep and don’t have time for breakfast.
If I head east I’ll reach the Fremantle Prison. It’s the only World Heritage listed building in Western Australia. It was only decommissioned as a maximum-security gaol in 1991 and I’ve done tours before. It’s a fascinating place to visit but one tour I’ve not done is the Tunnel Tour. In this tour you descend 20 metres below the ground through the labyrinth of tunnels and I think it would be a great adventure. Actually I’ll make a note of it. Perhaps I’ll treat myself to the tour on Thursday before Penguin’s ‘welcome’ ice-breaker.
Since my thoughts are full of the conference I let my mind wander west, just a few hundred metres down Essex Street to the Esplanade Hotel Rydges where the conference will be held. The street is lined with trees before the distinctive white veranda posts of the Esplanade Hotel appear. The hotel has been on this site for over 100 years and though it’s been renovated multiple times, it still has the historical feel of an old hotel. The first floor has a veranda running along two sides and the room where the cocktail party is being held will step out on to this veranda. If the evening is nice, we can spill out and enjoy the view over the park to the fishing boat harbour.
In my head I cross the street into the lush green park with its huge Norfolk pines and playgrounds and then keep going across to the fishing boat harbour where the smells of fish and chips and salty water hit me. I walk along the docks, breathe in the aromas and smile at the lap of the water against the jetty and the occasional squawk of a sea gull.
I might head over here on Friday night after the cocktail party for a small bite to eat, but then again when it comes to food in Freo I’m spoilt for choice. Here on the fishing boat harbour are the two Freo institutions of Kailis and Cicerello’s. At their simplest there are fish and chips but there’s really a whole lot more. The fresh seafood selection is incredible – prawns, crabs, oysters, mussels and several varieties of fish.
In and around The Esplanade (all within a five minute walk) you’ve got Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Thai, Steakhouse or pub food. I don’t know how I’ll decide. I’ll definitely have to start organising a table and maybe even book because on Friday and Saturday nights Freo bustles with restaurant goers.
I could go on and on about the wonders of Freo but the best thing would be to come and experience it for yourself. It is the perfect place to for an author’s date and to fill your well full of ideas and characters. I’d love to see you here in August and if you do come, feel free to stop me and tell me if you agree with my assessment of this vibrant city.
Unless otherwise specified, the photos by Nikki Logan.
Thank you, Claire. I don’t know about all of you, but I definitely felt as if I was there. I can’t wait to visit Freo and explore all it has to offer.
REMEMBER: Early bird conference registration closes 30th April (just over a week away)!
If you haven’t booked yet, you can do so at the Fremantle Conference pages on the RWA site.