We arrived in Fremantle in the morning and spent the day getting our bearings and organising the week ahead. On Saturday we got very confused with the public transport, but eventually managed to get to Perth. Our first stop was the information centre, where we were taken on an orientation walk by a very friendly volunteer. Perth is not a very large city and is quite easy to walk around although the busses around the city centre are free. We then visited the Bell Tower, which houses the Swan bells, a gift from England. For many years there was not a church or building strong enough to hold them. In the new millennium the Swan Bell Tower was built. They now make up for the many silent years by ringing the bells every minute or so. It is supposes to look like a swan or a sailing ship, and not a cockroach as our guide informed us.
We then headed back into the city to London Court, a small shopping precinct. It was built to look like a typical London street by a rich Australian who had never been to London. As a result it looks a little strange. We had a look around the Western Australia museum, which told us all about the history of the state. Then we went for dinner at a vegetarian indian restaurant run by volunteers with the food cooked by indian grandmothers. It is a unique restaurant because you can eat as much as you like and pay what you feel.
There is a big wheel similar to that of the London Eye but smaller, faster and the view is obscured by big skyscrapers.
On our way back to Fremantle we stopped in Supreme Court Gardens where they were rehearsing for a Christmas concert. We really enjoyed this and it was very convenient as we didn't have to pay. The carols made us feel a bit more Christmasy, which is difficult in temperatures in the mid 30's.
Sunday was Fremantle Prison tunnel tour day. At first we had no idea why they were digging tunnels under the prison as it was a hot day and it looked like fun we thought we would find out. We started our tour by descending a 20m verticle ladder to the darkness below. This was rather scary but they promised we wouldn't fall as they didn't like doing paperwork. As we made our way through the tunnels our guide explained that they were dug by convicts in the 1880's to provide drinking water to the struggling colony. The idea was to link several wells below the water table to increase the available water. The network of 1km tunnels took six years to complete but within four years there was no longer any water suitable for drinking because they pumped it too quickly. They then drilled further into the aquifer to a larger supply, which is still used today. The tour was really fun, there was a dry section that Sion had to crouch in the whole time. There was also a wet section that we navigated sometimes in complete darkness in two man canoes. We only crashed a couple of times. We also got a certificate at the end, we like certificates.
On Tuesday we caught a ferry for a scenic cruise to Perth. It was a lovely journey, the captain gave us a running commentary and there was free wine tasting. We saw lots of expensive houses and boats along the river, we even spotted some dolphins swimming. It was a very nice way to arrive in the city as we got a great view of Barracks Square. We had our lunch underneath the bell tower then got a free bus to King's Park. We walked through the botanic gardens and thought it was a very pretty park. We had dinner in an asian restaurant, Rachel had an avocado milkshake which tasted a bit like custard. We then went to Forrest Place to see a nativity to try and make us feel more Christmasy. We were lucky because even though we arrived an hour early there were not many seats left. We really enjoyed the nativity, they sang all our favourite Christmas songs and there was a donkey and camels for the wise men.
On Wednesday we went back to Fremantle Prison where we did two tours, 'Doing Time' and 'The Great Escapes'. The first told us all about life in the prison from when the first convicts arrived in the 1800's to when it was a maximum security prision, which closed in 1991. We were surprised that the prision never had flushing toilets, only a bucket and the prisioners had to eat and sleep in their cell with the bucket.
The second tour told us how the prisioners tried to escape both physically and mentally. There was a theatre and they also had jobs in the prison. There were more than 280 escape attempts from the prison, but only 7 were succesful and never recaptured. They were Irish political prisoners who managed to break out and sail to America. Most attempts failed because they hadn't thought it through. They managed to get out of their cell but hadn't thought about how to get over the wall.
Wednesday night was Mexican night. We had nachos and fajitas. We ate far too much and left feeling a little ill.
Thursday we did our shopping for Christmas dinner and went to a lovely chocolate cafe where we had the nicest milkshakes ever and shared a chocolate tapas. It was all absolutley delicious and we might have to go back before we leave Fremantle.