If you’ve spent the last several weeks glued to your computer or smart phone neglecting your family, your friends, and perhaps your hygiene while anxiously waiting for the next post, please accept my apologies. When we started planning this trip last year I never imagined I would still be writing about it nearly seven months after we got back.
And while I can express my intense regret over stringing you along, I have little to offer in terms of an excuse. It’s not as if I’ve been too busy to sit down and crank out a few hundred words and phrases here and there. Truth be told, I can do that with my eyes closed and with one hand tied behind my back, although it tends to take a little longer that way.
But that’s not why it’s taken so long this time. Although if it will make the experience of reading this column a more entertaining read for you, feel free to imagine me sitting blindfolded and restrained in a sturdy wooden chair and pecking away at my keyboard with a pencil, pen, or screwdriver clamped between my teeth. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.
Anyway, since we had enjoyed our breakfast at the Salted Board so much on Saturday, we decided to go there for breakfast again on Sunday. The eggs Benedict with salmon and smashed avocado was just as good then as it had been the first time only better since this time I decided to enjoy the delicious crusty, toasted whole grain bread that it came with instead of giving it to the Jarhead. Yum!
From there we decided to visit Fremantle Prison, which was just a short walk up the road. The facility, originally called the Convict Establishment—or the Establishment—was built by the British in the 1850’s to house British convicts who were shipped to Australia to do hard labor. In the 1880’s the colonial government of Western Australia took it over and begin using it to house local convicts.
According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle_Prison) the facility remained in operation until 1991 when it was replaced by the modern, maximum security Casuarina Prison (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuarina_Prison) in Perth. Fremantle Prison has since been designated a World Heritage property and is now a popular tourist attraction.
For more information, you can visit the website at http://fremantleprison.com.au/. Before you click on the link, you may want to adjust the speakers on your device. The audio on the site includes background noises that, depending on your volume settings, may or may not cause you to jump out of your skin or cause your heart to skip a beat. If you clicked on the link before reading my warning statement, I apologize, and wish you a speedy recovery.
After touring the prison, we made our way back down to the main drag and headed for the Fremantle Markets (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle_Markets.) Here we were treated briefly to a show by a local performer whose shtick included spinning plates on dowels and tricking innocent bystanders into sitting a box and wearing a helmet containing the dowels on which said plates were spinning.
Since we had come in at the tail end of the show, I can only assume the guy (pictured above in the black hat with burgundy pants and vest) had performed many other feats of wonder prior to our arrival. That and a lack of other forms of entertainment in the area are about the only ideas I can dream up to explain the size of the crowd that was present when we got there. Unless the dude was not just a juggler but also a hypnotist and he had them all transfixed. Or maybe they were all actors who had been promised bonuses if they could convincingly appear interested. Either way, with our path to the entrance to the markets essentially blocked, we were forced to wait until the show was over to make our way into the building. Once there, we took in all sorts of cool sights, to include kangaroo leather purses, totes, and belts, as well as locally made soaps, jewelry, clothing, artwork, knickknacks, tools, and ethnic foods.
Having been walking since breakfast, after meandering around the markets we decided it was time to rest and have a drink. With that in mind, we headed for a place called the Mexican Kitchen. Since the chairs were comfortable and we had a pretty good view of the main drag, we decided to have some dinner and a few adult beverages, and do some people watching.
Fremantle attracts tourists from all walks of life, and it really showed on that day. Couples, families, groups of adults, and groups of teenagers were among the folks that passed by us that evening, and they represented close to the full spectrum in terms of nationality, ethnicity, religion, and lifestyle. There happened to be a car show going on that weekend as well, so in addition to watching all the people around us, we got to gawk at a nearly steady stream of classic cars that ran the gamut from muscle cars and hot rods to antique and luxury models.
Should anyone you know ever wonder aloud what Mexican food is like in Australia, you can tell them this: Mexican food in Australia is basically the same as Mexican food in the United States, only without the beans. That seemed weird to me since literally every Mexican meal I have seen or eaten in my 50-odd years on Earth has been accompanied by beans, but there you have it.
I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal that the beans were missing since neither of us noticed it until we got our prints back from the Walgreens photo center a few weeks later. I wish I could claim not to know how or why we didn’t miss the beans, but since I was already on my third margarita when the plates arrived, there isn’t a lot of mystery there to unravel. With three ‘rita’s under my belt and several hours having passed since our last meal, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if my entire meal had been missing. Or if they’d served me melamine models of taquitos instead of real ones. Or, well, you get the picture.
One thing I would have expected to see in a city the size of Fremantle but had yet to find was evidence of poverty or homelessness. This seemed strange given that in literally every place I’ve been in the US I’ve seen folks on the street corner at stoplights or the entrance to Walmart asking for money or food. But at no point during our stay in Australia did we see anyone standing or sitting anywhere with a cup or a cardboard sign.
Oddly, at almost the exact moment the Jarhead and I were discussing the lack of panhandlers, one suddenly appeared. Only he didn’t look like a panhandler in that he was reasonably well groomed and dressed, and had no cup nor any sign. In fact, had he not sidled up to the table literally right next to ours and asked the three young women sitting there if they had any spare change, I would never have pegged him for a panhandler at all
Almost the second after the panhandler stepped away from their table—having received nothing for his efforts—a well-muscled man clad in black jeans, white tee shirt, and a black stocking cap (whom we later found out was some sort of undercover security officer) approached him. “You picked the wrong street for that, mate,” he said sternly, and the panhandler quickly strode off down the street.
“So it isn’t that they don’t HAVE panhandlers in Fremantle,” I observed afterward. “It’s that they wear camouflage and the city has a policy of containment.”
I’m not sure how to feel about that, but, again, there you have it. Do with it what you will.