The holiday started with one of my usual bug-bears, things that are made more difficult than they should be. We started at the airport where, having checked in on-line, we joined the bag drop off queue. However a combination of people not being able to stick to the baggage limit and other issues meant that it would have been quicker to join the check-in line. The flight passed without incident but we then had to pick up the hire car - again given that you have provided all you details on line you would think it would be - check the drivers licence, take a swipe of your credit card and here is your key. But no it seemed to take about 15 minutes to give out each car.
Anyway having picked up the car we drove to Fremantle and found the B&B (who couldn't tell us where to park) and began the holiday in earnest. Our first day was AFL Grand Final day so having got our bearings and had a walk around the markets we retired to The Monk for a couple of beers, lunch and the end of the game. The pub was having an Oktoberfest themed weekend so a couple of beers were accompanied by belly pork with scallops and a bowl of wedges. We moved from there to the Sail and Anchor (a pub selling a couple of dozen different beers) for a few pints with the England-Scotland world cup rugby game. Not a great game but pretty good beer.
To finish off a good first afternoon of food and drink we moved onto the Little Creatures brewery on the harbour and another couple of pints were accompanied by nachos, fried halloumi and a very good bowl of chilli mussels.
It is worth noting at this point that when I refer to pints that is obviously just me. However Minda has become something of a beer convert and would often have a pot or schooner of lager.
We had previously been warned that Perth itself, whilst an attractive city, was not the most exciting of places. We thought it was only right to visit given we were on that side of the country so took the train up from Fremantle. The early signs were not good with a wander around Northbridge (apparently one of the more lively areas) and the city centre not coming up with much of interest.
As a result we headed down towards the harbour to find the Swan Bells tower which contain the original bells from St Martin in the Field that were donated to Perth. From there we headed to Kings Park via Jacobs Ladder. The Ladder is a staircase running up the side of a steep hill that was frequented by a number of running enthusiasts / fools.
The park, which is larger than Central Park, was pleasant for an afternoon reading in the sun and a couple of salads from the cafe. After getting the train back from Perth we shared a bottle of riesling and cheese platter at the wine bar next to the B&B before going to Maya for dinner. A well regarded local curry house provided mixed starters, butter chicken, cumin fish, roti, rice, beer and cocktails that confirmed the restaurants reputation and also provided us with one of the best curries we have had in the year we have been here.
On an overcast morning we rode the bus round the full island getting some beautiful views and thinking about where to spend the afternoon. Lunch at the Dome was lamb shank, steak pie and a shared bottle of red.
One benefit of the bottle of wine was that it gave the sun time to come out and we therefore took the bus back to Salmon Bay. We a choice to make - a quiet beach on the windy side of the island or a busier beach on the sheltered side. We opted for the former and spent a couple of hours on a beach that we had to ourselves. The bus driver was right about the wind however and we did end up with it pretty much everywhere.
That wind also affected the trip back that was a relatively rough ferry ride and our appetites for the evening were for fish and chips from Cicerellos and a local beer.
Tuesday effectively meant getting from Fremantle to Margaret River. A 2.5 hour drive if you go straight there we took our time on the drive pulling in at a number of ocean-side towns and villages on the way. One of these was Busselton with its 2km long pier. We thought about walking along the pier but decided to retire to a restaurant looking out over it for lunch instead. Further stops at Dunsborough, Yallingup and a local factory producing olive oil based food and beauty products took us down to Margaret River.
After checking into the Margaret River guest house and a relaxing afternoon we headed to Must for dinner. Must will be covered in more detail in the restaurant reviews but in one sentence - very good food, beer and wine was accompanied by decidedly average service.
From Juniper we headed to Hayshed Hill for more tasting and lunch. A good selection of pizzas were shared by the group along with a proper sized glass of wine - exactly what we were in need of! The afternoon included two further tastings at Knotting Hill and Brookwood finished off the afternoon. The driver left the two of us with Roger and Min to taste at Knotting Hill as he took the sisters to the nearby chocolate factory. We had our priorities right however.
Having not had enough to drink during the day we agreed to gatecrash Min and Roger's honeymoon and meet them for dinner at the pub in Margaret River. A couple more pints and a shared bottle of wine accompanied a chicken ceasar salad and a Thai curry to conclude a enjoyable day.
Next up - a day to ourselves to explore the area so we started with a drive down through Augusta to the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin. This is where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet and there are great views out from the peninsula. We did find a beautiful deserted beach on the drive down but the smell of sewerage probably explained why it was deserted. On the drive back we stopped at the bakery in Augusta for meat pie and scones before driving back up towards Margaret RIver. On the way we visted the Leeuwin vineyard and decided to stop for lunch. We had scallops with belly pork and king prawns to start followed by pork ribs and fillet steak for mains. At this point we decided that Minda would take her turn driving for the week so I had a couple of glasses of wine. WIth Minda in the driving seat now was the perfect time to pay a visit to a couple of breweries so we called in at Bootlegger and Cowamarup breweries and I tried the beer sampling plates at each. I was particularly impressed with a couple of the Bootlegger beers and will be sourcing them in Melbourne. A stop at the local deli on the drive home provided the supplies for a picnic dinner at the B&B.
Friday was the day to head back to Fremantle so we packed up and visited a couple of chocolate factories and farm shops before stopping at Clairault winery for a final lunch. A pork tasting plate was followed by rabbit for me and prawn curry for Minda.
Having moaned at the start of this post about people making things more difficult than they should be it was now that I proved to be a complete idiot myself. I made the extreme schoolboy error of putting the wrong type of petrol in the hire car. My only defence is that pretty much my entire driving life I have used green pumps for unleaded fuel - therefore pulling up at the petrol station I went into auto-pilot and filled up the car from the green pump. Unfortunately as it turned out green at this particular petrol station meant bio-diesel.
A call to the hire company led to an hours wait for a tow-truck who took us to a nearby garage which kindly stayed open late on a Friday evening to spend an hour flushing out the fuel tank (as I had obviously not started the car after putting in the wrong petrol). I naturally felt like a complete idiot and did not feel any better despite the mechanic claiming it was a pretty regular occurence around there.
Anyway eventually we got back on the road, arrived late into Fremantle and went out for relatively forgettable dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
A final lunch beckoned following the whale watching so we decided to return to where we had started off and the LIttle Creatures brewhouse. Having enjoyed the chilli mussels first time round we had them again along with frites, chicken skewers and corn on the cob.
A final drive back to the airport was followed by the news that the flight was going to be delayed by three hours. A long wait in the airport and uneventful flight saw us get home about 4.30am. The advantage of the delay was that I didn't have to watch England get beaten by France in the Rugby World Cup.
In summary - a good week, weather not quite up to what we were hoping for with a number of overcast mornings. Perth is pretty but there is nothing much happening. Wine and beer tasting is always good fun and most importantly green is not always unleaded.