We just returned from a fantastic trip to Western Australia. We started the trip in Fremantle, the port area of Perth which recently, has become a lot less dockworker and much more hipster. There are tons of coffee shops, boutiques and cute restaurants everywhere. Although the weather was a bit cold and windy, we still managed to have a great time!
One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the Fremantle Prison which was built by convicts in 1851 and was operating up until 1991, without significant upgrades to the electrical or plumbing, making it a pretty unpleasant place! Our guide for the tour was an older gentleman who we learned was the former warden of the prison during the last 20 years of it’s operation. Even though there were several kids on the tour, he didn’t feel it was necessary to hold back on the details of prison life. I’m fairly certain my kids have been scared straight! Especially graphic were his descriptions of the smaller prisoners and their “slop” buckets getting thrown over the railing of the top floor, in the hopes of landing on a guard and knocking him down…or worse (mostly, worse). Allie just looked at me wide-eyed and asked – “Why would they do that?” Good question! I was caught a little flat-footed on that one. I couldn’t recall any references to prison riot questions in any of my parenting books. Before we left, I added a card to their suggestion box — maybe a little sensitivity training for the Warden? Or at least, a trauma counselor who can debrief with the families..
Another unexpected highlight was the night we wandered into a local bar/restaurant to find a huge crowd gathered to watch and cheer on the local AFL (Australian Football League) team — the Fremantle Dockers. They were playing in the semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history and the place was going nuts! If victorious, they would go on to the championship game (the AFL superbowl!). Although, to the unacquainted fan (me), the game looked like a huge contest of hot potato with lots of high-kicking, apparently it is the most popular game in Australia and consistently draws huge crowds (50,000-100,000+) at virtually every game. Happily, that night the Dockers won but, sadly were defeated in the finals 😦
On our way out of Perth, we stopped at an animal park advertised as offering a truly, hands-on experience with a varied collection of Australian wildlife. We were excited for the chance to experience the rich, untamed and perhaps savage beasts of Australia up close. As advertised, we got up close and personal with the animals – unfortunately, the only action we saw was a kangaroo hopping away from a three year clutching a handful of pellets it was trying to force feed to it. I’m pretty sure the rat that jumped out of our kitchen trash can the other day was much, much wilder.