DM and MM's Western Australia 2010 Diary

Day 6 - Kings Park, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia

Thursday, 19 August, 2010

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We're relaxing in our room before heading out later for dinner. We rose later today, around 08:00, getting into the time zone and the relaxation zone. The plan was to walk to Kings Park and wander around the gardens there in the morning, then depending on how we went we might go check out the Western Australian Museum in the afternoon.

We had the usual cereal breakfast in our room, then set out on to the streets of Perth. The sky was clear but the air was crisp and we were chilly as we walked. However we soon warmed up when we reached Jacob's Ladder - a steep staircase leading up the hill from the city to Kings Park. As we climbed the steps, groups of people in workout gear sprinted down and up, getting their morning workout. The climb was long enough that my thigh muscles started seizing up and I had to stretch them out. But the view from the top made it worthwhile, with a panoramic vista across to the city skyline and sweeping around over the Swan and Canning River confluence to the south.

Perth Panorama
View of Perth from Kings Park

From here we strolled into Kings Park. This is a magnificent park, set atop a hill west of the city, with fantastic views from many locations. We walked along an avenue lined with tall eucalypt trees to an area where several buildings congregated - Fraser's Restaurant, one of the top dining experiences in Perth, a cafe, a gift shop, and a small Aboriginal art gallery store. There was also a large war memorial set overlooking the confluence of the rivers to the south.

Heat wave
War Memorial in Kings Park

After all this walking and taking several photos, we sat in some shade to escape the building heat of the direct sun, and ate some fruit. Then we took a walk along the endangered plants walk to the treetop glass bridge walkway. This is a marvellous path that leaps over a shallow gorge, ending up peaking on a long metal arched bridge with glass safety rails well above the level of the surrounding trees and with yet another fantastic view, this time over the old Swan Brewery building, below on the bank of the river.

Swan Brewery and River
View over the old Swan Brewery

At the far end of the walkway, we turned around and walked back via the water garden. This route wound along a trickling stream that led from a small lake containing a bronze sculpture of a mother and child and a series of spurting fountains. There were brown wood ducks feeding on the nearby grass and picnickers sitting around enjoying the sunshine. In fact there were quite a few people everywhere we went in the park - it was obviously a very popular destination.

Next we walked through the botanical gardens area, which contained lots of native West Australian flowers and bushes. May of the flowers were in bloom, making a colourful carpet in many places. Bees were busily collecting pollen and we saw some butterflies as well. There were many types of kangaroo paws in flower, distinguishable by colour - red, green, yellow, and black.

The Sting
Busy bee in Kings Park

The flowers done, we walked back to the city, this time down a hill rather than back down the Jacob's Ladder staircase. We found a French boulangerie and patisserie called Jean-Pierre Sancho, which was full of the city lunch crowd. After a short wait, we got as table against the wall with a leather lounge along one side. M. had a cheese and salad baguette and a coffee, while I had a ham and cheese baguette and a chocolate tart. The food was all good.

From there we walked through the mall and across the railway line to the Perth Cultural Centre, where the Western Australian Museum sits next to the Art Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, and State Library. We entered the museum first, which was hosting a travelling exhibition on Pompeii. Having been to Pompeii, we were more interested in the permanent exhibits. These included a renowned exhibit of meteorites, minerals, and dinosaurs which was pretty good. We also saw the rare megamouth shark, preserved in a pit display outside the building and displays of birds, mammals, butterflies, and a historical section about the human history of Western Australia.

Dinosaur in the Library!
Model of a Carnotaurus, Western Australian Museum

We thought we'd seen most of what the museum had to offer and decided to have a quick look in the "Discovery Centre", which I assumed was an area for kids. We figured this would just take a minute to look at, but found that it was a large room containing several interesting displays, touchable exhibits like tortoise shells, fur, skulls, corals, and so on, and historical and technological displays showing things like pioneer clothing and tools. And then added to this there were dozens upon dozens of steel drawers, all closed an unlabelled, but which revealed to be full of more displays and artefacts ranging from meteorites and mineral samples, to fossils of all sorts of plants and animals, then on to cultural artefacts from both prehistory and the early European history of Australia. The latter formed a huge collection of items such as bottles, tools, scientific instruments, watches, clocks, eyeglasses, toys, containers, etc. And this was only in the drawers that we actually opened! We spent almost half an hour in this one room, racing from drawer to drawer to open them and reveal the surprise treasures inside, yet we probably only managed to open about a quarter of them all.

Library Gallery
Library Gallery in Western Australian Museum

We cut short this frenzy of discovery because we'd planned to also visit the art gallery before it closed at 17:00. We walked over to the nearby building and entered it. While the museum was housed in an old building (that had originally been the State Library before it moved to an adjacent new building), the art gallery was in a modern building designed with a hexagonal structure of a central core surrounded by six hexagonal wings. It was only two floors and a couple of the upstairs galleries were closed. Most of the art was relatively local and contemporary, with strong representation by West Australian artists. There was also a gallery full of entrants in the 2010 Indigenous Art Competition - mostly traditional or traditionally inspired Aboriginal paintings, but also some works in photography, video, and with modern techniques and themes. There were only a few Old World works - some portraits by French and English painters and a bronze by Rodin.

Hall of Butterflies Angle
Hall of Butterflies, Western Australian Museum

One work looked at first glance just like a bicycle. Inspection of the name tag indicated that the piece was titled "Bicycles", which seemed odd. But then I noticed something weird about it. The tyres had an odd cross-section shape, and the pedals looked odd, with multiple sheets of ridged steel. And then I saw the metal tubing of the frame, and the oddly numerous number of spokes. With a flash of insight I realised it wasn't just a bicycle, it was three bicycles, offset from each other by just a few millimetres, and thus intersecting one another! It was quite amazing and must have taken a lot of skilled metal working to achieve so seamlessly. The more I looked at it the more I appreciated how clever it was and how much effort had been put into it.

After browsing the entire collection, we headed back to our hotel, noticing the sting had gone out of the setting sun and the chill was back in the air. We rested a while in our room, catching the news on TV.


We headed out for dinner at 18:30 and walked to a nearby restaurant we'd found earlier, No. 44 King Street. This had a vast wine list and we chose different glasses to go with our meals. M. had a goat's cheese and gorgonzola gnocchi, with a glass of Margaret River Shiraz, while I had red snapper and scallops in a spicy chorizo sauce with some Victorian Gew├╝rztraminer. We also had some sourdough bread baked on the premises with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. After this delicious meal I tried the Trio of Chocolate Dessert with a glass of Rutherglen Tokay, while M. just had a sweet "cane cut" Semillon-Sauvignon blanc. The trio consisted of a very thick chocolate ganache-like blob - so thick I could stand my spoon up at an angle in it - plus a chocolate macron type thing, with a chocolate truffle stuck into it on a toothpick, and a slice of an almost fudge-like chocolate cherry slice. These three were placed on a plate separated by a vanilla macaron and a tempered white chocolate cannoli wrapped around a soft vanilla fondant. It was incredibly rich and sweet, which matched nicely with the insane honey sweetness of the Tokay.

Trio of Chocolate
Trio of chocolate, 44 King St.

Dinner done, we headed back to our room for a bit, then ventured out again, this time for night photography. We walked along Hay Street to the mall and took shots of the small church at the corner of William Street. Then we went down Barrack Street to the wharf to take shots looking back at the city skyline. On the way, we passed the 1970s-era styled building in front of the Supreme Court. I'm not sure what the newer building is for, but it is lit with an ever-changing display of lights at night, which makes it very cool to watch. (I discovered later on that this was Council House, the headquarters of the Perth city council.) I took several photos of this building, both on the way too and back from the wharf. Eventually we'd seen enough and returned to our room to turn in for the night.

Council House lights 2
Council House building, lit up for the evening

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