Saturday 28 January 2012

A to Z of Australia - E is for Esperance

French explorers are credited with being the first to come on land in 1792, in Southern Western Australia, in the town that was then named after a French ship - Espérance - or Hope. Esperance, is located 720km south east of Perth.

The town lives from tourism, fishing and agriculture. When we first went there in 2009 I actually thought it far from touristy although we went at Easter time. 
It certainly was totally different from the way I pictured it would be; i.e. like most beach towns in Europe for example, full of tourists, loads of shops and restaurants along the coast...Instead it was a sleepy town of about 9000 people, and although the 3 or 4 camping places in the town were full, not many people were on the beaches, and with the exception of one restaurant on the Pier, all others were in the city centre. 
As you can attest from the photos, the beaches are beautiful, the sand is so fine and white, the water is clear, but they are empty.

Some wonderful rock formations at sea

This coastline has been voted as having Australia´s best beaches and whitest sand, and Esperance has been voted as the top holiday town in the State by Australian Traveller Magazine, and the second top-holiday town overall in Australia.

The mostly calm sapphire waters are crystal clear and you can swim, surf, snorkel or fish. 
There are a whole lot of camping places and accommodation to suit all budgets.

Plenty of variety of fish to catch.

Just off the coast there are about 100, mostly untouched islands - The Recherche archipelago - with colonies of sea eagles, sea lions and fur seals. You can visit some of them by boat.

We met the friendly resident seal by the Pier - "Sammy", who likes to meet the tourists and waits for the fishermen to throw him a morsel. 

Esperance became known as the place where pieces of the NASA´s space station Skylab crashed when the craft broke up over the Indian Ocean in 1979..

The San Francisco Examiner newspaper offered a $10,000 prize for the first piece of Skylab to be delivered to their offices.  A 17 year old, Stan Thornton scooped a few pieces from the roof of his house, and caught the first flight to San Francisco, where he collected his prize.
What a lucky young man!

The United States was fined $400 for littering, and the fine was paid about 10 years later by Highway Radio´s  show host Scott Barley, who raised the funds from his listeners.
I´m not sure why the US Government or NASA didn´t pay the fine?

Apart from spending some time at the various beaches, we did some walking around town to visit some quaint village shops, we visited the Museum and also had some relaxing time in the camping place.
A funny thing happened to us when we arrived at the camping place in the early evening of the first day in Esperance.
As we attempted to set up our tent, we realized we had forgotten some of the tent poles.
Needless to say the shops were already closed! So, all we could do was put down the back car seats, inflate our mattress, but only otherwise it wouldn´t fit inside the boot, and we had a most uncomfortable night, tossing and turning in a half filled mattress. 
We hung towels from the car windows to block the view inside, as we were next to one of the paths to the outside, as well as block the early sun in the morning.
The next day right after our breakfast we drove around trying to find a shop that sold camping gear and we bought the poles. Lesson learned, they were never again forgotten!
I wasn´t yet the photography freak I am now, so sadly I didn´t take photos of our car-bed.
I would certainly recommend a relaxing holiday in Esperance.

On the way back to Perth we drove by Corrigin, a small farming town 325km South east of Perth to visit unique "Dog cemetery" which was established in 1974 and is the burial place to over 80 beloved pets. There are some beautiful tributes from wonderful dog-owners.

We also visited the famous Wave Rock on the way back to Perth, but you will have to wait to read about it when I get to the letter R for Rocks!

Wednesday 25 January 2012

AUSTRALIA DAY - 26 January

This will be our 5th Australia day celebrated in this country.
I can still recall the first one, when we joined another couple, also recent immigrants, and we took our picnic baskets in the early afternoon and made our way among the crowds to as near the river as possible in the suburb of South Perth to enjoy the atmosphere and the fireworks.
Australians are very Patriotic when it comes to celebrating this special day. I can remember in Portugal most people just enjoy a day off work but certainly do not join in any celebrations. The day is mostly about speeches by Government leaders anyway...Maybe a few parties and concerts would bring a bit of cheerfulness to the people!

Here, in many towns and cities, people will be celebrating, having a barbecue at home with friends, going to the beach dressed in swimwear with the Australian colours, attending special concerts, having free breakfast in various parks organized by clubs or ultimately joining the huge crowds around the various areas where there will be fireworks displays.

In Perth, the fireworks will be set off from boats in the River Swan, and the fireworks will be visible from the various parks in the city´s Esplanade foreshore, Kings Park and the South Perth foreshore.
Boat owners are allowed to be in demarcated areas in the river and watch from their boats.

Even Eliza, the statue on the River gets dressed for the occasion

Flying the flag in their cars
Typical merchandise sold in various shops
This day is one of the busiest events of the year across the country and one of the busiest for the Police, trying to enforce non-drink policy outside allocated areas, crack down on drunken and anti-social behavior, etc, no easy feat when there are about 400,000 people at the "Skyworks" zones in Perth. Last year after a huge Police presence, only 23 people were arrested in Perth, due to drunken behavior, the lowest number ever, so the measures seem to be working.
This year drinking in the demarcated areas only, will be restricted to 1 bottle of wine per adult or a 6 pack of beer or pre-mixed drinks, and drinking is only allowed from 6,30 to 8,45pm.
It will be a very hot day, 40ºC, so it's expected people will arrive later and drink less.
Fireworks and laser show start at 8pm, accompanied to music from a Radio station and lasts for 30 minutes. The ceremonies will later be transmitted on Channel 7 TV.

Fireworks and Laser shows accompanied to music from a Radio station Mix94.5
An interesting highlight of this day, will be the Citizenship ceremonies performed at various City councils, awarding Australian Citizenship to immigrants who qualify. A day of pride and celebration for them!

In the capital city of Canberra, on the evening of the 25th, the Prime Minister will award medals to 4 deserving Australians in the following categories:  Australian of  the year, Senior Australian of the year, Young Australian of the year, and Local Hero. Nominees are chosen from the 8 people in each of the the 4 categories, nominated by the general public. All ordinary people who work selflessly for the benefit of their country and countrymen.
PS:  The Australian of the Year 2012 has just been announced as being the Actor Geoffrey Rush.

Wherever you may be celebrating, enjoy your day, don´t drink too much, and stay in the shade!
We will be joining some friends for an early swim and bbq at their house and later will go mix with the crowd to watch the fireworks. The atmosphere is always amazing!

Friday 20 January 2012

A - Z of Australia - D is for Driving, Drinking and Dressing

My 3 D´s in one!
Driving is done on the left side of the road, steering wheel on the right side of the car.
Having lived in Europe for 12 years it took quite a few weeks to get used to it, I would either sit on the left side and realize there was no steering wheel or when driving out of a parking lot I would observe the others to see which side I should go to. Why can´t the whole world drive on the same side?
Another change was from a manual car to an automatic! I was petrified of an automatic at first, kept on looking for the gears when driving, of course the indicator and the screen wipers are also on the opposite side, so I would be flicking the wipers instead of the indicator...
Nowadays I cannot imagine driving a manual car again, it´s just so easy with an automatic.
In fact when I went to Portugal in November and drove my Dad´s car, I almost gave him a heart attack when I didn´t know how to put the reverse gear on, and when driving in built up areas I kept on forgetting to change gears...

Changing my Portuguese driver´s licence was easy. We had ours officially translated, but when we went into the Department of Transport and handed in the translations as well as the certified copies of the originals the guy just handed back the translations and said that as all European licences are the same they knew what to look for.

So, fill in form, have your photo taken right there, do your eye test, chose if you want to pay your licence yearly or 5 yearly, and half an hour later (I swear, it only took half an hour!!) we were called and given our provisional licences. Within 2 weeks we had our originals. Because Australians don´t have an ID document like they have in Europe, the driver´s licence card is considered and ID, another one would be a Passport if you have one.
When your licence is up for renewal you get a written notification from the Department of Transport.

I was impressed, that was our first dealing with a Government department, and they were very efficient!!
Holders of licences from most Non-European countries will have to do a theory test or a driver assessment test. Also this only applies to Western Australia, as rules are different for all States. You even have to change licences if you move to another State.
 My son had done his driver´s licence in Portugal a year before we came, which meant he had to display a P plate on his back window when driving, until he had the licence for 2 years. (Now 3 years in Western Australia).

Nowadays restrictions for P plate owners (Provisional licence) have been increased and they are not allowed to drive between midnight and 5am, they must have zero blood alcohol at all times, etc ...There has been talks of restricting P plate drivers from driving potent cars as well, as there have been quite a lot of fatal accidents with youngsters who lose control of their cars (or probably their parent´s potent car...).
Learner drivers must drive with a qualified driver and display an L plate on their car.

Because Perth is a fairly quiet and relaxed city, traffic is not too chaotic, unless there is an accident or roadworks...Peak hour is usually not too bad either, if you compare it to the bigger cities of Melbourne or Sydney. Main traffic congestion at peak times is to or from the city centre.

Speed limits are 50km in urban areas, 60 or 70km in main roads and 100km in the highways.
If driving in front or close to a school during the allocated times in the sign, you must not exceed the 40km speed limit.
Australian love their potent motors, but I don´t see much point in having those petrol guzzlers when the maximum speed is 100km on the highways.

Fines are quite heavy in Australia - some fines carry demerit points which are deducted from your licence and you are only allowed to lose up to a certain amount on a yearly basis, if you go over then you have to sit a driving test again.
During public holidays, Easter and Christmas, the demerit points are doubled!

We didn´t bring a car from Europe as there is no point in having a car with the wheel on the wrong side.
Cars are generally cheaper than they were in Portugal, especially the Asian cars. European cars are of course more expensive to buy and to service.

A booze bus and some drinkers sitting
Drinking - A very serious problem, is the drinking and driving.
A lot of young people, and some not so young, get carried away with drinking, and feel they are still capable of handling a vehicle and driving as if they were stone sober. Quite a few accidents happen this way, and sometimes innocent people are killed or hurt. 
Fortunately on weekends there are a lot of Booze-buses around the city and some of the most popular entertainment venues, and some drinkers get caught red-handed and their car is impounded.
Once while waiting in a line to blow the balloon, the car in front of ours decided to cross the barrier dividing the lanes and turn into the opposite direction.
Straight away a policeman jumped into his car and sped after him. I can just imagine that the driver would be double penalized for crossing the lane and for trying to flee from the Police...

Burned rubber on roads by hooners
Hooning is another pastime of the young  - rubber burning - what a waste of tyres, disrespect for the law and the streets, and a danger for people around. They obviously have lots of money to spend on new tyres, otherwise they wouldn´t waste them.
Under new laws hooner´s cars will be impounded for a few days. If caught a third time the car will be crushed!!
Thankfully this doesn´t happen in my suburb!

Before finishing the post about driving just a warning, much to myself as anyone else to whom this could happen.

Just this Wednesday a young man bumped into the rear of my car while I waited at a stop sign. It was something quite small, or at least the damage looked small.

The young man said he didn't have his driver´s licence with him, but would contact me the following day and pay me $400 as he thought that would cover the damage. He gave me his name and address and I took his car number plate too. I should have been more street wise at my age and ring the number he gave me just to make sure, but I believe everybody is as honest as I am. 
Also the fact he said he didn't have his licence with him should have rang alarm bells in my head... As it turned out the phone number he gave me was incorrect, and I wonder if the address was real? 
I took the car to a panel beater today and the damage will cost $880 to fix, as the bumper would ideally need replacement!!!
I will have to go to the Police tomorrow and see if from the number plate they are able to provide me with his details. My insurance company will pay for the repair but will have to go after him to cover it, or my insurance premium will go up!

So, be warned, if no driver´s licence, call the Police, take photos of the car and the driver, call the number he gives you to confirm it rings...How silly of me!
In Australia, accidents should be reported to the Police, and it can be done online at:

                                   » »» » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » » »

Dressing - Not really related at all to the above, but I thought the subject of dressing merited a couple of lines...
Australians are very casual dressers, but for work they will put on a nice pair of trousers, skirt or dress.
Some professionals must wear a suit or formal clothing for work purposes, and going around the city centre I find that office people are smartly dressed.

Otherwise the dress code in summer, especially among the young crowd is mostly shorts and thongs (i.e: flip-flops), jeans, very minute mini skirts and a lot of cleavage for the ladies and also shorts and thongs or jeans for the men - they even go to Uni dressed in shorts.

I find that the women love showing their boobs, and have no problems showing a lot of cleavage at work, which I find must be a bit distracting and out of place in a work situation.
I remember a male friend once saying all men at his office loved going past the Human Resources department and go a bit "ga-ga" over one of the booby secretaries... I bet she loved the attention she was getting from her male colleagues!

I'm old fashioned and brought up in another era when you were taught that you dress for the occasion, so I wear smart-casual clothes to work with either flat shoes or heels. 
Flip-flops and shorts are for the home or beach use only.
Another strange thing I see is a few people walking barefoot when in the shopping centres or even around the city centre. I find it a bit "yukki", they would be picking up all the bacteria from dirty floors and streets, they could cut their feet, etc, etc. I even have trouble walking barefoot at home, the only place I do it would be at the beach...

Tuesday 17 January 2012

A to Z of Australia - C is for Culture

Because the Australian society is made up of people from many  countries, with different backgrounds, cultural diversity is part of Australia´s identity. This identity blends established traditions by the country´s original inhabitants - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders -  and new influences from the immigrants who have arrived from over 200 different countries and who have made Australia their home.
Aboriginal man playing the Didgeridoo at Kings Park botanical gardens
With over 21 million inhabitants, about half of them were either born overseas or have one parent who was born overseas.
Migrants have enriched the Australian society from the business to the arts, sports, sciences and cooking.

A Portuguese friend who has lived in Perth for over 25 years still remembers when people didn´t know what an expresso coffee was. 
Now the Australian society cannot live without the various types of coffee - Latte, Expresso, Cappucino, Mocha...The tradition of coffee drinking  was of course brought in by the Italians, as well as their  beloved Pizzas and Pastas.

I have found  Australians to have a great sense of humour and the ability to laugh at themselves , they are a liberal, tolerant, informal and quite an egalitarian society.
An example would be the fact that most people treat each other by their first names, no titles are used with the exception of the Dr (clinical one). This was certainly confusing for me, as in Portugal I had gotten used to the fact that most people are either called Dr. or kidding!!  Or, at least they all pretend to be, and love to be called by a title.
Here when I started working at the clinic I used to call the Doctors - Dr M, Dr Y, Dr J....After a couple of months I realized I was the only one doing it, as my colleagues called them all by their first names! So first names it was from then on. Even most patients call them by their first names. 
I find that so refreshing, no airs and graces, we are all the same, some more clever than others, some richer than others... This is probably one of the few countries where you will see an engineer or a doctor renovate or paint their house, do their own gardening, build a shed...  
Australia respects and accepts the rights of all Australian immigrants to express and share their cultural heritage, languages, and  practice different religions, as long as we all show a commitment to uphold Australia´s democratic foundation and are prepared to learn and accept English as the national language. There are various schools where Australian born kids can learn the language of their parents.
Food traditions are also celebrated in the schools with annual Traditional food fairs, where kids from the various countries (or at least whose parents come from a foreign country) will bring a traditional dish.
South African school kids at a  food stall at the Multicultural food fair - Nov 2011
In politics, our Prime Minister Julia Gillard was born outside of Australia, so were a few other Members of Parliament, but that was no impediment to their advancement into the country´s most responsible job!

One of the differences I can find between Australians (genuine or not) and the Southern Europeans,  is that they aren´t as affectionate as we are. No hugging or double kisses (triple for the French) when they meet with friends, unless you have known them for a while and they eventually get used to the kissing. 
I´m always a bit puzzled when meeting someone new as I don´t know if I should just say "hello" , shake hands or give them a kiss...Most times the kiss wins!
On the subject of kissing and traditions, I remember a funny story that happened in Portugal - a South African friend married to a Portuguese, got  so used to kissing everyone that the first time the Postman knocked on her door to deliver a parcel, she promptly gave him a kiss on both cheeks!  The postman was certainly puzzled!!!
Another international event

Immigrants have greatly helped build this beautiful nation, and make it what is is today! 

Typical Australian :
TYPICAL AUSTRALIAN  -  Footy or Australian Rules Football, thongs (flip flops), Vegemite (an yeast extract that is a strange taste to most non-Australians (me included), Anzac biscuits (Yummi!) and Tim-Tams chocolate biscuits (a bit too sweet for my taste, but eatable).

Monday 16 January 2012

A to Z of Australia - B is for Beaches

My star sign is Pisces, so anyone would equate that with a love of water. Sadly, although I would love to live either by the beach or by the river here in Perth, just for the views alone, I am no great lover of water. Apart from the time we went to Thailand a few years ago and the sea water was lukewarm and I swam to my hearts content, I find the sea water far too cold for my liking.

Still, because I was alone this weekend, my friend S invited me to spend the day with her in her suburb of Ocean Reef, about 55km from where I live. She lives 10 minutes walk from the Mullaloo Beach, and after putting our bathers on, (swimming costumes) ,we set off to the beach at 9,30am.

The suburb of Ocean Reef, with the sea just visible

We've been having temperatures in the high thirties lately...and for the first time in many years I actually ventured into the water.
Little by little I wet myself and eventually I was neck deep in the water. At one stage I turned myself to the beach and was overtaken by a wave and went under even swallowing some salty water.
One thing to bear in mind in is that the UV factor is extremely high, so everyone should make sure that they slip, slop, slap - that is slip on long sleeved top, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat! Skin cancer is unfortunately very high in Australia!

The parking lot at the beach

This cycle/walking path just outside the car park, runs all along the west coast from Burns Beach, (about 6,5km  north of Mullaloo) to Fremantle in Perth's south - Google maps tells me it's about 40 kms. It must be quite pleasant to ride along the sea with beautiful views of the various beaches, plus the very posh houses by the beach, as long as it's not too hot! have to be super fit too! You can get a cycling map of Perth's pathways, where you can see Mullaloo in the top right square and then Fremantle in the third right square just below the river that divides Perth.

cycle path along the sea

After a walk along the beach, we had a quick shower and set off back to my friend's house for lunch.
shower facilities just outside the beach area

                                               The cute slip, slop, slap advert from the 80's!

Compared to beaches I have seen in other countries, a lot of beaches in Australia have a grassy area just before the sand with children's play areas, picnic areas, free barbecue facilities. The sand is clean, the sea water clear and clean.

Probably one of the most iconic beaches in Australia would be Bondi Beach in Sydney, one of the most popular destination for surfers. There is a very popular tv series called "Bondi Rescue", that follows the day to day of the life savers in one of the most visited beaches in the world. 
When we visited Sydney it was also one of my must-see spots, although I must say, I found Bondi beach nothing special, I much prefer the quieter beaches of Perth.
So is Bondi well known by tourists because of the tv series, or was it already famous because it is a good surfing beach? I really don't know.

As you can see in this photo, Bondi is a popular beach, quite crowded, not much space left...
I think the Dutch would dispute that, there certainly is a lot of space... I once went to a Dutch beach in the North sea, and had to lay my towel among the millions of people already stretched out in their precious tiny piece of beach real-estate! Not my idea of a relaxed day at the beach for sure!!

PS:  I have just received a beautiful photo of a beach sunset taken by my husband from the balcony of his hotel in Glenelg, a suburb of the city of Adelaide, in South Australia. What gorgeous colours!

Lastly I would like to mention the Dog and Horse beaches scattered along the Perth coast as well, which are widely used. It's amazing to see all sorts of different dog breeds running around, swimming, playing and making friends. What lucky pets so have such commodities.

Check out the other bloggers participating in the A-Z challenge:Have fun!       (Piglet in Portugal) (The Hand family in Portugal)     (Algarve blog - Portugal)     (Dominican Republic)     (Poland)      (Australia) (Portugal)

Thursday 12 January 2012

A to Z of Australia - A is for Australia

Julie Dawn , PigletinPortugal and Algarve blog have started a new topic which I thought was quite interesting.
They will be blogging about their A to Z of Portugal - their likes and dislikes using every letter of the alphabet.

I thought this a  great idea, and in my case I will post about my A to Z of Australia - the country, the people, travel, my likes and dislikes...
Hopefully I will find something for every letter, and I might repeat a few letters, as some of them have quite a few topics I could discuss.
Join in and link your posts as this should be an interesting journey.

A - nothing more fitting that starting with the letter A for Australia.

We landed in Perth, exactly 5 years ago yesterday! (11 Jan 2007)
We had previously lived in Portugal (and before that in South Africa, Germany, Mozambique) for 12 years and a long time friend who came to Australia about 10 years ago,  invited my husband to apply for a position in the company he worked for. There was a mining boom in Perth, highly qualified people were hard to come by...
We decided to come for a short visit to Perth and Sydney, to see if this was a country we were prepared to move to.
We liked what we saw, the quality of life was good, high standard of living, outdoor life style, we would be able to afford to buy a house, albeit a "renovators dream", I would have no trouble getting a job we decided we would move.
Within about 4 months we packed up our life in a container and moved to Perth.
Sydney was a beautiful city, but far too big for my liking. Anyway my husband´s job would be in Perth!

Of course leaving family and friends wasn´t easy, but we were lucky we already knew two couples in Perth, which made our life a lot easier, having a bit of support. But overall Australians are friendly and relaxed people, so just join them and say "No worries mate", "Too easy"...

The language wasn´t a problem as I was raised in South Africa. I can just imagine that moving to a country where they speak a "strange" language, can be quite a challenge. 
Still, during the first few months at work, my ears had to get used to a different "twang". 

People spoke very fast, names were totally different from the usual, John and Joe - what about Skye, Storm, Cruze, Khrystyna, Deeon, Bora, Tamika, Dympna, Cian strange surnames. I was forever getting people to repeat what they said, and to spell their names. 

You can check my post about the Australian slang to see what I mean! If you are familiar with Portuguese first names, they are very conservative, and foreign or strange spelling is certainly not allowed at all. My kids have foreign first names, but they were born outside Portugal, otherwise I would be unable to register them with those names.

The Australian society is made up of people from hundreds of different countries - 199 nationalities live in Australia, apparently! Some people assimilate better than others, but I never felt out of place for being a "foreigner". When you walk in the streets of the city, you hear all sorts of languages being spoken, it´s quite amazing.
In fact in that first company my husband worked for, they had 200 employees, and only 3 of them could be considered Australian (they were 3rd generation born here), all others were born somewhere else. They had 3 Portuguese too, can you believe it?

City, from King's Park
City, from King's Park

The city centre, taken from South Perth

I leave you with 3 photos of the city skyline taken from Kings park, Perth's botanic garden, and from the suburb of South Perth, all 3 with very different sky colours.
    Please join me, participate, do and A-Z of your country, and leave your comments too.