A train ride from Fremantle put us in the CBD (central business district) of Perth to check out the Hop On/Hop Off bus to see the sights. We have had varying degrees of success in other towns with this tour option (great in London, very mediocre in Athens) and this one was more the later than the former. We did have a great stop in Kings Park-a beautiful garden with a botanical garden within. It would have taken hours to see the entire park, but the few paths we walked were spectacular. With a snack break in the restaurant (we had to order food as they were not licensed to serve drinks without it..) and a taste of a Margaret River Chardonay from Mon Tout rounded out the stop—then it was hop back on and finish the tour.
Our second day was wine tasting in the Swan Valley day..except the tour organizers never got back to me with where we were to meet them. Generally they pick up at hotels, but since we are not in one, I had no information to provide. Checking emails frequently after we sent them a number of urgent messages left us with only one option-Call. Tried that approach with no success. Finally 15 min after the appointed hour for pick up I decided to text. It worked but they van was too far along to come back for us, so they said to take a cab and they would pay for it. $70AUD and 40 minutes later, we joined the other 16 guests at the Fig Tree Estate Winery to begin our WA (here that is Western Australia) wine adventure.
It is a eclectic group-12 moms who all have 1st years (translation-children in first grade) who are out celebrating a birthday, 2 women from Zurich who are visiting one of their daughters and 2 young women 1 from Perth, 1 from Broome who just thought it would be fun. It is very different to have a group of “locals” rather than the cruise passengers.
The Fig Tree Estate is named after a 110 year old fig tree on the property. The label has this tree along with the wine makers 3 children and 2 dogs. All red wine grapes are hand picked, open fermented and basket pressed before spending at least 12 months in French oak. The wines here were premium, small batch productions and all quite tasty!
Next we headed to another boutique winery-Olive Farm Winery. Much more hurried and less personal, this was not a favorite stop. On to Houghton. This is a large production winery offering many varietals and a huge tasting room. We were visiting on a Sunday and found a car club showing off shiny sports cars, lots of families enjoying a beautiful, sunny day outdoors, and lots of wine lovers eating and tasting. We had lunch here-salad, charcuterie and bread along with 3 options for wine by the glass. Then we went in to taste!
The last wine stop was also a chocolate factory. Unique here were the bowls of white, milk and dark chocolate drops that you could scoop into your hand for a taste. No supervision or limitations on quantity (as the young boy in front of me proved-with his napkin folded into a bowl and the scoop refilled a number of times in each variety of chocolate). John headed right for the other building with the wine tasting. The wines were interesting, but most popular were the liquors-chocolate mint, macciato, chocolate mousse. All of the gals on the bus decided that they were tops.
Then we headed to Elmers craft brewing for a taste of a few German style beers and more families enjoying the Sunday weather. Given the stress of trying to participate in this wine tour it turned out to be more than satisfactory with a delightful group of women, a fun guide, and some great wines to taste. As an aside, tasting rooms are more like Napa back in the day when there was no crowd, no fee and many pours—though we did notice the pours were VERY light! Now we have to check the limits for bringing wine back as we have 3 bottles and several more tasting experiences to come!
A bit of exploring following our train ride back to Fremantle found a popular street full of cafes and eateries. It was hard to chose where to dine there were so many great options. We settled on pizza as the offering on the ship is mediocre. It was not as tasty as what we get at home, but different and the waitress was quite fun.