Pacific Coast Highway Stop 4: Santa Barbara

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Pacific Coast Highway Stop 4: Santa Barbara

Both my mum and I had been to Santa Barbara before, she had loved it me not so much so we were both curious to see how we felt about it second time around.

On the way down from Pismo along another beautiful stretch of the PCH we stopped off at Solvang a random Danish village right in the heart of California, that had been originally created by some Danish pioneers in the 1700s,  It was pretty touristy, but had some cutesy souvenir shops and we had a nice traditional Danish lunch in one of the restaurants. Definitely worth stopping at in you’re in the area.

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We arrived in Santa Barbara to beautiful Southern California sunshine,late afternoon on what happened to be the Summer Solstice.  We decided to have dinner at our hotel as the restaurant overlooked the water so we could see the sunset over the pacific on the longest day of the year.  It was so worth it (see picture above) mother nature put on an amazing display.

The next day we decided to have a wonder along the pier and the waterfront, it had changed a lot in the 4 years since I’d been there and in the 20 years since my mum had been it was a lot different. There was a Sunday market which had some cool artsy nick nacs which is how my mum remember Santa Barbara being like very arsty (think all those artsy types are now in Venice) it’s pretty up market these days.

Our second day we decided it was time to hit the shops and see if State street had changed much, it hadn’t apart from a few different shops, it was still as Spanishy and beautiful as we both remembered.  It’s not very often these days that you get reminded that California was once a Spanish colony but parts of Santa Barbara and State Street especially make you feel like you could be in Spain.

Day three was a beach day to make sure we perfectly tanned ready for the last stop on our road trip Santa Monica.

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Last Night and Day in WA:

The next day was my last full day in Perth and was spent just sorting things out and packing as I had bought a 45 litre backpack I was desperately trying to get down to for New Zealand.

In the evening I met Becky, Stacy and Emily for dinner at this purely Vegetarian Indian restaurant called Annalakshmi which works purely on donations, you pay what you think the meal was worth.  It’s yummy a must when in Perth.  We got a table outside that looks over the Swan River where we saw the sun set over, we went out for a drink after that as well.

My flight was at 11:50pm the next day, so I had just enough time to meet up with the girls again at Cottesloe before going back to the hostel and grabbing my stuff before heading to the airport.  It was very emotional saying goodbye to the girls, we’d all been around in Perth for a long time which is rare when you travel so I got a bit more attached to them.

I was really very sad to be leaving Perth as I had the best 2 months in WA and made some amazing friends but so excited for New Zealand such mixed emotions.  

As if I’d have gone to WA first then I would have definitely done my 88 days regional work to get my second year visa, I suppose everything happens for a reason.

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New Years Day 2016:

New Year’s Day we didn’t really do much apart from recover from the night before and from Christmas, it was also very hot high 30s, you don’t really feel like doing much in that weather. 

Becky, Stacy and I met at Cottesloe one of the nicest beaches in Perth to watch the sunset and have fish and chips – for them I had a veggie burger- it must be the thing to do on New Year’s Day in Australia as the beach was absolutely packed!!

It was fairly cloudy but the sunset was so beautiful, I couldn’t capture the beauty of it on camera one of the best sunsets I think I’ve ever seen. It was like the sun was putting on its first show of 2016, the clouds lit up all pinks and oranges and yellows beautiful against the white sand and turquoise water. 

As soon as the sunset though everyone was off to the chippie for their dinner. All in all it was a great way to start 2016.

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Bunbary:

We drove up to Bunbury for the night stopping of at beautiful Busselton on the way for breakfast. We decided to spend our last night in Bunbury as we had to have the car back early and it’s only a couple of hours from Perth and it’s the second biggest city in Western Australia so we all wanted to have a look.

 Michelle a girl from our hostel in Margaret River was heading back to Perth as well so we gave her a lift up with us. There isn’t too much to do in Bunbury, they have a beautiful beach which went to and had an ice cream, something that I don’t think I’ve ever done in December before! 

Instead of cooking or going for a meal we decided to go get some snacks and have dinner on the beach whilst watching the sunset. It’s one of the best things about being on the west coast watching the sunset over the water, and what a sunset it was.

The next morning we got up early to head down to the beach to see if we could see any Dolphins as Bunbury is a bit like Monkey Mia in that it has a lot of dolphins in the area that you can interact with. We were limited on time as we had to have the car back, so we weren’t able to stay long enough to see the Dolphins come in which was a bit of shame.

Boxing Day 2015:

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On Boxing Day we were going to go for a coastal walk to work off our burgers from the day before but missed the turning and ended up heading in the direction of Hamlin Bay, which is where we failed to see the stingrays last time. We decided to head there instead of turning around, the stingrays normally come in around sunset, we got there a couple hours before sunset so went for a walk along the beach (in a half attempt to burn some calories) before settling down in the bit of the beach near the boat ramp which is where the sting rays like to come in.

This time we got really lucky and saw loads coming in, I managed to attract one by splashing gently on the top of the water it thinks there’s a fish so comes over to investigate! One even came right up to my feet and was tickling them trying to decided of I was edible or not. It decided I wasn’t and moved on, it was very cool seeing them up close they’re so graceful the way they move through the water. Definitely a Boxing Day high light!

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Christmas in Margaret River:

For my first Aussie Christmas my friend Stacy and I headed down south to Margaret river for a week.

Christmas day in true Aussie fashion we went to the beach and spent most of the day there.  The beach was pretty crowded and there were a lot of people there with families and friends, a lot of them had on Father Christmas hats as well! 

It was a very chilled out Christmas Day, I even went for a little dip in the sea which was absolutely freezing!! Once we left the beach we headed back to the hostel, where we did want to do the traditional Aussie BBQ, but there wasn’t a BBQ at the hostel so we had to settle for just cooking our veggie burgers normally.  Another first was having a veggie burger for Christmas Dinner, it was definitely a unique Christmas.

I hope all yours were lovely and filled with family and friends.

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My Week in Freo Prison:

When I got back from the road trip South, I was fortunate enough to have some really lovely people in my room and we all got on brilliantly.  After a really funny week in Perth most of the guys had move on and there were two of us left.

We decided to head down to Fremantle (Freo) for a few days, which is a beach suburb of Perth about half an hours train journey from the CBD, (a little bit like St.Kilda for those of you that have been to Melbourne), it’s a beach suburb and has a real holiday vibe to it, there are people milling about everywhere and buskers.  Emily and I basically spent our week mooching around, from the beach to a little cafe back to the hostel.  Life was very hard in Freo.

The main reason Fremantle is famous though is the fact that it’s home to a former maximum security prison.  It only closed down in 1991, after a riot in 1988 and the public became aware of how bad conditions were there they had buckets for toilets right up until it closed. 

Being me and embracing my love of history I did 3 tours of the Prison one giving you a bit of back ground about the prison. On this you see the gallows where they hung people, there’s still a noose hanging up and everything! Not that many people were sentenced to death at Freo and only one woman, Martha Rendell whose story is notorious.  

She was accused of killing 2 of her 5 step children by brushing their throats with poison, many people thought she was innocent and kept claiming her innocence right up until her death.  Once she was sent to the gallows a ghostly apparition appeared in one of the windows of the chapel of her face but you can only see it at a certain angle.  There is definitely the outline of a face looking out the window and on other tours I looked for it from other angles you really can’t see it. Not sure what I make of that, the prison is very creepy and does have an air of something about it, the only thing I can compare it too is Alcatraz and I found it definitely has more of an eeriness about it than Alcatraz.  
I did that tour and the next one about escapes back to back, the escape one wasn’t nearly as good, our guide wasn’t as enthusiastic as Ben our previous guide and kept rolling his eyes.  There were a few interesting stories about attempted escapes, no one who tried to escape ever evaded recaptured.  My favourite story was about a guy who was transferred down to Perth from a country prison where he kept managing to escape by making holes in the wattle walls… So when he transferred to Freo they lined his solid lime stone cell with wooden panels, metal spikes and chained him to the cell at the ankles and neck, he last three days in the cell before a doctor came round and had a look at him he wasn’t doing so well in his current conditions, so he got moved to a maximum security cell and was given a job in the chain gang of breaking up lime stone and he had a pile of lime stone that was getting higher and higher each day until eventually the guards couldn’t see him but they could hear him chipping away… Until one day they couldn’t hear him any more he’d chipped his way out through the prisons outer wall!  What I found quite funny was there were a fair few stories of people escaping only to be caught again in the local pub, it’s so very Australian they went to all the trouble to escape just so they could have a pint!

The final tour I did was a torch light tour, having found the prison creepie enough during the day not sure why I decided the torch light tour would be a good idea.  It actually turned out to be my favourite tour of them all, when you arrive you get told to pick out the smallest and least powerful torch from a bucket that shines a tiny amount of light just you make you even more nervous.  Our tour guide was brilliant and you could see despite the fact he did this day after day he absolutely loved what he did and peoples reactions, he told us at the start that if we felt anything brush against us and there was no one there to take a selfie because sometimes things show up on camera that the naked eye can’t see.  We went through some of the parts I’d been to before and some new bits, but in the main cell blocks there are three levels with a net going across the second level to stop people committing suicide or other prisoners throwing them over the balcony.  When our guide was telling us about this a dummy got chucked over and landed on the netting scaring the life out of us all as we weren’t expecting it.  After the main cell block we got taken over to the solitary confinement block, as our guide Simon  was explaining that there are two door made of very thick tough wood and there was no getting through there at this point he banged on the door and out jumped a ‘prisoner’ again scaring the life out of us and making us jump, the guy started explaining about how being in solitary he got time alone with his thoughts he came right up and spoke right in your face and you’re just stood there half laughing half trying to back away. 

From solitary we were taken to the gallows again, as each prisoner who was sentenced to death was held in cell one of solitary for the two hours before they were due to go to the gallows.  The gallows were a lot creepier at night than they were in the day.  The walls around the gallows are painted sky blue to help keep the prisoners calm although they were blindfolded on the way to the gallows so wouldn’t have been able to see the walls anyway… Maybe it was to keep the guards calm as well?

After the creepiness of the gallows we got taken down to where the morgue was, but before we got there Simon stopped us to tell us about another escape story one I hadn’t heard before, when suddenly out of nowhere this other ‘prisoner’ appears and carries on telling his escape story this one had the creepy leery scariness of a prisoner down pat he came right up to me first as I happened to be in front of him and my reaction was to take a step back from him, I was actually pretty freaked out! After that we were taken to the morgue which did have a very weird feeling to it. It was the last stop on the tour as well, just to add to the scariness.

The hostel we stayed in in Freo was the YHA which was once the Womens block of the prison, and you can stay in cells there.  We weren’t in a cell just a dorm, there are watch towers still around the place especially in the prison yard where they now have hammocks you can see into one of the guard towers, which still has it wheelie chair in making it seem like someone is in there watching you.

I really enjoyed my time in Freo and would recommend a trip to the prison as a must for anyone who visits, they also have amazing weekend markets in Freo full of locally grown fruit and veg also worth a visit.