Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Monday, August 22, 2005


This post is dedicated to DJ, Clare, Alanna and all my mates who've experienced Perth firsthand.

The drive to the airport was heralded by Smashing Pumpkin's "Tonight, Tonight", amongst other dramatic songs, which set an ideal fanfare for a journey of this nature.

There have been a number of events worth describing. The fellow on the seat across from me in the plane (there was no one between us - the unanticipated elbow room felt like we'd been upgraded from economy!) was a Perth-based lawyer who had just completed a weekend skiiing in Charlotte Pass. He told me he loved it there because it was so small, intimate and completely out of mobile phone range. Turns out his daughter is also an art historian, who holds a PhD and works for Sotheby's in Paris. He personally hates the private auction houses, and provided me with vivid stories of their used-car-saleman antics for the multimillion-dollar collector market. If there wasn't so much money it in for his daughter, he'd be insistent that she find somewhere more ethically rewarding to work!

Another great conversation was with a dorm mate in the Britannia YHA off Williams St. He's English, named Darren, and worked as a scuba diving instructor in the Cayman islands until Hurricane Ivan wiped them off the tourist maps. Since then he's been travelling the world, writing a book on what's he's seeing and doing. He's had fantastic luck in meeting members of international sporting circles totally by chance. He shared plenty of other stories about freakish good luck, the worst hostels and roughest cities he's encountered, and unusual travellers he has met on the road.

I'm hoping that by the time my Tour is over, I'll have equivalent stories of my own to share!

I stayed last night at Miss Maud's Swedish Hotel, which sounds kinkier than it was. The best thing about it was undoubtedly the stupendous smorgasbord breakfast, which was truly a thing of legend. All you can eat of all the conventional European breakfast/brunch dishes comes free with your room. Being a novice backpacker, I also proudly snuck out with a pile of muffins and fruit for later - one item per serving. By the time I'm an experienced backpacker I should be able to extract full meals by this method, inshallah.

Today was spent exploring Perth on foot and with those free CBD "CAT" buses. It is a clean, well-kept, luminous city that reminds me of Sydney for its light and skyline, Canberra for its broad streets, and the Gold Coast for its tourist kitsch. I have also been trying to answer a nagging question - is there such a thing as a WA accent? So far, I'm proposing a hesitant yes. It is slightly softer and lilts more on "i" and "ei" sounds.

The WA Museum was a classic cabinet of curiosities. Lots of bones, rocks, stuffed animals prowling glass cases, and the odd multimedia interactive to throw the spectator back into the late 1990s. It's the kind of place people expect a "museum" to be like, and the type of thing I used to love as a child, although I can now see how lacking some exhibits were. That being said, it was still fun, and by a stroke of good luck I saw the "Policeman's Eye" exhibition that I missed when it was on at the National Archives.

The WA Art Gallery was much better. Internally, it felt like the designers really, really liked the Guggenheim NY but couldn't get it to fit on their site. Lots of very young school groups were exploring the main collection with plenty of gusto. There was a John Nixon show (remember his self-portrait in To Look Within, GA Team?), and a marvellous Russian exhibition focussed on St Petersburg. It was so good I bought two postcards for my handwritten journal. I seriously was taken by some of their theatre ephemera and the ink portraits by Ivnik.

That'll do for now, as tomorrow I'm off to Fremantle ("Freo") for the day.



  • At Monday, August 22, 2005 11:58:00 pm, Anonymous Charlie ;-) said…

    WOW!! So such a lucky guy! So jelous! Be careful your hands don't drop off from typing and writting to much...
    and that 'bop it' toy looks interesting... must get one for myself.... BOO YAH!! Something else to do at uni!!


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