Learning to fall back in love with inner city Perth

By Wendy Barrett

A large slab of my earlier life was spent perched against a grey granite building on Barrack Street while waiting at the bus stop for my journey home. From this vantage point my gaze would fall upon the old Treasury Building across the road which was tenanted at the time by the Taxation Department.

I would have registered every detail of its grand façade throughout the years while queuing in all types of weather. Due to youth – and familiarity with the building, I doubt I really understood what a gorgeous bit of architecture I was looking at. It probably wasn’t even in sharp focus very often because of my eyes glazing over with the boredom of waiting for my bus. Little could I have imagined then that somewhere in the bowels of the building, I would one day be quaffing wine in salubrious surroundings with a husband I had yet to meet.

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Despite the interminable waits for buses, in my teenage years I’d get withdrawal symptoms if I went for more than a day or two without getting into the city. I loved to feel its pulse and at that time Hay Street Mall was the jugular vein. Cinema complexes and hip American style cafes were proliferating to cater to the throngs of 80s Perthites looking for action. There wasn’t a great deal going on in suburbia back then. There were very few suburban movie theatres and the best shopping was certainly to be had downtown. By my twenties I was working in the city and the enjoyment of going in regularly had long since worn thin. But I knew practically every nook and cranny of the CBD at the time.

Fast forward a few decades, with many changes to the skyscape, and dwindling frequency of visits, and I sometimes feel I barely know the place at all. But I like it that way. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

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Earlier this year, with the fringe festival in full swing and a wedding anniversary to celebrate, it seemed the perfect weekend for me and my husband to spend a night in the city and get reacquainted with it.

It was a last minute idea decided upon the day before. We were lucky enough to secure tickets to a hilarious stand-up show in the afternoon that was playing at a venue at Central Tafe. It was a super hot day, so after checking in at the Duxton Hotel on St Georges Terrace we caught a taxi to Northbridge rather than slogging it out in the heat.

It was a bit early in the day for the Fringe vibe to be at full blast, but without the distraction of the yet-to-appear crowds, our attention was drawn to the architecture and murals of the area while we waited for the show to begin. After the show we meandered back to our hotel via Como The Treasury Hotel – the gloriously transformed aforementioned Treasury Building – where we enjoyed a glass of wine in the bar. The conversion from the government building into a 6 star hotel had been executed faultlessly and it was a pleasure to see it for ourselves.

From there it was a short and convenient saunter back to our opulent digs at the Duxton Hotel. Our beautifully appointed club room had stunning views over the river. This gave us access to the club lounge where we were plied with pre-dinner drinks and canapés against a backdrop of opulent ambience and more stunning river views. Nice surroundings in which to decide on where to have dinner.

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In the morning we enjoyed a brisk walk to the brand-spanking new Elizabeth Quay to see how it was shaping up. While never against the idea of bringing the city to the river’s edge in theory, I had not been inspired with confidence by any of the artist’s impressions so far that had made it onto the table. Surely the ubiquitous, jarring towers that sliced through city skies across the planet had been done to death by now. Our precious and stunning Swan River deserved something unique and jewel-like to adorn her shores – something intimate and on a human scale. However, knowing it was all beyond my control, I girded my loins to face what had become of this part of the city.

Once I was able to squash down the memory of the disappointment I’d felt at the removal of the venerable old Morton Bay Fig trees that had graced the area, I could see the beauty of many of the features that proliferated in the new development. The landscaping around the reassembled tea room was very well done and I was pleased to see the use of our beautiful native flora. I was impressed by some of the structures that will no doubt become icons in the future, and only time will tell as to whether the final outcome does indeed do justice to our beautiful river and city.

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I confess I’m not very good with change and still feel sad about old city haunts that no longer exist. I can still feel the vibe of various places that I frequented in the 70s and 80s. To this day I can imagine myself walking back to my office on the Terrace when I pass through Trinity arcade – until faced with the current reality of a vast cavernous lobby of the building that has since replaced it. And the taste of freshly baked donuts I’d treat myself to at the counter in Boans near the Murray Street entrance is forever imprinted in my memory.

Gone too are the days of meeting friends under the clock of London Court (Hay St end) to find a place for lunch. One option was a vegetarian restaurant quaintly situated up a narrow staircase in Plaza arcade. There was a range of eateries to choose from upstairs in the Carillon arcade from pancake houses to Miss Maud’s showcase restaurant where acres of plush carpets and cosy booths set the ambience for enjoying the spectacular buffet in the centre, piled high with prawns and other 80s fare. But I realise I need to get over it, enjoy what is there now and create new city memories.

It was only a brief interlude in the city but it had offered fresh and sophisticated facets. We’d felt removed enough from the everyday to fancy we’d been somewhere that would require getting on a plane rather than simply undertaking a twenty minute drive in the car. With every recent visit to the city, we’ve taken in a slightly different part of town which keeps things fresh.

My husband’s Christmas work function at the Trustee Bar and Bistro last December was a real treat. This part of the Terrace once only blossomed during the day but now pumps with life long after the end of office hours. It is wonderful to see some of our stately old architecture lovingly restored and creatively re-purposed for new uses. Perth is re-inventing itself and it’s been fun getting to know my city again, bit by bit.

 

 

 

Thanks WA TODAY

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