When I was a boy during school holidays my dad would take me with him to his office to help out. His office was located in the City of London close to Leadenhall Street which was where the original building of Lloyd’s of London had been established [the new building is now in Lime Street]. Dad worked for the Societa Italiana Trasporti Marittimi or as was better known the Sitmar Line.
At that time, during the 1960s, there were two ships which sailed from Southampton, England to Australia. The Fairsea and the Fairsky formed part of our lives as dad would talk about them as they were part of the family. In a way they were an integral part of our lives. We lived in an apartment block in Hampstead in North West London consisting of some eight apartments which was owed by the Sitmar Company; and all residents were one-time Sitmar employees.
On the days I would go to the office with dad, he would put me to work to sort out labels for the ships’ passengers’ luggage. There was a huge hall where extremely long trestle tables took up the entire space, and I would sort out the labels from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.
Some of the interesting features of the office though were the scaled models of the various ships, including the predecessors of the “Fair” ships: Castel Bianco, Castel Verde, and Castel Felice. [http://www.ssmaritime.com/sitmar1.htm ]. There also were various cargo vessels and oil tankers owned by the company’s founder a Russian émigré named Alexandre Vlasov. The other things of interest were the sea charts and routes the ships sailed including a large map of Australia.
In the years my father worked for Sitmar from the late 1950s through to the mid-1970s all we ever heard about were places named Sydney, Melbourne, and above all – Fremantle…
It seemed only fitting that when the opportunity came up for me to travel to Fremantle in August this year  that I should take it without hesitation.
The Romance Writers of Australia Conference was being held at the Esplanade Rydges Hotel, Fremantle over the weekend of 16th – 18th August. Flying with Virgin Australia from Sydney I arrived in Perth late morning and took a taxi to the hotel.
As the room was not ready I left my luggage with the concierge and went to the hotel’s Marine bar for a bite to eat – I was starving.
Being a sunny afternoon and my appetite sated with a burger and a beer I set off to explore the town. Exiting the hotel I turned left into Essex Street and walked its entire length passing a couple of café/restaurants along the way until I came to the junction of South Terrace.
On the opposite corner was a grand old building, built in the mid-1800, which was the Sail & Anchor Hotel. Next to it across a pedestrian walkway are the Fremantle Markets. I wandered in looking at the various and varied stalls, but being only small it didn’t take long before I was back walking along South Terrace.
Passing a Pizzeria, a second-hand bookshop, and numerous other cafés and restaurants I traversed the road and walked into Collie Street heading back towards the Esplanade.
On reaching Marine Terrace I walked along it towards the waterfront; on one side of the road was a large park dotted with memorials, benches, a café and a children’s play area.
At the end of Marine Terrace on the corner of Clif Street is the Maritime Museum – Shipwreck Galleries.
The waterfront itself is massive, what I saw of it was but a mere small portion of it; but then I only had an afternoon to see what I could. I will need to return to Fremantle / Perth to fully appreciate it.
You need to cross a single track railway line to reach the Arthur’s Head Reserve which has a small beach area. By now the sunny afternoon was giving way to some dark clouds coming in from the sea and the wind had picked up bringing with it some chill weather…
Before returning to the hotel I thought I should check out the wharf area where I had been told there were some nice restaurants. Sure enough the area was pretty enough with some interesting bronze statues dotted here and there; my favourites being of two fishermen:
With one last look at the port it was time to head back to the hotel. The question was would I get there before the heavens opened?
RLB – Tomewriter