What’s your worst travel experience? Come on, can you beat a few of mine?

On ABC Saturday Breakfast we like to keep things inspiring and exciting but sometimes to do that we have to remember those moments that were less than perfect.

There’s certainly been a lot of excitement about being able to travel again.  It might be time to reunite with loved ones, use that voucher for travel that was cancelled because of the pandemic or maybe it’s the first family trip overseas?

There’s a lot to be excited about but on Hidden Treasures we thought we’d look at some of the experiences that have become great stories but at the time might have caused a bit of anxiety or discomfort.  Have you been stuck in an airport sleeping on a plastic chair because of delayed flights?  Have you been bitten by something?  Have you had non-stop rain or got bogged with a rising tide on the beach?

Think about it!  What story are you more interested in?  The glistening toilet in a six-star resort suite or a bucket on a barge, one night on the border between Malaysia and Thailand.

I love any good story and I think some of the best stories in the world are survival stories.  Surviving storm tossed seas, stumbling over endless dunes in the Sahara, being attacked and left for dead by a bear!

But there are also those survival stories, those horrible tales that are told when we’re home safe and sound from our travels.

Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport with one eye open to guard your luggage.  Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport while they try and find your luggage.

To help us along I’ve come up with four categories:

Bureaucracy:

Travelling with my daughter and being detained in South Africa due to bureaucracy around child slavery laws.

Being stuck in an airport in the middle of the night with a toddler.

Events:

Attending the Indian festival of Deepavali in a far away land and feeling even further away after being hit in the head by a street lit firework that was aimed at my head.

Critters:

Being attacked by a flesh-eating spider in Borneo and forgetting my bedroom was split level.

Just like the scene in Memphis Belle when they’re panicking over whose blood is all over the cockpit, my scenario was in a tinny, deep in the jungles of Perak in Northern Malaysia.  Leeches!

Accommodation:

Hotels in Rome are less hit and miss these days but I definitely got the miss on my first visit.  The pillow slip had been made in Ancient Roman times and barely held the mouldy pieces of foam where I was expected to rest my head. Nothing worse than a bad bed.

Houseboats.  For me, a category on their own.  I’ve stayed on a barge in the jungle with hygiene the Dark Ages would have been proud of and with a toileting task that required me to move my movements from the toilet on one side of the boat to the other. With a soup ladle.  I wasn’t eating anything that came out of that kitchen.

I’ve also stayed on what could only be described as a non airconditioned donger with floats, with two sets of my greatest friends who by the end of the trip were close to being my greatest enemies.  Tempers flared as temperatures rose. Lost items overboard. Bird sized mosquitoes.

Traditional Longhouse in Borneo.  Not so bad as a cultural experience but when you’ve had a few Tiger beers and you’re at the end of the longhouse and getting up for a wee in the middle of the night means walking on creaking bamboo slats that wakes everyone up it’s embarrassing and means you can’t get up again.

Motels by the side of highways.  If it’s not roadtrains going past it’s the the Peters Ice Cream truck parked outside with the genny on the truck running to stop the drumsticks from melting.  All night long …DRDRDRDRDRRDR.

Worst travel experiences are Hidden Treasures because as long as you’ve survived, you’ve got a great story and maybe a photo as well. Worst travel moments are hidden treasures because they’re character building.  God! I sound like my mother!

Picnic Spots for Mother’s Day, or any day really

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we saw the need to take mum, or the aunties, out for Mother’s Day, or any day. While we could go to some of her favourite picnic spots, like Kings Park, Whiteman Park, Heathcote or the Cottesloe foreshore, we thought we’d keep her guessing and take her somewhere else.

We’ve decided to take mum to somewhere she’s never been.  We’ve decided to take mum on a picnic to a lesser known but no less beautiful spot to lay a rug down and open a sumptuous basket of goodies.

Enjoy listening to the discussion in the link below and reading the list below that:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/hidden-treasures-picnic-spots/13872014

Smiths Lake:

In North Perth and the baby brother of Hyde Park, Lake Monger and Herdsman Lake.  There’s grass, bbqs, little paths, little boardwalks and the best trees for climbing in Perth for little kids thanks to nearly horizontal branches close to the ground. 

Mardalup Park:

In East Perth between Claisebrook Cove and the Graham Farmer Freeway Bridge.  Picnic facilities and a tiny little beach and little jetty.

Bicton Baths Reserve:

BBQs, playground and next to the famous Bicton Baths which has one of the best jetties in Perth!  One of the best riverside picnic spots that might be fairly easy to get a car spot on Sunday.

Harold Boas Park:

Remember we discovered this park when we explored West Perth?  This is a wonderful park for Mother’s Day because it’s got secluded areas, noisy playground areas, water features that are shallow and great for toes and splashing and there’s lots of shady or sunny grass for the rug. 

Picnic Cove Park:

On the southwestern edge of Lake Joondalup is this great park that has the awesome criteria of being ‘out of the way’ and there are better known lakeside parks that get inundated on days like tomorrow. BBQ’s playground facilities and paths that are perfect for a bike ride to burn off the picnic feast you’ve made for mum.

Lake Jackadder:

In Woodlands, this is one of my favourite lakes and the slightly bigger brother of Smiths Lake but smaller than nearby Herdsman Lake.  This ticks all the boxes with shops and cafes if you haven’t got a picnic basket.  There’s a wonderful playground and lots of bbqs and swans and other birdlife and for Mother’s Day tomorrow I’m tipping the remote-controlled sailing club will hold a regatta for families who want to watch some clever sailing, just on a smaller scale.

Alkimos Playground:

We’re doing this for Mother’s Day but this picnic spot qualifies for lots of other reasons, including the Treasure Island Adventure Playground that is quirky, challenging and exciting.  Maybe this one is for mum to enjoy a nearby café brekky and multiple coffees while the kids spend some time in the playground.

Minnawarra Park:

This a wonderful park located in the historic precinct of Armadale.  It plays host to lots of community events and has plenty of grassed areas, picnic areas and a great little footbridge to trip trap over the Neerigen Brook, perfect perhaps for a Mother’s Day family photo.

Sullivan Rock:

About 30-40 minutes from Armadale on the Albany Highway.  There’s a nice little rest spot with table and bench seat on one side of the highway and a little brook to explore and is a great sport to hunt for taddys.  On the other side of the highway, crossing safely, is Sullivan Rock which is dog free and has a beautiful three-minute track through the bush to the rock which is easy to walk up, taking about 10 minutes though a bit quicker if you’re scared by scuttering lizards.  There are normally little rock pools on the top with beautiful reflections and there’s a great view over the top of the forest and out to Mount Cooke.

Get on the river:

With Nautipicnics you can drive your own boat without a Skippers Ticket and have a picnic on the boat, or the riverbank, or let someone else drive the boat with the Little Ferry Company and enjoy watching the life of the river.

Tomato Lake:

This great lake in Kewdale gets the award for the best named park.  There’s grass, water, playground, bbqs, trees, cafe and a one mile walk that includes a boardwalk, elevated over the lake that leads you to a gazebo. 

Picnic spots are hidden treasures because the environment around you plays the role of a stage in a play.  It’s just a setting for you to perform the way your family likes to, creating memories of a great day out.  It might be about the trees or the lake or the sweeping views, but most likely, it’s about time spent together with your family’s member of the most amazing club in the world, mums.

Smiths Lake … not as cool a name as Tomato Lake but one of my favourite spots.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Have you met someone famous on your travels?

One of the wonderful things about any travel is the discovery.  From a little café in your neighbouring suburb to being in the right place at the right time for an event while you’re overseas.  All travel presents opportunities for excitement, it may even be on the pool lounge or restaurant table right next to you.

We thought for Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we’d talk about taking your travel experience to the next level by meeting someone famous. We also took calls from listeners on their encounters and tips on how to behave when you see or meet a famous person. 

Our great leg spinner, Shane Warne, once said that he got irritated if he saw someone sneak a photo but he never said no to anyone who asked for a photo.

Have you ever had the courage to speak to someone famous?

When we did Hidden Treasures about the suburb of Highgate, I saw Dennis Cometti sitting in a café.  I walked up to him and said from an appropriate distance, “Excuse me Mr Cometti, could I please have a minute of your time?”. 

I explained who I was, abbreviating my life story and not mentioning Narrogin once, and asked if I could mention him on Hidden Treasures and perhaps take a pic.  Maybe it was my approach, maybe it was his character, but it was a wonderful conversation which I really valued.

I’ve got a few examples of where I’ve met people and more than that, they’re examples of meeting people in different places.

  • Terry Alderman: On a flight to Bali and I shared my red frogs with him as his ears were playing up a bit.  I played it cool and wanted to let him know how I felt in 1989 listening late at night on the radio as he took all those wickets in England but I didn’t, I just shared my lollies.
  • Visiting the Vatican and timing it as Pope John Paul II came out for a test drive of the new Pope-mobile.  I was within three metres of one of the holiest men in the world and top of the pops for his religion.  We didn’t talk but I didn’t expect when I went to Rome that I would see the Pope and have photos to prove it.
  • At a resort in Phuket over the course of a few days by the pool and the swim up bar I got chatty with footy players Tony Shaw and Heath Shaw who, as a big family group, were happy to chat.  I found they were interested in my stories, it didn’t have to be about them.  I think the trick with these sort of encounters is taking the opportunity to retrieve a badly thrown ball and throw it back accurately and be invited to join in.

I always tell my kids to use every minute and take every opportunity, like this one with Mark!

Matilda, Tom and Mark enjoying a day at the beach
  • This is one of Tom’s greatest stories but he’s hearing the truth for the first time this morning. We were travelling together to report on the opening of one of Bali’s most incredible resorts as guests of the resort.  It wasn’t busy so it was odd when a man sat on the pool lounge next to us, put together a steam punk cigar holder and started chuffing right next to us.  What happened next was remarkable. It was Wouter Adrianus Van Loon, the Netherlands greatest scammer! If you want to know more you’ll need to send me a message!
  • For those of us who love London, there’s a lot to love.  But.  On a wintry day I was waiting to cross the road and remarked to my wife Rebecca, “It’s all so grey.  The sky is grey.  The buildings are grey.  The road is grey.”  I hear a noise of disgust, look across and see a look of disgust on the face of … Joanna Lumley.
  • Matilda and I were on the Abrolhos Islands and had just finished exploring the waters of Turtle Bay on East Wallabi Island.  We were walking along the beach looking for flotsam and jetsam (remember what that is?) when we heard a call for help.  We quickly made our way to where a couple of jet skis and their riders were stuck fast on the beach.  Who was one of the riders and who allowed me to write about it in a story for the West Australian newspaper? It was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop!

Whether it’s taking a selfie, having a chat or just having an encounter, famous people are a hidden and unexpected treasure because they create an experience you didn’t expect and give you a story to tell, embellished or just as it is. 

Naza and I met with the Sultan of Johor in Fremantle having missed our meeting with him while we were in Johor
I think in this pic it’s clear that my shirt is the celebrity

ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend: It can be about memorials, and maybe a bit more.

There’s a lot to think about on ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend.  We thought for Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we would look at some of the sites around Perth and Western Australia that you can visit to remind you of the ANZAC story.

If you’re going to an ANZAC Day Service and want to experience a little more later in the day, or if you can’t get to a service but want to visit a site that is connected to our ANZAC history, we’ve put together a list of significant places you can visit to make silent contemplation your offering or perhaps find an adventure that helps tell you a story.

I grew up with men and women in my community who had been soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War One.  They had been Prisoners of War on the Thai Burma Railway and they had dropped supplies to the soldiers on the Kokoda Track.  I knew their stories and felt connected to them because they lived in the streets around me.

There were also bunkers just out of town that had been built during World War 2 to store supplies and where we used to go for school holidays there were lots of adventures to be had exploring Point Peron which was a wartime observation post.

There are lots of places around Perth and Western Australia where you can find tangible reminders of our wartime past and the contribution made by our men, women and our communities. 

Some of the places in Perth and around the state include:

  • Point Peron/Leighton Tunnels/Oliver Hill: Observation posts, gun emplacements and storage bunkers.  Amazing to think these weren’t built as a tourist attraction.  These were designed to spot enemy ships attacking Fremantle Harbour.  They provide a view that lets you imagine what it must have been like to look out to sea with a pair of binoculars and having real fear that enemy ships might appear on the horizon.
Tunnel Tours at Rottnest and Leighton
  • Mount Hawthorn Bus Stops:  Gallipoli and Vietnam themed, complete with sandbags.
Bus Stops on Kalgoorlie St and Anzac Rd
  • ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn.  Built in a day!  In 1916, they started work at 3:30am and before the going down of the sun, a community finished building a house for John Porter and his family. John was with the 11th Battalion and landed at Gallipoli.
  • Broome Flying Boats: On 3 March 1942, Japanese fighters strafed Broome, including dozens of flying boats filled with refugees from Java, to escape the war.  At low tide in Roebuck Bay you can see up to 15 flying boat wrecks of PBY Catalina’s and Dutch Dorniers. Many refugees, including women and children, were killed either by gunfire or drowning and as you walk around these wrecks they are a physical reminder of when war came to our shores. 
  • Wireless Hill Station:  During World War 1 the navy took control of the Applecross Wireless Station and this is where a signal was received from the Cocos Islands that reported the position of the German Cruiser Emden which was then sunk by the HMAS Sydney. The navy again took over the station during World War 2 and communicated with ships off the coast using a mast over 100m tall.
  • HMAS Ovens: I asked Tom to research this for his ANZAC education and school holiday counter to boredom. This is what he came up with:
    • One of six 90m Oberon class submarines
    • Entered service in 1969, decommissioned in 1995
    • Crew size 63
  • ANZAC Centre Albany: Located on Mount Clarence this is one of the greatest interactive and immersive museum experiences in the world.  It looks out over the waters of Albany where many of the troopships left from. Follow the story of a service man or woman through the museum, not knowing if they survived the war until you finish your journey through the exhibits.
  • Merredin and Cunderdin: Major bunker complexes and airfields located throughout the wheatbelt and around Merredin and Cunderdin. There are still old aircraft hangers you can find and the remains of a World War 2 army hospital and a radar hut and concrete ammunition bunkers.  There’s also a museum located in Merredin that contains a lot of displays and memorabilia from all Australian conflicts.
  • Yanchep Bunkers: Walk up the Yanchep Rose Trail off Indian Ocean Drive.  In recent years these RAAF radar bunkers have been decorated by a local school with murals that are bright and discourage vandalism and tagging.
  • Corunna Downs Airfield: Just south of Marble Bar is one of World War 2’s greatest secrets. This is where B-24 Liberator bombers took off from runways over two kilometres long to attack Japanese bases from Singapore to Borneo, Java and other islands. You can still see the runways, bunkers, revetments and bits of rusted metal lying about the place. Also Nookanbah near Fitzroy Crossing,
  • Newcastle Gaol in Toodyay: Tells the story of the Toodyay connection to Prisoners of War in World War II.  Alma Beard trained at Royal Perth Hospital and was an army nurse, and four local men; Herb, Gordon and Tom Dorizzi and Reg Ferguson, were all killed after they’d been taken prisoner.  Alma was alongside Vivian Bullwinkle in the shores of Banka Island south of Singapore and the men were in the jungles of Borneo, west of the town of Sandakan.

Visiting sites that connect you to our wartime history is just as important as visiting a memorial site.  You can acquire knowledge and pay your respects to all of those who have served, particularly to those who died.

As Lord Byron wrote, “There are deeds that should not pass away, and names that must not be forgotten.”

Spooky Spaces & Places on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast

Perth isn’t that old is it?  And our regional communities aren’t any older? While our Aboriginal culture is tens of thousands of years old, our oldest buildings are less than two hundred years old.

But that doesn’t stop many of them from sending a shiver up or down our spine and feeling that spirits from another time and another place are with us.

The ABC Facebook page was inundated with paranormal experiences across Western Australia. Callers to the show also spoke about regional haunted places.

Many of us swear to have seen ghosts or felt their presence in places and spaces so my sidekick Tom and I went to investigate some tales of the unexplained from right here in Perth.

The great thing about Scooby Doo is that it was always an old, grizzled fellow from an abandoned amusement park who was scaring people while wearing some ghoulish costume – and he would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t from those meddlin’ kids!

But the real thing is somewhat different.  As I discovered, there’s tours telling ghost stories and buildings with ghosts in them, right here in our suburbs.

  • Gosnells Ghost Tours – Get in line with your ticket for their summer season at the end of this year.  These tours encounter the spirits of timber workers from the 1860’s community of Orange Grove. 

Over a five kilometre bush track walk from the Victoria Dam to Bickley Reservoir you’ll meet friendly ghosts who will share history of the area and colourful tales from convicts under the railway bridge.  It’s dark, it’s spooky and it’s very entertaining!

Friendly and full of fact ghosts on the Gosnells Ghost Tour
  • Leederville Hotel – I climbed the stairs up to the dome on top of the hotel with my son Tom and staff member Isobel, although I quickly noticed Isabel was more than just a few steps behind! Isobel has, in her words ‘been completely creeped out’ and many of her staff refuse to go up there alone. 

Apparently, a fellow named Kanga lived in the tower bedroom and died on the premises and although there’s no violent or tragic story to his life or demise, many people have come in contact with Kanga, particularly in the corridors of the old, original upstairs part of the hotel. 

Is that Kanga the ghost of Tom my sidekick?

Isabel tells me that his strongest presence is felt on the on the stairs.  She tells me this from the ground floor as Tom and I are making our way up the stairs.  Tom you go first.

Creeeeek!

The Leederville alarm story must be told!  Leaving a note to calm Kanga and the next morning the note was gone and the alarm that had been going off in the middle of the night for months never happened again.

  • The Alkimos – Stranded just north of Mindarie in 1963 it was while it sailed around the world that crew members reported a ghost on board, possibly a US soldier or German prisoner of war. There’s also been many reports for divers and snorkellers who claim to have seen Harry, a ghost in oil skins who loiters around the wreck and even on the shore.
  • Kenwick Cemetery – Alongside the Albany Highway, most people who drive past would never know this little final resting place for early settlers was there.  Built by convicts, most of the graves have no headstones and speaking of heads, many people have reported seeing in the area a man riding a horse, holding his own head. 
  • Woodman Point Quarantine Station – If ever there was a ‘creep you out’ destination, this is it.  It’s a reminder that before Covid, there were other pandemics. 

This station was used to isolate bubonic plague patients, smallpox, Spanish flu and leprosy. Over 300 people died there, and most would have been isolated from loved ones and in great pain.

There are walking tours you can take through the buildings, including the crematorium where it is believed by many that orbs of light floating through the crematorium is the spirit of the final smallpox victim who was cremated there.

Others include the Fremantle Arts Centre (Fremantle Lunatic Asylum), Midland Town Hall (the ghost of Daria Mulawa, brutally murdered on its steps in 1955), Rose & Crown Guildford (oldest hotel in WA and more paranormal encounters than an episode of Scooby Doo. 

Regional haunts include the story of the Coolgardie Cat, the Israelite Bay telegraph station, Gwalia and Kookynie in the Goldfields are well known for the restless spirits of prospectors and railway workers.

Spooky spaces and places are hidden treasures because they provide a sense of adventure and also provide a link to the past, creating a way to learn about a buildings history and often a communities history. 

Just send your sidekick up the stairs first.  That’s what sidekicks are for.

Travelling for Sport

When we started Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast in 2021, it was intended that I would speak every couple of weeks.  After a few months of fortnightly discussions, I was asked to come in every week.

Well, we’ve reached a milestone.  This is our 50th episode of Hidden Treasures.  To mark this achievement we’ve got a special guest lined up to contribute to our discussion about some of our favourite hidden treasures over the past 50 episodes.

We’re lifting our bat for the half century.

While we’ve travelled regionally and even gone overseas, this show is grounded in the discoveries you can make in Perth. 

A little city hanging on to the edge of a continent that has so much to offer for staycations or day trips with destinations motivated by sport, culture, hunger or just because you want to hit the road for an afternoon and see what’s out there.

Fun Fact!  Half of our episodes have featured a suburb of Perth.

Fun Fact! In nearly half of our episodes I’ve found a way to mention that I grew up in Narrogin.

Fun Fact! One episode inspired you to travel to a long lost theme park.

One of our best hidden treasures is discovering sport around Perth that you might not have known about or maybe always known about but never gone to.

One of our favourite stories last year was when we talked about WAFL grounds and what it’s like to attend a WAFL match. 

Claremont FC’s Trophy Case (not a real tiger)

The support from WAFL clubs who let me hang out at their Members Bar and to the mighty South Fremantle Bulldogs who let me hangout with the team after a big win.  To talk about the footy, footy food and tribalism was great fun.

On the day of the AFL Grand Final we also did a story about different sports you could watch or have a go at in Perth.

Bring on Clint Wheeldon from ABC Sport!

We asked Clint where he’s travelled for sport and why is sport such a great reason to travel.

We talked about what we have stolen from a sporting ground. For me, I’ve taken grass from Lords and the MCG.

Travelling for sport sometimes has to be done at all costs.  My wife allowed me to spend a fortune to see the Socceroos v Uraguay in 2002. I was like a Roman Emperor in the Southern Stand of the MCG.

Travelling for sport can also be a pilgrimage or a party.  Sometimes it’s just about seeing the ground even if there’s no game being played.  Sometimes it is about travelling with friends or a tour group and seeing your favourite sport.

So after 50 episodes what have we learnt? What makes Hidden Treasures a hidden treasure?  Because we have fun and the reason we have fun is because there’s so much out there and all you need is a reason to find it. 

Reconnect with a hometown, stop for a while in a suburb you normally just commute through or find hidden treasure in known treasure, like we did on Wadjemup, or take a break in Perth like we did in Innaloo and Karrinyup as part of staycation homework for Molly, or take the advice of my man Tom and get to a regional show.

Get out there and find a rite of passage like Ebonnie’s trip to Busselton Jetty or find any jetty, like we did with Ben Carlish from Recfishwest. Find a new sport like Padel, or find a fishburger or laneway mural.

Why is travelling for sport a Hidden Treasure?  You don’t have to play it to enjoy it?  Take a road trip to a country footy match and honk your horn, or just take a walk down to your suburban ground.

Sport is yet another reason to get out and about. It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight and it’s the thrill of finding something new to do and finding a new tribe to enjoy it with.

What ground do you want to walk onto?

As Published in Have A Go News: Lakes in Western Australia for setting world records, watching birds and maybe even jumping on.

I’ve always loved a lake. From Dad’s stories of the Bluebird on Lake Dumbleyung, to watching my kids leap into the sunset at the not so pink lake in Esperance, they are a great reason to travel close to home or further afield.

Enjoy reading the story above or even better, grab your own hardcopy of Have A Go News, a real newspaper. There’s 80,000 copies around Western Australia every month.

Maybe our most famous lake, or at least our most arty: Lake Ballard near Menzies

It’s a Love Story

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we made the big decision to travel further than we have ever done before. If ever there was a short four word sentence dominating water cooler conversations more than any other, it has to be, ‘Our borders are opening.’

While the anxieties are obvious, so too are the growing opportunities.  While it may take a bit more planning, this could be the first time in a while that you are thinking about travel.  So, dust off the cover of your passport, check that it hasn’t expired and groan at that passport photo because to mark the borders coming down, Hidden Treasures is going international.

Puglia

This is a love story.  This is a story about Puglia, a land with towns that a much loved young reviewer of my work described as, ‘Being full of towns with funny names’. Puglia does have lots of towns with names you just want to keep on saying, not just for the memories, but for the mood it puts you in. Feel the linguistic seduction as you pronounce Locorotondo, Alberobello, Ostuni and Polignano A Mare.  I am besotted.

You probably think Italy is well discovered and all of its roads well-travelled by tourists and only leading to Rome.  Let me take you to an ancient city that you can visit and not see groups of tourists pouring out of buses.  Let me take you to an ancient city where evening walks after dinner are quiet and the light has the flickering softness of a medieval village.

Italy is often described as looking like a boot.  I’m going to take you to Puglia which is just above the ankle of the boot.  Where a cowboy might have his spurs.  Puglia is largely an agricultural region and you’ll find rows of olive trees that are hundreds of years old, towns perched on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea and peculiar cone shaped stone huts that can only be found in this region of Italy.

Matera

Matera is one of the oldest, continually habited cities in the world and features in the latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die. Just like James Bond, I have an appetite for adventure but, unlike James Bond, my appetite for gelato is stronger than his.  He can keep his Walther PPK, I’m armed with a pistachio gelato!

This is a destination that demands you experience it in daylight and in the evening.  Matera is like having a lunchtime picnic with your girlfriend and going to a gala ball with her in the evening. Both are enjoyable experiences and she is beautiful no matter what the occasion but Matera by night has a glow and a softness that is seeing her at her absolute best.

Matera

Polignano A Mare

A little town perched on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea.  Famous for the little inlet; Cala Porto, little wine shops, restaurants in cliffside caves and the home of Domenico Modugno.

Cala Porto

Domenico Modugno

As a former cabaret singer of absolutely no repute this is my Holy Grail. Overlooking the sea is a statue of Domenico Modugno. This wonderful singer performed Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu in the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. While I’m there, I am doing some work for an Italian TV travel show and we encourage the crowd to sing the song with me.

Grotta Palazzese

In a cave on a cliff, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the atmosphere is just magical. After a few hours of wine, grilled octopus, olive oils and breads, it’s time for me to find my way out of town.  I stop in a little shop called La Nicchia selling olive oil and wine, and then swagger, sway and sing my back to the train station where I head to Alberobello.

Grotto Palazzese

Alberobello

A small town that is famous for its trulli huts that have held UNESCO heritage status since 1996. Each circular trulli is built without mortar with overlapping stone and a conical roof.

Trekking Slowly

The best way to discover Puglia is on a walking tour, with an occasional little train ride.  This way you travel slowly and see more. You have time to sit in the shade of an olive grove, picking grapes to snack on and even stop for a swim at the beach.  If you see a horse stick its head over an ancient old stone wall in an olive grove, you can stop and create your own experience, rubbing its nose and giving him a real vine ripened tomato.

Why is Puglia a hidden treasure?

Italy can be a bit like the Chevy Chase European Vacation style bucket list; get a photo to prove you were there and move on to the next attraction.  Puglia puts its arms around you and sits you down to slow you down, even though your heart is bursting.

I know why I feel this way. It’s love. Just like taking your girlfriend home to meet mum and dad for the first time, sharing Puglia with you is something I am so proud of. Puglia is a hidden treasure because it is an undiscovered land in a well discovered country and the quicker you get there, the quicker you will fall in love too.

And, with thanks to the lyrics of that special song, ‘No wonder my happy heart sings, your love has given me wings’.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Hometowns … it’s not about being a hometown hero, it’s about having a place to go

We’re all from somewhere.  Some of us are from towns and suburbs, some of us might be from remote pastoral properties or communities.

Wherever you’re from do you still live there?  If you’ve moved away from where you grew up do you ever go back?  Why do you go back?  Why do you think people should experience your hometown?

For Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, Ro and I explored hometowns and took lots of calls and messages from listeners keen to share stories about their hometown. Christina told a great story about Kalgoorlie and Lorraine called to say she grew up in Narrogin and had memories of butchers giving her little red sausages as a treat (I remember the slice of polony from Spanswicks Butchers).

For the first time in a long, long time I couldn’t be in the ABC studio and the audio software didn’t work as well as we had hoped so when you’re listening to the file below, please forgive me. It does get better after a few minutes I promise!

What do you love most or miss most about your hometown?

Some things that might make your hometown special include:

  • Entry statements that capture an identity … big sheep (big anything), quirky statues or signs
  • Prominent buildings like town halls, pubs and memorials
  • Iconic shops like deli’s and toy shops
  • Big events like regional shows and festivals (Dad’s favourite tshirt was pink and emblazoned with the Agrolympics logo)
  • Making your own fun in a creek or vacant block, perhaps building a bike jump
  • Being a member of local service clubs and sporting associations
  • Local lookouts and hangouts
  • Rivalries with neighbouring towns and districts

A lot of us find ourselves away from where we’ve come from. To travel back to where we’ve come from is one of the greatest reasons to travel.

I’d like to introduce you to my hometown.  It’s not far down the road. I’m proud not just to grow up there but to have heritage there. If you’ve known me for five minutes, you know I’m from Narrogin.

Recently, my daughter Matilda turned 18 and she and her friends blew the party bar tab at a Perth pub in 15 minutes, by ordering cocktails.

I thought back to when I turned 18 and my Dad, the now passed but forever beautiful Dr John Parry, took me to the Narrogin Club to have a middy of Super.  No cocktails, no guava flavoured vodka concoctions.  Super. 

Dad and I sat at the bar and solved a few of the worlds problems and his mates came and went, sharing the days events from down the main street to what was happening in the paddocks.

With Dad’s passing I stopped renewing my membership at the Narrogin Club but with Matilda becoming an adult I contacted the President, Wayne Francis, who hastily convened a committee meeting where it was unanimously voted to allow Matilda and I to come along last Saturday night. 

Just a dad and his daughter

Wayne welcomed us, served us and shared stories of the town and people that were enthralling for me and a bit bemusing for Matilda. 

She struggled her way through her first beer and this is where my dad and I diverge.  He let me struggle to drink my first beer whereas I allowed Matilda to call it quits and order something else.

We could talk more about how my hometown has a townhall, great counter meals at the local pub, an annual regional show you can still sneak into for free behind the race track and how kids get out onto vacant blocks and build bike jumps with treacherous pits for those kids who don’t pedal fast enough.

Bike jumps or Gallipoli trenches?

We could talk about the three primary schools, the senior high school, the strength of its service clubs and sporting associations. We could talk about the Tucker Box Deli and Steve’s Deli (still called that even though Steve hasn’t owned it for more than a quarter of a century).

It’s a town that hasn’t stood still since I last lived there but in my mind, as we drive around and I see houses where my friends lived, I think they’re still there and all I have to do to get those times back is throw my bike down on their front lawn and knock on the door.

Why are hometowns hidden treasures?

My hometown is a hidden treasure because it’s not far down the road and it welcomes me every time with its view into the valley as you come over the hill. 

Coming into town … no flame trees but you know what I mean

Hometowns are hidden treasures because they remind us of the importance of having a sense of place and the importance of having a sense of community. To have a place to go to, to mark milestones and tell old stories and make new ones is the greatest treasure of all.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Discovers Our Rites of Passage

As we grow up and find our way in our street, in our town and our state, there are experiences we have that aren’t connected to bucket lists or wish lists.  They might be things that our parents have done and now think we’re old enough for, or places they took you to that you now take your kids to.

Let’s start with the jousting knights in the clock at London Court.  This was the thrill in my day of coming to the city.  The following day at school, my hand would shoot up to tell my news to the class and I’d describe how the knights would pass each other as the clock bells rang out and then one of the jousting poles would knock a knight backwards on his horse.

This for me is a rite of passage.  It’s something that might not have Lara Bingle in front of it asking where you are, but it means something to you.  I want to be clear that this isn’t the rite of passage experience like going overseas and visiting Gallipoli or sitting on Cable Beach at sunset or riding a bike on Rottnest for the first time.

Our rites of passage might be defined as unknown to anyone outside your family, or maybe even outside your town.  One of my rites of passage was the ride in the trailer from the Narrogin tip back to the main road.  It might not be appropriate these days but when we were old enough to hang on, it was a great adventure. ABC legend Brad McCahon was just as inappropriate as me, sharing his Boulder and Kalgoorlie rite of passage that involved a pub crawl up the length of Hannan Street.

Inspiration for rites of passage can be seen in our discussion a few weeks ago about exercise spots.  I was surprised that Ro and Ebonnie had never climbed the DNA Tower because I think it qualifies as a rite of passage as exercise or even a date destination.

Rites of passage that are hidden treasures you can be inspired by to make your own include:

  • Climbing the DNA Tower
  • Safely walking the sandbar to Penguin Island
  • Swimming to the Cottesloe Pylon and maybe even diving off it
  • Riding a train
When did you first catch a train?
  • Picnic at Kings Park and Fish & Chips on the beach
  • Roadtrips to anywhere
  • Swan River Ferry from Elizabeth Quay to Mends Street Jetty
  • Crabbing with a scoop net in your oldest sneakers
Were you scared when you caught your first big blue manna crab?
  • Catching gilgies from a creek or, with permission, a farmers dam.
Have you ever caught a gilgy?
  • Do a bombie off Palm Beach Jetty, Coogee Jetty or jumping off Blackwall Reach (be careful, be safe).

I love rites of passage as a hidden treasure because they sit alongside bucket lists as an inspiration or motivation for a travel experience but may not be as flashy.  A bucket list item might be wading in the Dead Sea but a rite of passage might be wading in the Mandurah Estuary with a scoop net. One is worthy of a slide night, the other is worthy of family stories for years to come about nipped toes, stingray terror and dropped torches.