No one does weekends like the Australians do – at least, not in my experience. Weekends are a very serious affair here. Lots of people passionately committed to doing nothing. Nothing but ride their bicycles by the river, play golf with their mates, take their boats onto the river, and sit in South Perth cafés, drinking coffee.
I’ve been to South Perth twice. The first time was with a friend who treated me to lunch at Bell’s Café. I chose the chicken with camembert and orange and cranberry sauce. I’ve never thought of putting orange and chicken in the same sentence, let alone the same dish. Most exotically wonderful fare I’ve tasted yet.
As I sat savouring my meal – incredibly slowly, and risking a parking fine into the bargain – my friend told me of earlier years when it was possible to land small aircraft in one of the parks on the north shore. It’s still possible to take a ferry trip across the river though. And if you’re well to do, you can throw a party on the paddle-wheel boat that’s moored by the jetty just outside the café.
Perth has a well-established café culture, I begin to realize, and it seems that my little jaunts around the city are fated to end in cafés. Not surprisingly, my second visit to South Perth was also to a café, not far from the worthy Bells. As the afternoon wafted into evening, we discussed the merits of espressos, cappuccinos and the long black – which is apparently black but not ‘long’, much to my disappointment. I imagined it was an extra-tall glass of coffee.
“It’s getting crowded,” observed the gentleman who was treating us. Sure enough, there seem to be more couples drifting into the café now. As my companions and I enjoyed coffee and waffles, we marvelled at a vacuous Labrador, a smartly dressed poodle, and not-so smartly dressed fellow diners. Australians don’t do formal dressing as a rule – but I’ll discuss Oz fashions another day. Suffice to say, you can’t do an Aussie weekend without a T-shirt and shorts.
“People really like their thongs – even in winter,” observed my elegant African friend. I had to remind myself that ‘thongs’ are slippers (flip-flops) in Australia. Then again, who knows what you might see in a café in Perth on a weekend.