Saturday, August 09, 2008

Day Nine - Appreciative August

Amazing Adelaide

South Australia's capital is like the Jan Brady of Aussie cities. She gets unfairly compared and overlooked for Sydney (Marcia) or Melbourne (Cindy). She competes with neither but is the butt of both their jokes. She hasn't the traffic, crime or house prices of either, but has the weather, food, wine, festivals, quality of life and attitude that both would give their Harbor Bridge or dopey Docklands for.

My love for Adelaide - or Adders for short - is not just one-eyed favouritism from someone who's never lived anywhere else. I was born in Murray Bridge before arriving at the scary, big city of Adelaide to study and work before spending two years in London, six years in Melbourne and a couple in Darwin. We'd seen pollution, crime, over-crowding, poor house design, rough neighbourhoods, drug-dealings, vandalism and racism.

We returned back 'home' to South Australia and Adders in 2000 after Sapphire arrived - we needed family, familiarity, security, better jobs than the very few on offer after graduating and an affordable house in a decent suburb. We got all those things and more.

Adelaide is the kind of place that you find yourself stripping off to a t-shirt during a winter lunchtime, with crisp mornings and clear, clean blue skies. Gorgeous 19th Century wedding cake and bluestone architecture is on display right next to a so-called traffic jam on North Terrace which is directly in front of the beautiful Botanic Gardens which is in turn overlooked by patients at the Royal hospital. Not a bad spot to wait for my bus.

We have dog-friendly parks wrapped around the city mile and boats called 'Popeye' that punt up and down the river in an experience as endearing as it is daggy. We drink more flavoured milk per person than anywhere in Australia or the planet due to our magnificent Farmers Union Iced Coffee and go to great lengths to enjoy a good frog cake, fruchoc, pepper pasty or bee-sting buns*. Our beer is revered, as are the footy teams and our wines are quite honestly the best in the world. Let's not forget the chocolates made by Haigh's (adopted by intelligent cacao lovers in Sydney and Melbourne as well) or the Central Market for food as fresh and as varied as anywhere else in the world.

Adders can confidently host an arts festival the same weekend as the bogan-friendly Clipsal 500 car race with both parties meeting up for drinks and genial piss-taking banter in Rundle Street.

Our city only has a million people which means that you always bump into a friend of your parents', an old school mate, a work colleague or an ex-boyfriend every time you're out shopping in the Mall. It's the kind of place that has websites and facebook pages dedicated to Johnny, the speedo-and-gumboot wearing Aboriginal Mall Man, or to the 'Men in Black' cardboard cut-outs that have lived in the window of a house on Cross Road for a dozen years. We all go to see the Christmas display on every year at the West End Brewery and it was front page news when an unseasonal flood caused their wooden whale to take an impromptu swim further downstream.

Adelaide has suburbs where neighbours will take in your bins for you when you're still at work, drop a bag of lemons by the back door or offer to keep their car in your driveway when you're away. My 'burb is still a place where people nod or say "'Morning" when they pass by or tut-tut very loudly if any Maccas rubbish blows into their gardens. Any suburb worth its salt has a bakery and a coffee shop that only the locals know about, like a well-kept secret.

It's the city that extends from the hobby farms of the hills to the golden sands and seafronts and koalas can actually be found in the outer areas.

A mate of mine found one in the middle of Kensington Road during a downpour, all dazed and confused. Traffic duly stopped and a few car blankets were thrown over the muddled marsupial to load him into her car and to take him to Morialta. Another friend in Rostrevor has them snorting and barking in her garden, keeping her awake during their mating rituals. Still another has one setting up home under the decking.

We Locketts aren't quite in Steve Irwin territory, but have our share of Cockatoos, Rosellas, Galahs, New Holland Honey Eaters and Rainbow Lorikeets who love to rest and nest in the gum trees. Milly and I are regularly swooped by Magpies, but all is forgiven when we hear their strangely melodic "Bawdle Oodle Argle" song straight afterwards.

If we choose to, we can also visit the snobbier shopping and coffee strips to remind ourselves that there's some urban culture to be had, or head further east towards parklands, bushwalks and historic little towns. Or drive further out to Murray Bridge and beyond, where the rainshadow disappears and the grass turns to dust and Mallee and still be back home before tea time.

Adelaide - the only place where one city street can host a tattoo parlour, writing centre, mountaineering equipment, top restaurants and performing arts venues within the space of 100 metres. In fact, I feel like a Cibo gelati right now.......

* A traditional, German-inspired bun filled with honey cream and topped with streusel, NOT someone's butt after an attack by an angry hive.


Chestnut Mare said...

Some of your beers may be "revered" but the mere mention of some others are more likely to bring screwed up faces & disparaging comments. As for your football teams - your views are SO typical of a one-eyed South Aussie. The fact is that the Adelaide Cows, & Piss Poort Adelaide are universally hated by all. None of them are even very good.

Chestnut Mare said...

You're absolutely right about ALL the rest though....!!!

Anonymous said...

A long-time acquaintance of mine who has travelled far and wide said that he loves that Adelaide must be one of the few cities where you'll find horses agisted not 2 kilometres from the city GPO.

And the fact that city traffic will voluntarily come to a standstill and wait for a mother duck to walk her brood down King William St to the Torrens (often with a police escort) still gives one hope for the human race.


River said...

There's those frog cakes again. I fail to see the attraction. I really do. I've tried them and found them to be absolutely tasteless. They're cute to look at and that's all they've got going for them in my opinion. Beer and footy don't inspire me at all, but everything else is what I love about Adelaide.

Naomi said...

we too have the koalas and their associated noises in our neck of the woods! We are in the best place 30 mins from the city in the midst of koalas, rosellas and other beautiful wildlife!

Kath Lockett said...

Agree with you re some of the beers, Chestnut Mare, but not Coopers. Agree too re Port Adelaide footy team, but the Crows.....NEVER!

Aw River, frog cakes are excellent. For some inexplicable reason, my mum would always buy me one when I was home sick, lying on the couch watching 'Humphrey B Bear'. That and flat lemonade, still equals, "Get well and we love you" to me.

Baino said...

It's a top spot alright although I haven't been there for over 20 years! Sounds like little has changed though. And you're right about the burbs, here it's lock your doors and cars and sit in traffic all the way to town (although I have been known to stop for ducks crossing!). I do like that you don't have to go far to be in the Barossa or on the beach. Although we wouldn't swap our Bridge or the ol oprey for quids!

franzy said...

So now I'm basically hysterically tearful at living in Queensland.
I actually went out and paid top dollar for a six-pack of Coopers' Pale the other day, just because I couldn't face another glug of fizzy four-x fizz.

Chestnut Mare said...

Here in the NT, we were SO excited when Farmers Union Iced Coffee finally came to the Territory! None of us could stomach the stuff they had here & had been unable to touch iced coffee at all, but when Farmers Union arrived we all went right back to our old habit. There used to be a smoko shop in Stuart Park that sold Balfours pasties years ago too........