Sunday, 20 September 2015

Adelaide - South Australia's "free" city

The old man sitting next to me on the bus enquired if I was a visitor.  When I said I was he was eager  to tell me that Adelaide "Was never a convict colony, you know."  I was aware of that but rather surprised that it was still a source of great pride to some of the residents of this fair city.

Adelaide from my hotel room
I was pleased to be spending a few days in Adelaide at the end of the Ghan train trip since a friend of mine was born there and had long extolled the city's virtues.  And she was right, it is a lovely place.  One of the founding fathers of this "free" city was Colonel William Light who drew plans for a one mile square city centre in a grid pattern,  with wide streets and public squares, completely surrounded by parkland.  The plan was adhered to and although nowadays the suburbs sprawl out well beyond the parklands, which now have heritage status, the city centre remains compact, attractive and easy to walk around. I couldn't help but compare it to my home city of Auckland, with an almost identical population (1.2million). Auckland sprawls endlessly in all directions with little thought to planning and, unfortunately, continues to gobble up surrounding green space as fast as it possibly can.  One amusing fact is that the founding fathers of Adelaide believed that because the city was not a convict colony there would be no need to include a prison in the plans.  That belief was quickly overturned!

Adelaide Central Market
Adelaide  has regularly featured highly in the World's Most Liveable City lists and I can understand why. It has a pleasant vibe and although, as the capital of South Australia, it is a busy productive city it still felt relaxed and easy  to get around. Don't worry, though, it offers plenty of interest and all that a city this size should.  The Museums and Galleries on North Terrace are well worth a visit.  I particularly enjoyed the Aboriginal Culture Gallery at the Adelaide Museum and the Asian ceramics at the Art Gallery but, of course, both have extensive galleries of interest to suit everyone. 

Adelaide Arcade
The Adelaide Central Market has 80 stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and all the other
delights of a good food market. Right next to Central Market is Adelaide's China Town with a great range of  ethnic restaurants to choose from and across the nearby square is the beautiful St Peter's Anglican Cathedral. Rundle Mall in the heart of the city shopping district boasts the usual chain stores but I preferred the lovely laneways and beautiful little arcades, nearby, with their independent shops. Adelaide Arcade dating from 1885 is Australia's oldest arcade and is said to be haunted by the ghost of a caretaker who fell to his death there. Unfortunately, or maybe, luckily, I never saw him despite spending  a lot of time in the arcade, strolling, drinking coffee or simply people watching.

No visit to Adelaide would be complete without a visit to Haigh's Chocolates.  Haigh's is an Adelaide company founded in 1915 and now into the fourth generation as a family run business.  I think their chocolates are delectable, this from someone who rarely eats chocolate.

One day I took the tram out to the seaside suburb of Glenalg.  It has a lovely beach with golden sands and a pier and the usual seaside ice cream shops, cafes and bars.  Although the weather was fine there was a chill autumn wind and it was quiet and sleepy and a bit dead. Beach resorts are never at their best in the off season, I imagine it is a buzzy, busy place in summer.

So,   my friend was right, Adelaide is a beautiful city, one  I can quite happily imagine living in and that's something I don't say about many places I've been.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Australia's Barossa Valley and a wine master class

I'm standing at a bar in a winery trying to work out whether I am drinking a red or a white wine.  I am not blind folded, the wine has been served to us in black glasses so it is impossible to tell its colour.   As it happens all of us are able to pick which is a red and which is a white but the wine type is a little more difficult to judge, only one of us aces it.  Prior to the wine tasting we have sniffed at cotton wool drenched in various essences to test our ability to pick the key notes in various wines.Our group of ten  is at a wine master class at Jacob's Creek Winery in Adelaide's beautiful Barossa Valley.  This is my first wine master class and I had no idea it would be so interesting or so much fun.

At Jacob's Creek Winery
I am on a day tour of the Barossa Valley and a visit to Jacob's Creek was one of the stops which most attracted me to this particular tour.  For one thing I have a son named Jacob and secondly, as newly weds in the early 1970s, when the now famous New Zealand wine industry was still developing into an international industry, drinking wine from the Barossa Valley seemed glamorous with Jacob's Creek becoming one of my husband and my favourites.  A visit to the Barossa Valley was on my husband's bucket list which he, sadly, never made, so it is up to me to fulfil his dream.  It is no hardship.  The Barossa Valley is beautiful with verdant rolling hills, pretty villages, wineries and a number of unique points of interest.

Seppeltsfield Winery

Our first stop, after driving through vast plantings of grapes dripping gold for autumn, had been at the exquisitely maintained Seppeltsfield Estate. Seppeltsfield now belongs to a trust so that the lovely ochre buildings and courtyards adorned with palms and fountains can be enjoyed by the public.  There we had a wine tasting of 7 different wines. It's early in the day but, what the heck, I'm not driving!  We were also shown a 100 year old port which we could sniff but not taste.  It smelt like maple syrup.

Chateau Barrosa
Lunch is at Barrosa Chateau (the different spelling is correct) This faux chateau was built by Herman Thumm at the remarkable age of 85.  He lived to be 98. A tasty lunch is served here in an old fashioned  and slightly gloomy room. After lunch we tour Thumm's private museum in an  adjoining gallery.  This is an amazing collection of fine glass, porcelain, art works and furniture. The chateau's rose garden is purported to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere but it is the wrong time of year to see any roses.  It must be magnificent when in bloom, nevertheless, for some reason I find the chateau dreary and soulless.

Art Gallery at Chateau Barrosa

Next is a short stop at the Barossa Resevoir to test the Whispering Wall, a fascinating phenomenon, allowing someone to whisper a message at the far end of the dam wall which is heard clearly more than 100 metres away at the other end of the dam.  The story goes that it was discovered accidently by a boss who heard his staff complaining about him at the other end.  Rather embarrassing for his staff, I would think! We test works.

German Architecture, Hahndorf

The final stop is at the pretty German village of Hahndorf, founded by Prussian Lutherans in 1838.  It is a strange sight to see buildings with steeply pitched roofs designed  to cope with heavy snow which never falls in this part of Australia.  The shops are crammed with very expensive German souvenirs, cuckoo clocks, Christmas decorations etc.  There is a German bakery with delectable pastries and several German restaurants to choose from.  The village is pretty and quaint but rather ruined by the constant noisy traffic flowing right through it's centre.

German novelties, Hahndorf

Our trip back to Adelaide is through beautiful, lush, fertile countryside.   The long steep highway back into Adelaide from the top of the Adelaide Hills is a marvel, it seems to go down hill, almost straight, forever.  It's been a great day.  I'm happy.