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.