Adelaide

Not since a teenagerhood visit to the Somerset Drive-in to see Hitchcock’s ‘ The Birds’ had I viewed a movie to give me the heebie-geebies like it. After ‘Jaws’ I found I had an immense fear of entering the ocean. Admittedly Taswegian waters are quite benign when it comes to man-eaters, but not where I discovered myself to be later that year.

I had visited Adelaide previously as teacher to students visiting the Arts Festival, but this time I was solo, staying with my good friend Andrew. He had a new found passion and was keen to show off his skills in it – yachting. He asked me to view his prowess first hand on his brand new purchase out on St Vincents Gulf. He wanted to teach me a thing or two about his fixation. I gave my usual excuse when invitations to share the attractions of over knee-deep immersion were offered – that I couldn’t swim. I thought that would be a polite, inoffensive way of declining – but mate Andrew persisted – ‘You’ll be right, Steve. You’ll be wearing a life jacket. Don’t be such a wuss.’ With this affront to my hairy-chestedness I could but only accept. Unbeknown to my host, it wasn’t my lack of swimming ability that was my real problem. Hadn’t I read somewhere that the waters of South Australia were simply teeming with great whites. But soon I was flying through the water, seemingly kilometres off-shore. Initially, I was out of my skull petrified.

Andrew proved to be an able instructor and I was soon feeling more comfortable – maybe a little too comfortable. Eventually my captain determined it was time to make a turn – to tack I think is the nautical term. He patiently explained to me what that involved. What he omitted to say – or perhaps, in my usual vague fashion, I hadn’t clearly picked-up – was that in this manoeuvre the boom would swing from one side of the vessel to the other. You no doubt can guess now the outcome. All of a sudden I heard a whoosh, then the pain of a severe clout to the back of my head and in the next instant, I was in the drink with Andrew’s yacht quickly disappearing towards the horizon. It was at that precise point in time that the opening scenes of ‘Jaws’ took over my scrambled thought processes. As I strove to tread water, I had the sensation that there was a massive pair of jaws about to rise up from the deep with the intention of snapping me into numerous bits of edible morsels, or – even devour me whole! Does one splash or remain as still as possible in that situation? My over-loaded, rampaging grey matter couldn’t quite sort that conundrum out. I was probably only in the briny for a few minutes, but time stretches in periods of ultra-terror. Soon, though, I espied my rescuer heading back from the horizon. His sheepish deck-hand was soon being hauled on board and taken to nearest terra firma. Thus ended a fleeting yachting career – I had lost all desire to ever set foot on another boat under sail. Those flashes, in vivid cinemascopic intensity, of the gory highlights of Spielberg’s horror classic, still haunt me. For thirty-eight years the possibilities entailed by my close encounter with the salt water off Adelaide remained the enduring memory of my previous excursion to the South Australian capital.

‘It really is a city of churches,’ remarked my DLP (Darling Loving Partner) as we swooped low over the metropolis, preparatory to landing at Adelaide International. And so it appeared to be on the ground as well. We discovered a leafy city of architectural pleasantness – including some easy on the eye parliamentary, university and religious structures, particularly those aligning North Terrace. It was here our accommodation was sited. Finally, I was sure, those hellish images of my last visit were soon to be erased. Now, looking back, I can safely write that that has come to pass.

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People, of course, always provide the best memories. As with most trips there are the random meetings that stick. A large, bullish man with an unusually non-grating American accent kindly gave up his tram seat to ‘Madam’ (DLP). It turns out we had something in common. We were both islanders. He’d never met a Tasmanian nor we a Rhode Islander. I shook his hand on that fact. There was the lovely older fellow in the Information Centre on the Rundle Mall, who, as well as informing us of places to visit, charmed us with his life story as well. There was the Indian cabbie who saw us safely from the airport to our accommodation. He and I soon struck up some common ground – what else, but courtesy of cricket. He was so effusive he overshot the turn to our hotel, telling us of his memories of cricket on the sub-continent. ‘You Aussies,’ he reckoned, ‘only like test matches because you get to drink beer for five days. Us Indians can only handle that for one day!’

Cookie of Hahndorf deserves a scribbling almost to himself and that is my intention in due course. There was the beautiful young lady (wo)manning a souvenir shop in the glorious olde worlde Adelaide Arcade who heartily chatted with me as business was slow. She felt that, for her, Adelaide was a fairly boring town compared to the life she had previously in the US on a tennis scholarship – to a Michigan college to be exact. Well yes, I could see that. In retrospect the city does not seem to have the fizz of the mainland eastern seaboard capitals. Its pace appeared almost leisurely – one would hardly know Adelaide’s population was approaching a million. I think it’s the parklands that completely enclose the CBD that may be to blame – they soothe; create an element of quietude. It did have a certain Hobart feel – both cities have been at pains to give nature its due. And, continuing on with our theme of encounters random, then there were the waiters….

Meetings of an organised nature came with the old friends DLP and I delighted in catching up with. Leanne and Rob, our Bali mates, had a round trip of ten hours to accompany us on a foray into the Glenelg night-life, as well as to deliver us to our Hahndorf experience the following day. Anne took us to the Adelaide Hills. At the Norton Summit Scenic Hotel I supped on a Swell craft golden ale that matched the Gulf Brewery offering from that iconic Teutonic village in the same general locale. High above the city, enjoying buttery spring afternoon sunshine, life didn’t get much better. Anne is DLP’s cousin and hails from Burnie in her distant past. How random is it that her debonair son knew that my brother Dean’s favourite song as a child was ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’? Together we dined at a gem of an eatery, tucked away in an arcade – the Seoul Korean restaurant. Here I sampled my first kimchi (fermented cabbage) – I’m hooked. On our final day Chris and Frances took us to Lochiel Park/Wetlands for an amble. Its bird life, native flora and sculpture installations were salve to the soul.

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Along North Terrace the art gallery, museum and library also were attractions not for me to miss. The first had a room almost totally devoted to Tasmaniana, including my favourite Glover. The Australian Geographic ANZANG Nature Photography Exhibition at the South Australian Museum was inspiring to this devoted happy snapper. In the State Library’s Mortlock Wing I wandered contentedly into the past. With its displays one may forget to look up. It is the view of on high that truly amazes.

Jamie (Oliver’s) Italian Restaurant attracted the attention of my DLP. She felt a good night could be had there and she was not wrong. Highlights of this eve abounded. The couple we were eventually placed next to, after a ninety minute wait, were what must be for the City of Churches an anomaly – she was fervent Port, he a committed Crow (we later realised that there is a formidable line running through the town when it comes to footy allegiance). Another unplanned encounter, they turned out to be delightful companions for the floor-show that came with our waiter. He was earnest to the max, determined to give us the provenance of every morsel that glistened tantalisingly on our plates. We almost felt we had personally met the beasts giving up their existence for our gastronomic pleasure. We wanted to get to it, but we indulged him and he proved to be inadvertently hilarious – such a lovely, passionate young man. I trust he goes a long way in hospitality. My wild boar sausage in fragrant lentils was terrific and this popular eatery was not at all overpriced. Well worth a visit – and please, a peek into their downstairs loos is a must. DLP was the first of our foursome to heed the call. I’ll say no more, other than the fact that when she returned to the table, DLP collected her camera and disappeared down into the bowels (pun intended) again. La Boca (North Terrace) is a developing franchise in Argentinian tucker that I feel sure will catch on when it expands to a city near you, dear reader. They know their meat, these guys from the pampas. Our lovely, lovely waitress was friendliness personified as she explained how they do things in regards to food – well beef actually – in that South American country. Yet another pleasurable repast was partaken of.

There is a solidity to Adelaide that I like. Its stolid architecture appeals, its people were friendly and approachable and there was not a great white in sight. Can’t wait for a return visit.

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Jamie’s Italian website = http://www.jamieoliver.com/italian/australia/adelaide

La Boca website = http://www.stamford.com.au/spa/adelaide-restaurant-bars/la-boca-bar-and-grill

Seoul Korean website = http://www.seoulrestaurant.com.au/

Gulf Brewery website = http://www.gulfbrewery.com.au/

Swell Brewery Website = http://www.swellbeer.com.au/

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