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September 14, 2013 / oneworld82

Adelaide, South Australia: 1 parts immigrants, 1 part beach, 1 part urban planning = a well balanced city

Preamble. Balance. That’s what Adelaide is all about. It took me various iterations to understand that this city is just all about being well-balanced; moderated. Something some people might consider boring. But if you look a bit deeper than the surface, you’ll find that Adelaide would be an amazing place to live. And – why not – to visit. I have written this part after everything else. But re-reading the scripta in this report I finally realized that “balance” was the word I was looking for to describe this city. Hope you’ll enjoy my thoughts on what  Ifound to be a sober, no-frill, chilled city.

South Australia

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Poor Adelaide… It’s always bashed on by Australians as the dullest and least fun capital city in the country. Talk to any Aussie from outside South Australia (SA), and they will be dumbfounded when you tell them you are going to Adelaide. it’s like telling an American that your are coming from Europe to go visit Indiana. You risk to attract laughter and scared looks usually reserved to crazy people.

I must admit that Adelaide doesn’t possess the gorgeous natural setting of Sydney or the European charm of Melbourne, and it’s probably not a destination in itself; but I came to South Australia mainly to visit its wine region, so Adelaide was just meant to be my port of call for the trip. Yet, I think the city deserves at least a chance, because it surely has its own, peculiar charm.

Adelaide

University campus

First of all, it is beautifully landscaped. Where else in the World will you find a city perfectly enclosed –  all its four sides – within vast gardens that are perfectly green even during the peak of wintertime? Look at any map, read Bill Bryson’s brilliant descriptions of the city, and you will find out that this feature is truly remarkable; the Murray river cutting through the city only adds to the natural charm of the town.

Then, you have the universities. Flinders, University of South Australia, and possibly more are in Adelaide, close to its core, the CBD (Central Business District). That makes for a young student population that crowds the streets of central Adelaide day and night, adding culture, diversity, and pretty faces to the city.

Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of South Australia

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Diversity I said. Yes, because aside from many international students Adelaide is home to a thriving multi-ethnic population, ranging from Germans and Italians all the way to Chinese and Vietnamese. The ethnic variety reflects well on the food, as eateries from all over the World can be easily found around the city center.

Chinatown

Chinatown

Adelaide Australia

Typical Australian XIX century architecture

Typical Australian XIX century architecture

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Like any other major Australian city, Adelaide is ordered, easy to navigate and to walk. As most of the hotels are walking distance from North Victoria Parade – where the Parliament building, the Adelaide Museum, the University and other interesting sights are located – it’s easy to explore the city on foot.

WWI Monument, along Victoria Pde

WWI Monument, along Victoria Pde

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Victoria Parade

Victoria Parade

Migration Museum, Adelaide

Migration Museum, Adelaide

A great museum!

A great museum!

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Adelaide CBD Adealide CBD

Another feature that I am finding in every major Australian city I visit is the arcade. I found an amazing one in Brisbane, I will find a wonderful one in Melbourne… but Adelaide had the most peculiar ones! The major, open-air one is Rundle St – a conglomerate of stores, eateries, and people. But from Rundle St an intricate network of gallerias connect this arcade to Victoria Pde and Grenfell St, creating a contiguous, pedestrian area which is an oasis in the middle of a big steel and stone city. The stores found in these gallerias could range from your usual pharmacy to peculiar stores selling buttons or wigs. Very cool indeed.

Rundle St

Rundle St

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One of the gallerias

One of the gallerias

Wigs!

Wigs!

Pokies, an Australian obsession (addiction?)

Pokies, an Australian obsession (addiction?)

Adelaide

Yet, the real crown-jewel of the city doesn’t lie on spectacular sculptures or extravagant art galleries. The core of the city beats at its strongest in the (deservedly) famous Central Market. A little digression here is necessary. In the US, people tend to shop at places like Walmart/Kroger (where convenience is king) or Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s/farmers markets (where accent on quality is bigger and prices higher). Usually this dichotomy goes hand-in-hand with the organic/sustainable vs big evil company debate. Well, the rest of the Westernized World begs – usually – to differ, as most of the food is high quality and organic almost by law. People of course pay more for everything they consume, but they are happy to do so because they know that the quality of the stuff they ingest is higher and – in the long run – better for their body. This usually means that grocery prices are higher and so are restaurant prices. Hence people tend to cook more, and eat out less, with remarkable positive effects on the general well-being (and external appearance) of the populace. This is very true in Australia, where central markets are the norm and not a place for hippies and where the meat tastes like meat and not like rubber.

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market

Back to Adelaide now. Central Market. So awesome! This is a place where people come to shop, dine, pass time. The produce is amazingly fresh; stalls sell everything from local cheese to locally-made olive products; cafes and restaurants dot the area, serving everything from fancy breakfasts to quick bites.

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market Adelaide Central Market Adelaide Central Market

Adelaide Central Market

Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit

Fresh bread

Fresh bread

I loved this place. I wish I could come here every day to shop for lettuce, carrots, or honey. I had breakfast at a popular café – Zedz – where I was handed the best – no exaggerations – egg and bacon sandwich I have ever tasted. So yes, if you are in Adelaide don’t miss the chance to come here, also because right beside it lays the thriving Chinatown, home to a vast array of diverse restaurants.

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Eggs Florentine and Bacon Sandwich

Eggs Florentine and Bacon Sandwich

But Adelaide stretches well beyond its city borders; just drive 15 minutes west – or jump on a tram – and you’ll be in palindromic Glenelg, Adelaide’s equivalent to Santa Monica. The beach here is spectacular – vast, sandy; the wind and the waves sweeping it during these chilly winter months gave everything a particularly romantic feeling; if you read Colin Thiele’s “Storm Boy” you might understand what I mean.

Welcome to Glenelg!

Welcome to Glenelg!

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Glenelg

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Glenelg is like almost any other beach city in Australia – enchanting, with nice cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops. While something similar in many countries would look tacky, here it looks perfectly charming, perhaps because lots of locals hang out here as well. Mysteries of Australia.

Glenelg

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What can I say: Adelaide might not have the charm of a Sydney or a Melbourne, but it’s certainly an interesting place worth a stop. Its many restaurants, its lively central market, its beaches… There is definitely more than enough to keep you busy for a couple of days. My only regret? Not having tried Red Ochre Grill because… well… I fell asleep very early on our first night due to jet lag. Adelaide met all my expectations and I am happy I read something about it beforehand in Barbara Hanrahan’s novel “The Scent of Eucalyptus – which perfectly describes how the city looked like around mid-1900s. From a part outpost, past trading port Adelaide came a long way to become a modern, easy-going, diverse (and thriving) city; this short stop set the mood right. I am ready to see more of South Australia.

P.S.

On a side note, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the heart of the CBD. It was a very functional, modern, sleek hotel that I strongly recommend. At $150USD per night was definitely a good bargain.

Crowne Plaza Adelaide

Crowne Plaza Adelaide

Comfortable armchair

Comfortable armchair

TV

TV

 

Bathroom

Bathroom

Large tub

Large tub

Shower

Shower

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I also had dinner at the Griffins, next to the hotel. The food was just “meh”. Being Monday, nothing much was open/going on in the CBD; being used to the US (where there is always something going on and where there is always someone going out), this was an interesting reminder that people tend to spend more time than American at home overall.

Fish & Chips

Fish & Chips

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. James / Sep 14 2013 3:29 pm

    The street name you were looking for next to Chinatown is Gouger Street! Many a yum cha consumed there before moving to Europe! Great report and really enjoying it.

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