Friday, March 13, 2009

Adelaide: Warmth and Great Eats

Adelaide is a warm city, hot even. It’s early fall and today was 33 deg. C. Known as the city of churches, Adelaide is unusual because its downtown is laid out with geometric precision. The “square mile” was designed in 1836 with broad north-south and east-west boulevards and symmetrically-located parks. This inner core is surrounded by a ring of green space and only then do the suburbs begin.

North Terrace, along the northern edge of the square mile, is the cultural area. We walked slowly from one shady patch to another, stopping at park benches to sip water as we visited the old and new parliament buildings, the art gallery, the state museum, the University of South Australia, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens (established in 1855), Government House and other historic dwellings. A few hundred metres to the north, the river Torrens flows along.

The Hilton Adelaide, our home for several days, is located almost in the exact centre of the square mile and conveniently is next door to the bustling Central Market, which is crammed with shops and booths selling every conceivable item produced by mankind. It also has a fabulous selection of Asian food outlets.

Happily, a stop for trams, which are free in the square mile, lies directly in front of our hotel. Yesterday we took the tram westward to historic Glenelg on the coast. Tall palm trees, a broad beach, old sandstone buildings and hundreds of restaurants, cafes and shops greeted us. In contrast to the brash vibrancy of Sydney’s surf beaches, Glenelg has a genteel and charming dignity.

Best of all, Adelaide is surrounded by world-class vineyards including the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. Wines and good food are a way of Aussie life, a wonderful gastronomic hedonism. Gouger and Rundle streets are non-stop rows of restaurants and cafes and in the evenings my dearest and I jostled with happy crowds to find empty spots amongst the tables that spill onto the sidewalks. Ah, it’s bliss to dine al fresco in the warm air with a good bottle of Aussie wine.

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