Outback 3 Adelaide
In April, we looked down from Mount Lofty in brilliant sunshine and surveyed a well-planned, quite compact city, deliberately buffered by green and stretching to a twinkling sea. I looked forward to exploring it more than fleetingly later in the year.
This visit didn't start well, however. Our 'boutique' hotel consisted of a few dark-painted rooms over a thumping pub. It was Friday evening: the bar was rammed with shouty people. There was no reception desk so we had to queue at the bar to check in. And we queued again to request a move to a room at the back, away from Franklin Street traffic and not directly above the cacophony. I'd just driven more than two thousand kilometres in three days and needed a peaceful respite.
There was no car park; nor spaces on the street; and the secure multi-storey we'd identified had a height restriction that prohibited our car with box on top. In the end, my friend found a back way in, but this took time. Then we queued for a drink, and again to order food. But my cassoulet was tasty.
In our second room of the evening, the bathroom was barely the size of a shoe box. The light switch operated a fan blowing antarctic air. We were given a single key card, so if one of us left the building the other had to sit in the dark. There was no wardrobe, just a rail with a single coathanger. Free wifi was a small consolation.
The real blow came the following morning: there were tea bags but no kettle. Turns out we were supposed to use the coffee machine. And drink coffee-flavoured tea? Nope. There were no instructions; and no one to shout at. This is a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel and costs 250 bucks a night. Want some feedback? I'd rather have had a kettle than a flatscreen TV or a complimentary bottle of wine.
Remember the name, The Franklin Boutique Hotel. Make sure you never stay there.
It was raining, hard. And weather can make a world of difference.
We hurried to Central Market, recommended by anyone who knows anything about Adelaide. It is every bit as good as Prahran in Melbourne. Why doesn't Brisbane have one of these? We had breakfast first, and then wandered.
After at least a couple of hours, it was still raining. We didn't have umbrellas. We tried to find somewhere for dinner. One recommendation we'd been given was fully booked and another had closed down. There was nowhere else in Gouger Street we fancied. Dodging the rain as best we could, we walked to Victoria Square. A helpful man told us the tram was free as far as North Terrace. The original plan had been to take the tram in the opposite direction, to Glenelg, but what was the point of the coast in the rain?
We stumbled upon Jamie's Italian in King William Street and booked that. Then we walked along North Terrace. Fortunately, we'd coincided with the first day of the Australian Geographic ANZANG (Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and New Guinea) Nature Photography of the Year exhibition at the South Australian Museum. There were some stunning images. We didn't always agree with the judges' decisions, but that's part of the fun of photography exhibitions of this kind. Unfortunately, there were no postcards of our favourites to buy in the Museum shop.
The architecture of North Terrace did not live up to expectation. Perhaps a grey day didn't help. Where old façades have been preserved, the construction behind has not always been designed sympathetically. Adelaide Railway Station, since it lost its interstate traffic, has housed a casino as well as suburban train services. I don't like the habit of accommodating casinos in grand old buildings. As we walked around the CBD, there seemed to be a multi-storey car park on every corner. I have since discovered that Adelaide CBD has the highest ratio of car spaces to workers of any state capital (excluding Tassie and NT but including the ACT)*.
After a bowl of delicious warming soup – not pumpkin – at the Art Gallery, we meandered back to Franklin Street through back streets. In so doing, we discovered a bar that, when it opened at 6 pm, was the start of a great evening in Adelaide. Udaberri is a Basque pintxos (tapas) and wine bar, in Leigh Street. It's run by two Aussies who travelled in, and loved, the Basque country in the north of Spain. We ate jamón serrano and drank manzanilla.
When we mentioned to one of the owners we were headed to Jamie's he wrinkled up his nose. He recommended Press instead, in Waymouth Street. I'd rather follow up a local recommendation any day. We tried to cancel Jamie, really we did, but he didn't pick up. The food at Press was excellent: I had their burger; my friend eye fillet, and we shared mixed salad, shoestring fries and, to follow, chocolate tart. Udaberri and Press vastly improved our day.
We returned to our black box to pack up, eager to leave the following morning, when we were woken at 4.30 by street cleaners. It was Sunday, chaps! We had time for a leisurely breakfast at Zuma, back on Gouger Street near the Market's back entrance, before leaving for the interstate station, Adelaide Parklands, formerly Keswick Terminal. Wiki tells me that Adelaide is the only city in the world where passengers can board trains for three distinct transcontinental routes, although I think The Overland to Melbourne might not qualify as transcontinental in a pedant's book.
* Car parking white paper produced by Parking and Traffic Consultants Colliers International (2015)
** Adelaide's oldest cultural building, built in 1860, the South Australian Institute Building has been a library, gallery, museum, society meeting place, adult education centre and information centre
This post was last edited on 4 September 2015