A weekend in Adelaide

Sav Blanc, SA nudists (Advertiser headline), Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 9 December 2006, p. 56.

Some of the best holidays are just on our doorstep here in Australia. We’ve been fairly busy recently so decided we should have a break and the chosen venue was Adelaide and South Australia. We hadn’t bargained on it being the weekend of the Classic Adelaide car rally, so there were petrol-heads everywhere with their vroom-vroom machines thundering around the streets and McLaren Vale and the Barossa Valley. Lots of Porsche drivers with the top halves of their flameproof overalls turned down. A very daggy look. That didn’t spoil Adelaide for me, the one place in Australia I would consider living in, if I were not thoroughly happy with Geelong and its region.

The rally cars went north on Saturday, so we went south to McLaren Vale where we know one of the local vignerons and his wife, who have just opened a restaurant in the old currant shed on their ten-hectare winery. They welcomed us to a shared plate of local delicacies and some sharp Sauvignon Blanc and a Chardonnay. We settled on the former and after lunch I ordered some of that and an export red, a batch of which was turned down at the last moment. As we were leaving two camels with tourists on board passed the road end. So I got a shot of them and the handler lady told me the lead camel was the star in the film Kangaroo Jack.

After lunch we decided we would go to the seaside rather than more wineries so we headed for Maslin Beach. There were nudists to the south, so we walked north in perfect sunshine with my wife having her feet in the water all the way. Coming back I had my shoes and trousers off and paddled along with her. Even took off my vest!

Also in McLaren Vale we coincided with the Biennale Exhibition of local art at Tatachilla, where there was one part of the exhibition in the Tinlin’s wine shed at the back of the tasting shop. It was a great setting with the pictures hung in front of the barrels. I voted for Abie Loy’s Bush Hen Dreaming in the people’s choice awards, a lovely piece of synthetic polymer on Belgian linen.

In the evening, we boarded the Glenelg tram and set off for a meal down at the water. When we got to the tram we found the old rattlers had been replaced by the new light rail machines, but the track duplication had not been completed beyond Glengowrie. So at Morphetville racecourse we de-trammed and a bus took us the rest of the way. We walked down past the pub to the pier but the restaurant on the front was fully booked, though virtually empty, so we returned to the main drag and found an Italian restaurant run by a young Greek soccer player and coach, with friends who grow olives. Not a bad combination and the food was excellent. After that we walked back, the bus arrived as we got to the corner and it took us to the tram and we were back in town in no time. A model of public transport in operation as I told the conductor’s mate. And so, as Pepys would say, to bed.

‘To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub.’ But at 12.40 am the hotel alarm went off. We were advised not to panic, to remain where we were, and await further instructions. I went through all my Towering Inferno scenarios. There was some milling about and chatter in the corridor, but eventually after another series of alarms came the message that the cause had been attended to and thanks for our co-operation and there would be no further instructions. Then the alarm beeped briefly again at 1.30 am. My wife slept through it all! Given all the petrol heads in the hotel, one suspected the worst, but the headlines next day would have been of the ‘small emergency, no one injured’ variety.

On Sunday the rally cars went south so after breakfast we headed north-east through Payneham into the Adelaide Hills past Millbrook Reservoir, Williamstown, and into the Barossa Valley at Lyndoch where we stopped for coffee. We also found the discreetly signed Information Centre, after a couple of U-turns, and then visited one of the commercial wineries, where my wife learned more about wine-making than she really wanted to know. Nevertheless it is a well-designed operation, neatly set out with curving Aboriginal-style entrance roads and paths and a wedding party in full swing within. Our next stop was at Tanunda.

I took some pictures of Chateau Tanunda and some youngsters playing a species of croquet on the lawn and then we went via the back roads to the Barossa Bush Gardens project at Nooriootpa. This is a brilliant volunteer effort to conserve and propagate local seeds of plants which are under threat of extinction. It covers several hectares and each species seems to have been adopted by a volunteer or a group and the majority of plants and trees seem to be flourishing despite the drought. This is an idea we could develop locally, I’m sure, for there are plenty of the local species under threat.

Finally on the last morning I took my wife to the Adelaide Town Hall, a superb building in its own right, but housing a picture I wanted her to see. It is the mayoral painting of Jane Lomax-Smith, full-length in evening dress with a strategically placed chain of office, mounted above eye-level at the end of a corridor. The walls of the corridor are occupied by the head and shoulders portraits of her male predecessors, all looking glum and lugubrious as if they knew that eventually they would be looked down upon by a powerful and striking woman.

Adelaide and South Australia turned it on for us once again with a lovely combination of great weather, superb food and wine, and series of surprises to keep us on our toes.

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