The Free Settlers 

  

So why Adelaide you might be asking. And probably with that somewhat biased Melbourne view that Adelaide is just some sort of backwater. A country town like city where nothing goes on. Well I’ve been to South Australia many time before. Mainly to the Adelaide Hills and the very kitsch village of Hahndorf but I have spent a little time in Adelaide back when the Ashes were here last time and have day tripped in from the Hills.

Well the answer this time was that I was lucky enough to leapfrog onto a conference Claire was at in Adelaide. She flew up Sunday and I joined her on the Tuesday night for the remainder of the week. I suppose were both planners so from originally wondering what we were going to do within a day of arriving in Adelaide we’d already managed to sort out 3 out of the 4 remaining evenings. A play, a comedian and finally a band. The classic trinity.
Claire’s conference took her to the Adelaide Convention Centre and our base on North Terrace ensured she could roll out of bed at 8.45 and be at her conference at 9. But also it proved to be a very handy launchpad for other attractions in Adelaide. It sits right next to the Festival precinct, the Adelaide oval and is only a short walk from North Adelaide, where I’d previously spent my time in the city. The draw was too much and I indulged my walk down memory lane into North Adelaide, past the Adelaide oval. As with most memories, the reality is not quite as good as the memory. Of course I was here with an old school friend of mine then and our lives revolved around beers and sport for four days. The drinking venues in North Adelaide hadn’t changed much but in truth it wasn’t that kind of trip.

I took Claire up there for a walk and we popped into a very noisy pub for lunch. The food was okay, the music loud and I wasn’t in the mood for a beer so a lemon lime and bitters sufficed. I was saving myself though. Before I’d come up a friend had told me about The National Wine Centre which was a bit like a big cellar door with 120 wines to taste.

However the no drinking was only limited to that visit really, my first day when Claire was still on conference I visited an old haunt from last time I was here, The Wheatsheaf Hotel otherwise affectionately known as The Wheaty. I had vivid memories of going her last time whilst waiting for my old school friend to arrive, watching the cricket on some 1980s tv on the bar whilst talking to the owner about craft beer. I remember her mentioning they were setting up a brewery and upon my return it was now in full operation. After reading the full local paper cover to cover (and who does this these days), a chat to the owner again and four beers later I was ready to wander back to our apartment. A bit drunkenly I staggered the 20 mins back to be greeted by big smile as I walked in. Those little things mean so much. A smile, a kind word here or there.
Back to the National Wine Centre though. Our plan had always been to visit for an hour on one of days but it ended up being six hours over two days. I have to admit what pulled me in was knowing I could taste Penfold’s Grange there. I knew a taster would be expensive but I don’t think I thought it would be $37. We arrived I had a couple of wines and debated whether the Grange was worth it. I once told my dad I paid $50 for a beer, he nearly fainted. His very working class upbringing mentality saw it as a waste, so I can only imagine what he might say if I told him a spent $37 on about 5 sips of wine. But sip it I did. I debated a long while but came to the conclusion that this was the reason I came and Claire’s encouragement pushed me over the line. And I’m glad I tried, I mean I’m not exactly going to go out and buy a $850 bottle (2008 vintage for those who care). But it was different from anything I’d tasted. I went through about 10 different flavours as it passed through my palate. There was a lovely smooth richness to it, it sort of tasted a bit majestic although that could have been the news I was watching on Twitter that the royal household had been called in for an emergency meeting. I shared of course, so Claire could taste as well, we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
My view had initially been, one visit to the wine centre and one to Pirate Life Brewery in Hindmarsh but I changed that view after an afternoon enjoying 8 different wines, trying styles I had never tried before. From Barberas to Mataro and Fiano to Picpoul. The atmosphere there was very relaxed which I enjoyed too. You were given a card you then put into a machine and chose what pour of wine you’d like (sample, half glass or glass). On the second day we enjoyed a cheese platter and both days lounged in some easy chairs whilst reading papers and chatting. A perfect way to spend a couple of holiday afternoons.
The play we went to Mr Burns at the Space theatre in the festival precinct, as some might guess from the name was inspired by the Simpsons and was based in a post apocalyptic world with few survivors. This particular group of survivors were trying to recreate Simpsons episodes from memory and later filmed their episodes for people to watch. Not as strange as you might think. And well worth a watch if you get the chance.

The second of our nights of entertainment was watching Julia Morris at the Festival Theatre. Neither of us had seen her comedy before, although I had seen her on a couple of TV programmes. The theatre was quite old fashioned but incredibly spacious. For this performance we’d managed to get a seat in one of the boxes which from high up and on the side still had a rather good view of the stage. The crowd was very enthusiastic and in fact one of Julia’s first lines was about how supportive crowds were in Adelaide and we found this out in our two visits to this theatre. Events and performances are sometimes about the atmosphere the audience brings as well as the actual performance on stage and this was definitely one of those occasions. For my liking, the comedy had a bit too much pretend chatter to a production manager off stage as they pretended things weren’t working when of course the audience knows this is just an act. But overall I found it very funny and not really being a lover of live comedy that is praise indeed.

Our final full day in Adelaide was probably more of a day for me, but one of the things I love most about Claire is her willingness to come along to things I enjoy even though I know they aren’t really her thing. She never complains or gives me the feeling she never wants to be there and seems to genuinely give everything a go. I’d noticed in the run up to Adelaide that the South Australian Oaks was on at Morphettville, a track I’d never been too. I like a day at the horses as many of you will know and this was too good an opportunity to pass up. After a big breakfast we caught an Uber and headed out to the track. There was some debate about the Uber and whether the tram would be better (and cheaper) but my anxiety got the better of me and my reasoning came to the conclusion that the Uber would get us there quicker and give me time to figure out the lay of the land, pick up my members tickets and get to see the races I wanted without the risk of being delayed due to public transport.

Unfortunately my thinking didn’t take into account, the Uber driver’s map taking him to the wrong side of the course, the smallness of the track and the ease of getting about and how empty it was. We arrived very early but on the plus side it gave us chance to have a drink and explore the member’s areas.
Like most trips to the track lately however it turned very much into a losing affair and Claire (annoyingly) picked up the only winner of the day. It was however a good day for Victorian trainers picking up nearly all the big races and Claire overheard someone say that all the money was being taken out of the state to go to Victoria. That made me smile.We took the tram back, which was fast and not packed in the slightest. In fact the attendance at the races surprised me with no more people than a Friday night at Moonee Valley. I was imagining their Oaks might be as big as the Victorian one. A quick dinner was had and then we went to our final performance on the last night of our time away.

We’d both only just heard of The Whitlams in passing but never really heard any of their music but this has kinda been our thing in our time together, going to see bands we’d not really heard of before. Both being a little nerdy we listened to a few of The Whitlams top songs via Apple Music in the days coming up to the event. The crowd as the previous night were incredible, the music was amazing and will definitely form part of our numerous playlists going forward. The Whitlams played with the Adelaide pops orchestra supporting them and the addition of strings and brass brought the songs alive. In parts of the music you just imagined would be empty, you heard the orchestra rise up to fill the gap. Performances like that are visual as well as just vocal though and watching an orchestra conducted on stage is a sight to see in itself. It was the last night of their tour and there was a sense of good humour throughout and it seemed like they genuinely enjoyed playing as much as we genuinely enjoyed listening.

We returned to our hotel for our final nights sleep on our rather uncomfortable bed, or should I say beds. In fact they were two single beds attached together. Although this is not unusual, what was unusual was there was two individual mattresses together as well. So when one of us rolled over into the middle, we hit the ridge on the edge of the mattress which made it rather uncomfortable and unless we both squeezed onto one of the mattresses or stuck to our own it was hard to actually sleep. On the plus side it will make me appreciate my own bed so much more on my arrival back in Melbourne where I can cuddle Claire without feeling a ridge pressing into the side of my body.

And so I write this as I sit on the plane on our flight back into Melbourne. Lately I’ve learnt to use my time on planes more constructively. It was with mixed feelings we return, as everyone does from every holiday really. It’s always nice to take some time out from the daily routine and not always have jobs that could be done. But it’s nice also to return home also. We’ve both missed our independent little pussy cat who doesn’t appreciate cuddles and have missed his constant meowing everytime we go near his food bowl. I’m sure after a couple of days though this will be back to being annoying again.

Adelaide was fabulous. A great trip. I’d only been there 4 full days but it felt like a holiday and that’s what’s important. Let’s the holidays continue.

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