Sunday 15th March 2020
I have retained a number of friends from my time living in Adelaide in the early 70s. I sometimes joke it is easier to be my friend if you live 1300klm (800 mi) away. You might say, a little of me goes a long way.
As it happened, several of those friends were not available for this visit as they were travelling elsewhere in Australia, but for today we had arranged both a lunch, and a dinner.
Lunch was with two former workmates from my days in a customs agency in Port Adelaide. We arranged to meet outside the Adelaide central railway station – part of which has now been converted to a casino – and as I waited on the corner I mused on the day I arrived in 1974 off the overnight train from Sydney or Melbourne (my memory is a bit hazy on which), as a young girl who’d arrived on spec. No job, one suitcase, and only a few weeks’ savings. It was October, and a heatwave was building. I stood on that same corner trying to get my bearings, and work out how to get to the YWCA.
Today, some of the buildings on stately North Terrace are still the same, but the emergence of high-rise towers in the CBD is noticeable. They are converting what was once “a boulevard of medical practices and private homes“, into . . . something else . . .
Apparently the root cause is that too many of the heritage buildings were left vacant, disused and run-down.
Adelaide boasts a great tram system, and seniors travel for free at certain times, such as Sundays. So once we were all together, we hopped on to ride the few blocks to East Terrace. Adelaide was planned by Colonel William Light on a grid system, yet East Terrace is not completely straight, as the terrain did not allow it. It is the only street in his plan that is not. This sets the scene for the car racing that takes place in this part of the city, including the Grand Prix which was eventually lost to Melbourne in the mid-90s.
This area abounds with cafes, restaurants and bars. It took a while for us to choose a cuisine, and we finally settled on La Taberna, which serves a Latino menu drawing on food from several Spanish speaking countries. Then we wandered across the road to the Parklands, which is part of the street racing circuit, but at this moment was the site of the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
This was the final day of the month-long Adelaide Festival. This is an amazing celebration of the arts, and the fringe hosts events from street theatre and circus acts to world class music, cabaret, theatre and comedy.
The main two venues for the fringe are side-by-side in the east end. One part is called The Garden of Unearthly Delights in Rundle Park, and the other, Gluttony in Rymill Park. These are popular outdoor venues scattered with marquees, big tops, and several spiegeltents. They are a festival playground of performance venues, bars, carnival rides, world foods, market stalls and sideshow surprises, open day and night.
Our home hosts had been to a number of Fringe performances, and I had also seen one on a previous visit, but Bill had never been. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had intended to pre-book tickets, but never got around to it. We could have joined a queue now and bought a ticket at a tent door, but that was not the purpose of this catch-up. It was enough to stroll around the grounds to show him what it was all about, then have refreshing cider at one of the outdoor bars. In hindsight, it was probably a good thing that we did not sit thigh-to-thigh with other strangers watching a show.
(At this point in COVID-19, we were one day away from the rule not to gather in crowds of more than 500).
Parting company with those friends back at the railway station, Bill and I jumped on a train (free!) to meet a different set of friends. This is quite amusing, as they were our apartment neighbours when we lived in inner-city Sydney, and they have now moved to Port Adelaide where I used to work years before. Except that the area where they live, having been redeveloped with modern apartments and boat moorings, is now called New Port.
While looking for the above photo, I stumbled across a real estate advertisement to rent the flat I lived in when I worked in Port Adelaide. That was a blast from the past!
When I worked in Port Adelaide, I didn’t have much call to cross the bridge to this side of the Port River, but it did not look like this! The other side of the river, once home to wharves, conventional ships, maritime authorities, customs bonds, auction houses, shipping and customs agencies . . . and lots of pubs, is now more of an outdoor museum, gentrified in places, shabby and run-down in others.
I don’t think at the time I truly appreciated the grandeur of the 1860s stone buildings dotted in each street. Although one could not avoid being over-awed by the Customs House, especially when one was 5’5″ and trying to peek over the top of a long mahogany bench that separated the wharf clerk from a scowling Customs Officer. I think they always scowled – it wasn’t just because I was the only female standing there – although I was hampered by not having a hat to doff 🙂 .
Our friends met us at the nearest railway station, and we headed straight for the nearest pub – The Glanville. New Port may have revitalised this area, but The Glanville is having none of that gentrification nonsense. It remains pretty much as it has been for the last one hundred years or more, and its patrons are regulars. I thought they were staring at us for a while, until it became obvious the TV was above the part of the bar we were perched at. At this stage, they had no expectation their local would be closed down within the week.
Keeping right up with the times is the Portobello cafe restaurant where dined that night. Great food, great service, modest price and a waterfront view provided the perfect background to our conversation. A short walk brought us to our friends’ apartment. A quick tour, a final chat, and then a ride home in an Uber rounded off our short stay in Adelaide.
Footnote 31/3/2020: It’s funny how things turn out. Our original reason to go to Adelaide this time was to visit a relative who was living in Tanunda, in the Barossa Valley. In the event, he returned to Sydney, suddenly, a few days before our departure.
On the Friday of our visit, we decided against visiting the Barossa in favour the Adelaide Hills. (read that blog post here) That day, and the next, two groups of overseas tourists came to stay in the Barossa and visit the local wineries. Unfortunately, most of them subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, creating a virus cluster for the region of 34 people and possibly rising. Towns, including Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Williamstown, Angaston and Lyndoch are shut-down, schools closed, etc. Wine and food sales from winery cellar doors are banned across South Australia.
We dodged a bullet on that one. If I wasn’t self-isolating, I’d go buy a lottery ticket.