Adelaide is in South Australia, the driest state in the driest continent on earth. Predictable then that it rained every day that I was there. Not impressive rain either, but a persistent, fine rain that gets into your pockets and shoes and leaves you feeling like a damp old flannel.
At least in part because of the weather, it felt quite English and familiar, and smaller than a city of 1.3 million people usually would. Like Manchester or Leeds it was pleasant but not particularly photogenic (at least in the rain), with a few museums, some nice shops, and a pedestrianised shopping street. Also like these cities there wasn’t really enough to do to fill five days and nights, especially in the rain, but I amused myself flitting between cafes; luckily Adelaide, like Melbourne, is a highly caffeinated city with plenty of good spots for coffee and cake. Between cafes I wandered around trying to avoid the showers, ducking into shops including the Map Shop, and old school shop selling, as you may have guessed, maps, of all sizes and uses. After a quick discussion with the owner, a guy in his 50’s with an encyclopedic knowledge of maps, guide books, and map emporia of the world, I now know where to find the best map shop in Brighton and in the whole of the UK, to fulfil all of my mapping needs in the future. I also got a road atlas of the Kimberley region of north east Australia, which I will be driving through soon.
Fortunately I didn’t have to entertain myself for the whole time, as I had two friends in the city, Jamie and Steve, who I had met a few years ago when I was living in Canada. I met up with them several times to catch up and to get some pointers on how to fill my time, and they showed me around some of the city’s eating and drinking establishments. On one day I took a drive with Jamie out to Hahndorf, a peculiar town about half an hour’s drive away from Adelaide city centre. Originally settled by German immigrants, the town wears its heritage with a huge amount of pride, with pubs and restaurants selling German beer and food, German bakeries, German deli’s, German gift shops. It was all very kitsch but very pretty (between the showers) and I had a very nice Flammkuche for lunch. That afternoon, as the sun came out briefly, we headed to Glenelg, a quiet seaside suburb with the slightly left behind feeling of Worthing or Eastbourne. Although it’s busy and popular in the summer, at this time of year is was deserted, with a tired looking water park on the seafront and a bare pier.
Back in the city I went to the Central Market, a large covered food market on the edge of China Town, visited the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum next door, and walked through the University of Adelaide campus. Probably because I’ve spent much of my adult life on University campuses, I felt very at home wandering around there. It had the same kind of buildings – a mixture of 1930’s civic grandness, 1960’s concrete and pebbledash, and modern glass and chrome – and the same signposts and clearly labelled buildings. I could almost have been in the UK, except for the pelicans casually swimming around on the river.
On my final morning in Adelaide I met my friend Jamie for breakfast at a cafe on the edge of the city centre. It was a glorious sunny morning and we sat on the pavement, looking out towards the park, sun in our eyes. As we had a last walk around before heading to the station, I had to admit it is a much more attractive city when the sun’s out.