We don’t need no stinking convicts

Five Things I Learnt On My First Dérive: North Adelaide

1: It Stinks. 

Local houses, Nth Adelaide
Everywhere smells. Not in a bad way: North Adelaide has a constant fragrant scent of wood fires and rose, with a bit of lavender thrown in for an ‘old lady’ perfume. It’s quite lovely actually. Coming from the hotbed of Brisbane after almost four years, catching a whiff of fresh rose on crisp air is a bit of a treat, and one that immediately took my back to my childhood home (which some would argue wasn’t much different from Adelaide – cheeky buggers). At night, the air gets cooler and the fires come out again, and what was rose becomes an almost overwhelming smell in the air of peppercorn trees, so strong it makes untrained eyes water. My jolly took me into the city to get to know a few walking areas, and I found the botanic gardens fairly quickly. The herbal bed in the middle of the gardens was a rare find for a public garden that size: again, the aromas were gorgeous and I think I actually found it by nose, not feet. I’ve never seen a public garden with thai rainbow chillis and French thyme before, but there is was, smelling like a kitchen and reminding me of my mum’s chicken; which brings me to my second lesson:

2: Everywhere Reminds You of Somewhere Else. 
I spent so much time wracking my brains to figure out what the area reminded me of, it got annoying. In the end, I realised that while it did take me to places of my past (Tamworth, Quirindi, Newcastle, Sydney), Adelaide reminded me of……. my last visit to Adelaide! It’s easy to see new areas and find familiarity; what I find interesting is my need to compare the new with the old. I have a tendency to go somewhere and almost immediately exclaim “this is so much like (insert generic town/city/thing here)” or “this is nothing like (insert generic town/city/thing here)”. Rather than build new feelings and attachments based on old memories, I’m determined to experience Adelaide as a blank slate. So no more comparing. (For the record, it reminded me of most places I’d lived: the cottages and terraces could be those in Melbourne, or Sydney, or Newcastle; the gardens look like my home town, the wood fire smells are my grandparents house, and the sandstone buildings are pretty much most of Eastern Australian city buidings. Except Brisbane, where they knocked them all down…..).
Random church in Adelaide

3. Religious Freedom Does Not Mean No Religion. 
What is Adelaide known as? The city of churches. Lots of churches. Waaaay more churches than I thought. I love churches, don’t get me wrong, but it was particularly interesting to learn that Adelaide, as the first ‘planned’ city of Australia (as in, ‘we don’t want no stinking convicts’) was designed and envisioned as a sort of southern Utopia: progressive education, progressive politics and freedom from religious persecution. Of course, the atheist side of me immediately assumed that meant no religion. On the contrary, churches sprang up EVERYWHERE, from all denominations, sometimes right next to each other! What it makes for is a beautiful skyline of church spires and pigeons, not those wicked capitalist idols of skyscrapers ;- ) And in keeping with these traditional, protected buildings, they’ve protected pretty much everything around them too. Most of North Adelaide is actually heritage listed: original row houses, stand alone blue stone cottages, shop fronts, terraces and pubs have been restored to their former glory and make up for the majority of buildings in the area. It’s such a huge heritage area and there are so many plaques I wouldn’t be surprised to see a magpie with one attached: “This magpie is an example of an original bird in Adelaide in 1830 when Colonel William Light designed Adelaide to have lots of trees that would have been home to magpies like these….blah blah blah…..”

4. Building Churches Is Thirsty Business. 
The British Hotel, est 1838
Ahh, Adelaide. There is one particular feature of this city that reminds me of Tamworth. For those that aren’t aware, Tamworth is a small city (approx 40,000) in North West NSW, which, apart from holding lots of rodeos and being the home of Phillip from Playschool, also happens to have a fairly famous festival every year. In order to keep the tens of thousands of people visiting the festival happy, they have an alarmingly large number of pubs, sometimes three to four in each city block in the main area of town. I’m not sure if a country music festival in the mid 1800s caused pubs to be built, but there is an abundance of them in North Adelaide alone. I’ve counted at least nine within 3 blocks. Surprisingly, one is even named after the cathedral it sits opposite: maybe they ran out of ‘blood of Christ’ and thought opening a speciality hotel was a good idea? In any case, beer and wine is cheap, and top notch. The wine list in the dirtiest pub in SA could and most likely would put most in other states to shame.

5. The ‘Green Man’ Is a Myth and Traffic Light Changes Are a Luxury Not To Be Squandered. 
I got sunburnt on Monday, my first walking day. Don’t get me wrong, I wear a hat and I always, ALWAYS wear sunscreen. It was a baking day, but there was one hiccup that I couldn’t possibly have factored in to my walk: traffic lights. They don’t change!! Ever!! I timed one corner: 3 minutes waiting on the side of what must be the WIDEST ROAD IN AUSTRALIA, with usually just a single car that drives deceptively fast enough to hit you if you choose to cross, and no end in sight to that smug little red man daring me to challenge him. There are no refuge islands in the middle of the road, and usually hardly any cars, which makes the whole situation even more irritating. If it was like a case of trying to cross Parramatta Rd I wouldn’t mind so much. Normally I’d make a dash for it, but I have a feeling they factored in jay-walkers when they built this place eons ago and designed roads that are so wide they put the Brisbane River to shame. Then you have the classic game of chicken with the blinking red man. Don’t fall for it. Yellow light? What yellow light?! The lights are green, then for approximately 2 secs they are yellow and then BAM!! It’s biped vs car and they aren’t stopping. If you intend to walk around the city, plan your trip in straight lines, walk around the same block in laps, or be prepared to add at least an hour in waiting. And carry extra sunscreen: you’ll need it.

Interesting sites of the week:

Pub of the week:
The Archer Hotel, O’Connell Street, North Adelaide
Next up: The eastern city fringe.
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