Joys of a Kiwi lizard in Oz

Adelaide-view

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Austraila courtesy of the South Australian Tourism Commission. Here is some of what I experienced.

Adelaide-rundleThe concierge at the Hilton Adelaide smiled and introduced himself to us as Christopher before asking if there was anything he could help with.

A couple of my travelling companions asked for directions to Rundle Mall, the city’s main shopping area. Then it was my turn to ask if he could direct me to a good tattoo shop. He didn’t blink, and his eyebrow barely flickered. “Certainly madam, I’m sure I can help you with that,” Christopher replied.

I started chatting with some of the others in our group, who were already planning their shopping trip, when the very clear, and very polite, voice of Christopher called out: “Excuse me, tattoo lady.”

He’d checked his books, asked a few questions and had found what he believed were two excellent tattoo studios for me to check out. After making sure I was equipped with a good map that had the easiest route to what he said was Adelaide’s equivalent of a red light area (in this case some nice bars, nightclubs, cafes and a couple of tattoo shops) he sent me on my merry way.

When I got there, both tattoo shops were closed for dinner so I took the opportunity to sample the wares of one of the local bars. And, as it turned out, it was also a great chance to do some market research after discovering one of the bar staff had been a customer at both tattoo shops.

He gave me his recommendation and off I went to Four Roses Tattoo Studio, ready to add to my mobile art collection.

Tattooist Les, after hearing what I wanted, hunted out the perfect image of a little Aussie gecko and set to work etching it into my skin as we chatted about politics, the war in Iraq and anything else that came to mind. An hour later I left the shop with a great tattoo and, with map in hand, made my way back to the hotel.

On the way I was stopped three times by helpful locals who, on noticing the map, wanted to know if I needed directions. That’s one of the nice things about Adelaide, the residents.

With a population of just over 1 million, the South Australia capital might be a large city by New Zealand standards but the locals kept telling me “no, this isn’t a city…it’s just an overgrown country town.” I’m inclined to agree with them. Adelaide doesn’t have the big city hustle and bustle feel of the likes of Sydney, or even Auckland, it has a more laid-back, relaxed atmosphere.

It’s also an easy city to navigate, even for people like me who have a talent for getting lost. In fact, after being in Adelaide little more than 24 hours I looked confident enough for another unsuspecting tourist to ask me for directions. The most surprising thing was I was able to help. Adelaide’s perfect for those who enjoy walking with great architecture to keep the eyes entertained and a simple grid layout to the streets that makes it a breeze for even the most geographically challenged to find their way around.

Tourabout Adelaide offers a guided walking tour of the city’s North Terrace area, home to some of Adelaide’s grandest buildings, including the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum, which features the new Australian Aboriginal Cultures Gallery. You’ll also find the 1838-built Anglican Holy Trinity Church, the oldest in Adelaide (which was once known as the city of churches), the University of South Australia campus, Government House and the National Soldier’s War Memorial, built in 1931.

For shopping fans, Adelaide is the mother lode. The city’s main shopping area, the Rundle Mall, created in 1976, features more than 600 stores and has the distinction of being Australia’s first street mall. Think of a major retailer and you are likely to find a store in this amazing shopaholic’s paradise.

The famous Central Market, located adjacent to the Adelaide Hilton, dates back to 1870, when a small group of fruit and vegetable market gardeners decided to set up a venue to sell directly to the public and wholesalers. The multi-cultural influence of what has become known as Adelaide’s fresh food pantry is one of the great attractions of the market, with the stalls filled with food flavours that have been brought to Australia by waves of immigrants since World War 2 _ Italian, Greek, Japanese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Chinese, German and more.

Adelaide-market

Fittingly, Adelaide is also home to Australia’s National Wine Centre, situated in the stunning Botanic Gardens. There are five areas covered in the centre’s Wine Discovery Journey tour, from vine growing and wine regions to, of course, wine tasting. In between you can have a play with some state of the art multi-media technology and have an interactive chat with six of Australia’s top winemakers, learn all about winemaking and even have a bash at making your own brew using the interactive touch screens. Choose your grape varieties and take your chances, the computer will tell you whether you’ve make a gold medal-winning wine or a fresh batch of vinegar.

While Adelaide, and South Australia in general, is known the world over for its wine and food, there’s far more to the city than just those. There’s something for everyone _ wine aficionados, foodies, shopaholics, art lovers, tattoo fans, architecture buffs, party animals and even the geographically challenged. It’s one of Aussie’s best kept secrets.

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