Man In A Suitcase

Adelaide, South Australia

I love exploring a new city, and Adelaide is particularly easy to figure out. That starts from the original city plan, with straight streets that meet at right angles the way God intended. The city centre is relatively compact, and includes a pedestrian mall and several blocks of restaurants within a short walk. And then there are the free bus routes, which by a nice coincidence make a stop right in front of my hotel. Being across the street from the railway station, now partly occupied by a casino, doesn't hurt either.

Rundle Street Mall is a great place to wander. In addition to shops both at and above ground level and at least a couple of indoor shopping malls, there are a couple of wonderful shopping arcades that wouldn't be out of place in London's Piccadilly. Just right for a confirmed collector of useless junk knickknacks like me. The Mall becomes a mob scene on weekend nights, with crowds moving between pubs, restaurants and clubs. Unlike other cities, Adelaide has managed to keep downtown from becoming a ghost town after the sun goes down. (I don't have anything to say about the pig sculpture grazing in the trash bin. It's cool, though, isn't it?)

Some cities are determined to bulldoze their past. (Atlanta springs immediately to mind.) Adelaide shows better judgment than that. The old produce market at left is now a modern apartment complex with shops out front. I like the mix of old and new styles, although I wonder what the locals think. The new central market a few blocks south and west is a must see. Especially if you have a couple of hours to spare. And if you're hungry. An excellent place for shopping and grazing.

The repurposing job at right took me by surprise. It's not every day you see a church that advertises pokies (slot machines) and beer on tap. Although I bet attendance would be a lot better if they did. Of course, St Pauls isn't a church any more. These days it's available for weddings, bar mitzvahs (In a church? That is so wrong) and corporate functions. If their meetings are anything like the ones I've been through, there's a lot of praying going on. "Please, God. Please make it stop..."

While riding the free bus, I noticed mention of a tram station on the map I'd picked up before leaving the hotel. I have a particular weakness for trains and trams and had to find out about this one. The tram, which dates from 1929, runs from Victoria Square to the beach community of Glenelg. It's a thirty minute trip on the original rolling stock. And at the end is a wonderful collection of shops, restaurants, bars, gelato shops, all manner of good stuff to do on a hot day after enjoying the sand and the surf. But only after application of many coats of sunblock to deal with that unfortunate little hole in the ozone layer. But I digress.

I learned on my winery tour the next day that the tram cars are scheduled to be replaced with nice new ones with modern suspension. Yeah, the ride won't be a boneshaker any more. But to give up those vintage cars? What a travesty!

The Barossa Valley

One of the pleasures of living in the Bay Area is the occasional jaunt up to Napa, Sonoma or Mendocino for wine tasting. I'm no wine snob; wine slob is a more apt description. I enjoy wine, but don't take it so seriously. Still, how could I be so close to Australia's premier wine region and not pay a visit? The Barossa Valley's a picturesque hour and change drive northeast of Adelaide. Or at least it would be, if the coach's gears hadn't decided to misbehave. But no matter; forty-five minutes and a change of vehicles later we were back on track and visiting some of the best wineries in the world. Not counting Napa, Sonoma or Mendocino, of course.

Winemaking has been going on almost from the beginning of settlement in South Australia. Langmeil Winery goes back to the 1840s. The winery is housed in their original buildings, although they've had to do some adding on over a century and a half. And they still make wine from some of their original shiraz vines.

Wolf Blass is a relative newcomer to the valley, dating back to 1966. Their tasting room is all light wood and glass, airy and modern. Personally, I preferred Langmeil's wines, as well as their decor. But as the auto makers always say, your mileage may vary.

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 Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California