Adelaide

(Posted 7-Nov-2007; backdated to the day it happened. Sorry, some of the best pics are on the video, which I haven’t had time to sort out yet.)

With last year’s trip to Sydney very much the model for this year’s little jaunt, we set out on Saturday morning. Train (on-time this time) then the Skybus to the airport. This time Virgin Blue got the gong for the best deal on flights, so we checked-in then dropped off the bag.

The video on the Skybus had mentioned a ban on liquid containers on planes, with the implication that our big opaque water bottles (all three promotional give-aways from banks) would be seized by airport security and disposed of in a controlled explosion (or something like that). So I’d emptied them out and put them in the checked luggage. Of course, this left us paying $3 for a bottle of water inside the terminal… ah well. We also bought gum, traditional attempted remedy to the ear problems when ascending and descending (though I’m not convinced it helps that much).

SkybusAdelaide airport

After Marita spotted Max Walker in Mildura airport last week, I was on the lookout for celebrities. I didn’t spot any, though I did see an ex-girlfriend and (I think) her sister boarding a flight to Sydney. We had a quick couple of goes at the Simpsons pinball machine (annoyingly quick, in fact) before boarding.

The flight was fine; on-time, no annoying neighbour passengers, and the lady making the announcements was cracking jokes that weren’t excessively lame. We munched through a Toblerone and the kids were kept interested by the back-of-the-seat display showing the plane’s location, altitude and speed. (Could’ve bought a bunch of Foxtel channels for $5 per seat, but it didn’t seem worth it for such a short flight.)

We landed and got to walk across the tarmac like rock stars. I adjusted the time on my phone, then we picked up our baggage. While we waited, someone else’s suitcase fell off the carousel taking a sharp corner. Nobody else seemed to notice it, so we put it back on, so whoever owned it (obviously waiting out-of-sight of it) wouldn’t be standing there all day waiting.

Then we tried to find the Jetbus stop to get into Adelaide. It was appallingly badly signed, with just one sign that I saw, on the upper level. There appeared to be no signs for it on the lower level where the baggage claim was, eg where you actually needed the sign to be. The singular sign pointed us out to the upper level, out of the terminal and to the left, where a bus was waiting.

We bought a DayTripper ticket from the driver (kids are free with a paying adult on weekends) and found a seat, only to be told by the driver that I had to validate it. Oops.

The bus zoomed along through Adelaide’s inner-west towards the CBD. It wasn’t an express bus like the Skybus, but the distance didn’t seem that great, so it didn’t take long. A few people got on along the way, with one intoxicated lady standing with a bottle of the demon drink, looking suspicious at the validator before moving to the end of the bus, obviously without a ticket. The bus driver called after her. A girl with the woman had a word to the driver, and he said “Okay, but it’s on your shoulders if an inspector gets on” — obviously a half-hearted approach to fare enforcement, and I wondered how many people get away with that.

We got off in Currie Street and walked the short distance to the hotel, the Comfort Hotel Adelaide Riviera. There seems to be a lot of turbulence in the hotel industry, with various chains taking over hotels left, right and centre, and the old names showing up tacked onto the chain name. Thus CHAR. (Their old web site still reckons they’re affiliated with Best Western.)

What I found looking through the literature was that the umbrella Choice Hotels chain have three brands: Comfort, Quality and Clarion. Clarion is top of the heap. Quality is slightly lesser. Comfort is for people like me who want reasonably nice rooms but don’t want to pay a bunch of money. (Not that I was deliberately aiming for them; I just trawled Wotif looking for something that sounded okay, in a convenient location in the CBD, and at a reasonable price.)

Checking-in, they told us the room wasn’t ready yet (it was just after 1pm), so we dropped the bigger of our bags and went for a stroll up North Terrace to find some lunch.

Someone had told me Adelaide is like a big country town. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. There are many bigger and more impressive buildings than in any country town I’ve been to.

Adelaide skyline

But what we found that afternoon, and in the following days, was that in what appeared to be the main part of the CBD (around Rundle Mall/Hindley Street, North Terrace, and King William Street) there aren’t that many places to eat outside business hours. Even less if you don’t count the restaurants attached to hotels. And there didn’t seem to be many people about. Many of those that were seemed to be just standing about waiting for something to happen.

Maybe just around corners that we didn’t explore there were thriving restaurant districts. But if there were, we never found them. For lunch we eventually found a Chinese/Japanese hybrid place in an arcade, and the kids scoffed sushi while I ate fried noodles.

In Rundle Mall we found a Woolworths (Safeway in disguise) and bought some groceries so we’d have some snacks available that didn’t involve chocolate or chips, and wouldn’t cost us mini-bar prices. We also found a BankSA ATM (St George Bank in disguise) and got some cash. There weren’t many shoppers around, but we did see a rather amusing sculpture of three pigs (one looking through a “bin”).

And (always amusing to geeks like myself, and junior geeks like the kids) we found an Information Kiosk whose big display screen had stopped with a Windows alert about switching to Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time alert

We went back to the hotel and up to the room, which was very nice, and a much better size for the three of us than last year’s room. The hotel called it a Spa room, but the presence of the spa was inconsequential — I’d booked it because it had the right number of beds. In fact it had kinda-semi-separate areas for the beds. The kids were very pleased with the extra space (OK, OK, I admit it, I screwed-up last year’s tiny room booking). I noted the windows were in dire need of cleaning (from the outside) but other than that, I couldn’t fault the room.

There was a nice view of North Terrace, and the train lines beyond. Diesel railcar trains seemed to be rolling along sedately in and out of the station.

After a short rest we headed out again. We went back up to Currie Street and got on a bus headed northeast, along the O-Bahn. The O-Bahn is a guided busway. After leaving the CBD, the bus leaves the road and enters the O-Bahn, with little wheels on each side of the bus guiding it along at high speed, with the driver not needing to steer. The Jetsons it ain’t, but it is an interesting piece of technology, combining bus and rail, and pretty much unique in the world. Apparently it sprung out of the rejection of a monstrous 1968 plan to bulldoze whole suburbs to build freeways (much like the similar Melbourne plan). I’d heard it was a bit of an orphan technology, with problems updating the bus fleet, but they do seem to have been able to set up new buses with the guidewheels to use it.

The bus took us up to the Tea Tree Plaza Interchange. We had a look in the adjacent Westfield shopping centre… which was just like every other Westfield shopping centre in the universe. So we caught a bus back, with a stop-off at the rather nicely named Paradise Interchange. Why wouldn’t you want to go to somewhere called Paradise? (Hopefully it’s a bit nicer beyond the confines of the Interchange itself.)

We got back to the CBD at about 6pm to find even less places were open for eating than before. Eventually we settled for Nandos for dinner, before strolling back to the hotel, to rest and watch Star Wars: Episode 1 on the telly.

Settling down for bedtime, I did notice the other thing missing from the hotel room (apart from any cable TV): double glazing. The traffic noise wasn’t deafening, but it was noticeable. Nonetheless we all dropped off to sleep, and apart from me waking a couple of times during the night, managed a good night’s sleep.

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12 thoughts on “Adelaide

  1. >> But what we found that afternoon, and in the following days, was that in what appeared to be the main part of the CBD (around Rundle Mall/Hindley Street, North Terrace, and King William Street) there aren’t that many places to eat outside business hours.

    Oops – if you continued down Rundle Mall (East end rather than Hindley end) you would have stumbled down Rundle STREET, which is lined to the teeth with places to eat to all hours of the night.

    Did you visit Central Market, Mt Lofty, Glenelg, tramway museum, Pt Adelaide, etc?

  2. Thanks Chris, I knew there had to be a restaurant district somewhere! Should have researched a bit more!

    Got to some of those… stay tuned.

  3. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one finding it difficult to find somewhere to eat in Adelaide!

    In October 2001 I spent my most miserable evening in Australia (well, to be fair, the *only* miserable evening I’ve ever had in Australia) similarly looking for somewhere to eat there. I ended up eating in my hotel, which is always the ultimate admission of defeat, isn’t it? Glad to find it was just my inability to look rather than a lack of establishments!

    Other memories of SA:

    Being stung by something nasty at the St Kilda Tramway Museum.

    It raining torrentially at Tea Tree Plaza when I went to look at the O-Bahn. (There are two of those in the UK by the way Daniel, in Leeds and Ipswich and we used to have a short one here in Birmingham).

    On a more positive note, having a lovely ride on the tram to Gelnelg and thinking it a splendid place. I so wished I’d had some beach wear as the sands looked so inviting!

    Also taking a steam train from Mount Barker to Victor Harbor and seeing a whale en route!

    St Kilda was probably the best tramway Museum in Australia, too. I’m not being influenced by the fact that they let me drive one…….

    Looking forward to some more reminders of my first trip Down Under.

  4. Is the ban on the containers or the contents? I would argue that an empty bottle is of no consequence and hence could have been taken through and filled up with water on the other side.

  5. Daniel
    You tell a good yarn. Glad you had a great time. I look forward to the rest of your tales.
    With regard water bottles, you can take EMPTY water bottles into the international area of airports and onto overseas flights. You simply fill them when you get to the other side.
    Rog.

  6. Cambridgeshire in England are building a guided bus route: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/transport/guided/
    to go between Huntingdon and Cambridge to alleviate the very busy A14 road.

    Personally, I would have preferred a train for speed (and probably less pollution?). But their big selling point was that a bus can do a local route and then get straight onto the guided rail and do another local route at the other end.

    However I figure that will only help people on the one local route. All other local route passengers will have to get off and wait for the guided bus, just like they would for a train. So why not use a train for speed?

    Anyway, they chose the guided bus.

  7. I went on a road trip to Adelaide last year with a band. Was great as the Fringe festival was on at the same time. Had breakfast at a cafe on Rundle St. Tried to buy fish and chips at 6pm on a Saturday and it was closed!

  8. My experience with Adelaide is well over 10 years old now, but it was very odd, pretty much from the moment we arrived…there’s a long and boring (and possibly at times inappropriate) story involved…and certainly at least some of that involved wandering around looking for food – suffice to say it’s not a place I’d necessarily be rushing back to…Having said that the surrounding areas looked nice from the car!

  9. The few times I’ve been I’ve had no problems getting good food cheap. There’s some good places along Goudger St and a bit south of there in the south-western part of the CBD (not far from the coach terminal).

  10. I remember a little pizza shop in a Laneway just off North Terrace that was pretty good and very cheap. It was more or less directly opposite the railway station. From memory it was about 7 pm and the only food I could find that was open at the time.

    Come to think of it, I think I resorted to fast food for every meal in Adelaide when I was there in 2002.

  11. Damn air security. In the States, at least, we can bring empty bottles through security and then fill them at a water fountain in the airport. You feel real smug taking a swig on the plane for which you didn’t have to pay $5/litre.

  12. I go along with those folk who pointed you towards the East End.

    The Mall is bounded on the west by King William Street and on the east by Pulteney Street. You’re right – there aren’t many eateries open in and around the Mall itself “after hours”, although there *is* a restaurant (*not* a cafe) at the King William Street end which is open ’til 10 p.m. every night of the week (according to its signage).

    The Gouger Street “eatery precinct” is a bit of a hike south and west from the Mall but it *does* have a selection of restaurants and cafes open most nights (usually excepting Mondays).

    The Rundle Street cafe and restaurant “precinct” is 800 metres east of King William Street (or 300 m east of the Mall) and again, most are open reasonably late most nights (Monday seems to be the exception here too, for those that don’t stay open every day/night).

    There are also some “off-beat” choices – like a pancake restaurant that also does take-away and delivery (I think) and is open, to quote their ads, 24/7. But it’s tucked away in a tiny lane off Hindley Street, less than 150 metres from the King William Street end of Rundle Mall. There’s more info here (http://www.yourrestaurants.com.au/guide/gilbert_place_pancake_house/).

    But the whole trouble is – there doesn’t seem to be a really up to date, single, comprehensive, *printed* guide to Adelaide’s eateries, with maps, for the tourist to use. There’s loads of stuff on the web and available on snazzy mobiles, but not in print. Seems a shame to me.

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