(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).
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.
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.
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.