(Posted 10-Nov-2007; backdated to the day it happened)
We munched on the Continental Breakfast (not as exorbitant as the Full Breakfast, but still $13.90 a head… blargh) then strolled down to the very grand Adelaide Station. After buying tickets and going through the turnstiles (which really are turnstiles, not the fare gates seen in most cities) we boarded the 9:37 train to Outer Harbor. (Why Harbor’s got no U in it, I don’t know.)
Adelaide’s trains are all operated by diesel railcars. This one looked uncannily like an unrefurbished Melbourne Comeng train inside, and it was no surprise to learn later that they were in fact built by Comeng. The seats and walls were very clean compared to Melbourne’s trains, though some of the windows were a little difficult to see out of.
The train service has come under some flak recently, with a complete system-wide signal failure the week before we got there, and ongoing criticism of overcrowding on some lines. The Adelaide Sunday Mail launched a “Fix it, Pat” campaign to get some improvements.
The train rolled out of Adelaide Station, then sped-up along an express section for a while (including through a station that could have been misnamed after me, Bowden), before stopping at a few more stations to where we got off at Port Adelaide.
Ah, Port Adelaide. The suburb of the team that memorably lost in the Grand Final to my team, by a record margin. Wisely, I had decided not to bring along my Cats scarf and hat to crow about it.
The suburb itself is full of lovely old buildings, many of them sandstone, dating back from when the area was a thriving (and wealthy, I guess) freight hub. There must still be some of that around, as there seemed to be a lot of trucks zooming along the main roads.
A short distance from the station we found the National Railway Museum, a collection of old trains from both the South Australian railways and the Commonwealth Railways aka Australian National. A display of the Tea And Sugar (supply train that used to be the only link to the outside world for many railway towns in the desert between Adelaide and Perth) was quite interesting.
But the kids mostly loved the miniature and model trains, and the level crossing bells and lights that could be operated by pressing a button. They filmed this for their young toddler cousin Leo, who is currently obsessed with level crossings (“dingers”, he calls them).
After the rail museum we toddled town the street to the Maritime museum. Sadly in comparison this was a little disappointing. Perhaps because of its location in a building rather than on the water, it only had one boat to look at, which was not in the water, and although the displays were quite interesting (I got to see a replica boat cabin along the lines of what I expect my mum sailed aboard from England to Australia in early 1970), the kids would have liked to have seen more actual boats.
The display of fairground clowns did catch their interest, though I fail to see the relevance, myself. I found the dolphin head in a tank a tad disturbing.
But Part II of the maritime museum was more interesting: the ticket included a climb up the nearby lighthouse. It was a steep climb, cramped in places, but a terrific view from the top, of both the nearby streets and the water.
Once down again, we tried to sing some of The Goodies “Jollyrock Lighthouse” song on-camera, but couldn’t remember many of the words.
We ate lunch at a nearby pub, the fish’n'chips’n'salad going down a treat.
The nearby Aviation museum was kinda on the plan, but the kids didn’t seem that keen, so we gave it a miss. Instead we headed back to the train (noting only afterwards there’s also a military museum in the vicinity) and headed back into central Adelaide. There we changed onto the (newly extended) tram to Glenelg.
Boarding at the second stop, we got seats, but there were a lot of people on the tram, with some standees all the way to Glenelg. The trip was very slow in the CBD section, and it became apparent that Adelaide’s traffic engineers had given it zero priority over other traffic. Okay, so Melbourne’s trams don’t do so well in this department either, but at least in many locations T (tram) light phases are inserted into the sequence when a tram is present. Not so in Adelaide.
In contrast, beyond the CBD, the tram gets onto its own reserved track, it speeds up and has railway-style boom gates to keep the cars out of the way.
The tram had a conductor, but he seemed to fulfil the role of a human ticket machine. Not actually checking tickets, only selling them, he walked up and down the tram asking “Anybody need any tickets?” Presumably inspectors do check them from time to time, but I didn’t see any on our travels.
Before too long we reached Glenelg, a kind of Adelaide equivalent St Kilda Beach: lots of shops, cafes and tourists.
We peeked in the window at the Rodney Fox Shark Experience, but I was a tad disappointed to see it didn’t include an aquarium. I’m not sure where I got the idea that it did, but instead we decided to get some ice creams and enjoy the beach for a while. Jeremy did a big smiley face in the sand, Isaac did similar, and I just sat in the sunshine watching the planes take off from the nearby airport, blissfully unaware that my bum was becoming just a teensy bit damp.
Out on the jetty it was a little windy, but very nice, a few people walking up and down. While we were at the end, three people walked up and did that thing where they take it in turns to take each others’ pictures, apparently unwilling to ask a fellow tourist like me to take a picture of all three of them for them. Oh sure, people will ask me for directions, but trust me with their camera? No way. (Actually, nobody asked me for directions while in Adelaide. Obviously I didn’t look like I knew where I was going.)
A sticker on a Fish Measuring Station sign encouraged those with rods to go and read Chomsky instead. Or perhaps while you wait for a bite. I wonder how many follow this advice.
Eventually we headed back for the tram, but not before looking at a few of the shops. I wanted to get some stamps and postcards, and also a copy of The Age to check out an article I’d been rung up about the previous day. Unlike trying to buy the Adelaide Advertiser in Melbourne, you can get The Age at virtually any Adelaide newsagent.
And we continued snapping our pictures of Adelaide food purveyors with rhyming names: around the place we’d found Wok in a Box, Snag in a Bag, and Fasta Pasta. Though we didn’t find one Isaac later made up, Curry in a Hurry.
Back on the tram to the hotel, a short rest then out for dinner. This time: Mexican at a place in Hindley Street. Unfortunately it wasn’t called Mucho Nachos or Neato Meato Burrito, but had the still-amusing name of Burp, and was very tasty.
And back in the hotel room in time for Mythbusters.