Adelaide – The City of Churches

Named after the wife of King William IV, Adelaide sits on the bottom coast of Australia.  In the state of South Australia, some 2 hours flight from Sydney, it has the unusual quirk of being half an hour behind Sydney.  Where else in the world do we get increments of 30 minutes between time zones?  Just for clarity, this is rhetoric. I’m sure it happens elsewhere in the globe, I just didn’t have the time to Google it.  My free 30 minutes wifi allowance was quickly running out.

If you are wondering, as I was, how the city gained the nickname “ city of churches”, it may be linked to that fact that there are over 700 of them, in a small, very compact city. Only outnumbered by pubs, it feels as though there are multiple churches on every street.  Well, thinking about it, there probably are.

Europeans first settled in Adelaide in 1836 as a place for ships that were sailing around the coast of Australia to stop and replenish their stocks of food and grog. Over 200 years later it is still an excellent place to do the very same.  Interestingly, Adelaide was different to Sydney, and Melbourne, in that no convicts were shipped here. It was a place for free immigrants to settle, and work.

Beautiful cottages of Adelaide
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, and the 5th most populous city in Australia. With a population of only some 1.3million. The city straddles the River Torrens, with the very impressive (now that it has had a multi million dollar facelift) Adelaide Oval on the north side, and the CBD on the other. And all across the city remain pristine examples of the architecture dating back to the first settlements. The cottages you see everywhere are very distinctive, and very Adelaide.

On the banks of the River Torrens

Our Jetstar flight from Sydney landed on time at 11.40am, after accounting for that spurious 30 minutes, and being only about 6kms from the city centre, we were in our cosy, no frills Air BnB a short time later.

Nothing much is far from anything in Adelaide, and although our accommodation was on the outskirts of the CBD (city centre for readers from the UK) we were still only a flat 20 minute walk away.  The city is bounded by North Terrace and South Terrace, the latter of which is where we are staying for the 3 nights we were there.

The first thing that you notice when in Adelaide, when you come from Sydney at least, is the lack of traffic.  Then you notice how wide and expansive the roads are. Set out by Colonel Light, one of Adelaide’s founding fathers, in a perfect grid pattern, there are five squares in the city centre, and a ring of parks surrounding it. This gives Adelaide a very green, leafy feel. Not something you immediately associate with cities.

Looking down the roads, east to west, you feel you can see all the way to the horizon. In the distance loom the Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale.  And despite the lack of traffic, people appear to not be in a rush, actually waiting for the green man. How very novel. It took some getting used to. Slowing down to this place of life. But when you do, you feel a sense of calm, and a wish that only every day could be like this.

Talking to people from Sydney you would think that Adelaide was some long forgotten backwater.  
That could not be further from the truth.  You may be aware I have an obsession with quality coffee. Maybe I have mentioned it in previous blogs. Or perhaps you have seen my Instagram posts. Adelaide maintains the very high standards you can rely on in Australia, and that I have become accustomed to in Sydney.

Keeping the coffee warm at Fawn cafe

The same goes for breakfast and brunch.  And it is not all smashed avo and vegemite. Two highly recommended options are “Coffylosophy” on Hutt Street, and “Fawn” on nearby Gilles Street.  Great food continues into the evening.  I would give a nod to “The Greek” on Halifax Street, where else for a boy from Halifax?, and the many options around Leigh Street and Peel Street.  I would highly recommend pre dinner drinks at “Clever Little Tailor”.   Or an afternoon sharpener at “Proof”. Both great bars.

In the Barossa

I have got all this way without mentioning one of the main draws of a visit to Adelaide.  The world class wineries.  We took a full day trip to one of them, the Barossa Valley, with Taste the Barossa. The full day trip starts from your pick up in the city and ends approx 5pm back in the same place. The drive takes you up through hills, and into the valley, where you visit some great wineries, and have a fabulous antipasto board lunch. All in, a wonderful day.

And what is a place in Australia without a beach?  Well, Adelaide has you covered on this front too, with a long, wide beach at Glenelg, which you can easily reach in less than 30 minutes, on one of the many trams trundling between the city and the beach.

Although it wasn’t beach weather the day we were there, we still had a wind blown walk along the front, before decamping to the very imposing “Grand” pub fish and chips.  Some traditions just refuse to die.

Adelaide is a small city with a big personality. It has everything you need for either a visit, or for those looking to settle somewhere a little more personable than one of the bigger cities in Australia.

I’m looking forward to returning already.

The Elephant in the room…

The topic that all expats avoid.  The one taboo.  I’m about to break it and point to the rather large elephant sat in the corner.  This is a post I wasn’t going to write, then decided it would be cathartic to.  And so it has proven.  I’m feeling much perkier and have my spring back in my step.  I believe writing this and acknowledging it has helped.
Mum, if you are reading, you may want to look away now.  I know how upset you get reading about anything where I suggest I am anything but happy.  But I am happy, yet have fluctuating emotions.
Homesickness.  Why am I still having such bouts of homesickness after being here almost 7 months?  How can I be?  Surely I am living the dream.  In the promised land.  Sun, sea and endless throwing of shrimps onto never ending BBQs.  Great hats with corks to keep all the flies at bay.  Where men wear thongs with pride.  No snow.  No need to put my favourite North Face coat and boots on for a weekend walk.  Am I insane?  
And because I thought I was odd, having such thoughts curiosity drove me to the web site, www.pomsinoz.comto read of others experiences.
And what did I find?  It was like reading my mind.  My jumble of thoughts and emotions all laid out.  But written by other people.  Lots of other people, all feeling the same.  In fact, many feeling a lot worse than me.  I can’t recount how many posts I read where people were going home within the first 12 months.  Not that I am in a state of mind that I want to return home.  Just yet.  But reading about the experience of others just reaffirmed that I wasn’t in fact going mad. 
I am just going through what lots of expats before me have, and continue to go through.  Especially expats from the UK.  Reading a lot of posts from people who returned to the UK, saying how they finally felt at home.  How you realise what an amazing country we have, given the experience of living elsewhere for a period.
For a lot of people, home will always be home, no matter where you live in the world.  And home is a lot of different things to different people.  For some, it’s family life.  Others it’s the history and culture of the UK.  Some even claim to miss the weather (yes, I’m in that camp).  One of my happiest days last week was spent playing football in the pouring rain.  But for me, it is based on a lot of intangible feelings that lurk around in the pit of your stomach and start infiltrating your brain.  Things that wouldn’t make a lot of sense to people if you said them out loud.  Which I’ve tried.
Football.  There, my number 1 of “things I miss”.  And not just going to football, which I always knew would be like a large hole that I would never fill, but living in a culture where football is so ingrained.  Like a religion.  Countries in Europe, and through Central and South America are like this.  People live and breathe football.  With a passion.  Stadiums are their temples, places of worship.  Football here is little more than a 3rd rate sport, with genuine attempts to raise its profile such as the signing by Sydney FC of Allesandro del Piero.  But even del Piero can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.  
I did go and watch a game, and vowed never to return due to the laughable standard of football and the terribly plastic atmosphere.  We have yet to see whether the great man himself will renew his contract for a second year or whether the lure of home, and Italia, will draw him back.
Surely, you can watch the football from England people ask.  Not if I want to hold down a job.  As a result of the 11 hour time difference, most of the games are on at between 2am and 4am.  I’ve watched a couple of “early” kick offs, specifically the victories against Liverpool and City, but to function at work, I do need slightly longer sleep time.  I’m not getting any younger you know.
The homogeneity.  One that will surely raise the rankles of any Australian readers, but Australia all looks the same.  Within reason of course.  I could write a whole post about how different the Great Barrier Reef is to the Red Centre of Uluru.  Spill hundreds of words about the contrast between the Blue Mountains (when you can see them through the mist) and the glorious coastline around Sydney.
But, in general, transport me to a high street in Cairns, or a street in Perth, or drive through a suburb anywhere, and it all looks the same.  Which gets kinda dreary.  The beaches are glorious.  But aren’t 90% of all beaches, anywhere in the world?  Have you travelled around the beaches of Cornwall through a glorious English summer?  A beach is a beach, is a beach, is a beach.   
Not that I want to sound ungrateful, although I probably do, but when you have crappy beaches like we do in the UK (aforementioned Cornwall aside), going to a good beach, usually on holiday is a highlight that usually gives you months of subsequent smiles, just thinking about sitting there, listening to the waves, sipping your cocktails, listening to the strains of “bolinhas”, from the local Portuguese doughnut seller.
When you can go to the beach everyday, it loses a lot of its allure, its sparkle, it ability to invigorate.  How many of you would like to celebrate Christmas every week?  Aside from the fact that I would be about 383 years old.  Think it would feel as magical not having waited the whole year for it and endured the endless Christmas carols played in Next since September?
I started this post ruminating on homesickness.  I have slightly digressed but hopefully given you an insight into my feelings in the meantime.  I am not jumping on Expedia to book a flight.  I am not packing up the apartment.  I am not checking out the Lloyds Banking Group job site.  But I am sharing this with you so I can try to better understand how I feel.  And to let myself know that there is no right and wrong decisions per se, just decisions that are right for me at the time I make them.
I often read about the mythical “2 year rule”, in that you should give yourself 2 years before deciding what to do as an expat.  I don’t buy this.  
Firstly, who came up with such an arbitrary number?  What is this based on?  Maybe on the old immigration rules that you had to be here 2 years before applying for citizenship.  That’s now 4 years, so blows that out of the water.  
And secondly, for people who really do decide to go home, why should they sit out their time here being unhappy, counting down the days, ticking them off the calendar until all 730 have passed?  If their gut tells them it is time to go home, then home they should go.
Me, I still have 537 days to go.
Until the next time folks in the life of an expat.