G’day lads and lasses! Long time no speak!
It’s been almost two months since I’ve written a new post, and boy have I missed it! But it’s been a great opportunity to take a break from the norm and have some real adventures, the biggest and most rewarding of which was undoubtedly my recent visit to Australia.
Way back in January of this year, I wrote a post called 10 Goals for 2014, and one of the most ambitious on that list was to save up enough money to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends in Adelaide, South Australia. It was a hard slog, but with a bit of determination and willpower I managed it and had my ticket booked by the start of July.
Mia and I have known each other since we were about thirteen, but have only ever met twice! I flew there once when I was eighteen, and she came over to the UK for the first time a few years afterwards, so there was no denying we’d have a lot to catch up on.
So on September 17th I jumped on a plane and bid adieu to the UK for a whole three weeks!
I landed in Adelaide just after 7:00am on Friday 19th September, and was greeted at the airport arrivals gate by Mia and her dad. It always surprises me how easily it is to pick up with a good friend exactly where you left off, and sure enough, it only took a few short minutes to find our groove! It was as if the last six years had only been six minutes.
When we arrived back at Mia’s family’s house in Glengowrie, I was welcomed so warmly (and fed so many pancakes) by Mia’s mum that the fact that I’d just tumbled off a 20+ hour flight was all but gone from my mind. I felt as if I’d come home.
After setting a couple of days aside to get my body clock back in rhythm and ensuring there was plenty of time for much-needed catch-ups, all five of us bundled into the car on Sunday morning and drove down to a lovely place called Victor Harbor.
I remembered visiting the last time I’d been in Adelaide, and was glad we were able to make the trip again. As with most towns and cities in Australia, this one is by the sea, and we were all grateful for the breeze coming in off the water, helping in part to negate the 32°C of belting sunshine that was bearing down on our backs!
Victor is connected by a long causeway to nearby Granite Island, a nature reserve of sorts you can reach by means of a house-drawn tram or on foot. We opted for walking, which meant we could stop and enjoy the views as we crossed the bridge.
As beautiful as these views were though, the real reason for our visit was to see if we could spot the penguins! I always have it in my head that penguins prefer colder climes, but the South Australian coast is home to quite possibly the cutest member of the penguin family, the fairy penguin. So called because they reach only thirty centimetres in height, these adorable little fellas live in burrows excavated from the rock face.
After a wander around the front-facing half of the island, Mia, her sister Nini and I spotted a little penguin sanctuary, where any birds that have been injured are taken to live in sheltered accommodation away from further threat.
The woman that runs the sanctuary is actually a British lady, and instantly I found myself looking forward into the future, wondering if I’d be doing a similar job when I was at that stage in my life! Talk about job satisfaction! You could tell this lady was totally in love with what she did… and all the little lads and lasses under her care. With good reason too!
The next morning dawned bright and blue, the sky totally free of clouds and the temperature another warm one, so Mia and I caught the tram into the city for a spot of shopping and exploration. The rainbow balconies on this block of flats caught my eye straight away!
Adelaide’s main shopping street is Rundle Mall, a pedestrianised area with numerous arcades and indoor shopping complexes that branch off a long, centralised main street.
There’s something about Adelaide that is refreshingly logical. Its grid-like road system must be akin to somewhere like New York (though I’ve never been), and as a result you never really feel like you could get lost. London’s winding roads are easy to navigate when you know what you’re doing, but I doubt they’re all that friendly if you’ve just moved to the city.
Tourism central! Can you spot the oh-so-predictable pair taking a selfie on the left?
The Mall’s Balls and the bronze pig sculptures are two of Rundle Mall’s most famous sights, and of course, I had to get a snap of them both. There are actually four piggies, but Mia chose to strike a pose with Oliver, who is cheekily raiding the bin for scraps.
After lunch, Mia insisted I take a peek in one of her favourite shops: T2. There wasn’t much need for encouragement on her behalf; I was hooked in an instant! This tea-lovers paradise is crammed from floor to ceiling with every type of tea you can imagine, and some you definitely can’t! Fruit teas, black teas, tisanes, herbal teas, even my all-time favourite: Rooibos! Though it’s now jostling for first place alongside my newly purchased Vanilla Mint…!
One of the things I loved best about T2 is how beautifully everything is designed and arranged. It’s like the Lush of the tea world. I couldn’t resist picking up a few brightly coloured caddies for my purchases, as well as a couple of new infusers adorned with birds (obviously).
When Mia and I returned home that evening, a quick google told me that we actually have several T2 shops here in the UK too, which is definitely going to mean impending doom for my bank account! That said though, I’m glad to be able to say I first visited this marvellous shop in its country of origin. It’s a very groovy place.
Considering my proximity to Kew Gardens, it’s quite remarkable that I haven’t made it there for a visit since moving onto the boat nearby a year ago. I’ll have high hopes for it now though, since taking a wonderful stroll through the lusciously green Botanic Gardens of Adelaide.
Situated a short walk from Rundle Mall and the shopping precinct, this little slice of nature lovers’ paradise is the perfect place to escape to during a lunch break in the city. It’s free to walk around and there’s plenty to see. Mia and I appreciated the leafy canopies, explored the greenhouses and picked a spot to sit in the sun near the newly developed wetlands area, where we listened to the banjo frogs playing their funny little tune.
These big and beautiful lily pads were one of my favourite finds.
I was blessed to have such perfect weather during my holiday. Last time I visited I chose to fly over in July and the weather was pretty diabolical, surprising even the locals! I made a sensible choice this time and waited for Australian springtime, so it was the ideal balance of not too cold and not too hot, perfect for a Brit who prefers things a little on the chillier ticket.
It was moody, misty and atmospheric inside the tropical greenhouse. The sprinklers were on so we couldn’t venture far inside, but it felt just as if we’d stumbled into a rainforest. Mia mentioned to me that there are parts of Australia, namely places like Queensland, that actually have a climate similar to this. It’s hard to imagine a single country could be so diverse, but I suppose as it’s such a vast place, it’s not that surprising really.
Okay, I lied. We didn’t strictly have breakfast on the beach, but we were pretty close, and I couldn’t resist the alliteration! Mia is lucky enough to live just a hop, skip and a jump away from the seaside, so at her mum’s suggestion we decided to head down one morning for a bite to eat and a stroll on the sand.
In hindsight, I think this was one of my favourite days of the trip. I remember feeling so relaxed and happy, totally living in the moment and enjoying myself.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a touch blowy at the end of the jetty though!
The Edge Deli was the perfect choice for breakfast. In fact, just thinking about it now whilst I’m writing is making me so hungry, I might have to take a break and find something to eat…! My vegetarian breakfast was out of this world delicious, complete with crispy-on-the-outside, soft-in-the-middle hash browns, fried mushrooms, avocado, spinach and sourdough bread. Be still my heart! I finished it and wanted to start all over again!
What I like best about the seaside in Adelaide is the lack of tacky beach paraphernalia. Whilst visiting beaches (particularly in the south of the UK) is always a good laugh, sometimes I get tired of looking at the same tired arcades, faded lettering and candyfloss stands.
Brighton beach near Glenelg is beautifully minimalistic and fresh. Everything is clean and tidy, and as silly as it sounds, the emphasis is purely on that amazingly crystal clear water and perfect golden sand. I liked that. Very, very classy and yet, still totally exciting and inclusive.
I loved this wanted poster! Adelaide’s gulls are clearly lacking in manners too…!
During our walk on the beach, Mia and I made friends with this adorable puppy, who didn’t quite understand the idea that the waves would keep coming back… again and again. He had a good spirit though, and bounded around making friends with everyone and letting us pat and make a fuss of him. What a cutie!
As you can imagine, I took literally thousands of photographs during my stay in Australia, and picking a tiny handful to represent each place that I visited has been hard. I’ve tried my best to choose ones that really capture the feel of each individual place, be it through colour, composition or just the feeling I have when I look back through them.
To me, this picture perfectly demonstrates what it’s like to be up in the vineyard regions near Adelaide: sweeping hills, big skies and that unmistakable olive-coloured hue regimented by rows and rows of low-growing grape vines.
This paradisiacal little spot belongs to Hugo Wineries, and it’s tucked right away up in the vale. It was the first stop on our cellar door tour, and I picked up a bottle of red here for my dad, which was much appreciated when I gave it to him upon my return!
At Woodstock, we stopped for a cup of tea outside on the patio and ogled the fella preparing bases for the evening’s stone baked pizza party. Yum.
Sitting amongst the eucalyptus trees, I had a feel sense of how fresh the air was, so much so that taking in a huge breath was almost too much, and gave me a heady rush! It struck me that, whilst I’m busy bombing about the big city of London, I must always be subconsciously struggling for unpolluted air. I certainly made the most of it during my time in McLaren Vale!
The more astute amongst you may remember from posts gone by that I am actually teetotal, so you might be wondering why on earth I’d be interested in doing a tour of Adelaide’s wine growing region? The truth is, the wine seems almost an afterthought in many of these places, because the scenery surrounding the restaurants and cellars is so picturesque. When Mia and her folks were busy sampling what was on offer, I was more than happy to check out the trees, plants, flowers and birds that also call the vale home.
There’s more than enough to do, even if you’re not bothered by the wine or you’re the designated driver. I can see why lots of locals visit regularly at the weekends or on public holidays: this part of the state is beyond beautiful.
One of my favourite stops on our tour was Coriole, which definitely won the award for best in show. I must have snapped about twenty different versions of this photograph! This little corner of the vineyard will look absolutely stunning at the height of summer, when the nasturtiums climb all the way around that little green door.
Week one of my trip was rounded off in style with a party… it was Mia’s 27th birthday!
I remembered from my previous visit that when Mia’s folks hold a get-together, they really go to town! Being originally from Serbia, the European idea of the big family gathering is exactly what you’d expect, and Mia’s mum kept bringing out plate after plate of food, leaving all of us needing a good lie down afterwards! It was delicious though – a full barbecue for the meatysauruses and huge doorstep wedges of cheese pie for the veggies.
Chatting to Mia’s cousins and grandparents was lovely too, and all of us drank and ate and laughed together sitting around a long table outside in the garden. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate the end of my first week in the festival state!
Next week: Mia and Kylie fly to Melbourne, buy a lot of comic books and eat far too much delicious food! Check in on Friday for the next instalment of my Australian adventures!