Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

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Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#1 Post by Ben » Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:46 pm

Telegraph.co.uk Monday 07 January 2013
Mark Chipperfield sings the praises of Adelaide, where he has recently moved – much to the puzzlement of old friends in Sydney.

After 22 years in Sydney I recently migrated to Adelaide, Australia's smallest mainland capital city. Just before I left, I heard this from Tim, the bloke in my local off-licence: "Adelaide? You poor baaastard. You must have done something pretty crook [bad] to deserve that."

For most Sydneysiders, South Australia ranks just below Tasmania in the hierarchy of scorn – a colonial relic populated (they imagine) by country bumpkins, serial killers or, worse, tweedy Anglophile toffs sipping wine. South Australia is the only part of the continent not settled by convicts – a distinction that generates inordinate pride among its 1.6 million inhabitants.

Although I have been visiting South Australia as a travel writer for over a decade, I was finally lured away from Sydney by a job editing a quarterly magazine in the Barossa Valley, the country's largest and most influential wine-growing region. But, in truth, the matter had been settled a few months earlier when I was escorting Simon Bates, the British radio presenter, around the Barossa. "So why do you choose to live in Sydney when you could be based here?" he asked, gazing out at the pristine bushland and its resident mob of kangaroos. I had no logical explanation.

Like me, Simon is a keen countryman and relished meeting the hard-working folk of the Barossa - many of them descendants of German-speaking Silesian settlers who had fled to South Australia in the 1840s. "It strikes me that the people here still have time to have fully rounded lives," he observed. "Everyone seems to have two or three different jobs, but they're all off fishing, boating, breeding horses or doing something else interesting on the weekends."

This English infatuation with South Australia is not, however, shared by many native-born Australians. Trapped between mineral-rich Western Australia and the more populous Eastern States, South Australia has a serious image problem.

Adelaide, surely the most elegant of all Australian cities with its tree-lined boulevards and glorious Victorian parklands, conjures up two powerful (and conflicting) images in the minds of non-South Australians: the revered batsman Sir Don Bradman, who is buried here, and Don Dunstan, a flamboyant state premier who outraged 1960s Australia by wearing pink shorts into parliament. He also supported multiculturalism, gay rights and justice for Aborigines – long before the rest of the country embraced such liberal causes.

Except in relation to wine-tasting in the Barossa, koala-spotting on Kangaroo Island or cricket-watching at the Adelaide Oval, South Australia rarely disturbs the national psyche – although the gruesome murder of 11 people in the bush settlement of Snowtown (the so-called "Bodies in Barrels" case) in the Nineties did create a momentary frisson of excitement around the nation.

Even the annual Adelaide Festival of Arts, a showcase of the finest theatre, music and dance from around the planet, fails to generate much interest among the well-heeled citizens of Sydney or Melbourne. For them, Adelaide joins Tehran, Dhaka and Port Moresby as one of the least desirable cities to visit – even New Zealand is preferable.

For most Australians, Adelaide might as well have swallowed an invisibility pill. "They call Adelaide the Athens of the South," Dame Edna Everage, a devoted Melburnian, once quipped. "Strange that Athens never refers to itself as the Adelaide of the North." When a new transcontinental railway – the Ghan – was completed from Darwin to Adelaide in 2004 a newspaper headline read: "The railway from nowhere to nowhere."

Personally, I'm rather pleased that the rest of Australia looks down on South Australia. It means that the place is not overrun by the ill-mannered oiks who now crowd Sydney's beaches, shopping malls and cinemas. Like all great provincial cities, Adelaide has managed to retain both an excellent quality of life and a keen sense of community. It's the sort of place where strangers still say good morning to each other and neighbours become good friends.

A few days after I moved into my new house – a delightful 1860s stone cottage – one of my neighbours, Lyn, stopped for a chat. "Welcome to Wall Street," she said. "I notice that you're a cyclist – we have a local cycle club that goes out every weekend. Why don't you join us?" In all my years in London and Sydney I'd never received such an invitation.

While Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane are desperate to reinvent themselves as thrusting modern, international cities in the mould of Singapore, Adelaide retains an air of Victorian propriety and – that rare quality – a taste for modesty.

"Adelaide's really just a country town," one local told me. "Things are pretty slow here. We don't have the [economic] peaks and troughs of the other states, but maybe that's not such a bad thing." Not only is Adelaide compact, clean and well ordered, it retains a strong physical connection to the country beyond the city limits. To the north lies rolling sheep-and-wheat farmland and, beyond that, the eye-glazing enormity of the Simpson, Sturt and Strzelecki deserts. On hot summer days you can smell the dry tang of the desert in the heart of the city – and nowhere produces such spectacular blood-red sunsets as South Australia.

Cycling recentlty alongside the Torrens, Adelaide's major river, I found a flock of sheep grazing in a paddock within a mile of the city centre. Then I saw some young girls exercising their ponies on the river bank. Within minutes I was overlooking the Gulf of St Vincent and, beyond, the vast Southern Ocean. There were just two people walking their dog on the sand.

The South African-born writer JM Coetzee, another convert to Adelaide, perfectly sums up the appeal: "On my first visit in 1991 I was attracted by the free and generous spirit of the people, by the beauty of the land itself and – when I first saw Adelaide – by the grace of the city I now have the honour of calling my home."

After 12 months here, it's easy to tick off things I love about the place: the Central Market on a Saturday morning, cycling in the Adelaide Hills, swilling shiraz in the Barossa... But it's the small details that resonate – such as the smell of wood smoke on a crisp winter's day. Best of all, I like to stand on my suburban lawn and look at the night sky. The stars burn with an intense, pure luminosity. At times they seem close enough to touch.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#2 Post by kenget » Tue Jan 08, 2013 5:52 pm

Awesome! :applause:

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#3 Post by Reb-L » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:23 am

OK, let's just sit back and feel good about how great everything is here. We don't need to change anything because somebody from far away told us they liked it here. So let's all go back to sleep again.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#4 Post by Waewick » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:43 am

Reb-L wrote:OK, let's just sit back and feel good about how great everything is here. We don't need to change anything because somebody from far away told us they liked it here. So let's all go back to sleep again.
I don't think that is what the article is saying at all.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#5 Post by monotonehell » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:14 pm

Waewick wrote:
Reb-L wrote:OK, let's just sit back and feel good about how great everything is here. We don't need to change anything because somebody from far away told us they liked it here. So let's all go back to sleep again.
I don't think that is what the article is saying at all.
I believe it's saying:


I like that the article is saying that it's a nice place to live. I'm not so excited about how it makes Adelaide sound like a tiny place with sheep running though it.
Exit on the right in the direction of travel.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#6 Post by Waewick » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:11 pm

true, the sheep thing could be misleading.

but I think the point stands that Adelaide is a city,that isn't densley populated, meaning the odd sheep and horse can be seen fairly close to the CBD...which you wouldn't see in many other "cities"

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#7 Post by Will » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:38 pm

I'm in 2 minds about this article.

At one level i think it vindicates us, but I also feel like it is an apology for us failing to keep up.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#8 Post by claybro » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:45 pm

seriously was this written by anne Moran????The problem is that the type of people/place/lifestyle that this article portrays is not what is going to keep us all employed. Sure, there are certain endearing almost nogstalgic qualities to the Adelaide this person portrays, but the fact is, the vast majority of people want a bit more from their city or holiday destination. The Barossa is great...but the roads there are crumbling.(no population..no tax base therefore no money for infastructure to make the place easy to get around.) The parklands are great, but most of it is an unusable dry dustbowl at present. The grand "Victorian Boulevardes", nice...but a bit dull. This notion that we can attract investment, therefore jobs and progress from selling our "lifestyle" is a proven loser, as travellers and interstate immigrants are not exactly beating a path to our door. If tourists want grand boulevardes...they go to Paris, or Melbourne or Bendigo ...if they want nice beaches...well try Bali or Thailand or Gold Coast. Its all very pleasant here, but just not sexy. And sex sells! We need to strive to make Adelaide more dynamic even without becoming too big. Sheep in the Parklands just dont cut it as a drawcard.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#9 Post by Maximus » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:12 am

Yes, mixed feelings indeed.

I like the overall tone, but it does make Adelaide sound a bit, um, just sorta 'nice'. It certainly won't have everyone flocking to Adelaide in droves.

Plus there are arguably a few factual inaccuracies. In my experience, Adelaide still ranks above Tasmania in "the hierarchy of scorn", although admittedly only marginally -- both places are boring, but Tasmanians are also weird and have two heads (is the general tone of what I hear). I've also never met anyone outside South Australia who's ever heard of Kangaroo Island, and very few who could place Don Dunstan. Plus it perpetuates the ridiculous 'country town' idea -- seriously, if you think Adelaide is just a big country town, you've obviously never been to a country town!
It's = it is; its = everything else.
You're = you are; your = belongs to.
Than = comparative ("bigger than"); then = next.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#10 Post by monotonehell » Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:57 am

This article is now doing the rounds of the social networks. I've seen it on Facebook.
Exit on the right in the direction of travel.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#11 Post by Goya's Line » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:04 am

Considering every other inhabited continent has multiple cities of 9+ million and the best we have is Sydney vs Melbourne breast-beating, I know from personal experience tourists couldn't care less that Adelaide is the smallest mainland state capital. We get most of the bands I want to see, good art shows, great festivals and a good mix of multiculturalism. Who gives a shit about interstate ignorance?

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#12 Post by claybro » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:05 pm

Because this invisibility is costing us jobs decent infastructure and a larger voice when they decide on which projects the feds will fund.

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#13 Post by jimbly » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:59 pm

looks like it's reached the Uk too...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/desti ... -city.html

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#14 Post by Matt » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:53 pm

It started here...

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Re: Adelaide: right at home in Australia's 'invisible' city

#15 Post by Goya's Line » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:02 am

claybro wrote:seriously was this written by anne Moran????The problem is that the type of people/place/lifestyle that this article portrays is not what is going to keep us all employed. Sure, there are certain endearing almost nogstalgic qualities to the Adelaide this person portrays, but the fact is, the vast majority of people want a bit more from their city or holiday destination. The Barossa is great...but the roads there are crumbling.(no population..no tax base therefore no money for infastructure to make the place easy to get around.) The parklands are great, but most of it is an unusable dry dustbowl at present. The grand "Victorian Boulevardes", nice...but a bit dull. This notion that we can attract investment, therefore jobs and progress from selling our "lifestyle" is a proven loser, as travellers and interstate immigrants are not exactly beating a path to our door. If tourists want grand boulevardes...they go to Paris, or Melbourne or Bendigo ...if they want nice beaches...well try Bali or Thailand or Gold Coast. Its all very pleasant here, but just not sexy. And sex sells! We need to strive to make Adelaide more dynamic even without becoming too big. Sheep in the Parklands just dont cut it as a drawcard.
Sorry 'bro, I disagree almost entirely. Visitors from dense urban centres of Asia/Europe/the Americas are taken with Adelaide's charms and probably find Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne equally quaint. It's all relative and likely what you find commonplace or kitsch is entirely unknown to someone from Istanbul or Beijing.

Travelling the Port Expressway and new overtaking lanes in the Barossa I can't see how tourists would be shaking their heads. Driving along West Terrace there's a constant hive of sporting activity (netball, cricket, football codes) with more events in the northern and eastern parks. Walking along the Champs-Elysees I didn't think I was in Adelaide but it certainly didn't remind me of Melbourne or Bendigo.

As the author states we have a civic modesty (lost in the din of Melbourne's perpetual boosterism) but investors relying solely on east-coast anecdotal opinion are likely to fail. I've worked and studied alongside plenty of interstate and overseas people, the majority happy to be here.

I get the whole Adelaide slow grind and frustration but seriously Australia is still shaking the backwards tag internationally. No amount of sex or sheep or sexy sheep will sway the opinions of some in the northern hemisphere (and just quietly my favourite east-coast city is Ballarat - a fraction of Melbourne but so bloody charming).

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