Doin’ OK in Adelaide

In Albania the standard greeting is “Mire Dita, Si Jeni?”  “Good Day, How are you?”  As an American I always answered in the optimistic, “Doing great!” or “I’m well.”   Once someone caught me up and asked “Why are you always doing well, do you hear from your son every day?” and followed with:  “You are always doing well, this is, I think an American thing?”  And She was right.  Albanians answer “well” if they mean it or “so-so” or “Yo mire” — “not well” depending on the mood.  So I got into the habit of answering honestly.  I would never say “terrible” because I didn’t want to upset my friends but I would say “so-so” or “meh” (Albanians watch the Simpsons), and sometimes, “not happy this morning.” That habit has carried over for 25 years.  So when the lady at the Adelaide tourist desk at the dock asked “How are you this morning?”  I said “not so happy.” (To learn why read my earier post.) She smiled and said “then that’s my job.”  She gave me a map, explained the metro system, talked about the free busses in Adelaide and some of the things we could do.  And she said “I hope Adelaide makes you happy.”  I smiled and said “YOU already have, thanks!”  She gave me the nicest smile.

Adelaide tries harder.  It may because Adelaide is the butt of so many Aussie jokes.  “I have three sons, two are doing well, one is a doctor and one is a professor, the other lives in Adelaide.”  In the comedy show we saw at the Sydney Opera House there were several Adelaide jokes.  But the people we met in Adelaide were some of the friendliest we’ve met.  I was looking at a map Saturday night.  I woman came up to me and asked if I needed help.   I was trying to find the railway station.  She said, “come on, I’ll take you there.”  On the bus or metro people struck up conversations.  Sometimes this conversational matiness can get a little carried away.  I was in the toilet, it was hot, the guy in the next stall said cheerfully; “hey mate, it’s like taking a dump in a f*#kin’ sauna.”

Adelaide knows how to have fun.  They have lots of festivals, The WOMADelaide World Music Festival, the Adelaide Festival, and The Adelaide Fringe Festival.  We arrived on the second day of the Fringe.

This is a lovely town.  It was founded by “free settlement,” not a penal colony.  The streets are laid out in grids with loads of green space.  The whole center is surrounded by parkland, parks run along the Torrens River and there are open green squares throughout the city.  Public buildings are modest compared with the Victorian excess of Sydney and many of the older suburban homes are small one story yellow stone Victorian cottages with gingerbread touches.

We took advantage of Adelaide’s free public transportation.  Downtown has four circulator bus routes and a free tram.  A free bus takes you to the North Adelaide suburbs hitting The Oval (cricket grounds), zoo, Botanical Garden, hospitals and different neighborhoods.

Downtown is framed by the North and South Terraces.  The North Terrace has its Victorian buildings, Parliament, churches and the University.  Central Downtown has Rundle Mall, a pedestrian mall lined with a mix of low rise Victorian and Art Deco buildings and a series of covered Victorian and deco arcades running off the mall towards the south.  The high rise buildings are mostly on streets parallel to the mall although the mall is marred by a big, modern Target.  (Shame on you Minnesota.) There is amusing public art including a statue of a pig rooting through a real rubbish bin and “Malls Ball’s.”  (Not it’s official name, but if you say “Meet me at Malls Ball’s” everyone will know what you mean.)  “The Balls” are reflective spheres.  When you tap them they make a satisfying echoing ping.  Kids love ‘em.  To see the Adelaide Fringe Festival click here.

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