After my exciting trip to Sydney, I board an Qantas flight to Adelaide, the capital and most populous city in the state of South Australia. I meet a nice Australian gentleman on the plane and we chat for a while. We immediately make a connection after he tells me that he also spends a lot of time away from his family.
When I arrive in Adelaide, a car is waiting for me. The driver accidentally overcharges me and returns a couple of hours later to give me the difference. I was impressed by her honesty.
Adelaide is called the city of churches because there seems to be one on every block. And these aren’t storefront churches; these are elaborate cathedrals of every denomination you can imagine. Interestingly, the residents of the city are quite secular and uninvolved in church worship.
I wrap up my meetings and get ready to head to the hotel. Once again I do not have a hotel reservation. There are some events going on in the city so it is difficult to get a room. One of the office secretaries finally finds me a room at one of the local hotels, The Mecure Grosvenor Hotel. When I walk in my room, I see a twin bed, a small desk, and an armoire. There are just a few feet around either side of the bed in which I could move around. I was disappointed by the accommodations, but I decide that it is adequate to sleep in for a couple of nights.
I take a walk around the city to get a feel for it. Adelaide is a small, sleepy town – very laid back with a slow pace (all the shops closed at 5:30 pm). I walk along to river bank and then I visit the South Australian National War Memorial. I am surprised to discover the number of wars that Australia had been involved in. Australia has been right by the US’s side in every major conflict.
South Australia is also the hub of Australia’s booming wine business. Many of the country’s vineyards and wineries are located in this state. I wanted to bring home a bottle of wine, but US customs laws prevent it.
I remember my driver telling to be careful if I went out at night on the street behind my hotel. Of course I have to see what he was talking about. I quickly discover that I am in the bad area of Adelaide. The street is full of tattoo parlors, shady looking pubs, and strip clubs. I am grateful that it is still daylight and I hurry back to my hotel to get some dinner.
After dinner, I watch some TV. Australian TV is heavy on American shows. I settle on a National Basketball League (Australia’s version of the NBA) game before I go to sleep.
The next day, a car is waiting to take me to work. My driver, Gavin, is a hearty Australian chap who is married to an American woman from Alabama. Gavin is probably the only man in Australia who is fed a constant diet of Southern American cooking. He and his wife buy their food from www.usfood.com. He spends the entire drive to the office telling me how he and his wife must constantly overcome cultural barriers. Many of their conflicts come from their differences in language.
I wrap up at work at head back to the hotel. Gavin is my driver again and he gives me a few recommendations for dinner.
As I walk down the street, I notice a group of homeless Aboriginal people. It nearly broke my heart when I realize that an infant and a 2-year-old are among the group. When one of the men sees me, his eyes brighten; he smiles and runs over to give me a hug. I am uncomfortable and slightly unsure about how to handle this situation, so I politely push him away and hand him a few of the Australian coins in my pocket. I did some research on the Australian Aborigines and discovered that their plight is similar to the Native Americans in the U.S.
After wandering the city for a few more minutes, I go to an interesting restaurant called Stonegrill. The server explains to me that the food is grilled at your table. Imagine my surprise when she sits the hot stone on my table with a bowl of raw seafood and walks away. Obviously, I didn’t realize that I am the one who would be grilling the food at my table. I am kicking myself for not taking one of Gavin’s recommendations. When I am almost finished cooking my dinner, a large group of Aussies sit at the table next to me. After a while one of the blokes leans over to chat with me. When he discovers that I am an American, he immediately tells all of his mates. Australians seem to have a great respect for and curiosity about Americans. They asked me several questions about the US and asked me about my perception of Australia. Then one asked, “Well, who’s louder Americans or Australians.” I answered, “In this instance, definitely Australians.” They invited me to sit at their table, but I was very tired so I decline and head back to the hotel room.
On my last day in Adelaide, I’m able to catch the first race of the Clipsal 500, a popular motor sport event. The cars race on a track that extends through the streets of Adelaide. Image a NASCAR vehicle driving full-speed down a few of the main streets in your city and that is what this race is like. Ford and GM (through its local Holden brand) build cars for this race based on production vehicles that are available in Australia. The race is exciting and loud. I wish I could watch the entire event, but my plane leaves the next day.
My Last Day in Adelaide
I wake up early to have breakfast and take one last walk through the city before I have to go to the airport to catch my flight to Singapore. I visit the local Parliament building. It is quite grand and sits across the street from the Governor’s house. My walk is cut short when my driver calls to let me know he is waiting at the hotel.
On the way to the airport, I have a lively discussion with my driver about the US and Australian Iraq policy. While Australians may be enamored by Americans, they have absolutely no respect for President Bush and his policies. They feel as if their Prime Minister is a lackey who does whatever Bush tells him to do (I get similar feedback about Tony Blair from people I talk to in London). Before I exit the car, my driver tells me about the local Australian hip-hop artists who have written several protest songs about the US and Australian Iraq policies. I thank my driver for the stimulating conversation and bid him good-bye as I prepare for the next leg of my journey.