Monday, December 27, 2010

"Adelaide all but closed on Boxing Day"

Well, Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you enjoyed a festive day, what ever your connection to Christmas, and had some good company and something good to eat. I certainly did, and all in all the eating seems to have continued, spurred on by a bout of hangover related pork consumption today.

And with the arrival of the post-Christmas haze comes the inevitable discussion on whether we can all survive another couple of days without punching someone in the face to get to a handbag in the post-Christmas sales. My thoughts on the matter, frankly, is that we can.

Admittedly, I'm not a shopper. I don't like to shop. I don't like to be in shops. In fact if I never had to spend a cent again, I'd probably be happy. The one major exception to this rule is cheese, but one so rarely finds cheese in the post-Christmas sales, if this is ever to change I am more than willing to revisit my stance on the sales.

But until that happens, seriously people, stay at home with friends or family, or if you're sick to death of friends and family pop a DVD in the machine, or take a long nap. Enjoy a couple of days embracing the relaxing time of year, particularly as this year in Adelaide is experiencing some mild summer days that make doing not very much at all very very easy to do.

There is an argument that tourists will be upset that they can't shop. Now, I like to think I'm relatively well travelled, my little facebook widget thingy tells me I've visited over 200 cities in more than twenty countries. And never. Never. Has the opening hours of department stores influenced my travel decisions. However, if you are a tourist in this fair city, and perplexed as to what you will do as you're not able to purchase cut-price crystal ware, here are my top 10 suggestions of alternative activities to fill your time.

1. On Your Bike
Bike SA allows you to hire a bike and a helmet from a number of 'hubs' around town, including backpackers and hotels, meaning that on Boxing Day you can hire a bike and hit the roads. Adelaide is pretty flat and surrounded by parklands, so unless you're planning on tackling the peak hour rush on some of the city's less friendly arterial roads, it's easy to get around. I suggest taking the linear park track from the city at Elder Park to Henley Square (passing the Christmas decorations at the brewery), where you can have coffee, walk along the jetty and dip your toe in the ocean. Alternatively put the bike on the train (which is free on weekends) and take the Marino Rocks to McLaren Vale route, which is longer with bigger hills, but you end up in McLaren Vale, which is coffee and cheese! See a theme here?

2. Don't Just Sit There - Eat Something
One thing that SA does well is food. And inexpensive food at that. For some uber-chic people watching on a budget, hit the Exeter or Austral Hotels in Rundle Street early to snap up an outdoor table. Enjoy a couple of pints of SA's Pride and Joy, with some of the best pub food you'll find anywhere. I personally recommend the mushroom burgers at the Exeter.

If you want a bit of spice in your life, head to China Town. Not the biggest complex you're likely to ever encounter, but lots of gems. Silky prawn jiaozi at Dumpling King, pork noodles at the Noodle Kingdom, BBC at Yin Chow, or salt and pepper eggplant at East Taste. Or go Indian at Maya or the Village. Wash it all down at the end with another Adelaide institution, gelati at Cibo.

3. The Real Boxing Day Tradition
The Boxing Day test. Find a pub or a bar or an RSL showing it on the big screen - it won't be hard. If you're from a cricket playing nation, mock the appalling form of the previous world number ones. If you've never watched the game, sidle up to a local and get them to explain the rules. You probably won't understand it on the first run through, but it's a great way to meet some locals, have a couple of drinks, and it's something to tell the folks about back home. Warning though, once you get the knack of it, it's addictive!

4. Fur, Wings and Keratin Spikes
The Adelaide Zoo, Monarto Zoo and Cleland Wildlife Park are all open over the holidays, although you'll need wheels to get to Monarto (but the Adelaide Zoo is a bike hire hub, see number 1!). Yes, we have pandas, if you've been here for more than ten seconds you'll have worked that out. But Cleland has all of the cuddly critters those from overseas expect to see. Monarto has a new chip exhibition, and southern white rhinos. Be there for the keepers talk as if the right animal is there with the keepers supervision you can touch his impressive horn. No, not that one......

5. Hit the 'Burbs
One of the joys of a small town is that stuff is easy to get to. If you've got access to a car, hit some of the best suburbs anywhere. The Adelaide Hills are alive with cherries, almonds, oompah bands and some of the best wineries you'll ever want to discover. If you're feeling flush, splash out for lunch at the Bridgewater Mill, or the Lane. If you're feeling slightly more frugal try Pot Belly Pies in the main street in Hahndorf.

Or go south. McLaren Vale is less than an hour's drive away. Wine, coffee, cheese, chocolate, art, jewellery. It's got it all. I can't go past the pate at the Currant Shed. Go hungry. And you're close enough to the ocean that you can go swimming after (find a beach patrolled by a Surf Life Saving Club)

6. Walk the Gangplank, 'me hearty
A good one if you've got kids. The Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide has something for all ages, but at the moment they've a special pirate Skulduggery experience for the wee ones which will win you brownie points and buy you some time at the cafe across the road after. While in the neighbourhood you can also take a cruise on the Port River and try some dolphin spotting.

7. Discover your inner-Hippy
The Adelaide Botanic Gardens may not have size, but they make up for it in charm. The guided walks are done by volunteers, and if you get a good one they're fantastic. Make sure they take you to the mortuary of the old insane asylum. Who said gardens are boring! The garden has lots of hidden little nooks and crannies, wander down the paths and suddenly find yourself in a wide open grass area, with a creek flowing through and not another soul around.

8. Commune with the Dead
It may seem like an odd thing to do, but you learn a lot about a place from it's cemeteries, and they're open every day! Have a dig about (pun intended) and find the Jewish section, and the Catholic section (lots of nuns and Jesuit priests). I understand that the cemetery is working on a guided walk, but I don't think it's ready yet, so just wander. It's close to town and within strolling distance of everything.

9. Get some Culture
Adelaide's North Terrace has something for everyone. The Art Gallery has a great permanent collection of classical, contemporary and Indigenous art, and usually has at least two touring exhibits on at any time, at the moment they have one on Indigenous dessert artists. The SA Musuem has all of the usual contenders, but also has a new Biodiversity Gallery, you can walk in the footsteps of Douglas Mawson and check out his Arctic hut and marvel at the old world kookiness of the Egyptian Gallery, including mummies. Make sure the kids checkout the lion in the entry. Wait for his tail to flick and scare the living daylights out of them. Just next door is the Migration Museum, which has a great collection of artifacts from all of the people who have contributed to making South Australia what it is today. Their community gallery features a changing collection of exhibits, produced in collaboration with Adelaide's different ethic communities.

10. Get Wet
Heard that the waters of SA are full of sharks? Well - they are. Lovely to walk along but sometimes dangerous to get in. If you're swimming in the sea, please, make sure you swim between the flags at a patrolled beach as they will have a shark patrol. If you'd like to get into the water, but fancy going home with all of your limbs, Adelaide has some great swimming pools. The North Adelaide Aquatic Center is indoors and has a range of pools for those intending on doing the laps, or those who just want a paddle. On some days the dive board is also open to amateur bellyfloppers. If you'd like something out doors, and a little more sedate many councils operate swimming pools. My suggestions are Unley, Hazelwood Park and Marion.

There you go. If that doesn't keep you amused for two days when the shops are closed I don't know what will. If you're reading this, now or ever, and think you'd like to check out one of these places, please ring first to check opening hours, current exhibitions and prices.

If you're reading this and you're from the SATC you can contact me through this blog to let me know where to send the invoice.

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