Postcard from Adelaide: Part I

We’ve spent two fabulous weeks in Adelaide, the latter half of which was devoted to watching the Santos Tour Down Under. This left us a week to potter about, enjoying our surroundings. We stayed in the same place as last year. What can I say? We’re creatures of habit and having found the perfect spot, needed to look no further.

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We arrived in Walkerville after a lovely relaxing lunch at the Serafino winery in McLaren Vale. The following days we settled into a rhythm of pre-breakfast exercise, followed by a quick swim in the pool (no shark sightings) and a late breakfast. We used our time wisely and enjoyed all that Adelaide and the surrounding area has to offer. Having already explored McLaren Vale, we popped into the Adelaide Hills to visit the Beerenberg Farm, a South Australian institution, which makes a fabulous range of preserves – I love them all! The company was set up in 1839 and it’s still run by the Paech family. We couldn’t resist stocking up with a few of their products for the rest of our trip and purchasing a few gifts for friends and family. Of course, it remains to be seen whether they’ll make in back to France in one piece.

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The Beerenberg Farm Shop is just outside of Hahndorf, founded by German Lutherans, it looks and feels like a corner of Bavaria. We’ve previously visited the town which, this time, was heaving with day trippers. After a quick wander around, we headed off for the quieter Mount Barker and a late lunch in an excellent bakery. Of course, I have to rely on feedback from my beloved whose palate – or so I like to think – has been honed by our years together. As we drove around, I did note plenty of spectacular property porn in the area, both historic and modern.

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In truth we spent plenty of time moseying around, either on foot or on the bike, in the beautiful Adelaide Hills enjoying the lush, verdant pastures choc full of fruit trees, vines or grazing animals. There are lots of small towns with a few historical buildings, I particularly love the ones with wrought iron wrap around gingerbread trims on the verandahs. Not, of course, forgetting the many open cellars where you can try the local wines, oils, beers and other beverages or enjoy a delightful lunch.

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No trip to Adelaide would be complete without a few meals at our local in Melbourne St. It’s not strictly our local, there’s one closer but it’s not in the same class. The pub also has a first class restaurant where I celebrated my birthday at just a small, intimate, party for two.

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Where we stayed is next to a large park which I’ve happily been running or more correctly plodding around. It’s nice and shady but I still work up quite a sweat before cooling off in the pool. Of course, we’ve also had to spend some time working. It’s inevitable on a two month break!

Prior to the start of the Tour we reconnected with our friends who’d had a wonderful time in Tasmania. Looking at their photos I was about to put it on my bucket list but then their youngest showed me his hand. You could clearly see his little bruised palm punctured by fang marks. He’d been bitten by one of the (thankfully) non venomous snakes but it had been a bit of a shock for all concerned. However, this didn’t stop him from handling the python in the Tour Down Under Village. He was a lot braver than many of the pro riders who much preferred the cuddly koalas and joeys – me too!

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A trip into Adelaide gave us an opportunity to look around the magnificent central market bursting with local produce. Given half a chance my beloved would have bought enough food for the next month. I really had to rein him in. The market adjoins Chinatown and we lunched at what turned out to be one of Adelaide’s finest. When faced with so many dining options I fall back on my default position, I pick the one restaurant with white linen tablecloths and napkins – top tip from my late father who trained me well. We later found out it was voted Best Chinese in Adelaide by a local newspaper. It was fabulous and we were fortunate to arrive early as tables filled up fast.

As well as watching the Big Bash League matches, we’ve also been watching the One Day Internationals: India v England and Australia v Pakistan. Whether this interest in cricket will persist on my return to France, who knows? But I’ll certainly be trying to watch the other Twenty20 series and any more ODIs. By far and away the highlight of these ODI games has been India’s captain Virat  Kohli, a man who scores runs seemingly at will. According to my beloved who’s had several recent business trips to India, Kohli’s hugely popular, more so than any other Indian sportsman but then cricket is akin to a religion in India, one which unites all faiths.

Postcard from Melbourne to Adelaide

It’s Saturday evening, the first one in January, and my beloved and I are enjoying a night in watching the Twenty20 return match, Renegades v Stars. Looks as if it’s a sellout at HCG and it’s going to be an engrossing game, particularly after the Renegades’ recent away win at the MCG.

We left Melbourne on Wednesday morning and drove via the Victorian goldfields to Horsham. Almost as soon as you leave downtown Melbourne,  by way of the Old Melbourne road aka Western Freeway, the landscape starts to undulate, with vast expanses of yellow scrub punctuated by trees, the odd farm and plenty of small semi-industrial buildings. The scenery becomes more interesting as we near the former gold prospecting town of Ballarat, for a coffee stop. Those combine harvesters have been hard at work, leaving golden, neatly stacked bales of hay and straw from harvested fields framed by more trees.

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The pastures turn lusher and greener as we head to Ararat, and lunch at a local cafe. Now they’re dotted with flocks of sheep, grazing horses and herds of cows as we drive towards the Pyrenees and Grampian Hills, yet another wine producing area. The Grampian Hills’ national park is on our left as we drive along flat plains punctuated by the occasional man made lake. We drive to Horsham, the main town in the area, and an overnight stay in a motel. It’s clean, spacious, well-rated on booking.com and Trip Advisor but the decor’s dark and depressing. However, it’s just somewhere to rest up.

We case the town for our evening meal. Many of the cafes close at 5pm, there’s numerous takeaways but the only place that’s buzzing is the local hotel (pub). It turns out to be a good choice and on the way back we spot a juice bar for the following day’s breakfast.

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Once past the Pyrenees and Grampians with their fruit, olive and vine laden slopes, we’re onto the flatlands where you can see for miles and miles. Golden fields awaiting the combine harvester, golden stubble being picked over by the birds and huge silos with mountains of grain, walls of baled hay and straw. This really showcases the green and gold of Australia set against a brilliant blue backdrop.

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We have a coffee stop in Keith and then the land starts to undulate once more and the earth becomes sandier. As we near Adelaide, the countryside flattens and becomes scrubby again, which only the sheep and goats seem to appreciate. We eat lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Murray river. The closer we get to the city, the greener the countryside.

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We’re spending the weekend on the beach in McLaren Vale at the request of my beloved. It was an area he enjoyed when we were here last year for the Willunga Hill stage in the Tour Down Under. I had booked a family run B&B overlooking the beach in Port Noarlunga. The house was built in 1930 and its interior is very much in keeping. It’s a spacious studio with a balcony affording us a splendid sea view.

As my younger sister would say, the weather’s roastin’ and we’ve been basted in factor 50, wearing sunglasses and hats and seeking shade or shelter in air conditioned spots. We had a gentle stroll along the shore and jetty and looked enviously at the bathers splashing around in the cooling shallow water. I couldn’t see any sharks but I wasn’t taking any risks!

After our hearty lunch, we settled for a glass of local wine and a few plates of tapas at the local Portuguese restaurant before retiring. When I woke up my beloved had already departed for his early morning ride. I waited for him in the shade as, despite the cloud cover, it was already in the mid-30sC. Too hot to laze on the beach.

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My beloved was sweating profusely on his return. Revived by a cold shower and breakfast, we decided to drive around the area. First stop, the Farmers’ Market at Willunga Hill to pick up some fruit and provisions for dinner. Then we rode up Willunga Hill and drove down towards Kangaroo Island before turning back via the Myponga Reservoir – a great training ride – and then along the coast stopping for lunch at a vineyard cafe. We moseyed along McLaren Vale but couldn’t take the heat. It was time to return and watch the cricket.

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Fortunately, the mercury fell by Sunday morning and my beloved had a more enjoyable ride before we headed to a McLaren Vale winery for a leisurely lunch. Then we drove to Adelaide and our home for the next two weeks.

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In case you were wondering, the Stars stormed to 200 runs but the Renegades couldn’t match them, falling well short. doesn’t look like they’re going to make the semis.

Postcard from Melbourne: Part I

Despite an early morning arrival into Melbourne, we were able to get into our rental apartment, unpack and head out for breakfast nearby. We are staying in the same apartment in Prahran that we stayed in earlier in the year, only for longer. We enjoyed the area so much and it reminds me of where we used to live in London: lots of small independent shops, great restaurants, a buzzy and lively vibe. Of course, we stick out like two sore thumbs among the tattooed, shorts and singlet wearing local population.

Part of the area’s charm is that we know where to find most things but there’s still areas and side-streets to be explored. The spacious one-bedroomed flat has everything you need: great WiFi, dishwasher, washer/dryer, free car parking, a large balcony, great security, and more. In addition, we got quite friendly with the owner, a charming lady from Vietnam, who kindly stored our bulky bike boxes for the entire duration of our trip. She’s obliging again this time.

Having downed breakfast, we went shopping at the local market – my idea of heaven – snatched a power nap and then headed into Melbourne for the first of what was going to be many sporting events, a Twenty20 Big Bash match. Just a hop, skip and a jump on the train from where we were staying, once armed with our Myki tickets (Aussie version of Oyster cards).

I have fallen in love with The Big Bash League, the Australian professional Twenty20, eight-team cricket league  sponsored by none other than Kentucky Fried Chicken. Who knew the Colonel was a cricket fan? Generally I’m not, though I can appreciate the strategy and love the stats. My Dad played cricket and taught me to catch and bowl at an early age. As a result, I played cricket for school and was a demon batsman and bowler. Last year I thrilled to the exploits of Messrs Gayle and Khawaja, neither of whom is playing this year and, aside from seeing a live match in Adelaide, watched the last series on the television.

I find five-day test matches a long slow smoulder, while Big Bash games are incendiary devices. Judicious use of players and tactics still apply but there’s so much less time to achieve one’s goals. Only 20 overs (240 balls), around 80-90 minutes aggressive play for each team, and it’s game over. Teams, which have a salary cap, can have a maximum of 18 contracted players with a minimum of two rookies and a maximum of two overseas’ players, plus their understudies. For example, the Melbourne Renegades have Dwayne Bravo and Sunil Narine, both from the West Indies.

Twenty20 is very much family based entertainment and at least half of Thursday’s 23,000 audience were kids. Audience participation is greatly encouraged with prizes for those caught on camera performing the best air guitar routine, watering (one of the team’s sponsors makes hoses), victory celebration etc etc. You get the idea. In addition, there’s plenty of competitions at half-time with prizes for spectators and the dozens of pint-sized mascots. 23,000 might not sound like much of a crowd but, don’t forget, there’s two teams in Melbourne, the Renegades and the Stars.

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Dressed appropriately in red and black, we were supporting the Renegades who were up against last year’s league winners, Sydney Thunder. The latter won the toss and elected to field. The Renegades quickly built an impressive strike rate largely off the back of the exploits of their captain and firm crowd favourite, Aaron Finch. Having scored 7-179 runs, the Renegades managed to stifle and then snuff out any threat from the Stars using the full-range of their bowlers’ skills. It was an impressive shutdown.  Our next game is on New Year’s Day and it’s the Melbourne derby. But don’t expect any shots of either of us wearing KFC buckets, minus the chicken, on our heads!