Adelaide culture in the winter time is warming.


Adelaide offers a panacea for those tired of gleaming silver, industrial grey buildings with public policy experts networking over water coolers and within local coffee kiosks.

On a brief trip across regional east-coast Australia, heritage, granite and sandstone were found in abundance in South Australia (SA). The capital of SA spends no time waiting for a novice to bone-up on Australian history. This international city has a rich heritage of German, Italian and other European peoples which built the city brick-by-brick. It offers architecture to last a lifetime.

On a previous trip we’d discovered that the city of Adelaide’s cultural life hits a sweet spot with quaint laneways full of curio shops and wandering minstrels plying their busking skills outside the Adelaide Arcade.  This arcade is half way down Rundel Mall and just opposite the Fountain. With a City of Adelaide map, you could explore the Museum which includes a Children’s Museum and self-guided history tour. Travellers are encouraged to wander the central business district (CBD) with its European-style arcades and experience the magic.

The Adelaide Arcade extols the virtues of culture and European values. Lead-light windows let the sunshine spill in onto marble flooring, wrought iron balustrades, creative joinery and merchandise. Posters on fashion history in Adelaide hang outside busy tailor shops.

Down another lane-way, near the public library, is a British-style sweet shop with amusing frescos. The facade would’ve looked just as comfortable in the English quarter of Perth, Western Australia – though we were very glad the day we visited that the front doors were shut on a public holiday. The temptation to over-indulge would have been irresistible.

But for this holiday trip, we had one afternoon to view the highlights of Adelaide. On arrival at Keswick Train Station we were bussed into the CBD of Adelaide. Once disembarked, we said ‘cheerio’ to some of our fellow passengers. They were bused off to the Barossa Valley for a winery tour as part of their own Off Train Excursion.

I remember as a teenager, when visiting my Army uncle, that Adelaide was full of historic statues, museums, art galleries and a large botanical garden. A new public transport system had been installed to challenge any European city interested in innovative technological. It was installed to assist efficient commuter travelling and cut down vehicular traffic across the CBD.

For the architecturally minded, Adelaide CBD is full of imposing sandstone architecture and a strong line up of Protestant churches along North Terrace. Churches of other faiths and denominations were seen just around the corner. We happily stood and waited to be met by our guide for the afternoon tour. He arrived, short of breath, sporting beige chinos, a checked shirt and caramel coloured cotton blazer. His ox-blood Florsheim penny loafers glistened with polish.

Our guide spoke with such a clipped accent I thought we were back in Oxford. But it turns out that he’s a well-heeled bookseller by day and an Inspector Morse fan by night. No wonder is accent was ‘polished’… We loved his cheery smile and appreciated his love of geology and Australian history. He also had a warm and enthusiastic sense of humour which he shared with everyone on the tour.

We began at a slow pace, just like a hot air balloon lifting off the ground. Only 10 minutes into the tour did I realise that we were actually on the tour. Our guide’s confident speaking style had me listening from the word ‘go’ and we travelled along with him. He showed us art, architecture and heritage in three hours with many stops along the way to lessen tired backs and sore feet. A key highlight in Adelaide not to be missed is the SA Museum with its regionally-discovered artefacts of interest to any geologist, anthropologist, archaeologist or historian. But there was little time for photographs. We listened and learned as these tours are really ‘on the go’…with no time for loitering or chat.

We viewed the grand gates of the Botanical Gardens as the sun was setting. The cooler air encouraged us to head for one of South Australia’s best wine centres for a three course meal surrounded by craft beers and flights of fine wines.

Without time for changing, we were ushered into the National Wine Centre and re-grouped with our enthusiastic fellow passengers who’s keenness to sample more great wines was evident. They’d had a good afternoon at the winery…judging by their shining eyes.

After half an hour of wine taste testing, the Dining Room doors were opened with great aplomb. Our meal at the great table was fulsome, nourishing and complete with amusing conversation. We supped on kangaroo and crisp vegetables, and quietly moaned at the delicious taste of classic English desserts “…just like Grandma used to make”.

We conversed with Arizonians about their quick trip across Australia “from Sydney to Perth in 10 days”. There were a variety of Londoners, visiting relatives in Melbourne, Port Stephens and Mossman Park, who were keen to see the ‘Great Outdoors’ of Australia.

We shared a meal with a French man who spoke little English but was ‘snap-happy’. He was keen to see kangaroos and emus up-close and personal. Sadly his experience so far had been from the moving train: the kangaroos bound off into the red tundra at the sound of the great train’s whistle.

As we’d been placed near a group of ‘ladies of a certain age’, it was natural that we talked of detective novels. This talk then morphed into our favourite film and television detectives. I mentioned that I’m a fan of Australian murder mysteries and spy dramas including East West 101 (Don Hany and Suzie Porter), the Doctor Blake Mysteries (Craig McLachlan) and the Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis).

Others at the table said they enjoy more typically British favourites: The Avengers (Patrick Macnee), Inspector Morse (played by John Thaw), Callan (Edward Woodward), Inspector Poirot (David Suchet), Hamish MacBeth (Robert Carlyle), Miss Marple (Julie McKenzie and Angela Lansbury) The Coroner (Clare Goose and Matt Bardock) and Death in Paradise (Ben Miller and Kris Marshall).

The Arizonians listened with some interest and chimed in about their dated favourites: Starsky and Hutch (David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser) The Rockford Files (James Garner) Charlies Angels (Robert Wagner) and Colombo (played by Peter Falk).

Detective Colombo would always intently listen to a potential suspect and then say “Now, let’s make sure I’ve got this right…” to paraphrase what they’d said. And as he was about to leave, he’d turn and say to them “Just one more thing…” and then he’d ask the key question of the investigation.

Why were we talking about crime and detective shows from the past?

We’d had such a culturally enriching day in Adelaide full of history, museums and architecture and talk of fine music, sculpture and great parks. We’d seen some of the best culture and heritage that Adelaide has to offer. We’d tasted gourmet food and enjoyed flights of wines which will be unrepeatable. We’d been led for a tour of Adelaide cultural heritage by an antiquarian bookseller of refinement and sartorial elegance.

Perhaps, as a contrast, we just needed to talk of crime, murder and television to balance to our simple tastes. Adelaide has had its share of gruesome mysteries – though covered mainly by its local media.

The list of Australian detective-crime shows is almost endless. To feed your own appetite, feel free click on the following link for a decent size portion of information on Australian detective and crime shows:

We await with anticipation a crime novel or detective series set in Adelaide and the South Australian rangelands. It would surely rival any British and American film noir.


Text written and copyrighted by Fiona Rothchilds 2017.
Photograph images copyrighted by Fiona Rothchilds 2017.
Uploaded 29 June 2017