Monthly Archives: June 2014

Thursday, September 5

Today I was on my own. I headed into Adelaide on a mid-morning train. Adelaide has changed the least of all the towns I’ve been to so far—and the changes that have been made fit in pretty well. Hence, it was all comfortingly familiar, and I had no problem finding my way around town.

I headed for the Victoria Tourist Center, to get information for my drive next week, and then headed off to pick up a few more gifts for folks back home. After that, I was free to wander and see the sights.

I headed up King William Street and around Victoria Square, then I cut down a side street and window-shopped the length of bustling Rundle Mall. I crossed to North Terrace and walked down to the Henry Ayers house. Though I’d passed it often on my previous trip, I had never toured the splendid bluestone mansion, so I took this opportunity to do so. It is said to be one of the best examples of Colonial Regency architecture in Australia. Begun around 1845 on a less ambitious scale, it was later purchased by Ayers and considerably enlarged. Ayers, who came to Australia as a nineteen-year-old law clerk, had made his money in the Burra Copper Mines. Once he was well established financially, he went into politics. He ended up being elected premier of South Australia a record seven times. He is, of course, the person for whom that iconic symbol of the outback, Ayers Rock, is named (largely because, back in the mid-1800s, what is now the Northern Territory was still considered, at least legislatively, part of South Australia).

The massive chandeliers and vaulted, hand-painted ceilings were clearly meant to impress. The antique furniture, silver, paintings, and all other items of use or decoration were all astonishingly lovely. It was not hard to imagine the grand parties, luncheons, and balls for which Ayers become known.

One dear, older lady who works at Ayers House as a docent took me in hand, as I was alone, and spent about 45 minutes showing me things in obscure corners and out-of-the-way places in the house, sharing insights about who would have been there when and what it all meant. Wonderful. Aside from enjoying the information, I’m always delighted by the enthusiasm of those who get caught up in the history and details of a place or time.

I didn’t get any photos of the imposing exterior of Ayers House, and photos weren’t permitted inside. However, I did find this video of the interior of the state dining room on the occasion of a performance by British guitarist Jonathan Prag, so at least you can get a hint of the grandeur of the place.

Leaving Ayers House, I continued down North Terrace to the beautiful Botanic Gardens. I had come for the greenery, but smiled at the connection with the place I’d just left; Ayers was Governor of the Botanic Gardens Board for 35 years. I wandered for about half an hour among the old trees, flowers, and ponds. At one pond, there were a couple of swamp hens in the water, and I noticed that the color of their orange faces matched almost exactly the color of the large carp in the pond.

I then headed back through town, stopping to buy chocolates for Louanne, Rae, and Bert. I headed for the train station and traveled out to North Haven, where I joined my friends for supper and another evening of Aussie TV.

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Filed under Australia, History, Travel, Video

Wednesday, September 4

We were up early and off for a day of enjoying the out-of-doors. The seashore is only a stone’s throw from Lou’s house. Lovely, low, green coastal vegetation covers most of the shore, with sand making up only the last 20 feet or so before you reach the water. We hopped in the car and headed off along the road that paralleled the water. Our route took us through the old, historic part of Port Adelaide, and then we turned inland and headed for the hills.

The hills that rise up behind Adelaide separate it from the Barossa Valley. The road carried us up into a rolling, green landscape, where our surroundings alternated between forest and lush grazing land, interrupted occasionally by charming, little, historic towns.

Williamstown

Williamstown


We were driving the 4WD, so after Williamstown, we left the sealed road and hit the dirt. We wound through increasingly beautiful scenery, past the Chain of Ponds and into the forest, which would open frequently, to afford us incredible views of the green valley below.

We saw a tremendous number of birds, including kookaburras (always love them) and Eastern rosellas. We also found ourselves in the company of kangaroos on several occasions.

We parked the 4WD in a grassy, shaded clearing, which Louanne said was once a favorite family campsite, then we set off for a couple of hours of hiking about, admiring the trees and stunningly abundant wildflowers (including some tiny orchids).

Wildflowers

Wildflowers


We gathered beautiful bits of quartz and stopped to watch a fairly large blue-tongued lizard, which gestured threateningly to let us know it didn’t appreciate being disturbed.
Blue-Tongued Lizard

Blue-Tongued Lizard


When we left this idyllic spot at least, we wandered a bit more through the hills, passing the small, old, stone farmhouse where Rae grew up. Then we headed back toward Adelaide.

We spent much of the evening looking at photographs from the various wanderings of my hosts, playing with the dogs (two delightfully enthusiastic Russell terriers named Lady and Pippi), and watched a few Australian TV shows (always fun to see how they differ from those at home).

Nice day. Nice people.

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Filed under Australia, Geography, Nature, Travel