Between where the Great Ocean road and Adelaide lie there isn’t much. It’s very pretty with green hills with more sheep and cows and even a few alpacas. Once we got into the state of South Australia, we started to see all the vineyards. SA is the biggest wine producing state. It was a very strange sight. I have seen vineyards in California and Europe, and they all basically look the same, a few acres of vines on a hillside so they can get the best solar radiation. South Australia is a whole new ball game. They get such good sun out here and the soil is perfect, too, regardless if they are on a mountain. So instead you get miles of vineyards that are so large they look more like large scale grape fields. Honestly, it was like being in the Midwest where all you can see for miles is corn, only it was row after row of grape vines. It wasn’t as pretty, although partly that was because it’s winter and the vines don’t have any leaves on them.
We had a bit more excitement that we wanted the last hour, though. We ate at an Australian fast food chain called Red Rooster for lunch, and Daniel got a mild case of food poisoning from his fish and chips. I had a chicken sandwich, so thankfully I was okay. He was so miserable by the time we arrived, he went straight to bed, and Ruth was kind enough to take me to the store so we could get something to heat up for dinner so we wouldn’t have to go out again.
We are doing a homestay/bed and breakfast in Adelaide. A homestay is more casual that a B&B and doesn’t always include breakfast, and if it does it’s also more informal—cereal, tea, toast. They aren’t as fancy, but you usually have a nice spare bedroom in someone’s house who likes to be hospitable. Our host is Ruth, and we have a lovely room and sitting area, and since no one is in the other spare room, we also have the bathroom all to ourselves. We have cereal, toast, tea, and fruit in the morning and she usually throws in a fried egg, too, so we are well fed. She also is a wonderful gardener, so there are fresh flowers all over the house. She is quite the character, having had three careers and traveled all over the world. Every time we see her she treats us to a new tale and brings us a tea tray every evening. All of this loveliness cost us about $50 less than a hotel a night, so it’s even nicer.
I think I mentioned before we are not used to doing something every day, and combined with Daniel’s queasiness the night before, we didn’t get out the next day until 1pm. Thankfully, Adelaide isn’t as big a city, so we’ve had less to cover, so getting out late wasn’t a bit deal. We went to a craft store first that was supposed to be for emerging artists, and once again, it was more like higher priced established artist craft, so we didn’t linger. We ate a disappointed lamb gyro that was mostly gristle, and were briefly harassed by some random Italian guys. I admit I was not getting a favorable first impression of Adelaide. Then we crossed over to the other side of town and had a much more pleasant afternoon.
We started at the Wine Centre of Australia. This was a really interesting museum that took you through the wine making process. They modeled the outside to look like a giant oak barrel and the walls were painted in such a way as to mimic cork.
We discovered a few interesting facts, one being that there actually is a machine that harvests grapes. I though they still had to do it all by hand. Also, that the Australian grape vines are actually the world’s oldest. A particular parasite wiped out most of the old vines in Europe, but Australia isolated the one case they had by completely burning the vineyard infected. They have some vines over 150 years old. I also found interesting that there’s a particular mold that usually destroys the plant, but in just the right conditions and timing this mold will actually turn some harvests into the best sweet wines the vineyards produce, but they can’t really control which way the mold swings.
They also had an interactive program where you could make all the decisions about making a wine (where to plant, what time of day to harvest, when to add the yeast, what to store it in, and about 8 other factors), and then they would rate your wine. The first one I did, a Riesling, I was told could be served with appalling food or could have a future as an industrial cleaner J The second time I did a Shiraz and read all of the hints you could look at and made some better guesses, and that one was awarded a gold medal, the highest honor. It was fun and stressed how there were so many points where it could go wrong. I was amazed and how much wine and how many regions there are in Australia. I went to a similar sort of place in Portugal, and they talked about the 13 wine growing regions. Australia currently has over forty regions, and 23 different types of grapes. I took a picture here of just some of the different Australian wine labels. Believe it or not, we didn’t taste any though. They weren’t doing tastings at the time unless you went to their café. I’m sure other opportunities to taste Australian wine will present themselves, though.
After that we did some shopping on Rundle Street. It was a pretty setting and a little less overwhelming than some of the shopping centers we’ve gone to in Sydney and Melbourne. I actually finally found a craft shop that was a bit more affordable, and a neat tea shop, and a few others. I also found the nicest shop workers yet, being very helpful and chatting with you about anything. It seems everyone knows someone that lives in the States or has visited themselves. Adelaide strikes me as the Durham of Australia. It kind of gets a bad rap as not being as great as Sydney or Melbourne, but is actually quite charming and smaller and more affordable. It also reminds me of NC because there’s lots of trees, so it’s very green and flatter than some of the other cities we’ve been to.
We found a Mexican place, which is a bit rare here, called Burp. I probably would have eaten there just because I thought the name was funny, but it was also the closest to a Chipotle we’ve seen. They don’t heat up their tortillas, though, and their spicy sauce needed to be heated up a bit to just be what I would consider mild. I thought it was about on par with Moe’s—so no Chipotle, but pretty good for here. We were hoping to find another church that had an evening service, but no luck this time.
This morning we also started slow after a long breakfast with stories from Ruth and made a couple calls home. Then we went to the Haigh Chocolate visitor centre and factory. Haigh’s is an Australian chocolate company that actually makes its own chocolate, from the raw beans they import and roast themselves. It’s still family owned, only on it’s third generation. They also own their own shops, 13 in all in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. They want to eventually expand into the rest of Australia, but have no desire to go international, so they don’t ship overseas or anything. The smells alone where worth the trip. The tour was fun, though, and they gave us a couple different kinds of chocolate to try (all very good) and then our tour was lucky enough to be chosen to sample a new product and give feedback, so that meant even more chocolate. Then when you buy something in the store (yeah, like we were going to get out of there without buying anything), they give you even more chocolate. I was so full of free chocolate, I didn’t want much lunch. Daniel said it only made him hungrier.
The best part of the tour was this five year old there for her birthday that made the best comments. She found a good listening ear in Daniel, so she kept telling him things. At one point the guide mentioned that Haigh’s used to sell ice cream, and she announced that she liked ice cream loudly, and Daniel and her had an instant bond, that and they both shared a preference for chocolate with sprinkles. She was pretty smart, too. The guide talked about how the more cocoa you put in chocolate, the more bitter it becomes. She said she they put about 53% in their dark chocolate and she had a 90% cocoa dark chocolate once and made a face. The little girl said, “Then 100% tastes terrible!” They like their chocolate very sweet here. I’m generally a milk chocolate girl, but I actually like the dark better in Oz. Haigh’s is also known for its chocolate frogs, which I thought was very Harry Potter of them. Here they are below—the green ones are mint chocolate, the gold are milk, and the brown are dark.
After the tour we found a public library to do some internet catch up, since we don’t have any internet at the homestay. So there will probably be a barrage of posts all at once when we get back to Sydney. Tomorrow we leave to drive back to Sydney across the bush. We are staying the night in a cabin part of the way through, so we’ll get back on Thursday and we fly to Queensland on Saturday. Hard to believe we’ve been here almost a month.