Wining & Dining
Trip Start Oct 15, 2007
97Trip End Aug 24, 2008
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We tried to arrange some things to do whilst in Adelaide, so contacted the Penfold's vineyard to ask about their tours, getting information on prices and suchlike. No reservations were necessary, so we left it at that. We also spoke to Haigh's, a chocolate manufacturer who offered tours and tastings as well. Unfortunately, they were fully booked for the whole week. We popped into the Haigh's shop, who gave us a little taster.
Not having much of an idea what to do with the day, we explored the town centre and mooched in some of the shops. We found ourselves in a perfume department, so tried some things we knew that we liked, so we could smell nice. Kirsty had to escape from the perfume women who wanted to spray her with something sweet and floral - not exactly her cup of tea.
We also went to a charity shop to see if we could find a shirt for Jacob. 'Op Shops' (short for 'opportunity') are, we had heard, great in Australia. He was hoping to find something that he could pull the sleeves off (it gets hot in Oz), but actually ended up buying a blue and white floral Hawaiian number (yup, looks as good as it sounds) for a couple of quid which he couldn't bring himself to mutilate.
Next, we returned the van, timing our arrival perfectly with the deadline that we had been given. After sorting out all of the necessaries with the van people, we caught a bus back into Adelaide and took another bus to the Royal Oak, a pub in North Adelaide where we were to be meeting Renae, our CouchSurfing host for the next few days. We were very early, but decided that it was easier to install ourselves and our bags there for a few hours than to try and do anything else whilst fully laden.
The cost of two beers brought on horrible stabbing pains in our wallets and made us consider the wisdom of that decision. We sipped very slowly and made a lot of use of the free Wi-Fi connection, but eventually had to get another drink. The cost of a bottle of house wine was pretty similar to that of two beers, so we did that.
After a while, Renae and her friend Yvette arrived. We sat and nattered for a while, then Renae took us back to her place. She has a nice little house outside the main city centre and gave us a quick tour. We had tea and chatted some more, then headed to bed.
The following day, we had a fairly lazy morning, watching some of Renae's extensive collection of comedy DVDs and having showers before catching the train into town. A railway staff guy on the platform told us that we would need exact change to feed into the ticket machine on board, so we went off in search of a shop to change a note, as we didn't have much in the way of coinage. The 'shop' that another bloke on the platform had directed us to didn't seem to exist, but a group of men on a tea break were able to give us some change and we made it back to the station just in time to catch the train.
In the town centre, after popping into tourist info to get details on how to get to the Penfold's Estate, we went to an Indian place that had smelt good when we had walked past it previously. We had some curried bits and pieces, then headed for the bus stop we needed.
The directions that the tourist information woman had given us were all wrong. We eventually gave up and asked a bus driver who was stopped for a break at the side of the road. It turned out that we had walked past where we needed to be, but that the tourist information woman had told us the wrong side of the road. We were pretty short of time now, but managed to get a bus that got us to Penfold's Magill Estate with a minute or two to spare.
We found the bar, where the tours start from. The guide explained to us that he could provide a short, unofficial, 'look around' for free, including tastings, or we could pay $15 each for a longer, official tour. The others in the group had already decided on the free version before we arrived, so we did too. Besides, free is our very favourite price.
As it turned out, we got a pretty extensive tour. The guide admitted that he'd got a little carried away and gone into his full tour spiel, but still didn't charge us.
Penfold's was founded by an English doctor, Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary in 1845, when he planted French vine cuttings - like many of his profession, he believed in the medicinal benefits of the grape - around their newly built cottage in Magill, on the outskirts of Adelaide. The cottage was named 'The Grange', after Mary's house in England. Penfold's super-swanky signature vintage, is called Grange, after the cottage. It was created as an experiment in 1951 by Penfold's winemaker, Max Schubert, who had been touring around Europe and had learnt a thing or two about winemaking in Bordeaux.
We were shown the Penfold's Grange bottles dating back to 1951 - if you've got one kicking about in your cellar, it's probably not drinkable, but a collector would give you upwards of $50,000 for it. Apparently, a few vintages (1957, '58 and '59) were made 'in secret', as the early Grange hadn't gone down well, Australian wine tastes at the time not really 'getting it', and the boss thought it a waste of money. Schubert knew he was onto a good thing though, and stuck at it, hiding the various casks and bottles he had made amongst everything else in the cellars. By 1960, the first vintages were coming into their own and the management asked him to start making it again.
"Well actually boss, it's funny you should say that..."
Nowadays, Grange (since 1990 no longer called 'Grange Hermitage' because the French get uppity about anything that's not from Hermitage bearing the name) is thought of as one of the best wines in the world, having won over fifty gold medals internationally, and having scooped 'Best Shiraz' at the Paris 'Wine Olympics' in 1971. Interestingly, a recent vintage bottle will set you back five or six hundred Aussie dollars, which is two or three times what it would cost in the UK. Unusually for a top-end 'cult' wine, it isn't made from the produce of a single vineyard. It's blended from the best of the Penfold's crop from all of their properties, and it's the winemaking expertise and reputation which its fans value. Although there is therefore a definite variation from year to year, part of the expertise lies in maintaining a continuity of style. All very fancy, all very interesting, and all very, very unaffordable.
We spent a while in the bar, chatting to the guide and sampling the wares - but not the Grange. We were given a taste of various different wines. Our luck was in that day; we got a taste of the 'Magill Estate Shiraz' - a real premium wine, which had been opened for a Korean guy who was writing a wine guide book. This sort of thing is definitely not included on any of the standard tours. We also got a little taste of their 'Bluestone', which is a port. Apparently, the rules regarding the nomenclature of port are due to be tightened up, and only port from Portugal will be allowed to be called port. In anticipation of this, Penfold's are calling theirs 'Bluestone Aged Tawny'. It is very tasty and has some brandy notes to the flavour, as it is aged in brandy casks. We were given a taste of it as Jacob had been asking whether they still make brandy, and if so, could he have some - to which the answer is no, not any more, so no he couldn't.
Once we had finished at the vineyard, we took a bus back into town, hopping off at a cinema that we had noticed on the way. It turned out that there was nothing on until later, so we caught another bus into the centre of town and went to a coffee shop for coffee and cake.
By now, it was late enough for the pie floater hunt to resume. The tourist information office had told us that the cart appeared at around 7pm opposite the post office. We walked to the post office, then walked all around the area, but there was no sign of any pie cart.
We walked back to the station, which is where Billy Connolly had bought his pie floater - and from where, incidentally, Joe Cocker has a floater sent to his dressing room whenever he plays in Adelaide. Everywhere else, he has shepherd's pie on his rider. Again, no pies in sight. This attempt to sample the classic South Australian snack you can apparently pick up from a cart on every city street was becoming a bit of a mission. Maybe we'd have to give up.
Eventually, Kirsty asked one of the station staff, who looked like he was no stranger to a pie. It turned out that the owner of the famous pie cart that Billy had visited had been injured when a driver crashed into the cart. Soon afterwards, the nearby casino offered him a substantial sum to sell up. Apparently they were concerned about the competition. It would surprise us if a great number of the clientele of the expensive, swanky casino could really be found with a polystyrene container filled with a pie floating in pea soup, although you never know. More likely though is the idea that the owners of the casino think it looks a bit plebby to have a an old bloke hawking meat pies from a stand in sight of their door. Shame.
So, no Billy Connolly pie floaters for us. We bought ourselves some bits and pieces for a picnic in the park the following day and headed back to Renae's, where we watched some more comedy and a strange but sweet Australian animated film called Harvie Krumpet before heading to bed.
The following day was Anzac Day. The ANZACs were the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, who suffered devastating casualties at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915, their first major military engagement. Since then really, April 25th has been observed as a day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and is a major public holiday. The 11th November Armistice Day commemoration is also observed, but is not a public holiday, and is very much eclipsed in the Australasian mind by Anzac Day. The upshot of all this for us was that most things would be closed, so we planned to go into town, sit in the park and have a picnic.
We passed the morning chatting with Renae then did some laundry, which involved braving her shed, which, she nonchalantly informed us, was home to several Redback spiders. "They're fine, just don't touch them, whatever you do". Yeah, thanks.
Redbacks make an interesting web, which Renae showed to us. Instead of the usual polygon, the webs are very long and stringy. The web silk is also incredibly strong - much more so than a normal spider's web. The Redbacks themselves didn't make an appearance.
Once our washing was hanging out to dry, we took a train into town, unfortunately too late to see any of the Anzac parades. We went to the Botanic Gardens, where we sat under a tree and ate our picnic of salad, bread and hummus. We had brought a bottle of wine along, but, due to the celebrations, alcohol in public places had been banned. It sometimes seems that there's an unreasoned knee-jerk response in this sort of rule making. "It's a special occasion, people have to appear reverent, so no booze, OK?" No actual reason is ever offered, but the assembled committee all realise that it's now taken as read that you have to agree to this sort of prohibition unless you want to appear to endorse casual drunken anarchy, so they uneasily shuffle their feet and the motion is passed with no further ado.
No matter. Having anticipated this, we had brought a Sigg bottle with us, so transferred the wine to it and drank from that. Somehow, despite the demon drink, we avoided degenerating into unhinged savages and running amok, causing wanton destruction and moral outrage in the well tended parks of Adelaide.
We wandered in the gardens for a while then wandered into town. A lot of places were closed but we did find a cinema. Again, there was nothing much on, so we decided not to bother.
The street with the cinema had an unusual feature - embedded into the concrete were various different coins. We spent a while looking at the floor and identifying as many currencies as we could, then decided that it was time to sort out the pie floater issue once and for all.
There was a bakery in North Adelaide - very close to the expensive Royal Oak as it turned out - which provides the good folks of Adelaide with pie floaters and other baked goods 24 hours a day, Anzac solemnities notwithstanding. We went there and ordered us some pie floaters.
Jacob had his with ketchup, Kirsty without. When Jacob's arrived, the waitress - who we had spoken to about our epic search for the dish - had decorated his pie with the ketchup, drawing a map of Australia and writing "G'day". It wasn't exactly clear what it was until she explained, but it was a nice gesture.
The pie floaters were everything that they promised to be. The meal is a very simple one: get yourself a cooked pie and put it in a dish of thickish pea soup or thinnish mushy peas. Adorn with ketchup if you wish. Eat.
We went back to Renae's, where we spent a nice evening drinking wine, nattering and watching more of her DVDs. The following morning, we woke up to pouring rain, which continued for most of the day. We stayed in for a while, hoping that it might ease off, but eventually resigned ourselves to getting wet and went into town.
We went to visit Central Market, which we looked around for a while. Stocked up with a variety of huge, suspicious looking sausages for our imminent van-based odyssey, we got ourselves some Chinese food for lunch from an 'as much as you can fit on your plate' place. Utterly stuffed, we wandered for a while, looking for a couple of motorbike kit stockists for some Australian made motorbike trousers that Jacob was interested in and assumed would be cheaper where the grape was grown. Both were closed. Bugger.
Instead, we went shopping for a present for Renae - we bought her 'The Green Wing', a British comedy that we thought she would appreciate - and spent some money that Kirsty's colleague Cheryl had given her. Cheryl had given instructions that we should spend it on a drink somewhere. We actually ended up buying ourselves a couple of bottles of something nice. We were due to be driving through the centre of Australia for the next week, so thought it would be good to have a bottle of gin and a bottle of whisky to appreciate in the evenings. They were on special offer, so it seemed rude not to. Cheers, Cheryl!
On our way back to the station, we passed by Rosina Street, which we had been told was home to some 'car park art'. We weren't exactly sure what we were looking for, but soon found out. One wall was completely covered with some very detailed pictures, all done in spray paint. An unusual, but interesting end to the day's explorations.
Renae was going to be going out to her friends Sophie and Dan's house for the evening and had invited us along. We arrived just as the barbecued food was ready, so after a brief round of introductions, everyone got stuck in and settled in front of the TV to watch the AFL - Aussie Rules Football. It's a bit of a complex game - a sort of savage, Rugby-esque affair - played on a big oval pitch, and was once described by a commentator, when it was first introduced to British TV audiences, with the phrase "Someone had to go and ruin a perfectly good game by inventing a set of rules for it".
After eating, we played Uno and Pictionary. It turned out to be quite competitive, especially due to the extremely loud and abrasive Mel, who had something of an aggressive, bloodthirsty approach to games. She'd make a good AFL player. It was a hard fought match but in the end, our team (Renae and us), won the Pictionary, much to Mel's disgust.
Back at Renae's, we found that our iPod would connect. Very carefully, so as not to disrupt the cable - which we had by now decided was the likely cause of the problems - we managed to back up all of the music on it. It took a very long time, so we were pretty tired by the time we got to bed.
The following morning, Renae gave us a lift to the van hire place, where we collected our next van. This one was even bigger than Bryan, the Winnebago that we had taken from Sydney to Melbourne. Having completed the necessary paperwork, we dropped into a supermarket to stock our cupboards.
We were heading for Darwin. We were allowed a maximum of 3615km and seven days to get there. Time to hit the road.