Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Our first day in Adelaide just so happened to be my 24th birthday and I was excited to be celebrating it in a new place. Adelaide is quite different from Perth: a bit grungier, smaller, and tighter packed but easy to navigate and completely surrounded by beautiful parklands and green space. It is the capital of South Australia, which is apparently the only state in Australia established by non-convict, free immigrants (Aussies from SA love to point that out). They have every right to be proud of their state - founded on the promise of civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution, SA has come to be the most progressive of the Australian states. For instance, SA supermarkets won't bag your groceries unless you bring your own bags or buy heavy duty, reusable ones from them. Imagine how much plastic bag waste could be prevented by a policy like that in the US.

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We stopped for a picnic by the River Torrens, located just north of the city
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Rundle Mall
It was easy to see that Christmas mania had descended upon Adelaide - I think it was the 50 ft tall, fiberglass Santa that initially tipped us off. Having grown up on the east coast, it was super strange seeing Christmas decorations and hearing a nearby brass band playing "Good King Wenceslas" in 80+ degrees Fahrenheit Australia. We grabbed some  tasty noodles for a nice lunch in the park, then set out to find a place to stay for the next few days. After setting up camp at a caravan park just outside of town, we ventured back into Adelaide for a rare night of metropolitan festivity and exploration. 

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Our first stop was Adelaide’s famous Central Market: a huge indoor labyrinth of stalls selling local produce, bread, cheese, coffee, and gourmet specialty items. We only had one hour to explore before it closed and barely scratched the surface of this enormous event. The vibrant colors and delectable smells were enough to make you feel that you had reached a type of nirvana. The fruit stalls in particular reminded us of how far we were from home and how close we were to Asia, selling rambutan, lychee, jackfruit, and other fabulous Asian delights. We bought a few marinated Greek olives to munch as we wandered. All the while I kept thinking about how my late Grandma Julie, a true gourmet and a feisty proponent of all things delicious, would have loved this place. It was “Food of the gods!” as she would so often say. 

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If there’s one thing to be said about Australian cities, it’s that there is never a shortage of places to eat. Urban Australians love to eat out, so even though there are 500 restaurants packed into one city, they never seem to be short on business. This competition greatly benefited our options for dinner, but did not help our indecisiveness. We wandered up and down the Asian restaurant district across from Central Market for what seemed like an hour until we settled on a Malaysian restaurant. After a delightful seafood lakhsa and a plate of wok-fried sweet chili squid, we wandered the hoppin’ streets of Adelaide for a nightcap. 


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Tucked between the gaudy nightclubs filled with plastered backpackers we found an awesome little place on Hindley St called Apothecary 1878. This place was a pharmacy in the 19th century and is now a chic, multi-level wine and cocktail bar, complete with old-timey medicine bottles for decoration. As we browsed their incredibly extensive drink menu we noticed that they even offered six different kinds of absinthe at various levels of potency. Tres cool. It was a lovely place to spend the end of a great evening - enjoying a few final sips of cultural luxury before having to revert back to our ramen and canned spaghetti standard. 

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Before departing Adelaide for some much needed employment, we did a bit more exploring in this very socially progressive Aussie city. Along North Terrace are several free museums nestled among the University of Adelaide’s campus. One, a natural history museum, had a beautiful, extensive exhibit on Aboriginal culture as well as a few others on local paleontology, flora and fauna, and historical Antarctic expeditions. 


 


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Another museum, the Immigration Museum, had an interactive exhibit on the “White Australia Policy,” various immigration policies designed to keep Australia primarily white and British, which started at the turn of the century and continued until as recently as 1973. The exhibit was designed to put you in the shoes of a non-British immigrant trying to enter the country and whether or not you would make the cut. The requirements for them to enter were ludicrous. An immigrant from Italy, for instance, might be given a dictation exam in Norwegian, and would be summarily deported if they failed. There were also policies relating to Aboriginals that were designed with the deliberate intention of preventing them from reproducing. For many years, it was illegal for two full-blood aboriginals to marry in some parts of Australia. It was an enlightening exhibit, but disturbing that policies such as these were allowed to happen, let alone go on for as long as they did.

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If you ever find yourself in Adelaide, you should also check out a place called Elephant Walk. This awesome late-night establishment is incredibly tiny, but has cozy sofa nooks separated by bamboo screens and serves delicious coffees and deserts. It only opens after 8pm so it’s a great place to go late and have a Viennese coffee and some sticky date pudding. We would also highly recommend the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, a beautiful place for a walk where we found the Museum of Economic Botany. Yes, we know that is possibly the most boring name for a museum ever, but it was actually a really fascinating display of the myriad uses of plants and produce. Okay, still a bit geeky, but really interesting stuff!


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A type of lily from the Amazon
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Some kangaroo paw we found blossoming in one of the gardens showcasing native Aussie plants
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Ben samples some local microbrew - I believe this was McLaren Vale Ale, very tasty
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