I was comfortably situated at a table in the Mortlock Wing of the State Library, taking advantage of their wifi to work and catch up on Game of Thrones, when Greg sent me the Travel & Leisure article naming Adelaide the 5th most livable city in the world. Not in Australia, in the world. The article doted on the job opportunities and the healthcare of the city in South Australia; it complimented its green spaces and education system. The article gave me a sense of accomplishment—my life had carved its own, twisting path to this little-known gem without needing Conde Nast for directions—and it gave Greg and Holli a smirk of validation—“See,” their smiles seemed to say, “people who know think our home is fantastic, too!”
how i ended up in adelaide
From Cairns–after enjoying a full month of hot, tropic weather–I plunged south to the chilly winter of an Australia August. When I disembarked the plane I was startled to find Greg waiting at the gate for me. It had been many months–and easily a dozen plane-rides–since someone was waiting for me. And there he was. What could have been an awkward greeting of friends who had only met once 18 months ago was suddenly easy. We chatted about airport security on our way to baggage claim, both of us fascinated that the US doesn’t allow anyone beyond security without a boarding pass while Australia does.
I met Greg and his wife, Holli, in Brazil in January 2016 when we were all visiting Foz do Iguacu where we bonded over beer and sunburns. They welcomed me into their home and into their family with warmth and excitement. Holli and I ventured into the CBD to explore the highlights that Adelaide’s CBD has to offer a tourist. Greg introduced me to the Australian traditions of Vegemite and The Castle (1997). On the weekends we escaped the city to explore the nature beauty between the coast and the mountains.
What I thought would be a weekend-visit turned into two weeks. The candor of the city intrigued me, but it was not just the Mortlock Library or the beauty of South Australia that kept me in one place, it was the people who made me feel so welcome to stay.
adelaide in south australia
Adelaide is called “the city of churches” because the European immigrants that settled there, starting in the 1830s, where in pursuit of civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution. Because it was not a convict colony like those farther east—Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane—Adelaide was a planned capital, shaped by European wealth, the remnants of which can be seen in the grid layout of the city, the wide boulevards and the beautiful public spaces the city still enjoys today.
Life seem is concentrated in the CBD—central business district. There you will find the State Library of South Australia (and my beloved Mortlock Wing), the Migrant Museum and the Art Gallery of South Australia next door. Across the Northern Terrace are the Adelaide Arcade, the Renegade Arcade and the Beehive Corner. Farther down King Williams Street, are the old post office building, Victoria Square where judicial life is concentrated, and the Central Market where all kinds of Australia treasures—for your taste buds—are found. Behind the library along the River Torrens is the Adelaide Zoo, the Botanical Gardens—with greenhouses and buildings from the 1800s!—and places of worship—St. Peter’s Cathedral, Brougham Place Uniting Church and the Adeliade Oval.
Outside of the city-proper, there is the mountain town of Handorf that celebrate its German heritage with beer and treats; there are the lush wineries of Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, etc; there are beaches and bushwalks and scenic drives.
from my home to yours
One morning over Vegemite and toast–Greg was having Vegemite and toast, I was just having toast–Greg confirmed that I would be making Kentucky fried chicken. He had been quizzing me about the famous American food, whether my Kentucky-family has their own recipe and if I would make them some while I was there.
I couldn’t refuse.
I was excited to share a bit of my family with their family. The results of my efforts, though, were disappointing. (I’m honestly not as good of a cook as I think I am). In their clean kitchen, I went through the phases of my panic attacks–anxiety, angry, defeat–but I ended on laughter. In their bright kitchen I thought of my mamaw and the angry fits she use to throw. Something burned, someone was late, she forgot an ingredient, the cake didn’t rise–whatever the problem, she would someone end on self deprecating laughter, too. Her absolution was the ugly food still tasted good. I had certainly made ugly food, and I felt her haunting the chicken, giggle with me our most recent culinary failure.
Still, Greg and Holli’s family kindly ate every last bit of the meal I prepared. The scene around their dinner table was an intimate one; I not only knew myself to be welcomes, I felt it. The intimacy of the family setting included me, their disappointing cook.
The evening passed around the table, watching Greg’s dad pick at the banjo and listening to the various opinion the Australians had of Queen Elizabeth. And I thought of Mamaw again. What would she think if she could have seen me? What would she think of her granddaughter frying chicken in Adelaide, Australia?