Primarily I we went to Adelaide to enjoy the atmosphere of the “Tour Down Under”. Its like a mini Tour de France but held over only one week. Many of the international cycling professionals come to the TdU in Adelaide as the beginning of their season. This year Lance Armstrong from the US returned. Our own World Road Champion, Cadel Evans joined the list of stars. Adelaide is 750 km from Melbourne and an easy shared drive of approximately ten hours.
Below: Adelaide, like Melbourne has its markets - This is the facade of the fruit and veggie market.
This stall specialises in the lean kangaroo meat.
But Adelaide is more than a one week bike race. For me it was an excuse to return to one of my favorite Australian cities. With a population of approximately 1.1 million, it is listed in the top 10 of most livable cities and I can’t help but agree. Set out on a grid pattern, Adelaide was founded in 1836 and one of the few cities colonized by free settlers. Other cities such as Hobart and Sydney were colonized by mostly a population of convicts from the UK.
Architecture in Adelaide varies with examples of modern within the city yet it retains its heritage with an enormous amount of buildings from the 1800s.
The fountain above recognises the indiginous tribes that walked the hills, plains and beaches of Adelaide before white settlement in 1836. They were known as the Kaurna tribe.
The city is surrounded by the Adelaide Hills on one side which contain some beautiful villages and vineyards that produce some of Australia’s best wines. While following the TdU, we cycled through the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and the Clare Valley. The hills offered some tough climbing but also some exhilarating downhill experiences. Each ride took us to a morning coffee stop and a lunch time stop while viewing the professional cyclists at different points of their route. Racing in temperatures from high 20s to high 30s, they were assured of some tough conditions in the hills. Many of the Europeans will go home with a suntan for their spring racing season.
Tanundra is a normally a sleepy villages and home to many of the Barossa wines of Australia - that is until the Tour Down Under comes to town. The locals dress up and show off their village to the many spectators from all corners of the world.
Adelaide has a calm and relaxed feeling about it that many say is a little slow. Their peak hour traffic is probably only 30 minutes and both the beach and the hills are no more than a half hour drive from most points from the city centre.
Three times green jersey Tour de France winner, Robbie McEwan leans across to World Champion Cadel Evans to share a laugh - we were so close that you could hear the conversations between the riders.
The beaches are situated on the shores of the St Vincent’s Gulf and as one looks out across the waters, it’s possible to see dolphins frolicking and the occasional whale passing by. One of our rides took us down to Glenelg and Henley, then along the coast to Semaphore for an eggs and bacon breakfast. These coastal suburbs were originally the beachside holiday resorts of the wealthy of Adelaide and consequently there are many grand homes overlooking the Gulf. Many have now been turned into apartments or guest houses.
Glenelg was one of our favorite riding destinations for a morning coffee. The monument above marks the landing place of the first white settlers to Adelaide.
Adelaide has a small population of German and Italian settlers from the early years and this is partly where the wine growing industry grew from. After our rides we would congregate at our favorite eating spots in the city. Bocelli’s and Alphonso’s, both originating from the Italian heritage of Adelaide.
Under the shade of this spreading tree, we enjoyed a breakfast before moving on to the start of another TdU stage. The owner had travelled to France several times and had created an atmosphere of a rural village cafe. The garden even had sunflowers and lavender, a touch of Provence.
Up in the hills we climbed to the villages of Tanundra in the Barossa and Handorf on the entry to Adelaide from Melbourne. Handorf is an early German settlement which hosted one of the tour stages and they made the most of their heritage with the locals being dressed in the clothes of the ancestor’s period.
Tanundra also hosted a stage finish. While on our ride to see the this stage, we passed many of the well known Australian vineyards including, Wolf Blass, Grant Burge and the TdU’s past sponsor, Jacob’s Creek are all in the area. Last year Sue and I travelled through Burgundy and the village of Chablis. Other than the Gum trees, the ride brought back many pleasant memories.
As much as I enjoyed the cycling and the TdU, Adelaide deserves more of my time as a tourist as it has so much to offer. Maybe later in the year we will return to do just that.
Having said that, Sue and I have only eight weeks before we find ourselves back in France.