haters gonna hate: why I love RADelaide

There’s a common misconception about my home city. It has this reputation for being dull and lifeless, full of murderers, dole bludgers and all manner of other misfits the normal person would have nothing to do with. Frequently the butt of many a joke by interstate stand-up comedians looking for a cheap laugh, Adelaide cops more than its fair share of mis-informed city-bashing.

I find it baffling that such a pretty, friendly, cultured city cops so much criticism. Why all the negativity?
Is it because we’re “small”? With a population of 1.2 million people, we’re on par with the likes of San Diego, Dallas, Prague and Montevideo. Definitely not the biggest cities in the world, but big enough to have a lot going on and small enough to keep its friendly vibe.
Is it because there’s nothing to do? Surely not. There’s always a concert, musix festival, fashion show, food and wine festival, pop up bar opening, EP launch, or some other event to head along to. I hear complaints that anything good only happens in March and yes, while the Clipsal 500, Cabaret Festival and Adelaide Fringe occur then, they aren’t the only events Adelaide has to offer. Plus, take a short drive and explore the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Riverland or the Barossa Valley. Head a little further afield and you could be four wheel driving in the Flinders Ranges or on the Eyre Peninsula.
Is it because we have no culture? Impossible. South Australia, the only state to have been founded by free settlers, has always been a melting pot of many amazing cultures and traditions. We embrace all of these and have developed our own unique versions. For a taste of German-Australian heritage, head up to the Hills, particularly Hahndorf. For Asian flavour, head to Chinatown (even better during Chinese New Year). Or for a fun day out, try the Croatian Festival, the Glendi Greek Festival, the Carnevale Italian Festival or my personal favourite the OzAsia Festival. Speaking of favourites, another event close to my heart is WOMADelaide. The whole world’s worlds best music played in a beautiful garden.
And the food! Every place I’ve mentioned has an amazing variety of foods to try and some of the country’s best wines and beers to go with it. Cheese Festival anyone? Schutzenfest? It’s all here.
 
When you’ve eaten too much, drank too much, partied too much and generally exhausted yourself, head down to any of our white, sandy beaches for some R and R. A dip in the clear, glassy waters and you’ll be refreshed and ready to go again.
 
These reasons, among many others, are reasons why I live in this beautiful city and why I love it so much. I might take any opportunity to hop on a plane but you’ll always see me coming back home to Adelaide.
 

Why are we so happy? Because we’ve spent the afternoon at Tennyson, one of my favourite beaches.

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my quest for the perfect gnocchi

I have a bit of an obsession with gnocchi. It’s the perfect meeting of my two loves: potato and pasta. My waistline wishes my fondness was for protein shakes or celery or whatever but no, its gnocchi, and I’ve been in love with these delightful little dumplings since I was tiny.I always preach about trying new things but when I see these little parcels of heaven on a menu, I can’t resist. I would love to try them everywhere, Sam I Am. I’ve been lucky enough to have gnocchi in Italy (not everywhere but in a few places, such as Venice) and each region of Italy has it’s own interpretation so I’d love to go on a Grand Gnocchi Tour of Italy one day.

The best I’ve ever had though was in Croatia. I actually thought this was bizarre but it’s not; it’s an extremely popular dish in coastal Croatia (such as Split, where I had the best one); they call it “njoki” (sounds the same, I guess). It was in a tiny little port-side cafe where I sampled this best-gnocchi-dish-of-my-life-so-far. So simple, perfect little morsels tossed in a Gorgonzola sauce. I didn’t even like blue cheese at the time, but after this dish I became a convert, which tells you a little something about it’s power.

Anyway, unfortunately I am not currently overseas on gnocchi-consuming adventures. I did however have a lovely weekend in South Australia’s very own McLaren Vale, sampling the local produce (particularly the wine!). I absolutely love living in Adelaide because McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, the Clare Valley and the Adelaide Hills region are all so close, and the Coonawarra is a few hours’ drive away. These amazing regions are home to some of the world’s best vineyards and microbreweries and the freshest produce.

We went to a restaurant called Au Pear (so cute, check it out here) and I had, of course, the gnocchi. The menu reads: “house made with confit artichoke hearts, caprino fresco and olive cream”. Now, strictly as a gnocchi traditionalist, it wasn’t what I expected. I have to day though, it was delicious. So delicate, so balanced, so fresh – and just enough on the plate to start feeling full without feeling heavy. Maybe that was the idea – we ordered the lemon souffle for dessert!

So, if you want a relaxing afternoon in the sunshine, head down to the Vale for some beautiful food; if you’re somewhere else in the world right now, keep me up to date with the gnocchi on your plate!

Gnocchi, Au Pear restaurant, McLaren Vale – sorry, I dug in before I remembered to take a photo!

how I nearly got banned from the river

Murray River in flood, Teal Flat, South Australia

My partner’s family have a property at Teal Flat, which is right on the Murray about an hour and a half from Adelaide. We head up there quite a lot because it’s nice after a busy week to feel we “got out of the city”, especially because we’re saving up for the wedding and honeymoon so we haven’t been on a proper holiday for a while.

Teal Flat is a private gated community type of set up; it has an Association which set the rules you need to follow if you build a house and spend time there. It keeps things nice and orderly so everyone can have a good time. Most people who have places here come up on the weekends but there are a few (like my future in laws) who live here permanently.

Last weekend, Logan decided it would be a great idea if I hopped on the ride on lawnmower and took it for a spin. I said no, of course, because bad things tend to happen when I get involved with heavy machinery. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!” he says (famous last words). It was decided that I would sit on the seat and my foot would control the throttle, while he stood on one side and did all the steering… seems logical.

So off we went to mow the lawn. Once we had done our own lawn, we went across the road to mow the common land because we’re such great citizens and we were having way too much fun. We were having a great laugh, making jokes about how “the couple who mows together stays together” until mister steered too close to a small tree. “Stop!!!” he yelled, but of course by this stage I had completely forgotten I actually had my foot on the throttle and he had stopped steering because he thought I would stop the mower. We literally went straight over the top of this poor tree.

Quick! we thought. We can put this tree back together before anyone sees (?!) but then we heard someone yell “now you’re in trouble!”… It was Logan’s mum, standing with the head of the Association (who happens to be very fond of those trees) and his wife. We found half the stake to tie the tree to (the other half went through the mover, and thank God the mower was okay) and destroyed the rest of the evidence. Still… I suddenly feel much less welcome.

SHARK!

I was, to be perfectly honest, completely freaking out. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it really and as much as I made jokes about being gobbled up limb by limb I wasn’t really finding it all that funny. The two and a half-hour boat trip out to the Neptune Islands gave my brain plenty of time to do some thought backflips and I jumped from being thrilled to scared to happy to anxious to wanting to vomit.I managed to keep my breakfast down though, unlike most people on the boat. The long ride from Port Lincoln, on the Eyre Peninsula, to the islands is really choppy and when you’re that nervous it’s worse. Once the cage goes in and you’re given the safety brief, that’s when the gravity of what you’re about to do really sinks in.

As I slowly climbed down into the cage, I realised my fear actually had nothing to do with the feared Great White Shark, rather it was the ocean itself I was afraid of. I never used to be scared, and when I was a teenager I would have been the first to get in that cage, but lately a switch has gone off in my head and I’ve been finding myself feeling frightened of things I never used to be afraid of, like heights and open water. Maybe it’s just part of being a responsible adult, maybe it happens when you stop pushing yourself, I don’t know. Yet hopping into that water brought me face to face with that fear.

The first dive I just had to focus on being in the water, using my regulator properly, and calmly breathing in and out. Eventually it got easier. However, after a while I had had enough and had to get out. We hadn’t seen a shark yet. After a hot coffee and a breather I psyched myself up to get back in, but I told myself it would be the last time, and if I didn’t see the shark, so be it. I stayed under for a good 45 minutes, until my face went blue, my ears hurt from the pressure and I had a heache. I was so determined to see that bloody shark! Eventually though, I had to get out. I was freezing!

Of course, as soon as the next group of divers got in the cage, the shark came, Stuff it, I thought, I’m getting back in! And it was so, so worth it.

These amazing creatures really command our respect. They are so calm and graceful; even though I was struggling with the dive they made me feel peaceful. They have such a gruesome reputation but to see them up close was just the most awe-inspiring experience. We saw two sharks a male and a female from what I could see, both about 4-5 metres long. The male even had a bunch of fish swimming along with him! He also had a few scars.

We were so grateful to be able to see the sharks in their natural surroundings, doing what they would normally do without us there. It was really important for us to be able to see them in the wild without upsetting them, as they deserve our respect. Adventure Bay Charters in Port Lincoln really looked after us and the sharks, and we couldn’t have had a better day.