Friday, February 23, 2007

I could get used to this...

Relaxation. It's a beautiful thing. We get up in the morning, DH makes coffee and downloads the NY Times on his laptop, we eat breakfast and then he's off to work at his company's Adelaide office.

I then have another cup of coffee and read the Times myself, and then check e-mails for an hour or so. Some are for work but I also correspond with my friends back in New Jersey, where it is late in the afternoon.

Then it's time to get ready for the beach. Put on bathing suit, apply sun screen, add capri pants and a T-shirt, gather up a couple of books, a banana and yogurt ("European" style - plain with no sugar) and a bottled water, leave the room, stop to pluck a couple of towels from the hotel gymnasium and stuff them serreptitiously in my bag, and then it's on to the train station just across the street.

I then buy my ticket to Seacliff (I tried Brighton Beach the first day but it didn't have a public rest room and I felt funny using the one at the "hotel" (that's Australian for pub, mate) at the beach.

Seacliff is a lovely little beach community a 20-minute commuter train ride away. I take the express train that leaves every half hour. The train platform is only a short walk from the beach, so I arrive on the beach less than a half hour after boarding the train.

I feel proud I have managed to master the art of buying the ticket, getting on the train and validating it in the little machine, and then buying another ticket on the train on the way back. Buying it on the way back is done on the honor system, but of course you can't leave the train station in Adelaide without putting the ticket into the turnstile, so they do check on you.

Wednesday at Brighton Beach, it was rather cool - a southerly breeze was blowing strongly in over the ocean. It's strange to remember that here, a southerly breeze is cold - it's coming from the direction of Antarctica - while a north wind is hot, like the Santa Ana wind, as it blows in off the desert.

That first day I only lay on the beach and enjoyed the breeze and the scene of azure water framed by white sand and picturesque houses; it was a little too breezy to make me want to go in the water.

I am continually amazed at the beaches here. No crowds - at most I see 10 other people the whole time I'm there. No tacky t-shirt shops, stores selling fried dough, hawkers inviting kids to try their hand at winning a stuffed animal. No boardwalk, no rides. More like Cape Cod than the Jersey Shore, but in the end, nothing like anything but itself, the South Australia coast.

My first day at Seacliff, the weather started out the same as the day before - a stiff breeze coming in off the ocean, deep blue sky, azure ocean. After I had eaten my yogurt and banana, I got hungry again later and decided to go to the takeout fish 'n chips restaurant that is next to the Seacliff Hotel, where DH and I had dinner last weekend. These two establishments are the only source of nourishment near the beach. I bought myself a box full of chips and fried fish, dripping with grease and hotter than the sun that was suddenly beating down on me. The wind had changed and was off the land. I sat on my towel and enjoyed my feast. Then I decided to take a dip. The water is not warm here, although it is certainly more temperate than the ocean at Nauset Beach in Eastham, where the water is so cold that immersing your feet in it for more than a minute will make your toes go numb and a dull ache creep up your calves.

On the way back I trudged up the hill to the train platform. There was one other person there, an older gentleman. Being a typical American, I planned to avoid conversation and sat down momentarily on a bench far away from him. Suddenly my feet were covered with tiny ants! Biting tiny ants! I jumped up, squawking, and stamping my feet about. Naturally after that performance I felt I should make some conversation.

We ended up chatting the whole way back to Adelaide. He was born in Italy, but had lived here all his life. Like many Australians, he had traveled far and wide, visited America and seen a cousin in Syracuse he hadn't seen for 40 years, went to New York and Europe, including, of course, his native Italy. And Asia too. He lived in Seacliff, in a mobile home, had just retired, and was on his way to visit his aged parents, mother 95 and father 97, who were in a nursing home in Adelaide.

At the end of the ride we parted ways good friends, with a handshake and a "it was great meeting you."

Today was another hot day at Seacliff, worthy of two dips in the ocean. The day was hazier and the ocean had that kind of greyish vague look that it gets when there is mist on the horizon. Sea gulls stalked me as I ate my banana and yogurt (no fish and chips today, I have to draw the line on the number of calories I consume). Unafraid, they stood not far away and stared at me with their little yellow eyes. I apologized for not having anything for them to eat and they moved on.

As I was standing on the platform waiting for the train back to Adelaide, the magpies were screeching and doves were cooing somewhere. The smell of pine trees and more tropical vegetation permeated the air and a group of women on a nearby bench chattered melodiously in the background. The bushes near the train platform were festooned with brightly colored flowers, and aside from an occasional passing car, there was silence. It was all so peaceful, it was hard to imagine that New Jersey is waiting for me with its cold, its ice, its...employment. Yes, I do have to go back, I know that, but couldn't I just commute from here as I've been doing?

Last night we went out to DH's favorite pub, The Exeter, and met three of his "mates" from his office. Two young ones not long out of school and a somewhat older man (in his 40's, still younger than we are). We were attending "curry night" at the Exeter. The deal is, they serve 5 different types of curry, there's one seating from 6:30 to 9:00, and booking was essential, as it fills up early. We were seated upstairs on the balcony overlooking Rundle Street, the breeze was blowing gently, and it was another great experience. The curries were excellent - we ordered all 5 varieties (a beef vindaloo, a chicken with peanut sauce, a vegetable curry, a Malaysian seafood curry and a lamb curry). Much Coopers ale was consumed by all the men, as I nursed a ginger ale and drank copious amounts of water.

One of the young guys told a funny story; about a year ago his hair had gotten long and he went to a hairdresser and asked if she could do something interesting with it. Her eyes lit up and she suggested a Mohawk. He looked a bit concerned and said he didn't know if work would appreciate that, so she asked him what he did for a living. He said "I'm an engineer." "And," he said, "that's how I got this haircut," pointing to his conservatively cut shortish hair. Apparently that was the engineer haircut.

The older member of the group, who was a kind of Steve Irwin type if Steve Irwin had been an engineer, regaled us with tales of his encounters with wildlife, such as the time he pulled the tail of a large lizard just as it had gone into its hole - he was surprised to find out the lizard was able to turn around quite smartly and come right back at him.

Another time he was camping and was awakened in the middle of the night by nocturnal penguins that were chirupping outside the tent. "They really don't like being picked up though," he commented, adding that they have "really sharp little beaks and claws."

Would you pick up a penguin if you saw one? No? Didn't think so! Neither would I!

After yet more rounds of Coopers Ale, we finally took our leave, after sitting there for nearly 3 hours. DH and I wended our way home, stopping for gelato and cappuccino at a cafe on Rundle Mall.

Rundle Mall isn't a mall in the usual sense of the word in New Jersey. It is a pedestrian shopping street with stores all along both sides, some of which do lead into what we would think of as a "mall." But it has cafes in the middle and even a sculpture of three bronze pigs!

Adelaide is really an exceptional town - it is big enough to be a city, yet small enough to be cozy; it has a vast range of restaurants, from Asian to Italian and everything in between. It has broad streets lined with interesting buildings, including many that date from the mid 1800's, as heritage is important here. And best of all, the entire city is surrounded, and permeated by, parkland, as it was a planned city and greenery was important to Colonel William Light, who planned it all out in the early 1800's. As a result, it is a very liveable city, and reminds me in a way of Portland, Oregon. I could SO live here!


RUTH said...

What a fabulous account of what you're doing. I shall close my eyes and soak up the atmosphere.

Mauigirl said...

Thanks, Ruth! I'll post a bunch of pictures in the next post. We've been taking quite a few!

Rosemary said...

I followed you here from Ruth's post about the painting. I may have traced Greg Moore to an Adelaide company he had in 2002 which had Little Ripper in its name.

I realize you're on vacation, but if you could possibly do some checking ...

Here's the link to what I think is the correct Greg's photo, and the article about his Adelaide business dealings.

Greg Moore

Greg Moore

If you could find out if this Greg Moore is still in the area, that would be fantastic. Even better would be if you can find out where he is now, if this is the Greg Moore who owned Pont Data.