Lead me down the garden path
You don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate the healing powers of a garden, whether it’s a shady spot under a big old fig tree, a leafy glade or a richly coloured, pillowy flowerbed. So when I push my way through the iron gates of the Adelaide Botanic Garden, I am instantly put at ease.
I wander down the gravelly path, twisting and winding my way further into the garden. I pass woody Cycads, evergreen Wollemi pines and tall Araucarias before taking a seat on the dewy grass beside Kainka Wirra Main Lake.
A light breeze touches the water in ripples and the sun, peaking through the clouds, glistens across the lake where the water lentils have separated.
A little later at the Botanic Garden Restaurant, housed in a heritage rotunda, I have another picture-perfect view of the lake as I muse over the breakfast menu and sip on my nojito (I’m not in the habit of drinking at 9am), a fizzy concoction of muddled lime and apple juice.
The restaurant is spacious and contemporary with an all-white colour scheme and floor-to-ceiling windows. I start my day with a very generous serving of sautéed portobello mushrooms on toast with vine tomatoes and goat’s chèvre; it’s hearty and delicious with lots of texture and a punchy tang from the fresh cheese.
I waddle across the garden to the magnificent Palm House – it’s a Victorian glasshouse, probably the last of its kind, filled with a collection of arid Madagascan plants. The impressive structure was imported from Germany and opened in 1877, but its tall pillars and ornate domed ceilings remind me of an Ottoman temple. The exquisite hanging glass walls and fine iron glazing bars were restored in 1995 and is surrounded by a cactus and succulent garden.
It’s a sanctuary of peace – quiet and untrammelled by others. There are no plugged-in power mums jogging with baby strollers and their vibrating blackberries or troops of lycra-clad cyclists that take up the entire width of the pathway. It almost doesn’t feel like life in the real world. I’ve been left to contemplate the weather, my daily itinerary and where I need go without a single person passing me by – do I really want to leave this place?
It’s hard to believe I’m in the middle of South Australia’s capital city in a garden spanning 125 acres and that I’m yet to see a single one of the 1.23 million Adelaideans who live here.
Admittedly, Adelaide is a small capital city, one of the smallest in the country. Nevertheless this ‘City of Churches’ – a moniker coined from the city’s history as Australia’s first freely settled colony with a commitment to religious freedom and civil liberties – is known for its absolutely jam-packed annual events calendar.
I’m here to see the Santos Tour Down Under (a UCI WorldTour event – perhaps that’s where all the cyclists are) but there's an event to suit almost any interest – like Adelaide Film Festival, the month-long arts festival Adelaide Festival and Fringe, the music and dance festival WOMADelaide, Adelaide International Guitar Festival, and the list continues.
The Adelaide Botanic Garden is one of three public gardens that grow alongside the city’s eclectic mix of old and new architecture. It’s conveniently wedged between the National Wine Centre, which runs regular wine courses to develop visitors’ palates, and the Art Gallery of South Australia, housing an extensive collection of contemporary international art.
As the final stage of the Tour Down Under is about to begin, I leave the garden as slowly as I can, hesitant to bid farewell its soothing lakes and tranquil greenery. As I walk through the gates I promise myself that I will come back soon – at the very least for another nojito.
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