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Wednesday Schnitzel Club

If I really, really think about it Australians love schnitzels more than Germans.

This is a modern truth and the bitter border war between South Australia and Victoria over whether the cheese and tomato topping is parmi or parma shows the fierce affection in which this dish is held. Of course every linguist would tell you the abbreviated form of parmigiana is parmi.

Like the best traditions this one evolved without planning or strategy. One night Chrisso rang to see if I’d like to dine Wednesday evening at the Purple Parrot on Brighton Road (long gone) and it went from there as we asked other largely Kapunda High alumni to join us. Over four years we went to the pub 159 times and more often than not, had schnitzel.

We kept a 96 page exercise book (courtesy of Marryatville High) and took turns recording the details of these Wednesday nights. Here’s five entries from the diary.

7/5/97 Kensington Hotel Attendance- Nick, Mickey and Chris

  • a fantastic discovery. Somewhat secreted and little discussed but very good
  • Stout Season officially launched. Nick and Chris worked their way through a solid thicket of black n tans
  • impressive jukebox in the front bar- Dylam, Doors etc. No techno or dolphin-waxing shite
  • C and N had such a lovely time that they were unable to recollect next week’s venue

4/6/97 Brompton Park Attendance- Chris, Nick, Paul, Greg and Mickey

  • another gem
  • “no colours, patches, parrots or pirates”
  • good draught beer on tap
  • substantial schnitzels and Puggy’s frail, 98-pound weakling physique evoked considerable sympathy from the cook and so she force-fed him two schnitzels
  • local lads provided tunes via a jam session

27/5/98 Cumberland Arms, Waymouth Street Attendance- Stephen, Bobby, Nick, Mickey

  • Dean Jones has retired
  • Deano and cauliflower out; spinach and Potato Twins (chip + mash) in
  • crusty bread- played rodeo clown role- skilled, dangerous and highly valued but largely misunderstood and unappreciated
  • schnitzels were butchers’ gold- quite magnificent
  • innkeeper and stove staff were hospitable and jovial folk
  • Nick suggested a beer and video evening watching Slapshot

24/6/98 Producers Hotel Attendance- Bobby, Stephen, Nick, Mickey

  • false start as only breakfast and heroin for sale
  • moved to the Griffins Head
  • don’t touch it- couldn’t get a proper black n tan because inept management didn’t know how to handle the electronic cash register
  • 20 cents for tomato sauce
  • food average so adjourned to the Crown and Anchor to talk about Uncle Greg

21/8/98 British Hotel, North Adelaide Attendance- Bobby, Nick, Chrisso, Mickey, Woodsy, Lukey, RP, Crackshot, Stephen, Abba, GS Chappell

  • 100th pub visit
  • then went to the Exeter and PJ O’Briens
  • hint- pints of sparkling ale may be injurious to your health
  • adjourned to Club Dimora (Nick’s townhouse) for nightcaps, poopsticks, spa maintenance and a coma
  • called into the Austral at 11am for a quick beer (1 at 11, or 11 at 1)
  • retired hurt
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Pub Review: Glorious in Excelsior, Today-o

In June I chronicled our first pub visit in 92 days, and now I describe our final pub experience for, well, dunno.

Back then it was at the Broady in Glenelg South, and on this occasion circumstances allowed us to swing by the Excelsior in the inner suburb of Brompton.

The government’s lunchtime press conference saw our lockdown outlined, and so, with a singular wish, we made a booking.

I’d last frequented the Excelsior about twenty years ago as part of a loose, but committed collective which attempted to visit every hotel in Adelaide under the cross of a Wednesday Schnitzel Club. Back then the pub’s interior design was Phantom-themed as in the ghost who walks, man who can not die. I’ve since discovered this connects to Marvel comics hero Stan Lee’s lifelong catchcry- excelsior.

Now, this motif has been retired and the pub is a little more anonymous with standard boozer carpet and taupe walls and a circa 1998 Triple M soundtrack. But, its location is trendy Coglin Street and the mise en scène as we alighted our cars was suggestive of Melbourne’s Fitzroy given the proximity to the CBD, and aspirational and artsy population.

The service was friendly and the staff were certainly approachable. There was no gloomy subtext which in their position would’ve been fair. Ordering a Big Shed American Ale the advice was, “It’s highly drinkable and quite fruity.”

Claire opted for an entrée of parmi (not parma) bread and this got our last supper underway in a fashion of which JC may have nodded his Neoplatonist approval. It was a warm evening, but C’s glass of red was both generous and pleasant in that luxurious, midweek way.

Despite the swirling uncertainty in our city-state the pub patrons appeared calm and accepting. Nearby, a family with three young girls coloured in their books in functional silence. Even their pigtails were cooperative, laying still on their narrow shoulders. Thinking of the boys at their age, I shuddered at the likely fiscal and psychological tolls of a similarly modest mealtime.

My beef burger was satisfactory although I’m constantly dismayed at the absence of beetroot in these. Surely, its inclusion is as Australian as pineapple on a Hawaiian pizza. My chips came in one of those petite wire baskets about which I have reservations. Still, they’re better than suffocating them beneath a schnitzel which must soon enjoy a Royal Commission.

Claire’s salad was plentiful and enjoyed. The roast capsicum, red onion, baby bocconcini, and bacon all played their roles like a young Meryl Streep, whatever this means.

Strolling out into the early evening a clot of lads was settling in for the night on their apartment balcony and judging by the hollering were each about five beers deep.

We were all on the cusp of lockdown, but I remember that excelsior means upward and I nodded to myself and glanced again at the balcony.

Their approach seemed impeccable.

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Pub Review: In which our heroes discover that the Victoria Hotel is victorious and the Terminus Hotel is terminal

It’s 140 metres from Strathalbyn’s Victoria Hotel to the Terminus Hotel. However, a wide aesthetic divide reveals itself inside these proximate pubs. How did this happen? We were about to find out.

Arriving mid-afternoon, Claire and I saunter about the fetching park and gardens, River Angas, bowls club and swimming pool. As a measure of its prosperous agricultural location there’s many handsome and sprawling homes. We go to the oval where the Strathalbyn Roosters Junior Colts are training ahead of Saturday’s Preliminary Final against the Willunga Demons. The surface is lush and closely mown. Circle work is underway.

We peer in the window of the footy club. The bar’s open and some parents are yakking around a table. Pausing on the verandah, with the yelling and the voices leaping about the damp oval, we conclude that with its small court and limited players, netball doesn’t need much vocalising whereas footy, played on massive meadows with 36 participants, demands constant interaction. The young Roosters move the ball well and I hear, “Macca, Macca! Run hard Josh. Good pass Scotty!” Their full-forward takes a few grabs and leaning back, Grenville Dietrich style, he slots a couple majors while we watch and chat, the soundtrack of Thursday afternoon training making me nostalgic for my own small, distant playing days.

The Angus river is known as the Amazon of the Fleurieu

The Victoria pub is open-hearted with a fire place, multiple tap beers, and exposed brick and stonework. After our strolling it’s a treat to park ourselves by the flames and, just as I think it needs some attention, mine-host emerges and hoicks on some logs before prodding it like a gruff publican. The orange warmth cloaks us and our cold thaws. In the morning, with snow forecast, we’ll drive to Mount Lofty and step out of the car into a tumble of silent flakes. In late September! In Adelaide! Back in the boozer, Claire has a sparkling white while I select a Balter XPA. Both are crisp and tipped in with joy.

The dining room features table candles and wine barrels sitting atop the ceiling beams in acknowledgement of our closeness to Langhorne Creek, picturesque home to fine cabernet sauvignon. My salt and pepper squid is fleshy and tasty and I ask Claire, “How’s your vegetarian curry?” to which she replies, “Curried and vegetably.” There’s a gladdening buzz in the bar as we jettison ourselves into the rainy darkness.

The Victoria is cosy and relaxing; unlike the eponymous British queen

Late Saturday, we learnt that The Terminus is truthfully named and my only doubt is if it best describes the clientele, staff, or pub itself. Recently renovated, it includes clean walls and a wide, self-possessed bar that have only rendered it charmless and incurably grim. It’s a place for devoted punters and should at least smell of fresh paint, but I detect despair and plummeting testosterone. Our drinks were slopped out by a sour type who ensured all her coloured-glass water bottles were filled to the brim before she lifted her lifeless eyes and sullenly served us, understanding, of course, there’s immense profit in tap water compared to tap beer.

Suddenly craving fresh air we bypassed the bent menfolk, watery-eyed over their warm glasses and, like the pesky kids in Scooby Doo, crept outside. A beer garden should cultivate sunshiny conversation and laughter but, despite overlooking the emerald park and the river, that of The Terminus merely nurtures ugly tables, upturned plastic chairs, unendurable dog poo, and disappointment.

The Terminus is unfun for all the family

I’ve been to Paris three times but, until last week, never to Strathalbyn which is less than an hour from Adelaide. How does this happen? We’ll soon return to its pastoral cosiness if not all its pubs.

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Pub Review: The Exeter, Semaphore

While it would be an exaggeration to say it’s a hot August night it’s at least a delightfully mild August evening in Semaphore when I pull into the Exeter’s carpark.

Pie and wine night for C

Inside I gaze about and think it’s a pub that straddles the fuzzy line between olden working men’s boozer and a more inclusive family venue. Maybe it’s both, or neither.

I’m early and in this situation would usually take a wander about the salad bar and form a plan of attack. Potato salad? Possibly. Coleslaw? Nup, not enough carrot and too much cabbage. Pea and corn? Arrh, now here’s a treat. Takes me back to the Kimba Cricket Club barbecues after training on Thursdays when there’d be seven blue ice-cream containers, each complete with a tin of peas and a tin of corn, lovingly upended by seven bachelors as they rushed (or not) to the town nets by the oval.

No, not nearly as nice as this

But, of course, the pandemic means salad bars are barred, possibly even at country cricket clubs.

I have a Session Ale and Claire settles upon a house red. It comes from a large, stainless steel dispenser that could’ve once smothered sticky-fingered and faced toddlers with soft-serve ice-cream in a Pizza Hut. The bar staff member simply pushes a button and deep red plonk eases into Claire’s glass! Sadly, the spectacle outstrips the shiraz, but still, it was a diverting eight seconds.

Subconsciously designating tonight a Neil Diamond tribute I think about the Greek Theatre and so order the seafood duo which comes with calamari, so beloved on Santorini if not in Croydon.

Claire decides upon the pie, mash and peas, noting that pies are notoriously difficult to destroy. And, of course, she’s right. Serve up a steak and everybody’s got a view. Too tough! Too stringy! Should only be eaten medium-rare! Take the same meat and stick it under the comforting cloak of pastry and there’s only happy, munching silence.

We eat on the lower floor not far from the indoor playground which has attracted running, boisterous kids. That’s the problem with having an indoor playground in a pub: the kids treat it like an indoor playground. I know. My boys bloodied themselves here a few years’ ago.

seafood: yes, I hope you can
LNP operative

The upper floor has sport on screens everywhere, but there’s only one near us and it’s showing an A-League final. Remember back in April when sport across the entire planet stopped apart from the Belarus Premier League? Now, to my shame I couldn’t tell you how Torpedo Zhodino FC is travelling.

Claire’s pie is a treat and my seafood duo is excellent. My salad comes with cherry tomatoes. Sometimes these can be a watery disappointment, like a Backstreet Boys song, but mine are zesty little bombs.

Pubs around the land are showing the Horn v Tszyu fight from Townsville, but I head home to watch Micallef with the childish hope that Darius Horsham will call the host, “an economic girlie-man.”

The Exeter’s lower dining deck
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Fourteen Notes on the Fed on Semaphore

fed photo

  1. The Alfresco Bistro is undercover.
  2. Our bartender is from Mt Isa where she suggests there are 36-degree winter days. This is better than Mt Iso where life is decidedly grim.
  3. When Claire orders our meals the bartender displays excellent up-selling skills asking, “Shall I add another red on your bill for later?”
  4. It’s Happy Hour with all beers $6.50. However, XXXX Gold is $6.60 which is more than the necessary disincentive.
  5. Two beardy lads are playing pool. A pool table is rare in my pub travels.
  6. Claire asks for a house red and the bartender brings three bottles for her to choose from – a Coonawarra, a Langhorne Creek and a Barossa Valley.
  7. We meet our dear friend Chris (also Kapunda High class of 1983) who works at the Osborne Naval Shipyard.
  8. Chris has been to Spain for work many times. Once in the south of Spain he asked a local, “What’s that big island over there?” The local replied, “Africa.”
  9. His trip to the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed has been cancelled. With his refund Chris will buy a beer-making kit so he can brew ESB.
  10. Two guitars hang on the wall. No labels identify these so I assume they were lost property.
  11. Chris and I both order the fish and the fillets are most generous.
  12. Claire takes much of her (vegetarian) pizza home and finishes it for lunch on Thursday.
  13. Our meals come with petite bread rolls. Pleasingly, these are warm and not, as many I have had, fresh from the fridge and colder than the beer.
  14. The Happy Hour blackboard advertises an Alien Brain Annihilation. This seems optimistic. I have never seen an alien, not even in Semaphore.

bar

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Pub Review: The Palais, Semaphore

palais 2

The police officer was uninterested.

“It’s likely no-one will claim it. You might as well keep it. Buy your kids something.” I imagined people I know- my parents, old bosses, footy coaches- nodding at my choice so I disagreed and said, “I think I’d prefer to bring it in.”

Earlier I’d found some money on the footpath by Semaphore’s Palais pub, and on my way home I rang to get advice.

With my local beach-side police station closed on the weekend (most convenient that crime and problems only occur during business hours) I called in a few days’ later, and this constable also urged me to keep the cash. The paperwork’s clearly a menace.

I wondered what might’ve happened when I was a boy, and I prefer this old world when the gruff, local copper would’ve taken the money from across a big desk and said, “Why did you take so long to bring this in? The person who lost it is probably worried sick.” I’d have been sent scurrying with no thanks or praise, but a clip under my ear.

Surely, we need our police to be the most moral members of society.

Palais

I was last at the Palais during the previous millennium, and now the interior’s all light and white and Gatsby-like in style. Claire and I meet in the Beach Bar and there’s cheery clusters of punters about.

I see a sign promising happy hour pints from $5, but my pulse stabilises glumly when I learn this only applies to XXXX Gold. Still, my pale ale and Claire’s red are agreeable and we find our table.

My fish ‘n’ chips arrive all boy-scout proud and substantial. The salad is coleslaw although it’s labelled as red cabbage slaw, and I’m reminded of when my childhood idols Sherbet changed their name to The Sherbs. I cared not for this and only wanted to hear Ripper ’76 and its opening song, “Howzat” blasting on the Pye 3-in-1.

Happily, The Slaw was zesty while my chips were golden and crunchy. I initially left about ten on my plate for reasons of personal health, but Shaun of the Dead-like ate them all with little awareness of my autonomous hand shovelling them into my yawning gob. This happens to me often. The CCTV video footage would be incriminatory.

Dwelling more upon coleslaw I pondered if it weren’t the CD player of the salad world, neither sexily retro nor fashionable among hipsters, with potato salad the resurgent vinyl record, and quinoa and feta the trendy streaming service.

Let’s not leave cabbage out in the cold.

On yet another cloudless winter’s day we saw the sky grow pink and orange across the gulf and discussed how this is both a delight and a worry.

Courtesy of the $14 daily special Claire’s burger was impressive in size and flavour despite the accompanying river of mayo. She also found her mound of chips a midweek treat. It’d been an excellent visit.

The Palais is spectacularly located on the esplanade just north of the jetty, and climate and contagion permitting, would be worth a return fixture as spring slides into view.

CB

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Pub Review: The Greenock, Barossa Valley

greenock pub

Located on the north-west edge of the Barossa, Greenock was a town I typically ignored in my youth.

Coming from Kapunda for footy or cricket we’d drive through it in a minute on route to Nuri, Tanunda or Angaston. Sometimes, after a hot afternoon in the field you’d swing by the Greenock pub, five of you in an old Holden furnace (six in a HQ if it had a bench seat in the front), and each get a longneck in a brown paper bag for the meandering trip home.

Now, Greenock is a destination. There’s a handful of bright cellar-doors and the excellent Greenock Brewers, run by Chris and Lisa Higgins. Also chief among the attractions is the pub and on my annual June sabbatical I meet old school mate Nick there for lunch.

brewers

The local cricket club is nicknamed the Schlungers and their teams comprised an assortment of blokes usually called Nitschke. Playing at their home ground was often memorable, and one distant day my friend Bob’s bowling career came to a tragicomic and delayed death with an eighteen ball over (which only contained seven legal deliveries). Despite being an opponent he brought curious relevance to the GCC’s official prayer: Blessed are we who are cracked, for we shall let in the light.

Walking into the pub you instantly feel a sense of earthy relaxation with the curved wooden bar, fireplaces and dining rooms both spacious and snug. Given our reverent understanding of history Nick and I order Norton burgers, named for former mine host Norton Schulter who ran it for many years along with his son Mick. The Schulters have owned the pub for 150 years. Norton recently turned ninety.

norton

Norton (on left) a publican’s publican

We each nurse a Trafalgar Pale Ale and chat about times old and new; local footy and the AFL; Tarantino and the Stuttgart beer festival; Vampire Weekend and boys and utes and misbehaviour; family and love. Winemakers and farmers drift in. Outside, the world spins with blind delirium.

Decades ago Kapunda fielded an indoor cricket team on Thursday nights in Tanunda. Despite having some decent cricketers we were no match for the side filled with Schlungers and other Barossa notables like Horrie Moore who were so cocky they took to fancy dress. Once they whipped us while wearing rubber boots. Another time, in dresses. Humbled, we’d break up the despondent quarter-hour drive home by pausing at the Greenock for a healing cup and Fats would press C6 on the jukebox which was, “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. Back then we were all caught in a trap.

schlungers

The Schlungers

For a while some pubs engaged in a pissing contest to see who could serve the biggest schnitzel and you’d often get one flopping off your plate the size of grandma’s best tea-towel. Now, the competition has moved from acreage to height and burgers and it’s all culinary architecture and perilous scaffolding and intimidating the diner into meekly deconstructing their meal in an act of surrender. Happily, no shallow displays of Freudian compensation in the Greenock today and we find our Norton burgers approachable, just like their eponymous inspiration.

And the chips are great too.

In this complex, unknowable time the Greenock pub is a sanctuary within the sanctuary of the Barossa within South Australia’s sanctuary. An easy amble from Adelaide, the pub and its unpretentious charms make this hamlet a terrific destination.

oval

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Bongo, Crackshot, Fats, Lukey, Pete, Rocket, Swanny, Whitey, Woodsy and me

holdy

“I’m Dale Kerrigan and this is my story.”

An undeniably great movie line as there’s a simplicity and a plain beauty in it. With this Australian cinematic classic in mind I begin today’s entry: I’m Michael Randall, and this is my pub story.

Among the first and most notable casualties of 2020 and its other-worldliness was the King’s Head pub in Adelaide on King William Street. It’s been our Kapunda catch-up venue for a few years now, but has succumbed to viruses both airborne and fiscal.

A temporary hosting hostlery has been found in the Holdy, a Glenelg pub formerly owned by the Chappells although I’m unsure if third sibling Trevor was involved. If he was I imagine he spent much time in the cellar as ordered by older brother Greg.

trevor

After introductory cups and opening remarks there were lamb shanks (much better than Armitage Shanks and more easily digested) and schnitzels and nostalgia and laughter and medicinal refreshment. The wintry sun streamed in and caught our noggins, variously hirsute or not.

A late omission was old mucker Matey who had an excuse (sport shooting out north) and O’s, who did not (couch-bound). Still, we had an effervescent quorum and invested a diverting afternoon and some disposable income.

Regrettably, our luncheon coincided with the Crows game from Brisbane. Circumstance and fierce indifference meant I’d not seen a second of their already bleak season and that morning I’d vowed to not see any of it, preferring instead to wash my hair or scrub toilets.

kapunda

However, above my head like a drive-in movie screen (most memorably the Barossa Line near Tanunda) was an unavoidable TV and my eyes were drawn to it and the silent disaster unfolding.

But this was of only minor distress for we spoke of the sale of Puffa’s pub in Kapunda and the imminent local footy season (Bombers v Freeling up late July) and absent friends and ridiculous ephemera. And I’m sure, at some point of HQ Holdens, crashed and otherwise.

holdy 2

When we began departing I shook the hand of Fats’ son Blake who was about to escort his dad home, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Lovely to see you. I blame your father for anything bad that’s ever happened to me.” Much giggling followed and I’m sure Fats will one day say something similar to my boys.

We tumbled out into the Sunday light and headed off by foot and car to our suburbs and homes and even Kapunda. We will do this again soon, likely at Christmas. The stories will not change.

I hope so.

dale

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92 days

pub 2

On the kitchen wall is a calendar.

Despite phone reminders and pinging emails I like to write events and notes in its date boxes. Things like ‘Lunch with Mum and Dad’ or ‘electricity due’ or ‘flea powder’ (dogs not boys). In February I took my annual pleasure in adding all the Glenelg games and felt the frisson of the footy season stretching out like an endless holiday with its attendant joys and hopes.

But then, of course, it didn’t happen and now five of those home match-day reminders have been and gone, virtually crossed-off, and Saturdays have been soundless at Glenelg oval. No knots of punters making their way through the Cornes Gate and down to the Fred Phillis End or over to the grassy mound in front of the scoreboard, with the beer caravan staffed by past players nearby.

I’ve not really missed it for footy is a luxury. Happily for me other indulgences have moved into that space, like gas filling a vacuum. Like many I’m in a place without the traditional weekend markers and I’ve adapted.

This has been true of the pub too.

pub 3

The last time I was at the Broady was on Thursday, March 5 at 4.45. It was a calm autumnal afternoon when I met Mozz and Puggy in the beer garden and the sunlight slanted in through the frangipani tree to the glass-topped wine barrel by which we had our Coopers Session Ale.

Like many events of minor significance it was unidentified at time, and heading home I quickly dwelt upon the agreeable hour I’d had with two old mates. My thoughts were mostly of Sweden as Claire and I were flying there the next evening.

So, I’ve not really missed the pub either. Sure, I’m an enthusiast and promote the charms of my local with unwavering evangelism, but life has been full and fulfilling without it.

It’s been 92 days since my last visit and my sins have been multitudinous, if not luxurious. I look forward to a beer from a keg. With the curious exception of Coopers Sparkling Ale all beer is better this way. That’s at its best from a long neck.

Over the last week I’ve made a couple calls to the Broady to gauge how to construct a visit (there’ll be an app for this soon, no doubt). A casualty of our new world order is spontaneity. Swinging by the pub unannounced now belongs in a SBS history documentary (you know, after yet another on Hitler and his demise).

pub 1

Biomedical reasons require that our pub experience will be wholly at a table. Standing or getting a round at the bar are prohibited and my first-world, privileged self is pre-emptively mourning this.

Across the week Claire has repeatedly said, “But I’ve never seen you standing at the pub.”

“What if I want to? It’s my human right, like owning an iPhone. I stood at the pub only eight months ago.”

We’ll arrive around 4.27pm. We’re booked in.

I’m excited and strangely nervous.

pub 4

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The 10.21 to Belair, stopping all stations

It was eerily reminiscent of the 1980’s horror film When A Stranger Calls. The boys and I were at a sunny outside table finishing our pub lunch when with sharp urgency my phone rang.

We all jumped above our affordable and hearty plates and I looked at the screen: Belair Hotel.

Ashen-faced and putting my hand over the phone, I whispered to Alex and Max, “The call’s coming from inside the pub.” With quivering voice I answered and it was Lauren from the bistro wondering where we were. I explained that we were already at the pub, enjoying our lunch.

With wide, now watery eyes I wondered if I wasn’t having a Sixth Sense moment and that maybe we weren’t actually at the pub on a glorious Saturday. Maybe we weren’t anywhere.

Then Lauren from the bistro laughed it off maniacally, her voice chillingly distant, and saying that they were having troubles with their booking system in the first days after opening back up. But then she added in a barely audible murmur, “You are here, aren’t you?”

And then our cinematic episode concluded leaving the audience uneasy and wondering if my giant burger and the boys’ pizzas and my Uraidla Pale Ale pint was as agreeably refreshing and zesty as I’d thought.

Or if they even existed at all.

 

tree 2

While trees are inanimate boys are not

UP

Note the better class of graffiti

trail

On our way

station

Built in the 1890’s for the huge recreational crowds

branch

Alex and Max improving their physical health, cognitive performance and psychological well-being by moving uncooperative branches

entrance

After our 21 kilometre train trip our hike began

lake

Playford Lake

pub

 Adjacent to Glenalta train station the Belair pub offers paranormal family dining experiences