Celtica 2008: Traditional music, dance and dining combine at Port Adelaide

17 12 2008

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Port Adelaide Celtica Festival

Launched in 2005, Port Adelaide’s “Celtica Festival” has grown every year, from humble beginnings as a three-hour free concert and art exhibition at the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre (on Commercial Road), to a three day event, on the first weekend in December, centred on Hart’s Mill Waterfront and the adjoining Port Adelaide TAFE college. Entry remains free, and each year tens of thousands of people experience this amazing cultural milleiu overlooking the Port River.

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Thematically, the festival is a celebration of all things “Celtic,” being the ethnicity of far-Western Europe, the lands associated with the Ancient Celts and celebrated by those who claim modern Celtic roots: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, the Isle of Mann, Britany, Galicia, and the millions of people around the world descended from the immigrants from these regions, who took their distinctive cultural suite as far afield as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

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The 2008 event featured over twenty different performances by musicians and dancers from local, interstate and international environments, a two-day free concert featuring the best of traditional and modern-interpretaion (folk-rock) Celtic music. Acts included Sycamore Road, Akoustic Oddysey, Red Cat, Eilean Mor, Senor Cabrales, Spiral Dance and Claymore. Dancers included An Ghillie Mor (highland sword dancers) and the Border Celts (morris team). Where else in the world but Australia might you find the Irish bodhran and Scottish bagpipes played together with the Aboriginal dijeridoo? The result is truly amazing.

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Along with the music at the central stage there were music and dance workshops in the TAFE college and nearby hall, and the waterfront itself was home to the “Art at the Hart” artists’ marketplace, featuring arts and crafts from local producers. The events have been run together for the last three years.

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Several Port hotels also provided live music venues over the event weekend, expanding the scope once again. The Festival has grown amazingly and shows every sign of becoming one of Adelaide’s, and Australia’s, most important musical and cultural events.

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Picture credits: All photos this post by Mike Adamson.

For further information regarding Celtica:
contact Suzanne Laslett care of the Port Adelaide Visitor Information Centre, 66 Commercial Rd., Port Adelaide, SA. Ph: (08) 8405 6560

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A tropical paradise in the midst of the city

5 12 2008

Tucked away in a corner of downtown that you might not even notice is one of Adelaide’s jewels. The Adelaide Botanic Gardens is a snippet from a tropical rainforest, in the midst of the city. Through the gates and into the shade of massive trees — some of which were planted over 150 years ago — and you can forget you’re in the city at all.

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In 1855, 41 acres of land (16 hectares) were set aside for a park, and the Botanic Gardens opened in 1857. The design is said to have been influenced by Kew Gardens in London, and also by the gardens of Versailles.

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According to the Garden’s excellent website (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/adelaide.html) “over 1.3 million people visit each year.” Of this number, around twenty-five thousand visitors are school students. Many visitors are locals, including office and retail workers who take their lunch break there each day. And of course, if you’re visiting Adelaide from overseas, the Botanic Gardens are a must-see.

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You’ll be astonished that this tranquility … this marvellous collection of rare plants … this apparent rainforest … exists just off North Terrace, literally in the shadow of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Massive old trees stop the road noise, and you can barely hear the traffic, though you know the city is bustling close by.

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The Palm House (above) is a joy to behold — a piece of history. It’s a Victorian design, imported from Bremen in Germany in 1875, and so far as we know, it’s utterly unique. Nothing else exactly like it in the world…

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At least some of the flora on display inside are from Madagascar, and the interior of the Palm House is so tranquil, you could stay an hour.

The Gardens offer much more than this: collections, displays, conservatories, museums, lakes, walks, pavilions, rose gardens … and a fully licensed restaurant. To top it off, admission is free, the bus stops right outside, and the Gardens are open seven days!





Top of the world … or at least Mount Lofty!

28 11 2008

For the best view of the city of Adelaide … and a great lunch at a terrific cafe-restaurant! — it’s got to be┬áMount Lofty Summit. This is the highest point in the Mount Lofty Ranges, which rear above the city like castle walls…

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The view at night is glorious, as you’d imagine. It’s an easy drive up from the Crafers “park and ride,” and you emerge into a network of wind-blown carparks with national parks all around, and an amazing view at any time of the day:

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The rotunda-style building features a great place to dine on one side, and a well-stocked gift shop on the other. Soft toys, teeshirts, books … yes, and postcards!

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Even on a hot day, it can be cool(ish) on the summit of Mount Lofty, and it’s almost always windy. On a winter’s day, be sure to take a jacket. The wind can be very strong and surprisingly cold. But having said that, the stronger the wind, the clearer the air … and what a view! And when you’re chilly enough, go right back inside for coffee…





Hahndorf welcomes you … hope you brought an appetite!

26 11 2008

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One of the loveliest places in the hills near Adelaide (and it is near — close enough to head there for lunch!) is the town that’s described as “the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia.”

It’s Hahndorf … 28 kilometers from the city, and seeming like a great hunk of Australian history come to life. The town was named for the captain of the vessel which brought the original colonists out here from Europe. They fled to escape religious persecution and made a new life in South Australia which was so successful, Hahndorf is thriving in the twenty first century and has a wonderful future — quite an achievement, when you remember, the region was settled in the 1830s!

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The town remembers its history with a lovely little street-corner memorial garden, in which you’ll find this statue, a likeness of Captain Hahn, who was so impressed by these coloists that it was he who found them a place to settle. His choice was superb: sheltered, fertile and beautiful.

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Most people go to Hahndorf for the shopping (Main Street is a kilometer-long festival of curiosity shops, every one different, and astonishing. Want to buy an authentic cuckoo clock, or the best German sausage, or hand-made candles, or leather goods …? You’ve come to the right place here! There are also more curbside cafes, restaurants, pubs and courtyard dining areas than you could check out, if you ate at a new place twice a day for a week! The German Arms (above) is a terrific place for lunch. Imagine a real, German pub … with an Aussie twist!

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We like the outdoor dining style, though … coffee and pastries “under the vines,” watching the world go by. Hahndorf is in wine country — some of the finest in South Australia are grown and made not far away. And everyone knows (!) South Aussie wines are the best in the world. (Well, they are!)

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But the Old Mill is the place to be … especially for dinner at Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and such family celebraions. Mind you, you not only need a booking, you might need to book a couple of years in advance!

Getting to Hahndorf from Adelaide is easy: it’s a drive through some of the loveliest country on very good roads. But be sure you bring an appetite, because everywhere you turn, it’s fantastic food and wine. Want to stay overnight? There’s hotels, motels and a caravan park with cabins, any of which come highly recommended.