Christchurch: more kind and embracing

SISTER CITY: Adelaide has much in common with Christchurch.
SISTER CITY: Adelaide has much in common with Christchurch.

This week I am staying with your sister. She is lovely, Adelaide. Bigger than you - more than a million Adelaideans to your 340,000 Cantabrians - and, established in 1836, older by 14 years.

Still, the sister cities' family resemblance is striking.

Like you, she is fiercely proud of her identity and with a relationship to central government often described as "abrasive".

Built on the plains with hills to one side, coastline on another and a river running through it, the central city is a neat grid of alternating wide boulevards and narrow streets. These are dotted with five public squares and the whole thing is edged by four avenues and surrounded by parklands. We might as well be talking about you.

Adelaide is known variously as the "City of Churches" and "The Festival City". That interesting mix of moral conservatism and cultural curiosity. I think you know what that looks like, too.

I am here for one of the festivals - the famous "Fringe", which fills myriad tents in the city gardens as well as clusters of arts precinct bars tucked down narrow alleyways, just like the ones you had started to develop before that first quake in 2010.

It is my first visit to your sister city in seven years. Other times, it is these similarities which struck me. Now I am becoming aware of your differences.

Adelaide is the big sister to whom bad things haven't happened. Certainly no trauma on a citywide scale. So there are buildings, right? Amazing. Some of them Gothic, though many were cheerfully replaced in the 1970s with structures made out of Lego.

But you would be rightfully envious of some of her architectural history and the clock-towers that chime every quarter hour.

Like you, she can be a great host, replete with bars, restaurants and farmers' markets.

But unlike my recent experience of you, sometimes she has clearly had enough of her guests. With a public holiday this Monday, chunks of Adelaide shut up shop for the long weekend.

Two days without the neighbourhood markets and what appeared to be a whole city today without bacon and eggs.

You, I believe, would have grabbed the chance of a Monday off to party on Sunday night, and made sure a full, cooked breakfast was available for anyone who wanted Monday brunch.

These days I've noticed you keep your markets open as long as there is demand for your wares. Not just to shift products, but because you genuinely enjoy social interaction. It's conversation as much as commerce.

And it is what I've always said: People to whom bad things haven't happened are never as interesting as someone with stories and scars.

Lovely girl, Adelaide, and I will visit her again soon. But she is not quite as embracing and kind as her little sister. Which says less about her, and more about you.

The Press