If you haven't been to Adelaide then you should go, now. Seriously, right now is the best time to go there.
This city of 1.2 million has been something of an urban Cinderella, even by its own admission.
Self-propelled tourism marketing touted dull, middle-aged couples expressing surprise at the region's delights, impliedly suggesting that whatever was of interest was more or less undetectable from a distance and moreover, that only really boring people bothered to look any closer.
The remaining demographic was those whose idea of a holiday was a slow, dreary boat trip up a muddy river (the only sort they have in Australia) or quaffing wine to the sound of various pompous descriptions for chardonnay or whatever it is they squeeze out of the grapes here.
Most first timers to Australia hit the Gold Coast with its theme parks, endless beaches and utopian climate.
Darwin is too far North, Sydney and Melbourne are congested and busy while Perth is too far West for anyone to bother attending, something confirmed in equal measure by those in the West not bothering to head East.
Alice Springs is in the hostile centre of this vast, ancient land, although it does pull crowds with a big rock.
On the other hand, Adelaide is accessible with good beaches and shopping, but most Australians and their cities (and their sharks) are on the coast and as far as enticements go, a slogan that says or suggests "Come to Adelaide - because it is closer than somewhere interesting" isn't going to fly. The question remains, "Why go to Adelaide?"
First, there is Adelaide's ambience.
Perhaps the warm weather plays a large part in that but there are so many aspects to the mood and appearance of the city that none of them can take sole credit, which is, one supposes, why ambience is the best description.
The university is in the heart of the city and students coming and going add a youthful, energetic air.
The outstanding art gallery, museum and elegant South Australia Government House are nearby.
Tree-lined avenues shelter old stone hotels, monuments and the occasional neo-gothic monstrosity. Amongst all that, surprisingly polite traffic.
Stone and mortar churches are shouldered by newer buildings and a railway station of such grandeur the architects of the imposing and powerful Third Reich buildings would have been proud.
There are other equally impressive buildings and statues, and very quickly the viewer comes to appreciate that everything here must look good; not just clean, new and shiny, but rather, attractive, artistic and in an unusual way, subtly gentle.
They are not conveying wealth and prosperity, commerce and progress (whatever that is); they are continuing the evolution of a city that looks and feels like a distinct, unique part of humanity.
Sure, the suburbs are ordinary enough, but who cares about that - if we wanted to look at the 'burbs we'd stay home.
The city and its culture draws people in and once there, the variety of sights, sounds and smells continue to unfold until all you can do is get a coffee, sit down and watch it all. Cafes and restaurants of every description sell uniformly high quality food and drink.
Street buskers are busy with magic, music, art and in one case, simply a dog wearing sunglasses - maybe that one was a beggar - there are one or two 'street-people' and as reality demands, it isn't all sunshine and happiness.
Mediterranean types sit at their outdoor cafe tables puffing the sweet smoke of pineapple, orange and grapefruit bongs.
Every metre of downtown footpath is curious, intriguing and alive.
Late into the night the mood is as relaxed and easy as daytime. Police patrol on white horses; always white (I asked).
However, in the spirit of keeping the best until last and assuming cosmopolitan city life, welcoming beaches, art, history, beauty and the vibrancy of human activity in better than pleasant weather isn't enough, there is one attraction that trumps the lot; that is, the Adelaide Fringe.
This is not about hair. Imagine a city-wide, month long more or less centrally located assortment of plays, acts, shows, food, art and generally, entertainment.
Adelaide Fringe happens annually and boasts 900 events: from stand up comedy to magic shows; dextrous artisans with their feats of physical wizardry - sword swallowing, snake charming, trapeze acts; midgets, mimes and magicians; dancers, daredevils and delights of fantasy; all performed by true artists (not carnies) whose aim is to entertain.
Some shows are silly or cute, and others, almost surreal.
A tiny Indian man (think 4-year-old size) with a foul yet funny mouth then in the next tent, a woman who keeps seven hula hoops going at once.
Next to that is a guy who can juggle upside down on his head, someone who catches arrows mid- flight while blindfolded and a woman who tears large books in half.
There is even a lizard man - tattooed green from head to toe with surgically implanted horns, sharpened teeth and a real forked tongue.
Most shows are only 15 minutes long and at $5 a pop the night flies as we duck in and out of enigmatic tents and makeshift arenas, occasionally grazing the array of food and drink available.
Adelaide has everything, but what sets it apart is its ambience and art.
Adelaide has an undeniable sense of style and more.
Adelaide has class.
- The Timaru Herald