One of our first road trips after reaching Sydney was to take a short trip down to the nation’s capital – Canberra. We did the majority of museums and galleries and also did a tour of the Parliament Building. With that trip done we ticked Canberra off our list – it had been done.
Fast forward about 18 months and we had realised what a mistake we had made! There is so much more to this city.
As usual we got the bus down to Canberra. 3 hours is a breeze after some of the journeys we undertook in Asia, and the buses are much better in Australia. Also there is a reduced probability of being kicked off the bus to make room for a Durian Fruit. Arriving around lunch time, Karen brandished our new hit list out and we found that there was a great breakfast place on the way to the hotel. The Cupping Room was a very hip and cool coffee shop complete with obligatory waiting list. We used the 30 minute window to run down to the hotel and check-in and made it back just in time to get a table inside. That was important as it was ‘Baltic’ outside. Coffee was awesome and food was really good. (We would recommend the burgers).
Lunch done and unencumbered of bags we had an afternoon to fill. On our last trip we had made a point of visiting the Australian War Memorial. It was a great place to visit but unfortunately the World War 1 exhibition was still under construction. This time we would get to check it out and also catch the Last Post Ceremony.
Australians in the Great War covers the story of Australia’s participation in the First World War. The usual topics that spring to mind are covered in detailed dioramas, items and interactive stations. Gallipoli, the Western Front, Sinai and Palestine and the war at sea. There is also a lot of attention regarding the domestic struggle at that time between those in favour of conscription and those opposed to the war.
Scattered amongst the uniforms, maps, weapons, miniature tanks and ships are the personal stories of the war. Voice Recordings, letters, diary entries and individual items that highlight the stark truth that when you striped all of the technology, propaganda and pomp and ceremony away you are left with men and women, the best of us and the worst.
At the end of each day, visitors are asked to stay around after the Memorial closes and invited to take part in the Last Post Ceremony. This begins with the National Anthem followed by wreath tributes beside the central Pool of Reflection. On the Balcony above the pool and covering the entire span of the courtyard is a Roll of Honour. It contains over 102,000 names, names of Australian Servicemen and Women who have died on active service with the Australian Armed Forces abroad. Each ceremony is dedicated to one of those names. Their story is told and finally an Ode is recited ending with the Sounding of the Last Post.
On this occasion it was dedicated to Private Andrew Watson of the 46th Australian Infantry Battalion (The Brighton Rifles) who fell at the Battle of the Somme on 5th April 1918. His deeds and life story were shared with everyone in attendance.
With the sun setting over the heart of Canberra we went back to the hotel to get washed and changed before we struck out into the twilight in search of meat and mead, “Driver. Take us to Braddon, please”. One of the oldest suburbs in Canberra, this district has shaken off it’s previous cloak of Light Industry and now adorns the distinction as Canberra’s party district. Warehouses along Lonsdale Street have been converted into Pizzeria’s, cocktail bars and restaurants. We started our adventure in a gastro pub called Hopscotch, and it was here that the looming Australian Federal Election came into play.
The next morning we went somewhere local for breakfast before going on a mammoth walk across the city to the Kingston Foreshore.Our walk brought us along the south bank of the Lake Burley and past the Australian of the Year Walkway. Kingston was originally the industrial hub of Canberra – the shells of the Powerhouse, Fitter’s Workshop and Bus Depot are now home to cafes, restaurants and on the weekends – a vibrant market with over 200 stalls selling everything from bread to bathrobes.
South of Kingston are a series of tree-lined streets full of shops, restaurants, cafes that extends all the way down to Manuka. We spent most of the afternoon here jumping in and out of antique shops – on the look out for anything vintage for the wedding – and scoping out somewhere for lunch. Top of our list was Penny University on Kennedy Street. This Asian-fusion cafe was just what we needed. It was curious place that echoed the coffeehouses of 17th Century London (from which it derived it’s name) with a fireplace, comfy chairs and tons of books and magazines to read.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped off for a drink in The Aviary. It looked like a mixture of the Gang hideout in Rumble in the Bronx and a Necromunda board – with walkways, stairs and shipping containers mashed together to form a rooftop bar with great views of Lake Burley and the hinterland of the Black Mountain in the distance.
With a full day of pottering completed we struck out towards Braddon for some drinks and (more) Asian Food. Voted one of the best restaurants in the country – Akiba we were unable to get a booking in advance so instead we rocked up and were told it would be an hour wait – which then became 2 hours but it was all good as there were so many bars around the area including an eclectic place called Shorty’s. When we did get into Akiba it was awesome and was hot enough to banish the cold that surrounded us in the outdoor dining area.
So two full days living in the ACT and with only a short time left in the morning before our bus, we walked along the lake and around to the Acton Peninsula with it’s National Museum of Australia. The purpose build museum building was bursting from the seams with over 50,000 years of worth of Indigenous heritage, alongside the story of Australia since colonial invasion in 1788 right up to modern events like the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
With that it was back on the bus and back to ‘real life’ in Sydney. Another weekend done and dusted in Canberra – this might turn into an annual trip 🙂