Two hectic days in Canberra

Trip Start Aug 16, 2004
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Trip End Aug 13, 2005


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Where I stayed
City Walk Hotel

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Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Arrived in Canberra at around 4:30pm on Saturday afternoon and settled into the City Walk Hotel. Don't be fooled by the name, it's really just a hostel, but is in a good location, right in the city centre, and above an Irish Pub.

So after a quick walk around the immediate area, and a nice meal at an Italian restaurant we decided to check out the pub. It was quite busy as a lot of people had been to the races during the day, so there were a lot of ladies in posh frocks and stupidly big hats. Also, the local rugby team The Brumbies were live on the Big Screen so a lot of people were in watching that. There was also a promotion on to get a free Brumbies T-shirt if you drank 4 Bundies. For those of you that don't know, Bundy is rum and comes from the town of Bundaberg, on the East Coast of Australia.

So a few rum and cokes later and the pub had livened up a bit. There was more rugby on the TV, followed by Southampton v Arsenal - Premier League footy. There was also a live band that appeared at around 10pm, and the pub actually has live bands 5 nights a week.

Needless to say we both had a good time and eventually stumbled to bed around 2am after hunting for a phone box so Graham could phone home. Unfortunately due to the time difference, most phone calls to the UK either occur when we've got up really early so we are tired, or when we've had a late night so we are drunk!!

Sunday began with a breakfast in the Jolimont Centre (the interstate coach and bus terminal). I've discovered two things about breakfast in Oz. Firstly, they butter the toast even when you haven't asked them to (and not a little bit of butter, but swimming in the stuff!). Secondly, with the exception of Starbucks, the hot chocolate here is horrible, and tasteless! You have been warned!

Our plan was to go to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) first of all, but when we spoke to the bus driver he said that on Sunday there were roadworks and the bus wasn't going to AIS that day. We should have taken this as an omen that things weren't going to go as planned.

Anyway, we set off for Parliament House, on the South side of the lake. I should mention here that Canberra is split into North and South by the Lake Burley Griffin, which has a circumference of 11km. Anyway, we went to Parliament House which is free to enter and also has a free guided tour. The guided tour was very informative and interesting, which surprised us both. The Parliament House is a strange looking building. It's built on Capitol Hill, but actually the hill was excavated and the building built into the hill. It has a roof covered with turf that you can walk along, and each entrance to the House is exactly the same in grandeur whether you are Joe Public or the Prime Minister. These features were all done to make the point that Parliament was not above the people but rather at the same level. Each room in the building is also part of a timeline of Australia.

After the Parliament House we were going to hire bikes and cycle round the lake but then we read one of the information leaflets that said that the Discovery Musuem that we wanted to go to was only open at weekends. So we made a detour there, passing a bike hire place on the way. However, as luck would have it, once we got to the museum, we found out that it was only CLOSED on the weekends. We were not amused!

So it was back to the hostel and a quiet night in.

Our ill timed plans continued today. We managed to get to AIS with no problems, and had a tour round there. This tour isn't free, but costs $10 with YHA card, or $13 without. The AIS is certainly impressive and you can't help but think that if Britain had something similar, then we'd win as many or more Olympic medals than the Aussies. After all, the only reason the AIS was built was because New Zealand got more gold medals than Australia at the 1976 Olympic Games. Can't imagine Britain building a similar facility because France beat them in the medals!

We then went back to the lake hoping to hire some bikes and cycle round the lake, but you'd never guess what we found - yes - the bike hire place was closed! So we went off to the National Museum of Australia. This is free as well, and has some good exhibitions but to be honest, we were feeling a bit information overloaded and didn't spend much time in there at all. They do have a good exhibition called K-Space where you design your house and car of the future and then watch a 3D show including your creations.

Once finished in the museum we hired a paddle boat for 30mins and had a little paddle around one part of the lake. We also saw the Captain Cook Memorial Jet which is 140m high jet of water coming out from the lake. We also saw lots of fish leaping out of the water. We tried to get this on camera but we haven't reviewed the photos yet, so hopefully we have been lucky!

After that we had definitely worn ourselves out sightseeing so we spent the rest of the day mooching round the shops and then a nice meal and a couple of drinks in the pub, as well as packing up our rucksacks again!

On the day we left Canberra, we managed to have enough time to nip to the War Memorial. This is a musuem not just a memorial, and has memorabilia from all the wars that Australia has been involved in. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the exhibits but they had some really interesting and old artefacts.
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