I used to live in Canberra. I studied there for three years and I was pretty keen to go back for a quick visit, largely to catch up with a good friend from university, but also just to reminisce and see how things have changed.
The drive up to Canberra is stunning, as it follows the Snowy Mountains highway up towards Cooma. It was extremely windy as we set off in the van. The paddocks of green grass rippled like the ocean and the trees blew sideways as we wound our way towards the mountain. We passed a lot of wombat and kangaroo warning signs, though we saw neither of these animals in real life.
The countryside around here feels like England, aside from the obvious eucalyptus trees scattered around the hills. Sheep graze in the paddocks and dairy cows stand waiting to be milked. You can see the occasional patch of a purple flower weed in amongst all the lush, green grass.
We stopped at the Nimmitabel bakery for a coffee and a custard tart, though I was tempted to buy the whole shop, with a huge selection of hot pies and pasties, glorious cakes and fresh, golden bread at my fingertips! The air was a lot colder up here, though it turned into a roasting hot day as we headed further inland to the Australian Capital Territory.
Canberra was exactly as I’d remembered it, aside from the occasional new building. It is a well-organised place, with clean, open roads and wide open spaces. Bushland is scattered around the city, so that it quite often feels like a large country town. It is centred around Lake Burley Griffin and from the new Parliament House on one hill, you can see all the way across the bridge to the Australian War Memorial.
It is a quiet place, with the odd tourist beetling around. Even after living there for three years, I’m not sure how I feel about the place. It has a sense of calm about it and university living was fun. You have all the facilities you could possibly want and everything is very accessible. It is leading the way in Australia for renewable energy, with a big solar farm and wind farms in the territory. Despite all these winning factors, it lacks the charm of Melbourne and Sydney. It missed that beautiful Victorian period, so all the buildings are a bit too modern for my liking. Nonetheless, it is a very functional city and has quite an interesting history.
This city was designed as the capital of Australia, after much debate between Sydney and Melbourne. It was built in 1913 (though progress was slow due to the war). Parliament did not start running here until 1927, in the provisional Parliament House, but now the politicians argue out their policies in the new Parliament House, built in 1988.
This unusual building looks over the city and has a slightly majestic quality as it stands tall on the hill. We made this our first stop for the day. After being screened at the security check point, we peeked our heads into the House of Representatives and the Senate, admired the slightly outdated decor and strolled around the rooftop, enjoying expansive views over the city. We also took our time enjoying the portraits of all the former prime ministers on the walls!
Next up, lunch with one of my best friends from uni, and her partner. We devoured delicious burgers and chips at the Greasy Monkey in Braddon, all washed down with a schooner of cider. It was wonderful to catch up with Emma and reminisce over past times. After lunch, we took a quick trip down memory lane and cruised around the Australian National University, past the colleges and lecture halls. The place looks so much smaller now that 7 years have passed!
We headed up to the Australian War Memorial, which was a lot bigger than I had expected. Here, we spent an hour or so perusing artefacts and memories from the world wars. There was a particularly engaging section where you were able to experience the feeling of being in a fighter plane. The whole floor vibrated and a ‘trapdoor’ opened beneath us as the imaginary bombs were dropped. As the plane was shot down, we felt the engine running to a halt and suddenly, darkness. It was quite chilling. We didn’t have time to get through the entire building, but I think we’d had our fill of atrocities by the time we finished and were pleased to exit and appreciate the sunshine and clean air.
As we wanted to get home before dark, it was time to hit the road. The amount of dead kangaroos we’d seen on the roadside on the way up was evidence enough that driving at night time was not the smartest idea on this highway. The sun was extremely hot. I could feel it burning me through the window as we set off, but with the windows open, a bag of lollies and the music pumping, we made it home just in time. Great day out!