Sunday, June 9

Cool Canberra

It's been almost 25 years since my mother last visited Canberra. At the time, her visit was a last minute addition to a travel itinerary that had been thrown into disarray by the infamous1989 airline pilot's strike.  My parents were part of larger New Zealand contingent that found themselves stranded in South Australia.  Their original itinerary was meant to take them to Queensland before departing for home from Sydney. Their transport conundrum was ultimately resolved by hiring a car and driving across New South Wales to Sydney, stopping over in Broken Hill and Canberra.
 
This month, while my Auntie Pam in town, I decided to take Mum back to Canberra for another tour.  We couldn't have picked a better weekend.  It was an unusually pleasant period of winter weather with plenty of sunshine temperatures in the mid-teens. We made our way south on Saturday morning stopping for a compulsory photo at Golburn's Big Merino and a delicious late-breakfast at Grandma's Little Bakery, Fedra Olive Grove.
 
Grandma's Little Bakery has a hugely popular outlet in Inner Sydney so I was keen to road test the original cafe near Collector.  The main building sits on a low hill overlooking a young orchard of olive trees.  It's a delightful location, less than 50 minutes north of Canberra.  All three of us ordered the delicious Shakshuka; a classic Mediterranean dish of baked eggs cooked over a tomato and capsicum base.

We began our tour of Canberra with a tradition stop at Mt Anslie.  I always take visitors here first as the view down constitutional axis is an unforgettable introduction to Canberra's carefully crafted landscape. From here it was on the the Capital Exhibition Centre to learn more about the city's design and development before joining a guided tour of Parliament Hill.  .

We finished the day with a brief driving tour of the diplomatic zone before visiting the National Gallery. Our touring route naturally included a brief stop to photograph the colourful corrugated iron cows outside the New Zealand High Commission. 

The National Gallery currently has an exhibition of artwork by Turner, the British landscape artist. While we were at the gallery I also took my guests down to the Sidney Nolan gallery to see his famous silhouette depiction of Ned Kelly on horseback.  Auntie Pam later told me the Turner exhibition was a personal highlight of her Canberra weekend.

Our final day in Canberra began with a visit to the National Archives. As part of the city's centennial celebrations, original documents from the town plan design competition were on display. It was fascinating to see Walter Burley Griffins original drawing for the city.  Today's layout remains surprisingly true to his original vision.

 We then made our way to the Australian Museum for a little Australiana before making our way to the National Carillon to listen to a rousing bell recital.  The complex has a video screen at its base where you can watch the Carilloneer playing a rather daunting wooden peg keyboard. The 50 metre tall carillon tower was a gift from the British Government in celebration of Canberra's 50th anniversary.

Our next stop was Old Parliament House for lunch in its popular cafe, before making our way to the National War Memorial Museum. The sight of the infamous Japanese mini-sub was made all the more poignant given the tour of Fort Denison a few days earlier.  You'll recall that during this tour we learnt about the American "attack" on the fort that was triggered by the discovery of Japanese mini-subs in Sydney harbour.  At this point, with all of the classic sights now under our belt, it was time to head for home.

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