Last weekend, I took advantage of two days off from work and headed to Canberra, Australia’s capital, to meet up with Kris and Rodd. The timing worked out quite well, as one of Kristy’s friends who lives in Canberra was going away for Easter and let us stay in our house (thanks, Bells!)- which was both cheaper and far more enjoyable than staying in a hotel. Canberra has a reputation for being really, really boring, and it isn’t exactly unwarranted. It’s a planned city that was designed to be the capital largely to avoid stoking the flames of the Sydney-Melbourne rivalry. The layout is similar to Washington, DC, with museums and government buildings set along a wide, grassy mall..…only there are hardly any people around (especially on a holiday weekend when parliament isn’t in session), so it feels eerily empty. Nevertheless, we found plenty to do. I arrived on Friday night, and since nearly everything was closed for Good Friday, we had dinner at home and proceeded to catch up over copious amounts of alcohol.
On Saturday, we had hot cross buns for breakfast- my only prior knowledge of hot cross buns was a from the song of the same name used when teaching children how to play the recorder, but they actually exist (see Exhibit A) and are baked goods traditionally eaten around Easter. After that, it was Day of Museums. First, the National Portrait Gallery (very cool with lots of photography), then Questacon science museum (nerd alert!), then Parliament itself, the best part of which is the grass on top of the roof that is perfect for lounging, and to be honest, seems like a prime location for smoking a joint. I’m sure thousands of Australian teenagers have had the same thought. Our main reason for the trip to Canberra was to see the special exhibit of impressionism paintings on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in France- several works by Cezanne, Seurat, Monet, and Van Gogh, among others, were on display. Lines were huge all day long so we waited until late afternoon and just waltzed right in.
Sunday morning, I accompanied Kris on a training run for her upcoming half-marathon (luckily for me it was a “taper down” week) and then we headed out to theTidbinbilla Nature Reserve for a lovely day of picnicking, bushwalking (heh), and sightseeing. We spotted heaps of kangaroos, some pretty cool birds, and an emu dad with three little emus. Awwww. On the way back to the city, we stopped by a space tracking center to see the largest satellite dish in the southern hemisphere (nerd alert part II!), a joint venture between Australia and NASA.
On Monday morning we had breakfast at a genuine pancake house, the kind with booths that look straight out of the 1970s. It was divine. The bacon was still weird but they pancakes, eggs, and coffee were all prepared in the classic American style. To kill some time before my flight, we returned to the art museum to see the regular displays- my favorite was a series of paintings by Australian artist Sidney Nolan depicting the story of Ned Kelly, a legendary outlaw along the lines of Jesse James or Billy the Kid. The paintings are colorful and striking in that Ned Kelly is portrayed as a boxy black figure in order to represent the homemade armor he once wore during a famous shootout.
All in all, I had a fantastic weekend, and if you want to read a more detailed account (with more photos!), you can check out Kristy’s version.