Thursday, 5 June 2014

A road trip down memory lane

Once again, I hang my head in shame - lots of exciting* things have been happening around here and I have failed to write about them, so expect multiple blog entires over the coming days, as I regale you with adventures big and small.

* some are only exciting to me, but you will be forced to hear about them anyway.

Let's start off with our road trip to Canberra a couple of weekends ago.  I discovered a long weekend loophole in my work roster (finished early on Friday, enabling a swift getaway, and a late start on a Monday, facilitating a leisurely return). We decided to make the most of it by doing an extended road trip - although Canberra is only three hours by car, so it's still literally down the road in Aussie terms.

We went with Kym and Michael and, after a nice trip with a stop for views, we arrived in Canberra early evening. There then followed a mad dash for Jan and I as we had, gasp, forgotten our bikinis! Well, I mean, I had. Jan favours a tight speedo. He is German after all! We were staying at apartments with "spa facilities" (yes, the quotes are fully intentional, as you will discover). So we dashed round several shops trying to find cossies (it's winter here now, so although in England swimming in these temperatures would be considered tropical, apparently Aussies eschew all water activities when the weather is under 30 degrees. Wusses). Anyway, we found some. End of that exciting story.

That evening, we visited our old flatmate Denise who we lived with in London when she was backpacking around Europe. EIGHT YEARS AGO. She now has three gorgeous children, and (Jan, you don't need to read the next bit) a not-too-shabby husband (If you happen to be reading, Rowan, SORRY!). We had a lovely evening, reminiscing over life and playing with the kids. There are some cool toys out there, people. I might even procreate myself if it means I can get that giant robot thing.

Next day it was time to see the sights. It bears mention that, whenever I told anyone of our weekend plans, the unanimous response was "Why are you going there"? It seems like Aussies don't see Canberra as a happening capital.

Our first stop was the war memorial. Yeah, I guess if one of your tourism highlights is a war memorial, I can see people's point. However, it is a memorial and museum and it's really interesting. We took the guided tour, because it's absolutely massive and there's no way you could see it all in one morning. When we arrived, there was a "famous" football team there, and the guide got very over-excited about the fact that we weren't allowed to "make a fuss" over said players, if they happened to enter a room we were in. Yeah, right. Firstly, "football" here is Aussie football, which is essentially Gaelic football as opposed to "soccer" and seems to involve two teams inflicting wanton violence on each other, with a funny-shaped ball dropped in so they can call it sport. Secondly, this was one of the crapper teams in that sport. So colour me distinctly underwhelmed at their presence. THEY'RE NOT ROYALTY, PEOPLE, THEY DON"T EVEN HAVE A PROPER JOB!

Ahem.  So anyway, here are some pics:


The war memorial containing the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It is very pretty inside.


The domed ceiling inside the memorial - the dot in the middle is open to the sky.


The plaques bearing the names of all soldiers killed in all wars Australia has been involved in. People buy the poppies to place next to the names of their relatives.
The boys got really excited by the time we reached the military hardware section. Plaaaaannnessss, gunnnsss, submarinnnes - ooh yeah baby!
One thing I will say about the museum is you really get a wider perspective on the world wars in particular. A lot of the things we learn in Europe are obviously very centred around that area - but here were stories and exhibits from an entirely different perspective - an Asia-Pacific one. Hearing how people fought in ridiculously humid jungles and impossible terrain really makes you realise they really were 'world' wars. Even the Australian mainland was threatened during the Second World War, with a Japanese (albeit midget) submarine attacking Sydney Harbour.

After we had been around the museum we did a drive-by of the old and new parliament buildings and had a walk down by the lake.
Parliament House. Meh,
The Aboriginal Embassy. Yeah. I am lead to believe the government have deigned to provided an area within Parliament House for the Aboriginal people now, but this remains as a testament to history.


Jan and I and the war memorial in the distance. We ignored Michael telling us to take "just one more step" backwards. 
Finally some autumn colours!
After all the cultural visitings, we met up with Denise and her children and had a lovely walk around the botanical gardens, followed by a trip to the Telstra Tower for some more views of Canberra at sunset.


We went right to the tippy top...


.. and got a lovely view
When we got back the the apartment, we realised we had enough time to treat ourselves to that spa we were so eagerly anticipating, so off we went to find it. After a rather breezy route through the hotel corridors in bathers, we finally found the "spa". Which consisted of a small swimming pool and a jacuzzi that fit four people in. Except if you wanted the jets to work and produce bubbles. Then two people had to get out, because otherwise the system got flooded and it just made a sad gurgling sound. And after a while it got cold. But then we spotted a steam room to warm up in! Only... you guessed it.. no steam. So that was totally worth the time and expense of the search for swimwear. NOT.

Rather deflated, we got ready for dinner and headed into town to meet up with Denise and Rowan and a friend of Michael's. We had a lovely dinner, lots of good food, good wine and excellent company.

Next day we had an easy brunch in a cool cafe with a tree in the middle (the cafe was built around it) and then Jan (and it WAS Jan, not me!) noticed a bunch of wineries on the map, conveniently on our route home. So. Well. Yeah. Michael bravely nominated himself as designated driver, which we all gleefully accepted, and piled on into our first winery. We visited three in the end, which was plenty enough - and more than enough for some of us, for whom the excitements of the weekend were just too much...


Jan hatte zu viel SpaƟ.
And that was about it for our pseudo long weekend! We had a really great time renewing old friendships and cementing new ones - and of course, sealing the deal with a few bottles of wine!