That's a Capital 'C' everyone!

Trip Start Jun 05, 2006
Trip End May 03, 2007

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Flag of Australia  ,
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Canberra is like a tarted-up version of Basingstoke. Arriving in Australia's capital is very much like travelling into one of Britain's 'Crap Towns', just like those in that book I gave Dad one Christmas. There are just fewer Burberry wearing individuals. Here, you're more likely to see shameless tracksuit wearing men huffing and puffing their way round Lake Burley Griffin - much like the man who's in charge of this country - good ol' Johnny Howard. He's famous for his power walks around the vast artificial watering hole and infamous for his controversial decision not to live in Canberra - preferring the million-dollar views offered by his Kirribilli mansion in Sydney.

Sigh. Sydney. Must focus on reason for leaving beautiful, vibrant, exciting city - more travel - and to surpass that mean old '1% of the world travelled' stat.

So to Canberra's door I came a'knockin, as part of a sojourn that will take me to places still on my to-do list of Australia.

I was shocked to discover that everyone staying in my YHA dorm was in Canberra merely as a stop gap between Sydney-Melbourne travel.
"But what about the Parliament, the galleries and the museums?" I asked one cherubic-faced Dane with a look of amazement. She shrugged in that carefree teenage way and goes: "I just wanted to break the journey." (I often find Scandinavian people have a better command of English than I have - and look younger - bah!)

So there you have it. Canberra - the servo of Australia! Maybe they'll put that on the next batch of licence plates.

But I was here to see Canberra. I mean, really see it. However, I didn't bank upin being hit by suffocating temperatures of 38c as soon as I stepped off the coach. I found myself slowed down to snail's pace as I surveyed the city centre, otherwise known as Civic. It has a very nice merry-go-round, but sadly reminds me of an Anytown UK shopping precinct , just with less rain and litter. I may have long legs, but I found myself plodding along like Mini Me as I confronted heat unlike anything I'd ever experience before with a backpack stuck on my back (where else!) See, I come from a family who are more used to holidaying in Wales than Spain.

The next day I realised just how much being in Canberra is like being on the set of the Truman Show. This city must have really drawn its inspiration from the world of film and TV as Parliament House is very much like the place where the Teletubbies live because there's grass on the roof and you can walk straight over the top of it. Bizarre. Still, the Parliament fascinated me as it's a very modern building (built in 1988) but still has a defined air of prestige to it. Oh yeah, and apparently the dispatches boxes in the House of Commons are replicas borrowed from those in the House of Representatives. "That's one we;ve got over the UK," our guide Wendy told me (while winking at the same time). But she redeemed herself in my eyes when she told me she loved the way I say 'Hampshire'. Alrighty then!

It was a scorcher of a day and I longed for the relative cool climes of Sydney at 31c. It was a relief to pass in air conditioned comfort from one attraction to the next. Did you know Canberra has the largest number of free attractions in Australia?

Next up was the Australian War Memorial, a magnificent monolith towering above the impressive Anzac parade, based upon the roads around the US parliament. It was full of boys' toys - planes, submarines - all that malarkey. But it was a comprehensive collection with an absorbing light collection. I also dropped in to the National Museum, which reminded me of my old university's Frenchay campus, and I also did the tour of the Embassies. All of the embassy buildings are done out in the style of the country they represent. The UK embassy is bland and subtle, yet sturdy looking. Tres appropriate.

So after a taster of Canberra, I've got to say that I like the place, but could never love it the way I do Sydney. It's so spread out. Everything's all planned and meticulous - if it were a person it would be a Girl Guide leader. But it's a city that's looking to the future - the way I am for the rest of my travels. So, despite missing what I've left behind - desperately! - it's time to get back to my seconf favourite place over here - Melbourne, and hit the Australian Open. Anyone for tennis?
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