Canberra and Good Bye to Aus for now!!!

Trip Start Nov 16, 2005
Trip End Apr 11, 2006

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Wednesday, February 1, 2006

30th and 31st Jan..... Final Countdown..
I have spent the last two days in Canberra. You have to book and reserve a seat on the train from Sydney to Canberra - the cost was AUS$55 return and the train journey is 4.5 hours long - not the most exciting of train rides - no dramatic scenery or views - alright for a good sleep, especially if you have boarded the train at 7 am!! When I got there it was 34 degrees - phew! I checked in to a lodge which was excellent value - $59 for a room and breakfast - well worth it. It was in a great location - near good restaurants, the buses into the city centre and peaceful at night - you could also make tea, coffee or hot chocolate any time you liked. Again, I met some very nice people there - a young chap from Birmingham (new graduate, on an eight month trip) and a couple from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast (originally from the UK). They gave some tips on Tasmania for when I go there!! The staff in the lodge were also very nice and helpful. After lunch I caught the bus into New Parliament House. I should tell you that Canberra is the Capital of Australia - after prolonged wrangling of 9 years, Melbourne and Sydney could not agree on which one would be the Capital, so it was decided to put the capital in between the two of them!! It is full of administrative offices and everything has been built around Lake Burley Griffin - the centre piece of Canberra - a beautiful man designed and man-made lake. On the lake there are three places of interest: the Carillon, a three-columned bell tower a gift from the British Government, the Capt. Cook Memorial - a 150-metre fountain, and the National Capital Exhibition, which has a pavilion showing Canberra's development.

The Black Mountain looks down on the city and has the Telstra Tower on the top, with it's expensive restaurant. In September there is a festival called "Floriade" a colourful celebration of Spring - a bit like Kirkenhof in Holland - full of tulip beds.

My afternoon was spent on guided tours of New Parliament House, Old Parliament House and the National Gallery of Australia. They were well worth a visit. That evening I had a meal in the lodge with some of the guests - one of them shared her compote of hand-picked apricots from Tasmania - where she had just come from!! Another little treat!

I was up bright and early on Tuesday morning as I had booked a full day tour with a local company. Barry (the guide) collected me at 8.30 am from my place and dropped me at 5 pm at Canberra station to catch the 5.05 train back to Sydney. During the day I visited the Australian War Memorial building - it was a marvellous experience especially as our guide there was a war vet and very knowledgeable - I could have spent the whole day there as there was so much to see and hear. Harry, you would have really enjoyed it! It would have been right up your street! I then had a cruise on Lake Burley Griffin - I was the only one on the cruise so I had a guided tour all to myself with great photo opps. I then had lunch sitting by the lake and my tour guide met me there at 1.15 pm. I then visited the Portrait Gallery and the National Film and Sound Archive - they had a special showing of all the Federation documents, when Australia became a Federation - a real history lesson for me! Did you know...... no, don't worry - I will not go on as it would take me too long and you might get bored!!

After that, I went to see the National Museum of Australia which again I could go on about for ages but...... I won't. Suffice to say, there is lots to see and do in Canberra much to my surprise! Anzac Parade stretches from New Parliament House to the War Memorial, and is lined with sculptures and objects featuring aspects of the two world wars. Our driver/guide also took us on a tour of all the embassies - what is notable is the fact that none of them are more than one story high as decreed by the government.

Near Canberra you will find the Snowy Mountains, Batemans Bay and Jervis Bay - needless to say, I did not find them!! As usual, time ran out on me. However, I packed in quite a lot in my two days there. On the train, there were a couple of weirdo - I seem to find them! One of them was with his mother and, even though we all had allocated seats, between the two of them they changed five times!! His mother finally sat in his allocated seat and would not budge! Would'nt you know it - I drew the short straw - and his final resting place was next to me! If you have ever seen Mr Bean - well, he was his double! Having sat down with his dinner on a tray, he decided the food was cold - he got up and went back to the dining-car to resolve that problem but the next thing was - no salt or pepper - up he got again - he was sitting on the inside seat so each time I had to get up to let him out - then his mother got up from her seat and informed him that they were getting off at the next stop and that she told him not to order any dinner as he would not have any time to eat it! When he got off he left the tray of half-eaten food on the seat beside me!! As if that was not enough, the fellow in front of me (who was Japanese) decided to accompany his Nano in a wailing Japanese song - he was really loud - but was totally oblivious to any one round him - even if I did say something to him he probably would not have understood me! Such is the rich pattern of life!

It was like a comedy scene - except it was real! We finally rolled into Sydney at 9.30 pm where Alison was waiting for me. I got home to a nice cup of tea - I could really have done with a nice Bombay Sapphire and tonic!! Alison said that she had to lead me by the nose to the cup of tea!!

Anyway, it's good bye from him and good bye from me and nearly good bye from Australia......
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