A Capital Idea

Sorry I missed my Monday blog but I was on holidays!

I have a confession to make. I’ve been to the House of Commons in London, Congress in Washington DC, Red Square in Moscow which is next to the Kremlin, driven past the Vietnamese Parliament building along with the Thai and Malaysian buildings, visited the Beehive in Wellington NZ and Parliament House in Ottawa, Canada, but until five days ago I hadn’t been to Australia’s Parliament House.  My bad! 

 As the boys are now old enough to get a lot out of a visit to our nation’s capital, we packed up the car and headed to Canberra. Back in 1901 when Australia became a federation there was a bit of a stoush between Sydney and Melbourne as both thought they should be the capital. So a decision was made to create a capital and they carved out an area halfway between the two cities and called it Canberra- reportedly an Aboriginal word for meeting place.  An American architect, Walter Burley Griffin won the tender to design Canberra which meant damming a river to make a lake and building a city based on concentric circles that have taunted every visitor ever since as it is THE place to be constantly lost! 

 Canberra wasn’t beloved at the start, especially by the Parliamentarians who had to travel by train to Yass and then be bussed in. Back in about 1923 the joke was that Canberra was ‘the ruin of a good sheep station’ and ‘a cemetery with lights.’  By the 1960’s it was ‘ six suburbs in search of a city.’  There are still jokes about it being the only place in the country to buy fireworks and it’s the one place pornography can be filmed so the jokes continue http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdIFx27opJc   but jokes aside, in the 21st century, Canberra has finally made its mark.

 There’s a lot more to Canberra than bureaucrats and parliamentarians. It’s also the home of many a great gallery and museum. For sanity’s sake, we limited ourselves to two places a day. We started off at Questacon— a hands on science centre which we all enjoyed. Did you know that if you make a cube bubble there is another cube bubble inside it? I knew you’d be awed 😉 After the boys (one husband, one 16 yo and one 12 yo) had named all the flags in front of the high court…yes, they have geekish moments and are addicted to the Flag Game App, we headed off to the new Parliament House. Opened in 1988, it sits on top of Capital Hill. I had no expectations of this building but it totally blew me away.

The forecourt is a western desert Aboriginal dot painting and then you move into the marble foyer which represents our eucalyptus trees. The green and pink marble is spectacular, as is the inlaid wood over each door depicting a variety of Australian flowers.  The House of Representatives is not the deep green of the House of Commons but a soft, eucalypt green and the senate is also paler with a pink-red that represents the eucalypt flowers. You can stand on the roof , under the massive flag pole and Australian flag that is the size of the side of a double decker bus and you have a great view of Canberra.  Likewise, there are not many places in Canberra that you can’t glimpse the massive flag.

 While we were there we visited the Royal Mint where our coins are made, the National War Memorial on the eve of Anzac Day and the National Museum. We lazed by the lake in autumnal sunshine and listened to the Carillion concert and we caught up with friends of The Lad and enjoyed a lovely meal. We also had fun driving past all the Embassies from around the world and our top pics were Papua New Guinea and Thailand.  US readers might be interested to know that the US Embassy looks a lot like Monticello! 

There are still lots of places to visit in Canberra so we’ll have to go back at some point.

Did we get lost? Only once! The Lad was driving – he is a learner driver- and he coped admirably well when the three passengers all thought someone else was navigating! So if you’ve never been to Canberra, put it on your to do list….it’s worth a peek.


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