We left Sydney on a Saturday morning, travelling by coach. Canberra is a couple of hundred miles away and as Australia doesn’t have a good inter-city train service, this seemed like the best option for getting there and we found it a convenient and comfortable enough service, rather like the National Express coaches in the UK. The Sydney suburbs seemed to go on forever, but we eventually started to travel through open country and even saw kangaroos in the wild.
We arrived in Canberra to be greeted with heavy rain and quite cool temperatures. In fact, for all of our stay there, except the day we were leaving, the weather rather reminded me of a British summer – i.e. cool with bouts of rain! This didn’t have much of an impact on me personally, as I spent most of our 4 days there inside the Conference Centre.
Canberra is the national capital of Australia and was only created in the early 20th Century as a compromise alternative to Sydney and Melbourne. Neither of the latter would have been happy if the other had been designated the Capital. Most Australians from Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere I spoke to were quite scathing about the city as being “boring”. However, we quite liked it.
It’s a planned city influenced by the “Garden City” movement, so in many ways it reminded me of a bigger version of Letchworth or Milton Keynes in the UK. It’s very roomy with lots of green space, wide avenues and broad vistas. There was relatively little traffic, which made a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. We could cross the road easily rather than standing for what seemed forever at the pedestrian crossings in the Sydney CBD! Transport around the city seemed quite easy with regular buses.
There was quite a lot to see and my “other half” didn’t have too much trouble finding things to keep her occupied, despite the weather. There’s a number of Museums, Galleries and places of interest including the Australian Parliament, the old Parliament Building and the National War Memorial.
There’s even an Aboriginal “Embassy” manned by activists representing Indigenous people whose treatment over the years has been such that they have plenty of grievances. It was originally founded in 1972 to protest about the Government rejecting a proposal for Aboriginal Land rights but now serves as a focal point for the broader Indigenous movement.
The conference kept me busy, but I had a free afternoon and a few hours before we left for Melbourne on the Thursday morning so I managed to squeeze in a visit to the Parliament, a quick look at the National Gallery, the National Gallery sculpture Park (which is accessible after the Gallery had closed) and a very quick visit to the War Memorial.