Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory -- Tues., Nov. 13

The photo above was taken from an overlook on our drive to Canberra this morning.

The 1-1/2 hour drive from Bowral took us to the Information Centre in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), which is equivalent to our Washington, D.C.

Bob and I looked over the brochures on walks and things to do in Canberra. We chose the 2 km Lakeside Walk and the 3.5 km Magna Carta Walk.

A very nice woman in the Information Centre provided us with a downtown Canberra map. I told her we wanted to go to Black Mountain Tower. She very gently said, "They'll charge you to go up that. I recommend Mt. Ainslie for a view of the city." She marked on the map how to get to Mt. Ainslie. Best of all, it's free!

In the next photo, the building in the foreground is the Australian War Memorial the red is the ANZAC Parade Ground, then Lake Burley Griffin. The long, low white horizontal building in the middle is the Old Parliament Building, and in the back on Capital Hill is Parliament House.

I put in the long view photo to show not only the Capital Hill area but also the Australian Alps in the background.

From Mt. Ainslie, we drove down ANZAC Parade (which has war memorials along its length), crossed the Commonwealth Bridge and parked in free three-hour parking by the National Library of Australia.

We started with the Lakeside Walk which took us along the shore of Lake Burley Griffin where we could see and hear The National Carillon with its Winchester Chimes. Two black swans swam over to say hello.

Our walk took us through a Sculpture Garden (with sculptures by Rodin, no less), past the National Gallery of Australia, The High Court of Australia, The National Portrait Gallery, Reconciliation Place (about the reconciliation process between the Australian government and the Aboriginal peoples), Questacon (science and technology museum), the National Library of Australia and the Australians of the Year Walk.


Sculpture Garden
At the finish of our Lake Walk, we drove a few blocks and parked again to start the Magna Carta Walk. This walk took us past the Old Parliament House, King George V Memorial, The National Rose Garden, the Magna Carta Monument, Parliament House and the National Archives of Australia.
We learned that Australia's national capital was designed by Walter Burley Griffin of the U.S. who won a design competition. His plan for the capital was designed around Land and Water Axes. The Land Axis extends from Mt. Ainslie through to Capital Hill and then behind and beyond to Mt. Bimberi in the Brindabella Range. The Water Axis extends perpendicular to the Land Axis from Black Mountain through to the Australian-American Memorial and follows the line of Constitution Avenue on the northern side of the lake.
The highlight of this walk was our self-guided tour inside Parliament House. The use of marble is stunning in the entry hall. Huge columns with green marble on the bottom topped by white plaster make a distinctive lobby.

Bob in forecourt of Parliament House, Canberra.

Entry Hall at Parliament House.

Australian Senate Gallery.

Parliament House Galleries.
Interesting factoid about the Parliament House Galleries. The decor reflects Australia's unique landscape. Green is the color of the House of Representatives, following the tradition of the United Kingdom House of Commons from which their parliamentary system is derived. To enhance Australia's national identity, a distinctive shade of green has been used, reflecting the color of the eucalypts in the Australian landscape.
Both of us were amazed at the number of buildings on Capital Hill. You can't see most of them. When the Parliament Buildings were built, the whole top of the hill was razed, the buildings built, then sod and grass were put over the top of the front building. Once you get inside past the front building and start looking around out the windows, you can see how big the buildings are and that there are many. Interspersed between the buildings are water features, sculptures and landscaping.
We finished up our Magna Carta Walk by looking at the State Circle Cutting (where they cut through rock to make State Circle [a road]) and walking through the House of Representatives Garden near the Old Parliament Building.
Taken from our Magna Carta Walk brochure:
The State Circle Cutting is a geological snapshot showing how the Canberra region was formed and has changed over hundreds of millions of years. The area was originally covered by the sea, and the rocks of the State Circle shale (the lighter brown, finer grained rocks) were folded by powerful tectonic forces, lifting them above sea level. Over millions of years, erosion gradually wore down the land. It was again covered by a shallow sea, and Camp Hill sediments (the pink coloured sandstone) were deposited on top of the older land surface, creating this geological feature, known as an "unconformity."
Old Parliament House, Canberra, Australia.
House of Representatives Garden.
Dinner time. Off we went in search of food. We tried downtown Canberra but it was rush hour. We couldn't find a parking space. So, Bob took off to look for a suburb with restaurants or pubs. We drove and we drove, then we ended up somehow going back toward downtown. An off-ramp loomed ahead and we took it. No luck finding food.
Finally we saw a sign saying "Shops." Bob said, "Let's try there." We did and we found Duxton's where we ordered, then parked ourselves to wait for the food. Bob was the winner with the best dinner: green curry chicken with jasmine rice. That sounded really good to me too, but I decided on salmon with potato salad. I didn't realize the salmon was going to be cold, as in salmon potato salad. Oh well. Bob was a sweetheart and shared his curry chicken with me and I shared my salmon and potato salad with him.
We then sailed home. Bob drove all the way back. I drove some in the morning. Tomorrow I will drive more...no big cities.
The Blue Mountains will be our destination tomorrow. Six or more waterfalls are calling our names. Plus there is a wild animal park with koalas I'd like to visit. We'll see if the animal park is just a big tourist trap.
Travel Bug out.