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We hope you enjoy our first attempts at blogging! This is to prevent you from receiving long boring messages that arrive on your screen when you're not ready to sit back, relax and read about our life. This way, you can come into our blog on your time, when you want and check up on us.

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Gail and Rick

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hello from "Can-bra"

Before we tell you about our weekend in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, we need to first give you a short lesson in understanding the Australian accent. MANY, or should we say MOST or should we say ALL Australians do not articulate their “r’s”. Therefore Canberra is pronounced “Can-bra”. Similarly Melbourne is pronounced “Mel-bun” and Cairns is referred to as “Cannes”. Hence the reason for the title of this blog entry.

Back in August Greig and Gay, our Canadian exchange friends, had done some sleuthing on the internet. They managed to find a cheap airline seat sale and immediately booked the four of us for a jam-packed November 13th and 14th weekend in Canberra. Is there a better way to spend a weekend other than flying half way across the continent to visit the site of Australia’s parliament and many of the country’s other national treasures? We were quite excited about our trip as we have a strong belief that it is important that everyone visit a nation’s capital. For those of you who have been fortunate enough to have spent some time in Ottawa, we think that you understand the national pride one feels when visiting their capital.

Canberra is a most beautiful city. Like Brasilia and Washington D.C., Canberra was designed and built as a planned city. Australia was not recognized as a country until 1901. Prior to then, the states and territories of Australia were separate colonies of the British Empire. At the time of federation, both Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest cities in the country, were competing to become the capital of the country. The western colonies of West Australia, South Australia and Victoria supported the selection of Melbourne as the capital; whereas the other colonies backed Sydney. The nation could not reach agreement on which city should become the capital. Recognizing the deadlock, a sheep station owner whose ranch just happened to be somewhat equal distance between Melbourne and Sydney forfeited his huge land holding with the proviso that it become the capital city of Australia. The sheep station became the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) and an international competition was held to design the nation’s capital within the ACT.

Construction of the nation’s capital was finally completed in 1927 and the city is a beauty! A manmade lake is located centrally within the city. Connected to the lake are many gardens as well as a huge area of green space which sprawls throughout the city. Thus as one travels on wide tree-lined boulevards through the city from one suburb to another, one gets a very cosy sense of “community”. In addition, the result is many green-scape vistas; rather than the usual endless city-scape view of concrete, mortar and brick. The city’s main design layout features many geometric motifs such as circles and hexagons which are aligned with surrounding regional landmarks. In accordance with this geometric design, the roadways generally follow a spoke and wheel pattern rather than a typical square grid outline which most of us know. Without our GPS - Garmin Girl - we would have been lost traveling along the wagon wheel road system!

Lake Griffin with National Library in the background

The manmade lake essentially divides the city in half. On one side, Capital Hill, the site of Australia’s Parliament, is the focal building which is prominent from a number of viewpoints. Similarly, the Australian War Memorial which looks directly towards Capital Hill is the central structure on the other side of the lake. Scattered throughout the lake area are the nation’s social and cultural landmarks such as the national art gallery, library, and many museums. In some aspects, the design reminded us of Washington D.C.

Australia’s House of Parliament with Coat of Arms shown below

Vista of Parliament House from War Memorial. Note Man made Lake Griffin in foreground with “Old Parliament House” (the White Building in the middle of the picture). The new parliament building was built in 1988 as the old building was too small to house the present government. Old parliament is now a museum.

Vista of War Memorial from Old Parliament House

Of course, no capital is complete without housing a bevy of embassies. We were quite flabbergasted as we stopped at the American Embassy to be politely told by security to “Move Along”. However, given everyone’s heighten awareness with respect to terrorist activities; we concluded that we should not have been that surprised.

Our weekend was full of doing the usual tourist activities. Aside from the visits to sights such as parliament, the war memorial, and the art gallery, we still managed time to enjoy a few beverages at the local watering holes.

Monuments commemorating the Vietnam and Korean Wars- Part of the Boulevard enroute to the War Memorial

Inside War Memorial - Wall commemorating all the soldiers who have died in combat. The red are individual poppies that have been placed along side fallen loved ones by family and friends.

Old Parliament House – Now a museum

Old Parliament House – Sitting inside the Senate

National Art Gallery – Notice the nice collection of pears!