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Canberra Day 1 Round Up August 10, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Canberra, Travel.
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The Canberra skyline at dusk -- you can see some of the foreign embassies from here

Our first day in Canberra was uneventful.  It was a relatively long drive (around 3-3.5 hours from Sydney), which felt longer because I kept expecting wildlife to run into the middle of the road and make slam on the brakes and flip our car.  Fortunately, that never happened but the dozen or so animal carcasses (most were small, like cats, dogs and wombats, but some were HUGE, like almost full-sized kangaroos) I saw were enough to keep me awake.

Canberra is a small place but the roads can get confusing because they seem to run in concentric circles around Parliament House.  Even with a GPS, we got lost a few times before we arrived at our hotel of choice, Hotel Realm.

Located on National Circuit, Hotel Realm is one of the two (as far as I know) 5-star hotels in Canberra, and it’s the newer one.  I had stayed at the Hyatt (the other one) about 3 years ago as part of a young lawyers conference and while it was huge and spacious it was also in need of a makeover (or maybe it was just the super cheap rooms my firm paid for).  It reminded me too much of The Shining.

After settling down we went out and out for a snack, and we decided on the much publicised Tonic Espresso at 7 Mort Street (open Monday to Friday, 7:30am-4pm).  The coffee is supposed to be the best in Canberra, but what really impressed us were the lamingtons.  Get coffee if you want but don’t leave without getting some lamingtons.  We liked them so much that we scoffed them down before remembering to take photos.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving around the roads near Parliament House.  There are dozens of foreign embassies in that area and it was interesting checking out the different designs and what they said about their country.  I was disappointed to not even see one drug dealer or hobo wandering the streets.

It's actually not a bad looking building

At 5pm, the streets of Canberra came alive.  With mostly public servants working there it wasn’t surprising that everyone bolted out the door at 5 on the dot.  But even with the entire population on the streets it wasn’t so bad.  I don’t think you could call it ‘traffic’.

The open space and pool of water in front of Parliament House

The highlight of the day would be our dinner at this pizza/pasta joint called Italian and Sons (which I will review in my next Canberra post), recommended by a good friend of mine who lives in Canberra (“Let’s face it,” he said, “this place is a dump.”).  We caught up briefly and he took me to the “hippest part of town”, which was an empty street lined by about 10 shops.

I know, so far Canberra has lived up to its reputation, but I assure you, we were just getting started.  It really is fun.  Really.  Promise.

Stay tuned.

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