A Day of Sightseeing in Canberra

Nathan was going to go around Canberra to shoot some local scenery, so I took advantage of the unofficial hop-on-hop-off van. Its was a serendipitous way to see the city!

Nathan and I were accompanied by Mark, who acted as our guide. We first went to the Australian War Museum (I told you it was THE thing to see in Canberra!). After a few quick shots of the Commemorative Courtyard, we sped off to the next site, the Limestone Plains. Here, I saw a map that showed the planned layout of Canberra. Canberra was a designed city from the beginning, and the architect envisioned the whole city laid out in geometric simplicity.

Here we had a beautiful panoramic view of Canberra, which was a nice way to see the city. I saw that Canberra was mostly flat. The usual skyscrapers were noticeably absent.

Mark said that there were also several trails starting from this point. If I had more time, I would have gone on a little trek, as the day was just gorgeous for walking.

Mark said that Canberra is a totally man-made place. Even the lake is artificial. The Aussies chose Canberra as their national capital (as per Mark) because at that time, Sydney and Melbourne were both lobbying for this honor. In order to show no favoritism, Canberra was chosen.

Our next stop was Lake Burley Griffin (the artificial lake I mentioned), to see the Captain James Cook Memorial Water Jet. Lake Griffin is in the center of Canberra, and is surrounded by important landmarks, such as Parliament, the National Museum, and the National Library. It is named after the American architect that won the honor of designing Canberra back in 1912.

The lake even had graceful black swans on it, and they were quite fearless in front of people.

The James Cook Memorial Jet is a show stopper. This powerful man-made geyser blasts water sometimes to the height of 150 meters. Its very impressive, particularly because the lake is so serene and calm, and then all of a sudden you hear this tremendous “whooooosh!”, and a small “explosion”.

Tourists should know that it is only on during certain hours of the day (one website says 10am-12noon, and 2-4pm), so make sure you schedule your day around it. It looked especially gorgeous with clear, blue skies.

After the lake, we set off for Parliament. Don’t be deceived by its seemingly low rise appearance: there are several floors underneath the ground. If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that the top of the building is actually grass, and I was told that people walk on top and actually picnic sometimes. Mark told me that the reason why people are encouraged to stroll on top of Parliament is so that Parliament will never forget that they are “under” the people…literally and figuratively.

Next stop (for me…Nathan had to go back to official business) was the Manuka mall. It was nice to see what downtown Canberra looked like, after all the tourist spots. Manuka looked like an upscale neighborhood mall, with a large grocery and nice dining spots. They even had a small artisan bakery/cheese place which was a welcome stop for coffee. This was around 4pm, and there were hardly any people around.

I decided to end the day with a stroll along Lake Griffin, since our hotel was right at its side. Lake Griffin had a nice asphalt lane that seemed built for walking/jogging.

It was dusk already. The temperature was dropping, the wind was picking up, and the sun was setting, so it wasn’t a very long stoll. Just long enough to snap some pics.

Sunset at Lake Griffin

The Australian War Memorial Part 2: War Is A Terrible Thing

The Australian War Memorial is a museum showcasing the wars that Australians have fought in. Going through the museum, you are taken through a timeline of the many wars, from Gallipolli…..

…..to World War 1…..

A lifesized diorama, showing a WW1 soldier in anguish after a battle

The museum had many dioramas depicting specific events of WW1. It reminded me of our own Ayala Museum.

….to World War 2…..

The dreaded German swastika, which represented all the evil of WW2

Christmas was especially emotional as the soldiers prayed for the war to end so that they could be home for Christmas.

This jubilant banner celebrated the liberation of the Philippines

…to the Korean War….

….to the Vietnam War….

The Vietnam War was represented by a dramatic "reenactment" of a chopper landing in war-torn Vietnam. Deafening noise, a strong wind machine, and flashing lights made this war come alive in the museum.

…to the war in Iraq.

The uniform in the Iraq war.

They say that the current role of Australians is as of  “Peacekeepers”.

Another impressive exhibit was the one of war planes. The museum had several planes in a huge hall. On the walls they would show films of dog fights and documentaries regarding these planes.

I couldn’t help but leave the museum in a somber mood. Seeing the suffering of the people and the soldiers in every war just brought home the message that all wars are essentially the same: full of pain and suffering for all sides.

The Australian War Memorial Part 1: Red Poppies For The Brave

I was told that THE thing to see in Canberra was the Australian War Museum. Even more so than Parliament, which some Aussies told me was kind of boring. So I hopped in a cab the first thing after breakfast.

The cabbie was surprised that I only planned to stay there an hour. “You can spend the whole day there!” he says enthusiastically. Now I’m beginning to wonder about the fate of my afternoon.

The War Memorial is a museum documenting every war Australia fought in. It is aligned with Parliament, along the same main road.

View from the War Memorial

The museum has an outdoor courtyard (called the Commemorative Courtyard) with the Pool of Reflection and an Eternal Flame.

Along the walls are the names of the battles where Australians fought. I spotted the Philippines…..

Along the side of the courtyard, on the second floor, is the Roll of Honour, where the names of Australian service men who died in any war are engraved in stone.

People can place red poppies beside names.

I was wondering how they documented names from the earliest war….

Here’s the latest war. As you can see, sadly, there is no end year engraved.

At the Hall of Memory (which is on one end of the Commemorative Courtyard) is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during World War I.

Next post: more on the Australian War Memorial

The Hyatt Hotel Canberra

The Hyatt Hotel Canberra is a Park Hyatt Hotel. Apparently, Park Hyatt is the luxury brand of hotel of the Hyatt chain. So instead of the usual high-rise hotel I was expecting, I was pleasantly surprised by the Hyatt’s country club look.

The hotel felt like a throwback to the 1920s. Wood, natural light, and neutral colors all contributed to the elegant and subdued feeling.

The doormen were dressed in 1920’s attire: knee-high socks, black knickers, floppy hat, bow tie, and even a pocket-watch (chain)! This just gave the hotel so much more character and personality.

Tim gamely poses

I especially loved the presence of so much natural light, coming from these windows in the ceiling. It made the whole lobby and our entrance so much warmer and more welcoming.

Even the signs around the hotel kept in character. Wooden signs, with wrought iron detailing, for the “ye olde” look.

We arrived around 5pm, so high tea was in full swing in the tea room. What a spread!

C couldn’t wait to check-in and get to work……

……..while I got to enjoy the bed. Believe me, a goose-down comforter is so difficult to get out of when its cold!

Of course I check out the bathroom.

Breakfast the next morning was the usual hotel buffet, with an egg and pancake station, hot dishes, cheese plate, fresh fruits and cereals. C enjoyed his usual “breakfast of champions”: eggs and bacon.

It looked like gorgeous weather, so I was eager to get out and explore Canberra.

Welcome to Canberra!

C was sent to Canberra on assignment, so of course I insisted on accompanying him! I’ve never been to Canberra (not exactly on my radar), but I’m never one to turn down 1) travel 2) travel with C 3) travel to a new, interesting place.

We flew to Canberra from Sydney, so we got to see Sydney’s Domestic Airport. As expected, its a Qantas airport. And very beautiful and light-filled.

The first thing thing that struck me is that Sydney installed “self-check-in” terminals.

Passengers can check-in just by inputting their reference number. They can also check-in with their companions, print boarding passes AND baggage tags, so the whole process is very efficient!

After you check-in, print your boarding passes, and tag your bags, you bring your bags to the bag drop-off!

For us, we had to go to the Oversized Bags because of the cameras of Nathan.

Only the Business Class gets the serviced check-in line.

At the gates, there was a nice selection of retail stores, from clothes, food, to travel essentials. C even found his favorite Krispy Kreme!

The plane to Canberra was a 2 propeller plane. This picture was taken as we were descending, so you can get some idea of what Canberra looks like in June (their winter) from above: very bare and brown.

Welcome to Canberra! It wasn’t as cold as we expected (though we expected sub-zero weather. My guess was that it was a balmy 10 degrees).