Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Capital

I’ve been to Washington, D.C. twice and absolutely loved it. As a lover of politics, I can’t help but be obsessed with the endless amounts of history to be learnt and the tours to take around our nation’s capital. While visiting Canberra, I got a very similar feeling. Although Canberra is usually thought of as a tiny city that doesn’t offer much compared to big cities in Australia like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, I found the Canberra to be quite enjoyable. Canberra, pronounced like Can-bra, was chosen as Australia’s capital for one reason alone: there was no way to choose whether Sydney or Melbourne was larger, so they picked a spot in the middle to represent the country as a whole. When asked about their capital, most Aussies will say that they’ve never been and aren’t exactly sure of the whereabouts of the ACT or Australia Capital Territory. The reason for this is simple. Although the political end of government is drawn out in Canberra, most of the housekeeping, campaigning, and other aspects that go into politics take place in either of the two other cities.

Mom and I only spent one night and half a day in the capital, but we mostly enjoyed our time. We arrived around 7pm on Friday, which meant it was dark outside and our only source of guidance was our GPS that we had named Helen on our 5-hour trip from Melbourne. Canberra is well lit and from the outside looks as though it has a reasonable amount of nightlife to offer. We drove through the city expecting our hotel to pop up at any given moment. Before we started our journey, we knew not to expect much because we had booked our one night in a Best Western “Resort”, but we did now know exactly where this hotel/motel was located. It turns out that we had entered into the scariest place to stay in the entire continent of Australia. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but the only other people we saw at the Best Western were an elderly woman running the front desk and a chain smoking truck driver who just happened to be in the room right next door to us. Honestly, I felt like I was in the beginning of a bad horror movie and that at any point in time someone was going to break into our room (the book Julia gave me to read didn’t help either as the chapter was about a break-in to the main characters home).

After not sleeping all night, we awoke to the coldest day yet. The thermometer read 1 degree Celsius and I was bundled up like I was going skiing. We drove to the Parliament House for a tour around and a better understanding of the confusion that this country considers government. The Parliament building was amazing. The entire inside is made of marble and surprisingly you are allowed to sit in both the Senate and House of Representative chambers even whilst they’re in session (if you’re lucky enough to be there when they meet, which is rare). We learnt a lot by walking around and mom purchased a giant map of Australia with all different facts in the gift shop. We then headed out of Canberra and started to make our way to Sydney.

We got into Darling Harbour around 6pm after making a few tourist drives through small town on the way from Canberra. It was as if we were royalty especially considering the motel we had just come from. Bellhops to take our bags, separate beds with down comforters, and free wifi in the lobby; we are really getting spoiled and we definitely don’t mind. We unloaded and then decided that we “fancied an Indian” for dinner so we walked across the bridge and ate some of the most delicious Indian food. We headed to bed fairly early after stopping at an Irish pub for one last drink. Saturday, we drove the car a couple hours north of Sydney to an area just outside of Newcastle called Hunter Valley. We checked out a few breweries that we knew were in Australia’s “wine country” and bought some cheese, then said goodbye to Helen as we took the car back to the airport.

When mom first told me that we were spending 6 days in Sydney, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure if we would find stuff to occupy our time for that long and I didn’t know much about the city, but now that we are here, we are both concerned whether we’ll have time to fit in all the activities we want to do. It’s been a day and a half and mom still hasn’t really seen the Opera House. The closest she came is when we accidentally drove over the Bridge! We have so much planned for the next few days and we’ll be tired and busy, but we’re excited. I have to make the absolute most of my last few days in this country. As of today, it’s been exactly 5 months since I’ve been home. I am eager to get back, but I can’t imagine leaving this place. It truly has become a second home to me.

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