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Road Trip!!

Welcome to Canberra Sign

Over the holiday weekend (Labor Day in Australia is the first weekend of October) we decided to take a trip to the capital city, Canberra. For those of you who don't know, as we did not, Canberra was established as the capital city officially in 1913. It is located in the Australian Capital Territory (a small state established in 1906 when Australia became an independent country. It is abbreviated as ACT, not to be confused with Greg's old work place Advanced Coating Technologies haha). The territory was originally part of the state of New South Wales, which is where Sydney is located. It's about a 3 hour drive from where we are living so it seemed like a perfect first road trip out of the metro area. We got a bit of a late start on Saturday, as most of you probably know Greg is a bit of a late sleeper, but we were out the door by 10 AM and on our way. This was our first, well Greg's first, chance to see some wildlife as there aren't many kangaroos or koalas in the city. Allison drove the full way, which gave Greg a chance to hunt for Kangaroos on the roadside (she after all has a lot more experience with driving on the left, whereas Greg has only driven a car once since we got here). Unfortunately, we weren't able to see anything for certain, but he thinks there was a small pack of them in the distance at one point after lunch. Most of the area we drove through was farmland, I guess this would be like driving in upstate New York after leaving from NYC if you're looking for a comparison in the States. It was a pretty easy drive and we stopped about halfway through in a small town called Bowral.

Lunch at Raw & Wild

Bowral had a lot more going on than we expected and might make for a day trip itself one day, but we only stopped for lunch and a short walk through an antique shop to do some window shopping. (We ate at Raw & Wild Market & Cafe for brunch). After lunch we made our way to Canberra, but not before we almost ran out of gas (of course the gas light goes on in the only place we saw without a gas station for 25 km!) We survived, but it reinforced the first rule of the road in Australia: If you're at half a tank or less and see a gas station, FILL UP! It was a fairly rainy day on the road and with the gas scare we decided not to check out any of the local wineries along the way, but that gives us yet another reason to get back on the road and explore the area again some time.

We checked into the hotel around 2-3 and got settled in a bit before heading out to wander our way to a park downtown where there was a local festival celebrating spring (yes, we are upside down here and the seasons are backward from up north). The Floriade Festival is touted as the largest celebration of spring in the country and there was a long line to get in for the night time activities, which started at 6:30 but we arrived around 7ish. Unfortunately, we underestimated how popular the largest celebration of spring would be and it was sold out on Saturday night by the time we got to the ticket booth. We decided we'd try again for Sunday once we got back to the hotel where we could get tickets online. We decided to make our way back to the hotel slowly while we looked for a place to eat and maybe a bar to hang out for the evening.

Burrito & (4) Chips

We found Beach Burrito Co, which fulfilled the need for food and actually had some great burritos (and the literally 4 tortilla chips that came with them). From there we continued out stroll back to the hotel, and on the way we saw a restaurant that made Nutella and banana stuffed spring rolls, which were amazing and hit the spot on a cool spring night when we wanted a warm dessert!

The next day was pretty packed with activities. But first things first we woke up early to wish Mom Ross and Grandma Handloser (Al's side of the family) happy birthdays! Greg was not too happy to get up that early, especially because daylight savings just kicked in here and we sprung forward to lose an hour of sleep, but it was great to see them and chat a bit before they went out to celebrate with dinner! (Allison attempted to call even earlier and after realizing we had spring forward she called back).

Kangaroos (if you look really hard!)

After Greg attempted to get a couple more hours of sleep, we started with a pastry and tea breakfast at the Bakery down the street from us and then made our way to the Ainsley Lookout, where you can see the whole city. The lookout looks directly down on the War Memorial and straight through to the Parliament building atop the hill across the lake (more on those later). We took in the views (and a few photos) before moving on to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands where we took a leisurely walk through some really creepy tall grass (mostly creepy because the sign that warns you that snakes also live in the wetlands with all the pretty birds came only 20 meters before the tall grass surrounds you on all sides and you have no escape unless you want to double back!). Fortunately, we survived the creepy snake grass and we were rewarded with our (well, Greg's) first confirmed sighting of kangaroos in the wild!! They were just as we suspected: strange looking deer in the distance, not very concerned with the humans walking and biking by them on the paths, but nonetheless it was very exciting to see them for the first time!

Agostini's (Best Pizza in Australia so far!)

After the walk, we went to eat lunch at an Italian restaurant one of Al's coworkers recommended called Agostini's. So far, this is the best pizza we've had in Australia even though they brag about having a lot of good Italian food and influence here. When we finished lunch we made our way to the House of Parliament for a tour of the building, which was pretty cool. The whole front section of the building (basically everything but the member's of parliament (MPs) offices) is open to the public and we had some time to kill before the tour so we did a little wandering there and hung out in the Queen's Terrace Cafe, named for the late Queen Elizabeth II. After the tour, we went to Capital Brewing Company for a few drinks before we headed back to the hotel to get changed and ready for the evening.

The rest of the evening was dedicated to the Floriade Festival (because we pre-bought tickets the night before!). The Festival was very fun, typical of what you'd see in the US for something of this size. There were two areas with live music (one much bigger than the other) and a ferris wheel with a few other smaller rides. Food trucks abound and several shops and things throughout the grounds. There were also thousands of beautiful flowers in different designs around the park.

Floriade Festival

After all, we think Floriade has something to do with Flower Festival, so this made sense! We decided to do a walk around the area to scope the best food options (there was no fried dough, which upset Greg, but we settled on other fair foods for dinner eventually). Before we ate, however, we sat and listened to a string quartet. Allison recognized most of the songs, but Greg could really only make it out when they played What a Wonderful World. It was a lovely scene with the music playing as the sun started to go down. Then it was time for food and some of the music playing on the main stage. Lastly, we got some fried donut balls for dessert and made out way back to the hotel.

Monday was another full day. We had a tour of the Australian National Library at 11 am, but not before a nice brunch at Gus's Place. (The food was great, but with a lack of public restrooms in most restaurants Greg had to walk like a block or so to wash his hands and egg off his face before we made our way to the Library. Feels very strange that restaurants don't need to have a restroom here like they do in the States). Anyway, the tour of the Library was only about 45 minutes and the collections were actually closed due to the holiday so we only got to see the little museum in front and learn about the architecture of the building, which was nice, but I think Al wanted to get some nerdy book talk in, which we didn't quite get.

War Memorial Courtyard

Our final stop in Canberra before we made our way back to Sydney was the War Memorial. The War Memorial is a museum that covers the two world wars and several of the conflicts since the second world war. On the way from the Library you have to drive on a boulevard with various sculptures and monuments to different conflicts over the years. The memorial itself is something that could take days to completely go through and feel as though you've thoroughly covered all the information inside, but we only had limited time due to some renovations happening and the organization allowing 2 hour limits for its guests. We made it through the whole space but Allison was not able to read every single bit of information like she usually does in a museum. It was well worth the visit, but if you are really interested in getting everything it, we'd recommend multiple trips (one for WW1, one for WW2 and a third for the remaining wars as there's less detail in those exhibits).

Finally, we were off for the road trip back home. This time Greg was driving (second time in months) and we planned to take the scenic route up the coast, which added some time to the trip but we figured would be a good change of pace. We hit the road around 1:30 hoping to be home by 6:30-7 ish. Of course, nothing goes to plan and we made it more than halfway to our first vista on the journey when one of the roads was closed due to some heavy rains. This knocked us off track pretty good and we had to back track about 40 mins before we could get back to where we wanted to be. Eventually, we gave up on the first vista which would have sent us further south out of our way, but changing our course to head back north turned out to be a long and winding road that slowed us down even more. Instead of making it home for dinner, we stopped in Wollongong at very tasty Indian Restaurant. We hoped to take the scenic road up the rest of the way from there, but it was not always so scenic and it also slowed us down a bit. We missed the final vista Greg planned for because it was too late by the time we got there and the walking path to the view was closed for the night. It was also very dark by then so not sure we would have seen anything anyways. But this will also give us another trip to plan for down the coast at another time hopefully!

Overall, the trip was a good time and we got to finally see kangaroos in the wild, so can't complain! Hope to fill you in on our future adventures and misadventures. Thanks for reading!

Allison at Raw & Wild

Greg at Beach Burrito Co.

Ainsley Point Lookout

Parliament from Ainsley Point Lookout

Greg in a Viewing Lodge at the Wetlands

Allison Taking in the View of the Wetlands

Greg Surviving the Creepy Tall Grass

Parliament House

Inside Parliament House (Main Entrance)

Posing with the Queen

Inside the House Chamber

Al at the Brewery

Greg at the Playground Next to the Brewery

Al at the Floriade Festival

A Pretty Flower

The Main Stage (and food lines) at the Floriade Festival

Outside the National Library

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Oct 27, 2022

Very much enjoying the blog updates, keep them coming!

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