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September 26th 2008
Published: January 13th 2009
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Happy 2009!
New Years Resolution #22: Write more blogs (and catch up with all the old ones that still have been written)

We've gone missing for a while, but only because we've had so many visitors in the past two months that there hasn't been time for Blog writing. Before we get to the blogs on our holiday travelling with the Barnes family, we feel the need to do some catching up:

So, what is the ACT? No, not the 'act', but the 'A' 'C' 'T'? Well, it stands or the Australian Capital Territory, and is the equivalent of our Washington DC - the district created around the nations capital. The city itself is called Canberra (pronounced Canbra), and it’s a 3 hours drive south west of Sydney. It’s basically in the middle of nowhere between Sydney and Melbourne, amongst a lot of sheep and cows. Why? Well, back in 1903, Sydney and Melbourne were fighting over which city should be the capital, and since they couldn't come to an agreement, they decided to pick a place equidistant from both cities that would be the new capital. Since there isn't really much in between any of the cities here in Australia, the Capital was built in the middle of some sheep fields just south of Golburn (where we saw the big Merino).

Just to make sure we checked it of our list, we decided to take a weekend trip to visit the capital city, and see what we could learn. Canberra's reputation isn't great - since its in the middle of nowhere, its known as a city of politicians and government workers without much life or excitement. Well, after 2 days, we agree to a degree, but that's not to say that there weren't some interesting history and sights to see!

The layout of Canberra was designed by Walter Griffin, the same guy that designed the Chicago World's Fair at the turn of the century. That being said, it is a very ordered city, laid out with a central, circular node with smaller nodes radiating off. The main axis of his planning grid is a circular site surrounding a hill, which now houses the Parliament House. The Old Parliament House was built in the 1930's to house the new Canberra Government - this building was always considered 'temporary', and so was not built into the main grid of the city. That being said, the main axis point was left empty until the 80's when the new Parliament House was built.

Well, the Old Parliament House is now a museum, and Matt had a great time playing in the press box and wearing the outfits as you can see from the photos. We also visited the new Parliament House which was relatively modern and impressive (and yes they still have statues of the queen and references to the queen, as they are still a commonwealth of the British). Another key focal point of the city is the Anzac memorial, which is a large war memorial honouring the ANZACS (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) and commemorating the battle of Gallipoli.

Outside of politics, we also visited the National Australia Museum (Australian history, artifacts, culture, etc) and the National Gallery (painting, sculptures, etc). The big event while we were in town was the Floriade, an annual flower show, which was nice too. The museums are very well presented, but our main impression is that there are a lot of nice and impressive buildings and large public plazas, but there aren't any people around to fill them. Not much activity or 'buzz'. However, there were some great restaurants just outside the city in Kingston and Manuka, and we also found a great Bar/Brewery in the civic centre called the 'Wig and Pen', which matt would have stayed at all weekend if he could.

We hope you’ve all had a great Christmas and New Years, and we’ll be back with more travel news soon!
Matt & Heidi

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