Canberra and beyond (12/02/11 - 18/02/11)

Published: March 20th 2011
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Lion at CanberraLion at CanberraLion at Canberra

Part of the International Festival, there was a queue to be photographed with it. No wonder it looked bored.
Four hours on a Greyhound bus had better be for a good reason, especially a bus which the toilet door won't open on. Well actually the door did open when the oldest, smallest and frailest looking passenger gave it a damn good pull and made the rest of us feel very stooooopid!

Are we in Milton Keynes?

Canberra is an odd place, it is a service centre for the federal government and as such doesn't really have a population centre like other cities do. It's a little bit like central Milton Keynes without all the surrounding residential estates. It is also very concrete.
The most amazing thing about Canberra is that it has an English pub, a real one with real ale in real casks delivered by a real beer engine to pint glasses, they haven't quite got the temperature right but it is still an advance on the fizzy keg rubbish that is usually served. Even better it had an uneven wooden floor, shaky furniture and no bloody pokies. it lacked the resident drunk one always finds in an English pub but give it time, there'll be people looking for a job once the next election is over!

Anyway, the real reason we came to Canberra was an advert we saw in Sydney for an exhibition of costumes and other paraphernalia from the Diaghilev era Les Ballets Russes at the National Gallery of Australia, so I dragged Vernon all the way here to look at a load of ballet costumes. Not just any costumes though, any designer worth their name designed for Les Ballets Russes in the early twentieth century and a few artists as well, there were costumes by Matisse, Picasso, Goncharova, Derain, Braque and others. The attention to detail and the materials used are all testament to Diaghilev's aim for perfection and indicators as to why he spent a lot of time broke. The exhibition was stunning and we spent ages wandering around it.
Later we moved on to the modern art area where I was seized upon by a pompous little man with a carefully trimmed goatee (although he didn't complete the caricature with a black polo neck) who asked what I thought the artist was trying to say of a particular piece, the piece in question being a blank canvas with a frame around it. Apparently "I think the artist is trying, successfully, to get money for nothing" is not the correct answer, it is all about showing that art is all around us and not just on the canvas. Or it's money for old rope! Whenever I go to an art gallery I get some pompous little man trying to tell me what I should think about the artwork on display. Why me? I'm sure I don't have "Come over and be superior at me for I am an art philistine" tattooed anywhere obvious.
We walked back around the lake following the cycle path for possible future reference, then tried to find some food but everywhere shuts early on Sunday in Canberra, we eventually found a mediocre cafe that was still open and had something instantly forgettable. It was ironic that there had been an international festival running all weekend, but the food stalls had all closed by the time we got back there.

The next day we were back at the NGA to see the street art exhibition which, thankfully, didn't have any odious curators waiting to mess with my head and was packed with a wonderful mix of both highly polished and rough edged pieces. After looking around the rest
Birds on a boat, LauncestonBirds on a boat, LauncestonBirds on a boat, Launceston

This boat appeared to be roost of choice for the local gulls.
of the gallery we walked over to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside the Museum of Democracy, then on to the parliament buildings before getting the bus back to the centre.


The reason Charlotte had flown over to Aus was to compete at the Evandale Village Fair and being as we were so near (in relative terms) we decided to fly out to Tassie to watch the carnage/point and laugh/ be supportive (delete as applicable). So on the 16th we packed everything up and got the plane from Kingsford Smith to Launceston, changing from a 737 to a twin prop De Havilland at Melbourne. That was fun, we shook and rattled our way across the Bass Strait - terrifying. The on board catering was interesting, because I'm cows' milk intolerant I was listed as a vegan (!) and was given a cheese sandwich for lunch along with a little carton of milk for my coffee. Later i was offered ice-cream as a snack - good grief!
At Launceston we nearly got fined for a couple of rogue onions in our food bag, but we were let off with a "Don't do that again" instead; we collected the bike box which looked like the Qantas pet elephant had sat on it and most of the tubes had got scratched in transit, hopefully nothing worse than that. We rebuilt the bike, loaded up and set off for Launceston which is 10 miles from Launceston Airport. Nice route along the old road avoiding the highway, we reached our destination via only one stupidly steep, who the heck put that there? hill which we would have avoided if we'd followed the route we were supposed to take. The downside of the steep up was an incredibly steep down which scared the life out of me, at one point I was looking straight over the top of Vernon's head at the road in front of us, adding in a slightly binding front brake made the pilot's job rather entertaining.
We spent a couple of days "doing" Launceston, a quick visit to the Visitor Centre for cycle route advice and "must see/do" information got us directed to the Service Tasmania shop for maps, it's a wonderful place, you can buy maps, guide books and souvenirs, use the internet and pay any fines you may have accrued and all in a building as ugly
Suspension bridge at Launceston First BasinSuspension bridge at Launceston First BasinSuspension bridge at Launceston First Basin

There was also a chair lift which, thankfully, had shut by the time we got there.
as the Tricorn but without the architectural merit. We moved on to the Wharf where there was a wooden boat festival, the exhibits included a tiny rowing boat with an outboard motor modified to run on steam, before taking a boat trip up the Cascades Gorge. The pilot told us there was a free swimming pool at First Basin further up the gorge so after the boat ride we nipped back to the hostel for our swimmies and walked back up the gorge and sure enough in the lawn on the other side of the basin there is a swimming pool, completely free to use and very, very cold. We also took the tandem out for a spin around the bike routes which. we were assured, are really good and extensive and well laid out and, and, and... you get the idea? Our first encounter with one of these routes was in the shape of a boardwalk with very tight angles to get onto and off it, the boards were not laid flat and in some cases were loose enough to rattle the bike around as we rode. We exited onto gravel which was better but not great and we soon reached another boardwalk section which had a no cycling sign at the entry point, we re-read the brochure and sure enough there was a note in it that the boardwalks were to be walked over, so 400 metres out of a 2km cycle route unrideable - bizarre! Anyway once we'd cleared the restricted area we remounted and rode straight past the Heritage Forest, in the map reader's defence the Heritage Forest was parkland with a few trees in it, we turned back and got ourselves onto the Forest Loop, past a dog exercise area with loads of tunnels and jumps for the dogs to play and into the wilderness area where we passed a family, 2 adults and a baby in a pram and a bit further on a little lad on his first bike, legs spinning madly and the bike rocking and veering across the path, he was having a whale of a time. It took us a while to catch him as he attacked all the climbs (~1m onto bridges) and tucked in for maximum effect on the corresponding descents, eventually he took a pit stop and looked over his shoulder to spot where mum and dad
Steam powered outboard motorSteam powered outboard motorSteam powered outboard motor

Not trying to be bad auntie and uncle but Felix, you might want to suggest this as your next project, we're sure daddy will be happy to help.
were only to see the Jaffanaut looming at him, he stared in wonder as we rode past and then yelled "Look, look, look, two people on a bike. Look mum, dad, a two people bike, look, look, LOOK." It's a shame we can't adapt the tandem for little people or we'd have offered him a go on it, we could still hear him marvelling at what he had seen as we exited the forest and headed back to town.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Henty House, LauncestonHenty House, Launceston
Henty House, Launceston

Tricorn-lite. Buy maps, browse the internet, get souvenirs and pay fines with just one swipe of your card.
Turtle MotifTurtle Motif
Turtle Motif

Part of the floor at University House, Canberra

Real beer, brewed in Australia, flat and warmish.

28th March 2011

jee thanks Clare and Vernon!
Well, this is one page I wont be showing Felix!! S x

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