Canberra via Rick Stein's

Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: -35.3284, 149.084

Having flown from Ayers Rock to Sydney and then caught a cab to Bulli, we arrived at Helen's to find her busy organising a party. No time to change before people arrived. It was really good to catch up with her friends and neighbours again and eat a terrific meal out on the deck, but inevitably too much wine was drunk, which did not bode well for the relatively early start the next morning!

Helen drove us down the coast stopping briefly at Kiama to see the blow hole which was impressive because the onshore winds were bringing big waves in. There are lovely views and a sandy beach here with loads of free parking so it is worth getting off the Prince's Highway and having a look. We drove further down the coast to Mollymook where there is a Rick Stein restaurant called Bannisters. Here we had excellent repast and wine- fish soup, mussels in wine garlic and chilli, salmon, seafood curry with rice and green beans, Eton Mess and cheese. After this we staggered down to the beach to look at the view and take a pebble for a souvenir. A short drive away is the town of Milton which contains many art and craft shops but they close promptly at 5pm. We stayed for the night in the nearby town of Ulladulla at the Ulladulla Guest House. This has beautiful apartments set in tropical trees with small pool and loungers. Helen had a swim while we rested. In the evening we were only a short walk away from the harbour, town shops and restaurants. Do not leave dining too late as none of the restaurants remain open after 9 or 10pm. We chose the Ulladulla Chinese Restaurant (Australia is not known for original names, hence Sydney Opera House etc!) We had an excellent meal but as usual at a Chinese restaurant abroad we over ordered. The benefit of staying in an apartment was that we could take home the left overs and pop them in the fridge. Also the benefit of having our own lounge meant we could open our own wine and stay up chatting, which may not be a good idea depending on the early start again the following day!

The next morning we did not have breakfast at the guest house but instead drove down to the harbour and had a light snack overlooking the sea before once more rejoining the Princes Highway and heading south. A detour was taken down a narrow track leading to Pebble Beach, which is in fact a very sandy beach and had we been there earlier in the morning we would have seen Kangaroos hopping around. As it was midday, the animals had more sense and were hiding from people and the heat. At Batemans Bay we left the Princes highway and joined the King's highway heading inland to Canberra, stopping for light refreshment in Braywood. Canberra is easy to drive around so we soon found the Waldorf apartments on Akuna Street. Our apartment was large with 2 spacious bedrooms and bathroom and better value than a hotel. Here the left over Chinese came in handy for a snack lunch. On the map, the walk to the New Parliament House on Capital Hill did not look far but it took us over half an hour to reach it by which time it was 10 minutes before closing. However we still had time to race around the building and see the House of Representatives and the various portraits, the most important one being of the Queen of course! The building is very impressive on the inside but on the outside it looks a bit strange with grass roof and a huge flagpole. From the front door you have a good view back towards the Old Parliament House, which is a pleasant grassy walk back towards Lake Burley Griffin. The Old House is flanked by public rose gardens and there are many other important buildings such as the National Archive, National Library etc scattered around, which we did not visit. We couldn't face the long walk back to the City across the lake so we hailed a cab that dropped us in the middle where we could wander round and find a bar. There are many restaurants in Canberra and we did not get the impression of it being a boring city as many people have told us. We chose an Indian called the Blu Ginger and had a very good meal. Helen especially enjoyed it as there were many gluten free dishes on the menu.

After a restful night at the apartment we had breakfast there as it was included in the price, checked out and this time drove across the bridge over the lake. There is ample free parking so this is probably the best way to do it as all the buildings are widely spaced between large grassy areas and trees. We spent our time in the National Gallery of Australia which is a well laid out art gallery with good examples of everything from Impressionism to the Modern day. There is also an excellent section of Australian aboriginal art also with Polynesian and Maori art. The special exhibition was Toulouse-Lautrec but as we had seen his paintings so often we didn't visit. A special French cafe had been set up which gave us a rest for coffee on the way round. Outside there is a very interesting sculpture garden by the side of which is the Garden restaurant where we stopped for lunch – excellent duck terrine, barramundi and chicken. All this time it had been sunny and warm but on the way back to the car the clouds came over and by the time we were heading back to Bulli it was pouring with rain, which made it a very unpleasant 3 hour drive for Helen. Luckily our only task before home was to call in at the drive in liquor store which is under cover! The east coast of Australia despite having a heat wave has been also flooded thanks to Typhoon Oswald. We hope this sudden change in the weather will not continue.

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