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Australia 2014 Days Eight and Nine: Canberra to Sydney

After our day-trip extravaganza over the long weekend, we had a fairly low-key day in Canberra on Tuesday. (Translation: we slept in for a while, and didn’t head off to the museums until just before lunch.)

We started at the National Museum of Australia, where we went through a lengthy exhibit about the history of the first Australians, which was very interesting… and sad… and thought-provoking. It’s too much to get into in a light travelogue post, but — as an outsider to the country — it was a surprisingly frank examination of the way aboriginal people were/are treated in Australia.

We also spent a lot of time outside at the museum, on the two café patios (one at lunchtime, the other a few hours later when we needed a snack) and also just checking out the wacky post-modern architecture of the building. The design, overall, isn’t really my taste, but I did like the way the windows reflected the sky.

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After we finished up at the museum we headed up to the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates all Australians lost in wars, but most particularly World War One. It’s an impressive building overall, and the poppies people place along the panels of names make a striking image.

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We happened to be at the memorial just before closing, when they do a ceremony called “Last Post.” Dignitaries from foreign nations come to lay wreaths (on the day we were there, delegations from Afghanistan and Singapore were present) and the life story of a soldier is read (we heard about a young man who died in the First World War). There is also a little music (bagpipes and a bugle, not at the same time) — overall, a very lovely and solemn remembrance.

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After the memorial, Mark picked us up and drove us to the top of Mount Ainsley to take in the panoramic views of Canberra before we headed off to dinner.

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And then came Wednesday, when it was time to leave Canberra. We took a quick tour of the Embassy grounds, since that’s where Mark & Sara work, had a leisurely breakfast in the Yarralumla “suburb” (which is what Canberrans call neighborhoods) , and then headed to the train station.

It’s only a four-hour train ride to Sydney, but along the way, we caught back up to the rain we’d been chasing around the country.

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A little (or even a lot) of rain was not going to keep me from my first activity in Sydney: seeing Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at one of the venues in Olympic Park. It took two trains to get there (which was actually easier than it sounds) though a delay on the first train left me sliding into my seat about halfway through the first song. (In my defense, Bruce’s US shows start 30-40 minutes after the ticketed time; this show started a mere 23 minutes late.)

It was a terrific show — I got to see the band play the complete “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album, and because I was at the top of the lower section with a wall, rather than people, behind me, I could stand up and dance as much as I wanted. I also had a view of the TelePrompTers on stage, so I could tell on advance every song that was coming — and what they skipped. And yes, Bruce… Replacing “The Rising” with “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was an excellent call.

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I was back to the hotel shortly after midnight and tucked in for a quick six hours rest before a full day tour of Sydney. Which is a story for another post.

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Australia 2014, Days Five-Seven: #Weekending, Canberra-Style

As the weekend got underway, it was time for us to move on from Melbourne to Canberrra, where Alison and I were visiting Mark and Sara, DC friends who are working for the US government in Australia’s capital city. Our flight was around lunchtime, so we had a leisurely morning at the hotel before heading to the airport, which was a nice change of pace after a couple of early wake-ups.

The flight to Canberra was uneventful, though notable for a few reasons:

  • Alison and I got on the plane without ever once showing ID.
  • I could have gotten through security screening with my half-full bottle of water, had I not preemptively tossed it, US-style.
  • Sandwiches were provided (at no charge) along with beverages once we were in the air.
  • We got off the plane using the stairs and walked to the terminal.
  • Mark met us at the gate.

It was like we went back in time to 90s-style travel!

Canberra was experiencing a rare (but needed) rainy day when we arrived, so we ended up getting a bit of a driving tour through town before stopping in at the Southern Cross Yacht Club, where we had a beer and watched it rain sideways across Canberra’s lake.20140217-230319.jpg Continue reading