We were so lucky to have a wonderful family from Switzerland come to visit us in Sydney over the last two weeks. Our new Norwegian exchange student also arrived, and so it was a great opportunity for a road trip - to Australia's national capital, Canberra!
My mum had the great idea of hiring a 12 seater bus so we didn't have to worry about keeping two cars together. It also meant the 8 of us had plenty of space, with our luggage and the wheelchair as well :)
I always forget that we are just not set up for winter here in Australia. We paused briefly at a rest area on the way down the Hume Highway, and the Captain was very relieved that he had remembered to pack his Drops Cotton Merino poncho.
We stopped in Goulburn for a delicious bakery lunch, and visited the Big Merino on the way out of town! Goulburn was Australia's first inland town and became very rich off the farming of Australian merino wool.
On our way into Canberra we went up to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. It was bloody freezing! But, a great view over the city and a good introduction to the capital.
Thursday's first stop was the National Capital Exhibition. This is a small museum, just one room, about the history and founding of the city of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory.
As well as the interactive exhibits, there were also busts of the two designers of Canberra, Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Lucy Mahony. The Captain, being a hopeless selfie-taker, had to get some photos with these two great architects.
Next was Australian Parliament House. Fortunately the politicians were all away on their winter holidays, so it was nice and quiet, and Kiah didn't have to throw any tomatoes.
The Tapestry in the Great Hall amazes me every time I see it - it looks like a painting! There is such incredible skill in the fibre arts on display.
The Captain had some fun in the House of Representatives Chamber imagining he was in the visitor's gallery during a boisterous Question Time.
Boy did Canberra put on some great weather for us! Despite the chill, the skies were that incredible Australian blue. The sun's meagre warmth was much appreciated when we went up to the roof of the parliament to look at the view and spot the landmarks and features we learned about at the National Capital Exhibition.
One place was definitely on my list to visit - the cafe at the National Museum of Australia. Such good food, and very reasonable prices! The Captain made a pig of himself as usual.
I was flagging a bit at this point, so Mum and I sent our visitors, Kiah and the Captain off into the museum and we had a peaceful cup of tea in the cafe. When Kiah came back with the Captain after a bit, he made some new friends and I got to give out some business cares. He certainly is a great conversation starter despite being quite... well seasoned (dirty) by now.
Kiah found these terrifying looking sheep shears - apparently Captain Poprocks thought he'd be quite good at that job, if only we could get some shears in his size! Personally, I don't think he has the back strength to manage. Do lambs get shorn as well?
After a busy day, we had a relaxing burger dinner at the Canberra Centre with some of our local friends - it's always nice to catch up with people as well as tourist around :)
Friday started early: at Questacon! The boys' eyes lit up at the idea of exploring this amazing, hands on science and technology centre. Plus, one of our friends (Victor) works there, and came in on his day off to show us around and introduce us to one of the more interesting residents - an Australian green leaf insect! It looked just exactly like a bunch of leaves...
We also met another resident of the Spiders exhibition...
And the Captain had his photo taken with one of the Excited Particles who put on a great show about collisions!
Friday afternoon we had a rest and shopping break, before heading out to Yass in the evening to have dinner with our wonderful friends Samantha and Andrew. After a great Aussie BBQ (the first one for our Swiss visitors, despite having been in the country for 3 weeks!), we played a hilarious game called Camel Cup. If you've never heard of the game, I can thoroughly recommend it - lots of fun!
After packing up on a grey and dismal Saturday morning, we stopped in at the Australian War Memorial. There were some new memorials since we visited last, for Australian soldiers who have served and are serving in Afghanistan.
There is a beautifully made statue of Simpson and his donkey (read more about his story here) in the sculpture garden leading up to the entrance of the memorial, and it was covered in red poppies. The 100th anniversary remembrances of the First World War are going on at the moment.
There were even more poppies wedged into the memorial plaques inside the building, which list all the Australian soldiers lost in wars. It is always a very sobering feeling, seeing so many names out of such a small country.
If you've been to Canberra, you'll know that the city is designed around a triangle. There is a direct line of sight from Parliament to the War Memorial, so that politicians always remember the cost of entering into wars in the future.
I wonder where the Captain will travel to next?