Canberra: The Travel Edition

It was my last day at my old hospital. My first hospital. There were hurried goodbyes and sun-filled photos of campus before rushing off to get to Central Station. I needed to get myself on a bus to Canberra. There was no time for all of this sentimentality.

My wonderful friend Ben, social butterfly turned social entrepreneur turned teacher, was invited by VisitCanberra to be a part of the #humanbrochure project. Two interstate friends would be put up in a Canberran hotel in exchange for self-made adventures. Francis and I knew we'd be in for a treat with Ben running the show - and we weren't disappointed.

I hopped on the bus with every intention of getting some work done or reading a novel, or doing something vaguely useful. Instead, I almost instantaneously fell fast asleep. Three hours later, we rolled into Canberra. The city was bright with street lights and clean as a button. There were post-dinner-date revellers making the most of the warm weather and plenty of souls heading out for a big Friday night. The city felt safe and welcoming.

Ben came to collect us from our beautiful two bedroom apartment (with a view of the being-renovated pool) for a night on the town. We bar and club-hopped across the inner city, stopping for a cocktail, mocktail or snack as we went. The music was always catchy and the company friendly. The street crowds were mellow and the parties were fun. There was none of the 9pm violence so familiar to other cities. The clock was ticking but nobody felt like their carriage home would turn into a pumpkin at midnight. It was 2am before we crawled back home to bed, only to ready ourselves for a nice early morning start.

The next morning, Francis prepared bacon and egg sandwiches with the food left by the #humanbrochure team. There was no going hungry on Canberra's watch. It was then off for a whirlwind tour of greater Canberra. We stopped off at the Yarralumla bakery for some sweet treats to eat at Lake Burley Griffin. We watched wild kangaroos explore the terrain and saw locals taking to the water. We ventured off to the Beyond Q bookshop where we resisted the urge to purchase hundreds of books that would have made venturing home far more difficult. We drove up Mount Ainslie to see all of Canberra stretch before our eyes. The city sits, compact, beneath the tiny mountain, closeted by the rolling hills of an ancient tectonic plate. We skipped across the border to Queanbeyan to see the Benedict House art school and shop. The owners treated us to a grand tour and wonderful conversation before we rushed through the rain towards a late lunch. It was time for some good quality country fare. Bungendore treated us well. Between delicious sandwiches and artworks of furniture one can only hope to afford, we were full in body and mind.

It was 4pm and we were all exhausted, full of food and excited for our evening. There was a VIP tour of the National Gallery of Australia awaiting us. For several hours, local Canberran musical artists took us through multi-sensory tours of their favourite spaces in the museum. We were blown away. Every artist had composed music to match the space. We all stood and listened in stunned silence only to be shocked into participating ourselves. We made echoey music inside curious Canberran artwork.

We strolled through Lonsdale St for coffee and brunch and past local producers of quirky art and fashion. We were only a few minutes' walk from the gigantic Civic shopping centre, yet felt a million miles from the hustle and bustle of commercial conglomerates. We went to weekend markets and resisted the urge to buy all the fresh local olives, regional wines and scrumptious home-cooked food on offer. I could mentally picture trying to trundle home on the bus with a weekend's loot - and it wasn't a pretty scene. For once, pragmatism won over.

Our whirlwind weekend in Canberra was over all too soon. It was time to pack up and get ourselves back home. It's only a few short hours between the nation's capital and my home town. It's a trip I'll be making again soon, though never soon enough. Quaint and quirky and with a growing sense of self, Canberra is only entering it's teenage years. It's not yet matured; it's trying to find itself. As a visitor, there are always adventures to be had, delicious food to be enjoyed and a different town to visit when you return.

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