November 27 - Hobart to Canberra
Staying at an airport hotel really makes getting to the airport a breeze and Hobart Airport being so small, within twenty minutes of leaving the hotel, we had dropped our car, our luggage and made it to the gate. Australia must be the only country in the world where no one checks your ID on domestic flights. I thought 9-11 had stopped that long ago, but it's happened twice now (to and from Hobart) so I guess things really are more relaxed here. The flight actually left early so we had to a wait a little longer than planned at Canberra Airport, but John's squash partner and girlfriend Lynda showed up right on time and whisked us to John's "station" or farm.
John himself was out running little old ladies to the doctor and to the shops and so forth, a job he does a couple of times a week at the local community center. Lynda showed us around the house which had originally been a large open space, but John has converted into a five bed room house. John showed up a couple of hours later and quickly took charge. He had already prepared an itinerary for us :
so we knew exactly what to expect. He quickly pulled out a bottle of champagne (or shampoo, as he called it) and we were well into the first bottle when his tenant-friend Alan joined us. Alan wasn't drinking, but we soon started work on a second bottle. Once the champagne was finished, we headed out for dinner at the Calwell club - a kind of working mens club. We picked up his friend Bob on the way and once we arrived, quickly found a table. The menu wasn't elaborate but there was a good choice and we all ordered our meals.
About this time, Kristine vanished to the ladies room. Not an unusual event, so we three guys kept chatting. She re-appeared but went very quiet - still nothing terribly unusual. Then she went to the Ladies again and now we were being to get concerned. When she came back, she looked pale and was obviously unwell and had been sick. Not a good sign. She quickly vanished again and this time John arranged a place for her to sit in the boardroom away from all the other members. She was dry heaving but didn't actually seem sick, but was very pale and shaky. We realized that our evening was coming to an end so John and I wolfed down our meals, made our apologies to Bob and bundled Kris into the car.
Once we got her home, she collapsed into bed and slept solidly. John and I shared a couple of beers and debated Kristine's sickness and then put the rest of the world to rights before heading to bed ourselves.
November 28 - Canberra
Kris slept soundly through the night and twelve hours later awoke seemingly fully recovered. She hadn't been sick in the night so we concluded that it must have been the champagne - a good lesson learned for future events. John had planned our first day as a tour of Canberra, which is, of course, the Federal Capital of Australia.
Central Canberra ("Civic")
Old Parliament Building in the foreground, new Parliament Building under the flag and War Memorial in the RH corner
We headed downtown ("Civic" it's called in Canberra) and our first stop was the new Parliament building. It's built on three levels with the ground floor open only to the politicians and their guests and the top floor for the politicians' staffs. The middle level is open to the public and allows access to the visitors galleries in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are also some open areas between the three levels where the public can look down (!) on their representatives. The public level also has displays and art work concerning the Federation, so it's a very interesting mix. As it was a Saturday, the politicians were away, so we didn't see anyone famous or get to hear a debate.
Australian flag flying over the Parliament Building
Interior of the new Parliament Building from the public level
House of Representatives
Old Parliament Building, known as "The Wedding Cake"
The old parliament building is now a museum. Because it's no longer in use, all the original offices are open and furnished as they would have been when in use. We got to see the original debating chambers and the prime minister's office, amongst other places.
Outside the old Parliament building is the so called "aboriginal embassy" - more a combination tent city and round the clock protest than anything else, but uniquely Australian. They had a fire going, symbolic we assume, which John found extremely frustrating given the extreme fire danger at the time,
Our third stop was the War Memorial, commemorating the war dead from the Boer War right through to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The wall with the names of the dead from the First World War was covered with poppies as Armistice Day (November 11) had passed just a couple of weeks earlier. Besides the names of the dead, there is a perpetual flame and the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier.
Tomb of thew Unknown Soldier
John at the Roll of Honour for the First World War
Adjoining the Memorial is a large Museum, which recalls various wars and campaigns fought by the Australians, the Gallipoli disaster being the first of many tragic battles. We found a restored Lancaster bomber which had actually fought in World War II and watched a recreation of a bombing raid over Germany. Rather them than me !
We did drive-by's of several major buildings including the High Court, National Library and National Archives. We stopped briefly at the National Gallery for refreshments and also did a quick tour of The Mint but didn't stay long at either place. By now, we were running out of time, so we stopped at one last look out for a view of the city and then headed home.
Refreshment break at the National Gallery (the pie in the middle is for Paul)
That night, we had dinner with Lynda at a very pleasant Indian restaurant. I'm pleased to report that Kristine was indeed fully recovered and enjoyed her meal, although we did keep her away from the wine and champagne THAT night.
John (with Lynda) pretending he doesn't want his picture taken
November 29 - Outside Canberra
Having seen the City sights the day before, our plan was to see some of the small towns and villages which surround Canberra. Our first stop was a small Arts and Crafts market in an old bus depot. Although there were several nice things to buy, we resisted, being very concious that we still have a long way to go and we prefer to travel light. We passed through and stopped at several small towns. In between the towns, we saw a wide range of scenery, varying from very dry and brown fields on the flat to some lush and green areas in the hills. John took us to a lookout and in the distance we could see a lush green valley with a climate ideal for growing peaches, which indeed were growing in abundance. There was also extensive evidence of gold mining along several of the creeks with spoil heaps everywhere. Although the gold is no longer mined commercially, it's still a popular day out to go gold panning, together with a nice picnic, although it's doubtful if much gold is found any more.
John and Kristine admiring the view
That evening, we went out for a BBQ at John's sister house. His sister, Pat, emigrated to Australia just after John (in the mid '70's) and, like John, has been here ever since. As well as his sister and her husband Hakan, we also met his charming daughter Emily, but I'm afraid we forget to get Emily's photograph, but thanks to everyone who made us feel welcome at what was otherwise a family gathering.
Pat's husband, Hakan, cooking dinner
John in serious discussion with Owen, Emily's boyfriend
(So who is John Forrest and why are we staying at his house ? In a nutshell, John was part of a large social group to which Kristine and her sister Carol belonged almost forty years ago. Both Kris and Carol dated other guys in the same group and Carol ended up marrying one of them, John Schofield. John emigrated to Australia in 1972 and neither Kristine or Carol had been in touch with John since his departure. Knowing we were coming to Australia, Kristine, with some help from Carol, managed to contact John and he very kindly invited us to stay with him while we were in Canberra. )