Next day arrived and our first stop for the day was a tour of the Australian Institute Of Sport. We were really looking forward to the AIS and it didn’t disappoint.
When we toured the complex we were fortunate enough to see some professional athletes training. There were 7ft volleyballers practicing their spiking, swimmers doing laps (including Olympic gold medalist Alicia Coutts), the U18 Soccer team were stretching in the gym and the Australian men’s Gymnastics team were doing a mock competition. Our experience was rounded off with a session in ‘Sportex’, a hands on interactive room loaded with sports memorabilia and activities.
The next day after breakfast we jumped on a bus and strolled through suburban Canberra until we reached the Australian War Memorial. The walk took about 30 minutes. It was very interesting walking along the wide tree-lined roads with their one storey houses. The one thing that was really irritating though, was that a lot of the streets either had no pavements at all or just one on the one side. This really is a city for the car (not very green). Everything is really spread out and you can't walk from one thing to another easily (no pavements and long distances). Anyway, we made it to our destination.
The other statue which particularly caught our eye was by Ray Ewers. In 1954 he was asked to create a sculpture to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians in all wars. 'Australian Serviceman' symbolizes determination, courage and a spirit of achievement as well as hope for the future. It was unveiled in 1959 in the Hall of Memory and removed to the Sculpture garden in 1993 to make way for the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. Around the side, next to the administration building there was an interesting collection of Australian war memorabilia including the barrel from the Amiens Railway Gun, the gun mount and bridge from HMAS Brisbane and a Centurion Tank. Outside the memorial there was also a naval gun from HMAS Australia.
Once inside we found we were just in time for a free guided tour. First we went outside to the commemorative area which is situated in the open centre of the memorial building. We entered a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame and flanked by sidewalks and shrubbery, including plantings of rosemary for remembrance. Our guide took us up to the cloisters where we had a great view down to the two Parliament Buildings. In the cloisters is the Roll of Honour, a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the western gallery is covered with the names of the thousands who died in World War I. The eastern gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and more recent conflicts. The roll shows the names only, not rank or other awards, as "all men are equal in death". Visiting relatives and friends insert poppies in the cracks between the bronze plaques, beside the names of their loved ones that they wish to honour; many continue to be inserted by the names of those who died in World War I, and a few even appear by the names of those who died in the 19th century campaigns. We walked past the names of those who perished in the First World War. Many of the names are marked with poppys which can be purchased from the shop. Members of staff carefully replace any poppys which have fallen to the ground. I spotted a few names from research our family history on the plaques.
We moved on inside the building which changed from an area of remembrance to a museum with exhibitions from various conflicts in which the Australian forces were involved. Unfortunately the World War 1 exhibit was being re-done so we couldn't see it and all the stuff associated with the disaster at Gallipoli. We were guided around all the Second World War stuff, with aircraft and sound and light shows. We had a late lunch and then went back and looked again at some areas and returned late for a swim and barbeque dinner.
Next stop was one of Murrumbateman's premium cool climate family owned wineries and sample from our Estate Range of wines, whilst browsing our exquisite range of hand-made and hand-painted ceramics, exclusively sourced from Italy. We unwinded over a glass of wine and treated ourselves to a delicious meal at Flint at Shaw Vineyard whilst gazing over the vineyard.
Last stop on the tour was Mount Majura Vineyard, which is a dynamic boutique winery and vineyard. Their cellar door features a unique seated tasting allowing an interactive yet relaxing tasting experience. Mount Majura is a leader in the Canberra District for Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo. Their single vineyard site of red clay loam soils containing limestone also produces quality Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Graciano, a Cabernet Blend and Shiraz.
The next day we were lucky to be waking up on a Saturday and decided to head to the Bus Depo Markets, then onto the Gorman House Markets. It was a short stroll north of the city, at the city’s arts centre. We spent a couple of hours or so at the markets and we got to see a different side of the city to the politicians and public servants Canberra is known for. Kim browsed at great vintage clothes, antiques, crafts, second-hand books and all kinds of food stalls.
We then headed back to the main CBD. At first glance Canberra looks to have been paved solid with chain stores and malls, but a few alternative places have stayed alive in the cracks. Landspeed Records, in Garema Place, does a great line in indie music and sells some vintage clothing on the side. Cowboys & Angels, in Bunda Street, has local and international designers and definitely specializes in quirky. At Craft ACT, near the Canberra Theatre, we saw exhibitions from jewelers, ceramicists and textile artists, with many selling pieces through the centre’s shop, while Mooble, in Bailey’s Arcade, has natural, ethical and organic products, including a damn fine organic gin and hemp clothing that won’t make you look like a hippie.
We had dinner in Dickson, Canberra’s Chinatown to the north of the city. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but only a fool would go anywhere but the Dickson Asian Noodle House. I tried the laksa (a spicy Malaysian coconut milk and noodle soup). We still had some energy, so we slumped into a couch at nearby Trinity and down a Szechuan beekeeper cocktail for dessert.
Some other highlights were:
Australia's only combined zoo and aquarium. The National Aquarium displayed a wide range of marine life, from the tiny denizens of the reefs to huge sharks. In the neighboring zoo, we can viewed all the important species of Australian fauna as well as exotic species as such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears, and more. We did the animal encounter are which allowed us to go behind the scenes and interact with cheetah, giraffes, sun bears, and red pandas, among other creatures.
Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex
At Tidbinbilla, We took an hour's drive from Canberra to Tidbinbilla to Australia's role in space exploration at the Canberra Space Center in the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, one of only three in the world. We got to see the largest antenna complex in the southern hemisphere, explored models of different spacecraft, and learned about the foods astronauts eat on the space shuttle. Just south of there, was the excellent Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, was a great place to see wildlife such as grey kangaroos, rock wallabies, emus, and koalas.