We woke up bright and early Monday morning to pick up our car from enterprise and get on the road to Canberra. Only once on the train I realized I was fairly sure I didn’t pack my single professional blazer, despite having set it out the night before. Looking back, I’d say that was a pretty good first indicator of how the rest of our day would go.
Getting the car was easy enough, and though a friend had suggested we take some time to do a bit of “parking lot driving”, Tyler felt confident he could get behind the left side wheel and get going. We pulled out into Potts Point, a fairly bustling section of Sydney, and I immediately started to sweat. Tyler nearly side swiped a parked car (though he very confidently said he didn’t). We accidentally drove down a one way road. A word to the wise – Google maps does not work while driving here. Not something you necessarily want to learn while driving abroad for the first time (it’s worked adequately for walking thus far!). I didn’t have waze downloaded on my phone, so while that happened we just tried not to drive onto the right side of the road.
We finally did get out of the CBD and onto the highway, and for that I am very grateful. Those were some of the most stressful minutes of my life. Once we were on the M5, and then onto the M31, it was smooth sailing. One road pretty much straight to Canberra!
We stopped at McDonald’s along the way, an American standard road trip pit stop. Though they do call it “Macca’s” here, it’s essentially the same. I don’t even really like to eat it back home, but we had to see for ourselves how it compared. Honestly the biggest difference is that they had MACAROONS for sale at the bakery. Fancy McDonalds.
Once you get out of Sydney the landscape turns rural surprisingly quickly. Skyscrapers and office buildings are replaced with gum trees and fields of cows. It reminds me of farmland back home, but with significantly shorter trees and dryer overall. As we neared Canberra saw our first kangaroo, but sadly it was road kill on the side of the highway. We were completely shocked at how many we saw that day - fourteen in total. We also saw some sort of gigantic…deer? We’re still not sure what exactly it was, but it was massive.
We checked into our hotel just outside of Canberra proper, a strange but comfortable enough “budget” hotel. We went to a nearby brewery for dinner, and if you follow me on facebook you’ll know that ended with eight beers for the two of us due to a wicked Monday night deal and considerably lenient liquor laws compared to back home. The only thing better than the food and free beer was the fact that a gelato messina was just around the corner.
Tyler and I decided to spend the next day at the National Zoo and Aquarium. We really can’t get enough of the wildlife. On our way we passed five live kangaroos, though they were quite far off in the distance. I was happy about this – the further from the road the better.
The zoo was eerily quiet, I’d imagine because it was a weekday, but I have to imagine also because of the location. We had been warned of this, but it does seem like quite the sleepy city. From what I’ve told the majority of residents work for the governemt. The streets were ghostly quiet in comparison to Sydney, and there was hardly any nightlife.
Walking into the zoo felt eerily similar to the opening of Jurrasic Park, we were both a little taken aback. But the remainder of our afternoon was relaxing and beautiful, and it was refreshing to not have to fight for space to see any of the animals. Sometimes it was so quiet I was freaked out. What if that ostrich decided to not just stalk me behind the fence but instead JUMP OVER the VERY SHORT fence? Were there even any employees around to help me? Unnecessary anxiety aside, we got to see many Australian native species up close, as well as some exotic creatures as well.
After our trip to the zoo we checked into where we’d stay for the next few day, the Little National Hotel. It was easily one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Anywhere that has automatic blackout blinds feels INCREDIBLY fancy to me.
After freshening up we went back out into Canberra, and over to the National Gallery. Though I should say the National Portrait Gallery, then the National Gallery. We had a planned excursion to the Portrait Gallery for the next day but somehow ended up in the museum, in a PORTRAIT EXHIBITION, before we realized our mistake. We probably looked a little mad, walking into the museum only to leave a few minutes later, but I didn’t want to ruin our next day’s itinerary.
We walked across the road to the National Gallery and spent an hour or so there instead. It was amazing, and I was most impressed by the variety and layout of work. I’m always appreciate of museums which take a non-traditional approach to hanging and space, and avoid seperation by discipline. The majority of aboriginal art was kept together, but everything else was divided by concept or a linking idea rather than medium.
For dinner we had subpar ramen, but the savior of the evening was a take home container of gelato eaten in our fancy cloud of a hotel bed as the automatic blinds closed us in for the night.