Canberra & NSW travel blog part 1

Week of 15 April 2024

The first week of school holidays. This week we travelled to Canberra and New South Wales to celebrate a family member’s 80th birthday.

Canberra & NSW travel blog part 1: Canberra

Day 1: Arriving in Canberra

The first leg of our trip was a direct flight to Canberra on a small* Link Airways plane. Direct flights like this are great because they cut out the time wasting of airport transfers and reduce the delay potential. And, while the Saab 340 isn’t as fancy as the jets of the other airlines, it isn’t as terrifyingly small as I’d expected.

The highlight of this flight was the lovely flight attendant, Darcy.

A snack pack of cheese and crackers sitting on a serviette on which the words 'thank you for being you' are written
The personal touch onboard Link Airways

We arrived into Canberra mid-afternoon Tuesday, and I had a very ambitious list** of sites to photograph during the (less than) 48 hours we’d be there.

Canberra is established on the land of the Ngunnawal people, and the word ‘Canberra’ means ‘meeting place’ in the Ngunnawal language.

I lived in Canberra in the 1990s, and it would be fair to say my interests at that time were vastly different to my interests now. (Although Canberra is where I bought my first SLR camera, so the spark was there . . .) Since then, I’ve looked at photos of Canberra architecture and wished I’d paid more attention when I had the chance.

Two days wasn’t going to be enough to see everything on my list so I took the opportunities that presented themselves. This included exploring Dickson, where we were staying. Some of this area was the same and some had changed a lot since I lived there.

A long one-storey brwon brick building with a sign "Dickson Library". It has a green roof. A highrise building is in the background
Dickson Library with a new building in the background

Fortunately, the Dickson Asian Noodle House, which does the best laksa in Australia, was still there. The laksa was as amazing as I remembered.

A bowl filled with noodles, and a round container with orange curry soup and an oblong container with more noodles and cooked meat
Takeaway laksa from the Dickson Asian Noodle House

Day 2: Photo expeditions

On Wednesday Kramstable and I took a trip to the Parliamentary Triangle to see the National Library and the High Court.

A modernist building of eight columns, based on a classical design, with two water fountains at the front
National Library of Australia

I’m embarrassed to say that in the 12 years I lived in the area, I never went to either of those buildings. They are both wonderful and I was so happy to see them.

A brutalist building with a glass curtain wall
High Court of Australia

We had some time to see the sculptures in the National Gallery of Australia’s Sculpture Garden before lunch.

A young man in a blue shirt and sunglasses standing in front of a large round metal scultpture. He has long hair tied back
Kramstable (and Virginia (1970) by Clement Meadmore)

Lunch was at Aranda, where the Dirk Bolt designed shopping centre has been revitalised into a fabulous area with an urban farm that supplies the cafe, Two Before Ten.

A small vegetable garden space outside of a low building
Part of the urban farm at Aranda Shops

Looking into this, I read that the owner, Richard Dennis, originally set up a coffee shop because he couldn’t find any decent coffee in the north of Canberra. He’s now established an amazing space that supports Two Before Ten’s vision of building community and creating a sustainable business that cares for people. It’s a fabulous story, which has had positive flow on effects on the community, people’s health, the local economy and the environment—all without demolishing Canberra’s “second ugliest building”.  I think Dirk Bolt would have approved.

A very large pitched roof facing a street
The Aranda shopping centre from Bandjalong Crescent

We caught up with some friends in the afternoon, which was great. One friend we hadn’t seen for 27 years. Time really does get away from you when you leave a place!

Day 3: Beautiful bus shelters

On our last morning in Canberra, I made some final photos, including two bus shelters in Dickson and Downer. These are immortalised in Trevor Dickinson’s book Beautiful Bus Shelters of Canberra, which I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. (The bus shelter in the Aranda photo is also in the book.)

A round concrete bus shelter with two circular windows. It is painted a light yellow and has orange highlight
The bus shelter in Melba Street, Downer

I was inspired to go looking for them after I bought Trevor’s The Book of Canberra the National Library bookstore. This book has a chapter devoted to the bus shelters, and it made me want to go out and find them.

An artwork of a round bus shelter with circular windows
Trevor Dickinson’s artwork of the bus shelter (Taken from the Beautiful Bus Shelters map)

After breakfast, we packed up and headed west for our next destination.


* Compared to a jet.
** In my head.

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