After Sydney, we headed to Canberra, the capital, where my brother lives. Unfortunately the weather the first day was a bit soggy and, I must say, the whole “fall weather during what is early summer at home” is really odd!
We changed our plans a bit to accommodate and visited the old and new parliament. Even as a biology person and not as into politics, it was really interesting to see the way a different government works. I won’t bore you with details, but the highlight was attending question time, which is when members of parliament ask questions of the Government Ministers (including the Prime Minister) which they are obliged to answer. It sounds boring, but you had to be there – it was like a class of first graders yelling at each other!
The next day we took it easy in the morning, then headed out for a walking tour of Canberra, which involved going to the National War Memorial. The mile stretch up to the memorial has monuments on every block and the main memorial represents every branch of the armed forces. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful sight with a direct view of parliament so that those lost will never be forgotten.
That night, we attended the meat raffle. (For the record, this event is exactly what you are thinking – you buy a ticket and hope to win one of the platters of meat. Unfortunately, the Applegates were unsuccessful.)
The next day was one of the highlights of the trip for me – an excursion to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, one of the coolest places I have ever been to. On the road up to the information center alone we spotted numerous kangaroos and emus! None of the animals are fenced in and, while there are fences in the park, if the animals chose to, they could just walk out. We spent hours exploring various walking trails – including sightings of several groups of kangaroos! – and exploring aboriginal sites. We even found an elusive platypus and kookaburra. (Yes, he was in an old gum tree!)
The most exciting wildlife sighting was a koala; he was right off the trail, awake, and relatively active – munching away at a eucalyptus tree. We spend a good half hour just watching the little guy and taking hundreds of pictures, paparazzi-style.
On the way out, we spotted a wallaby, which means that we pretty much checked off every animal on the “Must-See in Australia” list. Tidbinbilla was great and I think I could just about spend my life in that place. (If I lived in Canberra, I’d be there every day.)
The last day in Canberra brought a strictly family day, including a wine tasting tour in the countryside. It was a beautiful day of driving, visiting vineyards, and seeing more Australian wildlife. I even took the plunge and drove, both on the wrong side of the road and wrong side of the car – strange!This brought the end of our time in Canberra and we were off to Melbourne, a short flight away. We spent the days touring the city and even saw a movie being filmed! We also went to one of my new favorite things: a professional Australian football game. This is an odd mix of rugby, football, and various other sports that makes it all its own. I am officially a Hawthorn Hawks fan for life!
The days went quickly and, before I knew it, it was time to go to the airport and to say goodbye to my brother and sister in-law. It was a hard thing to do, as it is always a long time before I get to see him again. But Skype helps!
Before I knew it, we were back in Sydney for our last day in Australia. And what could be better than the zoo and the beach?!
At Taronga Zoo, we went on a behind the scenes tour which was totally worth it! We got to see all the food prep, animal cages, and background of the zoo – all of which was right up my alley! I even got to hold a feather glider (see picture below) – super cute! We even got to do an up-close koala encounter and, when the tour was over, explored the zoo some more on our own.
After that, we decided to take a ferry over to Manly, a little surfing town with a beautiful beach. Despite the chilly weather (and water!), plenty of surfers were out. We just missed sunset on the way in, but were in time to see Vivid Sydney, an outdoor art exhibit that lights up all of Sydney’s notable landmarks, including the opera house. It was an amazing way to end the perfect trip.
Unfortunately now I’m back to real life, which means working and desperately trying to organize my life before the big move – which is coming so fast I hardly know what to do with myself!