Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Unexpected Day Out

There are lots of reasons why Canberra is a great place to live, not the least of which is what living here gives you access to.

Today, despite the inclement weather, S and I decided to head out.  We were intending to visit the War Memorial, however as we drove along one of Canberra's main roads, Adelaide Avenue, we noticed that there were a great many cars parked on the median strip.  Yay, we thought, it must be the food fair at the Thai Embassy which is always an exceedingly popular event.

Sure enough we could soon see streams of people heading into the embassy, so we decided to join them.  However with the numbers of cars it was a fair way up the road before we found a place to park.  By then we were opposite the Lodge (the official residence of the Prime Minister) and we noticed streams of people were headed in there too!  So being joiners, we headed over to that side of the road to start with.

As luck would have it, it turned out that today was the annual open day for both the Lodge and Government House (the residence of the Governor General).  We queued up and headed in.  I've been in the grounds of the Lodge before, but never in the residence itself, however I had heard numerous times about how small it is.  The Lodge was meant to be a temporary building to house the PM until an official residence could be built, however the problem is, what Prime Minister could ever say that they were going to build themselves a better house and not get electoral backlash?  The result is that the leader of our country lives in a lovely house, that could host a dinner party for maybe 20.  A nice place to live, but hardly somewhere that you could have international receptions!

The rooms really are smaller than you would expect, ok, it would make a really nice home, but it probably isn't what anyone would think our Prime Minister would live in.  It was great to be able to see it all though.

From there we decided to skip the Lyons Club sausage sandwich stall and head over the road to the Thai food festival.  It was the usual crush of people eating vast amounts of delicious Thai food.  At high school, my year included the daughters of both the Prime Minister and the Thai Ambassador.  I wasn't friends with the PM's daughter, hence why I had never been in the lodge, but I was lucky enough to be good friends with the Thai Ambassador's daughter.  As a result, I'm quite familiar with the Thai embassy.  It is a gorgeous series of buildings all built in traditional Thai style and on the open days, it is surrounded by numerous stalls selling all sorts of delicacies along with traditional Thai crafts.  There were performances happening, music and games, a real festival atmosphere.  We sampled a few things, satay sticks, curry puffs, strange balls of chicken (I think) on a stick.  All were very yummy.

But our ticket to the Lodge had also given us entry to Government House, so we didn't linger long.

What the Lodge lacks in grandeur, Government House makes up for it.  Set in gorgeous park like grounds just above the lake, it is magnificent.  Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take photos in either building but trust me when I say, the reception rooms at Government House are magnificent.  It certainly is the grand setting in which you would want to host foreign dignitaries and in fact they had the dining room all set as if for a banquet and had around the room menu cards from a host of such functions.

We didn't see any sign of Julia Gillard at the Lodge, however our Governor General, Quentin Bryce was wandering the halls of Government House chatting with people.  She is fantastic, I was so impressed, I'm sure she had been doing it all day.  Everyone I saw her talking to was from interstate and you could see how amazed they all were that she was actually there.  In Canberra we get used to seeing politicians etc around.  You run into them in the shops or restaurants, I nearly collided with Julie Bishop walking down the street last week (she was committing the sin of dialing her phone whilst walking), but I can certainly understand why the visitors to Government House today were surprised at turning a corner and meeting the person who actually lives there.

After touring the house, S and I wandered the magnificent gardens for quite a long time until the cold sent us home.  It certainly wasn't the day we expected, but boy was it a great one.


  1. This has brought back happy memories of my first trip to Canberra, which was organised by my school and covered the 'essential' sights - Government House and the Lodge included :)

    I do think it would be cool seeing politicians around the place. That is missing from the Western side of the country!

  2. Kari you hear that so often, the funny thing is, living here we didn't do those same excursions!

    You get really used to the politicians. The funny thing is always when you are looking at someone trying to work out how you know them, was it work, social activities, etc and then you realise that it is because it is Bob Brown or someone. Mostly we get annoyed because when Parliament is sitting you can't get a cab, the restaurants are all full and hotels cost a fortune. Plus everyone blames political decisions on "Canberra".

  3. Oh, I'm so sad I didn't get to go to the Thai festival! I'd heard of it (via a reader, actually) and passed that huge stretch of cars, but unfortunately had plans all day. I also love how happy you are about Canberra! YAY!

  4. Hannah, luckily they happen pretty regularly. Only a few months and it will be multicultural festival time! And I agree, Canberra deserves a YAY - I really don't understand all the people who diss our awesome town.

  5. I love that there's a day where you can just wander in - that's so incredibly cool!

  6. Wow, a fabulous day! How special to get to know Thai culture that way :) Thailand is such a special place, and Thai people are just lovely.
    Heidi xo

  7. Megan, it is pretty awesome, I doubt many countries have something like this.

    Heidi, all the embassies and people who are here as a result is one of the joys of living in Canberra. You meet so many interesting people and experience so many great cultures without leaving home.