Our National Emblem and Flag flying over Parliament House
21 September 2015
Our weekend visit to the National Capital commenced at 7.30am on Saturday 21 September, so up early to be at the coach depot on time. It had been raining lightly, and this continued on our journey. First stop was morning tea at Castle Hill Park, then on to the M7, with the weather improving slightly as we travelled south to our next stop, the Information Centre at Mittagong. This was our first taste of the flowers that we would see throughout the weekend, a beautiful display, looking fresh in the recent rain. Then back on the coach to the Mittagong RSL Club for our lunch stop.
The tulips were an absolute picture at Mittagong Park where we had a short break for a photo shoot.
After lunch we made the short trip to Bowral, and the beautiful Corbett Gardens, the showcase of the Tulip Festival. By this time the weather had considerably improved and we were able to enjoy a leisurely walk around the gardens and the numerous stalls selling a mixture of goods. The tulips were beautiful, with plantings of pansies of every colour and the interesting inclusion of parsley to make a wonderful display. I found a ruffled white tulip which I had never seen before.
In the grounds of a church opposite Corbett Park we found two beautiful trees covered in blossom, just lovely!
After Bowral we headed for Canberra, with a last stopover at what turned out to be the favourite place for everyone, Tulip Tops, at Bylong, just north of the ACT. The blossoms were magnificent and blooming in profusion, along with the tulips and other beautiful flowers, shrubs and trees. To enter the gardens we walked down through an avenue of white blossoms, and the gardens then opened up before us. We took the opportunity of having a coffee and mini pancakes with maple syrup and ice cream!
The 10 acre gardens of magnificent tulips and other spring flowers creates a spectacular display. Hundreds of blossom trees nestle between the flowers and provide a magic pathway to the cascading waterfall and water course with classical music wafting through the air in the hidden valley. The magnificent gardens are adjacent to the Federal Highway and only visible on entry. The gardens are only open for one month. After a wonderful stopover at Tulip Tops we again boarded the coach to make our way to our motel in Queanbeyan. The evening included a delicious meal, and wine, and getting to know our fellow travellers.
22 September 2015
Next day was our opportunity to visit Floriade, so we made a reasonably early start to drive up to Mt Pleasant to enjoy views over Lake Burley Griffin and the beautiful city of Canberra, on a truly delightful morning. To get to the lookout we drove through Duntroon Military College, the Australian Army’s officer training establishment, set in beautiful grounds at the base of the mountain and close to the Department of Defence nearby at Russell Hill. Also nearby is the Australian Defence Force Academy which provides military and tertiary academic education for junior officers of the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy. The College was first opened in 1911 and is situated on land formerly belonging to the Campbell family. The first Commandant was Brigadier General William Bridges, who later died on a hospital ship after being wounded by a sniper on the shores of Gallipoli.
After soaking in the views, and the glorious wattle trees that were brilliant all over Canberra, we rejoined the coach for Floriade. Entry to Commonwealth Park is free for the festival, and by the time we arrived there the crowds were arriving in droves. Having never been to Floriade I wasn’t sure what to expect, the Park is beautifully landscaped and on the edge of Lake Burley Griffin, a short walk from the city. There are interesting sculptures, hidden walks and tranquil ponds within the parks 35.4 hectares. In addition to numerous spectacular floral displays there were exhibitors’ stalls, food outlets and ice cream stands and plenty to explore on a beautiful warm and sunny day. Many of the gardens had an Anzac flavour, and would have been better viewed had we been hovering over them for a much better view!
We wandered around the pond and found ourselves on the path that winds around Lake Burley Griffin which was looking very beautiful and calm. Couldn’t resist taking a photo of Sir Robert Menzies, with the Carillon on the left and the High Court on the right (below), and the view across the Lake with reflections of Questacon and the National Library was superb. There were walkers, roller skaters and cyclists all out making the most of the beautiful weather.
Watching our clocks, as our driver was going to collect us at 1pm, we had time for a snack at the Parsons Nose Garden Cafe (delicious antipasto tray), with its tub of tulips welcoming patrons (below).
The splendid view from the War Memorial up Anzac Avenue to the original Parliament House and behind it the new Parliament House
We had a few choices for afternoon destinations, we chose the War Memorial first then the Portrait Gallery. A couple of hours was set aside to explore the War Memorial which, now that it is the 100th anniversary of Anzac Day, was very busy with visitors to see the wonderful displays. It is impossible to take in the whole of the War Memorial, it is so huge, so we concentrated on as much as we could in the time available. It is a spectacular building in which to show respect and thanks to the men and women who fought in all of the wars, and so moving and sad to get some idea of the horrors that they must have gone through.
The interior of the War Memorial with the pool and eternal flame (left) and Simpson and his horse (right)
The glorious dome and stained glass windows in the Grave of the Unknown Soldier
To keep up our strength we visited Poppy’s Cafe for a cake and ice cream and a well deserved coffee before the coach arrived to take us to our next stop!
Australia is one of only five countries in the world that has a National Portrait Gallery. For ten years, Old Parliament House was the home to the collection as works were acquired through gift, purchase and commissions. In December 2008 the National Portrait Gallery was opened by the prime minister in its new location on the southern shores of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin. It has state-of-the-art visitor facilities and comprises spaces for major exhibitions and changing displays of up to 500 portraits of people who have shaped Australia and who continue to shape the nation. The National Portrait Gallery is adjacent to the High Court of Australia (below left), and opposite the Commonwealth Treasury building (below right).
Our coach arrived at the appointed time, and we even had a 10 minute cat nap before an earlier dinner at 6.30pm because we are going for a night drive to Mt Ainslie to see the Canberra lights, and a tour of the city lights. Don’t think we will be too late in bed, as it is a reasonably early start tomorrow to see more of the sights of this beautiful city, and then head home.
23 September 2015
The gracious “Yarralumla”, home of our Governor General
This will be our last day in the Federal Capital, so it was an 8.30am start for a pleasant drive around the city, including “Yarralumla”. There is a special area set aside to view the beautiful property, also wonderful views across the valley opposite. Incidentally this was the day that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Cabinet were to be sworn in, so no doubt there was a flourish of activity within the building – pity we weren’t invited for morning tea!
Government House, Canberra, in its origins and architecture, is quite unlike Government Houses of the State capitals. Most State Government Houses were built in Queen Victoria’s reign as residences for her vice-regal representatives, whereas Yarralumla’s history is as old as any, but very different in kind. Its first eighty years were wholly pastoral and of its earliest owners no trace remains except the choice of the site and name, a deodar tree and a sketch, but their names are woven into the history of the Limestone Plains.
You can read more of the colourful history of this historic building here
On the other side of the lookout are marvellous views across the Limestone Plains (above), country looking very green and serene.
The grand marble staircase and pillars inside the entrance to Parliament House
It is a number of years since I was inside our current Parliament House, so it was great to have another opportunity of an hour’s visit today. Very tight security now, however we managed not to set off any alarms! We decided to have a coffee on the first floor Queen’s Terrace, and it was a fabulous view from there over the Old Parliament House, up Anzac Parade to the War Memorial and the beautiful mountains beyond (below left). Of course a much photographed statue of Queen Elizabeth graces the Terrace (right). It was again a beautiful warm and sunny day, so we were making the most of it.
Once we rounded up all the passengers we were all set for our next destination, Cockington Green, a wonderful garden that is divided into two main sections of miniature buildings and trees. The first original section of displays are from Great Britain and the second section The International and Australian Display. There were lots of visitors but plenty of space to move about, and the gardens were quite beautiful. There is a miniature train plus another train for adults and children, and lots of interesting statues among the displays.
Sadly, it was all too soon time to leave Cockington Green, and head for home. Our lunch stopover was the lovely old city of Goulburn. Our coach was parked opposite Belmore Park (below), situated in the centre of the City of Goulburn on the site of the original market place. It is a prominent landmark and popular with residents and visitors alike. The park features a number of beautiful monuments and ornaments including the Band Rotunda, gardens, fountain, glass house conservatory and war memorials.
We found a nice bakery for a tasty chicken caeser salad and had time for a stroll along the main street. Built in 1880 the form and scale of Goulburn Post Office (below left) reflects the city’s status as a thriving regional centre in the late nineteenth century. It is a distinctive example of the Victorian Italianate style, and is a landmark feature of Goulburn’s main thoroughfare. Along with the Town Hall, former Mechanics Institute and Court House, Goulburn Post Office forms an important civic group of buildings that help define the historic character of the city. Goulburn Post Office was designed by NSW Colonial Architect’s Office James Barnet.
Since Goulburn was the largest town in the district, the court house (below right) built in 1881 was both Local and District courts as well as Supreme court. Designed by respected Government Architect James Barnet, the court house today stands grandly over the Montague Streetscape. It is one of the most spectacular court houses in New South Wales. Internal access is limited, but a glimpse of this building and a stroll around the grounds will not disappoint.
And so it was time to board the coach and head home. Fortunately the traffic was moving well (it was the first weekend of the NSW school holidays) and our very competent driver was able to get us home by the due time, 7.30pm. Some long days, but all very delightful, especially the flowers and blossom trees, which were the whole purpose of our visit. Can really recommend visiting the Southern Highlands and Canberra/Queanbeyan during the springtime – it’s spectacular!