Trip Report – Down Under in a Flash: Canberra

Seattle to Los Angeles
Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Brisbane
Brisbane to Sydney to Canberra
Canberra to Melbourne
Qantas First Lounge Melbourne
Melbourne to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Seattle


After touching down in Canberra and picking up the tiny little car that Avis had given me (the words “I have a fantastic Kia Serato for you today” are not as welcoming as “Heres that 300C Sir”) I had the GPS programmed to take me over to the hotel. As I exited the car park I made the one and only turn onto the wrong side of the road. It was embarrasing as all hell, but I recovered quickly. Reversed up and took the correct lane. No one hurt (apart from my pride), no damage, no one inconvienced. However I did indicate with the windscreen wipers a number of times before getting my brain in gear.

I made my way pretty easily over to the hotel on the Parlimentary side of Canberra. The hotel was where the reception was being held for the wedding so it meant I could relax and not have to worry to much tomorrow. I drove into the driveway of the Rydges Capital Hill in Canberra and it had only taken about 10-15 minutes. Pretty simple as well, no complicated directions.

The reception area was deserted for this hour but it was Friday night and most of the political people would be out of town anyway due to Easter Break and the weekend. When I had first booked this, I was ok for no real extras or anything but you know me, I want to have the best stay possible. Fast forward a while after booking and the Rydges brand joins GHA discovery a rewards program I had scammed platinum with. I didn’t expect much but what it mainly got me was free internet. A MUST these days. It was going to be interesting to see how this was going to be honoured.

As expected my GHA number was not on profile when I checked in (this was an omen!) and after a return to the car to grab the number my current room key was taken off me and a new one issued after being given an upgrade (program benefit #1 honoured). No mention of my internet being free, none of my other benefits ever mentioned at all. I dropped my stuff up in the room and returned to the car to go get some supplies for dinner and the weekend at the local shops (while shopping part of me had to think, your back in Australia now, things are expensive).

When I came back the only thing I wanted to do was clear my emails and go to sleep. But I had realised I needed a log in, so called down and omen #2 happened. The receptionist wasn’t aware of any of the benefits and the phrase I heard multiple times during my stay “GHA is new to us”. I was told to just purchase the daily pass and it would be removed from my bill (Omen #3). So that’s what I did. Emails cleared, dinner consumed. Time to head to bed.

Saturday 6th April 2013

Up nice and early as my body woke me up earlier than planned but it meant that I was back on a normal schedule and I hit the streets for a run after being told which way to head towards the Lake. One thing I have loved about visiting Canberra since I started running was just how nice it was running lakeside. Seeing the sun rise over the mountains and reflecting off the lake. A bit of mist or morning fog, floating over the water with the little glint of reflection… beautiful. Watching the sun peak out that morning I was glad to be back.

Back to the hotel, the usual morning routine and I was contemplating spending the morning at the War Memorial to pay my respects to my Grandfather and his WWII comrades as I would miss Anzac Day this year. While at breakfast I saw a tweet saying that it was Open Day at the War Memorial and there was plenty of events planned. Sweet! What timing! Even better.. a roulettes display!! Thank you Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for my welcome back to Australia. Though I did regret not bringing the Bigma or the 70-200 at that exact moment. Couldn’t do much at that point though.

After breakfast I packed up my camera bag and after a brief stop to shove an Airlinereporter sticker near Parliament House, I headed over to the War Memorial. It was barely 10am at this point right on opening time and it was already super crowded. I grabbed a park where I could right as an ex Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Huey started its approach. Right after that an RAN Seahawk started its approach as well. Perfect timing for me to get a “Memory Card Full” warning with the spares in the car. Damn it! I pulled the memory card out of my other camera and just used that for the moment. With the intentions of returning to the car when I was finished inside and before the Roulettes display.

I paid my respects at the Reflecting pond and the tomb of the unknown soldier. While in the tomb, a guide was giving a brief talk about the design and the meaning of it all and it was fascinating. I couldn’t believe just how much time and effort had been put into it and the light at the time inside was stunning. I hoped as I took the photos that they would turn out and do it justice.

A few more picture snaps and I headed inside, aiming to find the new Aviation Gallery as it had not been finished when I was there last. The gallery was pretty sweet with a brilliantly restored Mosquito greeting you right as you enter. With other Australian goodies like a Sea Fury, CAC Mustang and even a Kittyhawk, it was Aussie Avgeek heaven. Past the Aviation gallery and it was into the “Big Things Gallery” where there is one drawcard for me. G for George.

G is a World War 2 era Lancaster Bomber. Flown by the RAF using predominantly Australian crews he signifies just what the RAAF crews accomplished during the war. They did a tremendous effort in making sure that we have the freedoms we do now. I had timed it right just as the Light and Sound show started so sat down for a little bit to enjoy that.

When that was finished it was getting close to the time of the Roulettes display so I wormed my way out of the memorial via the shop, purchasing a couple of postcards, a shot glass (to get my collection back underway) and also a poppy for the remembrance wall. I placed the poppy at the unit plaque, wished that I could see my Grandparents one last time and then headed back to the car for the memory card swap out.

Back to the memorial forecourt for the display and as I waited they announced that there would also be a flyover of a few warbirds from HARS (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society). Sweet! They flew over a C47 Skytrain (aka a DC3), a Caribou and the Catalina. All to get everyone reading for the roulettes. Sadly it was only a 4 ship formation for the roulettes but I won’t complain. Though not as impressive as the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, you take what you can get in Australia!

With the display over and being a bit later than I had intended on staying. I headed back to the car quickly to try and get out as quickly as possible, since I had a wedding to get ready for. I made a stop to grab a takeaway lunch at the slowest cafe known to man (later confirmed by my friends that this place is notoriously slow, though half decent) and by the time I was finally back on the road I was running majorly late. I sped back to the hotel, scoffed down my lunch and got myself ready for the wedding. It was just as I was taking a photo to make a joke tweet I saw the time and I grabbed the invitation… my jaw dropped. I had totally stuffed up.

The wedding ceremony was on the other side of town and a good 20-30 minutes drive away. It was due to start at 2:15… it was 2pm… CRAP!!!!!!! I got out of the hotel as quickly as possible and headed towards the wedding. I gave that Kia an absolute thrashing. Speeding where I could, taking advantage of that small cars size and getting there as quickly as possible. I was hoping and praying that the bride was going to be late and that everything was going to work out. If I had missed the ceremony I was sure that I would be angry at myself for life, having flown all the way from the other side of the world and missed it.

Thankfully as I pulled up I saw Michelle (the bride) taking a photo outside the church and with Stuart (the groom) still standing inside… I knew I had made it. I wasn’t even fully dressed with my jacket still in the car but i got inside as quickly as possible and sat down just moments before the bridal party started walking in. I got a quick wink from Stuart when he saw me and i knew he was thinking “damn that was close”. I hadn’t even grabbed a program.

The ceremony was great and after some photos afterwards a quick catch up with the Bride & Groom, I left them to return to the hotel and clean up some of the mess I had left behind, try and address a few issues with the hotel and my benefits that had not happened (again more “GHA is new to us”… omen #4). A few phone calls to family and friends and it was time for the reception.

A fun filled night, lots of meeting new people, a dance or two and catching up with the Bride and Groom and I was ready for bed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *