If any Aussies are out there reading this, I’m embarrassed to say that I feared for my life all night. With dreams of the backpacker killer and constantly waking up to search my room for deadly snakes and spiders, I found myself unable to sleep. I know it sounds dramatic, but when all the wildlife documentaries on American TV feature Australia as having the most dangerous wildlife in the world, you become a bit paranoid. I also did not have my friend in my hotel with me and I won’t lie, I’m afraid of the dark and being alone in hotels. This is the reason I always stay in hostel dorms. Anyway! When I finally got out of bed it was only 9am. I left my luggage and grabbed a map from reception to REALLY get to know Canberra.
On the map Canberra looks very small with all of the tourist sections within walking distance. I underestimated the distances and the time it would take me to get around. From my hotel to the parliament house it took about 40 minutes. You’d think my hotel was far, but it was literally one street over from the Parliament house on the roundabout. This part of the city is built with the parliament house in the center and expands outwards.
The Parliament House
Architecturally speaking, this building is beautiful. Before you are allowed inside you must go through a metal detector, similar to the ones you see in the airport. You don’t have to lock your belongings, you can bring them with you inside. I suggest getting a map to know where to explore.
I spent an hour or so walking around and taking pictures of the Senate and House of Representatives chambers. People are welcome to sit in on public hearings and watch the Australian government make important decisions. You can check the calendar dates here.
The best part, in my opinion, is the rooftop. Up here you can see practically all of Canberra. There is also a grassy hill that, according to my Aussie friends, you can roll down. Though I had no interest in climbing over the small rope to give it a go.
The Old Parliament House
Just a short walk from the Parliament House is the Old Parliament house. This is one building I didn’t plan on visiting, but I decided to poke my head in anyway. I was greeted by a friendly old volunteer who, after 20 minutes of chatting, convinced me to purchase the 2$ enterance to look around. He told me that there would be a free guided walking tour in 3 minutes and I figured, why not? Our guide was a little old lady named Mary. She ushered us about the building sharing the history of each of the rooms. I admit I was glad I decided to go inside because I enjoyed this parliament house more than the new one. This one had character. You can imagine the government officials sitting in their chairs making the decisions that made Australia what it is today. This building was the home of parliament from 1927-1988, when he new house was officially open. And the interior reflects it’s history.
Mary was very knowledgeable and rather than reading off like a textbook, gave her personal account on parts of history. I was starting to really like Mary until she started throwing shade at me. For those of you who don’t know what that means, basically Mary poked fun at me as an American. There was one part of the tour when she asked about the date of a certain important event involving one of their prime ministers. “Does anyone know what date the prime minister signed this document? I won’t ask the American as I’m sure she won’t know.” she said. Like, Hold up there Mary. You’re right. I don’t know much about Australian history, but it’s not like I learn about it in school. Just because you’ve been alive since the 19th century doesn’t mean you can assume my intelligence.Anyway, after that I just went off on my own and made my way outside.
The next stop on my list was Questacon, the interactive science museum for kids. My Aussie friends went there on field trips back in Elementary school and told me it was, and I quote, “heaps of fun”. So naturally I had to check it out. The tickets were pretty pricey at 23$AUD for adults, but I was lucky enough to convince the guy at the counter that I was a student, therefore getting the concession ticket for 17.50$AUD. I’m glad I didn’t have to pay full price because it was not worth it. Back in my hometown of Tampa we have a similar type of science museum called the Museum of Science and Industry, AKA, MOSI.
The entire place is filled with children pulling levers and pushing buttons and having a great time. There are some interesting puzzles for adults, but it’s clear that kids rule this place. There are two things I really enjoyed here, the free-fall drop slide and the musical instrument show.
For the drop you wear an orange jumpsuit and socks and walk up the stairs to the bar. You sit at the edge and then dangle over the slide with nothing under you. The slide assistant then gives you the countdown and you let go and drop below where you’ll slide to the exit. You get a weird feeling in your stomach and at one point I was actually afraid. This was clearly more for the adults and teens because it’s pretty daunting and high for a young child. There was a 6 year old in front of me in the line and he got to the point of dangling before crying and getting lifted back up.
Just by the exit there was a line for a music show. Since I’m a musician and it was still early afternoon I decided to stay a bit longer to see what it was all about. The show was all about making musical instruments with household items like slinkys and rubber hoses. I thouroughly enjoyed it and even picked up a few tips for my own classroom. I think my students would love to make some of those cool instruments.
Sweaty and exhuasted I walked back to my hotel, grabbed my luggage, and called a taxi to take me to the Canberra YHA for the next couple nights.