It's the April school holidays and we are too busy to have a break but need one because of that. And because it's the Easter weekend the options are limited, so we just drive down to Canberra for the night.
No, this isn't our first trip for 2023. I wrote about Japan on another site.
I refuse to wake up early so we depart after 8.30 AM.
There is not much to say about the drive except that the clouds seem so low and Lake George is very full. We stop at a rest area and at the lookout up the hill to take it all in.
Everyone is hungry so we first stop in Dickson and then can't think of anything to eat, so I drive us to Civic, where we can't decide and end up eating at the Singaporean Killiney Kopitiam branch.
The Canberra Centre has nice shops. I dream of getting an iPad from the Apple Store, we buy a blanket and toothbrushes from Muji and wish that Lego wasn't so expensive.
Nothing we can't get in Sydney, but then we rarely go out shopping in the city.
It's been decades since I last visited the Australian National Botanic Gardens and the other two never have. The weather is cool, but dry, as we walk through groves of Australian native plants. A water dragon poses by a waterfall before swimming off, body waving side to side. Another larger lizard with gorgeously coloured scales suns itself on a rock.
The rich scent of the eucalyptus trees brings back memories, as does the sight of a Sturt Desert Pea in the Martian sand of the Red Centre Garden, overlooked by the currently inaccessible Black Mountain Tower.
The highlight is the cool filtered light of the magical Rainforest Gully, reminding me of why I loved to visit the gardens as a student at the university across the road. It's also good, because Alex is doing an assignment about the rainforest and can relate the reality with his reading.
We return exhausted to check into the Pavilion Hotel along Northbourne Avenue. The staff are friendly, but the hotel is showing its age. The annex, beneath a tent roof, smells of damp, a consequence of the plants in the atrium. Our room is tired, the televisions small and old. But it is comfortable and our room has a jacuzzi spa, the jets massaging away the aches of a term of karate.
I would love to just order room service or dine in the hotel, but it is expensive, so we drive out to the adjacent suburb of Braddon, where crowds have gathered beneath the colourful lamps strung up in the trees above the streets. Many places are full or just too expensive, and we settle on a dumpling restaurant that is almost the latter, despite having eaten Asian food for lunch.
As a treat I pay for a buffet breakfast at the hotel. I rather like the pastries and the fruit salad at the Pavilion, but we run into B's Mum and her partner at the breakfast. They have caught the train to Canberra the day before.
Initially the plan was to take Alex to Questacon, but the science museum is fully booked in the morning and we can't seem to buy tickets for the afternoon. Instead we go to the Old Bus Depot Markets. It's full of the usual Australian market craft, jewellery and jams, but there are a few items of special interest and we buy a couple of pop art prints.
Adjacent to the markets, in an old coal power station, are the glassworks. Not only do they have some beautiful glass artworks for sale, but you can watch them being made in the workshops and learn about the process. It's quite fascinating.
Canberra has many small places I've never heard of before. One is the Yarralumla Play Station, where a couple of putt-putt golf courses are enclosed by a working miniature railway, along with a kids farm and some old passenger carriages. We giggle along on the Canberra themed golf course as Bluebell, a train even slower than the one from Sydney to Canberra, carries passengers in circles around us.
Originally we wanted to go for a drive on the long weekend. I suggest we take a different way back to Sydney instead of the too-familiar Federal Highway. Instead we head out through Queanbeyan to Bungendore, following the Molonglo River past the pine plantations.
Being Easter Sunday, not much is open. Everyone is starving, hangry, so we dine in a full pub. The food is wonderful, expensive.
Now too full, we continue past Tarago with Lake George now on our left as we go on the other side of it and the wind turbines that surround the lake. It's pretty rural scenery, rolling golden hills on our right, bright green fields of lucerne on our left.
The state of the roads is mostly poor, with potholes and uneven surfaces. Roadworks in one section mean that we are driving on gravel.
Eventually we arrive at Goulburn and join the motorway back to Sydney. The traffic is heavy and as we near Menangle it slows to a crawl, before speeding up again. We arrive home tired, still full, having had a brief escape from the house before the grind begins again.