April 02, 2003

Canberra Trip, Day 2

On day 2, a Sunday, I woke up about 7 AM. Actually, I woke up about 3 AM, which would have been 8 AM in Los Angeles, but after a little tossing and turning I managed to get back to sleep again. When I finally got up I walked out to the living room of my suite, and beheld two hot air balloons hanging in the air outside my window. I grabbed my camera and took a picture.

Sleeping until 7 AM counts as a major victory; my first morning in Canberra in 1999, I woke up around 4:30 AM or so and simply could not get back to sleep. That set a bad tone for the rest of the trip.

I took a quick shower, and then drove down Canberra Avenue four or five blocks to St. Paul's Manuka, a vaguely gothic brick church of the Anglican variety. It's not nearly as pretty as All Saints Ainslie, the church I went to in 1999, but it's the local church so that's where I went. Just my luck--they were just beginning their planned giving compaign. I didn't get warm vibes about the place--I don't think I'd pick it as my regular church, given a choice--but the service and especially the Eucharist was joyous and comforting. God is good, and I was glad to praise him.

Then I returned to the hotel and called John the Tester as we had agreed the night before; no answer. I called him at intervals, getting no answer, until he finally called me about 10:30 AM; apparently he'd been out drinking until about 5 AM with folks he'd met in a bar up in City Center, and my last phone call woke him up. (Whoops!)

Well, anyway, we went out to the Australian National Museum, which I'd not seen before as it had opened just a couple of years before. It's got some interesting stuff, but I have to question the judgement of both the architect and the folks who approved his design.

Canberra is divided into north and south halves by Lake Burley-Griffin; the halves are joined by the Commonwealth Avenue bridge. The museum sits on a peninsula just west of the north end of the bridge; the site is incredibly scenic. You'd think the architect would have taken advantage of this, but instead he built a museum that looks inward onto a courtyard; and the courtyard is filled with a strange mixture of rubberized concrete, fencing, and pond called "the Spirit of Australia Garden". Personally, if I were Australian I'd be insulted.

Next we toddled of to Woden Plaze, one of the local malls, where we had lunch; I was also able to buy some books by Reginald Hill, Peter Lovesey, Iain Banks, and Terry Pratchett.

On the way back to the hotel we saw another car coming at us head on. It honked at us madly, and we realized that indeed, we were in the right-hand lane. John quickly swerved into the left lane, and we escaped injury, though John was a bit shaken. But then we remembered that we were on Canberra Avenue, which, like many thoroughfares in Canberra, is a divided road. There are two lanes each way, with a thirty-foot-wide island in between. In other words, the other driver was the one driving the wrong direction.

At one point I heard an ad on the radio about some store called The Lettuce Connection. They have lots of different kinds of Lettuce in stock, or you can have your Lettuce custom designed. It wasn't until the ad was almost over that I realized that the store's name was really The Lattice Connection.

Around 6 PM we walked down to Manuka and had dinner at a place called El Rancho. My dinner was nothing special; but following John's lead I elected to try a half-pint of Toohey's Old Black, and that was really nice. It tasted good and went down smoothly. I don't drink beer very often, and a half-pint is usually more than enough, but I was almost tempted to have another.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 2, 2003 04:47 PM