Aug 25, 2011

Australia - Canberra/Surfers Paradise

Australian coat of arms

Canberra was created from scratch to put an end to the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. In 1908 Canberra was chosen as the site for the national capital. The international competition launched to design this capital was won by the American architect Walter Burley Griffin in 1912.

Thought as a city of the future, it became more a surreal place like no other in the world. In fact each time we mentionned to Australians that we were going to visit this city, every one of them was asking immediatly "WHY??".

The plans conceived by Burley Griffin are very geometric. For example a triangle is formed between the Parliament House, the Defence Head Quarters and the City Hill. And an amazing perspective is created between the War Memorial and the Parliament House. Other axis determine the shape of the city.

Urban map, National Capital Exhibition

View from the Australian War Museum on the ANZAC Parade Memorials and the old and new Parliament Houses

To create a unique environment, thousands of trees and shrubs were planted. The buildings in the city as in the suburbs are very spaced and the car is king to circulate in the huge avenues.

All of Burley Griffin's plans are still not executed nowadays. And the huge lake he had foreseen in the middle of the city was realised only in the 1960's.

Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet in Burley Griffin Lake

The original plan allocated precise functions for each part of the city: the ministries area, the embassies area, the city centre, the university district, etc. This artificial organization created an impersonal city that looks empty all the time, weekends and weekdays.

Administrative city, Canberra is also a museum city with the most important Art and History collections of the country. One can visit the National Museum of Australia, the National Capital Exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Australian Democracy (in the old parliament houses), etc. for free.

We were quite surprised by the freedom we felt walking around the current Parliament House. And security officers were so welcoming and friendly with us. We were even able to attend a session of a senatorial commission without anyone asking us our identity. We were in a room with seven Australian Senators and the president of the commission even came to us in the audience seating zone to tell we were "very welcome" before going back to his chair! Incredible!

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Senate in the Old Parliament House

Senate in the Parliament House

 Some memorials were also anticipated like the National Police Memorial. The most important of them is the Australian War Memorial hosted in a beautiful building which presents Australian participation in numerous international conflicts since the First World War.


Surfers Paradise (yes, it is the name of a real city) is a really different destination. Located along the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise is one of Australian's favourite holidays spot and playground. During winter it looks more like a city for retired people.

This area is famous for surfing (of course), swimming, diving and other seaside activities. A lot of people are also attracted by the many theme parks, other entertainment facilities and adventure tours.

So we took advantage of it to visit the world's largest collection of Australian native animals: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. The first contact with kangaroos and koalas was something important for us! ;) We were lucky to see a lot of koalas awaken as they are known for sleeping most of the time. The kangaroos enclosure was open to visitors so we were able to walk in a field with dozens of kangaroos wandering around, laying down sunbathing or coming for a contact with human beings in hope for some food.. We also discovered a lot of species we had never heard about before.


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