Canberra Conversations (2014)

Kingston Isn’t Cook

Canberra / Friday 5 September 2014

A (very) short trip this time – when Ren was down in Singapore earlier this year she reminded me that it’d been ‘a while’ since we visited them in Oz. I said I’d visit ‘before the end of the year’ – and so here we were, Sunil and I, and Shobs, off to Canberra – Sunil and I for all of 4 days, and our lady of leisure for three weeks.

We flew on the day that Kei Nishikori beat Wawrinka to reach the semifinals of the US Open. Given our recent fab trip to Japan, it would be entirely appropriate if he were to win this…but he has Djokovic to get past first.

The Qantas overnight flight felt tiring, probably because it wasn’t long enough to sleep for a decent length of time…or maybe it’s just age catching up.

The immigration queue at Sydney was long and slow, and our transit time, short…and so we missed our Canberra connection. Thankfully it was a short wait for the next flight and we were in Canberra by 9.30AM, about an hour later than scheduled. Brendan was waiting for us, and it was a quick drive home, past the lake and beautiful cherry blossoms, to their lovely new place in Kingston.

Caught up over coffee then went for lunch across the road at Me & Mrs Jones (the song, not the movie…that was Mr & Mrs Smith) – where there’s a discreet white line on the wine glasses to tell the waiter when to stop…with a little bit of distraction, I managed to get a bit of ‘above the line’ wine.
It’s a lovely suburb, with everything one could possibly need – restaurants (Italian, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Indian, etc), pubs (the Kennedy Room!), supermarket, wine shop, hairdresser, video shop, chemists, Book Grocery, spa, laundry, etc etc etc. All ‘just across the road’. Quite different from their previous place in Cook where a 5-minute walk would get you…further into the bush.

8.1409940398.laying-out-our-buysWe spent some time at The Book Grocery which had an eclectic mix of books – and a good sale going on – so we did our groceries. It was a lazy afternoon – quick walk around the neighbourhood, chatting (Ren, Shobs, Sunil, me), snoozing (just me) – till Brendan got home from work, and it was time for dinner – yummy tapas – also across the road.

Tomorrow – more of the same…

Grazing at Gundaroo

Gundaroo / 6 September 2014

Slept really well – it must be the bed – it’s the same bed from the guest room in Cook – I slept very well in it while it was there too.

Today, we drove out into New South Wales, a 40-minute drive, past the turnoff to Yass, to a little village called Gundaroo (population ~300, according to Brendan) and a rustic restaurant called Grazing, which is in The Royal Hotel (established in 1865, and complete with zinc roof). Grazing reminded me of The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny. The food, and the wine, was fab and I ate far too much – I think we all did…ok, maybe not Sunil who was as sensible as ever.

We had a slightly more modest (but equally yummy) dinner – Ren’s pasta. Mushrooms made an accidental appearance so yours truly had a different sauce from everyone else.

Thought we would watch a movie tonight – after going through pretty much the entire Apple TV video menu, the choice was left to Sunil who predictably decided on horror. Shobs didn’t have sufficient veto power…she and Ren were not too keen on this genre (‘not too keen’ being an understatement), Sunil and I were…the deciding vote was Brendan’s – and so, The Shining it was. Shobs got online and read the entire plot, spoilers and all, within the first 5 minutes of the movie, so she knew when to shut her eyes. Ren and I didn’t find it ‘that bad’ second time around and Sunil felt the same though he hadn’t seen this before. Jack Nicholson was still brilliant even on this second viewing – and pretty much carried the entire movie, we thought. Shobs, being well prepared, was not too traumatised either.

Kingston’s ‘Cove’ & Ren’s Mee Pok

Canberra / 7 September 2014

Another good night’s sleep, and another sunny blue-skied morning. It was a lazy morning of coffee and toast before we ventured out – Ren, Shobs, Sunil and I – to go walkabout. It was a 10 minute walk to the Kingston Foreshore – which is a Sentosa Cove kind of place. Loads of waterfront restaurants and bars, lawns, apartment blocks (the ones facing the water definitely had the better deal compared to the ones facing the restaurants).

We had a late lunch at the C Dine Bar – salad, crabmeat pasta and a nice wine. It was a longish lunch, with more good conversation, and a touch of gossip (just a little bit). Lunch done, we stopped at the Farmers’ Market – Indian spices featured prominently – I wonder why. We stopped too at the Canberra Glassworks, housed in the former Kingston Powerhouse. There were some interesting pieces – glass masquerading as cloth, for one. There were ‘make your own glass’ sessions – we didn’t.

It was a slow walk back via Telopea Park (with the cherry blossoms) and the supermarket to get milk. According to Wiki, the park, named after the floral emblem of New South Wales is one of the oldest parks in Canberra (established in 1922).Got home to find that Brendan had been busy – mopping and cleaning! More sitting around with coffee and conversation…yes, it was that kind of holiday 🙂 And for a second night in a row we sat across the kitchen counter with our drinks and watched Ren cook – her famed minced meat noodles today (with mushrooms separate!) – Absolutely Perfect!
8.1410113239.yummm…also perfect – Kei Nishikori beat Djokovic to reach the US Open Finals. He meets Cilic not Federer…will this be the year of the Japanese?The movie for tonight – Cool Hand Luke, with the impossibly good-looking Paul Newman…and like The Shining, this movie too had a black and white photo as its last frame…


Galleries, a Court & Lamb Lollychops

Canberra / 8 September 2014

Woke up early to see if we could watch the US Open Finals online (as it wasn’t being shown on TV), but no luck.

Ren had to go to work today so Shobs, Sunil and I did touristy things. It was another sunny blue-skied day. Map in hand, and with Brendan’s directions from the night before, we set off for the galleries…with many cherry blossom photos on the way. It was a half hour walk – and it got quite warm.

First stop, the National Portrait Gallery – and lunch. Salmon salad for Sunil and a delish tomato salad and bangers ‘n mash that Shobs and I shared (have I already said, I need to learn from the boys?). The bookshop was fab, with many books on photography and unfamiliar titles – we spent a fair bit of time there. There was no entry charge to the gallery (very civilised) and we spent more than an hour with the portraits of all manner of Australians. A school trip was in progress – we eavesdropped and learnt a few things too. The Macquarie Digital Photography Award winners were also being exhibited…these we found a bit strange, to say the least. We were about to leave when we realised that there was another exhibition that we hadn’t seen – Arcadia:Sound of the Sea – and what an exhibition that was. Absolutely wonderful black and white photos by John Witzig – they conveyed so eloquently such an idyllic time – blonde youth, surfers, friendships. Some of the surfing pics were brilliant – Witzig had to be in the water to capture these images…I wonder how many he took to get to get these perfect images…and only know he got the image after the film was developed – no instant feedback like today. There also were black and white ink drawings by the Australian artist Nicholas Harding – also beautiful and complemented Witzig’s photographs perfectly.

As we were leaving, the doorman pointed out an abstract orange piece in the courtyard and asked if we knew what it was. My answer (“Amoeba”) was obviously incorrect. He instructed us to “stay right here” and ran off to point out faces in the piece – only some of which I could see. He then asked if we were going to see the High Court next door – if he hadn’t said we wouldn’t have known it was a tourist attraction too.

So off to the High Court next. It’s a beautiful building – 3 courtrooms, with guides in each. At the first courtroom, the guide said there was an immigration case going on in one of the other courtrooms and we could go sit in if we wanted too. We got all excited…but then the session ended before we got there so…only an empty courtroom to see. The Court Guide in the second courtroom was a Cyril something-or-other who spoke Singlish to us when he heard we were from Singapore. He’s off next week to Malaysia to visit his grandchildren and son who works for Astro in KL.

Last stop – a quick walk through the National Gallery. Slowed down a bit at the Japanese exhibition – Stars of the Tokyo Stage – Natori Shunsen’s Kabuki actor prints…a sign we should go back to Japan? There also was a Jackson Pollock on display – unfortunately we didn’t have time to stand and stare, and dissect it by colour, as Brendan was saying the previous night.

The gallery shop here too was very good – some unusual titles, and pretty postcards. We took a cab back as it was almost 6PM and tonight I was cooking dinner. Stopped at the supermarket for supplies then home to cook. Dinner was lamb lollychops (Brian’s recipe), rocket salad, rice and butter chicken gravy. I think it went down well, given the appreciative sounds, especially from Brendan 🙂

A Too Short Holiday

Canberra / 9 September 2014


Sunil and I are feeling particularly maudlin this morning – we leave this afternoon for Singapore via Melbourne. Lady of leisure has the rest of her 3-week holiday in Oz to enjoy. Ren fortunately was not working today. Brunch this morning was across the road, at Penny University on Kennedy Street. It was a very large brunch – cazuela for Shobs, croissant french toast with cinnamon mascarpone, caramelised banana and a very generous helping of maple syrup for Sunil (without bacon) and me (with bacon…sigh), and an egg thing (can’t remember what now) for Ren.


Canberra airport was quiet, and quick, and goodbyes said, we were on our flight to Melbourne. It was grey and stormy over Melbourne – our first day of poor weather – reflective of our moods. There wasn’t time for a Movida stop at Melbourne airport unfortunately, and it was pretty much off one plane and on to the other. It was very good being back on Emirates, a 777-300 this time, with nice big screens even on Economy, and a starry indoor ‘sky’ post-dinner. Watched ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ – in anticipation of our holiday to Cape Town next year (fingers crossed). Again, it felt like a long flight, my ears being blocked didn’t help…

Till our next (hopefully longer) holiday…

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