In January, Gisela and I spent three days in Canberra, the capital city of Australia which is inhabited by ~400,000 people. The city is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney. We drove the Federal Highway — the motorway that links Sydney with Canberra passing Lake George-an endorheic lake that has no outflow of water to rivers and oceans. The 25 km long lake is currently half empty creating a strange, perfectly flat, meadow with grazing sheep and cattle.
Upon arrival, we visited Canberra Glassworks observing glass artists working in a hot room with blast furnaces blowing and melting glass. The venue also showcases art by several local glass artists serving as an inspiration for Gisela's art.
In the evening, we had dinner at The Boat House with a fascinating view of Lake Burley Griffin and the beautiful lakefront. We had a 4-course menu of Modern Australian Cuisine including cherry-wood smoked duck which we liked.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the Urban Pantry. We started the day visiting Parliament House admiring Canberra's most recognisable landmark up close: the stainless steel flag mast with the Australian flag flying above Capital Hill. We have learned that “the flag mast is the main focal point of the Parliamentary Triangle and you can walk directly under it when you explore Parliament House's grass roof. You can also see it from vantage points all around Canberra. The design of the flag mast pays homage to Walter Burley Griffin's plan for a pyramidal Capitol building—a ceremonial public space that would celebrate the achievements of the Australian people—which he envisioned as the centrepiece to his design for Canberra.” The flag is 12.8 metres long and 6.4 metres high and flies 24 hours a day—under the Australian national flag protocols, it can be flown at night because it is floodlit.
We enjoyed easy access to the building's 'law-making axis', on which the House of Representatives and Senate chambers are located. Parliament House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 and consists of 4,700 different rooms of which many display stunning architecture and design.
At the National Gallery of Australia, we enjoyed Indigenous, Australian, Pacific, Asian and European art.
We extended our visit to the outside where one can find the Sculpture garden between the National Gallery of Australia and the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.
We then visited the National Carillon—a very tall bell tower.
Before dinner at Sage Dining Rooms, we stopped at the Australian War Memorial— Australian’s most visited landmark. The Australian War Memorial brings together a world-class museum and a shrine of remembrance to offer a diverse experience of war.
The next day, we started with breakfast at Little Brother Cafe at the Red Hill lookout with friends. Afterwards, we visited the National Library of Australia which dates back to the early years after the Australian Federation in 1901, admiring work by Peter Dombrovskis. Clearly, Tasmania moved up on our bucket list of destinations. His technical expertise was amazing! He clearly not only waited for the right time for the light to have good tone but also waited for the wind to produce the desired ripples on water for the best reflection. We really liked the colourful bark of the Snow Gum.
At the Old Bus Depot Markets, Gisela was again looking for inspiration for her Glassart.
Finally, we went to the National Museum of Australia and experienced the epic narrative of the Songlines, Tracking the Seven Sisters. Remarkable! We really liked the dome with the two short all-around movies projected to the ceiling.
On our way back, we stopped by at a winery for a quick lunch and some tasting.
More pictures here.
On Saturday, we were bush walking at the Lake Parramatta Reserve, a 73-hectare bushland reserve located within two kilometres of the Parramatta central business district. It is the largest bushland remnant surviving in the Parramatta Local Government Area. It is also recognised as one of the most significant and beautiful bushland remnants in Western Sydney.
We enjoyed the many Eastern Water Dragons that run away when approached as well as the colourful flowers.
More pictures here.
In October, we used our strategic geographic location to visit Singapore--an 8-hour flight that is considered a short flight, given the relative distance of Australia from pretty much everywhere. Singapore, a city-state, is comprised of 75% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indians and 3% other minorities.
Gisela and I explored the city at 30 C combined with 90% humidity—the normal conditions in Singapore located only 137 km away from the equator.
We visited the Gardens by the Bay, with the Cloud Forest Flower Dome probably the most impressive plant display that we ever encountered anywhere. We were impressed by the lushness of the vegetation:
The Super Tree Grove is illuminated at night:
While walking between the domes, we spotted a Water Monitor Lizard in close proximity to our path:
The entrance of the Marina Bay, where the Gardens by the Bay are located, is guarded by the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. "The complex is topped by a 340-metre-long (1,120 ft) SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150 m (490 ft) infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67 m (220 ft)."
Inside the Marina Bay Sands:
More pictures from the Gardens by the Bay here.
We used a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to learn more about Singapore and also to get around. We learned that the port manages 90,000 containers per day making it the largest trans-shipment container port in the world. Singapore has also a thriving medical tourism with half a million foreign patients per year. We also visited Chinatown which is a cultural centre of the city given the large proportion of citizens with Chinese background.
More Singapore pictures here.
Based on recommendation by our Faculty’s General Manager who is from Singapore, we had breakfast at Tiong Bahru and actually found something to eat from the thousands of different offerings. Our breakfast was delicious, but it was so much that we could not finish the SGD 3.50 meals.
More pictures from Tiong Bahru here.
On our last evening, we had dinner at the Salt grill & Sky bar on level 55 of ION Orchard in the heart of Singapore enjoying the stunning panoramic views of the city and sea. As we only left at 10 pm from Singapore flying overnight back to Sydney, we spent our last day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with its National Orchid Garden that impressed us beyond comprehension. The variety and lushness of orchids seen here appeared to be unreal and we wondered several times if these are actually real plants or fake ones. Since 1859, orchids have been closely associated with the Gardens. The products of the Gardens' orchid breeding programme brings over 2000 hybrids to the Orchid Garden. Due to the high humidity, we speculated that the gardeners are mostly busy cutting back the overgrow, but pretty much everything else is taken care by the natural conditions in Singapore. We also learned that Singapore is the biggest orchid exporter in the world—we did not need to be convinced to believe this as orchids grow everywhere like weeds.
When leaving the Botanic Garden, we observed huge catfish, a water monitor lizard and turtles in a large pond:
More pictures from Singapore Botanic Garden here.