Visually, it's slightly crap. Let us not mince words. All the buildings appear to be chipped out of bricks leftover from elementary schools built in the 1970s. This is not helped by the grey skies, intermittent showers and blowing winds that accompanied us from NSW. Also, with the exception of a few cinderblock towers, nothing is over two stories tall. This manages to make everything seem smaller than it is.
True to my usual habits while on vacation, I purchased things that I theoretically could have got in Sydney: a New Pornographers CD, a couple of comics (Transmetropolitan & the first volume of Strangers In Paradise), books (including a book on Douglas Adams' roommate & a huge book of Watchmen portraits) and a nifty wireless Bluetooth keyboard that I am typing this entry on. I also nearly bought an HDMI out for my iPad, but Tanja correctly posited that I would have no use for such an item once this weekend was finished. Stupid logic. You foil me again.
The thing I've noticed about Canberra, though, are threefold. Attend:
Uno: All of the quality eateries look like rubbish, but make great food. It's like they are doing their best to look like a neighborhood takeaway or back alley milk bar but are turning out posh restaurant quality edibles. Examples: Madame Woo. This is what it looks like:
(images courtesy of Google)
But the food was amazing. Behold a bare imitation, grabbed from one of the brochures in our room:
Yeah. That but better. And the more I look around, the more terrible signs I see (using Papyrus font, terrible colours, handmade logos), I wonder which of those are secrets and which are honestly crap. This can be a downside, of course. On the way into Canberra, I looked up craft breweries and found two, the excellent Wig & Pen, downtown, and Zierholz, in Fishwyck. The Wig & Pen was inviting, inside and out and we've been there twice. Zierholz is out on an industrial park area and we had to drive past it twice to find it. It has a smash repairs on one side and a sex shop on the other. The whole front of the building is glass, with white walls & floors. I couldn't convince Tanja (or myself) to get out of the car. That's the problem with having a great book in a crappy cover.
Zwei: After having studies the walking abilities of people in Sydney (crowd in, bumping shoulders, high stress) and Melbourne (high speed avoidance, smooth sailing, the walking equivalent of Formula 1 racing), I can say that Canberrans have a problem with rearward personal space. Stop at the curb to cross the street? Don't put your elbows back. The pedestrian behind you has decided to stand so close to you that he can hear what you're thinking. And can comment. It's off putting.
Trois: It is very much a weekday city. You'll see people about all hours on weekdays, but the weekends, it's a ghost town. Absolute opposite of Sydney.
So yeah. First impressions. We still have tomorrow, where I intend to see Questacon (http://www.questacon.edu.au/#canberra), damnit.
Location:The Diplomat Hotel