Australia, Food, Travel

Weekends Away: Canberra

I was recently invited by Rachel (aka CreamyMiddles) to accompany her on an all expenses paid weekend away in Canberra – yes please! This is all part of a great marketing concept known as The Human Brochure – they invited 500 humans to come and experience Canberra first hand and then spread the word online (using the hashtag #humanbrochure) about all the great things we get up to.

We set off Friday afternoon and began our drive to Canberra. Bad traffic meant we arrived late, missing the bus to our welcome meeting, gah!

Fortunately the guys at Human Brochure had a backup plan and we were swiftly driven to the War Memorial in time for the welcome speech.

We were led on a tour around the War Memorial, the stained glass window inside the tomb of the unknown soldier was gorgeous.

And they had laid out a DAMN good dessert spread, I was in heaven!!

Then it was time to return to our hotel and properly explore it. East Hotel, is a 4.5 Star hotel pitched as a “contemporary design and lifestyle experience”. It’s pretty freaking amazing, from the modern artwork on the walls to the retro-styled furniture (and our room was larger than my apartment!)

The East Hotel’s mustard chair proved very popular with everyone who saw it and I spent a lot of time Instagramming in it!

Design quotes in the foyer

We were up early (for a Saturday!) and off to our first stop… Parliament House! The moody clouds provided a perfect backdrop.

Rachel and I were approved for security clearance! Phew.

I loved the ceiling inside Parliament House.

And there were beautiful courtyards…

And we were lucky enough to be allowed into our Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office!

And then I stared at the flag pole… I think I prefer it from this angle.

Food time! Hooray! We had lunch at Two Before Ten, a fabulous cafe with great design.

Lunch was delicious and included great coffee, duck rillettes with figs, trout with brioche, tomato and ricotta salad, fresh baked grisini and a fennel salad.

We met Hank the Coffee Roaster and his human Sam gave us a talk on roasting coffee beans (which smells like popcorn to my untrained nose).

In the afternoon we headed off to the National Gallery of Australia. This “floating” ball was amazing.

What are we here to see? Toulouse-Lautrec ofcourse! Lautrec had a thing about painting redheads and prostitutes.. and in those days only prostitutes wore red lipstick. As a (faux) redhead who happened to be wearing red lipstick at the time, I was bought to the front of the group by our guide and declared that Lautrec “would have chased you through the streets of Paris to paint you”. Cheers.

Rachel viewing one of his works.

I bought a poster of my favourite work of his.

We headed off to the Sculpture Garden for champagne (as you do) and I was taken away by this amazing installation by Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto. It certainly had a bit of an Antony Gormley feel to it.

This fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya was another favourite of mine.

What time is it? It’s dinner time! We were off to Italian restaurant Mezzalira. My favourite was the ricotta, pumpkin and leek tortellini with burnt sage butter, delicious!

Next up was beetroot risotto, stinging nettle and caprino (cheese) – also very tasty and I will be trying to make this at home. I love bright pink risotto!

And our main, rare salt crusted Rangers Valley beef with cannelloni bean, roast beetroot, tarragon and horseradish. I’m usually a bit funny about eating meat so pink (I was vegetarian for 10 years after all!) but this was perfectly done.

And finally, cannoli with ricotta, rum and chocolate, pistachio and cherries.

I arrived back to my hotel and squealed with delight as they had left us another gift, this arvo it was wine, and that night it was salted caramels! Hands down the best salted caramel I’ve ever had.

Quite a few of us were nursing hangovers of varying degrees the next day (curse you matched wines) but we fortunately had a very pleasant morning – they gave us picnic blankets and breakfast boxes and we picnicked in the gardens of Old Parliament House.

We also sat for a group photo on the steps of Old Parliament House and there was a paparazzi shoot off!

That afternoon we headed off to the Old Bus Depot Markets, an amazing weekly market full of delicious produce and showcasing the wares of emerging designers.

I got *very* excited by these handmade cupcake stands from vintage crockery! I bought the mint green one on the far left :)

Our final stop on our whirlwind tour of Canberra was the Canberra Glassworks. We each got to design and make our own glass tile which was loads of fun! Here I am, concentrating very hard on my tile.

And here I am looking like a complete dweeb in my gumboots and safety glasses. Also samples of the coloured glass I used and my tile ready for the kiln (I will upload a picture of the finished tile when it has been posted to me!)

And we finished off the day with an amazing exhibition by glass artist Kirstie Rea. Beautiful!

An amazing weekend and huge thanks to the guys at Human Brochure. I had such great fun participating in all the activities you organised and had a great time promoting Canberra! Now I can say more than “Canberra has nice bike paths” next time I get asked :)


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  • Reply LaLa February 21, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Great post Swah, we were lucky enough to be on the Foodies stream but it looks like you guys didn’t suffer from lack of food either ;-)

    East Hotel is definitely on my agenda for my next visit to Canbs

    • Reply Swah February 21, 2013 at 11:44 am

      I can’t wait to hear more about the foodies stream! It sounded delicious :) I highly recommend the East Hotel, a great stay!

  • Reply Rachel February 21, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Yay, awesome blog post! I had the best weekend and I’m glad you did too :)


    • Reply Swah February 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      It was a fabulous time indeed! If only they gave us an extra day to just… sleep. I’m still recovering ;)

  • Reply Ben Alcock February 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    You went to Toulouse-Lautrec!

    Lucky devil.

    We were part of the “Family Fun” stream which was really, really fab, too.

    Such a great initiative…unusually brave for a tourism board, I reckon.

    Happy travels,


    • Reply Swah February 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      VERY brave for a tourism board indeed! I applaud ACT Tourism for being so bold and creative in this marketing strategy. Glad you had a great weekend as well!

  • Reply Elly May 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    As a Canberran at heart, I’m glad to see you enjoyed the Nation’s Capital! What a great way to promote the beautiful city – there is definitely more to it than politicians and round-a-bouts!

    • Reply Swah May 13, 2013 at 9:33 am

      It is indeed such a great way to promote the city Elly. I lived in Canberra for 4 years as a kid and remembered it being a bit.. err “boring” and I am so happy to see it flourishing and with lots of great places popping up to eat and drink.

  • Reply Johanne March 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hello, Looks like you had fun in Canberra. We were super impressed when we lasted visited briefly. I’m writing to ask permission to use your photo of the Parliament House courtyard on my blog. That courtyard is providing inspiration for my own landscaping plan but I don’t have a picture and yours is the best I could find. Thank you. Johanne

    • Reply Swah March 11, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Hi Johanne, yes feel free to use the image on your blog if you credit back to this post. Thank you! :)

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