Canberra, Australia — Old Friends, New Treats, and Wild Kangaroos

I’d never even heard of Canberra until Alex suggested we go there to visit his friend Amy. It’s funny because Canberra is the capital of Australia and had Alex not suggested we go there I’m not sure I would have known that the whole time we were in Australia. Whoops. My bad.

Alex met Amy in Fairfield, IA back when he was in college. Amy is originally from Manly, Australia which is just a ferry ride from Sydney, but she went to college in Canberra and has been living there ever since.

When Alex reached out to Amy to see if we could come visit he learned she was nine months pregnant and that the baby was due two weeks before we’d arrive! Despite this, Amy insisted we come — it had been ten years since she’d seen Alex and who knew how long it’d be until they got another chance? She’d just, you know, have a newborn to take care of. Alrighty then.

Needless to say, we got an Airbnb for our time in Canberra so we wouldn’t be a burden on the new parents (and wouldn’t have to listen to the baby crying all night). We were scheduled to arrive Saturday morning and have the whole weekend with Amy and her family. As luck would have it, our flight was delayed until Saturday afternoon. Lame.

When we finally arrived Amy picked us up from the airport and brought us back to her place to meet her husband, Stephan, and newborn, Lexi. Alex and Amy caught up on the last ten years of each other’s lives and afterward we all hung out around the kitchen table drinking wine and munching on snacks. It was super chill and fun to hear about Alex’s adventures when he was younger. Amy and Stephan spent a year traveling the world a few years back and told stories about their journey and gave us some great recommendations of places to check out. In the evening Amy took us to our Airbnb so she and Stephan could get Lexi ready for bed.

Oh, and do notice that this whole time I’ve been saying Amy AND Stephan are caring for baby Lexi. Unlike the U.S., Australia actually cares about it’s children and making sure they have a proper entry into the world. Both mothers AND fathers get paid time off to bond with their newborns, because, you know, dads need bonding too. Australia for the win.

After Amy dropped us off at our Airbnb so she and Stephan could get Lexi ready for bed, Alex and I wandered to the nearby Dixon area to grab something for dinner. We decided on Zambrero, a burrito place.

Neon sign on the wall of the restaurant says "Let's beat world hunger."

Zambrero, a burrito place, a force for good, Canberra, Australia.

I must say I really appreciate how restaurants in Australia, at least the ones we keep ending up at are so socially minded and focused on making a difference in the community and in the world. Way to be awesome Australian restaurants!

The next morning Amy picked us up and brought us back to her place where Stephan had made us breakfast. It looked like something I’d get at a fancy restaurant, which made me all the more impressed since he’s a new father and probably didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the night before…

Delicious spread Stephan made for us, Canberra, Australia.

The day before they’d asked us if we’d ever had Lamington or Tim Tams. Do you ever hear people speaking your native language, in my case English, but have no idea what they’re saying, and are thus convinced they’re probably speaking a foreign language? It happens to me quite frequently. I had to Google “Australia chocolate covered sponge cake coated in coconut” later to figure out what Lamingtons were called. Tim Tams, on the other hand, I remembered because I saw the name on the package they were in. Tim Tams are a chocolate covered cookie. We had ones with caramel inside. I ate a lot of them…probably too many…

Lamingtons — yum! Canberra, Australia.

After breakfast Amy and Stephan took us up to Telstra Tower. Telstra Tower is a communications center, but it has an observation deck with 360° views of Canberra. Tickets are only $7.50 AUD. There’s an inside level where you can enjoy the view behind glass, or if you’re up for braving the wind, there are two higher levels out under the sun. For me, there’s nothing quite like being up really high and being outside, plus the pictures are better.

View from Telstra Tower, Canberra, Australia.

Next we went on a drive through Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve where we got to see wild kangaroos! At first we drove around looking for them and then, just when we thought we might not get to see any I spotted a couple hiding out under a tree (it was a mighty hot day). We got out of the car to get a closer look, making sure to keep our distance. The kangaroos were much smaller than I expected, and kind of creepy looking, but it was still cool. Amy said this kind of kangaroo is smaller than other kinds, and the small kangaroo was a baby. Still, I guess I didn’t realize kangaroos could be that small. I’d always just heard about how massive they were.

We continued driving around and learned about the layout and history of this planned city. Apparently, Sydney and Melbourne had been fighting over who would get to be the capital so they decided to just create a new city in the middle and make that the capital. We also learned about the government and how some Aboriginal activists in the 1970s pitched tents forming the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in front of the Parliament House. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy after many comings and goings is still in front of the Old Parliament House today, even though Parliament itself has relocated to a new building. Fascinating. Not something I would have known or understood had I seen it on my own.

Somehow, even though they were brand new parents Amy and Stephan took us on quite the adventure in Canberra. We saw the sights and learned about the history. It was as if we had our own tour guide, chauffeur, and chef all rolled into one, so many thanks to Amy and Stephan for a wonderful adventure!

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