Sunday, January 9, 2011

Surprise Visit

I've had a quick visit to Canberra this weekend for my sister-in-law's surprise birthday party. Her children had organised it and she truly was surprised and, fortunately, delighted.

I long ago learned that you can always find ways to cram in additional pleasures and distractions when you go visiting. My first self-indulgence was to stay overnight at University House at the Australian National University. This used to be a residence for post-graduate students and a club for university staff, but for the last ten years or so it's been used as a place where anyone can stay. It's not very grand or luxurious, but it's probably the most wonderfully preserved example of mid-twentieth century architecture you could find in Australia. It was designed in the late 1940s and opened by the Duke of Edinburgh (no less) in 1954.

University house

It's a simple building with low, horizontal lines, built around a central courtyard with a pool edging one curved side of the courtyard. The gardens and trees also date from the 1950s and the rooms are still furnished with the original simple, specially constructed, blocky wooden furniture. The building was planned to be 'unpretentious without extravagance' - and it certainly is. But now it also seems elegant, simple and restrained.

My other indulgence was an early morning visit to the Australian National Botanical Gardens this morning. It was drizzling rain and a bit misty - a perfect time to visit and see the plants at their best. Last summer there was concern that the Gardens would not survive the lengthy drought and water restrictions, but with the current rainy summer they're lush and luxuriant. The damp morning was ideal for visiting the gully planted with rainforest specimens:

Botanical gardens 2

and for tracing the stream edged by rock and rockery planting:

Botanical gardens 1

But as always, as an absolute amateur of gardens and gardening, I was most attracted by the flowers. The Gardens recreate landscapes from different areas of Australia, so for non-purists like me who don't insist that plantings are local, it was wonderful to see such diverse plants - and particularly the variety of flowers in bloom.

flower 6flower 5
flower 3flower 2flower 1flower 4

Now if I'd been a really diligent tourist I could have noted the botanical names of the flowers from the meticulous labels so I could impress you all with my botanical knowledge, but what with juggling an umbrella and camera and generally enjoying the morning, I just couldn't be bothered.


Anonymous said...

oh such lovely photos lyn, gosh i love australian wild flowers. and the memories! i stayed at uni house when i was doing archival stuff at the noel butlin 'tunnel', loooove that building! what a lovely surprise.

Rose Red said...

How novel to attend a surprise party that was both a surprise and a delight! So often it seems they are neither.

I did not know there was a botanical garden in Canberra. How peaceful it must have been on a rainy morning. Lovely.

knitabulous said...

I always, always go to the cafe in the Botanical Gardens in Canberra when we go there as a family for the weekend.

After what often feels like days of fast and fried food I can be assured of a delicious home-cooked slice of some kind of vegetarian pie or quiche, with a mound of delicious and fresh salad on the side. It makes me feel virtuous, and gets some vegetables into everyone else too.

It really is a pleasant place to while away a morning or afternoon.

Taphophile said...

University House is a gem. A heritage architect friend stays there exclusively on his trips to Canberra. I've been to a few functions there and it's just a joy.

Bells said...

i always enjoy your views on Canberra Lyn. It always reminds me that it's possible for others to see how great it is.