Cap­ti­vated by Can­berra

From clas­sic cin­ema to heir­loom veg­eta­bles and nos­tal­gic train trips, our na­tional cap­i­tal has the lot

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JU­DITH ELEN

1. CLAS­SIC movies in­trigue young and old. Ev­ery Sun­day (11am and 3pm), the her­itage the­atrette at the Na­tional Film and Sound Archive in sub­ur­ban Ac­ton is the scene of Archive Alive, a free live pre­sen­ta­tion by ex­perts ex­plor­ing the trea­sures of our film his­tory, from Aero­plane Jelly j in­gles and Happy Lit­tle Vegemite ads to the re­stored 1905 film Story of the Kelly Gang.

Vintage cine-sound news­reels also run through the day. The art­deco build­ing is an ar­chi­tec­tural trea­sure; there are free in­ter­ac­tive ex­hi­bi­tions in the main gallery, in­clud­ing film clips, film sound bites, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio pro­grams, car­toons and com­mer­cials.

In a sep­a­rate build­ing in the com­plex, state-of-the-art Arc Cin­ema pro­grams screen­ings rang­ing from Aus­tralian, French and Amer­i­can cin­ema to Ja­panese silent movies plus a pre-film ligh­tand-sound show. In vintage mood, sip an ice-cream sun­dae at in-house Teatro Fellini Cafe or or­der a bite to eat with a glass of bub­bles be­fore or af­ter a film (cin­ema ’n’ sup Reel Deals avail­able). More: nfsa.gov.au. 2. A clutch of lo­cal ar­ti­sans from the cap­i­tal’s suc­cess­ful quar­terly Hand­made Mar­kets has found a per­ma­nent home at a re­tail shop opened last year by Julie Ni­chols and Rachel Evagelou in City Walk Boule­vard. Shop Hand­made Can­berra is a car­ni­val of colour, packed with unique items, all hand­made and la­belled with the names of their de­sign­ers and mak­ers (from Can­berra or in­ter­state). Hand­made has the air of a full-time ( very cre­ative) play­room, but it’s not just for kids.

Cush­ions, can­dles, cup­cakes, linen, lamps and unique jew­ellery nes­tle next to gor­geous soft toys (such as a fat lit­tle hand-stitched, sleepy-eyed owl), dolls and ju­nior fash­ion. Hand­made Mar­kets, with 120 undercover stalls (cloth­ing, fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles, toys, jew­ellery, books, art­work, pa­per goods, gourmet items), to­day at the Na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­tre (11am-4pm) and on De­cem­ber 17. More: hand­made­mar­ket.com.au. 3. Book a nos­tal­gic day’s out­ing on a train drawn by a steam or diesel lo­co­mo­tive, or a 1930s-vintage rail mo­tor, with Aus­tralian Rail­way His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety ACT. Added to the ro­mance of trav­el­ling old­style is the leisurely path the train takes through the re­gion’s fas­ci­nat­ing land­scape, cross­ing rivers, travers­ing tun­nels, Mo­lon­glo Gorge and the Great Di­vid­ing Range.

Spot wildlife, watch the driver at work, and snack as you travel (morn­ing or af­ter­noon tea is pro­vided in Deluxe Class, or try the on-board snacks kiosk). A year­long pro­gram in­cludes the Sun­day Af­ter­noon Bun­gen­dore Ex­press, themed ex­cur­sions (end-of-year Din­ner Dance Party trains, Santa Steam Ex­press), school hol­i­day spe­cials and Mar­ket Day Steam Ex­pe­ri­ence, co­in­cid­ing with the monthly Bun­gen­dore mar­ket in the vil­lage’s Me­mo­rial Hall.

Jour­neys start at Can­berra Sta­tion, Kingston, and travel via Quean­beyan to quaint, his­toric Bun­gen­dore. Fam­ily tick­ets are avail­able; in­fants (not re­quir­ing a seat) travel free. More: (02) 6284 2790; trains.org.au. 4. Book an ex­pe­di­tion of a dif­fer­ent kind by con­nect­ing the dots on the Can­berra Book­track, or else cherry-pick favourite sub­jects and track down the book­sellers that fit. The range on of­fer is wide and the dis­cov­ery of Can­berra’s hid­den corners is a plus, as you wan­der, browse and have some­thing nice to curl up with at the end of the day.

Can­berra Book­track lists 20 read­ing ren­dezvous, span­ning CBD and sub­urbs and cov­er­ing the most ar­cane in­ter­ests with­out ne­glect­ing the best­seller lists. In the words of one shop owner (at Be­yond Q, in Curtin), sub­jects range from ‘‘Wicca to wowserism, art to an­ar­chy, fic­tion to fem­i­nism’’, with — at Be­yond Q at least — mag­a­zines, cof­fees, pas­tries and live mu­sic thrown in. Alexan­der Fax, in Mawson, beck­ons the nonfiction fancier, es­pe­cially if mil­i­tary his­tory or fish­ing fas­ci­nate. Mil­i­tary and Aus­traliana en­joy shelf space in sev­eral shops, as do sec­ond-hand and an­ti­quar­ian books. If the kids have read Harry Pot­ter, bring on Enid Bly­ton or Lewis Car­roll. Gaslight Books spe­cialises in ‘ ‘ thrilling reads’’: crime, de­tec­tive and science fic­tion, fan­tasy and the macabre. The range at Smiths Al­ter­na­tive Book­shop in­cludes the ‘‘rare, dan­ger­ous and bizarre’’.

Busy Bee Books, as well as sec­ond-hand and ex­change ser­vices, of­fers manga, funky read­ing glasses, tea and cakes. Botan­i­cal Book­shop at the Botanic Gar­dens adds in­dige­nous in­for­ma­tion, chil­dren’s books and hik­ing guides to its flora and fauna. More: can­berra­book­track.com.au. 5. Ainslie is the launch pad for four self-drive her­itage trails, Can­berra Tracks, plot­ted by the ACT gov­ern­ment. One, for the time­poor, takes less than three hours to the city’s hill­top look­outs. An­other is an all-day tour of build­ings and sites cen­tral to the re­gion’s con­vict and pas­toral his­tory. My favourites peek into peo­ple’s his­to­ries: Pi­o­neers’ Ceme­tery Track and the Ngun­nawal Coun­try trail, which ex­plores Abo­rig­i­nal sto­ries. Start­ing at All Saints Church in Ainslie, the for­mer vis­its church­yards, coun­try graves and city ceme­ter­ies, un­cov­er­ing fam­ily his­to­ries and an­tique head­stones.

The Ngun­nawal drive cov­ers 20,000-year-old sites. Zoom north, south and west, to the Cot­ter River, an an­cient trad­ing and cer­e­mo­nial site where there is a pro­gram of ranger-guided ac­tiv­i­ties. It also in­cludes Tid­bin­billa Na­ture Re­serve, a na­tive an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary where you might see a platy­pus; it’s full of signed walk­ing trails and kids’ things and Abo­rig­i­nal rock shel­ters amid a beau­ti­ful val­ley land­scape.

Then there’s Na­madgi Na­tional Park at Tharwa, with rare flora and fauna, and wood­land walk­ing trails; and Tug­ger­a­nong Homestead, where you can learn about cor­ro­borees and a leg­endary black stock­man.

Set­ting out or re­turn­ing, Ainslie shel­ters a gem of a restau­rant, Pulp Kitchen (book early), whose chef, Chris­tian Hauberg, worked with Di­et­mar Sawyere in Syd­ney and at Miche­lin-starred kitchens in Den­mark and France. More: cmd.act.gov.au/her­itage/can­berra—tracks; pulp-kitchen.com.au. 6. Take a seat and be ahead of the crowds to dis­cover fu­ture stars of the con­cert stage at Can­berra School of Mu­sic’s stu­dent per­for­mances. Free Thurs­day Lunch­box Con­certs fea­ture ANU mu­sic stu­dents and staff (12.30pm, Re­hearsal Room 3, ANU cam­pus, Ac­ton). The more for­mal Mu­sic at Lunchtime se­ries is held monthly in the Great Hall, Univer­sity House, and show­cases staff and stu­dents, cov­er­ing a range of mu­si­cal styles and in­clud­ing a light lunch with a glass of wine in the ticket price ($20.50).

There is a pro­gram of String Soirees, held two Wed­nes­day evenings each se­mes­ter ($5 en­try in­cludes a glass of sparkling wine, Re­hearsal Room 3), Sound­proof Con­certs ( which present new mu­sic writ­ten by com­po­si­tion stu­dents) and a just-in­tro­duced Wed­nes­day Night Jazz Se­ries (once a month in the Peter Karmel Build­ing Band Room). Apart from these reg­u­lar dates, the school’s dance card is packed with mini fes­ti­vals, in­clud­ing an Antarc­tica con­fer­ence and mu­sic fes­ti­val on June 25-26 in cel­e­bra­tion of the cen­te­nary of Dou­glas Mawson’s ex­pe­di­tion to the icy south. There will be a dawn open-air con­cert and a late-night per­for­mance with Nor­we­gian ice artist and per­cus­sion­ist Terje Isungset. More: mu­sic.anu.edu.au; schoolof­mu­sic@anu.edu.au. 7. Can­berra’s re­gional pro­duce — chest­nuts, her­itage ap­ples, black truf­fles — has a big rep­u­ta­tion, as has the fab­u­lous Gin­ger Room restau­rant in Old Par­lia­ment House, with chef Janet Jeffs. Less well-known is the Cafe in the House and its off­sider, the Kitchen Cabi­net, both also in­side Old Par­lia­ment House. Go to the back door of the house in Gin­ger Lane to reach Cafe and Cabi­net, Gin­ger Room’s se­cret sis­ters.

A func­tion­ing shop and hive of ac­tiv­ity, the Kitchen Cabi­net is set out like a lit­tle pro­duce store, with lo­cal olive oil, vine­gars, pre­serves, ar­ti­sanal chocolate, sea­sonal fruit and veg­eta­bles (au­tumn: ap­ples, quinces, plaits of gar­lic), smoked trout, dairy prod­ucts, bio­dy­namic meats, and Wes­sex Sad­dle­back hams and ba­cons. It has proved so suc­cess­ful over the past two years that there are plans to move to the front of the house.

There are also Kitchen Cabi­net monthly events, with ex­perts ex­plor­ing, say, bread-bak­ing and kitchen gar­dens. Sun­day lunches cel­e­brate the win­ter solstice, Pig Day Out, truf­fle har­vest and Cherry Christ­mas. More: thek­itchen­cab­i­net.com.au.

vis­it­can­berra.com.au Over the next nine weeks, we will present seven se­cret dis­cov­er­ies in nine more cap­i­tals and hol­i­day re­gions. Next week: Bris­bane.

The Na­tional Film and Sound Archive houses the trea­sures of our film in­dus­try, in­clud­ing news­reels, tele­vi­sion and ra­dio pro­grams, car­toons and com­mer­cials

The Kitchen Cabi­net in Old Par­lia­ment House

Shop Hand­made Can­berra sells the work of lo­cal ar­ti­sans

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