Monday, 14 January 2013

#LikeCanberra- My Love Letter to the City

To celebrate Canberra's centenary, I've written my city a love letter

I like the roads. Smooth, predicable, accessible.
I like how outside of peak times you can get from one end of the city to the other in 30 minutes, using one of the pseudo-highways.
I like the fact that anyone from outside Canberra can’t understand roundabouts. But they’re sensible. Just like Canberra.
I like the suburbs.
I like how the street names in suburbs are all themed, from lawyers to journalists to artists.
I like the local shops, with their supermarkets and takeaways and hairdressers.
I like how there’s always plenty of room to park at them too.
I like how some of the best restaurants the city has to offer are hidden at these local shops, unassuming and unknown to tourists.
I like the city.
I like the bustle of Garema place as 5pm hits and workers rush from their offices to their buses and cars.
I like how then the night settles and the lights in the trees turn on, making the entire place look magical.
I like the stillness of the morning, as the sun rises and there’s almost no one around.
I like where I grew up, in the deep south of Nappy Valley, where working mums and dads ventured to the outskirts of the city in the 90s to buy their dream homes and start their families.
I like how these children grew up, seemingly aimless but surprisingly determined, now taking on the city and making it their own.
I like the workers.
I like how asking someone where there work will, half the time, result in them saying an acronym that stands for some kind of public service department.
I like how you’re expected to know what that department is too.
I like how when portfolios change everyone grumbles that their acronym has changed and they have to change their email.
I like how for so many of these people, they just accept their job and don’t realise the contribution they make to public life every day.
I like the nightlife.
I like how all the clubs are pretty much in one place.
I like the institution that is Mooseheads and how it looks the same every time I go in there.
I like how I can tell stories of the good old days of the Moose hour of power and $2 shots to unbelieving eighteen year olds.
I like the acoustic music at King O’Malleys and how the young and old mix in its beer garden.
I like how O’Malleys is named after a man who introduced an alcohol ban to Canberra.
I like how stepping into Galaxy is like stepping back in time.
I like the bars, from Hippo to Kremlin to Honkytonks.
I like seeing the stragglers from the night before in the streets at 6am, shoes off and shirts rolled up, looking for a taxi.
I like the people.
I like how within a couple of minutes of meeting someone you have inevitably worked out that you have half a dozen mutual acquaintances. Because that’s Canberra.
I like that we’re the most educated city in Australia but we don’t like to boast about it.
I like the niceness of the people, who seem to have bone deep kindness.
I like the Parliamentary Triangle.
I like its perfectly manicured grass and symmetry.
I like the abundance of national institutions all within a stone’s throw of one another.
I like how the fly-in fly-out staffers at Parliament House never seem to fully appreciate Canberra, never venturing outside the inner south.
I like how the majority of Canberrans don’t even take notice of the goings on in the house, despite having it right on their doorstep.
I like the universities.
I like how pretty ANU is and how UC looks like a concrete bunker in comparison.
I like how the students like to tease each other, always forgetting about ACU and ADFA.
I like how they all find common ground complaining about exams and tutorial allocation.
I like seeing the first years in their togas during O Week, thinking that this is the start of the rest of their lives. And it is, really.
I like how so many people come here to study and stay on, memorised by this wonderful place.
I like the bush capital.
I like how there are trees on every street and so many parks and ovals.
I like how the hills and nature reserves seem to burst out from the middle of suburbs, little pops of green in amongst the houses.
I like seeing the Arboretum and its new life, born out of the ashes of the fire that threatened to choke us all.
I like the seasons.
I like the spring, when the smell of fresh cut grass is all around and Floriade brings in hordes of tourists.
I like the silly season, as summer just begins. When everyone seems happy and the bars fill up every night.
I like how just after Christmas when the heat sets in you can go to Bateman’s Bay and see as many ACT numberplates as NSW ones.
I like the endless days of January, when the schoolkids are still on holidays and it’s light until 9pm.
I like how it slowly gets cooler, until Canberra Day heralds the start of Autumn and the leaves start to fall.
I like the pilgrimage to the War Memorial on ANZAC day and the freshness of a 5am April morning.
I like the winter and its freezing nights.
I like how even though we act tough, we all complain about the minus 5 degree mornings and defrosting our cars.
I like how all these things aren’t even what I like about Canberra- they’re what I love. And I love how this list can’t even properly convey what it’s like in this glorified country town that has come into its own.


  1. Sensational - thanks Lauren. As a long-term Canberran your prose almost brought a tear to my eye!

  2. Has some beautiful moments Lauren :)

    - Em x

  3. Hear hear!
    Except the bars stuff, about which I know little...
    But I like that there is stuff to do for people who like going to bars and nightclubs, despite all the protests that there's nothing to do at night. :)

  4. Yes, Canberra folk know how to enjoy themselves, all of the above and more!

  5. It has an unmatched high standard of living. Top notch. Never wanted to leave and wouldn't have if I had a choice.