There’s an old Chinese proverb that says “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand”. The clever folk at Canberra tourism, Visit Canberra, took this well and truly to heart when they came up with their recent and astonishingly generous tourism initiative,”The Human Brochure“. For years, Canberra has been unfairly labelled as a dull place full of politicians and public servants, with very little of actual interest – but these days this really couldn’t be further from the truth. Embracing both social media and the above maxim, “The Human Brochure” invited Australians to apply to be part of this amazing project. 500 successful humans (250 in October 2012 & 250 this month) were treated to a weekend they’ll never forget in a city full of interest, activity and brilliant food and wine – our modern national capital. I was one of them.
On our first day we were flown into Canberra’s newly refurbished and very shiny airport, met by a bunch of happy, smiling Canberrans and whisked off to our respective accommodations to check in before the first stop for all 250 of us – an evening of history, heartbreak and high flying at the Australian War Memorial. The Husband (Rams Ears?) and I took our family to Canberra for a holiday a few years back and this was one of the high points of the visit for me, although I seldom manage to get out of the Memorial without tears in my eyes. The AWM is the national repository for all of our war history and, as such, is a deeply moving place of memories. My Grandfather and three of my great uncles went off to fight in World War I – all of them were gassed, all were at Gallipoli, one was held as a POW, one was awarded the Military Cross and one died in the mess and the mud of Pozieres. While I didn’t know these brave men, I’ve read some of their letters and the heartbroken letters of their mother which I found archived in the AWM – this is a connection I could never have made without this remarkable resource.
After being shown around some of the extensive exhibits we were shepherded in to the awe-inspiring Aircraft Hall, home to a number of classic aircraft including a Mosquito, a Kittyhawk, a MiG-15 and huge, high, wide screen. We were greeted with the first of many glasses of wine and treated to a remarkable short movie about the earliest fighter planes in WWI and the bold men who flew them. I’m not a war movie fan generally, but suffice it to say that the children were not the only members of the audience who were spellbound for the duration. By the time the movie had concluded, staff members were making their way through the crowd with multiple, enormous platters of finger food and, contrary to most of the cocktail events I’ve attended in the past, no-one was going to be leaving hungry on this particular night. Our 25o humans were divided into different streams – Art & Culture, Family, Activity and Food & Wine. Being a member of the Food & Wine stream, I was to discover that this was a theme which was to be expanded upon over the course of the weekend.
Once the Human Brochure and Australian War Memorial staff were completely sure that none of us could stuff another morsel past our lips (not even a wafer-thin one ) we were gently guided back to our buses and thence to our hotels. Along with all of the other Food & Wine stream, we were staying Canberra’s newest five star deluxe hotel Hotel Realm, which took out three separate gongs in the Australian Hotels Association 2012 Hospitality Awards. I love a flash hotel room and was pretty pleased about that, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that we had been given the penthouse suite!
We were shown to an ultra-stylish and enormously spacious two-level suite with the biggest spa bath I’ve ever seen. The decor was chic, clean and simple in monochromatic hues, with one entire wall of both floors taken up by glass giving us a view out to the spire of Parliament House. The amenities were all one would expect of five star accommodation with free wifi, an Apple Mac-Mini in-room system, a generous selection of high quality L’Occitane products in the bathroom, a Nespresso machine in the kitchen upstairs. On top of that, and especially for the visiting humans I suspect, we found fresh fruit, chocolates and a selection of local food products. On either side of our king-sized bed was a thoughtfully placed nightcap and more chocolate. It was immediately obvious that we were going to be spoiled all weekend – they really know how to treat a human in Canberra and at the Hotel Realm.