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.
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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
We have stayed at The Realm in the past and it’s very nice and modern. What a huge spa bath!
Jane @ Shady Baker
Hello Amanda. I have been fascinated by this ever since the first round of humans attended this event last year. How incredible and what an amazing initiative on behalf of Canberra tourism. Hotel Realm sounds particularly lovely…they had me at the nightcap! I just adored the idea of the breakfast picnic and thought about it for the rest of the day after your tweet. What a cool idea.
I look forward to reading about more of your adventure.
Wow Amanda, what a fantastic weekend to be a part of. I’ve been wanting to do a family trip to Canberra for years but have never got around to it yet. I would love to have been a part of this..Look forward to reading more also.
Amanda, gorgeous photos, just gorgeous. Gorgeous everything in fact and what a great initiative. When I lived in Canberra a lot of pals and family came to visit – most saying they were finally getting around to it having talked about it for ages -and all were blown away by the fantastic and irreplaceable cultural collections, the buildings and all the rest. I agree with Robyn Archer – Canberra-bashing is like Adelaide-bashing, it’s a habit a lot of us tend to indulge without really noticing how mean we are being (not to mention ignorant!) It is a great spot with a lot of great people (and food and wine) in it. Go see, everybody! Thanks A for making it all look and sound like a very fine morsel indeed. You deserve that ginormous spa!!
I could move into that suite. Whenever we go to Canberra (which isn’t often enough) we always go to the War Memorial. I think it should be compulsory for every Australian to go there because those generations before us gave so much for us and most of them because they had no other choice xx
The Food Sage
Sounds like an extraordinary event – for extraordinary people, like you 😉 I’m dying to hear about the food pit-stops … so keep those fingers typing.
I can’t imagine how you brought yourself to check out of that suite !!! OMG what a dream come true upgrade !!
Charlie – I so agree with you. I think most senior primary school kids go to Canberra on a subsidised school excursion these days.
I wish I’d known you were here, I would have loved to say hello! I guess they kept you pretty busy though 🙂
Canberra really is a wonderful place to live, I’m glad words getting out on how great it is!
Such a great intiative…unusually brave for a tourism board, I say.
We were part of the Family Fun stream which was really fantastic.
Hat’s off to ACTourism.
Really enjoyed this post.
Oh, and I’m totally envious of your lodgings…lucky duck.
Hi Amanda, fabulous post! And fabulous to meet you too, hope you got home safely. Nikki & Mark x
We were on the same stream Amanda, I just wish we had a few more days to meet everyone properly. The whole weekend was so well organised and fantastic. Can’t wait to read the rest of your posts 🙂
I was on Arts and Culture! You were so lucky to get the penthouse suite. 🙂
Lizzy (Good Things)
Dear Amanda, it was such a delight to meet you and your man in my home town! Love that you came to visit and enjoyed what Canberra has to offer! I look forward to your next installment.
Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul
Glad yo enjoyed the human brochure Amanda…and lucky you with that penthouse suite!
Christine (Food Wine Travel)
Amanda, it was lovely to catch up with you while you were here. Canberra has variously been promoted as the Heart of the Nation and Home of the Australian Story (or something along those lines, I can’t quite remember!) Reading about your visit to the War Memorial, where you found some of your family letters archived and how you were so moved by the experience, illustrates why our National Capital deserves to be recognised in this light. It’s a shame so many Aussies knock this beautiful city instead of being proud of all that it represents.