A Short Stay in Canberra, A.C.T. Day 1

When we were invited to a lunch in Canberra I was initially reluctant, not so much because of the three hour drive each way, but more from COVID-19 concerns. But as days without community transmission became weeks, and both ACT and NSW governments relaxed restrictions, I too relaxed. In the end, Bill and I decided to make it a four-night short stay from 6-10 December, and we set off on the Sunday morning for our first venture into sleeping in an unknown bed since last March.

We didn’t foresee that shortly afterwards an outbreak in Sydney’s Northern Beaches LGA (local government area) would send that region into hard lockdown. The nickname for that area is the “insular peninsula” but Australians are a mobile bunch and before the virus was detected, infected persons had unwittingly travelled to other parts of Sydney. This in turn has caused the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) to shut its borders to those from the massive Greater Sydney area of New South Wales, and they’ve scooped us in Wollongong into that as well. Apparently, the transmission has originated with an overseas airline passenger in hotel quarantine, or potentially an international air crew member. The health authorities are still to locate patient zero and determine how the virus leaked out of the quarantine programme and into the community.

Anyway, we made it in and out of Canberra before any of that situation developed, and this next bunch of posts will be about what we did there, starting with the lovely reception we received at the Mercure Hotel in Braddon, which is very central to the Canberra CBD.

Now showing Photo, Exterior
Source: Mercure Hotel Braddon

This Mercure originally opened as the Hotel Ainslie in 1927, not all that long after Canberra had been established as the national capital (remembering that the various colonies of Australia only federated in 1901). Although Canberra’s first survey peg was planted in 1913 in what until then had basically been a sheep station, development was slowed by the First World War. The first sitting in the newly-built Parliament House did not take place until 1927, so it’s a safe bet that this hotel was popular accommodation for the representatives. That seat of government has become “Old” Parliament House, as it was replaced in 1988 with the modern edifice that now stands on Capital Hill.

Parliament House Canberra: The front architecture built into Capital Hill, including the forecourt and main entrance, and illustrating a ground-level view of the boomerang-shaped design Source: Wikipedia

I’d booked a mid-range room at the hotel, and the first lovely surprise was an upgrade to a loft room. No good if you can’t climb stairs, but thanks to my Pilates classes, I had fun proving to myself I could run up and down them.

I haven’t worked out yet how to make the image smaller in the new WordPress system. Anyway, the stairs did kind of look this massive 🙂

The loft rooms have a lounge, dining and kitchen downstairs, bedroom and ensuite upstairs, and a small outdoor balcony. So, everything you need for a long stay! All the high-touch things such as cushions, magazines, etc had been removed. Tea, coffee, sugar and milk was handed over in individual gift packs at reception. It was no trouble for them to send fresh milk from the kitchen.

The main restaurant was closed except for breakfast, which was a pity, but understandable. I think that under the 4 square metre rule it was unviable to open it as well as the pub bistro in another part of the hotel. We had a very tasty dinner there, but it was a bit like being in a pub with noisy piped music so we didn’t return. Similarly, breakfast from a simple, limited, a la carte menu replaced the usual buffet. The relaxation of rules that allowed diners within 2 square metres had just come into effect, but just as well the management didn’t react too quickly as it has reverted again – at least in NSW. Also on account of COVID-19 we didn’t linger in the lounge area, but it did look inviting.

Our room faced into a leafy courtyard, a very pleasant outlook after a day’s sightseeing while enjoying a cool a drink and a book.

On arrival we couldn’t get the TV to work in either the lounge or bedroom but it didn’t bother us as we were off to visit a friend who had recently moved in to a retirement villa about twenty minutes away. While there, the receptionist rang and offered to move us to another room; and when we returned, all had been done for us. Quite an effort, as I’d already unpacked and laid things out in readiness for a relaxing stay.

If I ever needed accommodation in Canberra again, I would certainly keep this Mercure in mind. A comfortable and peaceful night’s sleep set us up in good stead for the next day’s sightseeing (to be continued in my next . . . )

30 thoughts on “A Short Stay in Canberra, A.C.T. Day 1

    • Gosh! It’s been so long since I blogged that I almost forgot about the spam folder. Boy! Don’t some weird comments turn up there. But you are so perceptive. The only genuine one was yours, stuck there for some reason. Thank you for your comment and well wishes. I’m working my way through your newsletter a bit at a time. (I’m working on a manuscript so that dominates my time). I always love the cat contributions. I wish I had a pet, but it doesn’t really work in an apartment and hubbie not in favour.

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      • I had problems with WP/Askimet recently, being randomly thrown into various SPAM filters, just having comments deleted. Askmet thinks they have finally fixed the problem. I was able to get in touch with most of the blog owners, not all. Thanks for fishing me out of the dungeon. 🙂

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  1. So nice that you were able to get away in the middle of all this. Here in Arizona we haven’t really had a time where we felt safe to do much although we did travel to California at the beginning of the fall. We thought things would probably get worse by now and of course they have. It sounds like you had a lovely time. Hopefully it will help you get through the new lockdowns etc.

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    • I’m going cool on the idea of celebrating NYE even though it is on site here (we live in a complex something similar to your mum’s), and they take all precautions. Just today we have a case in our local area. The fortunate thing with our low case numbers is the authorities can be very specific about where contact may have occurred. I’m about to double check my diary, but since I don’t much like shopping I think there won’t be any crossover. But it’s a timely reminder about complacency. Hope you stay safe and recover well from your valley fever.

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          • She was a rescue cat, and on the day, was running around her cage showing off, doing that “pick me, pick me!” routine. A year later, in her comfortable (and indoor) life, she is very sedate. I tried to attract her attention by swinging the remnants of a glittery Christmas Cracker packet, but got nothing. When I left it with her she started to chew the paper, so I had to take it away. I can get her into the crouch position if I set off a vibrating mouse toy, but she won’t pounce. She lets me rub her under the chin, and I THINK she purrs then, but it is so faint you can’t even feel the vibration. I thought she might have been an Egyptian Mau, and checked up on their temperament, but on balance, she is probably just a grey coloured British shorthair/ garden variety tabby.


  2. Phew, so glad you got back home before infections and restrictions hit again. You’re so right, not a time to be complacent. How lucky to have a hotel upgrade as opposed to ‘sorry we’ve only got the room overlooking the car park left’! I am guessing hotel guest numbers are hugely down even in Canberra. A good time to visit if you are brave or young. All best wishes for your family Christmas and keep safe, Agnes.

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    • I also thought the lack of guests might have been the reason for the upgrade, but there appeared to be an amount of movement, and a work conference or training (surprising as that would seem). Anyway, I was happy to get it.
      Have a wonderful Christmas despite the restrictions. Your Dad might reminiscence about the 1939 Christmas?
      It wouldn’t be the first time events outside our control keep loved ones apart at this special time.

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    • Yes, even with this outbreak, we are in a good situation. I haven’t spoken to my girlfriend in Texas for a while, so I hope that just means she’s busy. I wish you and yours a happy festive season however it has to work out this year.


    • Hi Marion, I have been following your travels with interest. In truth though, we live on the coast with amazing beaches and lots of lovely tourist sites. People flock here for their holidays. So it’s not as if we HAVE to get away. It looks as if we can still have our family Christmas as we are allowed ten in the home, and that just suits us this year. Hope you have a great Christmas despite your restrictions. Gwen


    • Hi Andrew and thanks for commenting. The genomic sequencing on the northern beaches cluster shows it is a US variety. We do however, have two incoming passengers in hotel quarantine who have the UK mutant. Incoming passengers are mostly Australians returning home. There are still thousands scattered all around the globe. So I guess we’ll see more of that mutation before this pandemic fades away.

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