A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Summary: A-Z of Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

Thank you for joining me on my A-Z journey for 2021. I have had a lot of fun sharing things I truly appreciate in my life and hope you have too!

Below I have summarised all the posts for ease of reference should you wish to revisit them.

A is for Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

B is for Brindabella Ranges

C is for Cooperation

D is for Daybreak

E is for Evening

F is for Frost

G is for Garden

H is for Holidays

I is for Imagery

J is for Juxtaposition

K is for Kookaburra

L is for Leaves

M is for Music

N is for Numbers

O is for Olfactory

P is for Pets

Q is for Quartz

R is for Rainbows

S is for Shadows

T is for Teamwork

U is for Utterance

V is for Values

W is for Webs

X is for eXcellence

Y is for Yes

Z is for Zen

🙌🏻

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Z is for Zen

Enlightenment and the idea of “Zen” are interrelated. The essence of Zen is that all human beings are Buddha, and that all they have to do is to discover that truth for themselves.

Zen is to be completely alive. It is sometimes called a religion and sometimes called a philosophy. Whichever the term; it simply doesn’t matter.

Zen tries to free the mind from the slavery of words and the constriction of logic. Zen is meditation.

Zen is the art of seeing into the nature of one’s own being, and it points the way from bondage to freedom.

And this is both beautiful and excellent.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Y is for Yes

With life becoming more and more busy, I sometimes hear people talking about how they’re going to say “no” more often. There are so many things we are asked to be involved in: volunteering, events, fundraisers, running errands, giving, giving, giving…all while trying to make time for yourself in amongst it all too!

Don’t get me wrong, saying “no” is important. Because when we say “no”, we are then able to say “yes“ to the right people. And there is beauty in this. Your “yes” moments will look differently depending on the your own lives and personal situations but I challenge you to say “yes.”

Not for everything, because you don’t want to burn yourself out. But make a goal for yourself whether it’s one “yes” a week or one “yes” a day, to those who matter to you. They will be forever thankful.

Be present, be intentional. Say “no”, so you can “yes.”

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

X is for eXcellence

I am always big on acknowledging those with particular skills or talents. Observing and appreciating those who excel at something is often energising, and makes me want to pursue my own goals.

It also produces admiration, which is a beautiful emotion – to feel positive, warm regard for someone else. Admiration could manifest while watching and listening to a virtuoso musician, reading about a great scientist, politician, or invention, the way a writer tells their story or a filmmaker weaves the components of a great movie together.

It can also manifest through the actions or manner in which a person lives their lives. If there is someone excelling in your life, let them know you admire what they do.

And me? How do I strive to achieve excellence? To put it into simple words, do the right thing. Excellence is the result of caring about what we do, and of putting our very best effort into what we care about. It is an outward expression of inner integrity, passion and a strong sense to make a true difference.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

W is for Webs

A spiderweb sparkling in the sunlight can be a truly beautiful sight, but webs have additional surprises. The strength-to-weight ratio of the material is remarkable, and spiders seem to be able to rig a web just about anywhere.

Some webs are extremely intricate. Most people assume that the design is purely functional, but this is not always the case. Many spiders actually replace their entire web every single day!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

V is for Values

For many, values are misinterpreted as ethics or morals. The true definition of value is: a set of standards that we want to live our lives by based on what is most important to us.

This means living our lives based on the things that are most important to us in life, therefore, giving us purpose! A strategy I read about to discover our values is as follows: Identify 10 or more values that reflect our core values and then narrow them down to 5.

Understanding what what is most important to us is the very essence of appreciating beauty in our lives.

For me, I love:

  1. Spending time in nature because it grounds me (well-being)
  2. Talking and being with others because it makes me feel connected (connection)
  3. African drumming because I can play music with others (creativity)
  4. Walking my dogs because it makes them happy (sense of purpose)
  5. Being with my husband because he is my soul mate (connection)
  6. Dragon boating because my body can be powerful and strong (well-being)
  7. Teaching because I feel like I make a difference (sense of purpose)
  8. Exploring new places because I am curious and interested (knowledge)
  9. History because we can learn from our past (knowledge)
  10. Writing because I can explore my creativity (creativity)

Narrowing these down, I can clearly see my core values are:

Well-being, Connection, Sense of purpose, Knowledge, Creativity

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

U is for Utterance

Beautifully said vs. beautiful utterance.

Usually, the tone of the word “utterance” doesn’t fit “beautiful” well. An utterance (in the sense of something that someone says) is short, abrupt, and functional rather than beautiful,

But sometimes there are exceptions…

You. Not wanting me was the beginning of me wanting myself. Thank you.

Kind people are my kinder people.

We read to know we are not alone.

We are clever but we’re clueless.

Happiness is a choice.

It hurts to let go, but more to hold on.

Don’t be like the rest of them.

Let it go. This too shall pass.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

T is for Teamwork

Before we get to the teamwork part, a little bit of background is required.

Similar to the use of outrigger canoes, dragon boat racing has a rich background of ancient ceremonial, ritualistic and religious traditions.

Thought to have originated in southern central China more than 2500 years ago, dragon boat racing has been practiced continuously since this period as the basis for annual water rituals and festival celebrations, and for the traditional veneration of the Chinese dragon water deity.

Of the twelve animals which make up the traditional Chinese zodiac, only the Dragon is a mythical creature. Dragons were traditionally believed to be the rulers of water: rivers, lakes, and seas. They were also thought to dominate the waters of the heavens: clouds, mists, and rains.

Dragon boat racing venerates the dragon deity and is meant to avert misfortune and encourage rainfall.

The crew of a standard dragon boat consists of 22 team members:
– 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow
– 1 drummer
– 1 sweep standing at the rear

Dragon boats, however, do vary in length and the crew size changes accordingly, from small dragon boats with only 10 paddlers up to traditional boats which have upwards of 50 paddlers.

Races are typically a sprint event of several hundred meters, with 500 metres being the most common. Races measuring 200, 1000, and 2000 metres are also standard distances in international competition.

The true beauty of paddling a dragon boat comes from teamwork – immersing yourself in this amazing culture of community, commitment and determination! There is something spiritual about the synchronicity of the crew and being focused on a common goal.

It’s not the fittest or strongest team that succeeds on the water – it’s the team that works as a single force.

I love my Invictus dragon boat family and am so proud of how far we’ve come in just our first 12 months of competition.

Fate, Soul, Invictus!

We paddle as one”

Hopefully we get to this level one day…

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

S is for Shadows

“Everything, as you well know . . . cannot always be sweetness and light.” – The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

There is beauty in the darkness.

For example, consider how shadows are formed. Shadows are made by blocking the light. Light rays travel from a source in straight lines. If an opaque (solid) object gets in the way, it stops light rays from traveling through it. This results in an area of darkness appearing behind the object.

While this may seem counterintuitive to beauty, there truly IS something winsome to be found in shadows – for only by ignoring the light can we have the elegance, anonymity and secrecy of the black that hides, or shields our deepest selves. Thus allowing us to appreciate all that is good.

Look again…
Things aren’t always what they seem

“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

“If you don’t have any shadows you’re not in the light.” – Lady Gaga

“Fancies are like shadows…you can’t cage them, they’re such wayward, dancing things.” – L.M. Montgomery

“We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.” – Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

I especially love this article from The Ascent, “Five Life Lessons You Can Learn From Your Shadow“.

To paraphrase:

1. Who I truly am can never be destroyed — my shadow is indestructible. I’m indestructible. My physical body’s not indestructible, but “I” am.

2. There is no limit to my growth — at the right angle with the right light, my shadow can span so far and wide, standing strong…no matter what.

3. Our mistakes in life don’t define who we are — the shadow itself can do no wrong. Even if I do something that ‘bad’, the shadow itself remains pure.

4. I am 100% unique — my shadow is mine and mine only! It is unique to me.

5. In life, there will be clouds that hide the best in us from our own eyes and the eyes of others — it’s important that we remember that just as the shadow didn’t disappear, the darkness of life doesn’t remove the good that is in us.

In my mind, these 5 lessons, are exceptionally beautiful and well worth appreciating!

Works inspired by shadows:

Shadows

In The Shadows

Hugging Shadows

. Mother of Dragons

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Q is for Quartz

The processes resulting in the formation of tors started millions and millions of years ago. Simply speaking, tors are the result of granite cooling and solidifying from molten rock.

Granite is formed from three main minerals: Quartz – appearing in the granite as greyish-looking grains; Feldspar – white grains, sometimes stained yellowish or pink; and Biotite – dark brown glistening flakes.

Tors are awesome. In sitting perfectly still, holding their space on this earth, their solidity and monolithic nature ensure they are simultaneously imposing and majestic. I love the vibrations that run through these rocks. They seem to hold the energies of times gone by; bearing witness to events – enduring the past, present and future. There is something beautiful in this feeling of insignificance and fragility; reminding me I am here for a mere blip in time.

Three areas where I have spent significant time with tors are Mt Buffalo National Park, Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site and Namadgi National Park.

Mt Buffalo National Park
Yeddonba Aboriginal Cultural Site
Square Rock, Namadgi National Park
Square Rock, Namadgi National Park

Square Rock, Namadgi National Park
A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

P is for Pets

The unconditional love of a pet is beautiful.

They show you affection, give you a sense of purpose, and greet you every day when you come home (well, maybe not if you have a cat).

There’s a lot of beautiful sayings and quotes out there about the rare kind of magic pets bring to our lives.

These people say it better than I ever could…

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.” James Herriot, British Writer

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Roger Caras, American Activist

“If I could be half the person my dog is, I’d be twice the human I am.” Charles Yu, Taiwanese-American Author

 “Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge?” Jerry Seinfeld

“Bliss is the result of a silent conversation between me and my dog.” Unknown

And now, shameless puppy spam! Here are some beautiful pictures of my beautiful dogs…

Work inspired bu Archie and Bella:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

O is for Olfactory

olfactory (adj.) relating to the sense of smell

I recently stumbled across this old journal article and was intrigued by the sentiment and questions posed within:

Source: Coleman, Francis J. “Can a Smell or a Taste or a Touch Be Beautiful?” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 4, 1965, pp. 319–324. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20009182. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021.

For me, I certainly disagree with these aestheticians. There IS beauty in touch, and taste, and smell. I was startled to learn this was not a common view point.

For the purposes of my post (which is focusing on “O”) I wish to explore the beauty of the olfactory.

Undeniably, there is comfort, contentment and excitement in smell. Are these things, not things of beauty?

Take:

– A freshly brewed cup of coffee, tantalising our sense of smell, providing anticipation to jumpstart our day?

– The tangy salty stinging in our nostrils as we inhale the beach on a windy day, reminding us that we are alive and in the presence of awesome nature?

– The scent of eucalyptus trees and scrubby bushes after the rain, symbolising the new growth and nourishment of life

OR

– The smell of nanna’s perfume lingering on a blanket she crocheted, bringing her into my presence, even though she’s long gone?

These things are beautiful. But most importantly, they are precious. And I will shamelessly declare the beauty of smell, to anyone who will listen…especially at the dinner table!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

N is for Numbers

Mathematicians and non-mathematicians can surely agree, there is beauty in mathematics.

Not just the simple gratification that can be felt from balancing an equation, or solving a multi step problem. Beauty is more than skin deep when it comes to numbers.

Beauty can be found in the harmony, patterns, and structures of numbers and forms – providing the classic ideals of balance and symmetry.

The non-mathematician often appreciates the beauty of mathematics without even realising it.

For example:

  • feeling a sense of awe while admiring a flower or a tree
  • feeling attracted to a certain piece of art
  • favouring a specific type of architecture

The beauty that attracts your eye is made possible by, and can be explained by mathematics.

There are three elements of beauty: symmetry, proportion, and harmony. The perfect balance of these elements created the “Golden Mean” (otherwise known as the golden ratio). The Golden Mean can be found (literally) everywhere in our world!

Look out for it…and enjoy!

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

M is for Music

Where in the world would we be without music? Somewhere I’d rather not be, that’s for certain!

There is no question that music stimulates the mind. There are many beautiful aspects to music, which one can listen to and focus our attention on music, we can be mindful of melodies or themes, harmonies, rhythms, the tapestry of sounds, “activity” within a piece, or how they all relate to one another, all while, figuring out how the composer conceived the piece in the first place!

Focused and attentive listening is an incredible experience that allows one to become lost in a foreign world of sound. Music can raise someone’s mood, get them excited, or make them calm and relaxed. Music also – and this is important – allows us to feel nearly or possibly all emotions that we experience in our lives. And this is truly beautiful.

In just 12 different notes, we can play any kind of music. I find it extraordinary that all songs can be created from this small range, with seemingly infinite combinations.

Here are some pieces of music I truly appreciate. They touch my soul in a profound way…even though each is very different to the next.

(Of course, lyrics also play an important role in this too, adding yet another dimension – truly the most perfect accompaniment…but that’s for another post!)

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

L is for Leaves

It is Autumn here in Australia. Needless to say, one of the most beautiful times because of the changing leaves.

Canberra’s deciduous trees transform our city into a tapestry of colour as their leaves change to display vivid reds, purples, oranges and yellows.

So what causes the beautiful displays of autumnal colour? The usual green colour of Spring and Summer leaves is the result of chlorophyll – the chemical that enables the plant to photosynthesise and produce the energy it needs to grow.

In Autumn, the tree starts to break down the chlorophyll and stores it to have on hand as extra energy when Spring comes.

This means that the green pigment in the leaf is no longer dominant and other colours start to show through.

This process in itself is incredible and a true wonder – beauty on a whole other level.

And of course, it makes for awesome Autumn photography and inspiration for songs and poems…

Some of my own work:

A classic song Autumn Leaves, as performed by Eva Cassidy:

Lyrics/Song by Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert and Johnny Mercer, 1945

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall
I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

K is for Kookaburra

Kookaburras are a well-known symbol of Australia, sometimes referred to as a laughing larrikin. They are bold, and fearless, carnivorous birds. Although classified as a kingfisher, they prey upon snakes, small reptiles and small mammals, They are not at all scared of humans and have been known to snatch a sausage off the BBQ or straight from your hands!

In Ngunnawal language (the traditional land owners of the ACT region), the word for Kookaburra is “guginya”.

According to one Indigenous Dreaming, the Great Spirit Biami created the first Kookaburra to call out when the sun rose each morning to awaken the people and daytime creatures.  He did this with a loud, ringing laugh so the people and creatures awoke with gladness in their hearts,

Another Dreaming states that before the world had the sun, Emu and Brush Turkey continuously fought. Brush Turkey threw Emu’s egg into the sky and it landed in one of the campfires of the star people. The resulting light was so glorious, the people begged the star people to keep it going. They needed someone to waken them each morning to start the fire of the Sun, so Kookaburra with his loud laugh got the job. He does it daily with joy.

One important thing to note about Kookaburra is that he must NEVER be mocked. It is absolute Law. Although this fellow appears to be bursting with self-confidence, he is indeed a sensitive soul. Any teasing will result in hurting Kookaburra’s feelings so deeply, he won’t waken the star people. Imagine living without the sun!

Source: Native symbols

From an Appreciation of Beauty standpoint, I always take note of Kookaburras. I laugh and smile with them, enjoying the moment. It is due to Kookaburra’s ability to sing out, and be loud after all, that he has the important job of awakening humanity.

As a spiritual totem, some believe the Kookaburra highlights work issues and family relationships.  Enthusiasm, happiness, promotion, and success are all symbolised by Kookaburra.

I simply adore Kookaburras – their spunk, character and cheerful call never cease to bring a smile to my face and joy to my soul. I always heed whatever message I am meant to be receiving from this wise old bird.

Listen to a pair of Kookaburras calling here:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

I is for Imagery

I have always thought words are beautiful. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I have long been an avid reader, and why I feel inspired to write.

I am in awe of those who are able to convey beauty through the use of word-smithery; especially the use of figurative language.

My heart aches with appreciation when I read a well crafted piece of prose, a piece of imagery or when someone is able to put into words, something that I cannot.

For today’s post I want to share some of my favourite pieces with you…

“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, dont you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
– Cormac McCarthy, The Road

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
– Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
– J. D. Salinger, “A Girl I Knew”

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
– Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
– Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman.”- Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

“She tried to find the place in her heart where her life was anchored, but she couldn’t, so she closed her eyes and pressed the palms of her hands against the earth, making sure it was there.”
– Pam Munoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

“Our mother had a dark heart feeling. It was as big as a sky inside a thimble. That’s how dark heart feelings are. They have great volume but can hide in small places.”
– Karen Foxlee, Lenny’s Book of Everything

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”
– Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

F is for Frost

Unlike many Australians, Winter is my favourite season. For me, there is nothing more spectacular than the clarity of the blue skies and the sharp edge the cool crisp air gives the environment. And of, course, there’s the frost.

Frost is a thin layer of ice on a solid surface, which forms from water vapor in an above-freezing atmosphere coming in contact with a solid surface whose temperature is below freezing. This results in a phase change from water vapor (gas) to ice (solid).

Aside from the amazing science behind this phenomenon, it is also very beautiful. The white shards cloaking individual blades of grass or leaves, collectively form a shimmering, sparkling, winter-scape; capturing the softened golden rays of the sun – reminding us there is a different kind of warmth to appreciate, amidst the cold.

Read more of my appreciation of frost, in previous posts:

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

E is for Evening

Strictly speaking, evening is the period of day from the end of the afternoon to the beginning of night.

When evening begins and ends depends on location, time of year, and culture, but it is generally regarded as beginning when the sun is low in the sky and lasting until the end of twilight.

Then, we enter night.

Things always look different at night. Everything takes on a slightly different slant, as if the daytime world is hidden by the darkness and shadows, bringing forth more ominous version to take its place. Perhaps this is why, humans have a preoccupation with creating light. We endeavour to cast aside our concerns and bring forth the familiar again, as we light the night. And it is beautiful.

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

A-Z Challenge 2021

I must confess, I find myself surprised to be here again.

After a gruelling 2020 in all aspects, my blog has become collateral damage; an unwilling victim of my lack of time, stress and general absence of motivation, or more so, inspiration.

Yet, as I received the A-Z updates and promos over the month of March, I felt a pull. Like a small thread tugging on my conscience and awakening the need to write again.

And here we are.

I missed the official theme reveal, and up until yesterday, was suffering a block with what my theme should be. I would like to say that my theme in fact, came to reveal itself to me.

As I drove back from Dragonboat training, I observed the sun setting over the distant Brindabella Ranges. The mountains were a deep violet; jaggedly interrupting a perfect umber skyline. I realised then that I often experience junctures like these – a spiritual connection; a moment where I can stand in awe of the beauty of the world around me.

And so, the “Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence” theme was born out of my darkened mind.

I anticipate this A-Z may be a little different to my usual musing-style posts, and that you may experience a combination of media and descriptive writing. But sometimes, you just can’t put into words, the exquisite loveliness that surrounds us…

Dolores Abernathy, Westworld : “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world. The disarray. I choose to see the beauty.”

(More to come on the background of wording of this theme. Stay tuned for “A”)

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Summary: A-Z of Canberra

A summary of my A-Z Challenge posts for 2020, and links to each post, can be found below:

A is for ACT

B is for Breweries

C is for Cycle Paths

D is for Democracy

E is for Enlighten

F is for Floriade

G is for Green Machine

H is for History

I is for Institutions

J is for Jolly Good Food

K is for Kaleidoscope

L is for Lakes

M is for Mountains

N is for Ngunnawal

O is for Offices

P is for Penis Owl

Q is for Questacon

R is for Roundabouts

S is for Suburbs

T is for Telstra Tower

U is for Underrated

V is for Vineyards

W is for Walks

X is for X-Rated

Y is for Y-Number Plates

Z is for Zoom

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Z is for Zoom

Well here we are, the final day of my 2020 A – Z Challenge!

I truly hope you have enjoyed (and been inspired by) my virtual tour of Canberra.

At the moment, travel and tourism is on hold due to COVID-19. But I certainly hope once things are back to “normal” you will get those skates on and ZOOM to visit our national capital!

It’s Australia’s best kept secret. It is so much more than politicians, public servants and porn! It’s a hidden gem and the place I’m proud to call “home”.

To recap (or reread) my A-Z if Canberra, I’ve linked to all my posts for the month of April 2020 HERE.

A – Z of Canberra – Z

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

Y is for Y (Number Plates)

The majority of ACT vehicles receive a standard ‘Y’ series number plate.

However, you can choose a non-standard (personalised) number plate – for an extra cost of course.

Public, government, diplomatic or heavy vehicles have special number plates.

The ‘Y’ number plates are distinctive to the ACT featuring blue lettering on a reflective white background.  The ACT has been using ‘Y’ for number plates since 1948.

This came about when larger states were given a range of letters. For example, New South Wales was allocated AAA-000 to FZZ-999.

The ACT was given a single letter, which explains why number plates starting with the letter Y are so easy to spot.

A few years ago YOB-0 was quite popular because that it spelled out “YOBO”. In case you don’t see the humour here, a little background information…

Yobbo is Australia slang for someone who is uncouth, badly behaved and obnoxious. Loud and drunk are also characteristics.

Yep! Aussie Aussie Aussie!

A – Z Challenge – Y

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

X is for X-Rated

The suburb of Fyshwick is probably Canberra’s most “famous” suburb. Everyone that’s never been to Canberra knows about Fyshwick and once someone finds out you’re from Canberra they will probably ask “Can you still get fireworks and/or porn at Fyshwick?”

Fyshwick is an industrial suburb. Porn, brothels and pyrotechnics gained it its reputation as the sex capital of Australia.

Since the 1980s Canberra has been synonymous with sex in the minds of many Australians. Twenty years have passed since it became legal to sell X-rated videos in the ACT and the adult industry has gone through periods of growth, boom and, pardon the pun, “bust”.

A – Z of Canberra – X

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

W is for Walks

Canberra is basically just one big national park. For walkers, Canberra is truly the “Bush Capital”. In just minutes you can leave the city behind and feel like you’re a million miles away. Bush trails, alluring hills and mountains frame the picture for Canberra’s many many walks.

The choice for wanderers, is HUGE, but never fear, you will find what you’re after in at least one of these 10 tantalising trails.

MT AINSLIE SUMMIT TRAIL (KOKODA TRACK)

A rosy-cheek-producing walk (4.5 kilometres return), that rises up directly behind the Australian War Memorial. There are very steep paths that wind up through shrubby woodland. You can enjoy birdsong as you walk to the summit. At the top, you can enjoy a 270-degree view over the Parliamentary Triangle.

Don’t forget to stop and look around on the way for candid views, plaques commemorating the Kokoda Track and the memorial to Aboriginal soldiers.

ONE TREE HILL

One Tree Hill Lookout is a 90 minute return walk presenting the walker with Brindabella mountain range vistas. It’s remoteness on the Northside is reminiscent of what Canberra’s earliest inhabitants would have experienced, however, the Southside provides a developer’s view with newer suburbs Moncrieff and Taylor creeping closer up the hill. The incline is mostly gentle on the way up, with a steep section toward the end.

JERRABOMBERRA WETLANDS

The wetlands is a secluded slice of nature only 10 minutes’ drive from the city. Five timber bird hideouts help you get intimate with Kellys Swamp’s 200-plus bird species. Wander along the boardwalk, with popping frogs as your soundtrack, on the look-out for eastern long-necked tortoises, while Black Angus cows graze incongruently nearby.

NAMADGI NATIONAL PARK

The 106,000-hectare Namadgi National Park, borders Kosciuszko National Park and is a trekker’s dream daytrip. Taking up almost half the ACT’s land area, it offers a selection of short and long hikes (up to seven-hour treks) through alpine meadows and snow gum forest.

My favourite trails are:

  • Booroomba Rocks (four kilometres return, and STEEP), which provide stunning panoramas of the ACT
  • Yankee Hat Rock Shelter (six kilometres return, two-and-a-half hours) which explores an indigenous rock art site that was the first-ever identified in the ACT. It is protected by the Ngunnawal people – refer to my post “N is for Ngunnawal”)
  • Gibraltar Peak (four hour, moderate to hard trek) where you can expect to see glades interrupted by spiky grass trees, barely babbling creeks, plus impressively expansive views, once you reach the (somewhat phallic) boulders at the summit.
  • Square Rock (8.5 kilometres, 4 hours) where you can explore huge granite boulders, Alpine Ash forests and Snow Gum woodlands. The Square Rock Lookout is around 1400 metres above sea level with stunning views of the Australian bush.

BRIDGE TO BRIDGE

A stroll around the glistening Lake Burley Griffin is always a glorious. This walk takes you 5km around from the Commonwealth Bridge to the Kings Avenue Bridge. Take in the lake views whilst walking by Canberra’s iconic attractions including the National Carillon, National Library, Captain Cook Fountain and more. There are even coffee trucks along the way. It hardly feels like exercise!

MURRUMBIDGEE DISCOVERY TRACK

Taking you around Canberra’s south, this 27km walk takes you via Point Hut Crossing, past Pine Island and Kambah Pool, and finishes at the peaceful Casuarina Sands. Whether you choose to walk a section or walk the entire length, the walk won’t be short of natural riverine, rare plant species, unique rock formations and cascading waters.

HIMALAYAN CEDAR TRAIL

The gorgeous National Arboretum is home to widespread trees, forests and unique plant species. This 2.2km trail starts near Pod Playground, and winds through five forests, past the Wide Brown Land sculpture and onto the majestic Himalayan Cedar Forest. Reward yourself with a picnic at the end with free barbeque facilities. You may like to return the same way or continue onto the Cork Oak Trail.

Walking in Canberra

As with any bushwalk or hike, check weather conditions before you go and let someone know your plans before you leave. There isn’t always mobile reception in the bush, so make sure you’re prepared before setting out.

My husband and I love, and highly recommend, the book “Walking Canberra – 101 Ways To See The Nation’s Capital On Foot.” We are currently working our way through the list to appreciate all the beauty of our nation’s capital.

A – Z Challenge – W

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

V is for Vineyard

Canberra has an established wine growing region, with more than 30 wineries within a 35 minute drive of the city. Our boutique cellar doors offer an opportunity to meet the vignerons, share a yarn and taste the local creations, made with grapes including Riesling, Viognier or Tempranillo. There are also a variety of indulgent dining experiences to match your wines – from fine dining to wood-fired pizzas – plus tours and events. 

Cool climate wines and regional terroir

The district’s vineyards cover a large altitudinal range averaging from 300 to 800 metres. There’s also a distinct variation in temperature, vineyard elevations, and different soil types including granites and volcanics.

These elements, combined with the skills and character of the winemaker, reap varieties in styles such as Sangiovese, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo and include rare varieties like Gruner Veltliner.

The ability to ripen the same fruit across the whole region provides great diversity within styles – so you may need to taste them all!

Arrive during harvest time so you can celebrate the joys of the humble grape at the Canberra District Wine Harvest Festival. 

Canberra’s Top Five Wineries (in my opinion!)

1. MOUNT MAJURA VINEYARD

Mount Majura Vineyard lies near the top of the Majura Valley, just outside Canberra. Every Mount Majura Vineyard wine always has been, and always will be, made exclusively from their single vineyard.

Friendly and knowledgeable Cellar Door staff invite you to relax and enjoy a seated tasting. Taste as many or as few wines as you like. With an extensive range, from sparkling wine and dry whites, to reds and sweet wines, there is something for everyone. With a number of wines to taste side-by-side, it’s a great educational experience for everyone from the wine novice to the serious connoisseur.

Tastings cost $10 per person with an additional charge of $5 if you wish to taste the single-site Tempranillo wines. Tasting fees are waived on purchase of wine. Cheese plates and regional tasting plates are available for purchase.

2. GUNDOG ESTATE

Gundog Estate is a James Halliday-rated five red star boutique winery offering a wide range of premium wines. This includes a Cabernet-based Rosé, Shiraz and Riesling from the Canberra District, Hunter Valley Semillon and Shiraz and Hilltops Shiraz.

Set in old 19th century stables in the Gundaroo village, the Cork St Cellar offers cheese and charcuterie plates, coffee, and gourmet pantry items featuring local produce.

3. CLONAKILLA

Established in 1971 this vineyard is celebrated as one of the best, most iconic in the country. Murrumbateman and Shiraz are one of those rare combinations in the world of wine that can produce something truly exciting.

4. HELM WINES

Ken Helm is a 4th generation descendant of German vignerons who planted vines in Albury/ Rutherglen in 1850s. Helm Wines of Murrumbateman, established by Ken and Judith Helm in 1973, are pioneers of the Canberra District, specialising in Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wines have a long reputation for quality and consistency. The winery enjoys a five red star rating by James Halliday and in Huon Hooke’s 2018 Top Wineries of Australia. The Cellar Door is the heritage listed 1888 Toual School House, which has been faithfully restored.

5. LERIDA ESTATE

You can find Lerida Estate at the foothills of the Cullerin Range, a short 30 min drive from Canberra. They produce a range of exceptional, unique, cool climate wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Riesling and more!

Enjoy a tasting in at the beautiful cellar door, or stop for a meal in their award winning restaurant. This winery also offers magnificent sweeping views over the mysterious Lake George.

Liquid Geography Map

The Canberra District Wine Industry Association has created a website where you can plan your wineries trip, as well as a downloadable PDF Map.

  • Click HERE to access the website.

OR

  • Download the map HERE.

A – Z Challenge – V

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

U is for Underrated

Canberra is arguably, Australia’s most underrated city! If anything is gained from this year’s A-Z of Canberra, it is hopefully the realisation of this fact.

It’s time that Australians stopped rolling their eyes at the mere mention of the nation’s capital; and time that international visitors made a bee-line to Canberra instead of Sydney or Melbourne.

Far from it’s unfair reputation of being just a city of roundabouts, freezing weather and politicians, the nation’s capital offers game-changing hotels, a plethora of funky bars, cafes and restaurants, and an extensive menu of cultural and leisure activities.

Canberra is easy to get around, has minimal peak hour, lots of places to see and things to do, capped off with a heap of wide open spaces.

Here is my Top 5 things that Canberra gets right…

1. Wine. All the wine.

There are more than 30 cellar doors within a 35-minute drive of Canberra. One of them, Mount Majura Vineyard, is located within the ACT, just 15 minutes from the Parliament House. That’s a win, right there.

2. The weather is actually fantastic.

Yes, it gets a little chilly in winter, but Canberra is also Australia’s third sunniest city – sorry, Sydney and Melbourne.

In summer, Canberrans (is that a word?) get to enjoy long, hot days with low humidity (ie no hair frizz) and during spring and autumn nature turns it on, with pretty blooms and colourful leaves everywhere.

3. One word: Floriade.

Floriade is Australia’s biggest celebration of spring. Every year, more than one million flowers are planted in 13 (massive) flower beds for the festival, which runs from mid-September until mid-October. There’s great food, drinks and activities to keep everyone occupied and entertained and then, there’s Floriade NightFest. Refer to my post “F is for Floriade“.

4. Canberra can rock a festival.

Canberra has an annual hot air balloon festival. I’ll repeat that – they have a festival entirely dedicated to hot air balloons. How is that not worth a visit? The Canberra Balloon Spectacular is held in March and it is, indeed, spectacular.

There’s also Enlighten, which is Canberra’s answer to Vivid and sees the city lit up for 10 nights in autumn, while Skyfire is an annual March fireworks show held over Lake Burley Griffin. Refer to my post “E is for Enlighten“.

5. The classic attractions.

Questacon. Parliament House. Cockington Green. The Australian War Memorial. Yes, you probably saw them as a kid on a school excursion, but you’ll see them in a whole new light when you come back as an adult…

And if all of the above, fails to sway you that Canberra deserves to be on your radar as a must see destination, you can also sleep with lions. Really.

Canberra is the only place in Australia where you can sleep next to a tiger, lion or bear (with just a glass wall separating you). If animals are your thing, book a sleepover with a difference at Jamala Wildlife Lodge within the National Zoo and Aquarium.

A-Z Challenge – U

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

T is for Telstra Tower

Telstra Tower is Canberra’s iconic telecommunication tower rising 195.2 meters above the summit of Black Mountain.

It is not only a landmark and one of Canberra’s most visited tourist destinations but also offers 360 degree panoramic views of Canberra and its surrounding countryside. You can take in the spectacular scenery from an indoor observation deck, and two outdoor viewing platforms.

The tower was primarily built telecommunications purposes and has extensive facilities of this nature on the tower. However, it also has a café and Conference Centre offering spectacular outlooks.

The lower level of the Tower’s entrance foyer, houses the Telstra Heritage Exhibition which traces the history of Australian telecommunications as well as a theatre showcasing a video, produced shortly after the Tower opened in 1980 on the tower’s design and construction. Click HERE for the link.

The Tower has won two awards for outstanding design. The first was in 1979 when the Tower was nearing completion, for imaginative and effective use of concrete in a building. The second award was in 1980 where it won the Civic Design Award of the ACT Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

This is another MUST see on your Canberra itinerary. It gives you a sense of the space and design of the city as well as a definite understanding of the nickname, “bush capital. I like to think of it as a sentinel – no matter where you are in Canberra, it can be seen, watching over you!

From the base of the tower
View of Canberra from the outside viewing platform

Telecommunications facilities

View from afar
Panoramic views from the tower

A-Z Challenge – T

A-Z Challenge, Challenges by Sarah

S is for Suburbs

The suburbs of Canberra are organised into a hierarchy of districts, town centres, suburbs, industrial areas and villages.

While these divisions have no formal role in the governance or administration of the city, they formed a basis for the planning and development of Canberra and are significant to its commercial and social activities.

Canberra’s residential districts were developed with the intention of being semi-self-contained satellite towns with a population of about 80,000 people. The districts contain town centres which serve as commercial, transport and employment nodes. Each district is separated by nature reserves.

There are seven major districts in Canberra, with each divided into an average of eighteen suburbs.

In 1927, Canberra established the National Memorials Committee to deal with the character and location of national memorials and the nomenclature of divisions of and public places in the Australian Capital Territory. The original plan of Canberra contained a number of local names and others which had already been applied.

The Committee adopted a unique scheme of nomenclature for suburbs, and decided to group together themes of (for example) governors, statesmen, explorers, navigators, scientists and others significant names that represent the patriotism and flavour of Australian history.

As such, each Canberra suburb is named after a significant person, with street names following the theme of that person. For example, my suburb of Moncrieff is named after Gladys Moncrieff, a famous Australian musician; therefore all street names are Australian music related.

I find this to be a quirky and novel way of naming suburbs and streets and am a huge fan of it! Certainly more original than Melbourne or Sydney who just “borrowed” from England…

Here is a list of each suburb in Canberra and it’s relevant street “theme”.

Source: ACT Archives

A-Z Challenge – S