As I flew north to a new life last Saturday, the jet passed through the smoke plumes from a number of fires engulfing the bush of the Great Dividing Range—a different view on a scene typical for a late Australian summer. In no time at all (well, 40 minutes), I was in Canberra, and soon landed at the Canberra Rex Hotel. But before I tell you about the Rex, I need to explain how I ended up there.
The share house I was to move into wouldn’t be ready for a week, as the rapid succession of events that led me to Canberra in the first place meant any long term accommodation I could find was still occupied for at least a week or two after I started in my new job. I flew up to Canberra a little over a week ago, hired a car, and criss-crossed the city to view the various rental properties and share houses open for inspection. So despite having found a place, in the time between me arriving in Canberra and taking up occupancy in the new house, I had to reside in a hotel.
Perhaps it has something to do with my farming heritage, but because I was paying for the hotel room from my own pocket, I went for something as moderate in price as I could possibly find that wouldn’t also mean me hiking in from the suburbs every day. The thing about Canberra is that whenever federal parliament is sitting, all the decent inner city accommodation is pretty much booked out, leaving only the “B-grade” accommodation options, or the option of changing from one hotel to another every couple of days. The Rex is relatively central, and available for the full week I’ll need it. On the website it sounded okay, but as I was to learn on my arrival, the Rex comes with a reputation.
For its age, I guess the old building is holding up pretty well—it was, after all, built in the 1950’s or 1960’s. Numerous refurbishments include mirrors on the ceilings in all the corridors (though thankfully not the room, that would be just too freaky), and the rooms themselves have an ambience that screams “white trash honeymoon”.
The wall above the bed has a brown scorch mark on it that suggests either someone has been the victim of a party trick involving a cigarette lighter gone wrong, or possibly the room has at one point, been the setting for the type of movies for which Canberra is famous in Australia.
But still, the staff here do the best they can with what they have. It was good to have a free cooked breakfast each morning (and a good one at that), and at the end of the day come back from work to find the bed made, fresh towels (on most days), and a stock of biscuits and refreshments that disappear depressingly quickly each evening.
Canberra is a bit of an odd place, and I can understand why so many people talk it down. It seems, for the most part like an abandoned city, where numerous monuments to war and government intermingled with stark (and unwelcoming) concrete office buildings, rise unexpectedly from thick bush. There’s no real centre per se, more a collection of small buildings insufficient to form anything resembling a skyline, placed in a semi-organised circle. I’m hopeful that once I get to see some more of it my perspective will change, but for now it’s all just a little strange.
Not being able to cook for myself has been a major drawback, and despite the novelty value of the hotel, I am already looking forward to being able to move out on Sunday, and into something more permanent.