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Canberra: Low on Spontaneity with a Sterile Exterior?

One of the world’s most popular travel guides has praised Canberra’s established museums and galleries but failed to draw international attention to some of the city’s more dramatic cultural developments of recent years.

The Lonely Planet guide to Eastern Australia, which will land in most book stores by the end of the week, described Canberra as “big on architectural symbolism and low on spontaneity” but stressed there was a lot going on behind a slightly “sterile exterior”.

Unsurprisingly, the guide deservedly praises our national galleries and museums but seemingly skips over the recent development of the Kingston Foreshore district, the cultural hub of Lonsdale Street in Braddon, or the significance of the award winning New Acton Precinct.

The guide, which was written and researched by four writers, makes no mention of the “hipster underbelly” celebrated by the New York Times in June, yet does offer its own version of a long weekend itinerary. After highlighting the usual suspects, the four writers suggest a snack at the Silo Bakery in Kingston, some high tea at the Hyatt, a meal at Italian and Sons in Braddon, and a film at the National Film and Sound Archive. Silo owner Leanne Gray, whose bakery was mentioned by the New York Times, said the inclusion was an honour that her team didn’t take for granted and a recgonition of their hard work.

But Ms Gray said those visiting the capital should pay special attention to recent changes at New Acton, in Braddon, and on the Kingston foreshore and not just the predictable tourist attractions. “The Hotel Hotel complex is mind bogglingly fantastic and that’s really what people want to see – the stuff that stands up internationally,” she said. “Everything that’s going on at New Acton is absolutely lovely as well as Lonsdale Street and the Kingston foreshore.”

Part owner of Italian and Sons Pasquale Trimboli said being mentioned in the guide was not something to shrug his shoulders at and was important exposure for the Canberra dining industry. “Overall we’re seeing a big rush of new restaurants and that’s great news for the city,” he said. “There are some great new additions to the dining scene that are finding their feet in this city and Lonsdale Street in Braddon is becoming a fantastic dining street,” he said.

The guides makes reference to some Canberra classics like the Phoenix, Knightsbridge and Tosolini’s but makes no mention of Hotel Hotel, the revamped of the QT Hotel, or Lonsdale Street Traders and Roasters.

Canberra CBD Limited chief executive Jane Easthope said it was disappointing many people continued to see Canberra as a 1980s stereotype and called on people to share their positive experiences in the capital. “Let’s invite Lonely Planet over for dinner and take them out to all these fabulous places and let them talk to these people who now after the centenary are quite proud to live in Canberra,” she said.

“People get it now and are coming here because it’s interesting; it’s quirky, and it’s different”.

But Canberra’s notorious roo problems didn’t escape the attention of Lonely Planet scribes, who warned doe-eyed tourists of the annual roo cull and accidents involving Australia’s “most recognisable national symbol”.