Sake to me Baby – Japan Day One

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It was so emotionally hard to leave Canada.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to family even though we know we will be back.

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We got into Vancouver quite early and had about five hours to kill before our next leg to Tokyo.

I had to share this pic that I took from the first leg of our flight. Yeah, that jacket shouldn’t be a problem to anyone at all shouldn’t it?

Luckily one of the cabin crew told her to take it down a  short while later.

We had a pretty good flight – no complaints. Got a great breakfast at Vancouver Airport. So good I had to share pics.

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Oh and the airport itself is huge and has lots to look at including these colourful fishies.
We should know, we’ve spent over ten hours  at Vancouver airport in the last few weeks.

 


I don’t think it really hit me that we were flying into Japan until we touched down! I hadn’t even really been thinking about this portion of our vacation time.

IMG_0396I was going through the Japanese phrases I know and I’m completely fluent in Hello, thank you, excuse me AND water. If the situation I’m in calls for more conversation than that, I may be in trouble.

The train trip from Narita airport took just over an hour.

The man sitting next to me must have had some sort of OCD as he was always opening and closing his luggage.

I saw tons of things I could have photographed while we were on the train but I felt like it could have stressed the OCD man out so I didn’t take many.

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I did manage to snap one of their well designed “stack em on top of each other” type car parks.

It’s pretty common here seeing as they’re space poor.

We found our apartment very easily and went straight on in. It’s very hard to describe it. Its certainly one of the roomiest (in terms of floor space) we’ve had in our many trips here but also one of the oldest.  As space is always an issue, we’re used to things being tight and awkward but this one definitely wins the prize. Although it’s roomy, the appliances are all shoved awkwardly into one small space.
I don’t want to say anything negative. It’s certainly clean. And some people don’t mind not shutting the bathroom door so if there’s not enough room for you to sit on the throne AND shut the door at the same time, it’s not a big deal is it? Hubby and I like to keep a little mystery in our marriage so we’re definitely going to have to work out a system there.

First thing to do was go shopping for some basics. As soon as I entered the supermarket I saw this.

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I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing.

We had to get milk as well. I’ve explained before how difficult it is because although we have that fab vocabulary of four words, we don’t read Japanese. So how do we know we’ve bought regular milk for coffee?? Is it Soy? Skim? Almond? We just wanted regular milk! I haven’t tried it yet so hopefully what we bought is ok.

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And speaking about buying things I have no clue about, I bought this drink (bottom left) because it was zero calories. I don’t know what it tastes like and I say that AFTER I’ve had some.
Have I told you before how difficult it is to buy diet lemonade here?? So this will have to do.

We didn’t buy sugar because finding it seemed to be an issue again and we were too tired to keep trying. Looks like we’ll be having sugarless coffees in our apartment.

We also bought our regular Milk Tea because, well, we are in Japan.

 


I’m pretty sure I’ve been up over 24 hours now so it’s time for this tired girl to get some shut eye.
Oh, I haven’t mentioned that this apartment, bigger floor space than most, doesn’t have one double bed, it has two beds that are slightly smaller than a double. So instead of putting a nice sized bed in the bedroom and allow for food traffic, somewhere to put your luggage etc, they took up the whole floor area with two beds. Hubby (all six foot seven of him) and I are going to try to sleep in one bed. This can only end badly!!!

So Sumimasen if I say Konichiwa.  By the way, do you know where I can get some mizu? Arigatō (gozaimasu)

 

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Dubai or Don’t I – Prelude

dubai-skyline-at-dusk-jpg_header-144981Surprised? I know I was! Hubby and I had a week or so of leave so we decided to plan a five day break to Dubai.
I’ve been both excited and apprehensive since.

Have you ever googled “what should I know before I visit Dubai?”

You’ll find lots of advice, mostly relating to how to dress and how to act. Mostly tourists will be OK as long as your shoulders and knees are covered. You can wear regular swimsuits in your hotel or resort pool area.
I remember doing this in DoHa but I felt completely weirded out because there were local workers around and I don’t know, it just felt weird.
Public displays of affection are a no-no. You can be sent to prison for that. Aggressive behaviour could also get you into trouble.
If I return without hubby you’ll know why.

No drinking sign, No alcohol sign, isolated on white background, vector illustration.You’ll also find out that alcohol is not readily available. If you’re staying at a four star hotel and above, you will find it in the restaurants, but if you think you can just walk to the nearest bottle-o and pick up a bottle or two of red, you’ll be disappointed.
To purchase alcohol at a store, both residents and tourists require a license however you can get it in the duty free stores at the airport and take it back to your room.
Guess what this thirsty girl is going to be doing.

dubaimeme13One thing we have going for us is that at this time of year, we should expect temperatures to be about 24-25 degrees Celsius. I can live with that!
And the minimums are 17-18 degrees Celsius so guess I’ll need a jacket after all.

I can’t help thinking about what it was like when we were in DoHa, but that was a completely different time of year. Average temperatures at that time were 44 degrees Celsius. It was like we were in a ghost town! Nobody was out on the streets.

dubai-4-700xIn preparation, I’ve also been watching a heck of a lot of YouTube clips. Some of them are professionally done, and some are just travellers sharing their experience. I saw one clip, where a guy filmed while walking through the Dubai Mall food Court. I think that was when I said “oh my god yes I want to go there”.
So many food chains!! How am I going to try them all!!!

Our hotel is about eight kilometres from The Dubai Mall. I checked the public transport routes and while it’s very cheap to use public transport, google maps tells me it’s going to take one hour to go those eight kilometres. ONE HOUR!!!! We may as well walk it!!!
Although I did see a YouTube clip of one guy who said he was 700 metres away from it but it was not possible to walk there so he had to take a taxi.

So many things to learn about. I’m researching pocket wifi right now, trying not to think about the Qantas drama from yesterday when a plane dropped so many hundreds of metres in seconds and made an emergency landing in Melbourne.

HinaKhanSo for now I’ll get back to my preparations. Our flight leaves at 10pm tonight and I’m overdosing on melatonin and hoping to get some good rest in.

My next post will be in a foreign and relatively alcohol, shoulder and knee exposure free land.

What do you think about my travelling dress? Knees and shoulders are covered so all good right?

Wadaeaan my readers!

Girls Gone Mild – Day Five

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Today is our last day. I got up early to hit the gym again.

Every morning I’ve been, I haven’t seen anyone else in that gym.

It’s nice having the whole area to yourself.
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This morning however, someone else came in and it was still very early. 4am to be precise.  I wondered what the hell someone else was doing in the gym that early on a Sunday morning!

Then ten minutes later, someone else came in! A girl who was doing some stretching and yoga. A few minutes after that, two more people put their heads in.

This was all before 5am on a Sunday morning!
I was going to let myself go  easy and walk more than run however with other people in the gym, it forced me to run more because, well that’s just what we do right?

b4784d4f53d6fd5bb580055961ab52bc--fitness-gym-fitness-humorMy sister came in very early also and when we were leaving (about 6.30am) we saw there were people in the games room playing table tennis!!! What is going on! Why were all these people up so early on a Sunday morning!

If I’d known I’d be encountering other humans, I wouldn’t have let myself be so scary looking and actually attempted  to look vaguely alive.

Have to say, the facilities in this place have been pretty good!

As we weren’t able to store our luggage in the building we were staying at, we didn’t leave our room until just before check out time. I mean who wants to walk all over the place with heavy luggage?
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We thought we’d go to Victoria Markets again just to kill a bit of time and perhaps snap up a bargain.

You don’t realise how difficult it is to pull a heavy luggage bag until you have to do it up and down crowded aisle ways.

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It’s even more difficult when you’re a party of five and trying to somewhat stay together.


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In any case, after buying a few more trinkets, including a pair of earrings that the shop owner assured me would not go green if worn in the shower.

We shall see about that!

We stopped to get coffee in a nearby foodcourt and I saw this…

You probably can’t read the sign above the piano but it says “play me”

I wasn’t going to but I heard a couple of others tinker and realised I wasn’t going to be worse than they were so I got up to play also.

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What I didn’t see was the woman at a table behind me who had her fingers in her ears!

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Ah well, can’t please everyone!

IMG_8179Time to leave the market…

Have to share this funny sign we saw along the way to the bus station.

Not sure if it was just because we were tired but it made us chuckle!

We were hoping to leave our luggage in a locker at the bus station but unfortunately, they were mostly all taken! So again, we were faced with the prospect of trailing them behind us.

Luckily, we saw the outlet store about the bus station and the foodcourt there had lots of comfy seating so we took it in turns to mind the bags while the others shopped.

After some more successful shopping (No photo, but I got a jacket from Jacquie E that was original $249 for $34.95!!!!) we hopped on the skybus back to the airport.

My daughter and I were on a different flight to the rest of our party so we had to separate at that point. It was sad, especially after spending so much time together.

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But we made up for it by sending photos and messages while we were waiting for our planes to leave.

As my sister, mother and sister-in-law had more time, they went to  a wine tasting that was set up in the airport.

They drank their samples and then the guy asked my mum where she normally buys her wine.
I’m pretty sure he meant what winery she was partial to.
She replied “Liquorland”

Ah, I wish I’d been there!

On our flight we were given snacks.
IMG_8183I saw the cabin crew coming down the aisle and I thought she said “Cheesecake” as she handed another passenger a box.

“Cheesecake!!” I said excitedly to my daughter. “We’re going to get cheesecake!”

But no, I was wrong, it was cheese and crackers.
Can you imagine the disappointment.

So I sent the picture of our cheese and crackers to the girls on the other flight.

They sent a picture of their “cheese and crackers”

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And yes they definitely win!!!

My mum had these taralli with her AND some cheese that had been left over from our trip.

Throughout the whole time away, no matter how obscure, if I asked my mum if she had something, the answer was always yes.

“Do you have some sharp nail scissors?”
“Do you have some water?”
“Do you have tissues? No, the wet kind… like you get from KFC?”

There’s loads more but I just can’t think of it right now. She came prepared! And we loved her all the more for it.

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They sent us this photo and I took one of my daughter and I to send back but I was making a face in that one that is definitely not fit for public viewing so it didn’t make it to the blog.

We had a great time being silly together and I’m grateful to have such a loving, close family.

I was also very excited to see hubby who was waiting for us as we arrived.

And now I don’t want to think about anything else but my bed!

 

Stuck in the Middle – Day Three

Our last day away and I can assure you, there will be no “surprises” after today. The next bed I’m going to sleep in will be my own!

I wanted to share another photo from last night. This was taken from the top of our hotel.

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Very nice views from up there!

Oh and a few other things from yesterday, we were talking to one of the servers in the restaurant here about the weather. He was saying they get temperatures of 50-55 degrees Celsius in the Summer!!! Then he added “It’s not too bad now, 42/43”
What?? That’s crazy! Who could ever say that 42/43 Celsius is not too bad!

And we asked our driver yesterday what the haze over the city was. Was it smog? Sand? He said no, they don’t really get sandstorms here. He thought it might be “something from the sea” which sounded pretty vague. I had a quick google and found out that DoHa is one of the most polluted cities in the world. This was one site I clicked on
http://aqicn.org/country/qatar/

Some other observations, even though everyone says there is no dress code for Westerners, I felt uncomfortable as a woman. Sometimes I think they say what they hope to be true, rather than what is true.
I was mostly covered up while I was here but you’re walking among people who are really covered up, and being white and blonde, I felt like I stuck out even more.
Just knowing people usually dress a different way made me feel uncomfortable. I know I’m not articulating this correctly and this is no reflection on the people here, everyone we interacted with was very nice but some of the looks we got made me uncomfortable at times.

Oh and there is a metal detector at the entrance of our hotel. Every time we have to go in or out, we need to go through it.

This morning we had breakfast at our hotel restaurant again and this time I took a few pictures.

 


We found out that there is a man there cooking up eggs the way you want them as you order them. They were so nice! I felt like we were eating so much and that everyone was looking at the gluttonous westerners. We wanted to make it last though as we weren’t eating again until late afternoon at the airport.

Everyone has been recommending the Museum of Islamic Art and it’s free and very close to our hotel so we went there this morning. You need to walk through a security scanning thing similar to what is at the airport to enter.
Again, no one on the streets!! Just a few workers as we approached the building.
The building itself is quite impressive!

 


Equally impressive inside.

 

 

They brought out these little sesame seed biscuit things with the coffee. They were so good!!

I took a few pictures of some of the exhibits inside. Not sure you can read the sign explaining what the exhibit is.

 

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Our shuttle back to the airport is booked for 3pm and as it’s too hot to do anything, we went back to the hotel and relaxed.

 


Our flight was not until 8pm though so we had a lot of time at the airport to wander around and see what’s here.
Again, this is an impressive building. It just seems like they’ve got money to throw around here at anything!

And I finally got to take a picture of the teddy bear! I think that’s what it is.It’s not the only large thing here either.

 

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I also took a pic while we were in the shuttle.

I realised later it didn’t take us very far and we could have easily walked it.

 

I just wanted to share a few more pictures from our plane. We were able to view outside of it via some camera and it made for some pretty interesting viewing during the landing!


That brings this vacation to an end.

Thank you for reading about our adventures and I welcome any comments you may have.

Kalinychta

Buona Notte

Tusbih ealaa khayr

Roman Around – Day One

Surprise! We’re in Rome!!

I woke up with mixed feelings. Sad to be leaving Greece but also excited for what lay ahead. I’ve been to Italy before but it was too many years ago and hubby has never been at all so this was going to be something new for both of us.

It was sad to leave the rest of our travelling buddies who were going back home today. After being with the group for so long, it a little strange to just be on our own. I kept thinking we were missing somebody.

When the group got to Athens airport we saw that we were departing from different gates and had to go through different security screening areas. We asked the security officer if the gates meet up on the other side as we wanted to know whether we were saying goodbye now or if we would have more time together.
The guard said in a heavy accent “No, it separate. Say bye-bye here”
It was just cute.

The goodbye was too quick and too sad…

The flight from Athens to Rome was only 2 hours and it seemed to go fairly quickly. I had last minute anxiety about speaking Italian so was reading the Italian inflight magazine for most of those two hours in the hope it could increase my vocabulary.

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Hubby and I had researched it and decided we would take the bus to our apartment which is pretty close to the train terminal in Rome.
I tried to take some pictures as it drove along but that never works.

Some of the streets were so pretty with green trees shading us but the buildings are all full of graffiti! We saw the same thing in Greece. What is it with these places and graffiti!

We kept driving and then… out of nowhere, out jumped the colosseum!! I think the whole bus exclaimed at the same time!


It looked pretty impressive. I’ve seen it before but it was still a thrill.

Our apartment is just a short walk away from here and we just fell in love with the building as soon as we saw it!! I was so happy that it was as nice as the pictures we’d seen online. Maybe even better than the pictures.


The picture top right is the ceiling in our apartment. It’s curved like that. Looks pretty good! And the ceilings are so high! It feels like were in a palace. I love this place!!

We were going to rest and take it easy but got caught up in the atmosphere and immediately went out exploring. I snapped at things without knowing what they were. Tomorrow is the “proper” sight seeing day. This was just a bonus walk.

We stopped for some dinner. We really wanted authentic pizza but not sure we got that. The place was ok but not amazing.
We also ordered a bottle of wine for both of us. Although I drink often, I don’t drink a lot and a whole bottle between two… well I can tell you my Italian was flowing after that.

The first picture above is the restaurant we stopped at, the second is our wine, third our meals (pizza and calzone) and last is the complimentary limoncello the owner brought out! How nice was that!
We passed a million tourist shops and lots of them sell these things. I haven’t gone in to see what’s in them, but I’ll just leave the picture here for you to see. Try explaining that one to your kids.

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Without looking for it, we came upon Fontana di Trevi,


It was pretty impressive. Much more than I remember when I was here last.

We are going to go to these sights again so we didn’t linger. In any case, it was absolutely littered with people. We were here in the evening and I’m sure there’s people here all day long but probably especially busy at night.

pain_web_1280x720.jpgI accidentally dropped my phone on a young girls head while trying to take an overhead shot of the fountain.
I still feel bad about that but it probably would have been a little funny watching it as an onlooker.

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I joked to hubby that if we kept going the way we were, we would see all the ancient sights before we even had our first night’s sleep!

We passed by the Pantheon and again, that was quite by accident.

We saw a sign for Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and decided that would be our last stop before heading back.
It was starting to get dark so I couldn’t take many photos. I was telling hubby how when I was here last there were vendors selling chestnuts at the bottom of the steps and they’re still there! You might see some chestnuts in the picture on the right.


Very weary but I want to show you the fabulous parking that people do here. Why stick to one direction when you have one of these cars?

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Backwards, sideways, parallel. It all works!

Arriverderci readers!