Sake to me Baby – Japan Day Nine

cant-drown-if-you-dont-swim.jpgToday I was coming back to our apartment after an early morning walk and was waiting for the pedestrian light to change green when an older Japanese man came up to me.
“American?” he said with a thick accent. “No Australian” I said.
All of a sudden his eyes lit up and he started saying “Australian, swimming, swimming” and he was doing a swimming action with his hands. He was so cute! He ran back to his friends, pointed to me and was saying “Australia, swimming” to them.
I’m assuming it was all complimentary and I hope he didn’t think I personally was a swimmer (because I can barely float let alone move in the water) although I’m happy to take whatever adulation he felt on behalf of my country.

31zftk.jpgThis morning we went to Shin Osaka station to find out about tickets for the Shinkansen (The bullet train).
We wanted to go to Hiroshima and found prices around 9710 yen to get there by bullet train. That works out to be about $128 AUD. Hubby thought that was a round trip ticket but turns out, that was a one way ride. When the lady put the sale through for the two of us, the price was 38840 yen. That works out to be about $512 AUD. For some reason, hubby looked at the price wrong and thought he was being charged 3840 yen which would only be about $50 AUD. We’re walking away and he’s grinning to himself and all I can think is shit, that’s a lot of money for a trip to Hiroshima.

When I said “Did you know it was going to be that much?” he replied “What do you mean? it’s way cheaper than I thought”.
“Over $500 is cheaper???”

And then the penny dropped for him. He went to another Shinkansen ticket office and the lady was kind but explained that was the cheapest price. We left and were walking down the station corridor with everyone else. We were about 400 metres away when we hear someone trying to get our attention and it was the lady from the ticket office. She brought us back into the store and said we could purchase a JR pass which would be way cheaper (available for tourists) and we could use it on other JR lines.
How stupid are we. Our fifth time in Japan and we’re only just finding out about the JR pass.
Anyway how nice was that lady? To come after us and hunt us down like that! So sweet.

So she refunded the original tickets and got us the pass for 29000 yen or about $380 AUD. We can use that ticket for the rest of our time here in Osaka on any JR line including the bullet train so guess what we will be doing over the next few days…


I could not believe how fast that train went!!! We had barely blinked and we were already in Kobe.

IMG_0878It actually took just under 90 minutes to get to Hiroshima. Our passes allowed us to get on the red sight seeing busses so we hopped on one and went right to Peace Memorial Park.

The first thing we saw was the Atomic Bomb Dome.
I could go into all the history but I’ll be way over my word limit. I DO encourage you all to learn about the history if you don’t already know.
It was a very sombre experience. Hubby and I mostly didn’t even talk. We were very emotional.

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We then moved through the grounds to the museum.


Some of the scenes in the Museum we really very graphic. There were tons of groups of school kids going through and I wondered whether they should be looking at what was being shown.

We went back past Hiroshima Castle and here’s a few pics of that. Our mood was still really heavy.

It didn’t help our mood that it was now almost 4pm and we still hadn’t eaten lunch.
We walked up and down malls and nothing much caught our eye. There seems to be less English here I thought.
Finally we saw a Saizeriya restaurant. This is supposed to be an Italian restaurant and is a fairly large chain in Japan. Hubby didn’t even want me to write that we ate here because it’s cheap and nasty and gives small serves. It’s not really “italian” either.
For some reason I like it. I love their Doria dish.
We ordered a few little things and needless to say, hubby was more than disappointed when it came out.


If we’re arguing over where to eat next time, I don’t think I’m going to win it.

And after a little more shopping and sight seeing, it was time to get back on the bullet train for Osaka.


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Oh before I finish I want to show you a pic of how big the alcohol bottles can be here! And I think these were only about $20 AUD each!

That just doesn’t sound right to me so I’m not sure about that.

downloadI also had a can of Asahi Beer today! I’m not a beer drinker but I do find this one pretty refreshing.

Lastly, it’s now a very sensitive subject, but I know you’re wondering. Yes, the television is still on mute.

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Oyasuminasai and sweet, silent dreams!

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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!

Roman Around – Day Three

We wanted today to be a relaxing day. We just wanted to walk around, do a bit of shopping, take a few pictures and to see what happens.

First thing we did was go to the supermarket where I spoke to the guy behind the counter. I’m just so proud of myself whenever I do that! It’s only because I don’t expect to be able to speak but when I’m there, it comes natural. They don’t even ask me where I’m from or anything like that. It makes me feel like a local.

I had read a bit about Villa Borghese so we were sort of making our way towards that.
We were walking on Via delle Quattro Fontane and found ourselves at the intersection where the four fountains were!
I took pictures of the fountains – some were taken from across the road so not that great but still a cute little intersection.


We didn’t really have breakfast because hubby wanted to get some pizza like we had yesterday. Yesterday we saw these particular types of pizza places all over. Today, for some reason, we couldn’t find them.
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As we walked around looking for this special type of elusive pizza place, we stopped at different sights.

I could not believe we were taking so much time to look for pizza in Rome. I don’t blame Rome, I blame hubby who passed quite a few places that were “not right”. He could have had pizza if he wanted.

We were walking for about an hour when we got to the top of the Spanish Steps and decided to explore the church that is there.

There was a guard up there refusing entry to anyone who had exposed shoulders/arms or legs (Wearing shorts) About half of the people trying to enter were turned away.

I took a few pics inside.


It was very quiet in there. People were respectful of their surroundings. I had spent a bit of time by myself taking photos and looking at it all and realised hubby wasn’t with me. When I was done, I looked around for him and saw him sitting quietly in one of the pews. I motioned that I was ready and he got up and we went out.
When we were out I said “Were you there all that time? What were you doing?”
Without missing a beat he replies “I was praying for pizza”

Alas, that prayer took a little time to be answered.

Took a few pics of the Spanish Steps during the day this time.

We walked and walked without any direction. Passed lots of places selling foccacia…

We eventually found ourselves in Piazzo del Popolo. The Piazza del Popolo (the People’s Square) is located inside the northern gate of the city, which was once called Porta Flaminia. The square is situated at the beginning of Via Flaminia and was the main entrance to the city during the Roman Empire.


There is a Leonardo Da Vinci Museum there and we were going to go in but when we went to buy the tickets, it was SO stifling hot and humid in there we couldn’t stay!!! What a shame.

Shortly after, a miracle occurred. We saw a place that had pizza that hubby wanted to eat.
I hear the angels singing as I write this.

I spoke Italian to the guy behind the counter like a champ and ordered us some pizza slices. They charge by weight so you just tell them how much you want and then they cut and weigh it.
I took some pics through their display windows.


It was REALLY good. I think they fry the base or something. It was really crunchy and the one we had was filled with prosciutto. YUM!!

With our hunger satiated we were able to think clearly and we moved on to Villa Borghese.
It was an interesting little place! There’s statues of lots of famous people. The one to the right is Victor Hugo.

Lots of people were getting around on bikes and carts which you can hire relatively cheaply.
Here’s a few more pics from inside.

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There’s nice views of Rome from the top. It was really peaceful up there and if you find yourself in Rome and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist spots, I recommend you come here.

We were tiring by now.

Looking for the perfect pizza place will do that to you.

We just walked and surprisingly, we found ourselves at the Vatican again.
Although we didn’t have a plan, that wasn’t the direction we would have chosen so we changed direction and before we knew it, we were at Piazza Navona.
At least I think that’s where this is.

 


Very pretty place!! Probably more so if you’re not sun struck and tired.

Hubby and I wanted to try some authentic Italian Limoncello so we went into some place that advertised a 500 ml bottle for 5.20 Euro or something like that. When I paid for it, it was 7.20… damn those people who scam tourists!!! In any case, it was still a good price and as I write this, I’m quite a few shots in so I really don’t mind!!!

We’re full up on Limoncello, cheese, proscuitto, salami and bread. Not sure we’re going anywhere for the next few hours!

When we eventually woke from our gastronomic stupor, we wandered back out for some good authentic food. Everyone here beckons you to come in. It’s hard to say no. We went into one place and didn’t really like the menu so after being sat down, we got up and said we were looking for something else.

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We walked past this one place close to our apartment and liked the look of what we saw on other people’s plates so stopped in.

It’s getting quite addictive for me to speak Italian to the servers or really, anyone else!
I’m just so darn proud of myself. (Yes I’ve said that more than once)

I was pretty happy with my pasta! I just wanted a simple meal with a beautiful, flavourful tomato sauce and I got that.
Hubby’s pizza was also good. I can’t remember the pizza’s all having a thin crust when I was here last but they are all like that. Super thin!

Water in restaurants is relatively expensive. We paid 3 Euro for some table water.
Public washrooms are something else that mostly aren’t free. We’ve seen them for one Euro. Hubby and I will usually duck in somewhere and get a drink or coffee and use the bathroom rather than pay extra for a public one.
I won’t tell you how long we spent trying to locate a McDonalds one day, so that we could use their restroom!! If you have young children and you’re coming here it’s probably something to consider.

Only a few days left of vacation now. We have to make the most of our time here.

Buona notte amici

Greece is the Word – Day Six

This morning hubby and I got up early and started walking this beautiful Port Town. We could smell the fresh sea air. We headed straight for the sea and took a few photos along the way. Every where we look seems like a postcard scene.

 


We had a coffee and made a couple of friends. The first was a lady working in a cafe who, just quietly, was a little scary looking at first. The type of woman who would suffer no fools (probably says more about us than her)
For example she came up to me and said “wifi?” in a gruff voice, asking if I wanted to use wifi. That was nice but it was almost like she’d said “you’re going to get wifi whether you want it or not”.
I said “Oh yes thank you” I replied and she just grabbed my phone from my hands and did it herself, all the while with a serious face. But by the time we left we were chatting away and I have to add the coffee we had there was so good! I’m starting to build a love for Greek Coffee.

Next stop was the supermarket and the woman there happened to be from Melbourne, Australia! So we chatted away and exchanged stories. She still has a strong Aussie accent but has been here in Greece for about forty years. now.

People in this town are just so friendly. They love to talk and love it even more if you love the things that are precious to them, such as their town and customs.

After breakfast we drove up to the Castle here. I was hoping to walk up to it. The walk is supposed to be a little grueling but I’d still like to do it. Maybe tomorrow.

The next pics were taken outside of our apartment. Look how narrow the streets are!

The first two above were taken from our apartment balcony.

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When we got up to the castle we found a sign that said it was closed on Mondays… and someone added “and any other day they don’t feel like opening”

I hope that’s not true!
I do expect it will be open tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

We managed to get some good photos from up there though and talked to some tourists from Vancouver who had also made the trip up there.

 

Next stop was hubby’s father’s home town. It’s a small village on a mountainside. It’s about fifty kilometres from Nafpaktos but takes about an hour and a half to get there because most of the way is on windy, hilly roads.

I don’t know how anyone would want to make this trek!! How do people choose to live in such places! We were so high up and the views were spectacular though.

We found this interesting church when we were almost at the town. It’s not used, but we just had to stop and photograph it when we saw it. We even found an open window and tooks photos inside. I hope we haven’t just put a curse on ourselves. There was something about it that was also eerie.

The town is so quaint but unfortunately we didn’t see another soul there. I took a couple of photos of the square. I would have loved to have seen it when it was alive with people.


And as we drove down, we shared the road with goats and cows. Both weren’t happy about having to share and certainly not in a hurry to get out of the way or off the road.

We drove down the death road – I was so happy to be back on flat land again – and decided to visit Patras. None of us had been there before so we didn’t really have a plan.
We crossed the Rio bridge paying the, in my opinion, exorbitant toll. Over thirteen Euro’s.
It was a pretty interesting looking bridge though.

We found a restaurant close to the water. It was a pretty place but unfortunately where we were, we had no views. They looked after us though and as always, the food was soo good. For the record, I wasn’t looking for Moussaka!


As we drove back over the bridge the sun was setting and the views over the water were really pretty. I tried to take some photos from the car.


I was really excited because our next stop was to catch up with a Facebook friend. We had connected recently because she is a distant relative and it was so nice to meet her in person and share a drink and some stories together.


Betty I hope we get to do that again soon! Thank you for your lovely company.

 

Greece is the Word – Day One

Spooners and Forkers we’re in Greece!
Kalimera!
Right off the bat, I’d like to invite you to share air travel stories with me. I’m so dreading the flight back. Nothing wrong with the actual flights themselves but the length of them!
We started off in wonderful style. Hubby got us business class tickets on Qantas for the first leg to Perth. Who doesn’t love getting pampered?
Juice before take off, great food and service, all the alcohol you want without judgement.


I looked over my shoulder once or twice at the economy section and felt a twinge of guilt until the curtain was closed. Out of sight, out of mind.
Alas it came to an end.

To prepare for the potential worst, we planned to get to Perth a lot earlier than our departing flight from Perth. Six hours earlier in fact.
What did we do in those six hours? We toured all the food establishments in the airport. Domestic AND International because what else better to do is there than eat when you’re bored?
You know you’ve waited a long time when you hear yourself say “It’s less than three hours to the flight now!” as a positive statement.

People were not shy about putting their feet up as they waited for this late night flight. Oh please, make yourself at home.

We flew Qatar airlines from Perth to DoHa. I’ve got to say, I’m not a fan of their uniforms. A scrunchie? Really? Is it 1986?
We sat next to a very social man from Turkey who was on his way back to Instanbul. Shhh it’s a secret but I recently became obsessed with a Turkish show called “Ezel” and that’s all I could think about every time he spoke. Probably the only person who could understand this is my mum who hooked me onto “Ezel” and other Turkish shows. We’ve even shared a Raki or two together but back to our travel…

After waiting six hours at the Perth airport, we boarded the Qatar airlines flight to DoHa. That leg was eleven hours. ELEVEN. Once we arrived we transferred quickly to another Qatar flight from DoHa to Athens. I don’t know why I thought that flight was only going to be a couple of hours. Wishful thinking probably. It was five hours but the saving grace was that hubby and I were seated next to each other without anyone else. That makes it easier when you want to get up and stretch your legs. You don’t have to annoy anyone to get up.

Next up, we will be enjoying glorious warm weather in Athens!

Highlights of the flight:
The food
The staff
Being podcast prepared
Easiest ever experience of going through immigration and customs declaration.
Explaining to hubby that “Stoled” is not a word. ie, “That woman isn’t wearing shoes, maybe someone stoled them” is not correct.

Lowlights of the flight:
Time
Soreness from sitting too long
People reclining their seats as fast and hard as they can.
Boredom descending into petty squabbles between loving adults.