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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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!

 

Greece is the Word – Day Eleven

I feel we are staying at the perfect location. Not in the centre of Naxos city but close enough and with enough restaurants and stores to keep us fed and occupied. The rest of our party is just loving the sea which is just metres from our rooms.

Hubby and I went for an early stroll along the water. It’s so peaceful and calm at that time.

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We stopped to get some coffee and pastries.

The ordering system sometimes confuses me a bit.
In any case we got a spinach pie and what we thought was a sausage and cheese pie. When we bit into it, we realised the “sausage” was a hot dog type sausage.
It was still ok, just not what we were expecting.

After checkout we headed into Naxos. We were wanting to see the older part of the city and of course, Apollo’s temple which are doorlike ruins of an ancient temple standing on a scenic point looking over the city and sea.
Here are a few pics I took on the way to and at the Temple ruins.

 

 

 

It was a very warm day and the walk up to the top of the older part/castle was challenging at times but it was really interesting to see the white buildings and the stairs going up and up and up, draped by colourful bougainvillea.

 


View from the top was breathtaking

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We started to wonder about the population here and if most of the homes are holiday homes or if there is a resident population. It would be interesting to see what it’s like in the off season.

We haven’t had pizza since we’ve been here and today was as good a day as any. I really enjoyed what we had. It was pretty cheesy!! But apparently it was not “Greek” style. We’ve got that to look forward to yet..

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Before we got back on the ferry for Athens, we stocked up on snacks like the smart people do. Next time we’ll try to remember to bring a deck of cards too!! It’s a long trip back. I was eating some of the spanokopita we’d bought, mostly out of boredom, and said to hubby “eat some too!” and he replied “why? because if I don’t eat it now there won’t be any left for me?”
He knows me well.

Oh, and both on this trip, and the trip over, I was surprised to find children begging on the boat. How do they even get on there? Do adults sneak them on to do the begging? Has someone bought them a ticket so they can beg? It’s sad to see and hard to resist. That’s probably why they do it. Who can say no to a kid saying “do you have any money so I can have something to eat?” or something similar.

The bathrooms on the ferry had an sea view by the way! I was going to take a photo but unfortunately, I fell asleep and by the time I went back there, it was already dark.

I was dreading this long trip back but actually it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sleeping through most of it probably helped.
Sadly, our time is almost to an end here in this gorgeous historical country but there may be a surprise coming up…. stay tuned!

Greece is the Word – Day Seven

Every evening I tell myself “I’m going to sleep in tomorrow” yet every morning I’m up as soon as the sun starts to come up. I can’t help it. I can hear movement outside, I knew the day is fresh and new and I just want to be a part of it.

It is no different here in Nafpaktos. We’re so close to the water we can smell that salty air and it’s so enticing.

We walked straight to the waters edge and continued along the coast to the area where the restaurants face the water. Even though it was early there were still people in the water or enjoying a cup of coffee at the tables.

I took a photo of the pebbles we were walking on. It looks so pretty and is so different to anything we have in Australia.

IMG_6751As part of our walk, we discovered this cute little bakery that made the BEST spanokopita.

That spinach filling was just so full of flavour and cheesy creamy. It was just delicious. We tried to go back for me to take on our journey today but she’d sold out. I almost cried real tears.

We took our spanokopita back to the beach area and found a bench to sit on while we waited for the rest of our group. As we sat there, a couple of cats started to gather round. Normally, when you’re at the beach with food it’s seagulls that start to circle you! Here it’s cats.

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And if you’re wondering, yes we did share with them. When they meow so tragically you IMG_6759really have no choice!

After a Greek Coffee or two, we did a bit of last minute Nafpaktos Tourist shopping before heading up to the castle once again. This time it was open!

It’s such an interesting place.
There’s tons of information on the internet if you’re interested but for us it was just something to think about the people who had walked the same steps we had walked in history. Thinking about when this was a working castle and the jobs people were doing.
There are also amazing views of the coast from up there and yes, it does seem as high up as it looks!


We left Nafpaktos and headed for a village where there was more family waiting to see us. The drive was going to take us through windy hilly roads again. I’m not a fan.

It’s gorgeous scenery though and the hills and mountains are dotted with wind turbines.
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It’s also not uncommon to be stopped by cattle… This happened to us more than once on our journey today!


We didn’t get to the mountain village until well after 4pm. Hubby hadn’t met his relatives before and it was all very special and emotional. We don’t speak Greek and only one of their party spoke English so the translating took a little while but it didn’t matter. It was lovely to spend the time together.
I took some photos from their balcony as the views they have are just breath taking.


They wanted us to share a meal with them so we stayed and talked about old times while eating what they had prepared. Most of what we were having had been grown on their land/property. Even the goat (I’m almost sad to say? Just quietly, it was soooo tasty!)

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This is by no means everything but there was Greek salad with home produce (the tomatoes were just so sweet!) potatoes, zucchini and feta cheese made from the milk of their own goats.

Everything was just too delicious! I ate way more than I should have just because I needed to taste more!

You may also notice the wine on the table, that was made by them as well.

Time was really moving on now and we were conscious of the long drive back to Athens, but they asked us if we wanted to see their farm. They had to go there to feed the animals.
How could we say no?

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We drove down a treacherous dirt path to get to it. I don’t know how these people use these roads every day…

Everything we saw at the farm was interesting and new.
From the goats to the cows with their baby calf.

We watched the cows feeding. I tried to take some photos but they moved back as we got close.

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Unfortunately hubby is allergic so we had to go and wait in the car but the kids in our group were able to watch the goats being milked and had a go at doing it themselves too! Now that’s an experience they wouldn’t get at school.

Again, the views from the farm are just breathtaking. I seem to be saying that a lot!


Everything took much longer than anticipated and we didn’t get back to their house until well after 10.30pm. They begged for us to stay rather than drive back down that awful road with minimum light but we just wanted our own beds and clean clothes so we left.

We didn’t get back to Athens until after 2.30am.

For the record, I have had my life time share of treacherous road driving.

And now, it’s definitely time for bed.
Kalinychta until tomorrow when hopefully, I will be sleeping in…

In search of Cherry Blossom – Part Five

I feel like I need to change the title of these entries as the Cherry Blossom is just about gone and as much as I search, I don’t think I’ll be seeing any more in the Osaka area.

I went out walking early this morning and although it was still very frosty cold, there was little cloud and when the sun shone on you, it was almost pleasant.


I had been reading reviews of a couple of places just south of Dotonbori. One was the Shinsekai district and the other was the Tennoji Zoo. I’m not a huge fan of keeping animals in cages and when I read the reviews of Tennoji Zoo I was horrified. It made me more curious to see it though which probably makes me part of the problem…

Before the zoo we did see the Shinsekai area. This is what I read before going there.
Shinsekai is an old neighbourhood located south of Osaka’s downtown area. The neighbourhood was created in 1912 with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half.

I can’t say that I saw anything that reminded me of Paris or New York. It seemed like any other district that had a lot of restaurants and a few shops.
Hubby and I have been having a difficult time (as usual) finding where to go to eat. Although I do like some things, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Japanese food. We decided to get some lunch before heading on to the zoo but walked around this area four or five times before finally going into one restaurant. We regretted it almost immediately as we couldn’t really find anything on the menu we wanted but we couldn’t just walk out…

We ended up choosing a few things.

Oh, I forgot to mention, they brought out a bowl of raw cabbage (gratis) before our food. Hubby ate it but I wasn’t a fan.
The food we had was ok, it just tastes like everything else we’ve had here. Those round potato type things in the pic on the right were the best. They had some cheesy gooey mess inside and hubby loved them!

After that we headed on over the zoo which is right near this Shinsekai district.

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It’s only 500 yen to visit (about $6.20 AUD) and we didn’t have anything else planned so hubby and I walked down there.

I didn’t think it was as bad as the reviews I’d read until I saw the cages for some of the big cats.
In any case, here are some of the photos of the animals that I took.


I felt a bit conflicted being there I must admit.

Every time we’ve been in Japan, hubby and I have visited Brooklyn Parlour and mostly it’s been a great experience. We knew there was one in the Americamura section of Dotonbori so we decided to go there for a drink.

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I normally love the atmosphere of this place. Hubby and I got a couple of drinks and watched people at tables nearby doing nothing but taking selfies for the next twenty minutes. They didn’t even touch their food and when it did look like they were going to start touching their food, it was only so they could video themselves “eating” it. Strange.

We walked around Americamura, fighting for space with the rest of the crowds.


If you like people watching, this is the place to be!!

After a bit of shopping we found ourselves being drawn to Hard Rock Cafe.
I must admit, I did like the familiarity of it all.


Lots of tourists in there!! Almost felt like I was back home.
We ordered some loaded fries. We were waiting for them to come but I needed to use the restroom. As I got up I said to hubby “If they come while I’m away don’t start eating them!” which would have been ok but an English speaking server heard me and I was embarrassed. Food ownership is serious business in this marriage!

And after a couple of sangria’s I posed for a photo.
Hubby made me do it.

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Oh and speaking of hubby, he was beside himself with excitement when we passed a McLaren dealership. The photos are taken through the glass window so they’re not the best. We’ve even seen one or two driving around while we’ve been here.


Again, we did a lot of walking today and I was glad to be back in the room, soaking in a nice hot bath.

I’ll leave you with a few more funny signs I saw today. The first one was on the back wall of a toilet cubicle.

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