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)

 

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

In search of Cherry Blossom – Part Three

I know I’m always going on about the Supermarkets here but honestly, it’s just so different to what we’re used to.
We made another midnight supermarket run last night and I took a few snaps of the food just sitting out on the benches unrefrigerated.

 


As you can see, some of the items have egg in it. Just sitting there on the bench waiting to be bought by someone. I must admit, I’ve been tempted to buy some of it. I mean they wouldn’t sell it if people got sick right?

In any case, today was Kyoto day! I tend to get up quite early so I thought I’d go for a walk and let hubby sleep a little longer. Streets in Japan can be quite confusing as they don’t follow the nice parallel lines that I’m used to however I had internet with me and google maps is always available.
I took a few snaps along the way.


One thing I didn’t know about Osaka until I visited for the first time is that it’s full of canals. It’s the Venice of Japan.

It wasn’t long before we were off to Kyoto. We’ve been there twice before and had very different experiences. Today, again, it was like we were visiting for the first time, seeing things we hadn’t seen before. This city just amazes me.

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Straight off the train we cross the river into the main part of the city. This place was so full of tourists today! All colours, all sorts of different accents.

After a little snack we headed on over to the Gion district. We had stumbled onto this section by accident last time and just fell in love with it. It’s just olden day Japan. People can hire traditional clothing and walk these streets. So many people do it! It really adds to the atmosphere.


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The Japanese are so helpful.

See that yellow sign in the picture above on the left?

Here is a close up of what it said.

And I’m glad they clarified by adding the picture of the camera.

We walked by instinct. We were searching for the  steps that had rows of shops alongside. Before reaching that area though, we came to some beautiful tranquil gardens.

At least it would have been tranquil if we weren’t sharing the space with 50 million other people. IMG_5506

And then, the steps!


Sorry those photos aren’t in order and I didn’t take as many as I thought I had. The last two are just random pictures along the way. The left one is of a sacred cemetary and on the bottom right is bamboo. We wanted to go to a bamboo forest but we didn’t plan well so when we saw this, I just took the picture to make myself feel better.

After browsing the shops full of wonders, we came to the top. I should probably know what this is but I don’t have the info with me right now. I’m so full of information right.

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It’s a bit of a climb but well worth it!

Here are a couple of funny signs we passed along the way


We decided to go back to the main centre to get some lunch. It was udon noodles today and I’m pleased to say we didn’t gorge ourselves!!

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When you go into a restaurant here, they give you a little basket to put your bag in so you don’t have to leave it on the floor.

I love that!

And although hubby told me “NO CAKES” this holiday, he didn’t fight me when I suggested to go and get some pastries. OH MY GOD they were so delicious!!!!


It was so hard not to grab one of everything!

We walked around the amazing Kyoto Station for a while. It has a department store, hotel and lots of shops and restaurants in there. Such an interesting building. It’s a worth a visit even if you’re not catching the train.
It’s such an amazing design with new things to see at every turn.


I didn’t take many photos this time as I took so many last time.

It has been raining most of today so we didn’t really want to go out walking in it again. We decided to get the train back to Osaka and continue our adventure there.
Poor hubby was wiped out and joined the majority of Japanese people who sleep on the train.

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And please let me indulge in some more supermarket talk.
I was feeling brave tonight and bought a whole of things even if I didn’t know what they were.
Amongst my purchases were the following.


The burgers on the left were 98 yen… so about $1.20AUD. We shared the brown wrapped one and it was actually ok.
Better than I expected.
Not anything that would fill you up but ok for a quick snack. The bread is really so light that you hardly feel like you’re eating anything.
We haven’t tried the yellow wrapped burger yet and I haven’t put my translate ap on it so I don’t know what it is. Somtimes it’s better not to know.

The pic on the right were pieces of pizza sold individually. They were ok too. Better than expected. Even the one with egg on it.
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I sent that picture to my mum and she said she’d rather have egg than pineapple and I’m not going to give you her contact information as hate mail is just not nice.

Darwin – Day 1

Diners I hope you’ll enjoy these next couple of entries where I share hubby and I’s first visit to Darwin.
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Seeing as we were only going to spend a couple of days, we just wanted to get a feel of the food and culture of the CBD area and didn’t get a car. Next time, we’ll definitely get a car and really go exploring!

Our trip began with a business class ticket on our Qantas flight. It was hubby’s birthday treat to me!
I’ve never traveled anything but economy class so this was a big treat!

Apart from the extra leg space, we were treated really well and offered some tasty food! As we were on a morning flight, our meal was breakfast and we had a choice of bircher muesli, or bacon and poached egg with mushrooms. Hubby wasn’t quite sure which one he wanted and was told he could have one of each if he wanted. Wow. He just took the eggs. Apart from that though, we had whatever we wanted to drink, fruit salad, zucchini and walnut muffin and probably lots more things that I’m forgetting. They do make you feel very special!

I really loved my bircher muesli. At one point hubby brought his spoon over to taste some.
“NO, NO!!!” I exclaimed in horror.
“But you have to share” he replied while dipping into my muesli
“But it’s my birthday!” I protested weakly.
I only mention this as this conversation was clearly heard by the other business class passengers….
Later I did try to taste one of the mushrooms on his plate but he just growled so I backed away slowly.

We got to Darwin and were immediately engulfed by humidity. People seem very nice here. Laid back and friendly. I’d always heard that and got to experience it for myself.

Walked Mitchell st because everyone says everything is in Mitchell st and started looking at the different cafes, restaurants and bars along that road, trying to figure out which one we were going to go to.
Up to now, although it had been humid, it hadn’t rained.We decided to go into the Ducks Nuts for a drink and while we were there, a huge torrential rain occurred. It was over ten minutes later though and you wouldn’t have known it had happened!
Unfortunately we never got to go back to the Ducks Nuts for a meal. I really would have loved to as it seems like a really cool place.

Kept on walking along the esplanade and eventually found the wharf area. Had to stop for a Sangria at the Hot Tamale

Food prices seem slightly cheaper than Adelaide. Although I haven’t seen the size of the serves yet but that’s my first impression.

img_8162We went back and to our hotel and checked in. I wanted to check out the gym and pool area as I was hoping to utilise at least the gym area.

What you’re seeing in the pic on the left is a look of pure joy as I discovered that the hotel gym, really was a pretty good gym!

Not only that, but no one was in it so I decided to go a few K’s on the treadmill and build up my calorie bank in preparation for dinner tonight.

After resting and freshening up in our room, we ventured out into the humidity once more to see where we were going to go for dinner.

We were told the streets were quite empty because it’s “off” season right now. We knew we would be visiting in the Wet Season but we still wanted to have a look. There were still plenty of people around, enjoying their surroundings and doing whatever they like to do.

We found ourselves back on the Waterfront and I just couldn’t go past another Sangria so we went back to Hot Tamale, this time for dinner as well as a drink….


I commented to hubby that the people you think are going to be friendly and nice haven’t really been, and those you don’t expect it, go out of their way to be nice and friendly to you.If it was hubby’s choice, we wouldn’t have come back here but I’m just a sucker for Mexican food and it was my birthday after all so he obliged.

I decided to go for a Chili con carne. Hubby was pretty undecided. When we had been here earlier in the day he’d wanted to split some nacho’s but I didn’t want to waste calories at that point. Now, for dinner, I told him if that’s what he felt like, he should get them for dinner.
We asked the waiter if it was enough for a main and he said they were even too much for him. He was not a slender bloke so we trusted him and ordered the nacho’s for hubby’s main.

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I think they make the corn chips themselves. They were ok. They had a strong oil taste to them and felt a little like prawn crackers that you get from chinese takeaway stores.
They weren’t bad, just not what I was used to.

I don’t think it’s a serve that’s big enough for a main meal though.

What I did love about this place was that they had Latin music playing the whole time. You just can’t be sad when Latin music is playing!

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My Chili con carne was pretty good.

It was not a huge serve but as I wasn’t running as much as I normally do when I’m home, that was ok.

At one point I looked at my dish and I looked at hubby’s dish and noticed there wasn’t a great deal of difference between them.

We both had braised beef and homemade nacho’s as the main elements on our plates.

After dinner we strolled back to Mitchell st and joined other locals enjoying some live music as “Wisdom”

These guys party like there’s no work tomorrow!

We arrived back to our room with a few naughty snacks and fell asleep while watching some movie playing.

It was a good first day!

Stay tuned for “Day 2” out tomorrow!

Turning Japanese – Part Five

I’m much more relaxed now in this wonderfully different country.
I knew exactly what to expect from our complimentary breakfast at Denny’s… and look at that meal. So Western, so good.
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You may think it’s a bit strange to have a salad at breakfast but actually I enjoyed it. You may also think it strange to have Lounge music playing while you’re eating your eggs on toast in Denny’s but that  somehow works too.
The only thing that I’m not too happy about is that the coffee they give you is an espresso size. It’s teeny tiny and I just need more coffee!! But that’s ok. I can get over it!

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Fully satisfied we headed to Shinjuku once again. Last time we were there it was evening and we were dazzled by the lights. This time it was late morning and it was still an impressive place!
We went to the Observation Deck in the Government Building then walked around being awed by sights, sounds and smells.

After a couple of hours walking thirst overtook us and hubby found a cute little place called “Brooklyn Parlour”. Once again, totally deceptive from the street. All we could see was a stairwell leading down to something. What was it going to be? No idea! It’s always an adventure.
So we went down there and were surprised by the size of the restaurant. It was large, it was loud, it was happening and it had fantastic mood lighting. The walls were lined with bookshelves creating a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone is just sooo polite and accomodating.
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We ordered a wine and cider. My wine was delicious and long overdue!!! I could have sat there sipping that for another hour or two…

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However we headed on back to our hotel – snuck in a couple of sweet treats, and rested up before heading out for our last dinner in Tokyo.

So this evening we stopped in front of a place that said it had authentic Japanese food. Not really sure what that meant, we went in.
Our waiter had limited English but we’re really happy to have anyone that can half understand us. He brought us our drinks, a hot towel and a bowl of something..
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Hubby was a bit frightened to try it but he did, and he didn’t die so i thought I’d try some. It was only afterwards that I thought… I hope we were meant to eat that? Maybe it’s for something else??
It had the consistancy of jelly. Tasted a bit like chicken broth and chicken fat. I’m not really sure but I ate it with chop sticks. I know… I’m a pro now!

We also ordered dumplings, noodles (traditional Japanese style apparantly) and skewers of meat.
When converted to Aussie dollars, it was all quite expensive and not very filling however it was very tasty and I guess it’s not their fault that the conversion rate for our dollar is not the best at the moment.

As usual the staff were bending over backwards to make sure we had the best time.
There were a line of tables around the kitchen which was in the centre of the restaurant and at one point hubby told one of the chef’s directly that he’d like a bowl of rice, and they just did it! If we weren’t being charged, it would have felt like we were dining at a friends place.

Tomorrow  we’ll be heading off to Osaka for the next leg of this adventure!