Thursday 30 September 2010

September retrospective video

Obviously, September was mostly about Japan, and so the audio is a song which soundtracked the holiday, right from the time when Tine sang it at our first karaoke night.  The song is called Spider, and it's by Spitz.  I love the fluke that it reaches the chorus just as I get to Japan.

30 September

We had a hire car today so that we could go up into the mountain above Nikko, but the weather spoiled our plans somewhat.  Our first stop was the Kehon waterfall, but unfortunately we were up in the clouds there, and they were so thick that we couldn't see it at all.  We went on further, and the cloud raised, so we did manage to see some other beautiful waterfalls and Lake Chuzenji.  This photo was taken from the top of a pretty big waterfall at 10.58.  Happily I didn't fall in.  We gave up on our planned walk, and instead went to another onsen, again better than any we'd visited before.  In the evening we gave back the car and travelled by train to Oyama, where Nao's parents live.  They welcomed us with a delicious, enormous meal, and we played some more Uno in their living room before bed.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

29 September

Lots of trains again this morning, including two shinkansen, to get us from Matsumoto to Nikko.  The temples in and around Nikko are very old and spectacular, but for today's photo I couldn't not choose this ridiculous photo of Tine, Nao and Leen impersonating the famous monkeys, hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.  You can see two of the monkeys on the statue between Nao and Leen.  We had a tasty dinner in Nikko, and then played Uno in our hotel room.

Tuesday 28 September 2010

28 September

A rainy day meant that our planned walk on the Nakasendo Way looked like it might not be much fun.  However, having travelled quite a long way from Matsutmoto to Magome, we concluded it would be silly just to head back, so we set off on the 7.2km walk over the hill to Tsumago.  We were very glad we did, as the rain eased and the walk was very beautiful.  There were lots of signs warning us about bears (photo at 13.05), and in some places there were bells to ring to scare them off, but we didn't see any.  The streams, rivers, waterfalls and paddy feels were all very pretty, as was Tsumago when we got there.  Even better, we visited our best onsen yet in the hills above Tsumago, to relax after the walk, and from there we enjoyed a stunning sunset over the mountains (photos on Facebook).  We were tired when we got back to Matsumoto, so we had a peaceful evening.

Monday 27 September 2010

27 September

An early start to catch the first of four trains to get us from Yao to Matsumoto, which is up in the Japan Alps. Tine and Nao seemed impressively awake, and so we dropped our bags, had some (Mexican!) lunch and headed to the beautiful, 400-year-old Matsumoto castle: photo at 14.56.  We then wandered some of the old streets of Matsumoto, before Nao gave up and went for a sleep and the rest of us went to relax at the beautiful Hot Plaza Asama onsen.  Dinner was absolutely delicious: a local speciality called basashi, which is raw horse meat.

Sunday 26 September 2010

26 September

Eireann and I went in to Osaka to meet up with Leen, Tine and Nao, and we had a wander around Shinsekai, and then a lunch of okonomiyaki.  Eireann then headed home, while the rest of us went to the world-renowned Osaka Aquarium.  I'd never seen a whale shark before, and now I want to see one when diving even more.  It's a very impressive place.  Leen and I then went on the ferris wheel again, this time as it was getting dark, before heading back to Yao for a lovely dinner prepared by Eireann and Nari.  Photo at 20.37.  Tine and Nao have gone to Matsumoto on a night bus, and we'll join them there tomorrow.

Saturday 25 September 2010

25 September

We had a slow start to the day, but then packed a lot in.  We started at the Osaka Modern Transportation Museum, which of course I loved.  I got to sit in the driver's cab of the first ever shinkansen, and there were lots of other fun things for me to look at and play with, too.  We then went to the Osaka Takoyaki Museum, which isn't a museum: it's a series of outlets from the best takoyaki shops in Osaka.  Delicious.  From there, we got a ferry over to Tempozan, where we enjoyed a street entertainer and then went on an enormous ferris wheel: photo at 16.01.  We then travelled back up to the north of the city centre to visit the incredible, ridiculous, Umeda Sky building.  I loved it: bonkers architecture and a brilliant outdoor observatory on the roof.  We stayed to watch the sun go down, and I got some photos I'm really pleased with.  They're in my Japan album on Facebook.  Finally, we headed to Dotombori to meet up with Nari and go for dinner.  Twice, in fact: ramen and then kushi-katsu.

Friday 24 September 2010

24 September

The day started with a wonderful, enormous, traditional Japanese breakfast in our ryokan hotel.  It was served on low table in a private room for the four of us, and included miso, pickles, fish, tofu, egg, rice, and other things I can't remember.  We then travelled by train to Nara, an old capital of Japan.  Nara has spectacular temples around a park, one of which contains the biggest Buddha image in Japan.  In the park, the deer are revered and are therefore tame, plentiful, and everywhere.  They can be quite forceful in demanding food!  Here's one coming for me at 12.06.

In the evening our party of four split: I'm spending the weekend in Osaka with Eireann, while the others headed back to Kyoto.  Eireann met me at Osaka station (a feat in itself) and we went for food, and lots of beers and catch-up chat in an izakaya (a pub, basically) before heading out to her and Nari's home in Yao.

Thursday 23 September 2010

23 September

The started with a (planned) switch to a different hotel.  As it was raining, we went first to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre, where we each bought various things and I found a nice birthday present for Esther.  By the time we were done, the rain had stopped so we went back to pick up bikes from the hotel, and hit the shrine/temple trail once again, starting with Kiyomizu Dera and a wander in the lovely streets there, and then on to the stunning Ginkaku temple.  We then climbed up the hill behind that temple for a wonderful view over Kyoto (and even to Osaka) as the sun set.  That's where I took this photo of Nao, Tine and Kyoto, at 17.56.    The day finished with an excellent Japanese trilogy: tonkatsu for dinner, a session of karaoke, and our first experience of an onsen.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

22 September

We travelled to Kyoto by shinkansen in speed and comfort, and then, having dropped our bags at our hotel, headed out on bikes to explore.  We started at Nijo-jo, an incredible castle with nightingale floors.  Then we failed to get in to the imperial palace but enjoyed its gardens, before looking round Heian shrine.  We then cycled passed the enormous Chion-in temple and down through some gardens to Gion, where we did an interesting, if long, walking tour to learn about geisha/geiko life.  Finally, we went to a kaiten-zushi (sushi) bar for an excellent, cheap dinner, during which Nao took this photo of Leen and I at 20.25.

I've put a set of photos from Japan on Facebook now, which anyone following this link from here will be able to view, whether they're on Facebook or not.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

21 September

A more leisurely day today, as after a lie-in we went out to the beach at Enoshima with Tine and Nao.  We lazed on the beach all afternoon, with a couple of dips in the sea, but then as the sun started to go down we were surprised, delighted and amazed to sea Mount Fuji appear in the sky. It was a spectacular sight to watch the sun set behind it.  This photo doesn't do it justice, but it's certainly better than nothing.  I took it at 17.26.

20 September

Leen and I went for a day trip out of Tokyo today, to Hakone.  Getting there, as the guide books say, is half of the adventure.  It involved our first shinkansen (bullet train) ride (brilliant!), then a local train, then a mountain train including switchbacks, then a funicular railway, a ropeway, a pirate ship, a bus, and then another shinkansen back to Tokyo.  At the top of the mountain we saw bubbling thermal pools in which eggs are boiled and turn black, which all smelled disgusting.  The whole area was busy today as it was a public holiday, but it was still very beautiful.  I hope this photo shows that: it's of our pirate ship heading back off to the other side of the lake having dropped us at Motohakone at 16.33.

19 September

Today we failed to visit Tsukiji fish market because it was on holiday, but we still started the day with spectacularly good sushi for breakfast.  After a wander around Ginza we headed to Shibuya for lunch, and then to Harajuku.  There we found a Vietnamese festival in Yoyogi park, as well as this man and his friends dancing to rock music, at 14.38.  We explored Meiji shrine, and then the very busy shopping streets.  Later we went up the tower of the Metropolitan Government building for amazing views over the city.

Saturday 18 September 2010

18 September

Today Tine took us to the gardens of the Imperial Palace, and then to the Edo-Tokyo museum, which is housed in an amazing building.  We got this photo outside it as we left at 18.27.  Later we went to a massive department store for a drink on its family terrace, before heading back to Tine's house for dinner.

17 September

We've arrived in Tokyo.  Tine came to meet us at the airport, and after a bit of a snooze we headed out to Ueno with Tine and Nao.  There, we had fun with one of the photo booths in a games arcade, which printed this beautiful selection for us at 16.30.  Later we went to a shabu-shabu restaurant for dinner, before going to a karaoke bar.

16 September

This photo shows the sun setting and the moon rising, somewhere over Russia.  BA flight 5 was taking Leen and I to Tokyo, and I took this at 17.13 BST.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

15 September

I'm on holiday!  So's Leen!  Here we are in the Magdalen Arms, celebrating the beginning of our holiday with our friends.  Photo taken at 22.12.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

14 September

I forgot to take a photo when I had lunch with Martha today and this evening was a quiet one at home, so today's photo is Whiskey playing her favourite game: catch the string.  Taken at 21.42.

Monday 13 September 2010

13 September

Went round to Esther's house for dinner this evening, which was lovely as I hadn't seen Esther in too long.  And I'm in trouble for being on holiday for her birthday.  Photo at 21.33.

12 September

Here we all are at 11.08, in advance of the service this morning.  Fun as always.  More photos on Facebook.

11 September

I might be being silly in this photo, taken after an afternoon of rehearsing and an evening at the Alma.  Photo at 22.56, and there are more on Facebook.

10 September

Stayed with Nat and Gareth in Macclesfield this evening.  Had a lovely meal with them, Ally and Margaret.  Photo at 23.02.

Thursday 9 September 2010

9 September

Got some great photos this evening at Jacky's retirement party, but I didn't think I should use them on here.  Instead, here are the Yarns on stage at the Bullingdon at 21.34 - I went along there after the party, and enjoyed their set very much.

8 September

Went for dinner a really lovely at the Magdalen Arms this evening.  Here are the desserts we shared, taken at 22.14.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

7 September

Fun lined up at St Giles Fair.  I didn't go on anything today, but enjoyed walking through at lunchtime and after work, when I took this at 18.01.

Monday 6 September 2010

6 September

This is very very far from being a good photo of St Giles Fair, but sadly it was raining this evening so this is a more accurate record of our fair experience than something arty with lights would be.  I still had fun though, particularly on the waltzer and the dodgems.  Photo at 21.46.

5 September

Today I sadly forgot to take photos during the day, so we end up with a photo of the tart I made for dinner.  I did put it in the oven for a while before I ate it.  Taken at 19.26.

Sunday 5 September 2010

4 September

I love this photo.  Went down to Salisbury today to visit mum and dad, and we went for a walk this afternoon in the new forest.  When we came across a swing (at 16.26), childish behaviour was inevitable.  A couple more on Facebook.

3 September

A fun evening round at Hedda and Calum's lovely new house.  Photo at 22.49.

2 September

Here we are marking Martha's birthday (a bit early) in the Jericho Tavern, at 22.01.

Saturday 4 September 2010

1 September

This was a tasty meal at the Duke of Monmouth, which features Swiss food.  Mine's a rosti, which was very tasty.  Thank you, Leen!  Taken at 21.56.