A slight update – with more to come

Hi All!

I just wanted to do a quick update after that whirlwind trip from Japan and back again! Its been an age since I updated, photos are all over the shop so to speak – so in the process of sorting all of those and will then be updating (hopefully!) twice a week with more on our jaunts across the globe, upcoming trips and Disney shenanigans.

I’ve got a few other projects going on as well – another blog (I know – I need to sort this one out first I hear you cry! Alas – the other won’t wait!), a house renovation and a secret squirrel project as well which I’m dabbling in – watch this space.

In the meantime – I just thought i’d show you my travel related nails! I’ve gotten a bit addicted to Jamberry nail wraps – so thought i’d whack these up as a midway post this week. Sort of a travel related lifestyle post for your enjoyment. Or mine. Lets be honest.

So here’s todays productivity – my nails for this weekend – our annual secret weekend. More on that in another post…

This is #mintgreenchevronjn #wanderlustjn #daydreamjn as a mixed mani. Brushing up my #nailfie skills as well.

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So until later this week (if I pull my finger out!) laters!

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6000 MABA trip report – Day 11 – oh deer!

NB Apologies for the lack of posts this month – China has awful internet – everything you read about their firewall is true! Hopefully Europe will be a bit better 🙂

< Go back a day

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This morning we were off on a day trip to Miyajima. I’d read a lot about Miyajima and everyone seemed to love it so thought we’d go check it out. Its also the home of the infamous floating torii gate so I was keen to take the DSLR out for more photos.

It requires a train and a ferry to get there and on route Adam decided it was a bit like the Isle of Wight! Same sort of ferry so it was oddly familiar.

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We arrived at about 11am to the port and walked straight onto one, which appear to run very regularly.

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Once on the island, first stop was a coffee for Mr Barrowsmith, who can’t function without it.

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There were hundreds of deer roaming the island, and we’d have a few run ins with these today!

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Post coffee and deer selfie…

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…we walked down the main shopping road and saw so many shops (pretty much all of them) making miniature cakes shaped like leaves, full of coloured goo. We later learned that these are maple cakes – the area is famous for them, and they are tiny packets of HEAVEN.

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Dammit i’ve just realised I meant to buy more custard ones.

Anyways I digress. We also saw the most stunning koi we’d seen so far… out the back of a shop! I SHIT YOU NOT. Look at this garden!!

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We also bought some tiny packets of joy, and some unknown wrapped stick things. Mine was potato (naughty) and bacon, the Mr had asparagus and bacon.

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We had a few photos infront of the gate at high tide. Sadly it wasn’t very sunny at this point but its still very cool.

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Next up was the five story pagoda. Its a very impressive building as the tiers seem to be only slightly decreasing in size, so physically it feels like it shouldn’t be that high. Its a really vibrant orange as well, which you can’t really see from the photos.
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After a pootle around the pagoda I spotted a chicken yakitori stand (chicken grilled on a stick) and they looked amazing so I had to have one.

We perched on a wall a short distance from the stand and I devoured the sticky chicky quicker than I could take a photo as it was divine.

Whilst sitting on said wall, a pesky deer (yes they became pesky rapidly) came up behind us and tried to get into my bag! It then proceeded to steal (and try to eat) our island maps. Cheeky fucker.

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Next up was the ropeway to mt. misen, which you could get a bus up to or walk a few minutes uphill. The queue for the bus was massive so we’d have had to wait for the next one so decided our feet would fare us better.

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I’m so glad we decided against the bus as the walk was idyllic with shrines and streams as well as deer (less pesky when roaming a forest) wandering around waiting to be shot (by photographers. Harsh).

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At the ropeway point we were ushered onto a fairly large car and smooshed into the corners as it was busy busy.

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The view is like something out of Jurassic Park though its brilliant! They don’t call it the pehistoric forest for nothing…

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Once up, we decided that we would walk to the top of mt misen. It was only 30 minutes and there appeared to be a lot up there. Plus – 30 minutes can’t be that steep right?

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WRONG.

There are plenty of resting spaces and the view is so worth it but its hard work. Really hard work.

On route there are plenty of things to see, including the famous fire hall, and buddhist temples.

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Once at the top you are met with a variety of boulders (what a reward!)

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and the observatory – which actually is worth seeing. Its got seats (required) in the middle and a full 360 degree view of the area.

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We were totally pooped by this point so headed back down the mountain to ensure we got time to pick up more packets of heaven. And maybe another chicken stick.

The tide was now out so you could almost walk up to the gate and touch it. I loved seeing it in the sunset.

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It had turned into such a gorgeously sunny day whilst we were up the mountain that it was a really nice temperature now. The beach looked almost inviting!

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Whilst ambling, we got a message from our friends over in Oz land who told us there was a craft beer brewery and garden on the island – and it just so happened that we were right next door! It would be rude not to go in especially in those instances so go in we did.

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I also managed to get more packets of heaven. NOM.

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We ended our time on the island with a few drinks and cakes in the beer garden, watching the sun set. Perfect.

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A quick hop, skip and a jump (read: walk, ferry and train) back to our hostel, it was time for some scran, and we were sent in the direction of a dining bar near the station. One of the chefs was great – he had been taught english in high school by a teacher from Liverpool so was practising on us. We were more than happy to oblige!

Drinks – lemonn sour for me and a beer for Adam (the usual) and we both went for steak with garlic slices and veg, which was tasty and well cooked.

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Back to the hostel we headed for our last night in Hiroshima before moving on tomorrow.

6000 MABA trip report – Day 10 – Train tracks

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Today was another move day so we packed up, grabbed breakfast and headed out at check out time 11am. It was a gorgeous sunny day today and the hotel koi pond was reflecting light dots up onto the little roof above. It was lovely to watch.

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We were off to Hiroshima and I thought that we had a bit more time than we needed to ‘do’ the area there, so stayed a bit longer in Kyoto, leaving our bags at the hotel.

A quick stop for Adam for his much loved grape Fanta and we were off.

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First up was Nino-ji castle, which was walking distance from the hotel (about 25 mins) so made sense now we had no bus pass. The tickets were purchased from a vending machine in the wall (standard) for anyone who is planning a visit.

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The castle had a palace inside which we went to check out in the name of travel blogging. Adam was a bit over the temples and palaces by this point (we have like 10 days to go.. uh oh) but he obliged and came round with me.

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The thing I found really interesting about this palace is that it has nightingale floors, which squeak with the tiniest movement making a sound like a nightingale bird. Its a really unique noise – but imagine if you will – a whole forest of them but strangely hushed – and that’s what you get when hundreds of people are walking across this at once. It makes for a very strange atmosphere.

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I’ve no pictures or video inside as the walls all have huge murals on them, or at the least replicas, which are incredibly fragile and don’t like sunlight or flashes.

The originals were painted by the shoguns family and heirs in many instances and even the replicas are stunning. In most cases they were almost golden backgrounds, with painted trees or animals on them. My particular favourites were the tigers and peacock ones as the colours against the gold were spectacular.

Back outside there were further ponds and gardens (a big thing over here) and plenty of cherry blossoms just coming in to bloom.

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The gardens were as per all the others – perfect – I really am a fan of the Japanese garden now.

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There is a viewing platform still on site, which must have been some sort of defense jobbie previously, but now overlooks the moat and gardens. Worth a look, even if your legs are giving up. Its not that high… like a normal set of stairs in a big house to be honest but we were both pretty trashed so felt like so much more!

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After a good wander round we departed with rumbling stomachs. We ended up going back to the restaurant we’d eaten in on our first night. It was on the way back to the hotel, the food was good, filling and a bargain – what more can you ask? So – usual please!

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Post lunch we were subway bound (230Y) to Kyoto main station to grab some tickets to Hiroshima on the bullet train.

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After a massive faff around trying to find the ticket window, and then further faff trying to find the right platform (all wearing huge over packed rucksacks) we made it. Not only that, but this time we were in the green car.

I love the green car. Flashbackers we may be – but I don’t care. The shinkansen is awesome regardless, but the green car is just epic. Look at how much space you get!!

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After a thoroughly enjoyable train journey (who knew they even existed?) we arrived at Hiroshima station about 5.30 and walked the 9 minutes to our hostel.

This was Adams first experience in a hostel, and quite frankly he was terrified. He really had no need to be, it was not a bad hostel (Hiroshima Hana) and we had a private double room with an ensuite.

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This one required shoes off though so wandering around in slippers was a new experience!

The hostel had a little washing room up on the roof terrace (of course you’d put your washing machines up there… who has them inside these days?!), and plenty of info in the foyer (which is why I love hostels).

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The living room and kitchen had a beer vending machine (of course), a guitar, and kids toys along with books and dvds.

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It was getting close to nosh time again and we’d spotted somewhere advertising teppenyaki on our street so staying local was the aim and off we went.

Now as far as ‘eating like locals’ goes – this was it. No english spoken. No english on the menus at all, and all other patrons clearly families who live locally.

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So google translate got involved and we pointed and gestured our way to two massive piles of… stuff. I’ve since learned that this is okinomiyaka. Essentially a pancake with noodles, lettuce, beansprouts and sauce.

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Also known as a plate of carby yummy goodness.

Mine came with rice and cheese which is what google translate had told us. Adam ordered a ‘meat’ one which came with some sort of pink stuff. We are apparently never talking about this again as we still don’t know what it was, and I don’t think he wants to know either.

The sauce on these is out of this world good, and I am absolutely intending to try and recreate its beauty at home. Along with the rest of the tower of deliciousness.

Suitably stuffed full of food, we waddled to the nearby shop to pick up breakfast items for a speedy exit the next day. And came home with a verifiable feast.

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Including one of those ice cream sandwiches.

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Which I then ate.

A few hours later I really regretted eating all those carbs and sugar for dinner.

Rice, noodles, pancakes, cheese, ice cream wafer sandwiches and chocolate bread are not a good combo when I am meant to be on low GI! All i’ll say is that I am extremely glad we had an ensuite. Grim.

6000 MABA TR – Day 9 – Golden showers

< Go back a day

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** NB: My photo allowance on wordpress is already getting a tad tight, so am trying out embedding images with HTML code – bear with me if it looks a bit odd! **

Today was a bit mixed weather wise but that didn’t put us off, we were mountain climbers now see.

With that in mind, and our new knowledge of how simple the buses were, we jumped onto one headed for Kinkakuji temple – the golden one on a pond. Pretty symbolic of Kyoto and I was desperate to see it in the flesh, so off we went. Tickets purchased (biggest tickets I have ever seen) and no tripods understood (gutted) we were in.

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Straight up its a stunner. The gold leaf makes it look like its glowing, and its grounds are pretty epic.

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It sits off a massive koi carp pond, surrounded by gardens.

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Once i’d shot it from all angles (sans tripod) we continued through the path to see the shrine and mini waterfall. Both very pretty. There was also an old tea house part way round (that’s the darker room pic).

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At the end of the grounds – there’s a vending machine (obviously) but this one sells ICE CREAM SANDWICHES. The excitement. I didn’t partake – but was still pleased to know these existed.

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We then got a pretty busy bus over to our next stop, Tenryu-ji temple and the bamboo forest. Its quite a way over to that area and it takes 2 buses and about 45 minutes but it is well worth it.

It was nearing lunchtime and we didn’t want a repeat of yesterday so headed up the main street to ‘crossing-moon’ bridge (look Dad – we saw a bridge – I took a photo just for you!) and found somewhere with a view over to eat lunch.

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On the street by the river you could also catch a cart pulled by a person as a tour around the area. You definitely read that right – a cart – pulled by a person. We didn’t go on in case they made us go into two carts… or took one look at me and shook their heads… could you imagine?!

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So naturally, more food was in order after these considerations and we went for a ‘hamburger’ set menu. I like to think this is half way between american and japanese food. There was soup (japanese) but it was cheese (american). Then there was hamburger (american) but served with rice and salad (japanese). Overall I really enjoyed this one as I was getting a bit desperate for something different. Adam picked this one so boy did good! Nice view too. (The bridge not Adam, though he’s not too bad either…)

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Post food we headed back down the strip to the temple and the sun started making its way through the clouds – hurrah!

This temple was pretty big and you could go in and have a look around (minus shoes of course). So look around we did. Adam was apparently reminded of Shenmue (some random Japanese video game) so was somewhat exciteable. On that note – I hope you’re looking forward to his guest blog review of super potato?! I know I am. (Imagine my face right now…)

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Back to the temple. We took some photos in some of the rooms to prove we’d been here. I think someone else was doing the whole kneeling on the floor like a geisha move so we joined in too. #sheepIMG_0268IMG_0277

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once outside of the temple the gardens were stunning. Easily my favourite of the ones we saw in Kyoto.

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There was an ornamental garden with a stream running through part of the temple walkway.
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A huge koi pond. Loving the koi ponds – I might have been won over on these. I reckon I could manage a pretty decent size one at our house…

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Cherry blossoms a plenty. As well as fountains nearby.

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There were massive sections of flowers as well as further buildings and ornaments, and a zen stone garden too which I also love. Getting a lot of garden inspiration over in Japan!

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It really was a stunning garden and we’d really enjoyed our visit to this one.

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Further round there was an exit into the famous bamboo forest which we obviously had to go and check out. It was bright sunshine but the bamboo shuts much of it out – its quite eerie but very cool! It was quite busy so my photos aren’t what i’d hoped for but you should get a flavour of the place.

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Out of the forest we found a little market with shrines around it which was interesting, but we’re on a souvenir ban so just looked.

In leui of souvenirs – guess what we got. Yep you got it… more food!!

Adam went for a steamed bun, and I went for a chocolate gelato. Mine won. Think Adam went for a pork one and didn’t enjoy it as much as he had the day before.

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We were both in need of a rest by this point so headed back to the hotel for a vending machine beer and a blog catch up. Much required.

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For dinner that evening we decided it would be nice to go out for something a bit different and really fancied steak. I’d been looking for a teppenyaki restaurant and found one with good reviews but no prices so we thought we’d go have a look to see.
Turns out it was faaaar too expensive, so we went over the road to a place called Meet Bowl, where you have a fire pit in the centre of your table and cook your own.

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They are a fan of cooking your own here… I’m not sure if its laziness or whether they are too polite to either get things wrong, or whether the people who go out to eat are too polite to assume things are cooked for you. (Its none of the above I know…)

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We both went for the round steak cut of the day, with a green salad. Adam managed to convey ‘no dressing’ which was good. God love google translate.

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The steak was very very tasty and i’d ordered some garlic prawns too which were fab and came with mushrooms that Adam appreciated.

I had gone for a sweet potato shochi with soda and really had to force it down, it was a bit like gin which I struggle to drink (it does happen). Adam went for a whiskey and ginger ale which he loved (I tried some and have to admit it was delicious!)

Think this came to about 6,000 yen ish, which works out about $60. I can cope with about £40 though was still hungry.

I’d found a nearby craft ale bar online so we headed there for a few more drinks – it turned out to be an irish bar (comedy) and was playing an oasis live album so Adam thoroughly enjoyed it. They also served bar snacks so we had a dessert of caprese and margherita pizza. Classic.

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We were both in need of extra food so it hit the spot.

Adam had a couple of Japanese ales (untappd has recorded them of course) and I went for an outsider peach cider, which tasted amazing but smelt like vom so I powered through two thirds then gave up. I wasn’t having much luck with drinks today.

After a few drinks at the irish bar we decided against going to another one as we had to move on tomorrow so headed back for some much needed shut eye.

** DAYS LATER I’VE DISCOVERED I LEFT MY HANDBAG HERE, FAIL**

6000 MABA – TR – Day 8 what goes up must come down

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We had a pretty packed itinerary today, Fushimi-inari Taishe (the temple and path with all the gates), another temple with a good view and Gion. Three big Kyoto hitters in one day.

 
Breakfast required first. Breakast is quite a fancy affair at the new hotel, where you can choose western or Japanese options with very attentive wait staff.

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We both went for western to kick the day off (better the devil you know and all that). Eggs (scrambled & fried – half each) with bacon, orange juice (me), apple for Adam. A salad and some fruit for each of us (salad for breakfast has become less random).

 
Coffee, water and bread self serve – all nice enough with a nice little garden next door.
Right onwards!!

 
We were a bit later than hoped heading out (surprise surprise) and got to the station around 10am, where Adam was already considering his first grape Fanta of the day. Obsessed.

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It was pretty easy to get to the temple – subway from just down the road, and then 2 stops on the JR line to Inari station. Simples. Outside Adam spotted more Fanta and decided the time was ripe. He has problems.

 
Going into Fushimi Inari its looks innocuous enough. Well busy – but pretty. We got up to the temples with the hordes of people and found a map, directing us to the famous torii gate walkway. Off we trundle, with no idea whats in store.


A few (maybe five) hundred (not even joking) gates ahead, and the crowds had thinned somewhat, though it was still busy. All the way up there were shrines where people rang bells and prayed. I wish I could tell you more about this, but being a typical Guijin I know nothing about the cultural significance of these shines.

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Seriously flagging and it felt like we had been walking for a few hours through the gates when we found another map. WE WERE ONLY HALF WAY. WTF . We had plenty of stops for photos (probably why it took so long) but it felt like we should be so much further up.
Now Mr Barrowsmith and I love a good challenge so we were adamant that we were making it to the top. Come hell or high water. We needed some sustenance though so stopped off for some peanut crackers.


This was quite frankly, a mistake. That mountain is huge. And extreme ramblers we are not. We also decided the 30 minute gentle route up with the more steep 15 minute descent was the right way forward. (To get half way its more leisurely, not so steep but takes longer).


This was the right call but jeesh the last 10 minutes hurt big style. My legs still havent recovered and that was a few days back. Not only that but when we got up there, we saw people in 6 inch heels and others lugging wheely suitcases! WTF!

 
At the top, aside from a pretty good view was another shrine and a burnt tree. Here’s us, with said burnt tree.


Thankfully on route up we’d found a cafe with seating area that served ice creams so had vowed to grab one of these on the way back down, I think it was this that kept us going! Which to be honest is probably a good thing as had there not been an incentive we might have just stayed up there to avoid the trek back down.

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It took us another hour of carefully climbing back down (with more photos… standard).
I think all in, it took us about 4 hours getting there, up the mountain and back down again. We didn’t make it to the next area until about 2.30!

 
Getting to our next attraction was not quite as simple. I hadn’t grasped that our bus & subway tickets wouldn’t work on the electric railway or some of the other lines that run through the city – so instead of catching a nice simple bus we ended up on a train we had to pay more for. Fail. On that note – if you’re thinking about visiting Kyoto, just get a bus pass – you really don’t need the subway addition and its quite pricey.

 
We made it over to the next temple (Kiyomizu-dera) area and then had a 25 minute walk up the hill to the temple itself, through winding roads with plenty of Kimono clad women (and men).

 
By this point it was hitting 3pm and we still hadn’t eaten. I was getting grouchy and Adam would have likely eaten anything.

 
He managed to spot a sign up a little alleyway for a lovely restaurant which we climbed up to, which served nice set meals though a little on the pricey side. It was nice to be one of the few guijin (foreigners) for once as it was a bit hidden this one.


I opted for tempura prawns with rice and noodles (I know I’m going heavy on the rice… its naughty… i’ll stop). It was served with soup and carved vegetables as well. The prawns were excellent, the batter crunchy and full of flavour. The noodles were unexpectedly cold though which I was disappointed with – though they were still tasty. I’d just not understood they were served cold. Google translate fail.


Adam went for duck (the only thing on the menu he would eat) with rice. He ate my soup as well as I am still not a massive fan.

 
After we’d replenished our energy levels (climbing a mountain apparently really takes it out of you), we went back up the street to try and find the temple. It was pretty simple as it was freaking huge.

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Now its listed as the second or third best attraction in Kyoto – the home of temples – but I wasn’t a massive fan. I mean yes it was pretty and the gardens were nice but many of the others are significantly better, and my favourite is still zenkojjie. I can see how it would be amazing if all the blossoms were out or if it were autumn as its quite high up and you’d get stunning photos. But as its closing and the sun is going down its actually a bit stark. Maybe we were just tired.

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We ambled back in the direction of the shops for a pootle and a snack (Adam was eyeing up steamed buns… he’s always eyeing up buns of some sort), and ended up with two traditional japanese ‘meat’ buns. I always er on the side of caution with things classed as ‘meat’. Why aren’t they more specific??

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This time I just went for it and am so glad I did, these were well fit and a bargain at Y350 each as well. Might try find some more over the next few days.

 
Though everything was shutting, our itinerary was not quite finished with us. We knew we needed to see Gion to have ‘done’ Kyoto properly and we weren’t far away, so with one final push, and a promise of a coffee and cake set (set… we’ve got that down now… ), we walked another 25 minutes or so over to the old entertainment district.

 
I really expected this to be far more traditional and was kind of disappointed, but the area near the station looks just like a normal city to be honest. Though all the better for finding cake and a decent coffee…

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Cafe comme ca was the first cafe we came to that we fancied. We were sat separately from the other customers. I felt this was becoming quite common and have christened this the ‘guijin corner technique’.

 
Still we weren’t fussed as we had not only a great view of the lovely little zen garden, but also of the cake counter. My favourite type of counter.

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We both went for the chocolate orange option, and I had a good old OJ (drink… not wife beater), and Adam a latte. I can confirm both items in my set were oi-she.


Post snack break, I was determined to find the often photographed Gion so back streeting we went. And by that I mean wandering down alleyways… nothing else. Rude.

 
There were plenty of odd shops round here, filled with cat or owl specific items (my cousin would have loved these).


At one point down one of these little back roads we actually spotted a Geisha! She was very young though and chatting to another girl in jeans so was either a Maiko or a tourist who had been done up. Either way quite exciting.

 
As we walked closer to the river it became more what I expected, and out came the tripod (I mean that in a literal sense, not the hard on sense) and I managed to get some photos for your enjoyment. And maybe my wall back home.

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After a day of excitement, with geishas (maybe), mountain climbing (definitely) and a heap of tasty treats (for sure) we hopped on a bus (very easy to do in Kyoto) and trundled home. Ready for another full on day of exploring tomorrow. We were both knackered but it had been a good un.

Why I loved my photography course [and some of my pics]

I am a big fan of continuous learning. I think its important everywhere in life, not just at work, though obviously I think its a big deal there too.
I always do something every year though – just for me – Ice skating and cake decorating are two of my previous courses, both of which I enjoyed and got something out of.
This time though, with some time off, I thought i’d go for something I could not only use personally and at work, but something I could really get my teeth into. So photography it was.
I spent a considerable amount of time deciding which course to do, it needed to be beginner, DSLR based, but more advanced than showing me how to label folders. Pretty sure I had that down.

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In the end I went for Learn Digital Photo in Redbourn, run by Ann Kelly.
I picked this for a few reasons – its proximity to home, the great reviews, and the fact that it was a solid 2.5 hours a week.
That leads me neatly onto my reasons why this course was the best one I’ve ever done. In list format. You’re welcome.
1. I had ‘proper’ time to engage in the lesson
Its great doing an hour of something a week. Lifes busy, I get that. But 2.5 is awesome. It really gets you into a topic (or two) and gives you time to think about it. Not only that but it gives you just enough to want to know more – so you actually do your homework! See there’s a first for everything…

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2. Learning something new each week
Each week was a new challenge. And I don’t say that lightly, some weeks really were a challenge. Its important to push your brain though, and that moment a few weeks later when it all clicks is a big thing.
3. I had a great tutor
Ann was incredible. Those of you who know me know full well I don’t do praise particularly well. Sarcasm – yep I’m your gal, but genuine praise – you’re better off finding someone else. But seriously though, Ann is an excellent tutor. Not only does she have a real passion for the subject, a very cool style of photography herself and years of experience, but she’s also an interesting and engaging teacher. Interspersed with her opinions on society, anecdotes from her career and plenty of feedback (the good the bad and the ugly) she was outstanding. You need a great tutor to really develop you and your style. Even if they don’t always share it.

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4. The practical classes
If you’re considering a photography course, do one with practical classes. You end up with stunning photos that you’d never have known how to get previously, and real hands on experience – as well as ‘live’ feedback. The learn digital photography course has two of these – one in London at the eye, and another portrait class. Both I thoroughly enjoyed.

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5. I actually took something out of it!

My previous classes have been mainly for immediate enjoyment, not ongoing use. Though I can skate well enough now forward (and slightly backwards) i’ve never iced a cake since. This time its different though. I actually know now how to use my DSLR that I paid a sizeable chunk for. Not only that, but I actually want to use it! I’m desperate to get out with it and practise (travelling is a great excuse) and I’m thrilled when my shots look how I wanted, or even when the EV is on the zero. I know that, much like riding a bike, that knowledge is going no where and i’ll use it regularly. Which leads me onto…
6. Value
My course cost me in the region of £250+ I can’t remember exactly, but it was worth Every. Single. Penny. In reality its probably cost me more as I now have a hankering for a few additional lenses… maybe a third tripod… etc etc. (Ps my 30th birthday is coming up… *cough*) However it really has reignited my love for photography, and I couldnt really put a price on that.

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So would I recommend doing a course? For sure. Would I recommend Anns course? Absolutely. And if you can’t commute to Redbourn – try harder. Or at least look for a course with a decent chunk of time each week, and constant feedback from a great tutor. It will make the world of difference.

6000 MABA TR – Day 7 – To the palace

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Day 7 dawned crisp and clear, what would have been perfect skiing conditions but we were heading off the mountain so no more boarding for Adam.

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Maybe it was the thought of this that made him accidentally smash his head on the boot of the shuttle bus that took us to Hakuba station in the hope we’d stay longer…(one of those moments you really shouldn’t laugh… and then really do. And still are at the memory)


The view of the mountain from Hakuba station (which incidentally was like 8 minutes from the hotel by minibus) was stunning and we were sad to be leaving. It is a great place and we’d certainly consider going back. I feel I may say this often of Japan!

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Once Adam had remembered his name, and considered how big the bump on his head was – we managed to chat to the clerk at the ticket office and reserve our seats over to Kyoto. Frustratingly I think we ended up in the wrong carriages (we’d splurged on green car – first class – seats) but hey – you live and learn.

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We arrived about an hour early so read for a bit before getting onto our 10.13am train. The journey was awesome, we went past some stunning scenery on our 1.30 local train and though it was a bit like a big version of the overground – it was surprisingly OK for the 90 mins we were on it.


We did manage to get confused at the end and thought we’d missed the stop as it was shockingly running 2 minutes late (that never happens here) but we were fine. Saying that – the transfer was now down to 4 minutes so was a bit touch and go.
The next train took us from Matsumoto to Nagoya and was a limited express train – very comfy!! We played cards for a bit and had a snooze – great way to travel.

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Then the exciting one – we had 10 minutes to change in Nagoya to board the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto. This was very easy and we were onboard quickly. The bullet train really is super fast, 36 minutes to do over 100km – impressive!
We arrived in Kyoto around 3pm, starving though impressed and tried desperately to find something we wanted to eat. At this point our bags were feeling very heavy and we were both feeling the strain… so we went for… Mcdonalds. I know! Its dreadful! But my god it was worth it.

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Once finished we kept on trudging around and picked up some city bus and subway passes (more on these tomorrow) and two singles to our nearest station Maratumachi.
The subway was again easy enough and we got to our hotel (Kyoto Garden Palace hotel) about 4pm. I’d booked too late to have much choice of hotel so its a bit further out than i’d normally go for, but its a lovely hotel and right next to the imperial palace.


Bags dropped and a quick freshen up and we realised they do a cake happy hour 3-6. A CAKE HAPPY HOUR. I was straight down there, i’d not had proper cake in ages.
The cafe was lovely and we sat next to the window with a view of the small garden to enjoy our treat.

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Now I say treat. Singular. Because Adam sort of mumbled at the waiter and didnt realise a ‘set’ meant a piece of cake and a drink – and thought we got the whole plate!! So I got the cake I ordered, and a delicious orange juice – and Adam got a coffee. No cake.


Instead of asking the waiter for another slice he just ate half of mine to (and I quote) ‘help me out’. Unbelievable. I get one sugar laden piece of joy and he takes half!! I am pretty sure I could file for divorce over things like that…
Anyhows, cake semi scoffed, we decided to go have a wander around the palace gardens which we thought would be open until about 6. The sun was starting to set so it was very quiet and tranquil. The coy pond was a stunner.

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After our wander it was time for more food (standard) so we went in search of dinner and found a place down the road which looked good value and poke me with a fork – it was amazing.


I went for the Korean bbq chicken set, which now we know a set means it comes with other things. In this case – a oolong tea (nice), rice (yum), tofu (not so yum), coleslaw (getinmybelly), pickled veg (tasty) and miso soup (meh). Overall though this was a massively tasty bargain. The chicken was freaking delish and the coleslaw was soooo good. I even liked the tea!
Adam went for the ginger fried pork and had the same thoughts (though he donated his coleslaw to the barrow cause – which was gratefully received)

 

On the way back into the hotel it was pretty busy, and it turns out there was a wedding going on! They looked amazing as well… (sneaky pic coming up…)

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Full and tired we decided an early night was in order so we could get up at the crack of dawn ready to climb a mountain. Which is exactly what we do tomorrow. Not before we tried on our complimentary Yukata (light kimono to wear casually inside) and took ridiculous photos. Standard.

 

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6000 MABA TR – Day 4 – snow arrivals

(This has been posted out of sequence as I appear to have forgotten to actually post it. Even though it was written some time ago… only realised when I went to update the index…)

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The first non travel day! Wooop!

 

We had no idea what we were doing – nothing booked – no skis / boards with us but a voucher to collect. I’d done plenty of research and contacted the snow school but not heard anything back so we were a bit out on a limb and hoping for the best.
Went up for breakfast – well we went down first… ooh errr…. and by that I mean down to reception you filthy minded monkeys… they’d failed to tell us late last night that breakfast is in the lounge upstairs. Or that such a place even existed. We just looked like we were trying to get into the bar at 8am. Problems.

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Spread was good – cereals, toast, fruit, fruit salad. You then get a choice of three hot things from the following: Bacon, tomato, eggs, hash brown, mushrooms. Erm wheres the sausage folks? (I am on a ROLL with the filth today!) not only that but 3 items does not really constitute a full breakfast – anyhow I digress.

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Breakfast for me was fruit, bacon and eggs. Adams included hash browns. And cereal.


The lounge was pretty cool as well – has a pool table so might potter up there later today.


Word on the street (my street consists of message boards and the stringy haired guy in the lounge) was that goryu was the best place for beginners (which is where i’d tried to contact) so gave them a call. Turns out that they did have us booked in so that was handy – my email just didnt turn up!
First things first – apparently you can’t really ski without skis so we headed to ‘Spicy’ – the rental place. Spicy loaded us up with kit – Adam bought more things that didn’t arrive (socks, gloves etc). We went back to change then caught the (free) 10 am resort bus to IImori. Takes about 15 minutes.
The drive over was pretty dry and worryingly snowless – but we got there and there was plenty of the wet white stuff so Adam was thrilled.


We weren’t booked in until 1, so had a while to trundle around. Adam went in to chat with them to confirm when we should arrive and they had so few people on the lessons they could take us straight away. Excellent! We both ended up on a private lesson as well due to it being so quiet! WIN! The lift passes were a bargain as well if anyone was wondering.

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I ended up with Laura, whose accent was remarkably familiar… because shes a northern lass from Huddersfield and responded to my home town with ‘Ah Darlo!! Small world!!’.
She was excellent. Given that I had done one hour long lesson in Hemel a few years ago I started right at the bottom. I ended up at level 3 by the end! In two hours! Very proud of myself. That said – still terrifying going too quickly, especially when there’s a pole holding up the chair lift coming up waaaay too fast infront of you on a run that you’ve not done before. Adam naturally loved it.


By the end my legs were jelly, but apparently that’s normal for a first time skiing… and it has given me another idea for a blog post – 10 things to expect when you ski for the first time. Nearly shitting oneself is most definitely in there.

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On that note – we may well take periscope again tomorrow from the mountain, so if you fancy keeping up to date – live – or at least within the last 24 hours – we are on there as @bobsledwheels. Hang on i’ve just realised that segway was a bit odd – I promise not to shit myself live on periscope.
For now.
After lessons we went for food. Yep I have photos. This will continue. We both had beef steak bowls, which come with miso soup (which I really liked for once) and pickled spring onions (which neither of us touched). About 3000Yen, which I work into dollars then pounds (its easier in my head) approx £20. Ive just checked – its £18.80 so my mental arithmetic does apparently go as far as currency conversion. Thats good to know.

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Hole filled (sorry), I decided it was time to get the bus back and got the 2pm one – leaving adam for another hour to play. He ended up on the 3pm bus back.
I got to the hotel feeling somewhat dodge – think jetlag had set in, and my new fun sunburn was not helping. I put suncream on and everything dammit. I’d burn underground I swear.
So I sat and wrote more of my blog on the sofa watching the snow fall. Ahhh how nice. I also had some cake. #naughty

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To be honest this travelling and eating lark is excellent, if only it paid the mortgage i’d do it full time.
At some point – maybe the cake started it – hunger descended and we went off in search of food.
After a few ‘nah don’t fancy that’ we settled on a place called Sumo Tei, which was a place run by an ex sumo wrestler, which served food called ‘Nabe’which I think loosely translates as ‘pot’. See I’m a genius at Japanese already. I’m absolutely doing a separate review on this though as it really is an experience!


The grub was great, and once we had figured out chopsticks, and eaten the masses of food we were stuffed and happy and headed back to the hotel, the journey home was interesting as it was now super snowing. And cold. As you’d expect.

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Given that it was still relatively early and still our first real day as such we needed to stay up a bit longer, so a game of pool was declared.

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We met an Aussie couple up in the lounge so played a game with those guys too (and lost. Just) before soaking in the bath to try and ease the muscles a bit (my ITBs and knees by this point were fuuuuucked).
So our first ‘real’ day was done – we were shattered and happy and looking forward to another day of skiing ahead.

*I’d like to put your mind at rest, I never intend to defecate live on periscope. And obviously as we’ve now left the mountain there are no ski trips to see – but plenty of travel related shenanigans! @Bobsledwheels

6000 MABA TR – Day 6 – Monkeying around

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Today was the first day i’d be flying solo as Adam was back off up the mountain to slide back down it and I was off to see the snow monkeys taking a bath.
At 7.40am promptly, not before a rapidly wolfed down breakfast of fruit (I’m still not a morning person so got up too late) I left the hotel and headed the 5 minutes down the road to the bus stop. I met a Japanese guy there from Osaka who asked if I minded him driving me to the bus rather than it coming to me (sure?). On route I asked him for recommendations as to what to do in his city – his response – shopping, universal studios or the aquarium – and there wasn’t much else. Didn’t fill me with hope for our two days there later but we will see what happens.
I arrived at the (next) bus stop and was branded on my wrist (not permanently – thankfully) to board the ‘proper’ tour bus with the other 31 monkey botherers.


We had an hour and a half over to the monkeys and on route John – our excellent guide (American – moved here for the ladies) regaled us with stories about families being buried on their own estates (so many gravestones everywhere!) and how each area bid for the olympics as well as the fruit of each area that was their speciality. It was incredibly informative and very well delivered, I feel I learnt more in that 90 minutes in Japan than I have from months of reading.
Once we arrived at the monkey park – we parked at the base and had a 30 minute hike up the winding path through a snowy forest, which was absolutely stunning. It was strangely quiet and calm, though the sun came through on occasion. I had to stop myself taking photos here or wouldn’t have had any time with the monkeys.
Here are a few of my faves;


Once up at the monkeys, I couldn’t stop. They were so funny – one little f*cker jumped on my backpack and tried to thieve my water!


The monkeys are a group of around 200 up there as the hot springs keep them happy and comfortable and the rangers give them food to forage so that they don’t try to go down to the village to cause havoc. They all chill out in the hot waters and to be honest – why wouldn’t you?! What a life!!

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After about an hour watching them run around and trying to take as many photos as possible (whilst kicking myself for not having purchased a 100-200mm lens before leaving) our time was up and we were forced back onto the bus. I could have stayed there all day.


Next up was one of my normal favourite bits of a day – food. We drove to an old Sake brewery in a town called Obuse.

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Where we were seated in fours and served a traditional Japanese meal of miso soup (getting my head round this now), sake (gross), steak and salad (oi-she! (delicious)), rice (good though didn’t finish) and picked veg (which was taaaasty). Dessert was massive slices of special Nagano apples.


The group i ended up with was three Aussie boarders, all nice enough but very boarding heavy on the chat. As someone who avoids exercise I merely nodded and thought about cake.
The town we were in was famed for their nuts (chesnuts just to be clear) and you could get anything here to do with them. In the end I bought Adam a locally made craft ale called ‘Adamu’ so nothing to do with Chesnuts…
Back on the bus and we were off to Nagano to go to the third biggest wooden temple – Zenkojie – which is huge and absolutely stunning. Its a non sectorial Buddhist temple and I loved it. There was a story about a bull as well, and the saying ‘following a bull to zenkojie’ came from here. They said that as if it was a totally common saying. Suuuure.

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The temple had the 6 guardians outside which were fascinating and looked after each of the dimensions. You can only reach enlightenment once you’ve gotten rid of all 108 (?) worldly sins. These guardians look after those worlds I believe. The Buddhist religion sounds really interesting and is one of those I don’t know much about – so theres a task for some day soon! Maybe that will cancel out some of my many sins?

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Inside was very peaceful and again pretty stunning (the shops inside confused my brain – surely greed and consumerism are sins?) though no photos allowed.
Once we’d had some time there to trundle it was time to head home after a really brilliant tour. Excellent tour guide, great food, and an awesome selection of sites.

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I’d have liked to have spent more time with the bouncing critters but alas can’t have everything.
I got home to find Adam in the bath. Delightful. He was ruined after too many runs and muscles not used to sliding down the snow. It took me a while to convince him to leave the hotel for food. That does not happen often!!
After some deal making, negotiating and whinging we managed to leave and go to a traditional Japanese dining bar called Shinsen dining. The food there was great – mainly meat based, and you had to order a drink too (shame) so we went for sake (Adam) and Shochi lemon sour (me). Good god it was great – like a super charged vodka and lemonade!

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Could have drunk that on tap… and i’d have been a mess…
The food was spot on, I had pork buckwheat pancakes and two teriyaki chicken skewers whilst Adam adventurously went for chefs choice skewers and more miso soup (obsessed). His ended up being chicken teriyaki, chicken wasabi, pork, mushroom and fried tofu (which was left behind).


I’d really highly recommend this place – it was packed (even in ghost town season), the staff were excellent, the food and drinks stunning. It was one of those places you’d eat at weekly if it was your local!
Sadly its not, and we had a long way to go the next day so we settled our bill and headed off – full and somewhat giddy. On route back we stopped by our local shop to see what they had in (flavoured kit kats and cheap booze. Win)

 

We also spotted a Disney themed bench! I need to get me one of these for the garden…

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Adam then proceeded to drink his ‘Adamu’ back at the hotel and that was that… giddy turned into a giddy mess. Bless his little lightweight socks.
Tomorrow is the start of temple time and we say a fond goodbye to the snow. Hakuba has been awesome, and we will be back for some POW at some point in the future. Next year if Adam gets his way!

 

 

6000 MABA TR – Day 5 – Nap interlude

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Today started earlier than I had intended. At approx 2.45am. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. Damn jetlag. It was hugely snowing outside though so pretty pleased about that – by the time we left it had settled pretty well on everything but the roads.


We actually got up at about 7.30, had the same brekkie as yesterday so I wont bore you with pics, and caught the 9am bus to Goryu. Looking reading for some snow action at the bus stop #helmet

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The plan was to do a run first before our 10am lesson. I got up to the lift, then changed my mind and decided I didnt feel ready yet. Yes I know its just a baby slope but i’d totally forgotten what I was doing! Especially as it was now all powdery ack!

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Probably for the best given that my first run on my lesson with Will from Nottingham – i totally lost control and scared the living daylights out of myself. Unfortunately – 1st season Will – didn’t really help and I spent most of that lesson feeling it had been a waste of money. Considering there were only two of us on the lesson he wasn’t giving us much to improve on and essentially was pootling down the slope as we tried to follow.
That said, it probably helped my confidence as I did a good few runs this time.
Lunch arrived and I went for Pork Katsu curry (with rice – not ideal but hey not much choice) and it was taaaasty. Got some Gyozu as well which was spot on.

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After lunch, the lack of sleep really hit, and I caught the bus back. It was 2pm and I was done.
– NAP INTERLUDE-
I have no idea what time I woke up, probably sometime around 5.30… when Adam arrived back from taking my things back to the rental place (I only had two days of skiing and my husband is a lovely human being who took back my things so I could sleep) at which point I was hungry again. Standard.
We decided though with me feeling like death warmed up and served on a charmingly disarming plate that we would just go to our own bar and get a few bites and use our drinks vouchers.


One bowl of seafood dim sum and some pork sliders later…. Oh and a malibu and orange #totallytropical… we were quite happy to go back upstairs to soak our aching muscles and sleep. Apres ski this was not.
Well it was… in that it was ‘after… ski…’ but it wasnt quite the boozing i’d planned. It was season end though so not much of that really going on. We are already planning another ski/board trip though… anyhow I digress!
So with very little happening today, its a pretty short one. Don’t worry – tomorrow will be a beast. I am not sure if that’s a good thing or not!