Tuesday, August 23, 2016

And so to Melbourne

We left Ichijōji on Sunday at about 11:00.  We took a taxi to the Kyoto Railway Station.  Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki went home in their car.

The Builder and I took the train out to the airport, arriving very much too early to check in for our flight.  So we had Mos burgers for lunch and then found an International Wine Bar where we bought a bottle of extortionately expensive French wine and amused ourselves by seeing how long we could stretch the wine out.

Pretty much until check in time :-D  Way to go, us!

Our next period of waiting was spent much more cheaply in the business lounge, sipping their wine and eating their snacks.

Then we flew to Cairns, arriving at 4:30 or so in the morning.

The airport was surprisingly busy for that time of day!

Even so, there isn't a whole lot to do when you have several hours to wait before you can check in for the next, and final flight for the trip.  There was more to do once we were checked in and could go airside, have something to eat and a potter around the shops, unencumbered by hauling round a small mountain of luggage.

And so we arrived in Melbourne.  Lindsey was waiting for us at the airport.  It did, however, take an enormous amount of time for our luggage to reappear. The carousel was absolutely full of luggage from a flight from Hobart.  Mysteriously, that flight number wasn't on the carousel's signboard.  Nor were there any obvious passengers from the flight.  That would be because they are all over there, waiting at the next carousel along, which does have their flight number on it.  Lindsey went over to tell them, but only a few paid any attention.  So she went over to the information desk and told them. They made an announcement - and all the Hobart people came rushing over, grabbed their bags and disappeared.  This made room for our bags to be put on the carousel.  I have to say that Tullamarine is one of the worst airports I have ever been in for baggage handling.  We always have delays there, and usually because of inefficiency or incompetence. You would have thought they would have cracked it by now.  After all, it's not as though baggage handling is something they only do every now and then.

Anyway.  We had the bags, so we headed back to the flat, had a shower, put some clean clothes on and went out to visit Tony. He was looking OK.  Not bad for an elderly gentleman who has had major surgery.  He is hoping to move to one of the rehab units closer to his home in the next day or two. Not only will that make it easier for Stella to visit him, but it also makes the possibility of him going home much closer.

Lindsey and Ian have a house guest at the moment.  She is a fellow student of Emily's and is doing a placement in Footscray. It's not absolutely practical to commute to Footscray from Townsville, so she is staying in the spare room at the flat.  No room for us :-S  So they booked one of the holiday flats for us overnight.  This was quite comfortable. And quite quiet.  We were a bit worried that we couldn't find a kettle (although Ian finally found it in a hidden cupboard over the fridge). I was a lot more worried that there wasn't wifi :-S No worries.  Lindsey lent me a phone which has a hot spot built in.  My devices wouldn't talk to it.  This was very very frustrating for me - I wanted to update the blog and check the bank accounts and do a number of useful things.  Eventually, I turned absolutely everything off and the devices all started talking to each other again.  Phew.  I do not like being cut off from the e-world!!!

We have come down to Mount Martha for a few days today.  We can take Stella to see Tony this afternoon, and have a gentle potter about.  And there is definitely wifi here :-D




Monday, August 22, 2016

Osaka

So.  How to spend our last full day of our holiday in Kyoto?

We considered the possibility of going to Nara and visiting the giant Buddha and the sika deer in the park.

We considered the possibility of going into central Kyoto and visiting the Science museum.

We considered the possibility of going into Osaka and going for a ride on the Tenpozan Observation Wheel.

The Observation Wheel won.  It was a lovely, lovely day.  And Tatsuki loves Ferris Wheels.  So do I. A winner all round.

Plus, it had the advantage that we could travel by train from our little local railway station.  Not all the way, of course, but a little bit of the way.

So we did.

Tatsuki was magnificent.  When we were in Japan at the start of the year he was very firmly of the opinion that train hopping was a dreadful, dreadful waste of time.  I suspect he is still of that opinion, at least to some extent, but he happily train hopped all the way to the far side of Osaka.  Or, if not happily, then at least resignedly.

We all really, really enjoyed the wheel












The ride took about 45 minutes, I think.  It took considerably longer to get there :-D

We had lunch in the adjacent shopping mall and then made our way back to the house in Kyoto.

We had dinner in a Family restaurant a few minutes walk from the house.  It is similar to the Coco family restaurant not far from Austin and Kaori's place, but not quite the same quality.  On the other hand, my burger and chips were delicious, and not very pricy.

We have very much enjoyed our stay in Kyoto Ann's lovely little house in Ichijōji.  If you should find yourself looking for somewhere to stay outside of central Kyoto, I would thoroughly recommend it to you.  You'll find it on Airbnb.

We are off back to Osaka today.  It's time for the final leg of our journey, on to Melbourne, via Cairns.  I fear there is going to be a great deal of waiting around today.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Just Chillin'

We all very much enjoyed our day chilling yesterday.

We had a lovely, lazy start to the day. Breakfast.  Iced coffees. Watching the Olympics. Pottering.

Then we decided to go back to the shopping mall, where there is a child's play area.

Kaori went on one of the bikes that are provided here for the use of guests.  Their car only seats four people and, although we have squished five in when we have been here before, I am not sure that that is entirely legal.  And anyway, my bottom appears to have spread out since January and I have no wish to squish poor Kaori.  I was going to walk, but Kaori seemed quite happy to go on the bike.

I'm not sure that she was quite as delighted when she had to come back and give us the car keys, which had been put into her backpack for safe keeping when we were out on Thursday, and which hadn't been taken out again!

Tatsuki had a great time in the children's play area:






So did Austin!



I enjoyed it too, although sitting on the edge of the ball pool has its hazards.  A group of petite, slight girls came in to play.  It was what I imagine it would be like if you were sat on the side of a watering hole, accompanied by a load of buffalo!

We all pootled around in the shopping mall.  The Builder and I had iced coffees in Starbucks (not necessarily my coffee shop of choice, but needs must.)  Kaori did a bit of shopping.  The Builder and I did a bit of window shopping.  Then we re-convened in the food court before heading back to the house.

We tried for a Coco Curry for dinner in an outlet which was a six minute walk away.  Alas - it has vanished.  But there is another one about ten minutes walk in that direction over there, so we went there, followed by a lovely stroll in the (relative!) cool of the evening back to the house.  It was a very relaxing day.

This is where we are staying:












And this is our house:


Front of the house, with bicycles


Entrance shrine

Tatami room with futons

The view from our room

Living area, on the middle floor

Kitchen

View from the landing window
There is a third level with a couple of bedrooms, but Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki are using those at the moment and I think it would be a bit rude to burst in on them!!



Friday, August 19, 2016

Kyoto

We left the Osaka airport hotel at a little before midday on Wednesday (Happy birthday, Freyja!!)

We had very much enjoyed our day sitting about in the hotel and airport, but by the time we left at lunchtime on the Wednesday we were both agreed that we were getting a bit bored with having nothing much to do.  Fortunately, the afternoon brought quite a bit of adventure and entertainment!

There is a direct train from the Osaka airport to Kyoto.  It takes an hour and 20 minutes and is a very pleasant run.  Also - there is no need to change trains anywhere, carting your luggage with you!

It is possible to get from the Kyoto station to where we were staying by train, but it involves at least two and possibly three changes.  We took a taxi!

The taxi driver got us to the *area* we are staying in with no trouble at all.  Thereafter, he couldn't find the actual house.  I have a suspicion that had we been Japanese nationals, he would have dropped us at the Ichijōji station and let us make our own way to the house.  Given that we were foreigners, he took a bit of extra effort.  After all, you don't want to get a reputation (If you are driving a "Foreigner Friendly" taxi - no extra charges involved) for abandoning your foreigners and leaving them lost in Ichijōji, never to be seen again!!  We did eventually find the house, in a tiny side street, approximately one minute walk from the station.

We took our bags inside, connected to the wifi (priorities, doncha know!), made contact with Austin and Kaori and got ourselves sorted.  I decided I should go and find the car parking space - and got there just as Austin was parking up.  He and Kaori had had no trouble at all finding the place!!!!! And it wasn't even that the taxi driver was trying to diddle his foreigners out of extra money.  Once he realised that he couldn't find the house he turned his meter off.

It's a nice little (Airbnb) house, spread out over three floors.  A vast improvement on the Airbnb student house we had in Stepney.  On the entrance level there is a bathroom with laundry, a loo, and a tatami room with futons and an ensuite courtyard.  On the next level there is a kitchen and a dining and living area.  And on the third floor there are two, inter-connected bedrooms, one with a bunk bed and one with two single beds.  We put Austin, Kaori and Tatsuki up there. It seemed to make more sense than squishing them into the tatami room - and The Builder and I were never going to use the bunk beds :-D

It's a nice area.  If you head fifteen minutes in that direction you find a shopping complex, with supermarket, food hall, restaurants, general shops.  We headed there for supplies and something to eat.  An early dinner because no one had actually had any lunch. If you head towards the station, you find lots of smaller shops, a little supermarket, a bottle shop.  There's a park close by and lots of places to explore.

Our exploring yesterday took us by bus into central Kyoto, and then by another bus to the Kyoto Railway Museum. It's very large!  I almost immediately managed to lose all of my travelling companions!!  I wasn't particularly worried, though.  I knew they were all somewhere in the museum grounds.  Also - I had the key to the house in my wallet!!




1950s style railway sweet shop


Rooftop view

After we had headed back into Kyoto and had afternoon tea, we went up the Kyoto Tower to the observation deck:







Then we went home - and had small, tiny pizzas from a local pizza place for dinner. I'm not sure how they managed to sustain us through the night!

We didn't realise - and bought one each for dinner!
(The boxes don't fit in the fridge!)

With my wallet to the side, for a sense of scale

It's a lovely day today.  We thought we might spend it pottering around in the local neighbourhood.  After all, we have all been to Kyoto before, so no real need to dash about looking at temples, shrines and other important sites.  And we are on holiday. Relaxing locally is a good thing!


In other news:  Tony is in the hospital, still.  A different hospital.  When they were running all the tests after his fall a week or so ago, they found a tumour in his lung.  They think it is probably not cancerous, but they couldn't leave it where it was. It was making it hard to breathe.  It, and part of his lung, have now been removed.  I am told that he is recovering as well as it can be expected, when you are 85 years old and have just had major surgery in your chest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Osaka

We're in the airport hotel in Osaka.  It's the middle of the night.  I am awake!

We got here at about 8am yesterday morning after a very, very bumpy flight from KL. The cabin crew were told to "be seated immediately" not once but twice during the six hour flight!  Fortunately, bumpy doesn't worry me much, although I don't think the crew were very happy about it.  It didn't really keep me awake, although it did mean that the hot drink service was suspended. You can see their point. You wouldn't want hot drinks flying around the cabin in an unsupervised way. But orange juice don't quite cut it as a wake-me-up! The second plane was quite a bit smaller than the first, which had been the first "double decker" plane I had ever flown in. First class and part of economy downstairs; business and the rest of economy upstairs. Lots of room to play with. Our seats were much less wide on the second flight.  More than enough legroom though, even for The Builder

Flight #1

Waiting for Flight #2

We were given beef and chicken satay sticks before dinner on both flights.
Very tasty!
We got through immigration and customs with remarkable speed and trundled over to the airport hotel. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to arrange an early check in! We showered and changed and went for a wander around the airport which, you may remember, has a large array of shops and restaurants. We had thought about going into Osaka itself and going for a ride on the Osaka Wheel, however the day was very hazy and cloudy and it didn't seem worth the money - we wouldn't have seen very much.  In any case, The Builder was rather tired after the London adventures. His feet and back were hurting.  He was quite happy just to sit in the hotel and mess about on the internet and relax. We are likely to be quite busy over the next few days in Kyoto, so a day just chilling and not travelling or exploring seemed like a good plan.  We did stir ourselves to go to the brasserie for the buffet dinner. We never really get our money's worth from the buffet, but it is very delicious and we do enjoy it. At the moment they are doing a "Brazilian barbecue" (I assume in honour of the Olympics).  There were no South American spices discernible in it, but I have to say it was very, very tasty.

And, of course, I had to have my now customary, build your own soft serve ice cream:


They are meant for the children
I don't care!
And now, alas, I am awake. It's not yet 4 am. Much too early to be awake. I might have a cup of tea and then perhaps an early morning snooze before breakfast.  Checkout here isn't until midday, and checkin in Kyoto isn't until 3pm so there's no real hurry today


Monday, August 15, 2016

Leaving England

Friday - Sheffield:

We had a fabulous evening at the Real Junk Food Project. Several of the volunteers I've worked with regularly came.  The cafe had been decorated with flowers and balloons and party table cloths. Jo, Freyja and Russ cooked up a storm.  We had a Mediterranean style vegetable stew, with tomato bruschetta and mushroom toasts to start with, then sirloin steak and spare ribs for the meat eaters, butternut squash tortellini for the veggies, chips and salad for everyone for the main.  For dessert we had banana cake.  All the food was from rejected food by the supermarkets and the delivery services (although some of it, like the steaks, had been waiting in the freezer for a special occasion. We had wine and beer brought by the volunteers (and us). It was a great evening and a fitting farewell to almost two decades in and around the Sheffield area.

Here is a selection of the photos I took:

Carlos and The Builder talking to

Phil

Hannah, Russ, Rene and Jo chatting at the other end of the table

Jo testing the steaks in the kitchen

Freyja about to plate up tortellini



Saturday - London:

The Builder and I took the 9:30 train down to London.  Tabitha, Gareth, Cally and Flynn drove down.  Freyja and Simon took the 12:30 train down.

The Builder and I took a taxi out to Stepney to collect the keys to the place we were all staying.  We had booked it through Airbnb, which I haven't used before.  We had booked it at short notice, and needed a reasonably priced place that could accommodate all 8 or us.  The place we found was very cheap and looked very basic on the website - very much like a student house.  We figured that it would do for an overnight stay where we weren't expecting to be in for very long.  The location was fabulous - a short walk to both Whitechapel and Stepney Green.  The house was exactly like a student house and would have been ideal except that it was very dusty and the floors hadn't been swept in a while, and half the light fittings were without light globes (so exactly like a student house :-D ) There was a small garden, but we couldn't use much of it because of the abundance of nettles.  But there was an outside table set and so we spent the evening out there eating an abundance of food from the Turkish takeaway place that was a five or ten minute walk away.

But before that we made our way to the British Museum, where we were meeting Freyja and Simon. Cally was beside herself with excitement that she was going to one of the biggest and best museums in the world.  She LERVS museums, and ancient ruins, churches, art galleries, cathedrals.  When we walked in she gasped at the size of it.  Then she saw the stairs leading up too the other levels!!!!

A selection of the photos I took in the British Museum.  I didn't get any useable ones of Cally - she was moving too quickly!






Tabitha, Gareth and the  children went off for a wander around London.  Freyja, Simon, The Builder and I headed to kings Cross to collect their luggage and to buy new luggage for us (one of our cases was showing distinct signs that it wasn't going to make it to Osaka, much less to Melbourne!), then we headed back to Stepney - ON A BUS!!!!!!!!!  I have never travelled by bus in London.  It's amazing.  It ties into a lovely mental map all sorts of places.  For example, I had no idea we were so close to the Gherkin, until we trundled past it.  And as an extra bonus, the bus took us down the road which houses the swanky building where I used to go for the meetings with the Building database people.  I hadn't expected ever to see it again.  A surprise Last Thing!


Sunday - London:

On Sunday morning, Gareth, Simon and Flynn took all the luggage from the Saturday night house and moved it to the house in Richmond that they will all be staying in until mid-week.  Tabitha, Cally and The Builder went to the park.  Freyja and I took the keys to the house back, and had a quick wander in Whitechapel. Then we met the others in the park and we took the bus into Holborn.  It was much like being on one of those tour buses that takes tourists around central London, except that we didn't get the commentary, and it didn't cost us anything (the oyster card reader wasn't working so the driver just waved us all on!).  We had a little potter in Covent Garden, where Cally was fascinated by the street artists. She is finding London a bit puzzling.  There are no circuses at Oxford or Piccadilly Circus.  There is no garden at Covent Garden. Aside from these little oddities, however, London is a place of magical excitement for her.

We had lunch in the Giraffe cafe on Southbank, where Gareth, Simon and Flynn met us



Then we took a boat down the river to St Katherine's Dock:






And THEN, we made our way to the Tower Bridge Exhibition. There are many, many things to look at in the exhibition, but we had mostly gone because we wanted to walk along the upper walkways over the bridge.  They have recently put in glass in parts of the walkway.  It's lots of fun












Then we went to Richmond, collected our luggage, and Tabitha, Freyja, The Builder and I headed out to Heathrow on another bus. No bus riding in London for me for almost twenty years, then loads of it on the last weekend.  I should have done it before!!

We are now in the Kuala Lumpur lounge, having had a great flight from Heathrow.  I pushed the boat out for this trip and bought Business Class tickets. It did mean that we had to come via KL, but that's no real hardship.  By the time I looked for Premium Economy tickets the direct ones were all gone, or astronomically expensive.  Flying Business Class has given us access to fast track checkin and security checks, access to the lounges, some quite nice food - and a "bed" to sleep in on the flight here.  Worth almost every penny!

It seems a bit odd to think that we won't be heading back to Tupton in a month or two.  Even odder to think that we are to some extent now Of No Fixed Address (although we do still have the Tupton house so do have an address to return to if we are so minded - for now :-D). But although the weekend in London was absolutely chockablock full of Last Things, we know that it is unlikely to be the last time we do any of them. We are intending to do what we have always done - visit every year or so - but this time in reverse.