Friday, 29 June 2012

What's not to love about Paris

Living (temporarily) in London makes it easy to pop over to Paris. And even easier, you can go by train. No long airport queues. I picked up a coffee, hopped on the Eurostar, sat back and relaxed .... and a couple of hours later I was in Paris.

My home for the next week is Hotel Renior in Montparnasse. If you look close enough you can see the sign about half way down the street. The street is full of creperies, quite disastrous really as I quickly developed an addiction to salted caramel crepes.

I played the ultimate tourist in Paris, climbing aboard the hop on hop bus. I was armed with my Paris pass and was ready to explore.

I cruised around on the bus for a while then decided I needed to get up close and personal with a few major artworks.

Mona is looking much better than me - it was awfully windy on the top of the bus.

The Lourve is enormous and amazing. After the pushing crowds of american tourists trying to get up close and personal with the Mona Lisa it was refreshing to have whole rooms of art to myself. This slightly wonky pic is of a section of ceiling. Amazing.

I also had a major art fix at Musee D'orsay (no cameras allowed), hanging out with works from Monet, Renior, Van Gough and Gaugin.

But my fav was l'Orangerie. There were two rooms each with three enormous Monet's showing each stage of the waterlily painting. It felt like I was in the painting. Once again though, no cameras allowed.

The next day I fueled up on expresso with a view.

Then began my enormous walking tour. Well that was the plan til I hopped on a boat and cruised down the Seine.

Walking the streets (yes I finally go off the boat) of various neighborhoods I discovered cool cafes, fab churches and of course crepes.

Saint Chapelle church has amazing stained glass windows upstairs.

But the lesser known church Saint Severine in the Latin Quarter was also impressive, and i was the only one there.

Luckily for me, after so much stained glass I managed to find the famous Laduree so could refuel on macaroons.

Kristen popped over for the weekend, so the first stop was of course a local creperie. We threw in a bottle of cider, thinking it was a good idea. It wasn't!

Kristen and i shopped (oops) and ate our way around the city.

There we are with yet more crepes!

And we took in a show at the Lido.

The sun was shining the next day so we headed to Montmarne for breakfast baguettes, the Sacre Coeure and more macaroons.

It was sad to leave Paris, particularly as the sun was shining. But I will be back .... my salted caramel crepe addiction will see to that.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

I'm in London town

After all my travels, I land in London town for the first time - ever! Now I know I've been here for a while (and popped to a few other places) but I'm a bit behind with my blog so bear with me.

My arrival in the UK coincided with the Diamond Jubilee celebration extra long weekend. Lizzie has been on the throne for 60 years so everyone gets a 4 day weekend and she throws a hell of a party. The town is painted red, white and blue but it rains non-stop.

But the Brits are use to lousy weather so are out in force to watch the official Royal stuff and turn up in the tens of thousands to watch the royal concert. We watched from the comfort of our sofa - well I was freezing in the house so wasn't prepared to venture outdoors despite how patriotic to Lizzie I may have been feeling.

I settled into my new home with the fabulous Kristen Smith who not only came to Heathrow to meet me but hosted a jubilee tea party - so I could join in the celebrations without leaving the house!

My first week in London seemed to be all about the beverage. Well I did have lots of friends to catch up with, and what's a catch up without bubbles I say!

So while many hours were spent in a pub - or having a very civilized afternoon tea in Kensington, thanks Simon - I was also a very good tourist. I left the lounge room (and the pub), jumped on the tube and went shopping. If I was going to take on this town I needed the right equipment, so bought myself a coat, boots and jumpers.

Oops, more beverages. It was a tourist moment though, fish and chip pub lunch at tower bridge.

I love London. Despite the rain (it's sunny at the moment thank god) I played perfect tourist and rode the hop on hop off bus. I got a bit frozen so decided to walk. I picked up a cup of tea and headed over to the palace to see how Lizzie had pulled up after her weekend of partying.

I walked along the Thames, hung out in Piccadily and ticked off many major sites .... all in just over a week. Well I'd had two days at home with a head cold so was trying to make up for lost time!

But the more I see of London the more I realize there is to discover. So enough of this chat, I'm off exploring.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Thursday, 14 June 2012

A weekend adventure in Japan

I woke up early on this Friday the first of June. I was excited, we were going on a mini break on the bullet train to Aomori.

But before we could head off on our epic adventure we needed caffeine, so we popped into Maccas at the station near home. Anita was in desperate need to caffeine!?

We ditched my pack in a locker at Euno station as I'm off to the airport Sunday night. It was great to get rid of the load and travel light.

Finally we got to the bullet train. Very exciting.

We took the train to Sendai and had a stop at Utsunuiniya for lunch. This town is the home of gyoza so of course we had gyoza for lunch.

This little dude was outside the lunch place. I showed him I've got muscles too - and can eat lots of gyozas.

Our next stop was Sendai. This is a very pretty town which offers a little bus tour called the loople. I kid you not. I took a photo of the map to prove that we didn't make the name up ... cause it's something we would do!

Then it was back on the bullet train for our trip to Aomori. We did stop briefly at Fukashima but I'm not suppose to mention that in case mum panics. We didnt get off the train but i did hang out the doors and take some photos, which I have temporarily lost.

Aomori is a really beautiful coastal town surrounded by snow capped mountains. There are lots of 'a' things in the town and lots of displays based on the huge floats that are paraded through the streets in August each year. We tested out one display before we left the station.

The large bridge in town kinda looks 'a' shaped. I think that was planned.

We had dinner that night in a very small little bar place, part of a replica of olden time bars. The guy behind the bar told us he was Japanese Johnny Depp.

As the sun was shining on Saturday morning, we took the glass lift to the top of the giant 'a' building. The views were amazing.

Then we boarded the local bus and headed out of town to a gallery. There were some amazing artworks which we werent allowed to photograph, but the giant dog sculpture was the highlight.

Next to the gallery was a recreation of a town from the Jomon period.

These people were dressing up in the clothes from the Jomon period, so i took a pic of them to save us the trouble.

Our tour guide (and sister) Kathryn took us to a local fish market for lunch. It was so fresh and yummy - well except for the dish I thought was mushrooms but turned out to be very sticky sea urchin. Not recommended.

We wandered around town, spending much time in 'do not enter' areas. We got to see inside the warehouses where the giant floats are being made.

We also visited a museum housing some of the floats from past years. They are enormous and the artists are quite famous, at least in float making circles.

I have sooooo many photos of the floats. I loved them.

Anita and I modeled fish head wear in the shop at the museum. Not really sure why....

Dinner Saturday night was in a little local Ramen shop. It was THE BEST curry ramen ever.

We stopped in Morioka on the trip back to Tokyo. It was a good choice as it's a really beautiful town with so much to see. This local lady was looking very Monet-esque.

We were stopping for a caffeine break when we heard drums and parade type noise. We wandered outside and saw an awesome parade.

These dudes posed for me just before they took over float-carrying duties. Shame they forgot to put their pants on.

After all this excitement it was time to head back to Tokyo, find my locker and grab my pack then run down escalators holding pack above my head, to catch the last express train out to Narita Airport.

Sayanara land of the rising sun. It's been a blast.

Posted from somewhere round the world...