Location: Port Douglas
Marg, Herb aNd France's are off to Port Douglas for a few days on the 27th of April.
Trish took us for a walk to see the University and International school which is a sister school to the one where June's daughter, Jennie, teaches. We had a look inside at the very impressive foyer decorated with pottery and a painting of the nuns arriving in Japan (in a little boat!)
Then looked in a 100 yen store and found some chair socks (I think).
No chance of retail therapy here, so had coffee and Halloween cake in a french coffee shop. We saw several nannies wheeling yellow carts containing four little children in each, standing up. They were possibly going to a nearby park. Also a line of little kids in red hats hanging onto a rope with special handles.
Back to the hotel to check out, taxis to Tokyo station and the express train to the Narita airport. Had a look at the various shops. Stopped at a bar for a drink where John distinguished himself by taking the two models of a glass of beer instead of the real ones.
The overnight plane was about an hour late both leaving and arriving. Got a little sleep and then took a long time to get out at Melbourne as the Moods were held up because they'd forgotten their two bananas. Stopped at Ringwood for early lunch and finally got home at about 1 p.m.
Always good to get home!
One minute walk to the station from our palatial hotel, the Nikko Nara. Very nice!
Got there so early we caught the previous slow train to Kyoto instead of the express. Still got there a few minutes earlier. Changed to the Shinkasen and did the hundreds of kms in a couple of hours. The taxi driver knew exactly where to go when I showed him the address in Japanese, kindly done by the previous hotel receptionist.
Pouring rain, so stayed in the room for a while then ventured out to the supermarket for brekky supplies and back to the Pats' double room for drinks. Then off to the Tiger again for a very nice dinner.
Location: Nara, Japan
We met Tsukasa and her friend Sioni in the hotel foyer and embarked on a walking tour of Nara's special attractions. First we visited the impressive Todai-Ji temple which is 1300 years old and ranks as the largest wooden structure in the world. The main entrance houses a couple of giant statues and has enormous doors. Here we lit incense sticks. Along with several thousand others we entered the main temple which is just amazing. The pillars are enormous wooden logs bound with metal bands, the ceiling has intricate beams and it houses several very large statues, some of which are Buddhas. There are extensive buildings around a huge square which could be a monastery, perhaps.
Walked back from here to the shops where the girls found us a tempura restaurant (which we had been hanging out for) and we had a very delicious lunch.
Called in at a very nice shop where Tsukasa kindly bought us all a present.
Then a very long uphill walk to the Kasuga shrine, unfortunately through the rain. This had a long approach lined with hundreds of mossy stone lanterns. I had a rest while Tsukasa took Herb inside, where they saw a wedding.
Location: Nara, Japan
Negotiated the trains to Nara really well. Didn't need a reservation for the last leg, but it was still a JR train. Enquired as to the hotel's whereabouts and it is attached to the station. How convenient is that!
Walked up to the Isuien garden, a good long way, but well worth it, another very lovely Japanese style one with various little buildings scattered throughout. Still a lovely sunny day! John and Wendy then had a look at another garden while I had a sit-down.
Walked back to find Herb had been waiting in the foyer for ages and then booked in. Our rooms are very nice indeed, a bed each this time!
Set out to find an ominomiyaki restaurant which John had researched and before we got there, were greeted by a cry of "Margaret, is that you? I'm Tsusaki,". How amazing was that! So she and her friend found the place for us and said they'd see us tomorrow.
The pancakes were quite nice, cooked on a big hot plate in the centre of the table.
Altogether a very satisfactory day.
Location: Iya Valley, USA
Really good day today and perfect weather! Caught the train (a decorated one) to Shikoku Island where we caught the bonnet bus along with some Japanese tourists. The commentary was in Japanese, but it didn't seem to matter. We drove through stunning mountain scenery along a very narrow winding road at quite a fast clip. We did ask ourselves - is he a racing car driver? Stopped at a look-out to see the statue of a pissing boy and a lovely ravine.
Next stop, a restaurant for lunch where we were all provided with a tray of various delicacies including grilled fish on a stick, raw fish, two bowls of soup, pickled vegs and rice. Very nice! (Didn't eat the raw fish)
The vine bridge was very scary to cross because of the spaces between the slats and the general shakiness, but made it ok and even managed a couple of photos.
Then a stop at the Heike folk museum which housed many interesting ancient relics.
The last event was a ride on the Obokekyo Gorge pleasure boat. We went through quite rapid water, through crystalline schist rock set at angles of 45 degrees. Very spectacular!
Got back to the station, changed our tickets to an earlier train, had
drinks and nibbles in the foyer and pizzas at a nearby restaurant.
A great day!
The Maira hotel here has been interesting. The reception girls speak very little English, but are eager to help. The foyer is labelled "Front" and it has free coffee and other hot and cold drinks, free ice creams (!) and free breakfast. This is bacon and potato rolls in a cellophane packet which you heat in a microwave. In the lift is a poster with various exhortations, one of which is Free drinks, please drink freely for 24 hours. The main disadvantage was the very small double bed and being on a very noisy street. Otherwise good!
Location: Okayama, USA
Train to Okayama ok and three taxis to the hotel where we couldn't get our rooms until 3.
Went for a long walk with a good map to the Okayama castle which had been destroyed by bombimg in ww2 and rebuilt in 1966. It's called " Crow castle" because of the black colour. We went to the 4th floor in a lift for a good view of the river and gardens. Lots of historical displays including some war lords' armour - very colourful!
Then down many steps to a bridge and across to the Korakuen gardens which were very spread out and attractive. There is an artificial lake in the centre with some islands and there are mounds, rounded bushes, lots of interesting pine trees and expansive areas of grass (well protected with half hoop edges).
Long walk back, then out for dinner at a brand new shopping centre. We finally settled on a Hawaiian restaurant where I had a hamburger, a croquette and a couple of chips on a sizzle plate. We had to wear big paper bibs to protest us from the sizzles. Unfortunately my little camera was flat, so haven't any pics of that!
There was a lot of discussion about the bill which I think, was finally worked out.
Herb went off to Nagasaki with the Pats and Moods while June and I had a somewhat quieter day. We got the loop bus to the Shukkei-en gardens which are behind the Prefecture art museum. These gardens are really beautiful and we spent a couple of happy hours just wandering and sketching. There were hundreds of huge carp, mullet and sea bream in the lake.
We were lucky enough to see a wedding couple having photos taken and they didn't seem to mind lots of snapping tourists following them around. Also saw them later in splendid embroidered outfits.
Got on the bus to the castle, just looked at the outside rather than climbing to the fourth floor.
Came back for a bit of fruit for lunch and did the washing.
Bused down to the station where we were meeting the others for a special pancake dinner. This turned out to be less than desirable, first because the Pats left us, then the Moods did likewise, leaving us to a fairly ordinary meal. The pancake places were all too busy.
Then missed the last bus and got a taxi whose driver had no idea where our hotel was and we didn't have the address, so dropped us at the Peace park and we walked the rest. Not a great evening!
Beautiful day today. What a contrast to yesterday!
Caught a local JR train and ferry to Miyajima Island, a very scenic place with the famous red tori gate standing in the water.
We had a very nice coffee and green tea Swiss roll before walking to the vantage point for photos of the tori gate, taking in a couple of temples and a red pagoda on the way. John bought a couple of grilled oysters for sustenance and we did a rather strenuous uphill walk (which, a notice informed us, could be walked in 20 minutes or 17 if we did a little running) to the Ropeway which turned out to be a cable car up a very high mountain. It had to be more than four times as high as the Dubrovnik one and the views from the top were stunning, if slightly misty. We had a Japanese couple in our gondola who spoke very little English, but managed to tell us they were going to Melbourne for a week soon.
Came down again after buying a ticket back (we had only got a one way to start with, thinking it would be possible to walk back, NOT) and got the shuttle bus back downto the bottom.
Nice lunch (chicken and egg!), back on the ferry and train, long wait to book train reservations and back on the loop bus.
Went to dinner at the Sushi place nearby and were able to have just a couple of pieces for a very small price. John had a red wine with his. The waitress brought out a glass in a laquer box and poured the wine in until it overflowed into the box and kept pouring until the box was nearly full. It was a job drinking it without making a mess! The sushi was really nice.
Visited the Peace museum this morning. It was pouring rain all day, so museums were the go.
The museum told the whole story of how and why the atom bomb was developed and how and why it was used. Very sobering indeed, and the devastation was dreadful. The effect on the people was awful. The museum itself was very well set up, and, although the story was told from a Japanese viewpoint, pretty fair. Took the loop sightseeing bus back to the main station where we had to get off and wait for the next one. Got out at the wrong stop and had to wait ages in the rain for the next one again, finally making it to the Hiroshima Prefecture art museum. This was a lovely modern building where we found a little cafe and had a nice lunch (soup and croissant, or rice balls)
John looked at the garden which came out well in his photos and we looked through the permanent display of paintings by modern Europeans such as Picasso and Kandinsky. Then some uninspiring modern Japanese works and finally some lovely paintings on silk (huge and framed) and some absolutely beautiful screens, pine trees in the fog and spring flowers.
Back on the loop bus, free on the JR pass, got takeaways from the 7 11 again as it's still raining.
Had some fun with the train to Hiroshima. The ticket man made a mistake and we all got off the train WITH THE LUGGAGE at the wrong station (as listed on the ticket) only to be told to get back on. This is fun as the bullet train stops for about two minutes. Anyway, finally got here through very foggy and rainy countryside to get caught up in a huge mob of baseball fans. Got two taxis here, no worries, rooms not ready, so had a strange sandwich for lunch then walked to the Peace Park in pouring rain.
We saw the famous wrecked dome and the memorial to Saduko and the thousand cranes. The inscription was very moving. Some of our party had a go at ringing the bell and making a prayer for peace.
The area where the bomb landed is a huge area of lawn now and there is an eternal flame which is not to go out until all nuclear weapons are banned.
We got takeaways for tea at the Seven eleven across the road. Two dinners and two bottles of wine for about $20. Who said Japan is expensive! Nice chat with the group in a nice lounge on floor 8.
Very interesting hotel/hostel. The Hiroshima international youth house was subsidised by the government after ww2 so that people interested in visiting the Peace Park could do so at a reasonable rate. Our room is easily the best one we have had so far and the reception staff, fantastic. Thanks Pat, for organising it.
This morning it was drizzling, so we decided to get to the Imperial palace by train. Good idea, as there was lots of walking through a huge park to get there. On the way we visited a lovely little shrine which seemed quite ancient.
We had our bags searched to get through the palace gate and had to wear number tags and follow a set route. The buildings were rather austere in style with a small amount of decoration. Some were painted red.
There was a very beautiful garden with a couple of mossy stone bridges and shaped trees. There was a heron sitting on top of a tree.
Returned to Kyoto Central to book our tickets to Hiroshima tomorrow.
There is a typhoon coming which is quite a worry.
Lunched at a nice coffee shop at the station then visited the Nishiki market which is a top attraction. It is a narrow side street, very long, which they have roofed with coloured glass and is lined with every imaginable kind of shop, mostly weird and wonderful food also souvenirs clothes, shoes and painted scrolls. It was great fun and we bought the odd thing or three.
Came back via the big shopping street and called in at the biggest fabric shop I've ever seen. There were heaps of women buying fabrics and patterns and I did the wrong thing by removing a sample which I thought was for sale.
Had a rest and did some sketching.
Went out to dinner at a sushi restaurant where we had an adventurous meal of grilled salmon cheek and cucumber sushi. Herb and John tried the grilled eel and pronounced it good.
Awoke to rain, but not as much as forecast. Set off to see the Gion district where the geishas live and there are very old houses. We went a very long way in the wrong direction and had a long walk along the river to get there, but made it eventually and had a coffee while some schoolgirls,had fluffy pink drinks.
There were many young people in traditional costume, they seemed to be on school excursions. We had a wander around the small streets and visited a small temple and a very big one. Still no stamps.
We had pizza for lunch at a very nice place where the salad and drink was included.
Then a walk back along a very upmarket shopping street. Stopped in a couple of shops and finally managed to draw some cash from a bank ATM. Did some washing in the hotel's excellent washing machine and dryer.
We explored a kind of shopping complex which had a french restaurant and an english pub (unbelievably noisy!) and ended up in a Chinese where John finally had his tempura prawns and we had lemon chicken. Herb had a huge plate of noodles with seafood.
Really big day today. Negotiated the rail system fairly easily, two stations to Kyoto central, then JR pass to where we had a fairly long walk to the Arashiyama temple complex. There were lots of young people dressed in traditional costume which was lovely to see. Paid to go into the beautiful gardens which featured raked gravel and a lovely lake. Then walked through the bamboo grove which was truly spectacular. We were accompanied by throngs of tourists everywhere we went! Many Asian tourists as well as people from all over. We had a nice chat to a Dutch lady in the train.
Then back to Kyoto central where we sat for a while and had some much needed lunch.
Then train to Inari where we saw the famous tori gates, many of them arranged to form a tunnel - once again surrounded by hordes of tourists. Everyone was very good tempered and polite, though! My biggest disappointment was not finding a stamp for my book. Oh well!
Had a sleep when we got back, then out to dinner at one of those places where you cook your food (in our case seafood) on a gas fire in the middle of the table. It was ok, but not very filling. Came back here for coffee and cake in the foyer.
Negotiated the two trains from Takayama via Nagana to Kyoto without any problems.
Passed through quite pretty countryside with many rice fields and many houses. Not much open farmland at all.
Had some difficulty finding our hotel (Sotesu Fresa Inn) but after many enquiries by John and conflicting directions, arrived at a hotel by the same name, but at the wrong location. The receptionist was very helpful and called us two taxis. By the time we arrived here, it was about 3.30 - more than two hours after the train pulled in!
Went out for lunch and found it at Starbucks. More confusion. We mixed up the orders and June had great difficulty persuading the girl to get her a cappuccino. Anyway the quiche was excellent. Bought some brekky supplies. Too expensive here.
Not far to find a little restaurant with proper chairs! We ordered roast pork and it turned out to be a huge bowl of noodle soup with lots of roast pork. It was very nice. Herb had seasoned spicy vegetables with noodles and cheese.
Then we had a three taxi ride to two hospitals as one of the group had a bleeding nose which needed to be cauterised. All good now!