Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Tour Guide

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

We have had visitors for a couple of weeks and I spent quite a bit of my time attempting to be a tour guide.  I’m not always good at it.  I walk too fast, walk too far, and sometimes walk to places that aren’t open.  But I had fun and I got to see some new places in Japan.

Hakone Open Air Museum

Hakone Open Air Museum



Recent Travel

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

It’s 7:19am on a Sunday.  Why am I awake?  I’ve been awake for over an hour and I’ve cleaned the kitchen.  Cleaning and Sunday mornings do not go together.  I cannot stress how much I hate jet lag.  Yesterday I was woken up when a friend rang at 11:42am.  I can’t decide which is worse but neither are right.  It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually felt normal when I woke up.  But my brain has been foggy for days and I find it hard to be productive if I end up being awake at 3am as happened on Thursday morning.

The cause of the jet lag was a two week trip to America.  Autumn is a great time to visit New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.  It was much warmer than I expected but the good weather did mean that I was able to spend quite a bit of time outside.  I can see why it’s called “Fall” in America as there were fallen leaves everywhere.  To me they were beautiful but since I saw people using leaf blowers to blow these off their lawns I assume that there are some problems caused by the great number of trees in the region.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

It was my first visit to Philadelphia and I was surprised by how much I liked the city.  I was only there for a couple of days, so didn’t get to see that much of it, but I liked how the city felt.  I had been staying in China Town in Manhattan and that was chaotic and smelly so I think I enjoyed the contrast in Philadelphia where the city felt fresher than Manhattan.  Of course Manhattan feels different depending on the part you stay in but I can see why someone described Philadelphia to me as Manhattan-lite.

Love Statue - the fountain has been dyed pink for breast cancer awareness

Love Statue – the fountain has been dyed pink for breast cancer awareness

For the first time I travelled in America by train and bus.  The train wasn’t that unlike travelling by train in Japan.  It wasn’t as clean, and I was a little unnerved by how little information you could get until 15 minutes before the train left, but it was much more pleasant than flying between New York and Philadelphia.  And unlike a plane you get to see the countryside as you are travelling. I also enjoyed travelling by megabus.  The trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh took nearly 7 hours but the bus was comfortable, had a bathroom and wifi on board, and made a stop at a rest stop half way through.  It also only cost $30 for the one-way trip.  It wasn’t without difficulty as it was hard to find the bus stop in Philadelphia.  There was construction going on outside the Philadelphia train station so it may be easier to find the bus stop when this is finished.

I got to spend a couple of days in Laurel Highlands in the Allegheny Mountains.  It was a great area to hike in and I was fortunate to be there when it was clear and sunny.

Laurel Highlands, early Saturday morning

Laurel Highlands, early Saturday morning

I spent a few days in Pittsburgh with friends.  I’ve been to the city many times and I always enjoy going back.  My friends do like me to experience new things when I visit and this time I got to see a giant rubber duck on the Allegheny River.  I think it’s leaving the city soon and I’m sure they will miss it as it’s surprising how happy watching a 40 foot rubber duck can make you feel.

Giant Rubber Duck

Giant Rubber Duck

I am going to be travelling again in just over a week and I’m not looking forward to adjusting to GMT but I am looking forward to seeing my family and friends.

Rubber Duck, at the end of the day.

Rubber Duck, at the end of the day.

Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

I travelled to America for a couple of weeks and had a great time catching up with friends.   Yesterday I spent around 14 and half hours on a plane so that I could get back home.  Compared to some people I travel a lot but my body never seems to get any better at this.  This morning I am achy all over and my head is congested.  I feel like I’ve caught some sort of flu that makes your body swell.  The puffiness seems to fascinate Marty and he was wondering if it was dangerous and if I would eventually explode.  A cheery thought for my next trip.

Cruise Day 4 – Busan, South Korea

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Before we left the ship we saw that the news was full of concerns about North Korea, but life here in the South seems to be continuing as normal. We spent the morning walking along a river admiring the cherry blossoms. It was beautiful, but it would have been easy to think that we were still in Tokyo.

After our walk I went back to the ship for lunch and Marty went into the city to buy seaweed and kimchi.  He had been told that the seaweed in South Korea was excellent.  He bought much more seaweed than I was expecting and I hope he’s planning to give some of this away as I have no idea how we would manage to use so much.

Crusie Day 3 – Nagasaki Biopark

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Nagasaki is famous for its war memorials. We had never been to see the city, as it’s quite far away from Tokyo, but we did not want to start our holiday reading about the war. Instead we hired a car and headed out of the city to the Biopark. Marty loves animals and a place where you can hand-feed monkeys sounded perfect for a day trip.

The drive to the park was easy and the scenery was surprisingly beautiful as I did not know that Nagasaki was surrounded by mountains and water. When we arrived at the park the sun was shining and there weren’t many people around. We didn’t have to queue to get in and we were able to dander around the park at our own pace. We started by going to see some of the larger animals. I really like alpacas and other wooly animals and we stood admiring them for a while. I didn’t stroke them though as one of them was spitting and looked a little bothered. They may be cute and fluffy but they also have rather large teeth.


My favourite animal was the capybara. I wasn’t expecting them to be so relaxed around humans but they were happy to be fed and scratched. Their hair felt more like straw than I was expecting, but I still enjoyed stroking them. Marty really liked the monkeys and the lemurs. I was a little wary as they would dart on to your body looking for food and then dart away again. They do have sharp little claws and I didn’t want to be scratched. I am also not that fond of monkeys jumping on my head and neck, but Marty didn’t mind this at all.

Marty and the Squirrel Monkey

There were some animals that I have never seen before. I’m still not sure what a “mara” is or even if that is the English name. (Normally I would just look this up on Google but it’s not easy to do that on the ship.) The maras looked like mutant miniature donkeys and I was surprised to hear one purr when Marty was feeding it. There were maras in the same enclosure as the meerkats. The meerkats looked cute but they were pushy and willing to scare the maras, which are a much bigger animal, in order to be fed.

I dislike moths and there was a butterfly house in the park. Butterflies are not moths but sometimes they do look very similar and they can frighten me. I was very brave and went into the butterfly house. I even managed to take pictures.

Large Black and White Butterflies

Everything was fine until we were just about to leave. There were very large black and white butterflies in the house and one of them had landed on Marty. As we were leaving a caught sight of two of these out of the corner of my eye and they looked like monster moths. I yelped in horror and Marty, being the sympathetic husband that he is, stood and laughed. He asked me if I thought that stealth butterflies were going to get me. I do know that they can’t really cause me any harm, but my fear is not rational.

I really enjoyed spending time in the park and I would go back to Nagasaki.

Cruise Day 2 – At Sea

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

I wasn’t sure what the days at sea would be like. I’ve been on cruises before, but they were Geek Cruises that had classes when we were at sea and geeks to chat with. We started our first morning with a long breakfast. It wasn’t quite as relaxed as I had hoped, as we had to queue for quite some time at the restaurant with grumpy people, but the food was fine.

After breakfast we went to the library to read. I have 25 unread books on my kindle and there are hundreds of books in the library. I curled up on a sofa and read a book about the Celts. I spent some of the day at the spa, as I encouraged Marty to get his unruly hair trimmed, and he hadn’t found the time to do this before we left home.

The dinner was formal and since it was our 17th wedding anniversary I tried to get over my loathing of having my picture taken and posed for pictures with Marty. Hopefully I managed to smile in at least one of these.

Cruise Day 1 – Kobe

Friday, April 5th, 2013

It’s been a while since Marty and I went on a cruise. I think the last time was 2004 when we went on a Geek Cruise in the Mediterranean. We loved that you could sleep comfortably at night and wake up somewhere new in the morning. We have considered a number of cruises since 2004 but they were either too expensive or the dates didn’t quite work. This cruise from around Japan and China fitted well with a couple of our holiday plans. We were able to take a train to the port, so we didn’t have to start our trip with flying, and we would get to see more of Asia including some more of Japan. It also began just before our wedding anniversary.

We are very excited to be on holiday.

(All of my blog posts about the cruise will be posted late. There is no internet connection aboard the ship in Japan or Japanese waters. Even if we are in a place where they will be a connection it is a very expensive satellite connection with no guarantees that it will actually work. I plan to check on some email while I am travelling but there will be days when I won’t have any connectivity at all.)

Heading Home

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

I’m back in London Heathrow waiting on my flight to Japan.  I did not manage to blog at all while I was in the UK, but then I rarely managed to get online.  The house we were staying in was supposed to have wifi but it broke completely for a few days and when it was “fixed” it was incredibly hard to get connected.  There were a couple of spots – like the second step of the stairs – where it was possible to connect for a minute or so, but it was incredibly frustrating trying to connect and I mostly gave up.  This means that I now have hundreds of unanswered emails.  Joy.

I’m starting back to my Japanese class on Monday morning and I feel horribly unprepared.  I tried to keep on top of the work over the past two weeks but it’s very hard to study when you are trying to do family things and catch up with friends.  I have a feeling that February is going to be a busy month.

Travelling to Europe

Monday, January 21st, 2013

I was going to start this post by saying that travelling is no fun.  But that’s not true.  There are lots of aspects of travel that are fun, but getting to the place where the the fun starts can be grim.  At the minute I am in Narita airport.  My flight to London has been delayed for a couple of hours, but at least I get to wait in comfort.  I am feeling a little stressed as I could easily miss my connection to Belfast in London.  And even if I arrive on time to make the connection I could still end up spending the night in Heathrow as British Airways are cancelling flights because of the weather.

Getting to the airport this morning was stressful.  When we arrived at the train platform we had no hope of boarding the train.  It’s hard to explain just how full trains become in Japan.  I have been in other countries where people have complained about the train but you could easily get on and still move your arms and feet when inside.  This train was so full that people’s faces and bodies were smashed up against the doors and windows.  When the train stopped and more people attempted to get in they did this by walking on backwards and pushing as hard as they could.  When that failed they started to run at the passengers who were spilling out of the train to see if that helped to push them further in.  The train was late leaving the platform because people got stuck in the doors.

I could not have gotten into the train on a normal day but trying to do so with a couple of suitcases was a horrific concept.  We ended up buying a ticket for the first class car and waited on another train.  We did not get seats but we were able to at least get on to the train and stand in the corridor beside the doors.  Then we had to get off the train.  The platform at Nippori Station is old and narrow.  It’s really hard to get off a train with the people waiting to get on.  And incredibly difficult in rush hour to walk down the platform to the exits.  To get to the Skyliner we had to walk past the exit that most people want to use and there were hundreds of people pushing and shoving all attempting to not fall off the platform on their way to the stairs.  And I do mean stairs and not an escalator.  I carried my case up the stairs hoping that I wouldn’t get pushed over by the crowd.

After that things got easier.  My train ticket didn’t work but that was fixed by asking for help and did not involve being worried that someone would knock me off the platform.  At the airport there was no queue at all.  I assume that some of the passengers decided to come late because of the delays.  I did managed to get confused again, but that’s because of my understanding of Japanese.  I didn’t understand what was being said to me at the automated immigration gate. Being a foreigner I can sign-up for this service but my passport can’t be read correctly and I have to go through the line that is staffed.  It’s not exactly automated but it’s still quicker and I use it because it means you can ask for no stamp in your passport.  My last passport was filled up in 5 years and I would like this one to last a bit longer.  I asked for no stamp and the person behind the desk just said “sorry, you have stamp”.  It took me much too long to work out that she had made a mistake and stamped my passport before asking if I wanted this or not.  We both did a lot of apologising and I rushed on to the lounge so that I could sit and wait and try to think of something other than travel.  As you can see I failed.


Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I have been trying to sort out my travel plans for 2013.  Last year I spent 144 days away from home and I don’t want to travel quite that much this year.  Since 2007 I have attended three Perl conferences a year, but I don’t think that I will be able to attend  YAPC::EU this year.  It doesn’t coincide with any family events and it’s expensive to fly to the Ukraine from Tokyo.  Actually, it’s noticeably more expensive to fly to anywhere from Tokyo this year. I do plan to attend YAPC::NA in Austin in June and YAPC::Asia if it is held in Japan. I also want to attend some TPF Community events that should take place in Europe around the time I am there for my aunt’s wedding in May.

Although I travelled a lot last year I didn’t actually manage to have much of a holiday with Marty.  We have been been talking for a while now about seeing more of Asia while we live in this part of the world.  We haven’t been that great at doing that but we have booked a holiday around our wedding anniversary which will take us to China and South Korea.

I started the next level of my intensive Japanese class a couple of weeks ago. It’s utterly brain melting.  I was unsure about doing this as I’m flying to Europe on Monday for a family birthday.  I’m really looking forward to catching up with people but I’m not looking forward to missing two weeks of this term.  I am going to miss a lot of material and I will be expected to somehow cover this myself while travelling.  When I get back I’m also going to have to find time to complete the 10 hours of written homework, the two essays, the three kanji tests, and the two weekly tests that I will have missed.