Blog Archives

Darker Temptations

I am over at Darker Temptations chatting about random things because I am too disorganised to have a proper post;). Come on over and share your plans for Spring.

Advertisements

Greetings from Sunny St. Croix

On Friday I have to get back on a plane and leave summer and sun behind. It’ll be even harder to leave my friend behind, but luckily I’ll see her in New Orleans in May at the Romantic Times Convention.

Before I am once again surrounded by snow let me share some of the wonderful photos I’ve taken.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Outside my window

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the wildlife;)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunset

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunrise

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Water, water and more water;)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wherever you are have a Happy Thursday!

Blogging at Darker Temptations

Today I’m over at Darker Temptations, talking about tea, travelling and writing. Stop by and tell me your dream destination for a chance to win an ecopy of one of my books.

Kyoto, Day 3 and return to Tokyo

On the second morning in Kyoto I took the train to Arashiyama to Tenryji and the famous bamboo grove. The temple had a beautiful zen garden.

  

Next to the temple is the bamboo grove, which is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky and the day turned really lovely and sunny. The pictures don’t really show the majesty and amazingness.

  

Right behind the grove is Okochi Sanso, the most amazing garden and my favourite location of all. The garden is around the house of an actor. He always wanted to have a zen garden and spent his life building it. I could have stayed there all day, especially with my laptop and written. It made me want my own garden with water features, little nooks and crannies and a couple of small buildings. *sigh* One can dream:). Unfortunately my camera batteries had started to run out and I could only take a few pictures.

   

I headed back to Kyoto and the Gion area. Gion is where the geishas live. In Kyoto they’re called Geiko (finished training) and Maiko (trainee). I bought a ticket for the Miyako Odori, a dance performance they do every April. I sat on the second floor on a tatami mat and had an amazing view of the stage. I could see the faces of the performers clearly. Photography was forbidden in the theatre, so here is a short clip to give you an idea.

It didn’t embed, so here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm–yxNLMFU.

It was beautiful and so amazingly colourful.

The next morning I got back to Kyoto Station and promptly got on to the wrong shinkansen, which meant it took me a little longer to get back to Tokyo. I checked into my hotel in Ginza and checked my email after 3 days without the internet:). The weather turned nasty as I went to Roppongi, so checked out the Roppongi Hills, which was mostly shopping. I then went to my favourite sushi place for dinner and attempted to go to the onsen one last time. Unfortunately the weather was so bad (typhoon winds I found out the next day), so the driverless monorail was out of service. I headed back to the hotel and had an early night. I needed it:).

 

Kyoto, Day 2

The second day in Kyoto I walked for miles and miles looking at each and every temple/shrine on the way.

I started with Sanjusangendo-do with a beautiful little garden.

 

This temple is known for its 1001 statues of the 1000-armed Kanon, the Buddhist goddess of Mercy. There was no photography allowed inside, but here is an idea of what the statues look like. They were beautiful and amazing to see.

Next stop was Kiyomizu-dera, which was hidden behind tarp and scaffolding. Lots more walking lead me to Chion-in. It’s very touristy and was incredibly busy.

  

Next stop was Nanzen-ji where I climbed the very steep stairs to the second floor.

 

The attractive plastic bag holds my shoes. Can you imagine how cold your feet get and how quickly walking around in your socks? Very:).

I walked along the Philosopher’s Path to Honen-in, one of my favourite stops of the day. First the Path

 

This sign shows you how close the sights could be. And it also shows the level of detail the Japanese provide;).

Honen-in has the most beautiful Zen Gardens. I could have stayed for ages and had the opportunity to enjoy a cup of tea in one of the tatami rooms.

     

My final stop of temple marathon was Ginkakuji, the so-called Silver Pavilion, which was supposed to be covered in silver, but they never got around to it. It was a beautiful location despite being incredibly busy. You could only walk in one direction and had opportunity to see everything.

   

I then walked half way back to a little place called En. They offer you the opportunity to watch a Tea Ceremony as well as whisk up your own tea. I discovered that I am not a big fan of powder tea:). Here are just a few pictures of what the hostess did.

  

Overall it was an exhausting but amazing day:).

 

Kyoto, Day 1

On Saturday I took the shinkansen, the bullet train, south to Kyoto. The train ride was about 2 1/2 hours and at times I felt like I was flying. Unfortunately the weather turned miserable, meaning I only saw grey clouds and rain. I arrived and promptly got lost in Kyoto Station. I finally found the subway and headed to my hostel. I can’t really call it a hotel as it looks like this

Let’s just say the picture online did not look like this:).

I arrive at lunch time, so I walked back to Kyoto Station and took the train to the Fushimi area to see the Tofukuji Temple. The Temple had a beautiful Zen Garden.

  

 

Next stop was the Fushimiinari-taisha Shrine. It’s the shrine with thousands of tori gates.

  Foxes are everywhere.

  

 

A picture of the plastic food all the restaurants displayed outside.

I walked around Kyoto Station and had some dinner. This is a look down from the top floor.

After dinner I did a little shopping and headed back to the hostel. As it wasn’t very inviting I headed across the road to Starbucks for coffee and to read.

Tokyo, Day 3

Sorry about the silence, I had no internet for the rest of my trip and jet-lag hit me harder than anticipated. But here is more from Japan.

On Day 3 I head to Harajuku, one of the major shopping areas, but arrived too early. Below is a store entrance.

All the shops were still closed. It appears 11am is the when everybody deems it time to go shopping;). After wandering around for a little bit and having a tea out of the vending machine (not something I recommend;) I discovered the Meiji-jingu shrine. It was build in honour of the Emperor and his wife. It has a very long walkway, which was beautiful.

  

I was lucky enough to witness a Shinto wedding. I felt a little sorry for bride and groom. On one of the most important days of their lives they have snap-happy tourists taking pictures and they will be forever in random people’s photo albums. Still, they looked gorgeous;).

  

  One of the attendants wore a beautiful kimono.

My next stop was the Nezu museum. It was pretty inside, but it had the most beautiful tea garden. I could have walked around for hours. It had nooks and crannies, little stone paths and water features. The photos don’t really show the details, but may give an idea.

   

After the museum I headed to Shinjuku and took the elevator up to the observatory. Great view across Tokyo, but it was too hazy to see Mt. Fuji.

  

I wandered some more after the observatory, including attempting to buy an adapter. My battery charger is from the UK, i.e. has three pins, so I needed it adapted to the Japanese two-pin. It was an adventure:). In the evening I headed to the onsen again. I really wished for paper while I bathed. I kept thinking about my text story.

Tokyo Day 1 and 2 or How to Get Lost a Million Times

I arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday after a rather bumpy 4 hour plane ride from Hong Kong. The in-flight entertainment on All Nippon Air was a disaster. They had films like The Terminal, but nothing new. Luckily I had a copy of The Last Twilight by Majorie M. Liu at hand. It was my first introduction to the world of Dirk & Steel and I will visit it again;).

Anyway, I arrived and bravely entered the train/subway system in an attempt to save some money. The subway system in and by itself is no problem. I lived in London for years and the Tube and the Tokyo subway are very similar. At least on paper. In the real world the stations are big enough to cover city blocks underground with dozens of exits. They have some English signage, but only close to the station, after that you have to hope you remembered the right colour line. I found my hotel after taking the wrong road and finally asked a nice gentleman. He laughed and told me it was just a little further on the road.

Tokyo is a beautiful city and they have maps on every street corner making it easy to find your way around. If you know where you’re going and have a travel guide that gives correct directions. I love Lonely Planet. I travel everywhere with them, but the Japan guide leaves things to be desired. Their maps are tiny and the fold out map in the back barely covers the centre of the city. It’s not that big a deal as every wrong turn you make in Tokyo can lead to a beautiful discovery, but I’ve found myself in a few unusual places:).

On Wednesday I started out with the Tsukiji Fish Market, but only had a brief walk around. I prefer to see my food in neat slices and not with the tails flapping and their heads attached. Call me a supermarket hunter. My next stop was the Imperial Palace.

  

Unfortunately you can’t see a lot as it is hidden behind a massive wall. Still, the bits you saw were beautiful and the East Garden is open to the public. The gardens are gorgeous. Tokyo is one of the cleanest and greenest cities I’ve ever been to. You can’t take two steps without a little hedge or a potted plant and the seating areas dotted about are beautiful. I found myself sitting down a lot, just enjoying the beautiful sunshine in great surroundings. And I now understand the obsession with cherry blossoms. Everywhere I saw one I had to take a picture.

   

After spending far too much time watching the amazing and continuously changing water fountains I headed to Shibuya, the busiest crossing in the world. They guesstimate that around 100,000 people walk across every hour. I sat in the highest grossing Starbucks, which sells only tall drinks to stop people from lingering, and took a couple of pictures. The pictures don’t give you a feel for how many people come at you when you’re crossing. It’s kind of fun.

 

And here one from ground level at night

I ended day 1 at the Odeo-Onsen-Monogatari. It is a bath house and absolutely amazing. I got lost a few times on the way to the women’s bath, but once I found it I was in heaven. They have a number of baths with different temperatures, inside and outside. I particularly loved going from 41C to the cool bath at 20C. It is so wonderfully refreshing. Sitting outside in the rather nippy March night and having the wind blow against your face while the rest of your body is warm feels amazing. I was a bit of a wuss and could only stand the sauna and the steam room for a minute or so, it was just too hot for me. Still, I managed to while away about two hours and walked out with a melted brain and a body that contained no tension;).

This morning I headed to the Senso-ji, a beautiful temple. It is very touristy in the area, but still beautiful.

  

Afterwards it was off to Ueno and the Tokyo National Museum. The building is beautiful and once again it had a great garden to sit in.

 

Once I finished at the museum I walked for about 20-30 minutes, looking for a restaurant my guide book mentioned, a restaurant that serves all kinds of tofu. I found it and had a real Japanese eating experience. Sitting on the floor with a low table before me. This was my view out of the window

It’s a little fuzzy because its through glass. I had nine kinds of tofu and was delighted with every bite. I was glad I took the chance and hiked off the beaten path.

Okay, enough picture spam for one day. Hope you all are doing well and having a great time wherever you are.

The rest of Hong Kong

I’m off to Tokyo tomorrow. I’ll arrive late in the afternoon and will then have to brave their public transport system to find my hotel. Fun times;).

Here is what I’ve been up to the last couple of days.

On Saturday I entered China, but only got as far as the mall across from the train station. It is a whole city, not just a mall. Anybody who knows Pacific Mall in Toronto imagine it about fifteen or twenty times as big and you get an idea how big this shopping centre is. Anyway, Eve and I spent the day shopping. Lets just say I got a little carried away. Just now I tried to fit everything into my suitcase and discovered it will be a challenge;).

 

I should have taken pictures as we arrived, but forgot. This is the train station in China in the evening;).

On Sunday we just ambled about in the morning looking at a couple of shrines and then headed back to Mong Kok to get the last little bits I wanted to buy, including jade jewellery.

 Our transport to cross the harbour.

In the evening we went to the Langham Place for afternoon tea and a huge buffet, which was delicious. I also rode the longest escalator in the world up to yet another mall. Shopping is like an extreme sport over here.

Today I went to Lantau to see the massive buddha at the top of the mountain. Unfortunately the cable car was out of service, but it was a gorgeous day and the monastery was rather pretty, if very touristy.

  

I had a lovely meal at the monastery. It was vegetarian and it was great that for once I didn’t have to worry what I would find in my meal. They don’t allow meat on the premises, so I knew I would only find vegetables, nothing else. The majority of restaurants over here do not cater to vegetarians or people who don’t eat red meat;).

 

You have to walk up 206 steps to get up to the buddha. Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad. I huffed and puffed a little, but walked up the steps without too much effort. The view from up there is great.

  

And going down…

And one final picture of the water view from the apartment complex where I stayed.

Not sure how the internet access in Tokyo will be (or if I’ll even find my hotel), but I’ll try and share pictures once I get there.

Hong Kong, Day 2 and 3

I spent day 2 in Macau. It was rather interesting to see an area that belonged to Portugal until 1999. The Portugese influence is still very strong. I’m dead on my feet, so only a few pictures.

  

St Paul’s burnt down and all that is left is the facade and the stairs. It’s a huge tourist attraction as you can see by the masses of people.

   

Beside St Paul’s is Monte Fort. I found it interesting to see an old canon pointing at modern Macau. Next came the Church of St Dominic. After I arrived back in Hong Kong I stopped at Starbucks and had a cheese and spinach pastry, which was delicious. The Starbucks over here have amazing food from lasagne to red velvet cheese cake. I was dead tired and went to bed pretty early yesterday.

Today started with a leisurely walk at Repulse Bay and then the visit to the Kwum Yam shrine.

  

  

The Longevity Bridge, supposedly every time you cross you add three days to your life. No wonder I walked back and forth a few times;)

  

I met my friend after the beach and combing through Stanley Market. We headed up to Diamond Hill and the Chin Lun nunnery which has a beautiful garden. Afterwards we crossed the harbour into Kowloon and went shopping across various markets. By the time we finished my feet ached, so we sat and looked across the water to the Hong Kong skyline.

Tomorrow we’re off to Shenzen and more shopping;).