Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

Art In Florence

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

I’ve spent two days in Florence now (from the Latin name Florentia, as opposed to the local name Firenze). It’s a gorgeous place. I’ve been reading about the Medicis, the dynasty who really put Florence on the map, and this was a great city with a cathedral and magnificent city hall before they even got going in the 16th century. I feel like a right bogtrotter…

I’m not any great connoisseur of art, so I am never sure what I’ll make of art galleries. But I think I agree with the pope in the classic Monty Python Sketch – some art just has something in it that provokes a reaction. 

Today I say works by all 4 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja/Hero Turtles (though I didn’t tell the tour guide I had been thinking about it in case I got thrown out). I also saw one piece of modern art I thought was brilliant, which was a surprise. 

I was going to post some pics, but that is failing. Oh well, after I get home. 

I also climbed about a million steps to the top of the cathedral, so I retreated to the hotel to have a wee sit down before dinner. 

The last day

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Today was my last day in Tokyo 🙁
But it was awesome! Got my case packed (at least 3 times. I think everything is accounted for now), and bought a few last things in my favourite shops.
Then I went off to LinuxCon Tokyo, and heard Linus Torvalds speak. If you don’t know, he’s a geek rock star, who has changed the face of computing thanks to his work. I was impressed!
Then had really delicious eel for tea in a traditional restaurant which has a Michelin star. And then finished the day with Karaoke, where I sing until I could sing no more. Well, sung until I couldn’t sing well anymore. Curse those high notes!


Monday, May 19th, 2014

Yesterday, we drove up into the mountains. This was our destination, and it was really beautiful:

But was is not immediately obvious in that picture are the monkeys!
The monkeys live in the mountains, but used to come down to bathe in the hot springs in the winter. This was a problem for the people using the hot springs, so they built a bath for the monkeys to use themselves.
So unlike a zoo, these are wild monkeys who choose to be here, and there are no bars or fences.
They are Snow Monkeys, or Japanese Macaques and they look gorgeously soft and fleecy!

And there lots of mothers with little young monkeys!

Needless to say we spent ages going “Awww” and took hundreds of pictures.
A great day out!!


Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Tokyo is a great place to shop, from the electronics shops of Akihabara to the fantastic stationery shops all over the city.
But today we went to a flea market, and I made an unexpectedly brilliant purchase.

It’s from 1959, well prior to the actual moon landings obviously, and written in very simple language for young children. I think it’s cool!
I’ll post more when I can get decent pics of the inside pages.

Here’s Fuji!

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Mount Fuji often likes to hide in the clouds, or just in the haze, as it’s pretty far away. So it was cool to see it clearly this morning from the balcony.


Tokyo Day One

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

After my adventures in Tokyo last time, some people are surprised that I wanted to come back again. But I always planned to come back – it’s still a cool place, and I still have friends here.
The biggest problem with Japan remains the fact that it’s an awfully long way away. My nose has been playing up a bit at home, but 12 hours on a Virgin Atlantic plane gave it a complete meltdown. Worse still is the cultural sensitivity about blowing one’s nose in Japan, which made me even more paranoid about having to wipe it every 30 seconds. So once I arrived at my friend’s house, I did the appropriately Japanese thing and got myself a face mask. That way I keep my big red hooter to myself, and drips are contained. Sorry that’s so disgusting, but that’s how it works!


I also realised yesterday that I have been doing pretty well at going to the cinema, as I had seen most of the big movies available on the plane. All the ones that interested me anyway. So I watched some TV instead.
They only had one episode of Miranda, but it was hilarious. As always when I watch it, I think it’s brilliant, and reckon I should watch more of it. It’s very silly 🙂
Watched the pilot episode of True Detective, which people in work have been raving about, and I can see it has the potential to be interesting.
But most of all I enjoyed 20 Feet From Stardom, a documentary about backing singers, the unsung heroes of the music industry, who contribute so much but remain virtually unrecognised. It was very interesting, and quite thought-provoking as they struggle with the choices of being very successful in the background, or aiming for the limelight and failing.
Oh yes, I watched Frozen too. That’s a very odd movie! But I fell asleep and missed the end of it.

Barcelona Day 4

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

For my last full day in Barcelona, I decided that I had done enough walking, and went on a bus tour instead. Had pasta for late breakfast at the station, then over the road to the bus stop for the tour buses. The system is quite good – they have 3 different routes, and you can not only hop on and off to change buses, but can also change routes to go and do a different tour.

So off I headed on the red route. The rain wasn’t heavy, so I sat upstairs in the open air, on the basis that sitting in the drizzle was still better than walking in it. The red route took me round many of the places I had already walked, but it was nice to get the commentary and find out a little more about them. Though the bus had fundamental problems when the rain got heavier and I had to go downstairs – the windows were covered in adverts for the bus, and you couldn’t actually see the sights through them! When we got to the big square in the middle of the city, I shifted onto the blue route, which took me up towards Tibidabo. This is the hill I could see in the distance from my hotel room, with the huge telecoms mast and cathedral (there’s a picture back here).

Once I got there, there was a tram, and then a funicular railway to get to the top, but that involved a lot of tiresome waiting, and the rain had stopped, so I set off walking instead. That started off well, but I ended up climbing up a mountain bike trail rather than a walking path. But nonethess, I got to the top eventually, after a climb of 3.5 miles (according to my fathful GPS tracking phone).

The cathedral at the top doesn’t get a lot of respect because of Gaudi’s masterpiece down in the city, but I still thought it was rather splendid.

At this point, you are quite high up, and there’s a great view of the city. But there is a lift to take you you to the roof of the cathedral, and then some more stairs that take you to here.

As you can imagine from here, at Jesus feet, you’re a long way up! Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy up there (probably inside a cloud), so the pictures of the city aren’t really clear enough to show much, but it was a magnificent view, and it’s worth a visit.

I got the funicular back down the hill and got back on a tour bus for the rest of my jaunt round the city, then closed off my evening with dinner in a nice restaurant near La Rambla (though ending with a disappointing creme brulee, so I had to go and get an ice cream to have a satisfactory ending to my day).

Barcelona Day 2

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

After all the walking on my first day on holiday, I was a bit tired, so I had a bit of a lie in to prepare for another day of walking about.

As predicted by the weather forecasters, it was raining when I got up. The good news is that I was expecting it, so I put on my new waterproof walking trousers, my waterproof coat, my big thick socks and my waterproof walking boots, and off I went, as waterproof as I could be.

However, I have to admit that I was a really bad tourist. The plan was to head for La Rambla, and have breakfast/lunch there. I fancied nice local tapas, but the rain got so hard that I ended up taking shelter in a sandwich shop until it eased a bit. And the highlight of the menu was the “British bacon” sandwich. With chips. Very authentically Spanish 🙁 Oh well. By the time I came out again, it was a bit drier, so it was worth it.

Off to one side of La Rambla (the most famous street in Spain apparently), I found Barcelona Cathedral. The actual Barcelona Cathedral – possibly not tjhe one you’re thinking of.

I love visting cathedrals – I think they are brilliant places. I love the space, the peace, the architecture, the craftsmanship – all the things that makes cathedrals and temples kind of unique. And yet cathedrals are odd places. Yes, it is a Christian place of worship, but it is so different to my own experience of what a church is that I find them hard to relate to. I suspect that the only golden objects in my church are the jewellery of the members! My church is also only 39 years old. Take it from me, it’s not much like Barcelona Cathedral! In contrast to that, I also visited the Estrella del Mar church later in the day. It’s much less ornate, with a lot less gold and furniture. But it turns out that’s because it was all destroyed as punishment by the victors when Barcelona was on the losing side in a battle. But ironically, I thought it gave it a really nice spacious feel that it probably wouldn’t have if it had all of those original fixtures and fittings!

I also visited the beach, where they have free WiFi! Imagine! Free WiFi at the beach! This must be the 21st century after all!

And then pasta for tea, in a very nice fresh pasta restaurant near La Rambla, and ice cream from an ice cream shop there too. Got the metro back to the hotel, with tired legs. A wet, but very enjoyable day.

Okay, now that I have gone back to add the pictures, I have to add what was the photographic highlight of the day. Very cute!

Barcelona Day 1

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

The first major surprise of my trip day was on the plane – I bought something to eat on an Easyjet flight, and found it to be both enjoyable and good value! What happened there! Am I in some kind of weird alternate universe? Anyway, I can definitely recommend the “Feel Good scrumptious and yummy box”, which for 4 quid kept me going for a few hours, and was even pretty healthy!

Once again I was reminded just how good The Walking Dead is, my own personal in-flight movie on my android tablet. Yes, it is gory and unpleasant in places, but it’s great TV.

Arrived to find the Barcelona weather much better than expected, which was a nice surprise. So jumper off and short-sleeved shirt on. A straightforward and cheap (3.60€) journey on the train took me to Sants station, and if I had taken the right exit, the hotel would have been right in front of me. Of course I used the wrong exit, but the hotel was still very easy to get to. My room is on the 15th floor, and has a splendid view over the city.

But it was only when I left the hotel when I realised how good it is – just a short walk and I was at some splendid buildings, towers and fountains which turned out to be the Montjuic area of the city. Really beautiful architecture, much of which dates to 1929 and a grand exhibition (I will resist slagging comparisons with the millennium dome, as I am secretly quite fond of it).

Behind that, the Olympic Park, from 1992. Behind that, the cemetery, which I thought might be a castle. It wasn’t, but it was still very interesting – cemeteries are multi-story here, and consist of stretches of wall with a niche per person, above 5 stories high. Which is why I thought they were castle walls. Then to the actual castle, where it started to get a bit cooler, and I started to worry about rain. But was quite pleased to find that I could see my hotel from there, as it
is a 23 story tower with a neon sign on the top!

Then a dander back towards the hotel, with a few stops to select a restaurant for dinner. And it was really excellent! I ate in the Filigrana restaurant, where they kindly gave me the lunchtime set menu, even though it was nearly 9:00, as I hadn’t realised it was a lunch menu. Yes, what originally attracted me was the delightfully poor translation of the “candied bacon with outbreaks of spring”, but it really was a lovely meal – 3 1/2 courses and sparkling water with very attentive service (in perfect English) for €30 including tip. A great spot that deserves to be busier. And accompanied by a fresh new book on my kindle.

A great start to my trip!

Unfinished business finished

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The last time I was in Tenerife, I had a bit  of a disagreement with a local montain. The mountain was called Guaza, and it lived at the edge of Los Christianos. It’s still there, and when we saw each other this time around, I felt it was time for a rematch.

Last time, I had quite innocently tried to climb it, and it hid the path and got me lost on its rocky sides. It then filled my arm with cactus jags, and I had to go to the first aid hut on the beach to try and get them extracted by a professional with tweezers. I had a sore arm for a few days (fortunately they didn’t contain anything poisonous), but needless to say my pride was also badly wounded.

So it was kind of inevitable that I would have another go this time. And today I had a very nice walk over the hill and round the coast to Las Galletas. I googled it up and found that there is a route, and that it is about 9 miles long and should take 4 hours. I also discovered that people who organise walks don’t do it in the summer when it is too hot. But summoning up the courage of my church’s kamikaze walking group, who never turn down any challenge, I bought a couple of litres of lemon tea, put on my emergency hat (as my face is a little sunburned already from yesterday) and headed off. And I had a lovely walk. I listened to a month’s worth of Friday night comedy from Radio 4, saw the lighthouse, and got the bus back from Las Galletas. According to my ever faithful Runkeeper, I walked 8.6 miles in 3:40 or thereabouts
I am all pleased 🙂