Photographs from our short trip to Malaysia last year. Kuala Lumpur was busy and fun but also had a lovely lake garden and excellent Islamic Art Centre. Langkawi was very beautiful with lots of nature to relax and enjoy.
A final collection of photographs from our trip to Japan. We are positioned ourselves on the right side of the train to see Mount Fuji for our trip from Osaka to Tokyo but sadly it was too cloudy. I have included some photographs of the view from the train window because I think it gives a nice impression of what you see when travelling on the Shinkansen. I also managed to get one photo of Mount Fuji from the plane window as we took off for London. Would love to go back one day.
After a week of warm and sunny weather, our weather luck ran out and our one day in Hiroshima was in torrential rain. That evening we stayed in a wonderful Ryokan (traditional guest house) on the island of Miya Jima … Continue reading →
During our trip to Japan in 2012, we took a day trip to the historic port town of Tomonoura in the Hiroshima Prefecture. I do not remember why I did not blog about it at the time but it proved quite photogenic so I thought I should write something to provide context for the photographs.
The town is on the side of a hill, the upper part provides some lovely sea vistas, and we enjoyed the bonus of some beautiful sea eagles soaring on the warm thermals. At sea level the town has picturesque traditional wooden buildings and quaint narrow streets. Lunch was in a friendly water-side café that served up large portions of satisfying seafood pasta and in the afternoon we took the five minute ferry ride to the island of Sensui Jima. This is undeveloped (except for two hotels) and offered more superlative sea views in return for some light hiking.
Reaching Tomonoura was probably our biggest adventure on Japanese public transport since it required taking a local bus from Fukuyama station. Tomonoura is mentioned in the guide books but it is certainly not on the “standard” tour for Westerners and that made it all the more pleasurable a day. Yet again the people were incredibly friendly, from the bus driver who talked to us about scotch and the Olympics, to the café waiter who translated the Japanese language-only menu and made sure Rosie’s pasta was dairy free.
It does not quite seem possible that it is nearly a year since I took these photographs—it has been a busy 11 months! This is also not the last set, although I took fewer photographs per day towards the end … Continue reading →
Helsinki is a fun place for a relaxed August long weekend, especially when the sun is shining. The CBD is clean, functional and perfect for strolling. There is a UNESCO world heritage site at Suoemenlinna Island fortress, pretty churches to … Continue reading →
For a city that was—according to our walking tour guide—a small fishing village until the late 19th century, Berlin has been witness to a huge number of significant historical events. Yet at the same time it has the feel of … Continue reading →
When I looked out of the plane window and saw driving rain as we descended into Gatwick on Friday night, it felt a long, long, way from warm—t-shirt weather—sunshine we had enjoyed as we sat outside to eat a late lunch in Bordeaux.
The reason for the visit was a software workshop so most of the three days were spent cloistered inside a classic 1960s academic building at one of the city’s universities. On the last afternoon though I did get chance to wander around the stately low-traffic and pedestrianised centre admiring its classical 18th century sandstone buildings now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. For such a picturesque town it was surprisingly functional: the ultra-modern tram system was efficient, although never less than moderately busy.
While the Bordeaux area is most famous for its wine, the city also seemed to cater those who liked shopping with what seemed like un-ending streets of shops. This is part of the historic Aquitaine region so I was sad not to have chance to visit the well-reviewed, and free, Musee d’Aquitaine. For dinner, the concept of an entire restaurant dedicated to cheese, Baud et Millet, and its 94 cheeses, could not be passed up. Despite its anglicised name, Italian owned Le Wine Bar also served up some tasty vittles of ham, cheese and local specialities.
Place de la Bourse captured by the iPhone panorama mode.
I remember leaving Kyoto thinking it distinctly un-charming but with the memories of hordes of tourists and tired feet receding, it is these highlights of the beautiful temples and zen gardens that force me to reconsider my previous opinion.
Fresh snow every day made for an awesome ski holiday, albeit we are now completely spoiled for future trips! The constant snow fall did mean poor visibility every day except the last, but the snow was so soft there was plenty to ski anyway.
The last day did gift us with photogenic blue skies and bright sunshine, which was just the icing on the cake as we explored off-piste areas with untracked waist-deep powder.
Val Thorens, at 2300m, is the highest ski resort in Europe. Part of the Three Valleys ski area, it also had a good party atmosphere—this was definitely a fun holiday. Low visibility and high winds meant we did not make it over to Meribel and the rest of the Three Valleys, but with snow this awesome we did not feel we missed out on anything!
Capturing the essence of a city in a photograph can be very difficult, and Tokyo is no exception. Buildings which look beautiful or inspiring in the flesh often refuse to fit comfortably into a single frame, and consequently come across … Continue reading →
Kyoto receives a lot of good press but except for the magnificent monuments, I found it to be a rather charmless city. Getting between these islands of beauty also required using the city’s slow and overcrowded buses, or a long, dull walk. I am glad to have seen the sights of Kyoto, but I don’t think I would go back.
On emerging from the train station in Himeji it seemed that someone had obscured the view of the famous castle with an ugly modern tower building! A minute later we realised that the building was in fact the castle encased in scaffolding for a five year restoration. It was easy to imagine how impressive it would look normally! While the main castle is closed there is an alternative tourist attraction which takes visitors up a lift inside the scaffolding for an “egret’s eye view” of the outside of the castle—it’s pretty cool to be able to view the roof tiles and sculptures from above instead of below! There was also a lovely volunteer tour guide who gave us the full history of the castle and being a mostly clear day we had great views all the way to the Inland Sea. So while we could not visit the castle in the usual way it was definitely still worth the day trip to Himeji for a unique castle experience.
One liberating thing about having an unlimited rail pass is that when you find yourself at a loose end for half a day, you can look at a map and train timetable and go for a bit of an explore.
We decided this was an opportunity to step off the standard tourist track and visit the island of Shikoku, a place the guide book claimed many visitors overlook. The crossing from Honshu island is a huge bridge which afforded some lovely views of the Inland Sea and its islands—although we only realised this on the way back when we had no seats reserved as on the way out our allocated seats were on the lower deck of a double-decker carriage and we missed out!
Takamatsu had a “small city” feel to it, there were some tall buildings around the station but also enough open space that you felt they had plenty to spare. The main attraction is the Ritsurin-kōen garden, the largest in Japan at 750000 square metres. It was probably one of the best gardens we have seen so far, and also a very relaxing place to spend the afternoon after two busy days jostling with other tourists in Kyoto.
Returning to the station we had a walk by the pleasant harbour watching the sunset behind some of the islands. There was also a funky fountain that cycled through a set of different patterns, including what seemed to be a steam mode. But the views from the train on the return journey were excellent.