Aug. 13th, 2012 01:10 pm
sarahblack: (Karen Gillian being gorgeous)
The last few days in Marseille have been wonderful. I've been staying with Laufey, a friend I used to work with.

My first days here were really easy-going. I needed to plan the trip ahead, decide which countries to go to and try to arrange couches to surf. So far I have a place to crash in Switzerland, Rome and Vienna.

But after sorting out these boring practical matters, I went for a bike ride around the neighbourhood with Laufey. We stopped by the ocean to have some celebratory cocktails (it was actually her birthday that day) and watch the sunset. Then we had a lovely birthday dinner at a Japanese restaurant where the waiter insisted on trying to get us drunk by giving us really delicious sake.

First time on a bike after a decade or so...

More adventures in Marseille )

Tomorrow I think I will go to explore the Chateau d'If. On Wednesday I'm heading for Geneva.
sarahblack: (Swimming)
Happy Golden Jubilee to the Queen of England! (I think she's immortal.)

Today is my last day in Aizuwakamatsu. I'm off to Osaka tonight. Since I'm only staying one night in Osaka, I'm treating myself to a stay at a four star hotel which is right next to the train station. I was quite lucky and got the room for only 5800 yen. (Just under 10.000 ISK.)

Anyway, I've been having such a wonderful time with Tommy and Natsumi. Tommy took me to the school where he teaches yesterday. It's in Shimogo, a town which is 35 minutes away from Aizu by train. I got to go to a few classes and introduce myself to the kids, and then they asked me a lot of questions. Mainly they were interested in whether I had a boyfriend, and whether 'I loved Tommy' (they don't know that he has a girlfriend), but I also got really random questions like: 'Do you like bananas?' and 'what is your favourite food chain?'

I was so amused when I said that I came from Iceland and one kid exclaimed: 'From ice cream?!'

Oh, and two of the classes had a group of boys that insisted I pick 'who is coolest'. They all stood up, and wanted me to pick one of them. I was a little worried that the ones who didn't get picked would take it personally, but apparently this is a common practice and there are no hard feelings involved. In both cases I picked small, shy looking boys with glasses. I think I made their day! They looked very pleased in any case.


After the classes and a lovely lunch with the teachers, Tommy took me to see Ouchijuku - an old village just outside Shimogo, famous for the traditional thatched buildings from the Edo Period that line its main street. The weather was beautiful, and the surrounding nature was absolutely stunning. Mountains covered in trees with emerald green foliage, sparkling rice fields, and blue skies. ♥

In the evening we decided to go for a shabu shabu dinner. I loved it so much last time that I wanted to try it again, and Tommy hadn't actually ever had any! It was just as good as last time, and just as fun. Maybe I'll just start a shabu shabu restaurant when I come home?


After dinner we ended up checking out a game center. Natsumi is a wiz at this drum game they have there. It's a little like the Rock Band drums. Notes show up on the screen, and you have to hit your drum at the right time to get the note. It was amazing to watch Natsumi at it. She is so fast!

Today we went to the Miyaizumi sake brewery. They have converted part of the brewery into a museum. It was really interesting to see the traditional sake brewing equipment, and it was a lot of fun to sample some of the sake. Very tasty! They also had a gift shop where you could buy traditional sake cups, and there was this one set where you got different kinds of cups and a sort of die which had pictures of the cups on it. A person throws the die and has to drink the sake from the cup that it indicates!

After the brewery I went with Natsumi to the Higashiyama onsen. It was amazing! It's a hot spring resort where you can bathe in hot water while enjoying a beautiful view of a waterfall and a hillside covered with enormous trees. Perfectly blissful! I would have loved to stay there forever, but it was probably a good thing that Natsumi pulled me out when she did - the heat made me all dizzy when I got out!


For lunch we went to a sushi train with a special 'shinkansen' track above the usual train, where your special orders are brought to you by a little shinkansen train! Among the things that I tried was a piece with salmon eggs and mint leaves. Quite good, and very pretty. I love how pretty sushi is. I think food presentation is such a huge part of the dining experience.

Right now I need to get ready for my trip to Fukushima. I need to go there in order to catch the bus to Osaka. Hopefully I'll be able to keep my eyes open during the train ride to Fukushima. The views out here are so stunning.


May. 21st, 2012 08:03 pm
sarahblack: (Princess and the Frog)
Hello Japan, indeed!

I arrived in Japan yesterday at around noon after an uneventful flight from Nanjing. Snaevar and his family were kind enough to pick me up at the airport, and after I had stashed my bag at their place they took me out for some delicious sushi!

It was so nice to see Snaevar. I have missed his company since he moved to Japan. Meeting his girlfriend Riya again was also really good. I hadn't seen her since 2008! But I was most excited to meet their 16 month old daughter, Elin. She is such a sweetheart! Beautiful brown eyes and happy disposition. Especially if you mention strawberries - her favourite. ♥

I got to spend some time with them in their home after our late sushi lunch. I was learning to use the tablet computer that Snaevar is generously going to lend to me during my stay in Japan. I have a feeling it's going to save my life! Especially since he is also lending me this pocket wifi device to go along with it. After a while of fiddling around with the tablet and watching Sesame Street episodes with Elin, Riya started bringing us all this amazing food! Salad, grilled chicken, and delicious little pieces of lamb (I think) which tasted just like the lamb that you get off the barbecue in the Icelandic summertime.

Later in the evening I went over to my couchsurfing host, an American girl called Tamitha. (She teaches Japanese.) I'm going to stay at her place until Friday. She is super nice and her apartment is clean and comfortable.

My first impression of Japan was the airport and then the quiet suburb where Snaevar lives. Everything seemed clean and organised and the buildings all looked brand new! The people were quiet, friendly and very polite.

Today I had my second impression. I walked from Tamitha's place to the train station near Snaevar's house where he was waiting for me. Together we went on a train adventure to downtown Tokyo! Mainly we saw Akihabara (Electric town) and Shinjuku station and its surrounding area.

So many people! Everything was very colourful and vibrant. Electric town was a lot of fun. It is basically geek paradise - I mean, the first thing I saw when I exited Akihabara train station was a giant SEGA logo! There were girls dressed up as anime characters handing out adverts, little shops devoted to once geeky niche or another, and we visited a sort of technology themed mall on six floors with an entire floor devoted to just games and toys! (I was able to pick up a gadget that enables you to charge your electric devices on the go. First you have the charge the charger, but then you can take it with you and use it to charge your device if it runs out of juice when you're on a bus or a train somewhere.)

It was a lot to take in, but my first impression of the Japanese people still stands. Even as a crowd the people are considerate and polite. Everyone proceeds to where they are going in a very orderly fashion. No pushing or yelling!

I am having a great time in Japan so far, and I'm very optimistic about my next three weeks.

I'll try to write more soon!


sarahblack: (Default)
Sarah Black

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