Oct 07

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan, Day 3. Today was a day built on changes. The original plan was to visit a bunch of museums, all around Ueno Park. The problem was that neither of us had properly read the guidebooks and failed to realise that they all close on a Monday!

We first of all wondered through the Ueno Park, visiting some of the multiple temples that are present in the area.
Benton-do is built on an island in a pond, a pond completely filled with Lotuses. (if you know me, you’d know that I was disappointed that these weren’t the car variety). This temple is dedicated to the goddess of the arts, wisdom, the sea and the protection of children.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

It’s a temple with the same plan as all the others. Purify yourself with washing, wave the insense smoke at yourself, ring the gong, pick your fortune. The fortunes are apparently multi-lingual, so Sofia decided to take a chance – and ended up with good luck all round. To ensure this happens, she followed the plan and tied it to the washing lines.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Next stop was Kiyomizu Kannon-Do. This appears to be one of the real old ones, never rebuilt, inlike many of the others. It’s dedicated to women wishing to conceive, who would leave a doll here, a doll that would be ritually burnt every 22nd September. No photos were allowed of the temple, but it did have the best purifying dragon-statued fountain.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Plus this brilliant circular tree, looking over Benton-do.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Also, why do they tie bibs onto statues? They can’t be that messy eaters!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We finally wandered far enough to see the museums. And to realise they were closed. so a quick replan needed! It’s a good job we had our walking shoes on, we decided to hit another road passing through different neighbourhoods.

First up was Kagurazaka, what was formerly the geisha quarter and is now a brilliant set of small streets, with lots of restaurants and interesting shops. We managed to pick a lovely Tempura restaurant for a quick lunch (and cheap! so far, we’ve not being paying too much)

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

We made a stop at the Yasukuni Shrine which had a completely different atmosphere to others we have seen, a lot more serious.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then we headed into the centre of town, crossing over 2 of the 3 moats that surrounded the Imperial Palace. The final moat is not crossed on a Monday, I’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

oh..we also saw a turtle!

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

Then down towards Tokyo station and then Ginza, the major shopping street (think Oxford St crossed with Bond Street). Sofia was most impressed with the 6 storey Uni Qlo store (we did not pop in to shop).

Japan Day 3: Tokyo

After a LOT of walking, time to head for dinner. The guidebook pointed us towards a restaurant that was listed as French-style yakitori. Unfortunately, it no longer seemed to be there, having changed to being pure French. Never mind, it was pretty busy for a tucked down an alley restaurant, so we just went French…and it was great!

Heading back, you can tell it was a working day. The streets were definitely full of ‘salarymen’ either head down charging for home, or wandering slightly worse for wear after a few after work drinks. A change from the last couple of evenings.

Questions still to be answered – why are so many people wearing face masks. Are they worried about catching something? Or is it the polite thing to do if you have a cold? I definitely think the latter could be applied in London.

Secondly, every time we pass certain supermarkets, there are a row of men reading the magazines, just standing there. It seems to be accepted. Are they reading comics? Manga? Porn? A combination?

And that was today, day 3. Tomorrow is our last day in Tokyo and we are planning a split strategy. Museums for me, Hello Kitty for Sofia!

Today’s photos can be seen on Flickr

Day 2 post
Day 1 post

Oct 06

Japan Day 2: Tokyo continues

An early awakening, 6am, but nothing earlier than usual. So jetlag appears to not be hitting too hard today. First up, the hotel breakfast. Rice and meatballs and miso soup. Plus coffee and chocolate bread.

Untitled

Today was going to be a fairly light day. We caught the tube over to Shibuya to take a look round the shopping district there. One lesson learnt is that they stand on the wrong side of the escalators here, on the left hand side and you pass on the right. All very confusing.
It was easy to keep to the main shopping streets, they were the ones that were playing music from the loud speakers. Outside the main station was Shibuya Crossing, supposedly the model for the Oxford Circus crossing. Not sure what the fuss was about, it’s just a huge street crossing, but the Starbucks above it is great for people watching.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

You have the girls in the typical costume of long socks and shorts (or short skirts). And men who would fit right in with the Shoreditch Hipsters.

Add a sprinkling of Western tourists, definitely a minority amongst the tourist population of Tokyo and the occasional women in traditional Japanese dress.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Shibuya shopping district is full-on on-trend stores, record shops and just loads of tiny boutiques. Plus the occasional multi-story amusement arcade, with grab-a-toy by the dozen along with photobooths of all descriptions.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

We then started to wander over towards the Rappongi district, through more residential areas. Dotted throughout the streets are vending machines, such as this heavily sponsored set. Most are standalones though. And despite the theory that you can get almost anything from vending machines here, we’ve only seen ones for cigarettes and drinks.

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Once at Rappongi we found our destination, a pub to watch the Formula 1 from Korea. However, instead of watching in the local language, by some technology miracle, we watched Sky tv. At least I think it was Sky…could have been a mild hallucination after I tried the snake venom drink 🙂

Tokyo Day 2, Shibuya to Rappongi

Finally, heading back home, i got my first try of local food. A restaurant called Komagata Dojo, which has been there for over 6 generations in the same family. Dojo are small, eel-like river fish that are served in all sorts of way. The house specialty first cooks them in sake, then miso broth and then finally at the table, where they are heated over the table stove, with spices, sauce and loads of spring onions. Very, very good. We learnt the hard way that you don’t give tips here..as the waitress ran after us down the road to hand us back the 500Y coin and then was very surprised and very, very thankful we had left it for her. We’ll avoid that then! (She totally deserved it, was very very good and showed us all the things we needed to do to prepare the dish)

So that’s day 2. Another easy evening before we go mad and hit up a whole load of museums tomorrow.

Food at Komagota Dojo

For the full set of photos, See Japan Day 2 on Flickr

Oct 15

Australia 2010 – Melbourne

Saturday

A travel day. The morning was spend relaxing and writing blog posts, then a leisurely trip to the airport. Apparently buses are more expensive on weekends, as this time it cost me $4.60 instead of $2,80, anyway it’s still cheaper than a taxi 😉 A quick checkin, with the bag being labelled as Fragile as it carried my purchases from the Barossa and then more waiting. The flight’s only just over an hour, so they only had time to serve a drink before we were making our way down again.

Landing in Melbourne, the plan was to picked by my cousin, but circumstances changed (impending labour can do that), so instead to the Traveller’s Shuttle, which for $15 dropped my right at the hostel. There are at least a couple of companies that do this, seems a pretty good service as long as you’re not in a rush to get to your hotel.

The chosen accommodation in Melbourne was Nomads Industry, a very different experience from Adelaide. This is a lot more corporate, or so it seems. There’s a lively bar instead of a common room, which can be dark and noisy. As far as I could see there was nowhere to go if you wanted some quiet time in the evening, although in the mornings it was fine. It’s a bar open to anyone, so can get pretty busy; as a consequence it also gets very noisy – earplugs are a must! For a hostel that can accommodate a few hundred people, the kitchen is TINY! there were 5 of us in there on the morning and it was crowded. Otherwise, ther facilities are good, there’s plenty of laundry services and the staff are efficient.

Once checked in, all I did on Saturday was take a walk around the centre of town. There was a general Melbourne festival taking place, so there were quite a few bands playing in the streets.

Australia 2010

Sunday

Sunday was another walkaround day, it was bright and sunny, apparently one of the best for a while. It started with brunch overlooking the Yarra river, down in Southgate, at Blue Train Cafe, along with plenty of the marathon runners who had just finished up their race.

Australia 2010

Also, Melbourne has Boris Bikes. I wonder what they are called there? After brunch I went to the Immigration Museum, a really nice museum tracing the different waves of immigration with lots of personal stories being told. For the rest of the afternoon, all I did was wander in the many gardens and parks the city has, with a quick walk round Victoria Market, where I worked out you could buy almost anything.

Australia 2010

The end of the day was spent with Christy Dena, a twitter friend I’d never managed to meet up with, despite us getting close a few times in London. She’d kindly offered to host me and watch the Japanese Grand Prix, so we settled down with a couple of bottles of fizzy stuff and I did my best to provide a decent commentary. I was really surprised to see they used the BBC commentators; when they cut to an ad break, there was an Australian guy summarising anything you missed and then back to the BBC.

Monday

On Monday, I’d booked a day trip out with a company called Down Under Travel. Unfortunately, it was not obvious that this was really just a part of a far larger company called APT, so I managed to miss completely the pick up as I was not looking for an APT coach – it wasn’t all my fault, as the drivers did not ask the one and only person waiting outside the pickup place if I were waiting for them! Eventually, I caught up with the coach; the pick up was only to take people to the central departure point. First of all we went on a steam train called Puffing Billy; I loved this, i have a soft spot for steam trains.

Australia 2010

Then lunch at a winery and then we were supposed to go to Healesville Sanctury. But the bus broke down., so we were all stuck at the winery for another hour. Eventually another turned up and took us to the Sanctury so we did get an abreviated tour, allowing me to see platypuses/platypi (whatever your preferred plural), my favourite monotremes 😉

Australia 2010

My final event in Melbourne was dinner with Amy and Pamela, more Twitter friends and fellow F1 fans I’d met very briefly in London and Spa; we were planning on brunch on Sunday before the race but the delayed qualifying meant that was cancelled.. A great dinner and chat was followed by a spin round most of the Albert Park track – far narrower than I expected.

Overall, I loved Melbourne, a great little city that I could spend a lot more time in. Next up, a 3 day bus trip to Sydney.

Oct 09

Australia Trip – Adelaide

I’ve finally arrived in Adelaide after about 34 hours of travelling, door to door. It started with a lift to the airport, 23 hours on a plane (well, nearly, there were just under 3 hours waiting in Bangkok), then more waiting in Sydney before the final plane to Adelaide. It wasn’t a bad a trip as it could have been; I flew business class, finally spending all those airmiles I accumulated 3 jobs ago. It’s been in the plans for a while, but seats to Australia are hard to find on rewards. This one was booked 370 days ago, on the 30th Sept 2009. There was one seat on one flight on one day in the whole of October, so that was all mine. Well worth the wait. A lounge in Heathrow, with a massage at the Spa an added bonus, a further lounge at Bangkok and then a final one in Sydney as I waited for the domestic flight. On board, a flat bed and plenty of food and drink. All in all, a pretty pleasant way to fly, it kickstarted the holiday and I’m not feeling too much effect at the moment, hopefully I managed to avoid a little of the jetlag through some timeshifting over the last few days before the travel.
In complete contrast, my accommodation for these 2 weeks or so is all hostels, something I’ve never done before having missed out on the backpack travel bug when I was younger. For this first one, Backpack Oz, I’ve treated myself to a single room; for the others in Melbourne and Sydney, it’s dorm rooms. The plan is to spend money on the experiences, not the beds.

Wednesday

There was little to report on day 1. Got into Adelaide early afternoon and the plan was just to stay awake. so starting off with a walk round the southern part of town. Plenty of restaurants and a great market, with plenty of fresh stuff available; the market is also part of the chinatown of Adelaide, so plenty of stuff on sale I’ve never seen. Wednesday was free dinner day at the hostel, so i just enjoyed that and chatted with some of my fellow residents. It’s a real mix, from the traditional backpacker (whatever that is) to people here for meetings or just a quick week’s holiday.

Adelaide 6 Oct

Thursday

This was my walk round Adelaide day. After Wednesday was overcast with a cold wind, today was glorious sunshine. Still a little chilly, but nice and bright. I started off with a trip to the Botanic Gardens, joining one of the free tours round the park. Next, lunch with Shai Coggins, someone I knew from my b5 media days. Last time I met her was in New York. We went to a great little Italian place, San Giorgio, for pizza and chatted about social media, new jobs and travel plans.
My next stop was the South Australian Museum, which was basically natural history and ethnography museums. Lots of stuff about the Pacific Islands and the history of the Australian people.
A jetlag induced snooze followed before a final venture out to Jasmin, regarded as one of the best Indian restaurants in Australia. There appeared to be no space but luckily, they managed to squeeze me in and it was worth it, a great beef dish, acoompanies by spicy green beans

Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Friday

On Friday, I joined Groovy Grape tours for a trip up the Barossa Valley to see some winerys. We went to 4, a mixture of big and small. First was Jacob’s Creek, which does far more wines than the generic version it built its UK reputation on. I hadn’t actually realised that it was an actual creek, which is well labelled. One of the oldest wineries in the valley, it’s now a large commercial organisation, run by Pernod Ricard. Next a far smaller winery, Simpatico, a company that had only been up and running since May. No tour here, just a tasting. I bought my first bottle here, a sparkling Voignier.
The trip included a barbeque for lunch, but given the weather was overcast and threatening rain, we went to the alternative, somewehre called The Club, for lunch. Tried out kangaroo here, pretty good. Earlier in the day, we’d stopped at the coffee shop, (with the largest rocking horse in the world) and I’d seen some live kangaroos (or were they wallabies, couldn’t tell)

Barossa Valley Wine Tour

The afternoon started with a trip to Richmond Grove, another winery in the same group as Jacob’s Creek) and had a good tour on how they used to produce wine. The final trip was to Seppeltsfield, which produces wine and a series of fortified wines. I bought a bottle of tawney from here – they can’t call it port but that is what it is. This winery produces a very expensive 100 year old ‘port’, they started laying down barrels in 1878 and have been doing it every year since.
For the final evening meal, I ended up a Kenji, a Japanese/French restaurant where I had a lovely piece of pork belly.

Barossa Valley Wine Tour
That’s the end of the Adelaide part, next stop Melbourne.

Apr 22

Barcelona Trip

Last weekend, a friend suggested a trip to Barcelona for a long weekend – some of his friends owned a boat in the harbour there so we could have somewhere to sleep.

Barcelona Apr 08

The boats somewhere in the middle there. Easyjet flights were booked and so I set off for 4 days in Barcelona. I’d visited the city back in 2002, so knew a little about it. I basically spent time wandering around, on foot and on the Tourist buses, taking photos and taking it easy.

Barcelona Apr 08

The weather was not brilliant – one really good day, 2 days with rain, but it was a great break; i got a little bit of a tan and a few mosquito bites. One thing that was fascinating was the marina culture – there’s a lot of British people with boats there, many living their on a long-term basis, others popping back and forth from the UK. They hang around together on the boats and in the bars, not with the locals.

I love this city and have only covered a small amount. Got a whole lot more to do the next time I go 😉

Mar 07

Journey to SXSW

That was an interesting 24 hours, but not too bad as people who travelled via Dallas, where everything got cancelled due to snow. Getting to the airport took a bus and 2 tubes; on arrival I found that all the check-in desk luggage computers had gone down so there was a small bit of chaos. Everyone was queued up, getting to go to the desks a few at a time. Once there, you gave your details to a runner, who went to one of the 2 working terminals, got the luggage tags and ran back to get your stuff in the system. It took a few hours to correct, but it meant all the crew were also delayed, leading to an hours delay in departure.

One interesting diversion in the waiting was the mouse. Sitting at the bar, a guy came up and announced to the staff there was a mouse running around. He was laughed off a little, so next he came back with the mouse – holding it up by the tail as it wiggled around. The staff had to take it away then 😉 The other setback was the lack of cold water by the gate – meaning non of the toilets worked. Not a good thing when there is a delay.

After that all was smooth. A half-empty flight meant I got a row to myself, it took less than a minute to get through immigration (and no queue), collecting luggage and transferring flights was a doddle. Food, a 2 hour wait, another 4 hour flight (with sleep this time) and I landed in Austin with all the luggage and an easy trip to the hotel.

Mar 06

What’s in My Bag

I’ve copied Roo and put a ‘What’s in My Bag’ photo up. This is the handluggage for the SXSW travel, where I put in all the electronics (hate putting them in the hold). Quite useful to do, as I realise I’ve left out notebook, pen and keys.

What's in my Bag

Click through to see the notes on what’s there.

Nov 27

A week in London

I spent last week in London, the first time I’d been back since I moved to New York. A great week was had, a combination of work and pleasure.

  • had some interviews and met up with some headhunters. I’m back in London permanently from January and this was setting up some things. No idea how it will pan out yet.
  • had drinks with Suw where we chatted about life, work and all things weddingy.
  • Had coffee with Jeremy, one of the panelists with me at SXSW, just connecting and chatting.
  • Had coffee and yummy dimsum with Adam, where publishing was onthe agenda.
  • randomly bumped into Rebecca and had coffee later, looking at the workshops she has been running. I also randomly bumped into Lloyd whilst going to meet Adam; the development of the Tuttle club looks interesting.
  • Went to BarcampLondon3 and had a blast. I was staying with Ian Forrester for that part of the week and ended up having a unsettling scooter ride through London to get to and from the camp. I’ve only ever been on the back of a bike twice before, so not the most comfortable experience – enjoyable in hindsight but a the time I got rather worried for my knees! There were around 130 people at the camp, hosted by Google. Did not make too many of the talks as spent a lot of time just chatting with cool new people. Gave a talk on Games in Advertising and things to watch out for (using this year’s Court TV Save My Husband as an example). Had my first ride on a Segway. Indulged in the food and drink that was provided – definitely the best ‘work canteen’ food I’ve ever had. Watched multiple games of Werewolf. All in all, a superb weekend, thanks to Ian, Amy, the BBC and Google for putting it on.

I think I’m getting paid back for having a good time though. Suffered a a bad nose bleed and nearly managed to not pay for a drink as I was dealing with that instead of thinking of paying. The servers were not too sympathetic when I got back, even though I was dripping blood! They were far more interested in getting their money. Broke the screen on my phone – bad news as it is on load from Palm, so am going to have to pay for that. Have a horrible cold. And the toilet flooded all over the bathroom this morning so spent an hour cleaning that lot up. I think I need to just hibernate for the next few days

Nov 07

Million Dollar Spaceship

The Million Dollar Homepage was successful and was immediately followed by plenty of imitators, none of whom achieved the same notoriety. No-one had a really new take on it. But now I think we have one in Your Name into Space.

MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department and the Georgia Institute of Technology Space Systems Design Lab are designing a satellite which will be launched into space in 2010. To support the development they are selling advertising on the satellite, at 1cm3 spaces.

In return for your donation (tax-deductible of course) you will either get a photo of the logo from space. If you spend the big bucks and get a place inside, you’ll get back the piece of the satellite. Anybody looking for an unusual Christmas present?

YNIS Satellite

Jul 13

Royalton Service..or lack of it

Richard is in town from London at the moment, so last night we had dinner at his hotel, the Royalton. On the surface, a typical New York hotel with a lounge/bar in the reception room, cool furnishings, cool people, good cocktails. I had a great pomegranite marguerita that was far better than the one I had at the Rosa Mexicano the other week. the food was also pretty tasty. But everything would have been far better is there had been service, of any kind. We were obviously not the right type of people, as the waiters continously glanced past us trying to order new drinks. After ordering a glass of wine with the food, they whipped away the glass withpout even trying to offer me another one. Next time, we’ll go somewhere which can pay us slightly more attentions

Jun 26

BA Support

I’m currently trying to change some travel plans. but the British Airways website keeps giving me this error : “We are encountering a temporary fault, please try again. If the problem persists, please contact your booking agent.” So I ring up the number I find, choose the only option that appears to lead me to a live person and find this message: ” due to website technical problems this call line is closed” (this is slightly paraphased). I wonder if the same people working on both problems?

Mar 28

Upgrades

Nice….sometimes, things are good – an upgrade to first class!. I’m going to have to come back to SF..it happened the last time I was there as well. I guess business was overbooked and I had the most points or something like that to get the upgrade

But what do you get for first class on BA? A bigger flatbed, far comfier than business. Better food and more choice. More ‘personalised service’. Choice of film over and above that of the entertainment system – but there appear to be only one copy of each. Virgin have a digital choice system which is far better. It’s twice the price of business…not sure it’s worth it if I actually had to pay for it -but ohh, to be able to afford it 😉

Mar 20

Austin to Vegas – last day and Snow Patrol


IMG_3672

Originally uploaded by RachelC.

I’m now leaving Austin to travel to Las Vegas. Austin was great..and weird. Apparently an island of sanity in the state of Texas. Not having chance to visit the rest of the state, I’ll stay happy in my ignorance of what the rest of it is like.

Austin was laid back and pretty welcoming to the 10000 visitors that appeared to descend on it over the last week. Everything seemed to run well. i’d recommend the buses – 50c to anywhere, even on the one I caught tonight to the airport.

I caught my final gig yesterday afternoon; The Subways, Nine Black Alps and the best one I say all week – a ‘surprise’ acoustic set by Snowpatrol, who were just brilliant.

Now I’m off to Vegas for Mix06, the Microsft ’72 hour conversation’. Again, I have a complimentary ticket, through the kindness of Tara Hunt who passed her complimentary ticket onto me. So there will be a fiar bit of blogging from that conference as well as my planned trip to the Grand Canyon.

Mar 08

Localisation

In one of those co-incidences, I arrived at the airport lounge yesterday and smiled and said hello to someone I recognised. Nothing unusual in that, I’m used to seeing people all the time on the NYC flight – there was usually at least one person from Diageo on the flight. This time though it turned out to be one of the people who catch the same train as me every morning – so he looked at me very weirdly as I greeted him as though I knew him.

But this post is not about that kind of localisation, where the world is getting smaller (or is that globalisation), it’s more about the kind of localisation that puts an independently owned motorway service station at the top of a Which Poll (I can’t find a decent link to the story this morning). Many services in the UK are owned by chains, they’re dull, plastic, too expensive for what you get but Westmorland has always provided something different. Started by the landowner when the motorway was built across his land, the services foucs on providing local produce and employment for locals. People go out of their way to visit the farm shop and restaurant, it does not jsut rely on passing trade.

So here you have an occasion where staying true to initial values and focusing on excellence provides a service that consistently comes out top in polls such as this.

Feb 26

Arrived

Finally arrived…a good trip, just marred by the longest wait and lines I’ve had at JFK. SItting in a very cool hotel in Manhattan where at least the wifi is free in the lobby bar- where a drink is just marginally cheaper than paying for the connection in the room. Seems like Nicole is also travelling. However, it looks like she lost her luggage and got stopped in customs for bringing in some dangerous merchandise – apples and bananas. I thought we may have been crossing paths at some point, but she’s off to different things.

Once I get back from this work trip, I turn around in 24 hours and fly back to the US, this time San Francisco, then Austin, Las Vegas and Seattle and back to San Fran for a final few days. A nice little holiday before I need to look for some paying work

Dec 20

Need a Place to Stay?

Travelling to a conference or a geek dinner? Low budget? Need a place to stay? Try canicrash, a wiki put together by Henriette Weber Anderson to share details of people who are willing to let their couch or spare room to bloggers.

Benefits:

for the travelling blogger ( the crasher):
– you get to stay a place for free ( or minor costs)
– you get to meet fellow bloggers and see the place from a local point of view.
– you might even make some friends!

for the person who lets his/her home on the roll ( the crashee):
– you get to met fellow bloggers
– somebody will do the same for you if you ask for it ( in my theory maybe not in real life. But it’s worth a try don’t you think?)
– maybe you will get gifts from strange countries.. nice one.
– you get to blog about another blogger staying with you

A useful resource to keep the costs down…just take note of the guidelines.

Dec 14

Germ and Squirrel Free

A couple of articles caugh tmy eye in today’s Evening Standard. The first is about c2c who have just announced a new service (although not, apparently, in the news section of their website). They are going to provide cough-free carriages for the next few months, to allow their commuters to stay germ free. If a traveller starts coughing they are supposed to leave the carriages.

In another story, a man named Tufty could do with a few doses of Panexa to encourge Excessive Floppy Tail Syndrome in the squirrels in his garden, as he has set up deathtogreysquirrels.com, to encourage the culling of grey squirrels which are perceived as a nuisance and a threat to the native red squirrels. Whilst suggesting that you avoid the brains, there are a few recipes that could provide alternatives to your normal Christmas fare and there are updated reports from the battlefronts; or you could go and comment on the forum. A growing, slightly worrying, campaign.