That was about it today. More of the same tomorrow, I suspect.
How much do I love travelling? Let me count the ways… I love the anticipation of packing a suitcase and imagining adventures ahead, I love people watching at the airport and trying to guess where they might be travelling to and why. I love sitting on a plane and see the world tiny and mysterious far far below me, I love love love arriving somewhere new and not knowing what to do or where to go, signs in different languages, the air that smells new, and the light… have you noticed how different places have their own unique light? Same sun, different light.
Arriving in Dubai was fascinating. I had never stepped out of the airport before, always just passed through… We didn’t stop to visit this time either, but a car took us two hours North into a tiny territory which is actually part of Oman (which instead is South of Dubai.
We crossed some spectacular desert mountains, arid, with only the odd silvery green tree and goats for company (lots of goats!)… and then we arrived at our resort…
Yes… I think I can handle this for the next six days…
We’re staying here. If you’re curious.
If, like me, you have birthed three boys it’s inevitable that most family days out involve one sports or another… there have been holidays with trips to baseball matches, basketball games, hockey arenas and even a football game in Thailand once. ‘Soccer’ that is, we’re still missing an American Football game.
Yesterday we travelled 3 1/2 North to support the family team – Liverpool – in their glory journey towards Premiership victory. (Or so we hope, anyway).
First… this is us (unauthorised posting of photos coming up)
I’ll be in trouble for this, I hope you appreciate it!
And then we entered the stadium… first impression? how small it is. On tv the perspective is all wrong, but sitting there it felt intimate, like a live performance at the theatre…
Second impression? the noise. A good noise. A common sound, a chorus of voices united for a while for a common purpose, tied together by a shared love. I don’t think it matters that what’s shared is the love for a spherical object and eleven men in red – or whatever other colour – , I love sport when it does that, erasing the differences for a little while. (And yes I know there are things in football that need ‘attention’ shall we say… racism is unacceptable for example… but there is also a lot of good… and last night, it brought a smile to my face.
Liverpool won. Everybody was happy, well the opposition fans weren’t… and the long way back didn’t feel too long.
Also… who knew they pitch got watered??
A good day. A very good day.
Today was a gorgeous day.
Yesterday was not… but we had decided on a day out at a National Trust property and a little weather warning wasn’t going to deter us…
Hughenden Manor, was from 1848 to 188, the house of Benjamin D’Israeli, who was twice Prime Minister at the time of Queen Victoria. During the 2nd WW was a top secret map making site for the Air Ministry. Today it’s a wonderful home in the middle of a wonderful park the inside of which has been left virtually untouched for hundreds of years. Queen Victoria’s photographer took pictures of the house and the National Trust was able to recreate it for our benefits. A real time capsule.
The car park is a little walk away from the house, a well signed path through a gorgeous wood…
… past the cutest (and wettest coffee shop courtyard)…
And then you catch a first glimpse of the house in all its red brick glory.
Once a day there’s a free tour and it is totally worth getting there for it, they give you so much information on the house and its inhabitants… fascinating.
first of all let’s admire the Victorian floor… sigh…
As I said the grounds looked gorgeous… but only from the window, thank you very much… it was blowing a gale and it raining cats and dogs all day…
You can find more information on this property and all the other fabulously kept by the National Trust here.
Well worth a visit.
That sounds like the title of a book, doesn’t it?
It isn’t, it’s only a telegraphic account of my Saturday adventures when together with my parents, I visited Gloucester Cathedral – always a pleasure btw – such an incredible building…
I was really curious to see the moon installation right in the middle of the big nave… awesome… It’s a 7m (23feet) spherical, helium inflated structure created by Luke Jerram and illustrated with photos of the moon by the NASA Lunar Reconnessaince Orbiter. It’s simply mesmerising. The incongruous location increases the wow factor I’m sure, but you just can’t stop looking at it… it’s magical…
… it’s so realistic… it appears almost suspended in mid air…
Isn’t it amazing?
After that, we had tickets to visit the library I never knew existed… you know me and books, right?
Well, the story goes like this: back in the 1400 the Benedictine monks realised that keeping the books they were studying/copying whatever, in the cloister wasn’t a good idea. Extremely cold temperatures and dampness wasn’t good for them or the books so they build what at the time was the first purpose built library in a monastery in the whole of the England. They built a sliver of a building hight between two other buildings’ roofs and there they studied and collected many precious books.
When Henry VIII ordered the dissolutions of all the abbeys, he turned St Peter’s into a Cathedral instead and because it was, even then, famous for its music and choir, and he was rather keen on sang celebrations he kept the library as a school for the chorister to learn latin and so on so they could read the songs etc etc. It was 1541.
Unfortunately the books held in the library at the time got all taken when the old monastery got pillaged by a bankrupt Henry; he might have set up the school and kept the church but he made sure that anything of any value got taken away… The library remained and the collection is slowly growing with time, although none of the books are from earlier than the 1600s.
Still super cool, panelled in wood and full of old books. Heaven.
We’re back in Tokyo for just over 24 hours and after travelling for two weeks the city feels familiar: the noise, the smell, the sounds… it’s why I love travelling so much, this feeling that even the most diverse place can be a little bit like home.
We have a wonder through the city at night and in the morning we headed to the ‘Team Lab – Borderless‘ installation to be amazed. And amazed we were.
It’s like being a kid… room after room of lights and images that mess with your perception a little and at times make you feel you’re in Avatar… know what I mean? Surely you must have wanted to live in that world?
The perfect ending to a wonderful trip.
On our last morning in Kyoto I packed quickly and visited another temple… Kiyomizudera-dera… the main hall was unfortunately under repair but you can still visit inside and get an idea of how amazing it is, all built out of dark wood, sitting majestically on the side of the hill on the eastern side of the city – the dragon is the creature protecting the town on the east. Each point has an animal… the turtle is North… can’t remember the other ones, sorry – and the image of the dragon is quite prominent here:
It’s a fair hike in the August humidity… not the cleverest idea in my travelling clothes… live and learn…
prayers attached to bells hang from the ceiling at the entrance of the hall, playing in the wind, quite mesmerizing
I hadn’t heard of Kanazawa before looking into a possible itinerary. It was slightly out of the international tourist trails till a few years ago when a new bullet train line was opened that connected to Tokyo in a mere three hours. Kanazawa sits quietly on the coast of the sea of Japan and has a long history of being the second most powerful region of the country. We were driven there as something had happened to the train we were supposed to take, and this gave us the opportunity to sample Japanese motorway food…
We arrived late afternoon and went straight to our ryokan, this time a minimalist gem with a moss garden instead of an ancient villa…
Talking of gardens, the first thing we did the morning after was visiting the Kenruoken gardens… amazing… shame it rained when were there…
It must be an incredible sights when the azaleas are in bloom, there are thousands of bushes!
We then crossed the road to walk through the Imperial palace that it’s been slowly rebuilt in the exact way it was, not just in style, but in materials and size… an incredible feat.
It’s not all old stuff in Kanazawa… we jumped a few centuries and visited a seriously cool contemporary art museum, 21st century Museum of Contemporary Art to be precise. Very crowded, but very cool.
At this point I had to seriously engage all my diplomatic skills to convince the boys that as much as the call of the onsen was strong for me too, we had to go on… it was our last sightseeing day… we had to finish, no matter how ‘japanned-out’ we felt. They did, I’d still be there….
So quickly, because you’re probably all Japanned-Out too…
Gorgeous Samurai house and garden:
then a quick drive across town to the old medieval geisha district which is stupendous and I’m really sad we ran out of time to walk around it properly… but we did meet a genuine real-life geisha house owner which was super interesting
Monday morning, second week of school. No 3 has already destroyed his school shoes, admittedly they weren’t new, but I’d only bought them in May last year.
Also he thought that telling me on the Monday morning 5 minuted before we’re due to leave was a better option than owning up on Friday after school. I have a feeling he was opting for a ‘confess and run’ scenario rather than the ‘we have the weekend to sort it out’ one. Bad choice, dude. I threatened to buy him steel cap shoes next.
To console myself I’m making myself a Japanese inspired breakfast, rice, miso soup and eggs. Such a gentle way to start the day/week… and then let’s get back to Kyoto…
For our last full day we took a long taxi ride to the Golden Pavillion. While most of the big sites are walking distance from each other (I consider walking distance up to 30 min…) there are others that require buses or taxi, which are obviously more expensive but save you lots of time when you’re running low on that. In Tokyo we used the subway all the time, in Kyoto we walked or took a taxi, it was also unfathomably hot and humid that the idea of waiting for a bus in the sun… just didn’t click for us!)
The Golden Pavillion – or Kinkaku-ji – is quite an amazing sight: the building is really pretty and in a idyllic location in a perfectly manicured pond… but then they went and cover it with gold leaf and it’s just amazing. It is actually a pagoda made to house the sacred relics of the Buddha, and this is sadly an exact replica of the original which was burnt down by a monk who was obsessed by it. On the website you can read its long history but what I like the most about the place is that the principle that the buildings and gardens of Japanese temples reflect the Buddhist worldview. Simply by visiting a temple and experiencing its environment, one comes into contact with the teachings of Buddhism in a form even more convincing than sermons or lectures on Buddhist doctrine.
In for a temple… in for another, right?
Back in town we visited the Daitoku-ji temple complex… only a few were open to the public, but the whole area was refreshingly non busy, so you could really feel the zen tranquillity in the air (hot/humid air…)
At sunset we walked back through the Gion area hoping to see Maikos heading to work, no such luck, but we were rewarded nonetheless by a golden sunset
Glorious ending to our last day in Kyoto