Travel

Things I like about traveling

  • On an airplane, once it has taken off, looking down at the land.
  • On an airplane, just sitting in my chair and chilling out, it’s a chance to just relax
  • Traveling by train
  • The chance to walk around a neighbourhood, looking at the supermarket and the daily living things. Seeing how universal some things are, and how much meeting other universal needs can differ.  Last year in the USA we had the opportunity to do this in New York and Chicago (a point for air BnB) and also in Northampton. This year we did the same in Tokyo, and to some degree in Kyoto and Osaka. Supermarkets in other countries are always different in surprising ways.
  • Spending time in a cafe, reading a book
  • Sharing something new with my husband
  • Being able to show whomever I am traveling with (usually my husband) something I liked/thought was good
  • Trying new food
  • Going to art museums
  • Going to history museums/social history museums
  • Going to outdoor building museums
  • Walking outside, especially in environments that don’t exist in Australia!
  • Shopping for crafty stuff
  • Food/drink I can’t get at home
  • Onsens
  • Riding on trains, looking at the city
  • Participating in local events
  • Watching baseball
  • Disney!
  • Overseas home stores/electronics shops. Furniture and white goods vary by country.
  • Planning the trip
  • Unplanned moments of serendipity
  • Getting to the airport early enough to have a coffee and relax, starting the trip in a mellow frame of mind
  • Leaving home
  • Coming home
 
Things I don’t like about traveling

  • Going through security and passport control at the airport
  • Checking in for the flight
  • Waiting for luggage to arrive
  • Wearing the same clothes I wore on the plane
  • Take off and landing
  • Airplane bathrooms
  • Tourist/backpacker bars
  • Trying to catch specific train links
  • Traveling by bus.
  • Traveling a long time on overcrowded trains (20 minutes max)
  • Bad food where there is no other option
  • Going over the weight limit 
  • More than a limited period of time in Akihabara/electronic stores.  I don’t have a specific known time limit, but I know it isn’t as long as my husband’s. 
  • Places with no public seating (looking at you japan)
  • Not eating lunch/breakfast on time.  This means cranky.
  • Booking hotels on the phone. 
  • Almost missing a flight through no fault of your own but because traffic/trains/buses broke down
  • Running through an airport
  • Lost luggage
  • Long and slow check in queues
 
I would like to add pictures for these…
Cafe, new food (ice cream in those macaroons), time with my husband
Disney
Fireworks in Japan
River festival in rocky
New food in a cafe in ueno
asakusa temple forecourt
The street crowds watching fireworks in Tokyo. 
At the handmade festival
 
Art museum in Hakone
More art
 

Japan- getting here and the first day

So, we’ve made it to Japan and are experiencing nice chilly weather.

The flight over was both more stressful than expected and easier.  We had to catch a domestic flight up to cairns and then the flight to Japan. This seems to be the new strategy for the airline- both of our airport options worked this way, so we got to fly out of Brisbane instead of the Gold Coast.  We had to catch a very early flight, and the check in and bag drop was not awesome.  International flights require passports to be sighted, even though (this was one of the annoying things) we had to pick up our bags in cairns and re check in.  Our flight schedule gave us an hour and half from landing in cairns to get bags, check in, clear immigration and then security.  Our plane landed early and it was still a scramble.  Those of us who were doing ths connection didn’t get our bags tagged as priority, so we had to wait.  Then the dash on foot to the international terminal (not far away) and the realisation that flights from Brisbane and the Gold Coast (possibly other places too) were funnelling a pile of people in.  There were two check in lines and the one for Tokyo ( much later flight) obscured the osaka one.  Good thing we asked questions, otherwise we would have had issues.  The queue was long, the organisation was poor.  The only good thing ( and this was true in the overwhelmed security screening too) was that we were solidly in the middle.  If they had closed the flight off, there going to be a,lot of very angry people! The plane itself was half empty, and we ended up with an empty aisle seat in our row. So quite good.  The checkin and wait in lines bit was bad, the flight was good.  Then we landed in osaka, and the immigration queue was another long and painful one, but far less stressful. 

The flight path was different and I got to see Papau New Guinea from the air.

A train trip in, and a quick walk to the hotel.  We ventured back out for dinner, at a restaurant we have been to several times.

Dinner

Very filling, hot and not expensive. Also super yummy.

Today was very rainy.  We went to the tourist bureau to see if we could get tickets to the Suntory distillery tours, but completely booked out for the days we are here. Sad

Then we went to a special exhibition about swords at the Osaka museum of history.  Lots of swords and knives, including several for women- I think, but am not sure because it was all in Japanese.  There were also some manga character posters and some representations of their swords.

And some beautiful embroidery. Most of the photos are on my big camera, and haven’t been taken off yet.  Will try to have a bigger picture post later.

After the museum we opted not Togo to osaka castle because of the rain.  We went to a shopping area instead and bought lots of things.  And then we went looking for denden town, the area where electronics are.  We have tried to find this once before and not had great success. We did not have much success this time, and we walked in a big u shape in the rain.  I did lots of steps and we ended up with some old prints, but I was not a happy camper. We think we have found it, and it is now flagged in our maps, but too tired and wet ( and grumpy) to continue.

We headed back to the hotel and then went out for the German Christmas market.  This is a regular Osaka event in December- a German Christmas market at the foot of the Umeda Sky building. 

There’s a carousel

And lots of stall selling ornaments and Christmassy things and German,food.

There also a Santa and a giant nativity and a big (fake) tree

 

There are stalls selling gluhwein(and hot chocolate) and this time they had special commemorative cups

I keep forgetting that G doesn’t always understand the kanji and kana signs.  I don’t either all the time, but I can understand some stuff and extrapolate.  G didn’t realise we could get hot chocolate as well as gluhwein, and I didn’t realise they both came with the cup.  So gluhwein it was.

It’s Saturday, so lots of people out and about, lots of crowds everywhere.  That can be stressful too.  The day was a mix of fun and relaxing and frustration.

 

Still happy to be here, rather than at home

 

USA trip- travel and accom thoughts

This post has been percolating for a while.

We flew over with Air New Zealand, as full service passengers.  This meant a flight from Brisbane to Auckland and then one from Auckland to LA.  Plus side this meant that we didn’t have to transfer terminals in Auckland, because we were already in the international one.  All the years I flew Brisbane-Sydney-LA, that was always a pain. Frustrating thing? We landed much later in the day than the Sydney flight, so our connecting flight to New York was also later.  It was on United.  

This was my first real encounter with the new TSA.  The last time I flew to the USA was 2002, and they were still working on protocols.  Do not like.  I have lived in countries with domestic and foreign terrorist issues, and they were not this awful. Major disincentive to travel to the USA and fly.

Our flight with United was delayed, and the gate switched. To top it off, when we had checked in back in Brisbane, seats had not been allocated to us, and we didn’t get them allocate for a while, so of course two middle seats, separated.  Not impressed.  But, they had a schematic of the plane showing empty seats and there were two economy plus seats next to each other, so we asked the gate staff if we could pay for an upgrade and she did it for free.  So warmer feelings from that.  The flight wasn’t bad.  Older plane, so the upgrade just gave us more legroom.

New York.  We happened to be there for a graduation weekend, we worked out later. So hotels were expensive.  We ended up with air BnB.  Because we were arriving at midnight, we needed to stay at one where someone could let us in(definitely an issue to consider). So we ended up with a private room but shared bathroom place on Roosevelt Island.  Since there are no hotels on Roosevelt Island, this was a unique experience. The bathroom and the bedroom were nice, clean and welcoming.  The hosts were nice, and not always in evidence.  Overall, it was a positive experience.

We took a Peter Pan/greyhound bus to Northampton. It’s the only public transport options that oes the whole way (trains go from NYC to Springfield, but a bus is needed for the rest anyway.  Just as painful as I remembered, with the added bonus of sketchy NYC bus terminal.

Accom at the reunion was a dorm room.  Just like I remember.

We rented a car for a few of the days we were in Northampton, and that was fun.

The night before we left for Chicago we stayed in Springfield.  We were at a La Quinta inn.  It was Memorial Day, so not as cheap as possible, but still one of the cheaper stays of our travels and the newest accomodation of the whole trip.  It was located in the rather decaying and depressing concrete mess of Springfield though.

The train from Springfield to Chicago was meant to be 22 hours, but the train was an hour late and delayed a further two on the way!  We were just in the coach seats, no bed options for us on this leg.  They were more comfy than an airplane, and we could check bags!  We had our own food for the afternoon, but ended up with breakfast in the dining car, that was nice.  It was really interesting to roll through upstate New York and several Midwest states.

In Chicago we were also unfortunate enough to be there for a grad weekend.  So again, air BnB .  This time, not so good.  We were in our own apartment. Up a super Steep staircase, which was tilty too.  The floors in the building were quite slanty. The bathroom was very sketchy, the bedroom was tiny and no air con. So we put the mattress in the living room. We would have stayed in a hotel, but the prices were insane.  The area we stayed in was on the verge of gentrification, but not yet.  That was an interesting experience.  Would not recommend that air BnB place, and it has made me more cautious about the concept.

We took the train from Chicago to San Fransisco. Close to three days.  Leave midday Sunday, arrive early Tuesday evening.  This time we booked sleepers. But we didn’t book the one with a private shower. The sleeper cars come with all meals included. The roomette we had was two chairs facing each other, the width of the room was the width of the chair, plus about 6 inches.  The two chairs slid together to make one bed, and the other bunk dropped down from above. Not the most comfy bed. The trip itself was great.  Food was good, views were nice, there were showers for the sleeper car. Much nicer than flying.

Our hotel in San Fransisco was a real hotel. Older, but a hotel. We didn’t use air BnB because the prices in SF were close  to the rate of hotel rooms.

My takeaways? The train was better than domestic air travel, but slow. Air BnB is useful, but the risk level of good vs bad is about where online hotel booking was ten years ago.

It’s Thursday

So time to randomise.

A plague on the person who brought those little wheelie suitcases to market.  They are indeed very useful, and conveniently fit in overhead lockers etc.  But they are highly annoying en masse, when everyone in the airplane is trying to shove them in said overhead lockers.  I suppose it does thin out the baggage crowd, which makes picking up baggage (my own little wheely suitcase) much easier.

Clearly QR doesn’t actually want customers, but why do they go out of their way to make it inconvenient?  Bring back the weekly, monthly and yearly tickets! Incorporate them into the Go card. (if the computer engineers have a problem with that, well go with one of the overseas companies that managed to it)  And while they are doing that, why not a decent “tourist” option.  You, know one of those unlimited use things?  It can’t be that hard, almost every other civilised city has one of those cards.

I found peanut butter M & Ms at the petrol station when I filled the car up.  Semi cheap (cheaper than most of the other stations, but still way too expensive) petrol and imported candy!  what a combination.

We paid a visit to Borders today.  Perhaps if they stocked books at reasonable prices (not twice the US list price), books that people wanted, or maintained a depth of material they would still have customers.  I remember when they first opened in Brisbane and they were great for the following reasons: books priced below what the other full price bookstores were charging (although not below what the remainder shops were selling); real variety in books, stuff no one else had; the whole series, not just the most recent book; so many books, biggest new bookstore around.  Now, almost none of those things are true.  Prices above the norm (thanks A & R management, that strategy didn’t work for you either), and the competition improved.