Bel and Phil's Adventures

Our adventures through Europe, America and Asia

Posts by belandphilsadventures

Coorong Cruise

Wednesday 24th March 2021

Today was the day that we got to go on the Spirit of the Coorong Adventure Cruise. After our plain dinner last night, we were down at the Goolwa wharf early to get a beautiful breakfast. We checked in with the office of the cruise and they suggested Hector’s on the wharf. We are so glad they did. The breakfast here was amazing and the service exceptional.

The day was grey and overcast, although most of the days have started like that. After a delicious breakfast, we boarded the boat for the day. Phil loves being on the water, so we had to go upstairs and enjoy panoramic views. We headed off down the river towards the barrage on this side of Lake Alexandrina. The barrages allow some water to flow into the mouth of the Murray and out into the sea through the Murray Mouth. To get out into the salt water section, we needed to go through a lock through the barrage. We discovered that the seals love hanging out here to catch the fish coming through from the fresh water side.

Checking out the tourists.
Great place for a snooze.

After getting through the lock, we headed past the Murray Mouth. They were dredging again as they had cleared the channel and it had been clear for a couple of years, and then a flood came through, so they had to start dredging again to ensure that the Murray can empty into the sea.

There were so many birds through here. The tour guides were telling us that it wasn’t the breeding season so there weren’t as many birds as at that time.

Just some of the pelicans in this massive group resting after feeding near another barrage out of Lake Alexandrina.

We then stopped in the Coorong National Park. Joel, one of our guides, showed us some of the bush tucker found in the short path through the sand dunes to an old middens. Cockles (pippis) are ‘fished’ commercially on 90 mile beach (on the other side of the sand dunes) in the way that my mother and aunty taught me. Stand in the waves and wriggle while the waves are coming up and then when they go out, you can collect the pippis. When ‘fishing’ commercially, they follow the same procedure but have a net to capture the pippis, before they go back into the waves.

We then went through to the beach with the Southern Ocean pounding on the shore. It was so beautiful but wild. The wind was up as well.

Southern Ocean pounding onto 90 mile beach.

After this, it was back onto the boat and heading deeper into the Coorong National Park.

Cormorant in the Coorong – looking for food.

After enjoying a delicious lunch on board (although we were still full from breakfast), we headed to another spot to stop and stretch our legs. As you can see, the sun has come out and it was a glorious day. This area was a little wilder and the dunes were much taller. We headed up into the dunes and could easily see another Indigenous middens, however this was untouched. It was quite eerie to see the importance of this site to previous generations of Aboriginal people.

The white shells are the sun-bleached shells of an old Aboriginal middens site.

After this, it was back onto the boat for the journey back to Goolwa.

Heading for Goolwa through the Coorong National Park
Mr Percival’s offspring – perhaps.
The Goolwa barrage from the boat in the lock.

When we got back to Goolwa we went for a wander around the town. There was a ‘Scottish’ area of the town where the houses were built to resemble houses back ‘home’, which was Scotland.

We went exploring throughout Goolwa and had a lovely time.

Goolwa

We ended up having a drink and dinner at the Corio Hotel, after shopping at a local art gallery. We really enjoyed the drinks and meal that we had here. We decided to go back down to the Goolwa Wharf and check it out in the evening.

Goolwa Wharf
Near the Goolwa wharf at sunset.

We headed back to ‘home’ at the Goolwa Boat Haven. Tomorrow we are exploring this area. Initially we had planned to explore Lake Alexandrina, however we felt that we had seen enough on our trip in, so instead we are heading to Port Elliott and Victor Harbor.

Robe to Goolwa

Tuesday 23rd March 2021

We got up reasonably early and checked out of our accomodation. Our first stop was the Robe Obelisk. We were disappointed that the weather wasn’t better, but it is what it is. The Southern Ocean was unbelievably beautiful. The water is so clear and beautiful here.

Robe Obelisk, Robe SA
Robe Obelisk, Robe SA

We grabbed a quick, but delicious breakfast at the Robe Bakery and some sandwiches for later. We then headed back on the road, heading towards Goolwa. This route followed the coast with some stunning scenery and also alongside the Coorong National Park. We had planned to go on a road through the Coorong, but it was dirt road and my Mazda 3 doesn’t like dirt roads, so we rejoined the main road again.

We had a stop at Jack Point Observatory and got to see this section of the Coorong. The Pelican Islands were too far to see any pelicans there. It was so peaceful and untouched. Just gorgeous.

Coorong National Park at Jack Point Observatory

We headed to Meningie and went for a drive around Lake Albert. It was pretty but we decided to stay on the main road and headed back to Meningie.

Lake Albert, Meningie, South Australia

We saw the sign for the Pink Lake and stopped on the side of the road. There were some other people there viewing it as well.

It didn’t appear too pink when we were there, which was in the middle of the day. I’m also not sure if there was any water in the ‘lake’. It was just salt crusted mud where we were on the edge.

Back in the car with the next stop at Goolwa. We caught the ferry across the Murray River at Wellington, which was so beautiful.

The ferry crossing at Wellington, SA

We drove around and got an understanding of how big Lake Alexandrina is – it’s huge. It is 649 km2 and was so beautiful. We didn’t have a real sense of how big it was – until we were driving around it for a few hours.

We arrived into Goolwa in the afternoon. We were tired. We found our accomodation and couldn’t believe that we were staying on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. It was so beautiful. We would highly recommend the Boat Haven, Goolwa.

The dock at the end of the pier at Goolwa Boat Haven.
Looking towards the township of Goolwa and the bridge going over to Hindmarsh Island.

This accomodation was amazing. We were able to hear the water lapping on the shore, but were in a solid unit.

We relaxed and had our sandwiches here this evening as we were too tired to go out. We felt so lucky to get to stay here. Rebecca had been so helpful with all of our changes due to COVID.

Off on a cruise tomorrow to explore the Coorong.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria to Robe, SA

Monday 22nd March 2021

After not getting to see the Loch Ard Gorge yesterday, we were up and out there early. The sun rises around 7:20 am at the moment. The weather was better than yesterday with clouds clearing.

We were the first car in the car park at 7:20am. The view was breathtaking. The sheer cliffs meeting the turquoise waters was an unbelievable view that awaited us. Then as the sun broke through of the clouds and washed the cliffs in the sunshine, it became even more beautiful. We spent quite some time here as we walked out along the cliffs and then progressed down to the beach in the neighbouring gorge. We had brought the children here back in 2009 when we did our Victorian holiday with them. We did miss them tearing around finding places to explore, although we didn’t miss them asking if were there yet or do we have to stop again – depending upon which section of the trip we were on.

Just before the sun broke through the clouds.
Loch Ard Gorge
Razorback and looking East along the coastline from Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge in the morning light
Part of the Loch Ard Gorge coastline
The view from the beach of the sheer cliff faces. It was so beautiful and peaceful at this time with the area to ourselves. As we were leaving a few other couples were arriving.

We headed back into Port Campbell to have some breakfast and check out. The town was very quiet. The lady that we spoke to at the cafe indicated that there would ordinarily be 7 – 8 coaches through and there aren’t any at the moment. Having said that, she did say that business was starting to pick up again through domestic tourists.

We checked out of the hotel and headed west along the Great Ocean Road. Our next stop was The Arch. The clouds and rain were coming back so the light wasn’t as amazing.

The Arch, Great Ocean Road

The next two stops were London Bridge (which is not attached anymore) and the Grotto. We were blown away by the ferocity of the Southern Ocean and the beauty of this area.

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
The inaccessible beach at London Bridge with the sheer cliffs surrounding it.
The Grotto, Great Ocean Road, Victoria.

We continued heading west with our final stops at the Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands. We hadn’t been to these two places previously and were blown away by the majesty of these sites. We were also feeling a little blown away by the wind which had also picked up.

We then headed to a quick stop at Port Fairy, Victoria. This place looks so beautiful and will definitely need to consider coming back here when we have more time.

Port Fairy, Victoria

We had another little stop at Nelson, this little town on the banks of the Glenelg River where it empties into the sea. It was so quaint and looked beautiful. Full steam ahead for Mount Gambier, South Australia.

We were recommended to make sure that we stopped here. When I started researching, we discovered two features that we definitely wanted to see. The first stop was the Umpherston Sinkhole. It was amazing. The gardens were stunning. When we went down to the bottom, there were so many bees as there was a hive in under the rock.

After exploring the Sinkhole, we then headed to the ‘Blue Lake’. Our first glimpse of this lake left us speechless. We were trying to work out where we could park, then found the lookout carpark on the right hand side. We then realised that there was an underpass to a lookout of the Blue Lake where we took our photos. It was such a gorgeous blue when we were there and with the autumn colours of the trees near the lake – such an amazing view.

Back into the car and we headed to Beachport, SA. We were initially going to stay the night here, but wanted to get a little closer to Goolwa, to reduce the driving time tomorrow. When researching the area, I decided I wanted to see the Beachport Jetty so we did a quick detour.

We arrived there as the sun was sinking lower. It was massive!

On our way away from the jetty, we decided to go along the Bowman Scenic Drive. We were SO glad that we did! We came up the hill to this breathtaking view. Luckily Phil is getting better and better at stopping the Mazda quickly.

Bowman Scenic Drive, Beachport, South Australia
Bowman Scenic Drive, Beachport, South Australia

We continued along this drive and discovered the Pool of Siloam.

This was our last stop as we headed to Robe, our overnight stop. As we were driving into the town, the weather went so weird. We essentially went into like a pea soup fog and could hardly see ahead. We found our accomodation and unpacked. I went out to take some photos.

Phil and I then went across to the hotel for dinner, taking advantage of the setting sun on our way.

We have had a fabulous day and spending our first night in South Australia tonight. Heading to Goolwa tomorrow.

Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Saturday 20th March 2021

We left Sydney, just as the rain starting pouring down – literally. This was our 3rd attempt to do this trip, so nothing was stopping us – short of closed borders!

Our sons were holding the fort at home (and looking after the family dog) so we were off. The weather was dismal until we were 3 hours south of Sydney heading along the Hume Highway.

We stayed overnight at Ballarat, as we had wanted to avoid Melbourne, in case of an outbreak of COVID cases. We drove through Daylesford / Ballarat region and have earmarked this beautiful area of country Victoria as a definite place to come back and explore with more time. The drive ended up being close to 12 hours including stops, so we were exhausted.

Sunday 21st March 2021

Our plan today was to drive from Ballarat to the beginning of the Great Ocean Road today. The weather wasn’t great – but it was better than Sydney! We started at Bells Beach at the southern end.

The weather was wild. Our next stop was Urquhart Bluff. We enjoyed this stop and went down onto the sand to experiment with some different camera angles.

We then continued our drive. The next stop was the Airlie Inlet and Split Point Lighthouse. The whole area was beautiful, even in the wild weather. The lighthouse was the used for the Round The Twist series.

We had quite a long stop here and enjoyed some beautiful scones and sandwich from the coffee shop behind the lighthouse. It was so pretty and stunning, even in these weather conditions.

Our next stop was the Great Ocean Road Memorial. I found out about this through doing some research and reading other blogs. There is an area where you can pull off the road to take photos and read the information provided. We learnt about how the returning servicemen were used to help build this road.

We stopped to take some photos on the way to Apollo Bay. When we got to Apollo Bay, it was raining, with the rain coming straight at us, so minimal photos taken.

Somewhere between the Memorial and Apollo Bay.

We made it to the Twelve (although there aren’t 12 anymore) Apostles, with rapidly diminishing light and the rain coming down. One advantage was that there weren’t many people there at all and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. This meant that we could experiment with different settings. We quickly realised that we weren’t going to make Loch Ard Gorge this evening, so decided to get up early tomorrow morning instead to go to Loch Ard Gorge. These are the photos from the Twelve Apostles.

We stayed at Port Campbell overnight and had dinner at the hotel in town. Everyone we met was so welcoming. The food was beautiful with very generous servings.

Although this day was huge, we had so much fun exploring this beautiful, wild coastline. More of the Great Ocean Road tomorrow.

Takayama -18th April

We were up, had breakfast and checked out of the hotel by 6:45 am. No mean feat if you know me at all. Our limited edition express train to Nagoya (stopping at Takayama on the way) left Kanazawa at 7:23 am. We were there with plenty of time. We have found the Japanese trains to be exceptionally efficient, comfortable and fast! We did pay the extra money to travel green class and are grateful that we did. There is a heap of leg room and we have our seats booked, so we know we will have our seats reserved.

 

This train was not a shinkansen, which meant that we could enjoy the scenery flashing past our window. We had to change trains at Toyama. Luckily we were able to ask a person from the train station who directed us to the next train as it wasn’t easy to find independently. We made it in time though and settled in for the next section of the journey. It was a very picturesque ride. We arrived into Takayama at 9:23 am, so a pretty short journey.

We headed to our hotel, which was only a 5 minute walk from the station. We were too early to check in, however they had a luggage storage facility. We got organised and headed out into the town. This town is so pretty! We stayed right next to a shrine, so that was my first stop to get my stamp and check it out. The cherry blossoms are only just starting to open here and they are so beautiful. We found out about the Sarubobo – which translated means baby monkey. It was a tradition that mothers would pass to their daughters / children to wish them happiness and success in life. These handcrafted creatures are everywhere.

 

I wanted to go to the historic section of town, so headed towards the river. They have a morning market every morning and we were lucky enough to be there on the day when the market was right next to the river. There were lots of people with lots of local stalls. It was such a beautiful place and a true sense of a Japanese country town. It actually reminded me a little bit of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We wandered through the markets and bought some different things. The first thing that we tried was a hiyoko-mochi. It was so nice and looked cute too. As we walked on I noticed the Sarubobo attached to branches. I really loved it, but knew I could not bring branches back to Australia. I asked the lady if she had them separately and she did. I was so pleased as I can attach them to a stick back in Australia. Further along a lady was making Taiyaki. They looked delicious so we decided to try a couple each. They were yummy. There was some people selling apples (it looked like it was from their farm). We bought some that had been peeled and cut into pieces and stood by the river munching on taiyaki and apples. Bliss!

I then found a shop that had the coolest souvenirs. I bought some carp streamers and a Sarubobo for each of the boys. Just a small one wishing them success, money and victory. Our last stop in the markets was a stall with some Japanese treats. There were some made out of peanuts, white sesame and black sesame. We tried them all, but we didn’t like the black sesame ones. We bought a packet of white sesame and peanut ones. The gentleman selling them spoke very good English and told us that he had made them himself.

We left the market area and headed down the river to a Tori gate that I could see. We walked along the street that had beautiful old homes on both sides. It also had canals with water racing down it, heading to the river. The cherry blossoms were truly beautiful. We walked up the street towards the shrine and had a look at this peaceful and serene setting, There was a walk around on the hill and we tried to find the starting point, but couldn’t see it, so we wandered around this area instead.

It was really pretty. We headed back into the old section of town and wanted to find somewhere nice to have lunch. We went to the tourist information located in town and they directed us to 3 different restaurants. We ended up going to Le Midi. It wasn’t cheap, but it was beautiful food. I had some sparkling wine and Phil had some beers. We were heading back to our accommodation as we were exhausted.

We met a lovely couple from England who started talking to us – Nicola and James. They thought that we were some people that they had met the night before, so we just started chatting. They were so lovely. We headed back to the accommodation, checked in and had a snooze for an hour.

 

We went back out to take some photos in the late afternoon light. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, so the photos weren’t great. We couldn’t believe what a difference a couple of hours could make. There was hardly anyone around and hardly anything open at 5:30 pm.

We couldn’t find a small café open for dinner, so headed to 7-11 to pick up some sandwiches. They were out of sandwiches! I got a salad and Phil got some other things to eat and we headed back to our hotel. As we had been leaving the hotel we had wanted to know from the receptionist what time they finished. This lovely lady had been able to translate for us. We discovered that the receptionist finished at midnight. All good. We’ll get the extra pillows when we come back. When we returned, we were trying to explain what we wanted. Luckily for us, right at that moment, the lovely lady, who spoke Japanese, arrived into the lobby as well. We were able to explain what we wanted and she could translate it into Japanese. We got the pillows and the extra blanket (as Phil likes it so cold). We then started chatting to the lovely lady, whose name is Marieka. She is from Belgium and is a registered tour guide in Australia. We ended up sitting down and she had a cup of tea, and we had some soft drinks that we had bought. We chatted for a couple of hours before bidding farewell. We are hoping to catch up with her when she comes to Sydney in October.

Back up to the room and get organised, ready to leave Takayama in the morning. We updated a blog post and got ready to go, We both slept surprisingly well.

Kanazawa – 17th April

We were woken early by Dallas texting that he had landed at Sydney airport, at 5:00 am our time (6:00 am in Sydney). We went back to sleep and then had a phone call from Border Security in Sydney. Dallas had left his backpack there when he went through customs! The bag tag had Phil’s contact details on it. Phil gave them Dallas’ phone number and sent Dallas a text to tell him. Luckily Dallas was still at Sydney Airport and was able to go back and get his backpack. Lucky for him!

By this time, we were both wide awake and went down to breakfast. Phil had found out about the Kanazawa Loop bus. It was 500 JPY (about $6 AUD) for the day each. This gave us unlimited access to the Loop bus and the Kenrokuen Shuttle. We felt that this was a great deal as we wanted to cover a lot of ground today. Our first stop was going to be the Samurai area, but we decided to get off a stop earlier to go to the Oyama Jinja Shrine. We were so glad that we did this.

This shrine was so beautiful, serene and peaceful. It also had a small garden that you could wander through based around a pond and a creek. In the morning light, it was just amazing.

We reluctantly left here and headed down to the Naga-machi Buke Yashiki District. This area had some preserved samurai houses and many houses whose facades where similar to the samurai era. Many of these houses had some of the ground floor converted into shops selling ceramics, which the area is well-known for. Walking through this area was amazing. The plants that we could see over the walls looked so beautiful. There were 2 canals running through this area that flowed so quickly. There was a lot of water and it was racing along the canal.

We found the Nomura Samurai House and went in. The beauty in this home was amazing, although I’m not sure where the work of the house was done as in the kitchen and the laundry. The information that we received was that only part of the house had been restored. The simplicity of the rooms was adorned with the amazing gardens and courtyards, letting in natural light, and providing amazing views from each room. The screens were painted with natural scenery. The main garden area was breathtaking. From one room there was a view of the pond, with carp and the plants, whilst from another room the view was of the water flowing into the pond with different highlighted plants. It truly was a stunning place. The tea ceremony room was upstairs and also had a different ‘birds eye view’ of the garden.

We wandered a little more around the streets and headed back up to the main road to get the next bus. Phil thought that we could walk to the castle, but I wanted to see the sites from the bus. (Also the castle was over a kilometre away!). We got on the bus and went over this bridge. You could see the mountains in the background with the river rushing to the sea. We decided to come back here later today and take some photos.

Our next stop was the Kanazawa Castle. We walked through this beautiful park full of cherry blossoms, with a slight breeze so that petals were softly falling down onto us. It was mainly white flowers. It was so pretty, so of course, I had to stop and take some photos.

We went up to the Castle and couldn’t believe the size of the area. We found out that there was a free English speaking tour starting in ten minutes. Winners! We went on the tour with Murata. He was quite funny and told us he was retired. He learnt how to speak English from watching television shows. His favourite show was Desperate Housewives. He explained different features of the castle, including how one corner was not square so the two different corners were different angles. This allowed the guards in the watch tower to have more of a view around the castle and surrounding areas.

Murata pointed out the doors that were made out of wood and iron and the craftsmanship of the wood in the construction of the outer areas of the castle. We didn’t go into the actual castle itself as he indicated that there wasn’t a great deal to see in there. Walking around the grounds, as we did with Murata was free. At the conclusion of the tour, he asked for a ‘donation’ for his tour. It was only 500 JPY per couple, but we just felt that it should have been stated at the beginning. Not that we objected to paying it, but it just felt a little wrong.

After here, we headed back down to the bus stop. There was a lady and gentleman who were wearing traditional costumes having a photo shoot done. Perfect. We took some photos and then jumped on the next bus.

Our next stop was the Higashi Chaya District. This was an old geisha district (or so I thought). We were walking around these beautiful old houses and went into a shop – that had lots of gold leaf items. One of the ladies asked us if we wanted to see a demonstration and ushered us into this room where the artists were working. A gentleman explained to us the process of using gold leaf and how it is still used throughout Japan. It was fascinating. Afterwards, whilst looking in the shop, Phil really liked a piece of art of a dragon. He was born in the Year of the Dragon and is drawn to any dragon related art / pieces. Sadly the artwork was 90 000 JPY which makes it about $1200 AUD. So that was a no unfortunately.

We continued meandering through this section of the city. We found a shop that sold coffee and Phil desperately needed one. They had cheesecake and chocolate cake too, so we decided to share and got one of each. I had some sparking lemon. This stop was perfect – just what we needed. The sparkling lemon was so refreshing, the coffee was perfect and the cakes superb. We wandered on exploring different areas. This area is known for their gold leaf and old tea houses. We found out about a geisha show that was performed here in the evening, but opted not to go as we had already seen a geisha show in Kyoto. However if you are travelling to Kanazawa, this could be a good option for other people.

We saw another shrine, so went in to investigate. It is called Utasu Shrine. It was so beautiful. I was looking around and got a surprise as there was a ninja hiding underneath. It was only when I looked that I realised that it wasn’t a real person. For a split second, I thought that there was someone there. It was really cool. I looked around and found another ninja in the garden.

We decided to head back to the bus to go up to the river. We completed the loop back at the station and headed out again to the river. We had also decided to have an early American dinner tonight (McDonalds) as we generally like to have it once in each country that we visit. McDonalds was near the river, so we went for a walk along the river first. It was so beautiful. There were cherry blossoms lining the river, with these majestic snow-capped mountains in the distance. The river was mostly bubbling along on its way to the sea, although in some places it appeared to be rushing to the sea. We walked along, trying to get a great photo of both the river and the mountains.

We then headed back to McDonalds for dinner. We got on the loop bus, going back the other way to the Station, after getting some drinks and snacks from 7-11. We got back to the hotel by about 6:30. Phil was able to get CNN on the tv and I was able to get several blog posts and photos uploaded. A successful day. Early start tomorrow.

Osaka to Kanazawa – 16th April

Dallas met us at our hotel this morning as we have all of his bags with us. He just takes what he needs overnight to the hostel each day. We said our farewells and we left for the train station. I hadn’t checked the ticket properly and went to Shin Osaka, when we were supposed to get on at Osaka (I didn’t know there was a difference.) Luckily it was ok as the train we were catching also stopped at Shin-Osaka. That could have had a whole other ending though.

The train wasn’t a Shinkansen, but a limited edition stops. It wasn’t as fast as a Shinkansen as it only clocked speeds of about 130 km/hour. It meant that we could look out the window though and see the beautiful countryside we were passing. It was our longest train trip in one stretch in terms of time, yet I’m not sure if it was the longest distance.

We arrived into Kanazawa and the train station is very modern and easy to navigate. Phil was in charge of Google maps to get us to the hotel (which was only a 5 minute walk from the station). Phil got us there (or I should say Google Maps eventually got us there). We were able to store the bags at the hotel (it was around 1:30 pm), but check in wasn’t until 3:00pm. The weather today was beautiful, sunny and warm. We decided to head straight to Kenroku-en Garden. We caught a cab up there as we just wanted to get there to have more time in the garden. We since discovered that there is a shuttle bus that you can use for 200 JPY each person for each trip.

As we drove through Kanazawa, it became apparent that it was a bigger town than we had first thought. As we were driving up to the gardens, the street leading up there was lined with souvenir shops in an old fashioned style, cherry blossom trees and beautiful lanterns. It looked so beautiful.

We paid our entrance into the gardens and didn’t know where to go first. We settled on a direction and we were off. The Kenroku-en Garden is considered one of the top 3 gardens in Japan. It was absolutely stunning. It’s hard to describe in words the feeling that this garden evoked. There was a sense of peace and calm, which is hard to achieve with hundreds of people, tour groups and school children weaving around. There were pockets that were almost secluded and amazingly peaceful.

The scenery, you just sat there with your eyes wide open, drinking it all in. My eye would be caught by something and I would think, ‘Wow! That’s so beautiful!’ and then turn my head slightly, ‘Wow! That is so beautiful!’. Take a few steps and ‘Wow! That is so beautiful!’ This continued everywhere we went. My bag was so heavy as it was set up for travelling, not touring, so we would find a spot for Phil to sit and I would be off with the camera, trying to capture it all. It was so beautiful that I’ve decided I would like to have this kind of garden at home. Phil said he would get it sorted when we get back. Yeah! Right!??

I love water and taking photos with water and this garden had many ponds, creeks and even a waterfall. We walked all around the garden once, and then headed back to my favourite spot to get the late afternoon light. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the stone lantern properly as we needed to be there in the morning light to capture it properly, but I’m happy with how those photos turned out, given the light we had.

We had decided to walk back to the hotel. Google Maps was telling us it was a 30 minute walk and it’s the way we get to know a city. Unfortunately, my knees were so sore from all of the walking that we had already done, so it took a little longer. We didn’t walk through any area that had shopping or restaurants, so that was disappointing.

We ended up back at Kanazawa Station to find some food to eat for dinner. We found a German Bakery (that was the shop’s name) and ended up getting some sandwiches from there. Their orange and poppy seed muffin was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was amazing.

We headed back to the hotel and got there about 6:30 pm. Dallas was at Tokyo, Narita ready for his flight back to Sydney.  I was absolutely shattered. My knees were really quite painful, so I took some Voltaren, and some Panadol as well – it was that bad. I crashed really early and slept so well.

Osaka, Nara – 15th April

The day was sunny and clear when we woke up. We were so glad that we had made the decision to go to Nara today. We met Dallas and headed to Nippombashi Station. We found what we thought was the right station, but then discovered that we weren’t on the right station and there was another system on the next level down. We went down those stairs and found the right train. It was a 40 minute train ride to Nara. We had decided to walk from the station up to Nara Park and the Temple.

As we were walking (along with heaps of other people) we caught our first sight of the deer among the cherry blossoms. Although the cherry blossoms weren’t at their best, it was still stunning.

We were all really hungry, but hardly any restaurants open until 11:00 am and it was only 10:00 am. We finally found a place that was open. The coffee was great and they had some western food, so Phil and Dallas took advantage of that. It wasn’t cheap – but it was good.

We headed back up the road a little more and found our way to the Todaiji Temple. This park is so beautiful. We had a look at some gardens and then rounded the corner to see the gate ahead of us. We couldn’t believe it. It was so majestic and created out of wood. We enter through the gate and were astonished to see that there were more gates and buildings even bigger than the one we just went through.

There was a museum off to the right hand side as we entered through the gates. There were signs indicating that you would have a better understanding of the Great Buddha and its history, prior to seeing it. We decided to pay the extra 400 JPY (about $5 AUD) to view the Museum and got both the Museum and the entrance to Todaiji Temple for 1000 JPY each (about $12 AUD). (The entrance to only the Todaiji Temple is 600 JPY).

The Museum was really informative with subtitles in English for the initial video presentation and then information within the museum with English explanations. We were really pleased that we made the decision to go into this museum.

We headed back up the road towards the Temple. We went through the gates and were, once again, surprised at its size and grandeur. It was just huge. We lit some incense and headed inside. The Great Buddha is way bigger than we had imagined. It is just amazing to consider that this Buddha statue is so old, having been created in 752 AD. It is such a gigantic work of art. It was truly amazing.

We lit a candle and walked around the hall, taking everything in. I got my temple stamp (which I’ve been doing for every temple that I attend. You can get a book and have the stamp put into your book, however I plan to scrapbook my photos, so have been having them onto paper. Each stamp is 300 JPY and makes a great souvenir).

We headed back outside and took some more photos. We then had a look at the lucky charms and purchased some items. We found a beautiful spot outside and sat in the sun for a while soaking up the ambience (as Phil would say). There were some cherry blossom trees nearby, so we walked up there to have a look. WOW! This area was so pretty. The blossoms are over their peak, so anytime some wind blew, the petals would rain down on anyone nearby. It truly was so beautiful.

Deers roam freely all over the park as they are believed to be messengers from God. These messengers roam freely and don’t really interact with people unless you have deer crackers! These are small biscuits that you buy (about 10 discs for 150 JPY) to feed the deer. They are supposed to bow to you before you give them some, and some of them do this, but not all. Some of them are quite eager to get some more and will try to take them out of your bag. It was all part of the fun though. It appears as though part of the problem is that you get so many all at once and they can clearly see and smell them. We gave one of ours to another person nearby and they didn’t try to rush him as he only had a small amount.

We sat here under the cherry blossom trees for a while soaking in the beautiful weather, gorgeous location and crazy deers. We headed back to Osaka for our last night in this exciting city.

We got back to our hotel and went out for a last walk along Dotonbori Canal and street. We enjoyed some street food for dinner (well Bel had steamed pork buns actually) and just really soaked in the whole atmosphere here in Dotonbori. We got back to our room and got ready to leave. Tomorrow Bel and Phil are off to Kanazawa whilst Dallas flies back home to Sydney.

We will be sad to leave this city as we have really enjoyed our time here.

 

Osaka – 14th April

The weather today was cloudy and rainy. We had initially thought about going to Nara today, but the weather tomorrow is supposed to be much better, so we thought we’d just have an easy day today. Hang around the hotel and go out into Osaka to get a few things. We had a sleep in and breakfast at the hotel. We did some work on the blog and then decided to head out. We have decided to buy another bag for Dallas to take home (as he can take back 2 x 23kg bags and he only has one bag). This way we can send home the things that we really shouldn’t have brought in the first place and some of the souvenirs that we have already bought. Dallas had decided to go out with some of the men from the hostel where he was staying after our food tour last night and he was decidedly seedy. We did some shopping (and got a bag for Dallas to take home) and then headed to get some steamed pork buns for a very late lunch. We met up with Dallas and decided to take it easy for a while.

Dallas had been eager for us to try some ramen whilst he was there, so we went to Ichiran Ramen. The queue to get into the restaurant was massive.  We waited for about 45 minutes from the time we lined up outside the restaurant until we were seated and served our food. We had to order and pay for our meals from vending machines downstairs, then when we got upstairs and seated, they took our specific requests to make up our meals.

 

It was nice, but I personally wouldn’t rave about it. Phil enjoyed his meal, whereas Dallas hardly ate any as his stomach was still off. After here, we walked down to American Mura as I wanted to check it out for souvenirs for my son, Chris. There were lots of beautiful clothes, but they were very much American prices. My favourite clothes were 20 000 JPY (about ??AUD) and they weren’t anything to do with Japan, so we decided not to get them. As Chris pointed out, we could order them from the United States directly for that money.

We headed back to Dotonbori in the pouring rain, luckily our hotel had lent us some umbrellas on this wet, cold night. Phil and Dallas had decided to play ten pin bowling, so I went back to the hotel and worked on the blog. Today was just what we had needed so that we could rest a little.

Osaka – 13th April

We were a little relaxed getting up and getting moving today. We have several days here so that we have some time to see the sights of Osaka and surrounding areas. We had decided to head out to Osaka Castle today, but first Phil wanted to check out Don Quijote, which is a mega department store that sells everything you could ever want from alcohol to Canon lenses, souvenirs to whitegoods and everything in between.

We have decided to buy another bag to send home with Dallas. We can send home some things that we have already bought and things that we brought over with us that we shouldn’t have. It will also give him some room to pack some extra things too. Given that we will need to take home for him the things that he left in Tokyo, it sounded like a fair trade to us.

We went for a walk, priced bags and had a look around. We headed back to meet Dallas to head to the castle. We ended up catching a cab out to Osaka Castle. It was quite a distance away from where we are staying. It was so imposing and yet so beautiful with all of the cherry blossoms. Although their peak was quite some time ago, they are still beautiful. We wandered around the grounds for a while, enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and the stunning grounds.

We headed up into the castle area. They were selling some French champagne by the glass in honour of the cherry blossoms. Why yes, I think that would be lovely! It was quite special drinking this beautiful champagne, surrounded by cherry blossom trees all to the backdrop of the beautiful castle.

We lined up for tickets and entered Osaka Castle. We caught a lift to the 5th floor, and then climbed the stairs up to the 8th floor. The views were stunning. The wind was quite fierce up here though. I spotted a small pond from the top of the tower, that I wanted to check out.

We had a look at some of the exhibits on the way down the stairs inside the castle. There were some beautiful artefacts. I headed straight over to the pond, however the weather had become cloudy, unfortunately.

We headed back into Osaka as we had another tour booked tonight. This was another one through Intrepid Travel, Urban Adventures – Kansai Soul. This tour goes to different places from the tour we did last night, except for the Dotonbori Canal. Dallas decided to join us on this tour, late this afternoon. Luckily there was space available for him.

We met Fumiko and Marcello (a lovely man who was training to become a tour guide). They were very welcoming. We headed off with our first stop at the Kumoron Markets. It was busy but more with local people picking up some food on the way home. There was a stall selling these weird looking sea creatures. We had never seen them before and asked what they were. Fumiko didn’t know the English translation so we google translated it and discovered they were called Mill Shellfish. They look like an animated monster.

We continued in the market and Fumiko showed us some different Japanese vegetables including some radish. It doesn’t look like our radishes at all. It is longer than a cucumber, as wide as a potato and white. Dallas walked past a seafood shop with some of the huge oysters he had in Miyajima Island. He asked Fumiko if he could buy one and eat it. She organised for them to cut it up and eat it sashimi style. Whilst he was doing that, I went into another shop. I still need to get something for Mum. Lots of things caught my eye, but there wasn’t anything that I loved for the price that it was. There was a market stall selling dried fruits. I tried some (a lot of food places have the option for you to try their foods before buying, however there is no expectation that you will buy their wares even if you do try them). They were so nice. We ended up getting 2 packets of ginger with sugar and one of apple. It was 3 for 1000 JPY (about $12 AUD).  Dallas tried some other vegetable chips and he loved them too, so he brought a packet of them.

The next stall that Fumiko took us to was selling Oden which is a traditional Japanese home cooking dishes. It was at Ishibashi Syokuhin within the Kumoron Markets. Fumiko bought a selection of vegetables, which we all tried. It was different.

She then showed us these weirdly shaped octopus. It had a hard boiled quail’s egg inside it. We did not try them. The next food we tried was beef cooked on a bar b que. It was delicious.

After our food experience within the Kumoron Markets, we headed out into a different section of Osaka. This was a section with a lot of anime and manga shops. We also saw some girls dressed up in different costumes. Dallas loved this area. He absolutely loved Dragonball Z when he was younger and so this was taking him back to his childhood. There were lots of quirky items everywhere.

Our next stop was Kitchenware Street (Doguya Street – I think). This was in another market and had absolutely everything that you would need for your kitchen at home or to set up a restaurant. Some of the plates and bowls we saw were exquisite, however I would have to carry them for the rest of the trip. What a shame. We also saw a shop in this area that sold the plastic food that restaurants buy to display what their meals look like. It was NOT cheap. They even had food items as ear rings. Completely quirky. I don’t know why anyone would want to buy fake fish as earrings.

After here we continued into an ‘entertainment quarter’. Fumiko was explaining that Osaka has a strong comedy culture and a lot of the Japanese comedians started in Osaka as Osakans have the best sense of humour in Japan. There were also lots of Pachinko areas. Pachinko are like our poker machines (or slot machines in the USA), except that the Japanese don’t play for money, they play for prizes. However, Marcello pointed out that right near the Pachinko areas there would be a little discreet window where you can ‘sell’ your prizes to get money.

It was in this area that Fumiko took us to a place that sells Takoyaki (a wheat flour batter filled with minced or diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion). Phil and Dallas both felt that these ones were better than the ones they had last night. They were so hot that the flakes on the top were moving because of the steam coming out of the balls. Unfortunately, Dallas didn’t see this before putting one in his mouth. It was the quietest 3 minutes with Dallas. He was very lucky that he didn’t burn his mouth. He was much smarter with the next one, letting it cool down first.  I took their word that it was delicious. We went past a Bic Camera place and I asked if they would be able to fix my watch. The battery had gone flat when we arrived in Japan, and we hadn’t been able to get it fixed. With Fumiko’s help, we got it sorted and they told us it would be 15 minutes. I went to check back in 5 minutes and it was done. It was about the same price that I would pay in Sydney to get it repaired.

Our next stop was into Dotonburi. This was crazy. Fumiko took us to the amazing peaceful Houzenji Temple that we had seen with Barun the night before. Given that it was Saturday night, it was packed. We saw running man again, and some girls were singing and dancing, so we watched that for a little while.

Fumiko then took us to her favourite place for steamed pork dumplings. I had never had them before, but was prepared to try them. They! Were! Amazing! It was 551 Horai. I memorised the place and worked out how to get back here.

After this stop, we headed to the subway to go to Shinsekai. This was another area that we hadn’t known about either. Barun had been telling us that this area was popular but had a bit of a bad reputation due to some protests at the local police station. Fukimo took us to a skewer place and Marcello taught us how to use the sauce. You can’t double dip as the sauce stays on the table and everyone uses it.  We had some fried skewers, Phil had another chuhai, Dallas had a plum liqeur while I had a ginger ale. This was our last eating place and it was perfect. The food was delicious. I’m glad that we hadn’t eaten anything before our tour!

After our food we headed out to the street. We had decided to get a cab back to our hotel, but wanted to drop Dallas off at his hostel on the way (or close to his hostel anyway). Luckily we had Fumiko with us who helped to explain to the cab driver where we wanted to go. We farewelled our amazing tour guides and went back to our hotel. What an amazing day.

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