Lockdown Armchair Travel – Japan – Tokyo, August 2014

After lots of I’s we’re finally on to the J’s – and today J is for Japan, and a fascinating cruise that Mrs C and I took in the summer of 2014 around the northern island of Hokkaido (also visiting the little town of Korsakov in Sakhalin, Russia). But the holiday started with three full days visiting Tokyo – which we couldn’t have done without our personal guide because the lack of English translations – or indeed any translations – makes it very difficult to navigate.

So, what do you think of, when you think of Tokyo? Maybe this:

15104780901_37babf74ae_o

Sushi was one of the things we were both fearing the most about Japan as neither of us is a fan. However, it wasn’t horrible, so we took that as a bonus! Whilst we’re on the subject of food and drink:

15106955935_e777586ee3_o

We did the traditional tea ceremony; not like any other tea we’ve tasted. It comes with its full set of rules and instructions

15106962265_f2c7317552_o

But it was all in the beautiful setting of the Hamarikyu Gardens:

14920458678_0bf85fbe3a_o

where urban sprawl and rural tranquillity rub shoulders

15106479002_4cb67c6528_o

Talking of urban sprawl, some of those skyscrapers are surprisingly decorative:

15083244956_cf54023d06_o

14919695317_0498c17c95_o

15105960422_7be953378f_o

Modern architecture on the indoors can be fascinating too

15107170722_619e97efe0_o

Perhaps it’s at its most interesting where it stands side by side with lowrise buildings

14920856080_170236239a_o

14920939267_0f2673a8fe_o

Views from the top are of course breathtaking

15103278331_903e1b568b_o

This was from our hotel bedroom:

15103500261_1d2f66148f_o

And at night:

15103548481_671b236dc7_o

However, did you know that Tokyo could also look like this?

15108191985_b3f29726e8_o

This is old Tokyo.

15105199291_df7d29e066_o

There’s not much of it left, sadly.

14921650538_9b9e34ea60_o

The fishmarket is a big attraction

15083576156_cbb18e80f0_o

To be honest we found it rather gruesome!

14919900039_eb813ae144_o

15106229042_aec152c932_o

14919984040_3e22abbe17_o

14920012480_26a7e4b99f_o

Time to move on, I think. By the way, could you work your way through this tube network?

15084229326_46932f696e_o

Plus… who’s driving this train?

15106699392_313764f40b_o

Who knew that a Tokyo train would take you here?

15106758362_2231b0a7a4_o

Not even Disneyland! This is an area called Daina, with lots of shops and restaurants… and the Statue of Liberty!

14920575727_155f191afb_o

Temples. There are a few but perhaps not as many as you might expect. This is the Meiji Shrine

15106350525_d05b44303b_o

14919724370_32a139b08a_o

15103422711_fe4e1d660d_o

The Tokyo National Museum is also a tremendous place, filled with excellent artworks like this Imari Jar

15107844995_093a9407ac_o

and this noble general

15107865895_d6f5e42972_o

and these cute Imari rabbits.

15105071871_bbfff51d75_o

Sadly, this didn’t age well

15083275336_2fe307c952_o

but primarily, Tokyo is full of surprises. Like square watermelons

15107315505_928c6f2ee4_o

Unmentionable puppets

15084781366_c581634774_o

and golden sperm

14920980880_a879aa7cff_o

A place of constant wonder!

14919713589_72ceb657db_o

14920160207_9b30e438d3_o

15106743392_2308115b14_o

15084267866_e7c0211864_o

14920760098_eabbee4631_o

14920863307_3eb939bb8b_o

14920780590_555e5c8ee5_o

14921069579_91e921f5c1_o

14921137870_c386b1f856_o15107909682_2d3a14aabc_o14921671349_1e63a3f4fe_o

Thanks for joining me on this little trip around Tokyo! Next blog will be another look at some old theatre shows from July to October 1981. Stay safe!

 

 

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Venice, Italy, 2012 (and 1989)

One more country to reminisce over, that begins with an I – and that’s Italy. So many beautiful and impressive places to remember, but I thought we’d take a look at some of the glories that are Venice. We stayed here for a couple of days in 2012 before taking a Mediterranean cruise that started and ended in Venice. But we’ve been for a few brief visits before, including a day trip during our Austrian holiday in 1989 – so any particurly grainy photos will be from that holiday!

So what do you think of, when you think of Venice? There’s only one thing!

6895584298_ef7363faa1_o

Yep, gondolas on the Grand Canal. Plus the extravagantly costumed gondoliers, of course

7041872723_30036b965b_o

Apparently they don’t like it if you sing Just One Cornetto to them, as my uncle once found out.

7041674831_6b2af2dbd2_o

The extraordinary thing about Venice is that, when you visit it for the first time, it is EXACTLY as you had imagined it would be. That Canaletto guy nailed it absolutely.

6895626254_e4c61eeb05_o

From the grand, beautiful sights to the grotty corners, it still manages to look picturesque.

6895572284_ebc9a0b193_o

 

6895640306_4d664e4b4f_o

Of course, the bridges are also a very important aspect to the Venice waterscape

6895586052_09d6310cb5_o

7041670099_1342a43728_o

7041724587_2ecc066e1d_o

As are the boats

6895620074_3dea7f9ce6_o

Water taxis

7041672677_77b71791dd_o

rowboats

7604197574_c6398851c8_o

and the boats that wait to collect you from your hotel

7041853269_310d940f68_o

Beautiful by day

6895636184_1887b6f793_o

Stunning by night

6895646762_93b1912694_o

7041758621_c4d00c8c9f_o

6895664414_72d0ac063b_o

Glorious churches

like the San Marco

San Nicolo dei Mendicoli

And the extraordinary ceiling of the Doge’s Palace

But as always in a place like this, it’s the magic of those unexpected moments…

Thanks for accompanying me on this trip around Venice. Next blog will probably (but maybe not…) be another bunch of theatrical memories from October 1980 to July 1981. Stay safe!

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Israel – Jerusalem – March 2016

I is also for Israel, and we had a couple of days there during our Mediterranean cruise in 2016. We took the ship’s day excursion to Jerusalem, somewhere I had always wanted to go. Incredibly busy, incredibly beautiful, incredibly tense. The day included probably the unhappiest tourist-rip-off moment I’ve ever experienced, but it also included moments of sheer joy.

So what do you think of, when you think of Jerusalem? Maybe this man:

26030809090_d8ae583865_o

This picture is just one of many beautiful and emotion-filled works of art in the Church of All Nations that stands on the Mount of Olives beside the Garden of Gethsemane. Here’s more of the Church:

26277876176_47e6c72042_o

26211253702_e0a0cb3118_o

26030810330_0f794ea2ec_o

26237413001_876ffb8676_o

25701079293_dd502b26a3_o

26211415072_0f0e9fddc9_o

26211414072_6ea11e997b_o

But my favourite place in the whole of Jerusalem is the neighbouring Garden of Gethsemane. Extraordinary to think that it still exists so beautifully to this day.

26277880976_e688b340b4_o

Did Jesus sit beneath this olive tree?

26303587785_19b2a06b6e_o

Standing out in the whole of the Jerusalem cityscape is the incredible Dome of the Rock

26030841700_d60281ba61_o

26030835860_e9bddba458_o

But Jerusalem has its fair share of other stunning buildings. This is the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene.

26030834400_b9ff79dc84_o

Perhaps the most famous sight in Jerusalem is the Wailing Wall. It’s split into two portions; one large area for the men to pray and one tiny one for the women.

26303668245_c7ccfef179_o

The old walls are remarkable

25698830384_bba4a8759b_o

26303670685_ec0473e7c0_o

26211169122_1219dcf0f1_o

But the most important place is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

26277631766_7c61b344eb_o

Which was one of the least friendly churches I’ve ever been in!

26030787880_ae6e48c9a7_o

26277696326_12f6888aa9_o

26211236812_abeca1db82_o

But the light shining in is amazing

25700898943_6d94188a08_o

It’s fascinating – although crowded – to walk down the via Dolorosa, which is believed to be the path Jesus took to his crucifixion.

26303664735_185e971dd1_o

Here are some of the stations of the Cross

26030798860_b6ca6a9c8b_o

26211241382_6284c2b477_o

26277701986_2f694b2f05_o

The layout of the Jewish Cemetery at the Mount of Olives is fascinating

26303838515_a072c128ff_o

There are, of course, modern sights, but you don’t really get to see them in a day trip. This is when our coach drove past the Knesset.

26277629346_ff86c924bc_o

As in all cities, life is lived on the streets

25700903743_9535c6765b_o

25698799474_2231342dc0_o

26277706606_8afa12dffe_o

And there are always quirky views to enjoy

25700915453_9d253446a2_o

25698796934_587ef2cc52_o

26303833205_ca6bee7b95_o

Although the security fence is somewhat distressing

26277884416_bc91eb2385_o

And even the souvenir t-shirts proclaim something of a gallows humour

26277704166_eb8f5e6373_o

So, in short, Jerusalem is beautiful but stressful. We also went to Tel Aviv which is the complete opposite – ugly and relaxed. I guess you can’t have both!

26211418772_67a78c14f3_o

26303656915_d4c2a3c62a_o

26277702516_8235e73452_o

Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt around Jerusalem. Next blog will be back to the old theatre trips, and some shows I saw between August and October 1980. Stay safe!

 

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Ireland – Dublin – June 2019

It was just a year ago that our British Isles cruise set sail to seven exciting ports and Dublin was one of them. Having only visited Ireland twice before, and not for many years, it was high time we had a lovely day in the Irish capital. Unfortunately we had to dodge the raindrops all day!

So when you think of Dublin, what do you think of?

48160222002_25f11054b1_o

Other drinks are available of course, but for whatever reason, Guinness always tastes better in Ireland. Maybe Dublin brings to mind this chap? (The one on the left)

48160164991_2b40c6ebef_o

Art is well represented

48160164756_b98f417d14_o

This was my favourite picture during our brief trundle around – Caravaggio’s Taking of Christ

48160416057_3cdf091d96_o

The heavens opened and we took shelter in here – only to discover it was the Parliament Building. They were kind enough to let us in, but were even happier when we left. I offered to sign the vistors book – the offer was refused.

48160237312_ab9db50c64_o

I can only assume that Molly Malone’s breasts are part of a good luck ritual.

48160157341_c9dc347f39_o

In the world of Dance, Dublin is responsible for a very important modern classic

48160232792_e6c9b53502_o

which just so happened to be playing at the Gaiety whilst we were there (but not on that day)

48160159776_20634e520d_o

Meanwhile the city is full of hustle and bustle, like all cities

48160230577_0082ffc4ed_o

with attractive modern shopping and dining areas

48160158636_e2dc913442_o

whilst retaining a charming elegance

48160161711_4ae19d5373_o

and lovely green spaces

48160413887_b7b4f33874_o

Possibly the most fascinating place we visited was the Masonic Hall – opened up for individual visitors, full of history and very beautiful.

48160229232_55b72c5da6_o

48160155276_7112d027a8_o

48160227292_517eb20103_o

48160226657_f51f287c87_o

48160340726_42d2848ff3_o

There was only one person in Dublin whose fashion sense was more outrageous than this character:

48160154246_d9a7e29360_o

And that’s this character:

48160161071_c53fdd2dbe_o

Thanks for joining me on this little jaunt around Dublin. Next blog will be back to the old theatre trips and some more shows in July and August 1980. Stay safe!

 

Lockdown Armchair Travel – India – Varanasi in 2016

I is for India – my favourite country in the entire world to visit – and here’s a few days we spent in Varanasi in November 2016. If I ask you what do you think of, when you think of India, it’s probably the Taj Mahal. But in Varanasi? It’s the Ganges and the Ghats. But first, did you know, just outside Varanasi is Sarnath?

30586386264_92338e7930_o

Sarnath is famous for the being the first place where Buddha taught.

31292704221_a585e68265_o

So it’s a very holy and revered site, with a super stupa at its heart.

31407493515_68c43440d4_o

31038448370_6f17d738b9_o

31038471700_ebce14da80_o

And, unsurprisingly, a major place of learning.

50043660687_2b38130ed3_o

But Varanasi itself centres on the Ganges.

31371350046_03cb8bfd4c_o

All streets lead there!

31292683481_3d481a88b7_o

Especially at night, when pilgrims, locals and tourists alike swarm to the river for the Aarti ceremony.

31038430010_fed41a8426_o

31371328546_ac44a792e0_o

Important to reserve your seat early, but you may be sat next to a cow.

31292666051_19e53fab04_o

31371317336_7665bb19e3_o

30600256703_b8c57fef5c_o

30600247843_a57b384e3b_o

In the morning – very early – take in a leisurely boat ride along the Ghats to see life on the riverbank and to see the pilgrims bathing.

30587401914_8969a758a3_o

30587398144_1c16c7db96_o

31293748971_aa2f3f3d8a_o

30601319953_b3a917214a_o

31293684181_4fe3acfabf_o

31408435865_4eeeb12077_o

30601384883_25ef5e8466_o

31293744311_7e65961e03_o

31408454275_58bd4eb2bb_4k

Death is as much part of life in Varanasi as anywhere else, but the city is well known for its riverside crematoria. The dead are cremated on the banks of the Ganges and it’s a major aspect of the city. Crematoria smoke frequently fills the sky.

31264086292_5b443c7ae5_o

And the wood for burning is piled high

31293717241_09d9f0986f_o

Time for a wander around the old town

31293714121_46f14c6d22_o

30601354623_a7f2232066_o

30587360394_68518d02d9_o

30587354004_b7f7b14ae4_o

There’s also a highly respected university

30601379883_d720e3c7f3_o

But, like anywhere in India, all the best pictures are to be found on the street