Tag Archives: bus

Onsen in Nantan, 2016

One of the main things my husband wanted to do in Japan was visit an onsen. Most of the best spas are in the snow, single sex and naked. Seeing as we had our daughter with us we had to find a family onsen near Kyoto that allowed swimwear.

Our journey to Rurikei Onsen in Nantan began with a local train through plunging rivers and mountain tunnels. It seemed like the spa was in the middle of nowhere already, but the best was yet to come.

When we arrived at the closest train station, we found out that we had missed one of only a couple of buses that go to the spa in the morning, so we had to catch a taxi. As the cab climbed further into the mountains and the meter ticked over, I feared that we were lost.

Eventually, we pulled up to the Rurikei Eco Resort Village and there was not a tourist to be seen. The functional spa had pools, hot spas, cold spas, reading rooms, relaxing rooms and a foot tub where fish ate the skin off your feet.

The prettiest was the traditional looking outdoor spa with bamboo decorations and I liked the indoor waterfalls. The weirdest room was the mysterious room that had coloured rocks on the roof that could be seen glinting in the dark room.

The resort also had a hotel and healthy eating restaurant attached to it where we had a tasty light lunch. It also had the only beer vending machine we saw the whole time we were in Japan. I was beginning to think they were a myth.

With time to kill before the free afternoon bus back to the train station, we wandered around the surrounding gardens. The backdrop of mountains was beautiful and they were building a little tent area for future campers. Lots of autumn leaves up here, a cute little friendship pavilion, a water wheel and real waterfalls.

They were setting up the gardens for Christmas with lots of colourful lights, a few Christmas trees, reindeer, angels and even Santa’s sleigh that you could sit in. There was also a strange kids playground that consisted only of stone animals, like Narnia. There were kangaroos, tigers, giraffes and duck statues mixed in with real cranes in the river.

While we were waiting for the bus back at the spa entry with the old folks, I felt the ground roll underneath me. One of the older ladies started freaking out and we realised it must have been an earthquake. Small, but still shaky, it was a very odd feeling.

We caught the train back to Kyoto, happy in the fact that we had been somewhere only locals go and had our last dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant serving Kyoto specialities like mackerel, fried chicken and sake.

Related posts: Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley

I had wanted to go hot air ballooning for a long time. I saved up birthday and Christmas money for 2 years and finally had enough for the ride and some nice accommodation in the Hunter Valley. I jumped on Red Balloon straight away and booked the experience with Balloon Aloft and then counted down the days until it was time to take flight.

The excitement started the night before when you have to check in by phone at 6pm to make sure the next days flight is going ahead and to confirm you were coming.

The next day I woke at only a little earlier time than usual at just before 5am- yes, my name is Roshan and I have a toddler. I drove myself to Peterson’s Champagne House to check in in person with my pilot Richard, by all accounts a very experienced hot air balloon pilot who had flown everywhere from the Swiss Alps, to, well, the Hunter Valley.

There was 20 to a balloon basket, so our team, the blue team, piled into our allotted bus and we drove to the first launch site to release a test balloon- the same as the ones you get at kids parties- except with a red light on it.

The wind was not right, so we were driven past Margan and Cockfighters Ghost to another launching site in Broke which was nestled at the foot of a very nice looking mountain range.

We got off the bus into a very chilly field, just as the sun started rising. And then we all spread out the balloon in a fashion reminiscent of the parachute game I used to play at school.

I met a balloon enthusiast and his wife, who had been ballooning in my dream destination, Capadocia, plus also Egypt and a few other places. They were planning for Portugal or Morrocco next.

Our balloon was inflated with cold air by dangerous looking and noisy fans. While this was happening I watched 3 other balloons be inflated and take off into the dawn. It was a beautiful sight and you could almost feel your spirits lifting up with the balloons as they went. My excitement built as I knew we would soon be joining them in the air.

Richard added hot air to the now inflated balloon, using four gas cylinders and then the basket started lifting from horizontal to vertical and it was time for all the passengers to jump in quickly before the man on the ground holding the balloon was taken away. I had to switch sides and was scared the balloon would take off without me.

And then we lifted up and drifted off. It was so quiet and still that you could hear dogs barking in the nearby farms.

We floated around, away from the mountains that now had the early morning sun shining over them.

Taking in the other balloons drifting around us and the shadow of our own in the fields.

The scenery was shrouded by early morning fog that lifted to expose vines, farmland and kangaroos, just waking up and hopping around.

A camera suspended on the balloon took a group photo and I took a terrible selfie shot.

We flew up and down and through the valley taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the moment.

The silence only punctuated by the occasional burst of gas into the balloon to keep us afloat.

Before too long, it was time to land in a friendly field with enthusiastic cattle dogs and startled kangaroos. We braced in the landing position, took a couple of hops and then it was all over.

Time to pack up the balloon- a lot harder than unravelling it- and head back to Petersons for a champagne breakfast with chocolate. We were also given a thoughtful thank you pack with discounts at other wineries and shops for rest of the day.

What a great experience, definitely not one for adrenalin junkies. More peaceful than I thought it would be, I was glad that I had done it. Now, just to get myself to Capadocia for round two.

Related posts: It’s a Winery ThingAdventurous vs Risk TakerAll creatures great and small

New Caledonia, 2014

In the approaching winter of 2014, my husband’s family including assorted partners and children, flew to Noumea for a week. We stayed at the Hilton Hotel where our balcony overlooked the pool, Anse Vata beach and Canary Island.

The weather was not the beach weather we had hoped for, being rain with sunny periods. Definitely not swimming weather. Although that didn’t stop me trying, resulting in a very short lived dip in the cold pool, before it started raining again.

We made the most of it anyway and the holiday became all about eating instead. And what a great place for this to occur- in French food heaven. There were the decadent coffee shops, the fantastic French bakeries with sticks of bread and fancy cakes; and our favourite, the French supermarkets with Cote D Or, French wine and yummy carbonara chips. All delicious.

My husband and I also managed to escape for a date night in a French restaurant called Astrolabe in the next bay for a lovely traditional three course dinner. And I had the best Carbonara pasta with raw egg that I have ever had in an Italian restaurant in the hotel complex.

On our first day, we caught the bus to the city market. The bus trip was entertainment enough for our one a half-year-old daughter, but she was very excited by the local musicians playing when we got there too and danced up a storm.

The market overlooked the boats of Port Moselle and had lots of fruit and vegetables for the locals, plus colourful souvenirs for the tourists.

The following day, we caught the bus all the way into town to Coconut Trees square, which funnily enough had lots of coconut trees; and a gazebo. I found a Mango shop amongst all the expensive French clothing shops and we found some French children’s books for our daughter. We also saw the old coach house, Moselle Bay and many colourful murals.

We took a walk along Promenade Roger Laroque to Lemon beach- the beach next to ours. The promenade also had a train running along it that my daughter enjoyed along with the statue of Marilyn Monroe outside the Rock café once we go to the beach.

One day, we dragged the whole family to the Aquarium of the Lagoons to see the coral, fish and related sea creatures. My daughter liked the hands on kid’s section and I liked the porthole windows that you could see luminescent jellyfish through.

On our last day, we took a walk up the hill to Rte Due Ouen Toro for a view over the island and all the beaches we had visited. On the way back we found a large park with lots of swings and dolphin bins. It was heaven for the kids and I’m sure they wished we had found it earlier.

Related posts: Fiji 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Paris, 2013

After a tearful farewell with our friends in the new Brussels train station, my husband, daughter and I caught the TGV to Paris. The train was indeed fast.

At Gare Du Nord we were fast tracked to the front of the taxi queue due to travelling with a baby. Very nice of them, especially considering that it was nearing dinnertime. We were stying in a hotel next to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th Arrondissement.

On our first day we bypassed the subway with its many stairs and caught the bus into the middle of the city. We passed so many historic buildings on the way that I wondered why I hadn’t thought to catch the bus last time I was here.

First stop was the Eiffel Tower. No long lines for us with a little one, so we settled for the view from below instead and embarked on a walking tour of the city. Paris is a museum in itself after all.

We followed the River Seine, down Av de New York, past the tunnel where Diana died, recognisable by the Liberty Flame, to the gold-topped Ponte Alexandre III and Invalides.

Everything was strangely familiar, but also different and still impressive. Even though I had been here before, it was a different experience being here married with a daughter rather than with a friend and there were still new things I hadn’t seen.

There was the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and a we took a stroll along the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. Place de la Concorde was larger than I remembered it to be and the Jardin des Tuileries were prettier.

We found the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Louvre and Pont Neuf, then called it a day as it was bitterly cold and we later discovered that we also had a teething baby.

That night was not an easy one with an unhappy baby which slightly took the edge off the romance of Paris, but cest la vie.

Oh, but the food! The awesome patisseries on every corner for breakfast, the fabulous restaurants for lunch and the local bar with traditional tarts for dinner. This was something we could all enjoy as a family.

Related posts: France 1997, Part 1: Paris,It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2003 

Fiji, 2013

When my daughter was 4 months old, my husband found himself between jobs, so we decided to take a trip to Fiji.

The flight was easy as we had a cot for the little one, inadvertently leading to more legroom on the plane too.

We stayed at the Hilton at Denarau that had a couple of swimming pools overlooked by the breakfast restaurant. From our very comfortable villa we had a view of the beach and our daughter was a very happy baby in her second home with air conditioned controlled temperatures.

She also liked the mirrors in the fancy bathrooms, especially the looking glass; and the ground floor balcony area with comfortable couches that she could roll around on in the fresh air. We both enjoyed the hammock put up on two trees just out the back of the villa and the colourful flowers on the path to the restaurant.

At the restaurant, our daughter was a hit. We had not booked a babysitter, but as soon as we came down for a meal, she was whisked away by the hostess and taken to see the friendly kitchen staff. It was heaven to be able to enjoy a meal together and our daughter was always returned happier when we had finished eating.

She had her first swim ever in the kid’s pool. Unsure at first, our daughter grew to enjoy it over the course of the week. The weather wasn’t too hot, so we made use of the deck chair service for lunch times and it was a short easy walk back to the villa if we needed anything.

One day, we took a Baby Bjorn trip on the Bula bus to the port for a lovely seafood meal in a local café called Lulu’s. On another we took our daughter for her first swim at the beach, which she seemed to enjoy much more than the pool.

But the best part was the firelighters that ran by the room lighting torches at sunset. She just could not take her eyes off the flames.

After such stimulating days, our daughter was always easy to put to sleep so my husband and I really felt like we had a holiday ourselves as we enjoyed rest time in the evenings.

Before we were ready to leave, it was time to take the golf cart to the hotel lobby, check out and fly home. Back to the reality of a new job for my husband and no handy helpers at dinner time.

Related posts: Fiji, 2011, Fiji, 2008, It’s a South Pacific Thing

Independence Day, 2011

My besties parents picked me up at Omaha airport in the middle of the night and drove me back to their hunting lodge in the Sandhills of Stuart, Nebraska. We arrived in the very early hours of the morning and all of the ‘young ones’ were sleeping off the week of pre Independence Day celebrations in the cabin away from the main house.

The next morning, my bestie and I headed into town to catch the 4th July parade while everyone else surfaced. There were floats, horses with buggies, fire trucks and cars- both old and new. The street was decorated with a huge blue star, welcome banners had been hung and all the locals on the main street were camped outside their white washed houses to watch the action as it unfolded.

Stuart is a small but lovely little place and I have never been anywhere quite like it. Apart from the church, the water tank is the tallest structure in town, and the streets are wide. Everyone seemed to know each other and all the children who had moved away came home for the annual celebrations. My bestie ran into a cousin Brad whose family owned the local bus service and was driving one in the parade; so we hitched a ride to the oval.

Here was where we were meeting my bestie’s sister Janeen with her boyfriend, their brother Chris with his girlfriend, and my bestie’s boyfriend Andrew. We played all the games you play as a kid like leapfrog, sack races and the egg and spoon race. I entered the three legged race with my bestie which was hilarious.

The boys ran the bathtub race along the main street with my bestie as the passenger in an actual bathtub on wheels. This was closely followed by the duck races as the fire truck flooded the main street for the purpose. This was the kids favourite part, and secretly mine too as I collected a bright blue duck for a souvenir to take home.

We went to my bestie’s uncle Don and aunt Gini’s place in town for dinner, along with a whole lot of other family. With my bestie’s dad being one of 4 and her mum being one of 6, there was plenty of aunt’s, uncles and cousins.

Cousin Heather arrived and we all went to the only tiny pub in town, the Central Bar. This I could relate to coming from a small town myself, although we now had two pubs in my hometown. We all got a ride in a borrowed trailer back to the oval for the stock car races and 4th July fireworks once night fell. It was fabulous small town fun at it’s best, and this outsider really enjoyed the view from the inside.

Related posts: It’s an American Thing, USA Road trip, 2007, USA, 1990

Palenque, 2011

At the end of the longest bus trip I’ve ever been on, my husband and I arrived at Palenque. I was glad that we hadn’t decided to include Guatemala and Belize into our trip as originally planned, as we definitely wouldn’t have had enough time.

We were so tired after the overnight bus trip in temperatures that could only be described as fridge like, where I was still cold despite having two backpacks on top of me for warmth. If you did actually get warm enough to sleep, there was always the loud snoring local to disturb your sleep further, the speed bumps as we went through each small town and the fact that they had filmed us on when we got on the bus as this was a notorious kidnapping route.

When we got there in the morning, we discovered that it was too early to check in. And in typical Mexican- time- style, noon check in became 2pm check in, and I resorted to snoozing on the reception couch. When we were finally permitted to check in, we were happy to discover that we were in our own private house with the luxury of a TV with movies in English.

The hotel also had a swimming pool and a restaurant on the river overlooking now flooded river bars. We were in the middle of the jungle and the only reason most people come here is to to see the ruins.

The ruins of Palenque themselves were amazing. The towering Templo de las Inscripciones greeted you as soon as you entered the compound and was just as awe inspiring as expected.

The Palacio was the largest building with many structures, lots of steps and a big indoor courtyard with surrounding patios. We saw the Tomb of Red Queen inside one of the many temples and the Temple of the Sun with its stone panels.

I climbed up Temple of the Cross which had a fantastic view of all the ruins. After that we saw the large ball court in Group Norte and went for a walk into the jungle to see the Queens Bath of limestone waterfalls and the Bat Group of buried ruined houses.

Seeing ruins in the jungle was an amazing experience where I could really imagine what it must have been like back when the people lived here. I was so glad we had made the long trip to see it all.

Related posts: Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

Discovery

When you are a kid the whole world is a place of discovery.

A 5 minute walk to park can take 50 minutes as there is so much to see along the way.

There’s the neighbours in the hallway and the trees next to the path. And the person with a dog passing by and the telephone box that I need to talk on. And the bus at the bus stop and the seat at the bus stop. And the man changing the sign at the bus stop.

There’s the kid on the other side of the road and the one riding by on a bike. And there’s that wrapper someone dropped and the fluffy toy that I dropped. Oh, and oops- lost my shoe, need to put that back on.

Now I’m hungry- I need a snack. And look at that flower, so pretty, I’m going to pick it for you. And I need to walk on this wall, and go back and do it again- this could take a while. Lucky we have all day.

The park itself is a world created just for me. There are other kids to play with and a swing I could stay on for hours. Sometimes the slide goes a bit fast, but it’s scary fun. And the round about is the best, even if I walk a bit funny afterwards.

The shopping centre is a wonderland of colours, lights and so many different people. Here there’s discovering new food like chocolate cupcakes and cappuccino’s and the yummy aisles in the supermarket. And all my favourite characters from TV on the toy shelf and the toiletry aisle at the pharmacy. There’s so much to see and do that sometimes its all gets a bit too much.

Bus trips are a whole new exciting adventure. First we have to wait at the bus stop and then wave at the bus driver. And sit down and look around at all the people. I always make new friends on the bus and like pushing the button when it’s time to get off. Often I don’t even like where we are going as much as the bus trip there.

And then there was that time I went on the merry-go-round for the first time. I was too little to go on the horses, but they were so pretty. Next time, when I’m bigger, I’m going to go on the Ferris Wheel.

Every day brings a new discovery and a new experience when you are a toddler.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our own backyard always stayed so interesting?

Related posts: Kid at Heart, It’s the simple things

Return to sender

Once when I caught the train from Sydney back to Berry, I left my wallet on the train. Distraught, I sought out the station master, who located my wallet and had it sent back on the next train.

Another time, distracted by disposing the rest of my lunch one day, I left my phone on a table in the middle of the food court and raced back to the office.

Fortunately, by the time I had reached my desk, a kind soul had already found my phone and called my dad who had left a message on my work landline. I headed back to retrieve my phone and thank them. They wanted nothing in return.

Finally, there was the time that I was so busy getting off a broken down bus to get on the next one that I left my new red leather wallet on the first bus.

The kindly bus driver gave me a free ride back to the bus depot to collect my wallet which had been returned with the money still intact.

And so it happens, that just when you think there were are no nice people left in Sydney, something like this happens.

A man will get up for a pregnant woman on a bus.

A lady will slip over in the middle of the street and more than one person will rush to her aid.

A tourist will look lost and a passer-by will offer directions.

At the end of the day, I think we are all human and most of us are good.

Sure, there are some selfish horrible serial killer types out there, but these are not the norm even in a big city.

Good karma to all the kind souls that have always returned money, wallets, phones, bags and children that have been lost.  You’re the best!

Related posts: Degustation Delights, Cocktail hour in Sydneytown, Get your groove on, What’s your handicap?, Home is where you make it