Tag Archives: garden

The Great Buddha, Nara, 2016

We walked along the path to the one of the oldest gates in Japan. It was tall and made of faded wood. On the steps of the gate a deer stood defiantly as if it dare us to enter.

Inside the walls of the gate were huge wooden guardians on either side of the entryway, casting a watchful eye over all who passed through.

We headed down the steps and were confronted by a wall. Peeking through the slats of the gates, we could see a beautiful ordered green garden leading to an enormous white temple with dark wooden embellishments and golden horns on the roof.

On the other side of the gate was the largest incense holder I had ever seen where people were burning and praying.

We walked around the walls to the side entry gate, paid our fee and entered the garden.

Walking into the temple through the front entrance, I was immediately struck still in awe. Maybe because I wasn’t expecting it, or perhaps because it appeared to be trapped in a building that could barely contain its greatness, I was stumped by the largest Buddha I had ever seen in in my life. It was so overwhelming that not even photos could show just how big and amazing it was.

The main sitting Great Buddha was flanked by two bodhisattva statues in gold and two more guardians, one on each side; this time in stone.

We moved around the statues in an anti clockwise direction, continually being drawn back to the Great Buddha and it’s awesome size.

There was a model of the temple complex towards the back and a hole in one of the temple pylons that was the same size as one of the Great Buddha’s nostrils. Children were lining up to crawl through the hole which is said to guarantee enlightenment if you can fit.

On the way back out of the temple complex, my daughter wanted to burn some incense. I like to think it was to pay her respects to the greatness that we had just seen, but it was more likely because everyone else was doing it.

We left the temple complex, walked back through the park with the now snoozing deer, their bellies full of biscuits; through the small town and caught the train back to Osaka where we dined on traditional Okonomiyaki pancakes and Asahi; hoping that it wouldn’t be so long before we saw our friends again.

No more sight seeing and temples for us, nothing would have been able to top the Great Buddha at that point anyway, so it was off to Disneyland for a different kind of wonder.

Related posts: Nara, 2016Castle and shopping in Osaka, 2016Osaka, 2016Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets 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

Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016

After our busy first day in Kyoto, my husband found a local restaurant that had fire ramen. Curious to see what this was, we walked the short distance to the establishment and waited in the queue.

When we made it inside, it became apparent that it was not just the food that was the attraction here, but also the showmanship. After donning bibs, making sure our daughter was seated behind us and covering our arms, the chef briefed us on safety instructions and we waited with anticipation.

Fire ramen was poured into our waiting bowls and a large flame erupted from each one. Now I understood the caution. The ramen actually tasted pretty good too and the chef indulged us all by taking cameos of us enjoying our meals.

The next morning we found a local coffee house for breakfast that was owned by a friendly lady. The menu included both eggs and Japanese curry which pleased the whole family at that time in the morning. We liked it so much that it became our regular morning spot.

On the agenda for the day was a historical walk including some of the main temples in Kyoto. First we went to Shoren-in temple, which had a great Japanese raked garden. Here we met a group of school girls who thought our daughter was cute and had to take a photo with her.

Next was the Chion-in temple with the largest entry gate in Japan. This time we followed a group of school children dressed in kimonos and distracted them as they took their group picture in front of the gate. More photos with our daughter ensued.

The gate to Chion-in temple was indeed big, wooden and old. There were many steps leading up to the temple complex that was nestled into the hills, just showing some autumn colours.

Our daughter was very interested in the Buddhist ceremonies. She enjoyed watching the monks as they performed a rite and wanted to join in with the praying.

The last temple was the Nanzen-ji temple with a two-storied gate. The walk to the temple had pretty residential streets with old houses. The usual rock, lantern and moss garden flanked the temple, along with an aqueduct, which was a bit different.

I had also read that there was a waterfall temple behind the main one, so we headed up the hill to look for it. As the path became less trodden and the foliage became thicker, I began to think that something was awry. After we had been climbing for over half an hour and couldn’t even hear a waterfall, we decided it was time to turn back.

Turns out, we had been walking up the wrong hill in the opposite direction. We eventually found the right path, but by then we were done for the day and we left without seeing the waterfall. Our religious fervour had officially faded and it was time to call it a day.

Related posts: Kyoto, 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

Versailles, 2013

One of the main things I had wanted to do on my previous trips to Paris was to go to Versailles, but I had had never quite made it out of the city. When I watched the film Marie Antoinette, it inspired me further and I could not wait to see it for myself.

This time, my husband, daughter and I made the time to catch a train to the palace and take in the château. Despite it’s enormity and the cold weather, it was crowded. But from the moment we passed the statue of King Louis and entered the gold encrusted gates it was worth it.

There was a whole chapel inside the palace, long hallways with sculptures carved into the walls and winding staircases. The rooms all had ceiling frescos and detailed wallpaper. It was definitely decadent now, so I can only imagine what it was like before revolutionaries ransacked it.

There were enormous fireplaces, but small beds; elaborate candlesticks and chandeliers, but threadbare tapestries. Of course we went to the famous Hall of Mirrors, which had beautiful views over the gardens.

My tip would be to go to the Jardins de Versailles first as they would be less crowded in this order, and as nice as the house was, the gardens were much more impressive to me and more vast.

The hedges with statues on the North Parterre was so long and the lake-like fountain on the Water Parterre was so huge. But the most spectacular for me was the view of the patterned Orangery from the Latona Parterre.

Of course, I was also amazed by the famous Grand Canal. I couldn’t believe that there was such a big body of water in a garden. The fountain-obsessive in me also liked Water Ave punctuated with a fountain every few steps and culminating in the lovely dragon fountain.

And of course I loved the idea of the little hidden Three Fountains Grove and the large Neptune’s Fountain. I only wish that I had been here when all the fountains were flowing. How impressive a sight that must be.

I also wish that I had more time to explore the gardens. I could just imagine the parties that the kings and queens had out here. It would have been great to have had more time to see Marie Antoinette’s Estate too and imagine her there with her children.

But alas, my unhappy child would have none of it, so I suppose I will have to leave that fantasy for another day.

Related posts: Paris, 2013France 1997, Part 1: Paris,It’s a French ThingEurope, 2003 

Singapore, 2013: Part 1

When my daughter was 8 months old, I took her on our first trip without my husband to Singapore. My friend Cynthia had just moved there and she had a daughter the same age, plus a live in helper called Rosie, so I figured all I had to do alone was make it through the 9 hour flight.

The flight turned out to be fine and when we arrived my daughter made herself at home right away playing with Cynthia’s daughter, all her toys and one of the cats that dared to come close enough.

I borrowed a pram and we set off to see the city starting with Chinatown and the peaceful Temple of the Tooth. I loved the garden with so many little Buddha’s in the red walls and the cheap vegan restaurant downstairs was a favourite of Cynthia’s.

In the afternoon we cooled off with a swim in the pool of the apartment block that Cynthia lived in with her partner, Tony. Looking after two little girls of the same age turned out to be not so hard as sleep times, meal times and bath times could all be done together.

One night we all got dressed up for dinner and went to East Coast Park for chilli crab. It was delicious. For lunch the next day we headed into town to catch up with mutual friends Karen and Mitch for Ramen. Tony worked at Google and had us over to the all you can eat cafeteria at his office for lunch on another day where you could get anything you wanted from seafood to ice cream. There are so many good places to eat in Singapore that the possibilities were endless.

My daughter did us a favour by sleeping through a shopping trip where I stocked up on all my H&M goodies. When she did finally wake, she found her first changing room experience interesting- mirrors always seem to be a hit.

I was keen to visit Haw Par Villa as I had been there as a child when it was called the Tiger Balm Gardens. Although parts of it were falling into disrepair, it was still colourful and interesting. My favourite part was the dragon mural wall and the white lady on the lake fountain.

Related posts: Singapore, 2012: Old vs New, Singapore, 2012: Part 1, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1998, It’s an Asia Thing

Canada, 2011

In the Canadian summer of 2011, I travelled to White Rock, Canada to attend my cousin Kate’s wedding. It was important to me to be there as despite the distance of where we both lived, we were the only girls on the side of the family, so were close.

The wedding was held at my aunt and uncles place with a view of the water. Many friends and family had come from all over the world to attend. I had arrived a few days before the wedding, so had time to catch up with Kate- we even fitted in dancing and a movie.

I also met my cousin Glen’s girlfriend at the time, Tara. We got along well and had pre wedding manicures together. My cousin Jay and his family had flown in from Australia too, so it was a full house buzzing with preparations including marquee and stage building.

I caught up with Celina on my first night there over too many red wines at the local pub. She had a toddler now, so it was lovely to meet him and go for ice cream on the seafront on another day.

One night, Jeanette picked me up and we went over to Celina’s place for dinner. I was impressed to learn that Jeanette had started a successful business of her own.

The garden wedding itself was held on a bright sunny day. It started in a beautiful Apex shaped church and ended in dancing, party crashers and a bit too much wine.

It was great to see Geoff and Genevieve there, who now had two boys, and catch up with the groom, Ben, and meet his family. My personal favourite touch were the table centres that were formerly grandmother’s teacups.

I left the day after the wedding to catch the bus to Seattle and an internal flight to visit my bestie in her hometown of Nebraska for 4th July. I had never been to an Independence Day celebration and was very much looking forward to the experience.

Related posts: New Year’s Eve on the Island, 2007Christmas in Canada, 2007, Canada, 2005, Canada, 2002, Canada, 1997-1998, Canada, 1997, Canada, 1990, It’s a Canadian Thing