Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Great While it Lasted

How time flies...tomorrow, I will be back at the office after 3 months. Am I looking forward to it? Well, I am certainly looking forward to seeing my colleagues, some of which have become friends over the years, but I am not really thrilled to sitting in the office again. 
Do I feel changed after those 3 months as my manager assured me I would: nope. I have, however, realised some things, or rather gained confirmation of things I already thought I knew before...such as: I am not the type who enjoys travelling (and living out of a suitcase) for longer than 3 weeks. Oh and I really suck at packing light, regardless of how hard I try. I began to look forward to home in my last week away, which had never happened to me, not having travelled (not counting living abroad here) for longer than 2 weeks before this recent trip. I also had an inkling that I would miss company on the road, and I did, in Japan at least. If only for somebody to have dinner with in nice restaurants and go out for drinks afterwards, as this is definitely something I don't do on my own. Also, I more than ever realised that I would LOVE to be able to work part-time, or at least have one day off, preferably Monday. We shall see.
Now, looking back onto some of the things I had planned for my sabbatical, I only managed to accomplish about half of them. However, several were due to the exceptionally good weather we had this summer and in my book outside activities >indoor/computer-based ones. No blog design revamp, no almost-finished novel (I wrote 8 chapters which I regard more or less finished, the rest is in draft status, but I am still happy I at least got started, which I find the hardest), no Russian revision. Yes, I could have learned Russian vocabulary by the lake, sea, or pool, but I preferred to read novels or magazines (of which I did buy less than usual).
I failed miserably on the digital detox front as I thought I would and equally, if not worse, on the "person detox" one. I guess both are a longer process, or just not meant to happen yet, which I have decided not to beat myself up about.
Tomorrow it's back to worker bee mode and I just baked a cake to ease myself back into the routine...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 39

1. Arriving back in Vienna safe and sound. I missed my flat and it felt great to sleep in my own bed and to put on fresh clothes. Aaaw!
2. Being back to my Vienna routines, such as lazy Saturday breakfasts...and afternoon coffees...and evening drinks with friends.
3. Hearing "I am so glad you are back, I really missed you!" from several of my favourite people.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Travelgram #27 | End

This bird flew me home, landing an hour ahead of the scheduled departure time. Tokyo was grey and rainy when I left, and so is Vienna. It's good to be back in my flat, though! Well, back to regular programming on this blog. Thanks for reading my travelgrams for the past 4 weeks, if you did!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Travelgram #26

Last Thursday, it rained when I arrived in Tokyo. Today, it is raining again, but thankfully only a light drizzle. Before tackling the task of packing all my stuff (I had left a huge Longchamp le Pliage bag with my Australian purchases and some clothes at the hotel in Tokyo) before my flight to Vienna tomorrow morning, I took the train to Ginza and took some pictures of the lit department stores. An old man approached me, asking me where I was from (of course he loved Vienna and had been there twice, it seems every Japanese granddad has) and whether I was a professional photographer as I was taking pictures with my digital SLR. I really noticed this time that the cliché of Japanese tourists with big fat cameras is a thing of the past and you almost stick out if you take pictures with anything but your smartphone these days.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Travelgram #25

Today I made a trip to the uninhabited island of Nagannu, determined to get to see a beach before leaving Okinawa, which is, as I found out these past days a bit hard to explore if you don't have a car. Nagannu is a 20-minute ferry ride from Naha and I was particularly fascinated by the coral sand and the countless interesting objects of white coral on the beach. I could have taken it home by the bucketload, but finally settled on a few token souvenirs. I only swam very briefly in the clear, warm sea as warning signs about several nasty sea creatures put me off a bit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Travelgram #24

This morning, I went sightseeing to Shuri Castle. Like many Japanese castles, it is a replica of the original structure, which was destroyed during WWII. As far as I could tell, I was the only non-Asian tourist there.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Travelgram #23

I was reminded of good old Lugner City mall in my hood at home when I saw this lady perform in front of a mainly geriatric (this is Okinawa, after all) audience in Naha's Main Place mall this afternoon. Mind you, her singing talent was much superior to the starlets that usually perform on Richie's stage.

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 38

1. Being able to eat freshly made umeboshi onigiri every day. Seriously my favourite food in the whole world.
2. Arriving in Japan without jet lag this time due to the fact that there is only one hour time difference between Western Australia and Japan.
3. Getting a Japanese prepaid data SIM and being able to navigate to places with my phone. Google Maps is a blessing when you are in a country where street signs may be in a different script only and its people rather send you off in the wrong direction than lose face by admitting they have no clue where that place you want to go actually is. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Travelgram #22

Hi from Okinawa. By the time I arrived at my hotel it was already dark and have not explored much yet, but I guess a place where the airport is adorned with hundreds of potted orchids and airport officials wear Hawaiian-type short-sleeved shirts with hibiscus flowers on them can't be bad at all. I'm usually not the type who enjoys eating in restaurants on her own, least of all in countries where you can't read anything, but I liked the look of a gyoza place and was not disappointed. So far, so good. Oh, have I mentioned the weather forecast. Not quite as good....

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Travelgram #21

No post about Japan would be complete without at least one of these hilarious "English" signs, such as the above ones in Yokohama's Harbour View Park. I am still holding my breath from trying to to make a noise and stopped my notorious fireworks activities on the spot.
The weather gods had heard my complaints and gave me sunshine today for my little excursion to Yokohama, which has long merged with Tokyo, i.e. can be reached by Tokyo metro and many other fast connections. It is only a 20 minute ride away from the area where my hotel is located and the ticket fare is little over EUR 2. I visited the famous Shin-Yokohama Ra(u)men Museum, which is really a little theme park, and the equally famous Chinatown plus some obscure museums. If you are ever in Tokyo and feel you have ticked off all the usual suspects on your sightseeing list, do pay Yokohama a visit!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Travelgram #20

Let's be honest. The torrential rain and grey skies all day yesterday gave my sunny Australian mood a bit of a slap in the face. I guess I am just spoilt by good whether on all my trips. I don't mind rain as such at all, but when you are in a city for a limited amount of time, you want to have picture-perfect weather and not have to fiddle around with your umbrella every time you enter a shop or museum. Plus, walking around for hours in wet shoes is a fast ticket to a cold, which I combatted with all the drugs I have with me. Today was much better, though, with only the occasional light drizzle and I revisited some of my favourite districts in Tokyo, one of which is Asakusa, home of the famous Sensoji Temple.  After having walked through its busy streets and resisted buying something from every store, I spotted a sign of the Amuse Museum, which I had not seen, nor visited before. I was the only visitor (the only guard was asleep in the dark room that showed a film about Ukiyo-e theatre) and discovered their rooftop viewing platform with a panoramic view of the district and beyond.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Travelgram #19

Tokyo is rainy today. VERY rainy. I arrived shortly after 6 a.m. local time and knowing how strict Japanese hotels are with their 14:00 check in times, I did not have any hopes that I could check in earlier. (Thank God I took a shower and got changed at Singapore airport). At first I thought I would brave the rain (my trusty little umbrella being in my suitcase), but halfway from Shinagawa station to Kita-Shinagawa, where my hotel is, I was completely drenched and ended up buying one of those typically Japanese huge transparent umbrellas that you can get at every convenience store for around 500 Yen. (=less than 4 EUR) It's actually a really good umbrella and even opens automatically. Fancy! This is my view of the area where I live through said umbrella, only a short walk from busy Shinagawa station, but like a little village.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Travelgram #18

Hi from Perth airport, where I will go and get rid of my last AUD cash shortly. It is another sunny day and I am a little sorry to leave this beautiful part of the world. Before checking out from my hotel I went for a little photo safari, exploring the side streets and their graffiti. I quite liked the lady above (violent cousin twice removed of Mary Poppins) and found the image apt for my 13 hours of flying. Not that I am travelling with a machine gun, but packing my big fat suitcase tends to make me a little aggressive at times ;-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Travelgram #17

Blue, blue skies. Pictures don't do the cloudless Australian spring skies justice. When the sun is out, it is hot, when it's not, it can be chilly. I'm curious what it will be like to be back in autumn on Friday morning, when I will arrive at Tokyo Haneda airport. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Travelgram #16

Hi from Perth, Western Australia. Today I explored the city centre and also took the train to Fremantle and Cottesloe. Fremantle had been strongly recommended, but I wasn't that impressed. Cottesloe (beach) on the other side was very nice. I chose today's photo as it is a typical example of casual and yet comfortable outdoor seating areas of Australian cafés and restaurants: metal or wooden stools or milk crates (!). I like those a lot.

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 37

1. Getting to know my lovely hostess in Brisbane, the Australian, a lot better and having such a great time with her.
2. Getting to cuddle her fluffy cat (ok, he wasn't too thrilled by my advances, but I persevered). If I had a house with a garden and didn't travel so much, I would definitely have a cat myself.
3. Finishing THE perfect literary travel companion that Coco had recommended to me. I enjoyed reading it so much and intend to buy a few copies to give to like-minded frequent travellers. Or to those who just dream of travelling.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Travelgram #15

I am sitting at BNE airport, waiting for my (delayed) flight to Perth and just read the sweet card the Australian sneaked into my bag. Aaaw! I had a great time and hope to see her in Vienna around Christmas.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Travelgram #14

Day with a view. On my last full day in Brisbane, the Australian took me to some of her favourite hunting grounds. We also stopped at Kangaroo Point for a view of the city skyline.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Travelgram #13

Today Brisbane's skies are grey and I am walking around, exploring other parts I have not seen before. In the Fortitude Valley district I discovered a super cool interior store, where I could easily have bought half the things on display, including some very affordable furniture. Due to obvious suitcase limitations I only walked out with a print to put up in my guest bedroom. Afterwards I visited the nicest, most laid-back pub/bar/restaurant/donut shop/event venue ever. I wished I could transport that back to Vienna!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Travelgram #12

It's windy in paradise. Surfers Paradise to be precise. I spent a nice afternoon there, but didn't unpack my bikini, beach towel or flip-flops. I guess there's a reason why it's called Surfers and not Swimmers Paradise.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Travelgram #11

I spent this morning strolling around Brisbane's Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. There were several interesting exhibitions (most of them free) and as always, I enjoyed walking around in almost empty museums. Now it's time to escape the fiercely air-conditioned bubble and go on a little cruise up and down Brisbane river...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Travelgram #10

Several people had recommend a visit to "Australia's Goa", Byron Bay. It was a good tip and definitely worth the 2-hour-drive from Brisbane. In fact, I was sorry I didn't wear my bikini underneath... 
PS: If formatting looks funny, I'm posting this from my phone as my friend's home WiFi does not seem to like any of my devices.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 36

1. The friendliness and laid-back attitude of Australians. You would never find a sign like this in Vienna's parks.
2. Being lucky with the weather in Sydney this time and having company for half of my time here.
3. Once more, being able to travel and be a woman of leisure. Even though this is - sadly - the last of my three months of "freedom" I still feel very privileged and appreciate it none the less.

Travelgram #9

...and so the journey continues. I am sitting at Sydney's Domestic Airport, waiting for my flight to Brisbane while the Austalian is still at a business meeting. We had a lovely day in glorious sunshine and short-sleeves-weather, spending the morning in up and coming district Alexandria and of course checking out THE boho café there, the Grounds of Alexandria. Very nice indeed!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Travelgram #8

This morning, we paid a visit to the Old Vienna Coffee House. Not because either of us is homesick, but because I remembered it from last time and wanted to check it out. Sacher Torte (that didn't look very authentic) and other cakes for over EUR 7? The coffee was good, but the hazelnut meringue the Australian ordered was very crumbly. I guess next time, I will give it a miss.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Travelgram # 7

Travelling alone is nice, travelling with a good friend is even nicer. When you are alone, you get to experience everything without distractions, arguably more intense. However, I don't like eating in restaurants on my own and I often miss someone to share a joke with our to point out something funny. Yesterday afternoon the Australian arrived and it is great to have her here and to fly to her place on Monday.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Travelgram #6

One of my favourite places in Sydney is the Opera Bar/Opera Kitchen. Earlier today, I enjoyed a flat white and "opera slice" there, eating even faster than usual as the cheeky seagulls were very interested in my order.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Travelgram #5

Because I'm a nice person (which not everyone acknowledges, alas), today's picture is an animated one. And yes, you guessed right, it was taken at Sydney's famous Bondi Beach, which tourists have a tendency of pronouncing wrong. Bondi Beach and I didn't really hit it off at first and I remembered it crowded and somewhat shabby. I actually really liked it a lot when I visited again today. I guess the fact that spring has only just begun here and it was a weekday might have a lot to do with this impression. Last time, I worked during the week, and only ever saw Bondi on the weekends plus it was also later in the year, i.e. closer to summer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Travelgram #4

The above could also be a picture of a kangaroo, or a koala...or a crocodile, as my excursion today included a visit to a reptile and wildlife park as well as whale and dolphin watching (unfortunately, they were rather shy today and all I saw were some tails fins) as well as sand-boarding, which was like bobsleighing in sand. An action-packed long day.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Travelgram #3

Find the mistake in the picture above. Well, for people like me, who dwell in the Northern Hemisphere, it feels weird to see "naked", i.e. leave-less trees at this time of the year, but obviously, in Australia, winter has just ended. While it is not a winter as we know it, like my visit to Atlanta and Athens this February when I felt frozen stiff most of the time and could not believe how locals could walk around in shorts and t-shirts, I find myself only venturing out into the outside world once the sun has warmed Sydney to a "t-shirt-temperature". In the shade and when the sun does not shine, it feels as if someone has turned off the heat.
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