Monday, May 27, 2013

Trips and Tips for Tripping: Japan Day Four

So much joy in this place!

Joyful music playing all through the park, before you even enter the gates.

Joyful workers who wave at you all the time.

Joyful Japanese who wear Mickey Mouse ears, or inflatable Goofy hats or Tinkerbell t-shirts, and couples and school pals who co-ordinate their Disney-themed attire.

Joyful kids rides that are worth the wait, even for adults.

Joyful smiles and faces full of wonder.

Cinderella's castle!
Mickey Mouse shaped ice-blocks.
Quality shows and rides.
People who greet you by saying 'Happiness!' if you are wearing Micky ears.


Travel tip on what to wear:
It is respectful to dress to the standards of the people who live in the country you travel to. But, you also want to pack clothes that are comfortable for long days and lots of walking. For example, I left t-shirts at home (the Japanese dress smart!), but chose flat shoes (though the Japanese ladies wear heels, yes, even for a whole day trip to Disneyland). I wore mostly dresses and tights, or tailored pants with a shirt. I didn't pack enough and accidentally left a few key items at home, which meant that daily clothing choices were slightly stressful for me. Coupled with some misbehaving hair (the result of humidity change), these were not my most fashionable moments. A casual, comfortable dress worn with tights, some converse sneakers and a warm jacket in the bag was the uniform for the girls. Males are not difficult to dress for travel, with long pants, tees and sneakers being appropriate in so many destinations around the world! 

My advice would be to consider the dress code of the country you travel to. Consider how much walking and sitting in trains/planes you will do. Then abandon any thoughts you might have had about looking great in travel photos because you rarely get more than five seconds to stop, take a picture and continue when travelling with children anyway, and because the memories will be grander and more important than the photos, always.

Trips and Tips for Tripping: Japan Day Three

My birthday day! 
Big plans! 
We were heading to Disneyland! 
Then this:
A forecast of rain for the whole day.
We made a quick change of plans and tried a few local spots.
Takeshita-Dori is a pedestrian only shopping street full of fad shops, boutique clothing and unusual dressing!  It's crazy cool Japan at it's best (though the weather made it was fairly quiet when we were there)
Elara and India were fascinated by a 'Harajuku girl', wearing fluorescent yellow platform shoes, spotty and stripey rainbow tights, a milkmaid dress, bleached and oversize bowed hair and long blue eyelashes!
We took a walk through the back streets, enjoying the clever architecture of modern Japanese homes as we walked, and came out at Meiji Jingu, Tokyo's grandest shrine. 
It was beautiful to walk through the park with the mist and quiet rain. 

Home to dry off, and then out for wonton noodle soup, and a browse through a Japanese toy store.

Travel tip for making plans:
I did less planning than I would have liked for this trip: a little research; a few online sites bookmarked; a lot of particulars left until we arrived. We did have each day decided, and a vague idea of how to get there and travel between stops and I hoped we could use online maps for details when we were in Japan. 

In the end we couldn't get internet except in the hotel lobby, and even then it wasn't reliable.
In the end, the weather changed the plans that we did have. 
In the end, the amount of walking, the food available, the avoiding peak-hour travel, and the general necessity to be flexible with children, changed our plans. Every single day! 

My advice would be to have a good general knowledge of the how-to's: what train line you and the places you want to go are on; how to catch a taxi; where to find a atm machine in english; where to get reliable internet (and print out a map if needed); and a few ideas about where you can eat or find toilets. Then I would have a list of must-sees and a list of other things you'd like to do, sorted into days if you want, but not tethered to them. Drop those that are presenting a challenge and find something else adventurous to do instead. One of our best days stemmed from a last-minute decision to cancel a full-on-planned day and do something local instead! Finally, if at all possible, travel with someone who says things like, 'it's fine, we're doing ok, we'll work it out'. They are invaluable to the stresshead/lose-it-when-things-go-pear-shaped person (Thanks Tim)!

Trips and Tips for Tripping: Japan Day Two

Settling and acquainting ourselves with our area of Shinjuku was the plan for day two.
Fortunately this 'suburb' boasts one of the best views of Tokyo, (from floor 45 of the Tokyo Metro Building), and the Shinkuku Goyen (which is akin to our botanical gardens). 

Travel Tip about the culture change:
Australians are very privileged! We have so much space and freedom. We have children who are used to running, dancing, singing, jumping, climbing and being generally playful and creative. Thrown into a contrasting environment, where the streets, shops and stations are crowded and everyone is going somewhere fast, and with purpose, it becomes a steep learning curve. I was constantly asking our three to walk close, to look up and watch where they were going, to stop climbing, stop jumping, stop dancing. Sometimes it was to try to parallel the culture we were in, sometimes it was to keep them from the danger of getting lost or being hit by a car/train. Always it was difficult! My advice would be to prepare your kids by talking about the expectations of the culture you are going into, and to make plans to 'free run' in some open spaces throughout your trip.

Trips and Tips for Tripping: Japan Day One

Eighteen months ago, we discussed a trip to Japan. 
Japan: expensive, busy, crazy.
Japan: full of kid fun, cultural difference, and a 'safe' place for a family.
Thanks to a two-for-one flight deal,
we headed there sooner than expected.
We left home at 6:30am for a full day of travel.
Eighteen hours later, we arrived at our hotel in Tokyo feeling tired, 
and excited!

Travel tip for long haul flights:
Kids will play with an ipad/iphone/dsi for hours on end! I planned and packed a variety of activities for the plane trip: crayons, activity books, lego, games, books, snacks. But really, the ipads would have occupied my (usually minimal screen watching) kids the whole time.  My advice is to get new apps, games and movies that they cannot play before you leave! I was really proud at how well behaved and happy the kids were, just doing this. The flight home was an overnight flight, but the kids all slept for a 5 hour block. Recovery for parents will be needed afterwards!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

April Fool

April has disappeared!
One of my favourite months.
I love the weather.
I love the holidays.
I love the feeling that the year has found it's rhythm.
I love things on toast.
(Like brie and pickles! Go here and here to delight in more)

I love a new season wardrobe (and accessories, of course).

I love hearty, healthy baking.

I love earlier sunsets.

I love still balmy nights and celebrations of life.

I love last minute ice-cream.

I love some slowing down.

I love looking forward to May (my very favourite month!)
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