Tokyo – We landed!

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As we landed in Tokyo, the culture shock was immediate. It was one of the most efficient customs crossing ever and there was a general feeling of things running smoothly. We got our metro pass from the tourist information page and also got a free pen and a token to gamble in one of the gift ball machines. These were present all over the place and seem to be a national obsession.

Unfortunately, the house we had rented was just outside of the area covered by the metro pass but it was only a short way off so we got on to a train and headed that way.

At this point I think that I should say a few words about the Japanese underground system. First of all the stations: they are clearly built to support very heavy volumes of passengers. Every corridor clearly indicate whether you should be walking on the right or left hand side. The few times we got confused it was very obvious that we were on the wrong side and were forced to switch by the throngs of people.

Then there are the metro trains themselves, plastered from wall to wall with ads and one of the most silent places in all of the city. Mobile phones need to be on silent and you are not allowed to answer your phone inside the carriage. Add to that the fact that the seats are heated and it is a perfect recipe for sleep. I found myself nodding off most of the times I got onto a metro train. Most of the other people that were asleep seemed to feel the same way.

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Once we got out of the metro we were greeted by a sight that could have come out of Sin-Chan or Doraemon. The neighbourhood was very quiet and composed mostly of small houses. It was great. We got to the house just as the owners were finishing cleaning up. They were extremely nice and helped us book a night at the Robot restaurant.

The Robot Restaurant is a surreal experience of modern Japan. I think “Japanese robot burlesque” is the best way I can describe it. It is something I would recommend everyone to go to see if they are in Tokyo as the feeling of “what did I just watch???” will linger for a while.

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As we were very tired, the plan was to go to the Robot Restaurant relatively early, then grab some dinner and head back to sleep. This worked out great as the show finished at 7:30 or so and we headed to Omaide-Yokocho which is a small street that has many taverns where local businessmen go for dinner/drinks after work.

We sat next to a group of lively drunken businessmen and tucked into some Yakitori, rice, tempura and other food. The businessmen eventually started talking to us but as they knew no English the conversation was basically an exercise in remembering names of football players that we would recognise. Unfortunately, neither Esther nor myself know much about football but we had a few laughs,

After dinner, it was time to get back on the metro. We were greeted with rows of heavily snoring Japanese people, trundling back to their houses and I proceeded to join them in their snoring. Overall a very good first day!

 

On the way there – Barcelona

As is starting to be usual I made a pit stop on the way to my final destination. The strange flight combo I took to get to Tokyo took me through Barcelona and it seemed a waste to not take the time to visit this amazing city.

We landed there on Saturday morning very early after only having 2 hours of sleep. We had booked a room in Hotel Grums near the harbour but our check in time wasn’t until 3pm so  we decided to walk over towards that area.

Barcelona is a strange city with a mix of old and new. I immediately felt right at home. One example is the old Bullfighting arena. Bullfighting has been banned in Catalonia so they have turned it into a modern shopping centre. We would see many example of old spaces given a new life in our time in the city . I think it is great that they are able to reuse a space instead of simply tearing it down to rebuild as they do here in Ireland.

Bullfighting redone
Bullfighting redone

After giving up on the whole walking thing we took the underground to the hotel. As the room wasn’t ready yet, we headed out for another walk. In the rambles we stopped and chatted to some street vendors for a while. I really miss the culture of getting together on the street for chats. Everywhere we went there were groups of old ladies chatting away and not a single can in sight!

We wandered around the old part of Barcelona which is made up of lovely little winding streets. I really could see myself living here someday. We had some tapas near the town hall and saw some crazy human towers which is kind of a Catalán thing.

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We were trying to head to a place on the Paseo de Gracia called “El Nacional” which we had been told has amazing food. On the way there we stumbled upon a huge market. There were so many delicious fruits and fish and meat and just about everything we miss in Ireland. It was tough to make it through without buying the whole place but we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were heading off to Japan and couldn’t take any food with us.

Run pigeons run!
Run pigeons run!

Once we got to El Nacional we found out there was over an hour to wait to be seated so we wandered over to another Brasserie called Tenorio. This was one of the most memorable meals I have had in a while. The filet mignon was like butter, the wine was great and everything else was delicious. It wasn’t cheap but it was so worth it.

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Once we were fully stocked up on food, we headed to La Sagrada Familia. This amazing Cathedral is the culmination of Gaudi’s work in Barcelona, or it will be once they finish it. I was expecting more… don’t get me wrong, it is stunning, but it photographs a lot better than it looks.

After that it was another trip on the Metro to see Esther’s friend and her baby daughter who is obsessed with Frozen. Of course, we got on great! Then we rushed back to the Hotel to enjoy our complimentary Spa area. Nothing like a Sauna and Jacuzzi after a long day of walking around town.

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As we had an early flight we called it an early night and went to bed.

In the next episode, we travel halfway across the world to the mystical far east. Make sure you don’t miss it!

Off we go Again!

This blog has been dormant for a very long time. Life has been crazy over the last few months but fear not I have not forgotten about my travel bug!

I am leaving for my next crazy trip tomorrow. Off to Japan this time! As usual I will be keeping this blog up to date with my adventures so please keep an eye out here for future updates!