A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

A Sunday Afternoon in the ByWard Market (Ottawa)

Category Archives: Around the World

After my mother’s birthday and convocation celebrations on November 1st, we were in full travel mode, leaving for London on November 4th. The first couple of days in London were spent at the King’s Cross Hub where our amazing LISTedTECH board of directors wrapped up the year and made ambitious plans for the year ahead.

I have to admit that I didn’t fully feel my usual ‘happy Europe mood’ even though the team pub-crawled through the oldest London pubs sampling ale and gin by the bucket full or so it seemed. I was partly waiting for my parents-in-law (PILs 🙂 ) to safely arrive in London, but I think I was also feeling the November blahs. I thought my new routine would alleviate these awful change of season feelings, but I simply could not shake them off. By chance, even though my PILs’ plane was delayed several hours and the first day’s scheduled activities went down the drain, the sun came out (even if only for brief moments) on our first day of real outings and our visit of the city has only gotten better by the day.

From walking on Regent street to them visiting St. Paul’s while I attended a British school’s jazz concert, going to the Tower of London and getting the Ravenmaster himself (a funny and quite charismatic guy) guide us through the vast complex (oh, and he signed my copy of his book!!), attending sung vespers at Westminster and then walking up and down Strand and Fleet streets, ending at the Globe and quickly stopping at Tate Modern, the November blahs are slowly dissipating as I am seeing the city through the neophyte eyes of my PILs.

I’m also reading a couple of good books (Nine Perfect Strangers & The Ravenmaster, of course) and writing many postcards as always. My actual writing is on hold, however. Publishing a book has never been part of my life goals per se. Writing is and I think always will be. A book just sort of got put together regarding the story of our travels around the world and then I incorporated into it my own story. Maybe I should not have added my own background story to our travels or maybe I should not have written a book at all, but I have learned an important lesson and that is that one should never ask friends and/or colleagues to read one’s work. Nothing good can come of it! Whatever comments you receive (and that is if you receive comments at all), you will never be happy. They will invariably make you feel awful since you will always analyze what they say in the most negative and defeatist way and that’s if they don’t come right out and say “hey, nice writing but who in the world would even want to read this?”

But writing aside, and if I still have your attention haha, off we are to Stonehenge tomorrow. I may not be writing a book about it, but I will certainly try to internalize the spiritual vibes floating around and hopefully be able to keep some with me to ward off those possible future vexing comments on my writing 🙂

Tokyo feels much more like a regular big city than the other Japanese cities we have visited so far. And when I say big city, I mean a city with dozens of districts, crazy shopping, and Time Square-like lights and billboards. To be honest, I miss the beauty of Kyoto with its traditional ways and simple beauty.

I haven’t mentioned yet how smoking is still quite prevalent in Japan, and it feels like this is even more noticeable in Tokyo. Every restaurant has a smoking area (although enclosed) and so do trains!! There are still smoking wagons on every train which is very odd for North Americans.

Also, in Tokyo, the Japanese do not seem to follow the same etiquette as in Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara or even Nikko. We have been refused entry in many restaurants which did not seem reserved and were certainly not full. I have felt, on more than one occasion, like the locals preferred not to deal with us. We are far from boisterous and are always very polite, so I’m not sure what problem they see with us, but in the end, we simply do not feel welcome.

And, there is the problem of rubbish. This is not a Tokyo problem, but a Japan one where bins or recycling containers simply cannot be found. There are some, although very few, in stations and are solely for the purpose of recycling your plastic bottles. We have gathered that eating in public is not acceptable so if bins are to be found, they will be right beside a vending machine or restaurant. But, what is really startling is that everything you buy, and I really mean everything, is individually wrapped in plastic and then put in plastic bags, so rubbish accumulates quite quickly and for tourists on the go, our pockets are full to the brink every single day. There must be a more ecological way to buy groceries and trinkets, but we haven’t found it yet.

Furthermore, we are not sleeping well. Since everything is so expensive in Japan, we had to find more affordable accommodations which meant we would be going the Japanese-style route with mats on the floor. What seemed like a fun idea at the time became a sort of body torture after a few nights. In Hiroshima, we had some sort of mattress on the floor so although it was hard getting up and down, once down, we slept fairly well. In Kyoto, we had a kind of box spring on a bed frame but as we had extra futons, we piled them up on our beds and slept quite comfortably. But in Tokyo… we only have a very soft, very thin futon that is directly on hardwood floors. I have bruises on both my hips from sleeping this way and my whole body feels like knotted muscles every morning.

I really am trying my best to enjoy every minute of this trip, especially as chances are very high that I will not come back to Japan and that since our daughter is starting University next September, she may not be as inclined to travel with us in the future. This being said, I realize that when one is not sleeping well, everything else is that much more difficult.

We have had some amazing adventures in Tokyo, but was I to redo this trip, I believe I would find a homestay in another city and travel as a day-trip to Tokyo, even doing it twice if I felt like it. With bullet trains and great ground transportation, it is easy and quick enough to travel from one city to the next. (And we have found a teleport station in Tokyo so travel can really be lightning fast 🙂 ). This is my opinion, of course, as I’m sure others would prefer the big city lights on a daily basis to a more subdued area, weary bones or not haha.