Monday, May 13, 2013


It is a long flight directly back from the UK to New Zealand and you always have to stop on the way to refuel. So we decided to take the opportunity to check out Tokyo for a couple of days. Aaron had studied Japanese (briefly) in highschool and can count to 10, but otherwise we were relying on pointing and a few English signs (not quite as many as we had hoped).

We managed to negotiate the subway and navigate our way to the hotel, even in a relatively sleep deprived state. After checking in we went out to find some food. None of the local restaurants had English menus or anyone to translate - but thankfully they did have pictures of most of the dishes... so we just guessed what they might be. The next evening we found a sushi train, much easier to negotiate, just pick off what you want and stack up the plates...
Sushi Train

So we spent a couple of days visiting many tourist sights in Tokyo - lots of old temples and shrines, beautiful Japanese gardens, the national museum and experiencing some of the modern buildings and towers... including the rather crazy electric toilet seats with their flushing sounds and various types of showers to wash your behind - yours for a cool 38900 yen at the airport electronics shop.

Sensoji Temple

5 storey pagoda

The large lanterns at the gate of Sensoji Temple - Helen for scale

The brand new Skytree tower - the tallest in the world - 634 m 

 The view from the 45th Floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Japanese garden in Shenjuku Gardens 

 View from the Taiwan pavillion in Shenjuku Gardens

Tokyo Tower with fancy light display - the same but a little bit taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris 

One thing that struck us about Tokyo was that there were lots of bikes - people riding everywhere including women balancing up to 3 kids on the same bike. There were lots of pot plants on the pavements/sidewalks  - I assume because most people don't have gardens. It was also very clean and we barely saw and litter and no graffiti. Also after the traffic jams of Phoenix and Aberdeen, there was no obvious congestion in the city - possibly because lots of people ride bikes or take the public transport. Then there are the vending machines on the street corners - mostly selling cold drinks, but also cigarettes and alcohol.

After a busy trip and 2 days of full on sightseeing around Tokyo we were completely exhausted and slept most of the flight back to New Zealand. Happy to get home - even if it is winter - cold, wet and gets dark at 5pm.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

United Kingdom


However we arrived in Aberdeen, Scotland, where it was a cold 6 degrees C - a drop of 30 degrees since Phoenix. We had thought that by May it would be warming up in Scotland (May 2012 had been very warm). So we didn't have a lot of warm clothes with us.

The thing about blogs is that it helps you to remember when you did things.... we realised that the last time we visited the UK was in October 2009 - 3 and a half years ago. Where did time go? The excuse for this trip was an invite to James Bostock's wedding just outside Inverness (Thanks James and Becca). It meant that all the Bostocks would be in one place and easy to catch up with everyone without having to travel around the whole of the UK - or near enough.

On the way up from Aberdeen to Inverness we had an obligatory stop at a whisky distillery - Glenfiddich Distillery and a wee taster or two.

Glenfiddich distillery

The wedding ceremony was in the church at Strathpeffer and the reception at Tulloch Castle in Dingwall. Aaron and I had dressed in our smart Tartan outfits - as befit the occasion. It wasn't really summer weather anyway. 

Aaron standing in front of Tulloch Castle with his tartan waistcoat.

The wedding was followed by a Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee), traditional Scottish dancing with a live band (a bit like American square dancing). The great thing about Ceilidh is that you don't have to be good at dancing and you can dance with anyone, in fact most of the time you are switching partners during the dance.   However it is hard to take photos as it is very fast and there wasn't lots of light. 

The next day there was an afternoon tea at Becca's parents house, and then most of the Bostocks went out for dinner at a local pub. Where Aaron got to try some haggis (traditional scottish food - mixed grains and seasoning, stuffed in a sheep's stomach - sometimes also doused in whisky). The day after we went for a  rather wet walk in Glen Affic to burn off some of the calories, then we headed down to Loch Ness to hunt for the infamous and mysterious monster. 

The monster in a pond?

Loch Ness - waiting for the monster to appear...

Another castle on the shores of Loch Ness

So Aaron got the true Scottish experience - rain, cold, whisky tasting, castles (more castles), ceilidh, haggis, and looking for the Loch Ness monster - the only monsters, our nieces (not really). 
Our nieces Andrea and Annabel


After a cold week in Scotland catching up with most of the Bostocks we had a couple of days in Bristol to see Helen's friend Laura. Unfortunately we both had colds and the weather was pretty awful, so we had a relatively quick look around Bristol and then just chilled out, including Laura treating us to the Lido pool and spa to warm up. 

The iconic Clifton Bridge with Laura's flat at the base of the house just to the right.

The Chilterns

Our final stop on our quick UK tour was to catch up with the remaining Bostocks that couldn't make it to the  wedding, Uncle Paul, Thalia, Christopher, Hattie and Sophie. It was great to finally meet Sophie who has just turned 3. We stayed with them over the weekend playing with the kids and visiting the hole in the ground - that will be their new home, hopefully in the not too distant future.... We are excited for you... we would have loved to have built a house from scratch. 

Hattie the princess (4 almost 5 years old)

Christopher the astronaut (6 years old)

Sophie the ballerina in a box (3 years old)

The hole in the ground that will be the new house...