Wednesday, 25 July 2012


On July 8th I took a trip to Kamakura, which is in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. It was my longest trip yet, 1.5-2 hours in total including changes (plus an accident where I got on a train going in completely the wrong direction -_-).

I planned out a route before hand to take in most of the city. From Kita-kamakura station I walked up the Daibutsu hiking trail, about 4km from near the station up to the Daibutsu, which is a giant Buddha statue. The hike wasn't too bad, it was swelteringly hot which wasn't too pleasant but it was an enjoyable route with lots and lots of greenery to enjoy.

About halfway up the trail is the Zeniarai Benten shrine, where people wash their money in the belief that it will double in value. There were also lots of hydrangeas in bloom along the way which were very pretty. After a few more kilometres, I arrived at the Daibutsu. For 200 yen, you can go in and see it, and it was definitely a very impressive piece of art. Unfortunately the sun was so hot I couldn't stay to look at it for long ^_^

After that I caught the train back to Kamakura station. The train there is a private company, and it's like a mix between a train and a tram. At the station, I caught the bus (for the first time here) to another temple I had wanted to visit, Hokokuji. There, you pay a few hundred yen to go into the bamboo garden, which was possibly the best bit of the whole day. It was only small, but very peaceful and I may have taken far too many photos of bamboo...

On the way back I stopped off at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine, which was very busy due to some kind of festival happening that evening, and they had lots of ribbons out decorating various poles and signs.

I'm pleased I visited Kamakura, as it was a different experience to the norm of Tokyo and I was glad I managed to get so much done in a day trip plus get a good bit of exercise ^_^

Sunday, 15 July 2012

University food.

One of my favourite things about Dokkyo is its cafeteria. It's a massive dining hall where they serve up mostly hot food for very low prices; everything on the regular menu is up to 400 yen, about £3.20.

They do a range of Japanese dishes such as curry, donburi (rice and egg with toppings), salads, noodles. One of the most cost effective meals is the Dokkyo Lunch, which is rice, lettuce, some meat and vegetables and a side dish which changes (korokke, spring roll, fish), for only 260 yen o_o .There is also the 'event menu' which changes by day. It's usually 400 yen and something which is different to the usual things on offer.

One of the event menus I had was 'Olympics' themed (this meant nothing). It was a chicken katsu dish with rice and tomato sauce. Tomatoes are pricey here so the opportunity to have tomato is a tasty one. Another time I had spicy korean rice, with tomato and cheese (another commodity).

A korokke donburi (note the generous serving of peas) and a curry:

Despite the scarcity of vegetables in the dishes, they are yummy and filling and so so cheap and I am going to miss having something like this right next to lectures.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


This last post will just be a round-up of the smaller trips we made whilst Dan was here.

The day after Dan got here we went to Akihabara and experienced... it. We nommed on some treats from Vie de France, played in the arcades and had a general wander around. We also went to Mr. Donut and had bright green melon soda. Another day we went back and we went to Book Off, a discount book shop near the station. It was in the evening, and the floors with manga on just had people standing shoulder to shoulder openly reading them across all the shelves, all ages and genders. Would have been a good photo opportunity if I didn't feel so self-conscious about taking photos like that ^_^

Another day we headed to Laketown, which is a giant shopping complex not far from here in Koshigaya. There's a display duck outside which we took photos with and a pet shop which had baby kittehs and puppies and I had to practically be physically dragged away lest I spent all day in there oohing. Laketown is absolutely massive and a little confusing, so we just perused the shops, tried to find interesting flavoured Kit-kats and bought a Daruma drop toy from a slightly odd shop that sold sweets and toys. We had lunch at Saizeriya, where I couldn't get over how cheap and not bad the wine was and I had an arrabiata that wasn't very spicy but still nice all the same.

Finally, the day before Dan left we went to Ueno and to the park. We watched some baseball that was going on whilst eating some snacks from Daiso. Then we had a walk around the lake and decided to get a pedal boat, which was fun :3 We then found an amazing pizza place in the middle of a department shop which was also cheap and quite a find considering.

On Sunday morning we got up super early to take Dan to the airport :( It wasn't as hard as in Spain as I know I will be back soon and that is exciting :3 I am having a great time here and it will be hard to leave, but I am also anxious to get back and see friends and family and live in Cardiff and be with Dan. I think that's a normal balance ^_~

Harajuku/Shibuya/Tokyo Tower.

On the 22nd Dan & I took a visit to Harajuku, Shibuya and Tokyo Tower. They're all relatively close together so we decided to visit all three in one evening. I had a test in the morning at the university, and the last two have a special atmosphere when it's dark, so we headed out later in the day.

First of all we took the train to Harajuku (for the second time). We went clothes shopping and Dan bought me some nice things ^_^ We then wandered towards Omotesando and I took Dan to a creperie that I had been to before. It does savoury and sweet crepes at the side of the road and is delicious. Dan had kiwi and strawberry icecream.

We then walked down the main street towards Shibuya. It's about a 15 minute walk and by this time it was getting dark and as it was a Friday night there was a really nice feeling about the place generally. We walked past a pair of guys playing a cover of Tamacun by Rodrigo and Gabriela which made things even more awesome.

We didn't do much at Shibuya; we were mainly there to people-watch, see the Hachiko statue by the station and make the crossing (which we did several times in order to take a video too). It was pretty bustling with people at this point. We then headed down into the metro and travelled to our final stop, Tokyo Tower.

The station we went to was about a 10-15 minute walk away, there was no need for a map as the tower was all lit up and gigantic in the near distance. We decided not to go up to the observation deck but we had a look around the inside.  It was definitely worth going at night.

Asakusa/Sky Tree

On the 20th we went to Asakusa. This was my 4th visit, but I was happy to go again. Plus this was the first time that it wasn't raining, which was nice... We saw the temple and the pagoda and the stalls. Then we headed back round to get some lunch.

We ate at a fairly typical Japanese restaurant. There is a ticket machine near the door, you pay and get a ticket and take it to the counter, and within minutes they have the food ready, which you take to a seat along the side. The seats are bar style, designed so you're in and out within a short space of time. More than one person came in, ate, and left whilst we were being, apparently, quite leisurely. I had some noodles and Dan had a curry. After that we got a small pot of icecream from nearby to sample some of the more interesting flavours of Baskin Robbins (love potion?)

After that we walked to the Sky Tree. It opened about 1.5 months ago, and is the 2nd tallest building in the world. At the time tickets to access the observation deck were still reserved and probably horrendously expensive. However they have a whole shopping area at the base of the tower which was interesting to walk around and very, very busy.

It was quite surreal to walk from the relatively traditional area of Asakusa across the river to the Sky Tree. It's quite dizzying how massive it, and the complex around it, is. They've even renamed a train station nearby after it. Worth a visit even if you don't go up to the top.

Exploring in Saitama.

From the 15th to the 24th of June Dan came to visit :3 It was a lovely long visit and so I had to split it into 4 parts.

On the 18th we travelled to an area around Tokorozawa in Saitama. We wanted to get away from the city and find somewhere green to walk around. After many train changes (and a taiyaki snack at one station) we ended up at Hachikokuyama Park, which covers an area over the two prefectures of Saitama and Tokyo. It was a beautiful green space and such a contrast to what I've been used to since being here. The area is supposedly the inspiration for the Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro too :3

After walking around the park we walked towards Seibu-en where there is an amusement park that looks half-abandoned... but isn't. We kept walking round and found a lake and another smaller park area. The weather was pretty sweltering so we topped up on water and walked to the nearby train station. 

After a short train ride we went to Seibu kyujo-mae station. Just outside is a massive dome which I believe houses baseball matches. At first we didn't think there was much about, but after perusing one of the more confusing maps we've seen in a while we headed out from the station area, and found an abandoned amusement... area of some kind. There was something to do with dinosaurs too but we really didn't know what. 

We tried the other direction and stumbled upon an amazing area with a shrine, a pagoda and various smaller buildings, a wooded area with bamboo and some steps with dragons for handrails... It was similar to Asakusa but not so touristy and much more green, and as there were only 2 or 3 people around it was lovely and peaceful.

A day out from the city to explore some greenery was wonderful and so so relaxing. Finding areas like this is difficult but not impossible, and despite the various trains we had to catch to get there, it was relatively close by and cheap for a day trip.

Mum and Paul visit Part Two.

Saturday 26th was my 21st birthday. In the morning we headed to Akihabara, intending to go to a cat café, but were disappointed when we found out it was fully booked until 3pm -_- We stopped at a café for a drink, and I opened my cards which Mum had bought with her. We had a bit of a wander and found a flea market that was going on at the time nearby. A girl was dressed as a vocaloid and dancing, apparently to sell tea, not sure though. We had some pizza for lunch (Mum and Paul are vegetarian and finding food here which doesn't have random bits of meat and fish slipped in is easier said than done).

After that we headed back for a nap, we had done a lot of walking up until then. Then for tea we went with Laura to Matsubaradanchi in search of a curry house I had read about online. We couldn't find it but we found another place instead nearby so that did just fine. Laura gave me my presents from the her and the others, including a packet of tortilla wraps (hideously expensive here) and a cat plushie ^_^ We ordered our curries, but unfortunately Mum and Paul's came with tiny bits of meat floating in the sauce. I asked the waitress and luckily they said it was fine to remake it without. Lucky really, although Mum couldn't understand why they had put meat in the vegetable curry...

After that we headed back to the hotel room for some celebratory whiskey and lemonade, snacks and some J-dorama, which was some kind of Sherlock-Holmes-with-cat thing. Headed home and called my Dad on Skype, then promptly fell asleep.

On the Sunday, we went to Otemachi, pretty much right in the centre of Tokyo, to visit the Imperial Gardens. It's all tall buildings and wide roads in that area, but the gardens were an amazing break from all of that. Plus it's free to get in! They had a variety of different styles of garden, lakes and mini bridges and old buildings set over a large area. It was very hot that day and there wasn't much shade so walking round was a little tough, but it's definitely a great place to visit in the area. We relaxed the rest of the day, and on Monday I saw them off at the station where I didn't have to catch the direct train to the airport to save some money, and I figured it was difficult to go wrong at that point ^_~ After that they headed onwards on their little jaunt around this part of the globe, heading to New Zealand and then Singapore before going back home to a slightly annoyed kitty.

Really it was a very short trip but we managed to pack a lot in, perhaps to the detriment of our feet. It was nice to have visitors over my birthday again and to see family though. It made me realise how quickly things were going though when Mum said it would only be about 9 weeks until I saw them again o_o

Mum and Paul visit Part One.

From the 24th of May to the 28th of May Mum and Paul came to visit. It was a short visit but we managed to pack a lot in so I'm splitting it up into two parts :3

On the 24th, a Thursday, I went to pick them up early in the morning. This was my first time getting the train to the airport, and it was surprisingly easy and cheap (about 1300 yen total) compared to the coach we took when we first got here. Admittedly we were horrendously jet lagged then so navigating the Tokyo train network for the first time probably wouldn't have gone well. Aside from a slight getting-on-the-wrong-train mishap I managed to get to the airport fine, and after a short wait at the gate they were here!

After we had got back to my apartment I had to leave them for a nap and cycle back to the university to do an test. The nap was appreciated though, so it wasn't like I was abandoning them... After I had cycled back home a few hours later we got on the train to the next stop where their hotel was.

After checking in we were all pretty tired so we just had a wander around the surrounding area, got some noms and then head to bed.

The next day we headed to Asakusa to see the usual sights. We stopped in a café after wandering around and then hopped back on the train to head to Ueno. We decided to go to the zoo there. It's relatively cheap to get into and they have a pair of pandas loaned from China. I'm not a massive fan of zoos but it was a good opportunity to see some animals I might not have the opportunity to see otherwise (i.e. the pandas :3) 

The pandas were an interesting experience, and we also saw some lions, gorillas and the cutest monkeys with the fluffiest tails. Possibly the cutest thing was actually a baby prairie dog. It was soo tiny. We actually only ended up seeing about half the zoo, as it was close to closing time, they charged for the monorail between the two parts (??) and we were already incredibly tired from walking about. 

We had lunch before that in Saizeriya, an italian-themed 'family restaurant'. They essentially have a buzzer you can press when you want the waitress' attention, or to make your order, and they bring you the bill when they bring your food (well, that is true of most restaurants here, not just family ones). Why that hasn't caught on elsewhere, I don't know. It's amazing.

more in part 2 :3


Ahem, it's been longer than I realised since I last posted -_- Basically due to work piling up and two lots of visits I've been rather busy; combined with my own procrastination this leads to an unintentional hiatus of sorts.

The next few posts I will be talking about those visits, Mum and Paul at the end of May and Dan in mid-June.

And now most of my work is over, things will be more regular. Obviously I am leaving Japan within a month; but I intend to try to fit as many things in as possible before then. I also plan to keep blogging after I come back, although I may have to try and figure out a way to make the blog name fit better...

Friday, 11 May 2012

7 week review.

Time is absolutely flying here. Yesterday was 7 weeks since I arrived. That's more or less a third of the way through, and that is quite terrifying. When I first got here I thought I was doing so much - almost too much - each day and that I would run dry of things to do. Things couldn't be further from the truth ^_^ 

So far I have travelled solely within Saitama and Tokyo. I've been to Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Asakusa, Ueno and Harajuku. I still want to go to other places within Tokyo, such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, and go back to places I have already been. Living just 30-45 minutes away on the train is so, so convenient. I also want to go to Kyoto if nowhere else outside of Kanto. We also want to go to the Ghibli Museum ^o^ 

Studying has been pretty intense. We have three 1.5 hour lessons a day, between 9 and 2.45. After that, I go home and study for most of the evening -_- There really is always something I could be doing work-wise, so I can never feel totally relaxed. I'm sure my Japanese is improving, especially kanji recognition, so I guess I should just get my head down and deal with it for the next 2 months... 

Lifestyle-wise, I'm surprised how easily I have adapted. It feels a lot more natural than I expected. The timetable of eating and waking and sleeping and lessons is more similar to the UK than Spain, which I think helps. Yes, there are lots of oddities, and it never stops being annoying getting stared at for being a foreigner, amongst other small things, but I'm still enjoying it. 

I was planning to do a post on food here later, but generally speaking fruit and vegetables are somewhat scarce. They're expensive in supermarkets and practically non-existent in most dishes in the cafeteria and in restaurants. It says something that having a glass of juice or a bowl of salad feels like somewhat of a luxury. Next time I go shopping I am planning to splash out on having a proper supply of fruits and veggies. It's just not worth the money saved not having them -_- 

Finally, the people here are generally very friendly. Younger people tend to either be very very shy, or quite uh, mad and confident enough to approach you around campus and ask you about yourself. They're also big on giving compliments, genuine or not, and that is wonderful for the ego ^_^ 

The next few weeks are going to be filled with tests, a presentation, various visits and a birthday. I'm slightly concerned that May will disappear before I realise it...

Curry house.

Today, after being somewhat nostalgic for non-Japanese style curry, we went to an 'Indian' curry house a short cycle ride from the university. I think it was actually Nepalese judging from the artwork and posters on the walls, but I couldn't be certain... ^_^ 

We had the cheapest lunch set menu, which meant we got a curry, a naan, rice, a small side salad and a glass of lassi for 700 yen, which is ~£5.50. The portions of rice and curry were on the smaller side, but the naan was monstrous and about half a metre long, so the meal was satisfyingly filling. 

The waiter/cook was on his own in the restaurant, so he had to bring out our curries in three batches as there were 8 of us. We also could see him making the naans from scratch in the kitchen, which was cool.

Curry is a very popular dish here, but the Japanese style curry is the same flavour pretty much anywhere, save for a slight difference in spiciness. And spice in Japan is not really that spicy, they tend to prefer the sweeter curry. Supermarkets usually have a whole aisle dedicated to curry roux blocks and sauce packets, and about half the dishes you can buy in the student cafeteria involve curry in some form. I'm not complaining ^_^ 

Golden Week/Asakusa.

Last week there were a group of bank holidays that are all very close together. It is known as 'Golden Week'. Some businesses close on the days in between the bank holidays so people get a full week off. We still had lessons on Monday and Tuesday, but then had the 'rest' of the week off. 

On Friday I went to Asakusa with Nozomi. I've been to Asakusa before; it's in Northern Tokyo so one of the closer cities and convenient to get to. It's famous for Kaminarimon, a large entrance gate and Sensou-ji, the Buddhist temple which Kaminarimon leads to. 

For lunch we had okonomiyaki and monjayaki, the Kanto region equivalent. Okonomiyaki is a type of savoury pancake that can have pretty much any ingredients. The particular place we went to was cook-it-yourself, so you sit either side of a hot plate, they just give you the raw ingredients in a bowl and you fry it and flip it yourself. Monjayaki is more liquidy, and you scrape bits off the hot plate and eat them rather than chopping it up into bits. 

After that we headed to Sensou-ji. Being Golden Week, it was packed with a mix of Japanese people and tourists. It was also heavily raining, so just walking up to the temple was a bit of an umbrella-dodging nightmare. The temple is very impressive and definitely worth it, however. We got fortunes for 100 yen and went inside the temple, where people throw money into a grate and pray. As it was so busy, people were throwing money from several metres back; all the money flying through the air was an interesting experience ^_^ 

We went and had a look in some of the kimono shops, got a bit frightened by the prices, and bought some of the local sweet treats, ningyouyaki. They are pastry/caky casings filled with red bean paste, which is a common ingredient in sweets here. It is sort of a savoury sweetness, and very tasty.

After that we went over towards the bank of the river and looked at the Tokyo Sky Tree. It's a new building due to open later this month which is now the second tallest in the world. It's about twice as tall as Tokyo Tower. 

So I had a good Golden Week, even if most of it was spent studying. The weather on the Saturday was also wonderful, which put me in a very good mood ^_^

(Photo is from the first time we went to Asakusa, so there were a lot less people. Still raining, though :p)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mos Burger.

Yesterday there was disappointingly miserable weather, however Laura and I decided to walk to Soka station to get lunch at Mos Burger. Mos Burger is a chain of fast food restaurants, akin to McDonalds or Burger King. The experience was very different, however.

I ordered the curry chicken burger, which is limited edition. Laura had the eponymous Mos Burger. After ordering, you go and sit down and they bring the order to your table once it is ready.

It came in a dinky little basket, with our sides of onion rings and fries, and free water even though we didn't ask for it. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that the burger actually looked like the photo on the menu board o_o.

It was very tasty, and the fries weren't drowned in salt which made a nice change. My burger and fries/onion rings side came to 490 yen, ~£3.75. Definitely worth it.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pizza tabehoudai.

All you can eat restaurants are popular in Japan. They are known as 'tabehoudai' or 'baikingu' (Viking). Yesterday a few of us went to a pizza tabehoudai restaurant near to the university campus for lunch. We got the cheapest option, which was 1000 yen, or ~£8. 

For this, we got to choose a pasta dish to have as a main. Some dishes had a small surcharge (50-100 yen) on top if they had any expensive ingredients in. I went for carbonara which was no extra charge. On top of this, they bring round pizzas every few minutes, offering you a slice. And this repeats until you get full or they close

The pizza options varied from the usual (margarita, pepperoni) to the different (tuna and pesto) to the strange but still delicious (cheese and curry). If you pay for a slightly more expensive menu you can have a drink and dessert on top, but after having a full plate of pasta and then many slices of pizza on top, this really wasn't necessary ^_^ 

This particular restaurant also had a mix of traditional and modern seating. We were put in a more traditional booth, where you take off your shoes and climb into a raised area and sit on little cushions. They also had honey to put on your pizza which I didn't try, but the Japanese women sitting next to us were quite enthusiastically using it... 

Overall a nice lunch and a welcome escape from the miserable weather that day ^_^ 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012


On the 1st April a group of us travelled to Harajuku. It takes about an hour to get there including changing trains, so it's pretty convienient. The 1st was a Sunday, which is the most popular day to go to Harajuku. Shops don't close on a Sunday here, so it can get pretty busy, especially if the weather is nice. On top of that it was still the school holidays when we went.

One of the more famous areas in Harajuku is Takeshita Street, which connects two more major roads. It is fairly narrow and is filled with (mostly clothes) shops and restaurants. It has a similar feel to Camden. Once you have walked through Takeshita Street, you are in the area called Omotesando, which contains more upmarket shops and cafés. Here you can find the flagship stores of brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and other such places which don't put the (probably horrific) prices in the window. 

Also in Harajuku is Yoyogi Park, which is huge and was busy when we went. There were several different groups practising dancing, lots of families and groups eating picnics, and also lots of dog walkers. Dog watching in parks here is lovely, especially as there is a tendency towards having the small, fluffy varieties ^_^

Creperies are popular in Harajuku, and on our first visit I had a blueberry cheesecake crepe. It was full of whipped cream and I probably shouldn't have had one due to the extreme amounts of dairy, but it was so delicious o_o

On the 5th, Laura & I went back to visit Meiji Shrine, which is on the edge of Yoyogi Park. It's one of the more well known Shinto shrines in Japan. It's also used for weddings, and whilst we were there we saw a wedding procession.

Harajuku is one of the more far away places in Tokyo to get to from where I am, but it is still definitely worth visiting and is also in the vicinity of Shibuya and Shinjuku stations, two places I have yet to visit but definitely wish to ^_^

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Nekorobi cat café, Ikebukuro.

On Sunday 15th I travelled to Ikebukuro with Laura. Ikebukuro is a district in Tokyo, with lots of department stores and a more female-orientated air. After getting lost in some of said department stores we found the cat café I had researched online, Nekorobi. It is on the 3rd floor of a building and is pretty hidden away aside from a small sign outside. Space is such a commodity here that many businesses can often share one building.

Cat cafés usually charge by the hour to spend time with the cats. As it was a weekend they charged slightly more, 1200 yen (around £9) for an hour, but this included unlimited free drinks and some snacks. It was busy when we there. There were 12 cats, most of whom were very sleepy. As I had heard before, cats in cat cafés tend to be very...cattish and at Nekorobi they were no exception. Most of the time the cats would run from perch to perch, so rather than expecting the cat to come to you, you have to go to the cat. Very cattish, as I said ^_~ 

The cats were lovely, so soft. Some of them were absolutely huge. They had a cat tower they could sleep on, little cages to lie in if they didn't want to be disturbed and there were many toys for the cats to play with too. Some of the cats found interesting places to sit, like on top of the café's laptop or on the slipper rack. Each cat also had a little booklet with information and photos.

All in all it was a lovely experience. The atmosphere was nice and the staff were friendly, and I think it is a very relaxing place to spend an hour, whether you are a cat lover or not. Maybe not if you hate cats though. There may be times when the cats outnumber people.


It's quite crazy to think that I have been in Japan for 3.5 weeks. I've done quite a lot since then, which I plan to retroactively write about in the next few days. Just to pick out a few, I have visited Tokyo several times (Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Harajuku...), spent time in a cat café (nya nya), done ohanami (cherry blossom viewing), eaten an unnatural amount of rice, lamented at the prices (particularly of fruit and vegetables) and seen several beautiful temples and shrines. 

I'm living in Saitama prefecture, which is the region just above Tokyo. The area I'm in is basically a commuter town, and it's mostly families and older people here. The university that I am attending, Dokkyo, is only two stops away on the train, but I have bought a bike to cycle in as it's only about 2 miles. At first I was the cycling equivalent of a deer learning to walk but things are generally getting better, and I'm saving a lot of money. And it's healthy, of course.

In the next few posts I will write about some of the things I have already done/seen.  I realise that it has been 2 months since the last post; now I have settled in and have a routine I will definitely be keeping up with my target of 2 posts a week. There are so many things to write about, after all ^_^

Friday, 17 February 2012

Back home.

As of Wednesday, I am back semi-permanently within the UK. Semi-permanently meaning about 5 weeks, which is probably more temporary than anything. I'm back to Cardiff at some point for some study, and then off to Japan; Saitama to be precise. Flying home was a weird experience, as I realised when I had touched down here that I had been in Spain for a sizeable amount of time, and now I've left as if I was never there in the first place. I got thinking about a few things that I would miss or not miss about living in Santiago. 

Firstly, the cost of living in Santiago was great. Rent is cheap, food is cheap, drinks are cheap. In addition, in some cities in Spain you tend to get free food with your drinks. Having to pay twice as much back here and not getting a little snack as well may be a little hard to accept at first ^_~ The food varied in quality. If it is just a bar, without a kitchen, you'll usually just get some crisps and mixed nuts. If it is somewhere more fancy, you can get little starters, practically. 

In O Elefante, I had a bowl of noodles with soya mince, cream of vegetable soup, falafel, and vegan tortilla with my drinks at various stages. This brings me onto how much I will miss that place. The staff were lovely, the music was good, and it just reminds me how horrific some bars and clubs can be and that nothing beats a small place that has a nice atmosphere. 

Obviously I will miss the people I met and chatted with, not just friends but also staff in bars and supermarkets and so on who I often saw every day and who were always friendly to me, even if they had no idea who I was. 

Finally, certain foods which I may or may not be able to find back here - tortilla, empanada, patatas bravas...

To keep the negativity to a minimum, my dislikes will be short. The queue-jumping there (oh the queue-jumping) will definitely not be missed, in a very British way. Teachers turning up 20 minutes late to a lecture and not batting an eyelid. Lack of certain foods was also a problem. And finally the hills. THE HILLS. My back is still aching from pulling my suitcases to the train station. 

Overall, I'm pleased to say that I will definitely miss more things than not, I had a good experience and my Spanish improved. The fact that it is over already is a little surreal. Now it's time to focus on the Japanese. And the terrifying thought that I will be trying to survive there with my Japanese in just over a month. Eep.


On Thursday I went out to Babel, a bar here in the old town. It's on two levels, with seating and a bar upstairs and then a performance area down in the basement. We went to see a three piece band perform. They did covers of Cat Stevens and Bob Marley amongst others and they were really nice. We danced away until the end of the set, caipiroska (a caipirinha with vodka) in hand and then wandered to another (not-so-good) place before I decided to go home. 

Going out can be a tiring experience here; a tactical mid-afternoon nap is usually required. The band didn't start playing until 11. Most clubs don't get going until 3-4 in the morning. It's curious how different that is to the UK. It's little things like that which make you appreciate the subtleties of every country. That's the lovely thing about travel, learning and experiencing all these things.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Last week of lectures.

Last week was the last week of lectures here. It ended on a día festivo/bank holiday, in true Spanish style. In addition some lessons weren't on due to various reasons, so it was an odd mix of lessons and doing last minute bits of work and revision and not really getting a chance to see people. Last week I also:

Bought a fake Rubik's cube (Fauxbik's?) for a euro and proceeded to learn how to solve it, truly showing off some procrastination skillz. 

Shelled out for some soya natillas so I can enjoy it without a tummy ache.

Tried to resurrect my beloved and seemingly asleep mp3 player.

Oohed and aahed at the sunsets again, before I lose the chance to do so.

It's all going rather quickly now.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

New Year's resolutions.

Last year I made a New Year's resolution which I actually managed to keep. I did Project 365, which is to take a photo every day to represent what you did that day, or something relevant from that day, to create a visual diary of sorts. I took around 300 photos, which I count as a success. I'm so glad I did it as now I have a lovely set of photos for posterity. As a result I am setting myself several resolutions this year.

1. Keep up this blog.
Seeing as I haven't updated this blog since I left Santiago for Christmas, this seems to be faltering already. Admittedly, I'm reaching the tail end (aka exam and essay filled end) of the semester here so it really isn't as interesting. Once exams are over I have time at home, and then I will be going to Japan, which is something that I will definitely want to document regularly. So I think I will set myself a target of about 2 posts a week.

2. Set up an Etsy shop
This is something I have planned to do for a while to sell the things that I crochet. I have sold on Etsy before so I know what I am dealing with, I just need to have some free time when I can set everything up. Being abroad doesn't really help, and I don't entirely understand the postal system here, so I think this will be something I aim to do when I'm back home, either in February, or perhaps later in July/August.

3. Eat better and take up some new exercise
I have to include a clichéd resolution, surely?! I will continue keeping a food diary and learn what foods make me feel unwell (hello, dairy). I would also like to take up some kind of regular exercise that isn't too hard on my joints like swimming or yoga.

So those are my main and realistic resolutions for this year. Hopefully I can keep these up for at least a good portion of the year ^_^

Christmas at home.

The Christmas holidays were lovely.

The 2 hour flight and the 4.5 hour train and tube hopping to get home wasn't as bad as I expected, and I even ended up playing Monopoly on the flight on someone's iPad. The wonders of technology.

On Christmas Day we had our usual mini-cereal breakfast. We opened presents and I got some lovely things. Then we had our lunch, which was a leeky-pinenutty-bluecheesy-artichokey lattice with the usual veg which was omnomnom, and which proved that you don't have to have meat to enjoy Christmas dinner ^_~

I played with Charlie a lot, who soon after Christmas became enamoured with a plastic bag and, as far as I know, is still jumping into it madly and rolling around.

I also got to meet up with old school friends and of course, see family.

As much as I am enjoying the experience of being in Santiago, I also can't wait to be back home again so I can relax and get ready for going to Japan. I just have the matter of my last few lectures and exams to deal with...