April Cherry Blossoms in Kitakyushu, Japan

Thanks to my friend Yoshiko for contributing these cherry blossom photos taken in Wakamatsu-ku, Kitakyushi-shi.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

April is my personal favorite month in Japan. It is usually warm and sunny and perfect for any kind of outdoor activity such as picnics, biking, sight-seeing, etc. I find the summer just too stifling hot with its subtropical climate. Try getting up at 6:20am and by the time you have started making coffee, the sweat is already running down on the back of your knees. That’s June, July and August for you in Japan.

Hanami

Hanami

I do miss this hanami (花見, lit. “flower viewing”) time in Japan. That’s pretty much one of the rare times you see Japanese eating and drinking outside. We Westerners like to sit in outdoor restaurants, such as bier gardens in Germany, but most Asians rather sit inside to avoid the sun (and aging). I personally would rather sit outside on a warm and dry summer day… and age a bit.

Mt. Sarakura, Yahatahigashi-ku in Kitakyushu-shi

Mt. Sarakura, Yahatahigashi-ku in Kitakyushu-shi

My husband is on Kyushu right now with three friends, biking around Fukuoka.

By TGV from Frankfurt to Paris

For our weekend get-away to Paris, we had decided to go by train when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) had one-way tickets for just euro 39.

We were really glad to have chosen Paris by train and not Mallorca by plane (we had briefly considered it), because the day of our departure, Frankfurt Airport was on strike all day.

We  boarded the S-Bahn from our newly rebuilt train station in Oberursel to the Hauptbahnhof (21 minutes).

Oberursel train station

Oberursel train station

I enjoyed a few minutes under blue skies near the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof exit, while my husband was across the street trying to locate a machine to charge his mobile phone. We could not find a place within the train station.

Frankfurt/Main

Frankfurt/Main

It is quite an adventure to travel by TGV (French: Train à Grande Vitesse, high-speed train). At times, it almost feels like you’re on a flight. Also, once you get onto French soil, the speed really picks up. When other trains pass, your ears pop afterwards. The train conductor makes announcements like any captain on an aircraft would do.

TGV leaving Frankfurt

TGV leaving Frankfurt

And yes, after four hours of high-speed traveling, your legs might buckle a bit when you get off the train.

Then it was off by car, with a little tour through the red-light district Pigalle.

Pigalle, Paris

Quartier Pigalle, Paris

Here is my favorite photo, which captures the spirit of Quartier Pigalle on a Friday night.

Moulin Rouge, Quartier Pigalle

Moulin Rouge, Quartier Pigalle

We finished off the evening with a bottle of wine at my brother-in-law’s home in Suresnes. Paris, here we are!

Review for Vacation Rental in Lunenburg, NS

This accommodation was the last one on our road tour through parts of Canada and the USA. Not only was it the last one, but also the best one.

We had stayed in hotels, motels, lodges, vacation homes, vacation apartments, and in a boat house. All that in 18 days.

This apartment my husband had booked via homeaway.com and it was wonderful due to its location, spaciousness, and level of comfort. I especially enjoyed the sunny deck overlooking the Bluenose Wharf.

Lunenburg, NS

This was my favorite spot in the morning. Even though the apartment is right in the center of this UNESCO town, it is a rather quiet area.

deck

This loft-style apartment is spacious and allowed even for a work place area. The bedrooms were average size, and fortunately equipped with ceiling fans. It was very hot and humid one day, which was not the usual weather, so we had been told.

sunny apartment in Lunenburg

From the deck you can see big schooners,  sailboats,  and other vessels coming into the Bluenose Harbour.

Two things I recommend while in Lunenburg are: have dinner at the restaurant The Great Dane and take a sailboat tour on the Eastern Star (just walk down to the wharf to buy your tickets). Both events  are very memorable!

sailing around Lunenburg

Sailing around Lunenburg

mussel lunch at The Great Dane

Dining at The Great Dane

 

48 Hours in London

On Friday afternoon, we arrived with Lufthansa at Heathrow Airport in London. Not that we always need a reason to go to London, but our main purpose was to attend the wedding of a former students and to show our daughter London’s famous sites, including the University of London (UCL).

From the airport, we travelled to London (zone 1) at £ 5,50 p.p.

Seen on the tube in London

Seen on the tube in London

Our hotel, Club Quarters Gracechurch (see more on TripAdvisor) was in an excellent location, in walking distance to both Bank Station and Monument Station.

On the weekend, this location is very quiet as this is the financial district and there is not much going on. There is hardly any traffic, most breakfast places are closed. Fortunately, we found one after walking around a bit on Saturday morning. The next morning, we decided to get breakfast from Sainsbury’s, a supermarket nearby (Sunday hours: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.)

The hotel’s amenities were very good. In the lobby, you find tea and coffee making facilities as well as cookies, dried fruit, etc. all free of charge. The staff was very helpful in trying to find us a place to have breakfast Saturday morning.

The hotel’s offer for breakfast was £ 10 p.p. and that seemed a bit steep, especially with a picky teenager in tow who will only have two slices of toast.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

We passed the Gherkin, where we would attend the wedding on Sunday afternoon.

Tower and Gherkin

Early Friday evening, across the street at Leadenhall Market, we joined the masses of office workers for food and drink.

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market

beer

After-work drinks at Leadenhall Market

After-work drinks at Leadenhall Market

This pretty much wrapped up our first day in London.

Ordering Gingerbread Hearts from Germany

This afternoon, we will be attending a wedding at the Gherkin in London. Since the bride is German (with Sri Lankan heritage) and spent her childhood in the deutsche Vaterland, the goodie bag will be full of things to reminisce.

There will be an issue of the Teen magazine BRAVO, some cans of beer, her favorite pastries from the local bakery, and this Lebkuchenherz (gingerbread heart) below.

I ordered it from a German company (see link below) and it arrived within 10 days. The total cost was 26 euro and it’s worth it.

Lebkuchenherz

The bride is a hopeless romantic and I’m sure she will enjoy this. They do deliver overseas, so if you are interested to learn more about these customized Lebkuchen hearts, then visit Lebkuchen-Markt.de for more information.

The company offers hearts for all kinds of occasions.