HOMEWARD BOUND #Tokyo to #Sydney via #Brisbane 6 October 2015

HOMEWARD BOUND #Tokyo to #Sydney via #Brisbane 6 October 2015

The bus trip to the airport in Tokyo was painfully slow with heavy traffic and we spent some anxiety filled time worried we would miss our flight. But the anxiety was for naught as we made it with plenty of time to spare.

One final snow glome was purchased and a delicious Japan omelette was consumed before catching our overnight flight back home.

The QANTAS team looked after us impeccably and we even managed to catch a few zzzzzs.

One frightening incident did happen on the plane. Max’s seat was suddenly raised from a reclining to an upright position when the food arrived and he turned a deathly white colour with blue lips. It lasted for about 5 minutes before his colour returned. Bizzarely frightening, and he was closely monitored my yours truly throughout. But all’s well that ends well.

We landed into Brisvegas, cleared customs and immigration and had the tightest connection of our entire trip to catch our flight bound for Sydney, which we fortunately made ok, and even managed to sneak in a good Aussie cup of strong coffee before boarding.

Landing into Sydney, the head was quite overwhelming and we learnt that Sydney had been going through a recent heatwave.

Thinking back over all the adventures we have had over the last three months, it almost seems like an unreal dream. Arriving home, it was cleaner and neater and tidier, than before we left (thankyou to our wonderful house-sitters!). Walking in, we all felt bigger taller and older and wiser. This has been a most incredibly wonderful opportunity and privilege to see the world with the four people I love most in the entire world. I journey of a lifetime, with memories and lessons which will last beyond our lifetimes.

#Tokyo #Japan Day 6 – Catching up with a dear friend

#Tokyo #Japan Day 6 – Catching up with a dear friend

On our final day in Japan, and indeed the final day of our three month adventure, I planned to visit the National Neurology and Psychiatry Hospital to visit my dear friend Takako, a Rehabilitation Doctor who used to work at St Vincent’s In Sydney.

I carefully planned out the trip, and after getting on one wrong train and having to back track, I was eventually on the correct train and made my way without further incident to the correct station and walked to the hospital, about ten minutes from the station. I passed many community gardens (with food) which I though was wonderful to see.

And there was Takako waiting for me near the entrance to the hospital. I had a look around the unit where rehabilitation takes place, met some of her patients, and shared a delicious multi-course meal with her in the hospital’s cafeteria (better than any hospital fare I have ever had before).

Interestingly, the approaches and types of patients seen are very similar to our situation in Australia.

Made it safely back home where the family had all but packed up our bags, ready to make our way back to the airport for our 9pm QANTAS flight bound for Sydney.

#Tokyo #Japan Day 5 – A day in the park – Shinjuku

#Tokyo #Japan Day 5 – A day in the park – Shinjuku

Simon was very keen to get some greenery into us, so we headed tot he park today.

Seasoned experts at the train system we were by this time, and virtually without a hitch, we caught the requisite monorail and two trains to the park.

After paying our entry fees and filling up on ice-cream, we meandered through the beautiful parklands, an oasis in the middle of a very busy city. It was just lovely to chillax and catch our breath as we neared the end of our busy three month long adventure.

Tokyo #Japan Day 3 – Zoe’s birthday #Lego land 3rd October 2015

#Tokyo #Japan Day 3 – Zoe’s birthday #Lego land 3rd October 2015

Unbelievable, my second born is turning ten today! Where did that decade go? Memories of the stormy labour day on which she was born come wafting back to my memory, like they were yesterday. She is bright and empathetic and smart and an absolute joy to be around. Love ya Zo zo on the Go go

in celebration of her birthday, we decided to visit Legoland Discovery Centre .

This was our first real fore into using Japanese public transport. There were language challenges acquiring the right tickets, especially as the trains were on different systems and required different tickets, but the ever persistent and intelligent Simon efficiently delivered our array of requisite tickets.

The trains in Tokyo run like clockwork, literally you could set your clock by when they arrive. Seats were facing each other and there was a distinct respectful silence throughout the train. Everyone sat with bended head, not looking either at other people nor at the scenery whizzing by.

Our crossover station was Tokyo Teleport – though teleportation was sadly unavailable that day.

Legoland was lots of fun. The reproduction of Tokyo in Lego was something very special, with the greatest of attention to every intricate detail.

There was a massive climbing frame which Ada loved and even made a Japanese friend. I was told in no uncertain terms I was not permitted to follow Ada in. Oops. There were big pools of bricks just ready for making all sorts of buildings (a home for Zoe’s Minnie Mouse) and all varietals of Star Wars and Star Trek flying machines (Simon and Max). I satisfied myself with making a bizzare green and yellow palindromic creature.

Other highlights were the karaoke Lego Friends zone (Let it go: sung stunningly by miss Zoe), the 4D cinema (with rain and wind effects!), the ninja laser escape challenge, the shoot em up ride, and of course, Max’s favourite, the car making / testing zone!

All in all, a wonderful time was had by all. Ada fell asleep and Max was well on his way, so we headed back to the ranch. But birthday party girl Zoe and her ever devoted daddy partied on and went to JOYPOLIS, an indoor theme park where they celebrated on until the wee hours (well until about 8pm at least).


#Tokyo #Japan Day 3 – #Disneyland

#Tokyo #Japan Day 3 – #Disneyland

Today, the four year old managed to sleep an extra couple of hours through until about 2am, a definite improvement.

Again, we were very early to breakfast, and today, they knew exactly how to charge us for breakfast. We were definitely the token westerners in the entire massive hotel.

We were once more nice and early to Disneyland and given our relatively greater level of restedness, were able to appreciate Disneyland to a greater depth.

It was a fun and beautiful theme park, impeccably maintained with intricate detail. We were interested in the number of Disney-goers who were dressed up as pairs in matching disney gear, be it shirts, hats, or entire costumes. Unashamedly devoted to Disney was the general theme of those there.

We rode on boats through the Jungle book, climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, rode the Pirates of the Carribean story book boat. We experienced the excitement of Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain with Ada, she absolutely loved it!!

All in all, it was a wonderful day, filled with the happiness and frivolity and joy one would expect from a fabulous Disney experience.

One final post Script to the day is that my son Max is now taller than me. Unbelievable but true. But he will always be my first born child and will always hold the memory of the joy which washed over us when he arrived on this planet, weighing 3.29kg, no matter how big he becomes.

Tokyo #Japan Day 2 – #Disney Sea

#Tokyo #Japan Day 2 – #Disney Sea

Because of the time differences from London to Tokyo, we were all up bright chipper and alert by 5am. Breakfast opened at 6am and we were almost the first there! It was no mean feat to pay for our breakfast, explaining the ages of the kids. Given the price of the buffet, we decided we needed to eat up well to make the most of it!

What an amazing spread it was – there were of course the traditional “Western” options of over cooked scrambled eggs and bacon (charred or nearly rare option), along with salad, vegetables, omelette (plain and freshly cooked was the only option). Hot dog sausages were rather popular with Ada (what’s new) and Max thought that having mini hamburgers and fluorescent radioactive looking lime green Fanta for for breakfast was rather awesome. Then there was salad, vegetables, and of course fish – raw, pickled, baked and who knows what elsed! The coffee was rather anaemic, and that was my greatest complaint (and my greatest need!)

Given the proximity of our accommodation to Disney Sea and to Disneyland, and given our exhaustion and jet lagged state, we opted to remain close to home for the first couple of days and bought a two day ticket for the two parks.

It was a short walk to the Disney Resort monorail station, and we passed an almost comically large slug on the way. The buses roaming in the vicinity were equipped with Mickey Mouse themed windows and tail lights! And the Monorial itself also had Mickey windows and handles as well.

We had a calmly paced day around the park, watched some shows in Japanese, marvelled at the popcorn stands (each one only sold one flavour and it was marked on the map – salted, caramel, cappuccino, curry!) and the cleanliness of the park. Ada went on a merry go round and a mini rollercoaster.

All in all, it was a little underwhelming, though our opinion I suspect was coloured by our extreme jetlag.

We headed back to the ranch when the rain started bucketing down and sat down to watch some Japanese tv. We marvelled at the KFC (Kentucky Fried Salmon) and the great variety of noodle ads, along with the ever presence of cute mascots and sound effects with almost anything new appearing on the screen.

Scrambled fatigued brains….shutting down….ready for sleep…….we were all tucked up in bed by 7pm.

#Tokyo #Japan Day 1

#Tokyo #Japan Day 1

We made our unexpected flight to London without issue, and stopped over in Frankfurt on our way to catching the 11 hour flight all the way through to Tokyo, arriving early in the morning. I watched a few movies on the flight including Still Alice, True Story and another which can’t have been too good as I have forgotten its name now! I struggled to sleep, but eventually dozed for an hour or so.

What a different world Japan was from any of our other experiences. The airport was very efficient and modern, and while there were English translations on most of the signs, it was in minuscule print making it rather difficult to decipher.

Nevertheless, we found our way to the baggage claim, immigration and customs and out to the arrivals area. The kids were hungry and I scrounged around for something, anything, which looked vaguely familiar to satisfy their hunger. I happened upon a ham and cheese sandwich looking product which would have to do for now, plus some water too. Not that I could find any mineral water. I sure had a hankering for some good fizzy water.

We were directed to the “limousine” bus which would take us through to our hotel at Maihama Bay. The next one was departing in five minutes! So it was a mad dash to the orange coloured bus and we made it! Everyone was rather exhausted and dozed off on the bus.

We were dropped off at the wrong hotel, next door to our one. The staff very kindly drove us bedraggled exhausted looking Australians over to the correct one.

By this time it was 11am. I was informed in broken English by the check in staff that check in was not until 4pm and that if we wanted to check in earlier, it would cost 20,000 yen to check in one hour earlier, 40,000 for two etc. So we decided to check in at 1pm. I had to give of all our passports (this had never happened anywhere else on our travels) to be copied, and seemingly sign away the rights to my first born son (I exaggerate of course), such was the formality of the check in process. We were illegally bringing Ada into the room consisting of four double beds, and so her details weren’t handed over. I kept getting fearful we would be hauled away by the Japanese Secret police.

The hotel foyer was something else indeed, a huge open airy bright expanse, centred around a wedding chapel with massive pink and white ribbons ascending to the top of the 20 storey building which enclosed the foyer on all four sides. There were multitudes of Disney themed shops around, including a Barbie boutique, a Disney poster shop, and a generic disney souvenir shop. We lounged on the lounge chairs (that’s what they were for of course) until our designated 1pm check in, munching on packets of potato crisps, something at least that we were able to recognise in the foyer mini-convenience store!

Finally, it was time for check in. We made our way up to our room on the top floor which overlooked Disneyland and from where we could see the sea and the overflow parking lot which was empty at that time, but which, to our surprise, became filled up on the weekend.

Our room consisted of four double beds lined up in military rows, each pair of beds facing a massive tv screen. One needed an engineering degree to control the toilet, with various heating, washing and drying controls at varying intensity! Who would have thought that perineal hygiene could be so complicated. There was an abundance of complimentary toiletries, all the way down to toothbrushes, day cream, night cream, razors and everything in between. Then there were the sleeping garments provided for all, which all of us took advantage of, except for Ada as it would have formed a trip-hazard train for her. Any anyway, she was fast asleep before too long. There were the house shoes too…..and even a tiny Ada sized pair.

In such a fancy place, we were surprised as to the absence of room service, though my foraging husband returned with some baked goods from the bakery and healthy potato crisps for me.

Everyone was asleep by 5pm. Ada was up at about midnight. Thank heavens for the ipad and fast internet. She had a My Little Pony Marathon through until daybreak.

Tomorrow – DISNEYLAND!!

LONDON #ENGLAND Day 4 – Dinosaurs Galore

#LONDON #ENGLAND Day 4 – Dinosaurs Galore

Zoe and I must have sold the Science Museum well for it was decided that Simon and the older kids would head back there again today.

Meanwhile, I would head to the Natural History Museum with Ada. These two destinations were literally next door to each other, so we were able to travel there together.

Ada and I had a good look at the massive dinosaurs, and she was a mixture of intrigued and a little frightened by them.

She really loved the human biology section, probably my excitement rubbed off on her, funny how that happens. She was particularly fascinated by the video animation of the journey of the sperm as it fertilises an ovum, with quotes of “GO TADPOLE, GO!”
She must have watched the movie at least ten times.

She was also fascinated with watching the 3d video of the baby in utero, human grown and all the echibitions about the senses. I would have loved to stay and look at the neuroscience section, but Ada’s attention was wanting at this point, so we headed down to the cafe for some food.

We met up with Simo and Max and Zoe who had enjoyed an awesome day at the Science Museum and headed to St Paul’s where we would meet up iwth Daniel and Andrea, some people with albinism who I knew from NOAH and the European albinism gatherings.

As the saying goes, when you’re on a good thing stick to it. So, we headed to a Pizza Express near to St Paul’s which is close to Daniel’s workplace. Excellent pizza and beer once more, but I skipped the chocolate cake this time.

Exhaustedly, we headed home. Tomorrow I would meet up with mu friend Sally. I was really looking forward to it. Simon and Max were going to the Tower of London, which I thought would etiher be too scary or too gruesome for Ada and Zoe.

But then, as I was about to email Michel the owner of the flat to see if we could check out a little late the day after next, I discovered that our flight to Tokyo left not on the Tuesday night at 940pm as I thought, but 940am THE NEXT MORNING.

This rather frightening discovery was made at 11:15 pm.

Calculating backwards, we realised we needed to be up at 4am, fully packed and ready for a long haul international flight.

By the time I packed 90% of the gear (I am getting pretty efficient at this by now), it was 12:30am. I am not sure why I even bothered going to bed, but I did get at least a couple of hours of shut eye.

Tomorrow: Not the Tower of London and Miss Sally, but off to Tokyo we go!

I made a sincere promise to Max that I would bring him back to London one day to visit the Tower of London.

PS Max and I checked our heights in London….he is about half a centimetre shorter than me….it won’t be long now until he overtakes me, but perhaps it won’t be on this trip.

LONDON #ENGLAND DAY 3 – For Science! 28 September 2015

#LONDON #ENGLAND DAY 3 – For Science! 28 September 2015

There was some indecision as to where we should all go the next day. Simon was keen on the British Museum, while Zoe was keen on the Science Museum, so we decided to divide and conquer, with the boys going to the British Museum and the gals to the Science Museum.

So, we headed off on the DLR, the Docklands Light Rail, and I was quite shocked to see that it was unmanned! I wonder how that would go down on our light rail? Let alone with the unions!

We alighted at Canary Wharf and I thought of my big brother and wondered which building he used to work in. From there, it was two tube trains, first to Green Park (not the one in Darlo) and then onto South Kensington. We were rather proud of our skills negotiating the public transport system, and were once more very relieved for Vodafone’s $5 per day overseas agreement which allowed me to use Google to help negotiate my way around the city.

Arriving at the Science Museum in one piece, we were pleasantly surprised that it was free! After gaping at a massive circle with drops of light that made their way around it, we took the advice of the kiwi staff member who recommended we go down to “The Garden”, a cool little kids area.

I was delighted with how beautifully Zoe played with Ada her little sister, considering her feelings and what she would like to do. Firstly, Zoe used some massive Lego-like blocks to build a tall tower…with Ada in it, finishing the piece off with some cones at the top. Then some water play, then hiding in a big space ship like object playing with soft toys.

The it was up to the “Launch Pad” for some “bigger kid” fun and games. This was an area of hand-on awesomeness where you could learn about various aspects of science whilst not even realising you were learning and whilst having buck loads of fun.

The best exhibits were the magnifying glass ones, the light (reflection / diffraction, refraction etc), splitting water and using hydrogen to make a rocket fly, as well as lots of awesome things to do with magnets, the sound tunnel, the windy yacht race, the musical wire and the projected art work with which you could interact.

All together loads of fun.

Zoe had spotted a simulator on our way in where you were strapped in and could literally fly an aircraft up, down, round and round. She had an absolute blast in there while I chatted with a barrister who had spent some time studying at UNSW doing his masters on euthanasia. Interesting chat indeed, especially that his opinion had been fully reversed through his study.

Upon arrival back at Greenwich, we met up with the boys at Pizza Express, a local pizza restaurant.

We heard about their adventures at the British Museum, the highlights of which were the Rosetta stone and the mummies (there can be only one, surely!)

Awesome pizza was eaten, awesome gluten free IPA was drunk, as was very tasty chocolate brownies before heading back to the ranch, falling into an exhausted sleep.

Tomorrow – the dino museum!

LONDON #ENGLAND Day 2 – Zero the Hero! 27 September 2015

#LONDON #ENGLAND Day 2 – Zero the Hero! 27 September 2015

We were staying in Greenwich, the origin of space so of course had to visit the zero line.

Max and I headed to the beautifully lush Greenwich Park. passing by some rather jumbo anchors, and meeting up at the playground with Simon and the girls. It was a lovely fun playground with many nautically themed play equipment, but as with many parks, there were not enough swings. I guess that it really does help children learn turn taking and the benefits of delayed gratification.

From there, we headed up the hill to the observatory for our first glimpse of the zero line and a beautiful view out over the city. We had lunch in the cafe before looking around the observatory and booking in for the planetarium. I caught a few zzzzzs on the grass before we lay back and looked at the stars. Quite fitting to examine Mars during the week that evidence of water on Mars was found, and the movie of the book which Simon and Max have been reading, Martian, was released.

There was much hilarity and tickles that happened on our way back down the hill. I love it when our family is happy and laughing and carefree like this. Capture it and bottle it. Or at least work our some way to get back to this kind of mood when moods aren’t quite so positive and you would be on a personal winner.