Saturday, September 29, 2007

A slice of home in Osaka

It would be hard to refute the idea of fate when you are rostered an unrequested and much sought after flight to Osaka at the exact same time your friends from home are visiting Japan. It was the nicest coincidence I have experienced in my job so far and the month leading up to our rendezvous I was eagerly counting down the days until I could enjoy my little slice of home - in the form of Ryan and Fiona.

After meeting them both in my hotel foyer we caught the bus to the centre of town where we followed our nose (and Ryan's astute sense of direction) through some narrow streets and up several unknown flights of alleyway stairs to a place neither of us had been to before but all agreed it was too cute and cosy to walk away from. We were welcomed with a very melodic greeting from the kitchen staff as we brushed through the hanging cotton drapes from the doorway, before walking through the intimate restaurant filled with ankle height tables and patrons drinking sake sitting delicately on their soft bright cushions. The three of us decided on seats up next to the kitchen bar so we could watch the action and dangle our bare feet in the dugout beneath us. Thankfully my comrades were able to order a round of drinks using sign language and a few Japanese phrases, as an English menu was going to be as available to us as a pork chop during Ramadan in a Muslim country.

We clinked our large glass mugs of red berry sour cocktails and soon began catching up on news from home and stories from their holiday to date, and how at home they felt in their beautiful little holiday apartment in the heart of Tokyo. Always one for keeping his finger well positioned on the proverbial pulse, Ryan bought me up to speed on cheap optical deals rife in Japan, the delights of gobble-on-the-go tuna sushi sandwiches and then some more informative stories on food and local delicacies. Our bowls of steaming Udon noodles and wooden chopsticks were gracefully place down before us and we made quick work of the tasty broth of goodness before handing the remains over to our male chaperone for polishing off, boys do come in very handy sometimes!!

Berry good cocktails with dinner......and then some Cassis with style

After dinner we eventually found a little candle lit bar with a cosy old Hollywood ambiance. The walls were covered in framed black and white photographs, waiters wore crisp white shirts and thin black ties while wooden tables, chairs and hat stands filled the room. A few rounds of Cassis (Ryan and Fiona's holiday drink of choice) and I was converted. It tasted like tangy orange juice but contained some potent muscle relaxing alcohol - I will be forever indebted for this tasty introduction! Feeling very content and ready for some sleep the three of us headed back to the hotel for some hotel-issued kimono style bathrobe dress up photos and a good night's sleep.

The best hotel bathrobes i've seen to date

Holding down the master control button beside our beds I reveled in the ability to electronically draw back the curtains, letting the morning sunlight blaze into our pitch black room. The clock was ticking on our mini holiday and we had decided to visit the Osaka Aquarium that day, so we appointed Ryan as Chief Navigator and followed him blindly through the city chomping down on our tuna triangle sushi sandwiches for breakfast. YUM!!

As Fiona pointed out, sometimes when you watch Japanese animation its easy to get lost in the fictional characters and their abstract forms, but after seeing the underwater inhabitants at the aquarium we're now not so convinced most of those characters are pretend. Many of them resemble the crazy crustaceans we saw. It was such an impressive display of marine life ranging from teeny tiny florescent fish, naughty little otters (doing things not suitable for children's eyes), playful dolphins, big scary whale sharks and (the most mesmorising for me) the many different little tanks of translucent jelly fish.

Getting the last hole punched into our fun-pass ticket we boarded Osaka's towering ferris wheel for 20 minutes of glass cage viewing. It was a beautiful end to the day after such a wonderful 24 hours with such good friends, good sushi and sweet Cassis.

Saying goodbye from the train

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

28 and still learning to ride a bike

I may have woken up as a 28 year old last week, but there's nothing like having your mum rustle you from sleep with a big happy birthday kiss to make you feel like a worry free cake lovin' child again, just as she probably did 20 years ago. Feeling like the luckiest kid on the block to have my mum visiting, and depleting my wine rack, I began the day opening gifts from those near and afar surrounded by bunches of shiny colourful balloons strung up around the apartment that Miss Lauren had very quietly constructed before I woke up that morning.

Celebrations this year centered around a very civilised bubbly brunch with a few close girlfriends inside a beautiful hotel that is built around a Venetian style man made canal - which is why this hotel is sometimes referred to as "little Italy"! As the afternoon began drawing to a close we were approached by two American men with the foulest teeth you have EVER seen! With their deep Southern accent they declared to our table that we "sure were purrdy'" before dazzling us with their gappy blackened toothy pegs. Unsure of exactly where to look and what to say, we heard laughter coming over from their table which was when we realised the hillbilly teeth were thankfully made of rubber and their American accents slightly exaggerated.

Lauren and I en route to Brunch.......a table of celebrations

Our new dentally challenged friends and the rest of their table quickly came over and joined ours then began asking the waiters (sans rubber teeth) to bring more bottles of champagne, so next thing we knew our afternoon was gearing up again. Of the Americana motley crew most of them worked within a US government capacity however we discovered one of them works for the actual, real life, NCIS and yes we did grab hold of his business card for evidence and Lauren was the only one of us girls who actually knew what it stood for (Naval Criminal Investigative Service for those playing at home).

Three days later I was on my way to the airport with mum to drop her off in front of departures then keep on driving along to arrivals where I was picking up my new Brisbane visitor Georgie. Dubai was the first stop in her European holiday during which she will also be catching up with our mutual friends Mij and Troy over in Finland. I must confess that in the lead up to Georgie's visit her number one Dubai activity request was making me a little nervous and I initially wondered how I could weasel my way out of personally taking part. So to combat this feeling of insecurity I coerced Lauren and her visitor from home Jono along to the afternoon dune bashing activity of quad biking. It was much much more fun than I had imagined and towards the end I was getting up quite a speed. Nothing matched to Jono or Georgie's donut dirt spins but enough to feel the satisfaction of wind and sand blowing into my face - sadly the later of which is becoming a more and more familiar feeling to me here in Dubai.

Georgie, Lauren and I ready to eat dirt