The Needles

Next up on our sight seeing tick list are one of the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmarks – The Needles.

20170415_123042

The Needles is a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise about 30m out of the sea.

But before we visit them we spot an ‘interesting’ little display in a local garden . . .

There are some wonderfully coloured cliffs tumbling down to Alum sands beach.

Alum Bay has 21 recognised shades of sand and these have been collected and made into souvenirs since early Victorian times.

After a blustery and brisk walk we finally find the main attraction – The Needles!

The chalk formation takes its name from a fourth needle-shaped pillar called Lot’s Wife, that collapsed in a storm in 1764. The rocks that are left are not needle-like, but the name has stuck.

Another attraction close by is the experimental rocket testing site at High Down.

The site was built and operated in secret, from the 1950s and still houses some of the old technology that you can have a nosey around.

 

Godshill

Nest up on our tour of the Isle of Wight is the beautiful little village of Godshill.

It is full of charming thatched-roofed cottages and a winding main-street lined with traditional tearooms and quaint shops.

This psychedelic little splash of joy is the Oracle Gallery.  It’s a cross between channel art, and guided meditation.

According to the artist “Visionary art is a way of creating spontaneously that encourages a complete letting go of the self.”

You can find out more about the artist Nicola Gibbs here.

The Bats Wing is a stunning 16th century tea room festooned with glorious purple wisteria.

It’s a delightful thatched cottage with overtones of a witchy hidey hole.

Every detail is a little delight, even these little signs to the church.

Below we come across one of the most stunning little cottages we have ever seen.

20170414_173427

It feels straight out of a fairy tale complete with swathes of bluebells and twinkling little lead pane windows.

Then a few more of the lovely little dwellings. What lucky people live in these!

There is also a delightful medieval church, All Saints, it sits on a hill and overlooks the village.

The church dates from the 14th century and is the fourth built on this site. The hill on which the church stands was once used by pagans as a place of worship.

Legend says the building of a church started at the foot of the hill but over three nights stones were removed from the site and placed where the present church now sits.

For the first two mornings work was restarted at the foot but by the third day it was assumed that God wished the church to be built on the hill – hence the name Godshill.

All in all Godshill is a gorgeous little village that is well worth exploring.

Sunny Sandown

We’re continuing with our exploration of the Isle of Wight now with a visit to Sandown.

It’s a quintessentially English seaside resort with a long sandy beach and a huge pier lined with arcades and fairground rides.

It’s a mixture of garish colour and slow decay. With some prime beach front properties boarded up and neglected.

The pier beckons with it’s eye popping, high pitched noisy machines.

The psychedelic toys and rides have me pinning for Japan again! We could almost be back in Osaka

Then we emerge, blinking into the light on the blustery open end of the pier with all it’s traditional seaside delights including teeth rotting treats…

I like the garish, over bright colours that typically advertise traditional treats such as icecream.

20170414_155911

I have a guilty pleasure for these alcoholic sticks of rock with sambuca and prosecco on offer!

The fairground offers some incredibly trippy rides including these eye popping, rainbow bright cars.

Then we stumble on some typical old style saucy postcards that used to be found everywhere at the seaside!

The man looks particularly cute in his little outfit, I think he should dress like this all the time!

20170414_155014

The fairground out of season always has a forlorn, almost post apocalyptic feel to me.

The garish colours contrast with the milky grey sky and the absence of children’s noise makes it feel even more desolate.

Mind you, the addition of people does not always make it less terrifying . . .

20170414_160506

Another thing that I love in British seaside resorts is the plethora of neon plastic items.

Whether buckets and spades, whirlygigs or body boards, any colour combo goes as long as it’s eye watering!

Some more exciting colour combinations can be found on this giddy sandwich board.

Then we stumble across some incredible street art that draws its inspiration from the seas.

It also reflects on the fact that the Isle of Wight apparently is the undisputed dinosaur capital of Great Britain and features in the top six best locations in the world for dinosaur remains.

Next up a completely different side to the island with some lovely thatched cottages.

Woodland lodges

We’re settling into our Isle of Wight accommodation for the next few days now. We’re staying at the Woodside Bay Lodge retreat.

20170414_135210

It’s a sprawling expanse of super cosy wooden lodges in Wootton Bridge and features an onsite restaurant, gym and spa.

I don;t usually dedicate too many posts just to accommodation but as this is the first time we’ve stayed in a lodge I thought I’d show you just how comfy they can be!

Literally this lodge is better kitted out than my house and definitely has a nicer kitchen!

It was ideally located to explore the island and far far better than my misconceptions had feared!

Well worth the money and easily fitted five adults without feeling crowded.

Isle of Wight

It’s a complete change of pace for our next adventure. This time we’re not heading too far, just a few days in the Isle of Wight. Not quite as exotic as we’ve become used to . . .

First up is an evening in the largest town on the island – Ryde. It’s where the ferry arrives and also has an rather exciting hovercraft!! It’s known as “The Gateway to the Island”.

Ryde has all the attractions of a traditional British seaside resort, including the museum of saucy postcards . .  and of course a chippie.

As usual I snout out anything closely resembling street art for a quick snap.

Ryde pier offers the chance for some refreshing sea air but you have to contend with cars in the same space.

The pier is an early 19th-century pier and is apparently the world’s oldest seaside pleasure pier. There’s no arcades on it but there is a quaint little railway station.

Here’s a few random snaps of the pier including a social statement and a few signs that caught my eye.

In the distance you can see a passenger ferry and I am enjoying the greenish hue of the sea.

Next up we’re heading to our woodland cabin for a few nights and will explore more of this little seaside island.

It’s all over…..for now . . .

It is with a heavy heart that I finally come to the LAST EVER POST ABOUT JAPAN!*

It has taken a whole year to document our amazing trip and it is fitting that it is almost exactly a year since we set off on our odyssey.

So lets’s take a last romp through Osaka’s colourful markets and indulge in my love of all things consumerable.

This fabulous fabric store has a wealth of wacky cartoon prints including little smiling sushi.

Let’s stop for a moment to appreciate this – possibly the epitome of all things Japanese.

It’s cute, quirky, colourful and quite frankly bonkers . .  . .basically my assessment of the whole country 🙂

P1140695

Here’s a variety of decorative Sake bottles. All beautifully labelled with delicate details.

Let’s rejoice one more time in the plethora of insanely colourful boxes and packaging.

Pandas to advertise meaty lumps? Why not! Then there’s the plastic sushi shining under artificial lights.

A final gallop through the Blade Runneresque Osaka streets. Complete with their eye popping manga advertisements.

A final look at the eye watering colour combos and indecipherable store fronts.

A final forced pose by the man next to unidentifiable meat products . .  .

And of course, it wouldn’t be my blog without a final “stick your head through that”!!

P1140724

Farewell Japan it has been beyond a blast! From school girls with ninja swords, lightening speed bullet trains, delicate Geisha and serene temples.

Everyday was an incredible assault on the senses, a delight to the eyes, ears and heart.

We’ve seen futuristic metropolis with neon towers reaching to the heavens, rang heavy bells in lonely rural temples, bowed to drivers while crossing the road, seen the horrors of war and the promise of the future.

We’d move there in a heartbeat and as soon as we’ve scraped together enough money we’ll be back with bells on! Till then, sayounara Japan!!

* It is HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT THIS IS THE LAST EVER POST ABOUT JAPAN . . . .*

Osaka castle

Closing in on the last day in Japan now . .  (chokes back a sob) and it’s a beautiful sunny day to enjoy our last few hours.

We start the day off with a visit to the gorgeous Osaka castle.

P1140660

The construction of the castle started in 1583 on the former site of the Ishiyama Honganji Temple.

However the castle has had a chequed history as it was then destroyed by troops in 1615.

It was rebuilt by Tokugawa Hidetada in the 1620s, but its main tower was then struck by lightening in 1665 and burnt down.

It was not until 1931 that the present reconstruction of the castle tower was built.

Somehow it managed to survive the city wide air raids of World War two and now stands proud as a symbol of the city.

The castle tower is surrounded by impressive stone walls and moats and it looks truly magnificent against the perfect blue sky.

Tetsujin 28

Another quirky sight to be found in Kobe is the mammoth Tetsujin 28 Robot Statue!

Towering at an impressive 59 feet high he is somewhat innocuously sited in a fairly drab square surrounded by tower blocks.

Tetsujin-28 is a manga character from Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s 1956 “Tetsujin 28-go”.

The  story is about a robot built to be a military weapon that, upon the death of his creator, becomes friend and companion to the creator’s young son.

Together the pair fight crime and defeat other robots bent on destruction.

The huge statue was erected in memory of the huge 1995 earthquake to demonstrate the community’s strength and resilience.

It was also designed to encourage tourism to Kobe which was economically ruined by the earthquake,

He is a magnificent beast and well worth a detour to marvel at!

 

Kobe’s Earthquake memorial

Carrying on with our exploration of Kobe we stumble across a veritable cornucopia of cute road work signs. How boring and mundane our traffic cones look now!!

Sadly Kobe is better known for the tragedy that befell many of its inhabitants in 1995 when a huge earthquake wracked the city and surrounding areas.

P1140642

The Great Hanshin earthquake  or Kobe earthquake, occurred on January 17, 1995 in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, known as Hanshin.

It measured 6.9 and tremors lasted for approximately 20 seconds. Damage was extremely widespread and severe.

Nearly 400,000 buildings were irreparably damaged as well as numerous elevated road and rail bridges, and 120 of the 150 quays in the port of Kobe.

Up to 6,434 people died and about 4,600 of them were from Kobe.

It was Japan’s worst earthquake in the 20th century after the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, which claimed more than 105,000 lives.

At Meriken Park you can see for yourselves some of the preserved damage at the Earthquake Memorial Park near the port of Kobe.

Here lampposts lean at impossible angles and you can still see how the ground was violently ripped apart.

This visit has since acquired a more personal resonance as we were in Kos in July of this year when an earthquake of the same magnitude occurred.

It was a truly terrifying experience but thankfully the death toll was far lower. However tragically two people did lose their lives in Kos town.

It was a sobering reminder of the power of mother nature and the transient nature of our existence on this beautiful, but dangerous, planet.

Then we pop to the port to see the Kobe Port Tower which was designed by the Nikken Sekkei Company and completed in 1963.

It’s also home to the maritime museum and some unusual boats.

P1140636

China town

We’re off to experience a little taste of China in Japan now as we head to Kobe for a day trip.

Nankinmachi is a small but perfectly formed chinatown in central Kobe and is the centre of the Chinese community in the Kansai Region.

The area was built up by Chinese merchants who settled near Kobe Port after it was opened to foreign trade in 1868.

As the chinatown developed, it became known as Nankinmachi after Nanjing, the former Chinese capital.

The two main streets are full of shops, restaurants and food stands selling popular items such as steamed buns (manju), ramen, tapioca drinks and various other Chinese dishes

I love love love the little animal steamed buns that come in a wide variety of shapes from piglets to baby chicks! Super kawaii!!

The area is a delightful explosion of colour, smells and tastes.

The carp fish is a commonly seen good luck symbol as the Chinese character for carp (li 鲤) is pronounced the same as both the character (li 利) for “profit” and the character (li 力) for “strength” or “power”.

Another colourful little charm is the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

When we visited Japan, it was 2016 which happened to be the year of the monkey.

Finally let’s give some love for this super cute vending machine complete with reclining panda bear! Nothing is too mundane to be made cuter in Japan.