Slept somewhat better. Well except for hurty keeping me awake for a couple of hours. Still a very early wakeup though. And even earlier with the change in timezones overnight. Blerf.

Deck 10 utility room used by housekeeping
Deck 10 utility room used by housekeeping

Had breakfast in Kings Court. Much the same, although no fruit this time because I was already feeling a bit full.

Went out for a wander to photograph/videograph some rooms in the ship I hadn't before (specifically the Board Room and Churchills for this venture), but people kept being in them :(

Commodore Club bar
Commodore Club bar

Commodore Club
Commodore Club

Headed back to the Grills Concierge Lounge to photograph it (hey, I'll never get another chance) and pick up tickets for the planetarium show (they have a bunch reserved for Grills passengers so you don't have to fight the hoardes down in Connexions. So that was pretty cool.

Grills Concierge Lounge
Grills Concierge Lounge

Did some more exploring. Took photos/videos in the Verandah restaurant and the library (including photos out the front windows of the waves coming up as high as deck 7!!).

The Verandah Restaurant sign
The Verandah Restaurant sign

Bar in The Verandah Restaurant
Bar in The Verandah Restaurant

The Verandah Restaurant
The Verandah Restaurant

Waves coming up as far as deck 7
Waves coming up as far as deck 7!!

Churchill's Cigar Lounge
I did get back to Churchill's Cigar Lounge to find noone in it

Then did the jigsaw for a while.  Did I mention the rough seas?

View of the waves on the North Atlantic from the deck 2 jigsaw table
View of the waves on the North Atlantic from the deck 2 jigsaw table

View of the waves on the North Atlantic from the deck 2 jigsaw table
View of the waves on the North Atlantic from the deck 2 jigsaw table

A bit before 12pm collected the sweetie and we went and saw the ringing of the bell at 12pm, then went to a talk by Dr Seth Gopin on The Rise of the New York Skyscraper which was pretty interesting.

Again lunch in Kings Court was pretty crowded with people coming out of the talk (I suggested we could actually have lunch in Princess Grill but the sweetie wasn't interested).

Pretty much just did the jigsaw in the afternoon.

We went to go see the planetarium show only to find they'd all been cancelled due to the rough weather.

Pitching back on heavy seas
Pitching back on heavy seas

Pitching forward on heavy seas
Pitching forward on heavy seas

Pitching back on heavy seas
Pitching back on heavy seas

Pitching forward on heavy seas
Pitching forward on heavy seas

Pitching back on heavy seas
Pitching back on heavy seas

Pitching forward on heavy seas
Pitching forward on heavy seas

Headed back to the room to fill in some time. I downloaded photos, but I was too restless to relax. We were both feeling a little off colour due to the non-stop rocking of the ship. Not sick sick, just not 100%. The sweetie didn't want to go the restaurant for dinner, so we ended up going down to the pub for a couple of drinks, did the pub trivia (got 9/12 plus the double or nothing question), then dinner in Kings Court.

Belhaven beer in the Golden Lion Pub
Belhaven beer in the Golden Lion Pub

Golden Lion Pub Duo - SYNRG
Golden Lion Pub Duo - SYNRG

Stu in the Golden Lion Pub
Stu in the Golden Lion Pub

I tried again to use the internet, but it was basically useless. Couldn't get anything to load. So tried to logout, but the page froze up. Wasting most of my time just waiting for the login/logout page to load and nothing happening. Why am I paying for a "service" that they're not even providing??? Filled with rage, but the sweetie just told me to deal with it in the morning. Le sigh.

Urgh. Woke up at 01:50. Damned insomnia? Jetlag? Very upsetting. Never got back to sleep, so zombie day.

The ship is rocking (mostly pitching, a bit of rolling) quite a lot. It's actually kinda nice in bed. But I could understand how people that get seasick would hate it.

View from our balcony, day 1 of the crossing
View from our balcony, day 1 of the crossing

Had breakfast at Kings Court. Made myself wheat-free eggs benedict with hash browns instead of muffins :) I do like the fresh bread rolls though.

Stu at breakfast.  Rough seas meant fewer crowds and we could get a window seat!
Stu at breakfast. Rough seas meant fewer crowds and we could get a window seat!

Pointsettia plants in the corridor - they were distributing these to all rooms
Pointsettia plants in the corridor - they were distributing these to all rooms

Mini Christmas tree and pointsettia plant we had for the whole cruise
Mini Christmas tree and pointsettia plant we had for the whole cruise

Went down to the little single chairs on 3L so the sweetie could read and I could blog, and wandered for a bit as well.

View of the clouds from deck 7 promenade port side
View of the clouds from deck 7 promenade port side

Storm clouds over the stern of Queen Mary 2
Storm clouds over the stern of Queen Mary 2

Rough seas sloshing the pool water around
Rough seas sloshing the pool water around

Rough seas sloshing the pool water around
Rough seas sloshing the pool water around

Then left the sweetie to read while I went and joined a tour of the public areas of the ship. It was mostly stuff I already knew, but I do need to go hunt for the hidden Homer Simpson in the North America sculpture.

Then I went and did the jigsaw for a while.

At 12:15 we went to Illuminations to hear a talk by Bill Miller - Floating Palaces - The Great Atlantic Liners. It was really good, we both enjoyed it. There's another three by the same dude to come.

Bill Miller giving his talk on Floating Palaces - The Great Atlantic Liners
Bill Miller giving his talk on Floating Palaces - The Great Atlantic Liners

Lunch was pretty crowded at Kings Court after that because so many people all went at once after the talk.

After lunch (and a bit of a wander around the ship) we just collapsed. Two nights in a row of epic insomnia were killing me, so we had a nap for like three hours.

Deck 7 promenade on the Queen Mary 2
Deck 7 promenade on the Queen Mary 2

Deck chairs on the Queen Mary 2
Deck chairs on the Queen Mary 2

Stairway from deck 8 up to the deck 11 Grills Terrace - never been up these before!
Stairway from deck 8 up to the deck 11 Grills Terrace - never been up these before!

Deck 11 Grills Terrace
Deck 11 Grills Terrace

Deck 11 Grills Terrace
Deck 11 Grills Terrace

Deck 8 pools from deck 11 Grills Terrace
Deck 8 pools from deck 11 Grills Terrace

View of the clouds from our balcony
View of the clouds from our balcony

Stu relaxing in the bed
Stu relaxing in the bed

We got invited to the Grills meeting of the Captain. Although we didn't actually meet him hehe. It was definitely a LOT less crowded than when we went with all the Britannia peoples last time. Met a nice couple - Tracey and Terry. Only managed to grab two glasses of champagne before they whisked it away for the welcome and senior staff introductions.

Here's the numbers of passengers for the top countries on the crossing - Australia - 53, France - 66, Canada - 66, USA - 500, UK - 1678.  And there's 19 dogs and 1 cat.

Kaz and Stu in the Queens Room at the Captain's drinks
Kaz and Stu in the Queens Room at the Captain's drinks

Captain Aseem Hashmi welcoming Grills guests
Captain Aseem Hashmi welcoming Grills guests

Captain Aseem Hashmi and the senior officers of the Queen Mary 2
Captain Aseem Hashmi and the senior officers of the Queen Mary 2

Stu and Kaz dressed for dinner in the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery
Stu and Kaz dressed for dinner in the Clarendon Fine Art Gallery

We might have gotten called by the pub on the way to dinner. Had a couple of drinks before finally heading up to dinner. So we were a little later than the others. Ooops. :) Dinner was a lot more relaxed after a couple of drinks, although I did end up quite full.

Golden Lion Pub Duo - SYNRG
Golden Lion Pub Duo - SYNRG

Croquette of suckling pig with apple and ginger puree served with sweet and sour pork sauce that I had for entrée
Croquette of suckling pig with apple and ginger puree served with sweet and sour pork sauce that I had for entrée

Loin of lamb provençal with braised shoulder, confit of breast, celeriac dauphinoise and savoy cabbage that I had for mains
Loin of lamb provençal with braised shoulder, confit of breast, celeriac dauphinoise and savoy cabbage that I had for mains

Kaz and Stu at dinner - a lot more relaxed than last night!
Kaz and Stu at dinner - a lot more relaxed than last night!

Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries
Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries

Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries
Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries

Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries
Prepping our baked alaska with flambéed cherries

Baked Alaska, flambéed morello cherries that we both had for dessert
Baked Alaska, flambéed morello cherries that we both had for dessert

Then to bed.

Urgh. Woke up at midnight and didn't get back to sleep til past 5am :( Had a bit of sleep til 8am. Was going to go to the SeaCity Museum, but it said to allow two to three hours, but it didn't open til 10am so decided to give it a miss.

Cooked the breakfast I'd bought last night - some potatoes, ham and cheese. Nice and low fodmap for the sweetie.

Blogged, did photos etc.

Then headed out to see the Queen Mary 2 in port. (I'd actually been watching her getting closer around the Isle of Wight all night, and come up the river to Southampton. So at 5am I looked out the window and there she was. Heading backwards up the river. She'd turned around slightly downstream of the dock, I assume due to depth of the channel.) It was cold and wet and miserable down at the docks, but was super cool to see her just there!

Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal
Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal, from Town Quay

Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal
Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal

Seagulls and Queen Mary 2 in Southampton
Seagulls and Queen Mary 2 in Southampton

Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal
Queen Mary 2 docked at City Cruise Terminal

Stopped at the Lidl on the way back to the hotel and picked up a couple of bottles of bubbly. Because we can. And it's like a quarter of the price of the cheapest bottle on board.

Tudor House in Southampton
Tudor House in Southampton

Then we checked out and got them to order us a taxi. Took about fifteen minutes to arrive, but it was only a five minute drive to the docks.

Security and checkin were a *lot* better organised than in Hong Kong. It was just a matter of lining up and going through.

Did I mention we scored an upgrade? I only found out the day before we left, and only then by accident. I would just as likely have put on the wrong tags on our luggage and gone through the regular security line and checkin before we would have found out otherwise. As it was (with Princess Grill upgrade) we got into the priority lines for both. Which meant we were through the hall in about fifteen minutes! Win!

About to board the Queen Mary 2!!
About to board the Queen Mary 2!!

Christmas tree in the Grand Lobby of the Queen Mary 2
Christmas tree in the Grand Lobby of the Queen Mary 2

The Princess Grill room is also a lot bigger. There's an extra cupboard, bigger bathroom with actual (very small) bath, an extra chair (although it actually makes things a little awkward), wider balcony, bigger desk. Lovely!! Another bonus: a full sized bottle of champagne, instead of the mini bottle you get in Britannia class. We even got a second full sized bottle, although not sure if that is because of the upgrade, or simply that this was our second time aboard. We might have been buzzing slightly hehe.

Our Princess Grill deck 10 room - 10082
Our Princess Grill deck 10 room - 10082

Entering our Princess Grill room 10082 on the Queen Mary 2
Entering our Princess Grill room 10082 on the Queen Mary 2

Our bed in the Princess Grill room 10082 on Queen Mary 2
Our bed in the Princess Grill room 10082 on Queen Mary 2

Our Princess Grill room 10082 on the Queen Mary 2
Our Princess Grill room 10082 on the Queen Mary 2

The couch in our room
The couch in our room

Our bed and the large desk / wall unit
Our bed and the large desk / wall unit

Cupboards in our Princess Grill room, the same as a Britannia room
Cupboards in our Princess Grill room, the same as a Britannia room

Glasses and tea and coffee making, with fridge in the cupboard
Glasses and tea and coffee making, with fridge in the cupboard

Glasses in the cupboard in our room
Glasses in the cupboard in our room
Photo by Stu

Walkin wardrobe in our Princess Grill room
Walkin wardrobe in our Princess Grill room

Bathroom in our Princess Grill room
Bathroom in our Princess Grill room

Vanity in our Princess Grill bathroom
Vanity in our Princess Grill bathroom

Shower in our Princess Grill bathroom
Shower in our Princess Grill bathroom

Welcome champagne and chocolates in our room
Welcome champagne and chocolates in our room

Me having some champagne
Me having some champagne
Photo by Stu

Me and Stu enjoying the welcome champagne in our room
Me and Stu enjoying the welcome champagne in our room

Balcony of our deck 10 Princess Grill room
Balcony of our deck 10 Princess Grill room

We were waiting for our bags to arrive so we could put on some laundry. When they didn't knock after a while we decided to head out and get something to eat. And there were our bags. So we brought them in, unpacked a bit, and headed up to find the laundrette, which is waaaayyyyy up the far corner of our floor. Being so early onto the ship, only one machine was in use, so got our laundry going. Finished unpacking then went and got some lunch at Kings Court.

I also went to the concierge lounge exclusive to Grills guests, to ask about drinks packages, and also if they were going to be running a behind the scenes tour. She said yes, they were, and they allocate six out of the sixteen to grills passengers, and there was two free and I was like OMFG :):):) Sooo excited :)

Deck 10 corridor
Deck 10 corridor

Concierge Lounge for Grills passengers only
Concierge Lounge for Grills passengers only

After washing and drying was done brought it all back, then it was time for the compulsory emergency drill. They actually scan your passenger card these days to make sure you've attended. They didn't do that last time.

Went to investigate the jigsaw situation. They had two new puzzles out (I'd have been pretty annoyed if they were the same ones I'd done before). One of them was a 1500 piece artwork puzzle that looked pretty awful, and the other was another comic jigsaw. So turned over all 1500 pieces and did the edge :)

Just before 18:30 I headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. At 18:30 we departed Southampton! Watched the departure for a while then we headed down for dinner.

Departing Southampton
Departing Southampton

Me dressed for dinner
Me dressed for dinner

Southampton by night
Southampton by night

Southampton by night
Town Quay, Southampton by night

Last trip we'd asked to go on a table of eight, because we're introverts and like being on a table where other people do most of the talking. With the upgrade to Princess Grill we were going to lose that. Turns out you still get allocated a table for Princess Grill that you sit on every night. And our table was in fact a table of six. We weren't sure if this was better or worse than just sitting by ourselves. On the one hand there's two other couples (Carolyn and Ray from Shropshire, and Bryan and Jan from Swansea in Wales) but on the other hand there's the stress of whether we should try and have dinner at the same time as them (with Princess Grill you can dine any time between 6:30pm and 9:00pm). Not to mention the stress of feeling like imposters. Hrmmmm.

Table 51 in the Princess Grill - our table for the whole crossing and cruise
Table 51 in the Princess Grill - our table for the whole crossing and cruise

Yeah so when we arrived (feeling pretty stressed) we had a constant stream of waiters coming and introducing themselves and bringing stuff and Oleg the somelier with the overwhelming wine list and I just wanted to take a photo of the table and I was like LEAVE US ALONE!!! arggghh. Then the others turned up. The other thing with Princess Grill is the wine list by the glass starts at crazy and gets to ridiculous pretty quickly. Cheapest bottle you can get is $30 USD. Ouch. Then there's the menu. I couldn't even recognise half the words on it. Ever heard of a crotin de chavignol? Turns out it's cheese of some description. I was like WE DON'T BELONG HERE. Was actually a pretty stressful dinner. The beef I had though was actually delicious and tender. And we didn't have any wine.

Parsley crusted crotin de chavignol, red onion and coriander marmalade with melba toast that I had for entrée
Parsley crusted crotin de chavignol, red onion and coriander marmalade with melba toast that I had for entrée

Roasted beef tenderloin and  braised short ribs, celeriac pureee, speck potato rosti and red wine sauce that I had for mains
Roasted beef tenderloin and braised short ribs, celeriac pureee, speck potato rosti and red wine sauce that I had for mains

Strawberry and mint chocolate chip ice creams, lemon sorbet and caramel sauce that I had for dessert
Strawberry and mint chocolate chip ice creams, lemon sorbet and caramel sauce that I had for dessert

The last time we were on this ship we basically had flat calm conditions for most of the trip and the ship didn't move. It was only every so often you'd just get a tiny hint that there was movement. This time we're on an upper deck (10) and the movement is very noticable. But. Turns out you can feel it all over the ship. We really do just have much rougher weather this time. Which I guess is to be expected on the North Atlantic :)

Navigation information on the tv in our room
Navigation information on the tv in our room

Then we just collapsed into bed a bit after 9pm.

Yeah so bed at 7pm. I wouldn't say the wisest idea ever with jetlag :) I woke up around 11pm for a while but got back to sleep. Then woke up around 1am? 2am? for ages. Which was pretty annoying. But got a little more sleep before waking up at 5am or so.

Went downstairs for the buffet breakfast but it was pretty disappointing. The food was ok, there just wasn't any of it. They brought out new food a couple of times, but like three sausages or two pieces of bacon at a time. Dumb. Struggled to even try a bit of everything. I did make my first ever waffle though. It wasn't too bad although stuck to the grill in places so it didn't look like much. Definitely not worth the 25 pounds we paid for it.

Breakfast bar at Room2, Southampton
Breakfast bar at Room2, Southampton

My first ever waffles!
My first ever waffles!

After breakfast we headed out in the refrigerator temperature air. We repeated the walk of yesterday afternoon - going down to Mayflower Park to see what ships were in port. Turns out the Queen Elizabeth was there! That'll mean all three Queens will have passed through Southampton in three days.

Buildings in the old city wall
Buildings in the old city wall

The Watergate ruin, Southampton Old City Wall
The Watergate ruin, Southampton Old City Wall

Kuti's Brasserie
Kuti's Brasserie

Queen Elizabeth docked at Southampton
Queen Elizabeth docked at Southampton

City Cruise Terminal, Southampton - where we'd be departing from the next day
City Cruise Terminal, Southampton - where we'd be departing from the next day

Entrance to City Cruise Terminal - Associated British Ports
Entrance to City Cruise Terminal - Associated British Ports

We then wandered up along the western wall of the old town until we got to WestQuay shopping centre, where we went into M&S to look for some new shirts for the sweetie (he'd bought some recently but a size too small). He got one, thinking he'd try it on and go back if it was ok. Also wandered past the Christmas markets they had setup outside. Mulled wine was calling me haha, but didn't have any.

West Gate
West Gate

West Gate
West Gate

Southampton's western old city wall
Southampton's western old city wall

Blue Anchor Gate
Blue Anchor Gate

The Titanic pub in Southampton
The Titanic pub in Southampton

St Michael's Church
St Michael's Church

Building in Southampton
Buildings in Southampton.  Whoever took the bribe to build that multi-storey monstrosity smack bang in the middle of the old city should be shot.

Southampton Mural 2013 mosaic by Joanna Dewfall
Southampton Mural 2013 mosaic by Joanna Dewfall

Remains of the drum tower at Castle Gate
Remains of the drum tower at Castle Gate

Old Southampton City walls
Catchcold Tower and Old Southampton City walls

Temporary winter ice skating rink
Temporary winter ice skating rink

Arundel Tower, Southampton
Arundel Tower, Southampton

Santa flying over Southampton
Santa flying over Southampton

Arundel Tower, Southampton
Arundel Tower, Southampton

Footbridge where a section of the Old City wall used to be
Footbridge where a section of the Old City wall used to be

Christmas tree in Westquay shopping centre
Christmas tree in Westquay shopping centre

Porky Pig at the Christmas Markets
Porky Pig at the Christmas Markets

Southampton's Advent Calendar next to Bargate
Southampton's Advent Calendar next to Bargate

By this time it was late morning, so decided to head back to the hotel so the sweetie could try on his shirt. Walked past the Holyrood Church with its Titanic memorial, and QE2's anchor

QE 2's anchor
Holyrood Church, Stu, and QE 2's anchor

QE 2's anchor
QE 2's anchor

Remains of Holyrood Church, built in 1320, destroyed in 1940
Remains of Holyrood Church, built in 1320, destroyed in 1940

Titanic memorial fountain at Holyrood Church
Titanic memorial fountain at Holyrood Church

Titanic memorial fountain at Holyrood Church
Titanic memorial fountain at Holyrood Church

Holyrood Church
Holyrood Church

Christmas tree in Room2 hotel foyer
Christmas tree in Room2 hotel foyer

The sweetie had a rest while I headed out on some of the Titanic memorial trail to spots near the hotel. The old hotel South Western House was pretty cool - that was where some of the first class passengers stayed the night before the voyage. And the offices of the White Star Line was cool too.

Former Sailor's Home, where some of the crew stayed before boarding the Titanic
Former Sailor's Home, where some of the crew stayed before boarding the Titanic

Terminus Railway Station, the closest station to the docks in 1912
Terminus Railway Station, the closest station to the docks in 1912

South Western House, where some of the first class passengers stayed before sailing on the Titanic
South Western House, where some of the first class passengers stayed before sailing on the Titanic

Canute Chambers, formerly housed the offices of the White Star Shipping Company
Canute Chambers, formerly housed the offices of the White Star Shipping Company

Titanic Memorial (used to be inside the security gate on Central Road but was moved recently)
Titanic Memorial (used to be inside the security gate on Central Road but was moved recently)

Building in Southampton where the Titanic Memorial has been moved to
Building in Southampton where the Titanic Memorial has been moved to (shown at left)

Came back to the hotel but the sweetie wasn't feeling the greatest (travel catching up with him much?). So he stayed in and I headed out again. This time up through the parks on the east side of town all the way up to the cenotaph and the memorial to the engineers of the Titanic. Came back past the SeaCity Museum then down High Street.

William Chamberlayne Gas Column in Houndwell Park
William Chamberlayne Gas Column in Houndwell Park

Titanic Engineer's Memorial
Titanic Engineer's Memorial

Titanic Musician's Memorial
Titanic Musician's Memorial

The QE2 Mile sign
The QE2 Mile sign

Southampton Cenotaph
Southampton Cenotaph

Isaac Watts Memorial.  Note the seagull that wouldn't piss off even after me sitting there for ten minutes
Isaac Watts Memorial. Note the seagull that wouldn't piss off even after me sitting there for ten minutes

Side of SeaCity Museum
Side of SeaCity Museum

Did you know that Britain has changed its one pound coins in the past couple of years? Turns out the ones I'd brought with me leftover from our last trip are no longer legal tender (aside: they still haven't seen the light and still have their stoopid 1p and 2p coins). Anyway so I went into a Lloyds bank to see if I could swap them but they wouldn't do it unless I had an account. Buttheads. So went to a Barclays bank across the road and they happily swapped them for me.

Walked past the Christmas markets again. The mulled wine was still calling me. But I was by myself and it was cold, so just came back to the hotel.

Bratwurst store in the Christmas Markets
Bratwurst store in the Christmas Markets

Glassblower at the Christmas Markets
Glassblower at the Christmas Markets

Bargate, Southampton
Bargate, Southampton

Holyrood Church and QE2 anchor
Holyrood Church and QE2 anchor

The sweetie was feeling somewhat better but didn't really feel like going out for dinner, so I went back to the Lidl supermarket (much like Aldi) and got some supplies for dinner and breakfast. Two dinners, food for breakfast, some snacks and a fourpack of beer for 11.53. A lot cheaper than eating out!

Not used to the very short days here. Sunrise is at 8am and sunset is at 4pm. It's getting dark at 3pm. So weird.

Had beer and dinner, and fought with the tv and chromecast. The tv was having a spaz and the remote was doing weird things. We ended up rebooting the tv and it came good. But I couldn't get the Netflix app in windows on my laptop to cast to it (couldn't find an option anywhere), so couldn't play the movie I'd downloaded. So we streamed it live. Worked just fine, although I'd rather have used the offline copy.

Did I mention we watched Love Actually? ;) It has to be watched every Christmas :)

I was super tired and even starting to fall asleep during the movie. Went to bed around 21:30.

So the bed at Hayes and Harlington was very soft, but it still worked out ok. I woke up at 3am for ages, got a bit more sleep, but it was all over when I woke up at 5:45.

Got ready and went downstairs and got some snackages from Tesco to keep me going while the sweetie woke up. I blogged and did photo stuff as well.

We had breakfast in the hotel, which was ok (I do like me a good English breakfast - bacon, sausage, tomato, hashbrowns, mushrooms, although I didn't have any scrambled eggs, but did have some fruit and yoghurt as well).

Breakfast bar at Staycity Aparthotel, Hayes and Harlington
Breakfast bar at Staycity Aparthotel, Hayes and Harlington

Breakfast at Staycity Aparthotel, Hayes and Harlington
Breakfast at Staycity Aparthotel, Hayes and Harlington

Got ourselves ready and headed out at 10:45 to the station to get tickets for Southampton. Got tickets in time for the 11:04 to Reading, where we needed to change. Well we sat on the platform and waited but the train never showed. Express after express went through on the other line, but nothing came for us. Eventually EVENTUALLY they finally got the information that there was a points/signal failure a few stations away, and so nothing was coming down our line. So they said we should go to Ealing Broadway and then catch one of the expresses. So we did that and it was all fine, but it did take about two hours out of our day sitting on a freezing train station, or in a hot train (they were slow in both directions). Fun times. Not. Never happen in Japan ... Good thing we weren't in any sort of hurry!! (the people that *were* in a hurry were fuming)

View of the Staycity Aparthotel from the train as we zoomed past - two hours after started the day
View of the Staycity Aparthotel from the train as we zoomed past - two hours after we started the day

At Reading it was twenty minutes til our next train so the sweetie got a coffee at Starbucks.

The train to Southampton was pretty crowded so we struggled to find suitcase rack space and seats "available" for the whole trip. But the trip was pleasant enough and didn't take very long. The GPS didn't work either for most of it, which was a bit annoying.

At Southampton we got a taxi to the hotel, as it was just a bit far to walk. Only 5.20 though. The hotel is a lot of fun. The owners have a quirky sense of humour, and there's fun stuff like a "bits and bobs box" which has all sorts of useful bits and pieces like stationery, sewing kit, and games, and there's a recipe book in the kitchenette by someone who wanted to make recipes that would fit in a Tweet, so they're all 140 characters. Cool stuff.

Our room at Room2, Southampton
Our room at Room2, Southampton

Kitchenette at Room2
Kitchenette at Room2

Our room at Room2
Our room at Room2

Table and chairs at Room2, Southampton
Table and chairs at Room2, Southampton

Stuff on the table at Room2
Stuff on the table at Room2

Bits and bobs box at Room2
Bits and bobs box at Room2

Contents of the bits and bobs box at Room2
Contents of the bits and bobs box at Room2

Contents of the bits and bobs box at Room2
Contents of the bits and bobs box at Room2

View from our hotel room at Room2, Southampton
View from our hotel room at Room2, Southampton

We dumped our stuff, and I took one look at the sunset and dragged the sweetie down to the waterfront to have a look. We walked out on Town Quay and saw the sunset, and the Queen Victoria was in port getting ready to sail (but we weren't going to stand around in the freezing cold waiting!), and the Balmoral was there too.

Sunset in Queens Park, Southampton
Sunset in Queens Park, Southampton

General Gordon's Memorial in Queen's Park, Southampton
General Gordon's Memorial in Queen's Park, Southampton

Ships docked at Southampton - Queen Victoria, something else, and Balmoral
Ships docked at Southampton - Queen Victoria, something else, and Balmoral

Queen Victoria docked at Southampton
Queen Victoria docked at Southampton

Balmoral docked at Southampton
Balmoral docked at Southampton

Sunset over Southampton
Sunset over Southampton

Swans at Mayflower Park
Swans at Mayflower Park

Walked around a bit more and headed back to High Street to find the nearest "golden lettered pub" (all the pubs in England seem to have gold lettering .. is that some sort of standard they have to keep or something?). This turned out to be The Standing Order, so we tried a couple of ales, and then got some pub snacks for dinner.

The Duke of Wellington pub that we walked past
The Duke of Wellington pub that we walked past

Tudor House tourist attraction
Tudor House tourist attraction

Stu enjoying beer at The Standing Order
Stu enjoying beer at The Standing Order

Stu and our dinner at The Standing Order
Stu and our dinner at The Standing Order

Me at The Standing Order
Me at The Standing Order
Photo by Stu

After dinner went up to the Tesco to get more snackages, then headed back to the hotel. It was only about 7pm, but the sweetie just wanted to crash, so we did. I questioned the sanity of going to bed so early - it could also mean a very early wake up haha...

Ok so we knew we had to get up early, but that meant I woke up at 3:37. Hurrah. Got up and 4:30 and started my blog entry. Got ready when the alarm went off at 4:45 and we were out the door at about 5:35. Walked up to the station and the Keisei Skyliner station and waited the five or so minutes til the train opened then got on. We had the 5:58 train which is the first train of the day. Probably *slightly* early, but I'd rather be early than stressed. Finished my blog entry on the train and posted it over the free wifi.

My laptop setup on the train on the way to the airport
My laptop setup on the train on the way to the airport

At the airport we checked in our bags then went and found some breakfast. We had Maccas cause it was open and cheap (didn't have a lot of cash left). Security and immigration were a little slow but not too bad. Went and found some coffee for the sweetie then it was time to go the gate. So yes we were early, but it didn't feel like we had to sit around waiting forever.

Christmas tree at Narita Airport
Christmas tree at Narita Airport

We have no words, and no idea what on earth this sign could mean that Stu found at Narita Airport
We have no words, and no idea what on earth this sign could mean that Stu found at Narita Airport

The first flight was on an A330, and it wasn't full and we had a two seater together at the back so that was all fine. I continued my Pixar watching (we started watching the series at home over the past few weeks). I watched The Incredibles 2, and The Good Dinosaur, neither of which I'd ever seen. The Incredibles 2 was pretty good but The Good Dinosaur was somewhat preposterous.

Centrair Japan International Airport, off Nagoya
Centrair Japan International Airport, off Nagoya

Handa, Japan
Handa, Japan

Breakfast on the plane
Breakfast on the plane

Looking towards Tokushima, Shikoku, Japan
Looking towards Tokushima, Shikoku, Japan

Kochi, Shikoku, Japan
Kochi, Shikoku, Japan

Hong Kong side of the road and tunnel to Macau
Hong Kong side of the road and tunnel to Macau

At Hong Kong we went though the transit security gate which was pretty slow as they only had one xray machine for the whole plane of people. Then into the terminal proper. We thought we'd try and spend some of the leftover cash we had from our last trip on food, but there were too many people and it was all too hard, so we just went staight to the gate. I did go back a bit later though and did end up getting some food. A piece of chicken and some vegetation. Have I ever mentioned that Hong Kong airport is *huge*? Also, it felt a lot like I was in the movie Contagion ....

Christmas trees at Hong Kong Airport
Christmas trees at Hong Kong Airport

Reflective bean at Hong Kong Airport
Reflective bean at Hong Kong Airport

Reflective bean at Hong Kong Airport
Reflective bean at Hong Kong Airport

Me reflected in the bean at Hong Kong Airport
Me reflected in the bean at Hong Kong Airport

Our next flight was slightly late. On the plane at 15:20 Hong Kong time (16:20 Japan time). Nominally a "daytime" flight, it got dark pretty quickly and stayed dark the entire trip. So it seemed kinda pointless for them to come around and ask us to close our window shades. hrmmm. This time the plane (a 777-300ER) was completely full, and they only have three-seaters on the windows, so the sweetie got stuck in the middle :(

Kaz and Stu ready for our next leg to London
Kaz and Stu ready for our next leg to London

Southern China
Southern China

Mountaintop tower in Southern China
Mountaintop tower in Southern China

Southern China
Southern China

Xinxiang, Henan, China
Xinxiang, Henan, China

Shuozhou, Shanxi, China
Shuozhou, Shanxi, China

I continued in the Pixar vein and watched Brave, Finding Dory and Inside Out.

"Lunch" was at 18:30 (Japan time), and "dinner" was at midnight. They had turned all the lights out, but turned them all on again for dinner, then off again.

Lunch on the plane - Traditional steamed pork and water chestnut patties on jasmine rice, with smoked duck and cramy vegetable saland and bread and butter
Lunch on the plane - Traditional steamed pork and water chestnut patties on jasmine rice, with smoked duck and cramy vegetable saland and bread and butter

Dinner on the plane - Three cup chicken, broccoli, carrot and steamed jasmine rice, with seasonal fresh fruits, bread and butter, cheese mousse cacke with blueberry compote
Dinner on the plane - Three cup chicken, broccoli, carrot and steamed jasmine rice, with seasonal fresh fruits, bread and butter, cheese mousse cacke with blueberry compote

It was hot, as per usual, and I had restless legs for the first two thirds of the flight which made it all kinds of torture. They did settle down maybe around 2am and I did actually manage a little rest. I also watched Mamma Mia! which I'd never seen before.

There was cloud cover over some of Europe which made things quite pretty - the clouds glowed. Skies cleared over Denmark.

Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark

London city at night
London city at night (we circled three times east of London, giving us a nice view of the city each time)

Landing was about 5:35 Japan time, so I've already been up over 24 hours now. Immigration took *forever* - nearly an hour or so. Then had to get some money out, got gouged with a 2 GBP ATM fee. Then had to try and find the station. Had to deal with poorly signposted airport, which is never fun when you've been awake for so long. Eventually (after walking and walking and walking) got to the underground station, only to find that the station we need to go to is on the overground lines, so had to walk most of the way back. There was a human there who helped us which was nice, although we'd just missed a train and it was 11pm local time before the next one was due. So we waited the twenty or so minutes. Then just one stop to Hayes and Harlington. At the station we stopped to look either way for a lift, and a dude asked us if we needed help. We just asked if there was a lift but he said no. We said were staying just across the road and he pointed out the exit at ground level which was very nice of him. So yeah about a minute walk from the platform to the hotel - win!

The hotel has a little kitchenette which would be cool if we were staying longer. As it was it had been something like nine hours since we last ate and I was starving. The Tesco next door had just closed so we went for a longer walk to Asda. I dragged the sweetie along, because while I'm more than happy to head out at night by myself anywhere in Japan, in suburban London not so much. We got a little penne bolognase that we heated up and dessert. But it did mean it was after midnight local time (9am Japan time) by the time we got to bed :(

Our room at the Staycity Aparthotel
Our room at the Staycity Aparthotel

Kitchenette at the Staycity Aparthotel
Kitchenette at the Staycity Aparthotel

So after going to bed at like 8pm, I slept through (mostly, except for some time awake around midnight) til about 6am. Freaky for me! (10 hours in bed and I *still* had bags under my eyes hrmmm!) Was still a bit hot and uncomfortable, but shook the doona innards away from the edge leaving just the sheet bit and that helped.

Spent ages writing up my blog, and downloading photos etc.

Our charging station in the hotel got a lot of use
Our charging station in the hotel got a lot of use

Then the sweetie got up and we went and got breakfast. Just more pastries.

For the morning we did a wander up through Ueno Park. Revisited the walkway we'd last walked up in 2009 when the whole thing was wall to wall people for hanami. Then meandered north west of the park nominally to see some of the things in the Yanaka region.

Stu in Ueno Park
Stu in Ueno Park

Looking towards Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park
Looking towards Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park

Ueno Park cherry trees
Ueno Park cherry trees

Ueno Park fountain and Tokyo National Museum
Ueno Park fountain and Tokyo National Museum

Flowers at Ueno Park fountain
Flowers at Ueno Park fountain

Fire engine outside Tokyo National Museum
Fire engine outside Tokyo National Museum

2.5 Dimensional Tactile Sense - by Nayu Kakeya, in the Concourse of Art in Ueno Park
2.5 Dimensional Tactile Sense - by Nayu Kakeya, in the Concourse of Art in Ueno Park
Photo by Stu

Autumn in Ueno Park
Autumn in Ueno Park

But I did also need to get out some more money, on account of being ripped off by the restaurant the night before, so found a Japan Post store. Sadly, like at the airport, they now charge a 216 yen fee for withdrawals. Sad times.

World's smallest laundromat?
World's smallest laundromat?

Then we walked past a Denny's! Stu wanted coffee so we went in for coffee and a drink and a snack (french toast).

French toast at Denny's
French toast at Denny's

Then continued on. Saw a couple of temples, and also wandered through the cemetery which was kinda nice.

Cemetery at Choshiyozandaio Temple
Cemetery at Choshiyozandaio Temple

Cemetery at Choshiyozandaio Temple
Cemetery at Choshiyozandaio Temple
Photo by Stu

Stu in Yanaka Cemetery Park
Stu in Yanaka Cemetery Park

Skytree from Yanaka Cemetery Park
Skytree from Yanaka Cemetery Park

Flowers in Yanaka Cemetery Park
Flowers in Yanaka Cemetery Park

Ruins of Tennoji five-storey pagoda
Ruins of Tennoji five-storey pagoda

Autumn leaves at Tennoji Temple
Autumn leaves at Tennoji Temple

Tennoji Temple
Tennoji Temple

Buddha at Tennoji Temple
Buddha at Tennoji Temple

Autumn leaves at Tennoji Temple
Autumn leaves at Tennoji Temple
Photo by Stu

Tennoji Temple buildings
Tennoji Temple buildings

Ended up at Nippori station, where we finally had another ride on the old Yamanote Line down to Akihabara (154 yen). Had a bit of a wander around all the electronics store alleys. Picked up some cheap lightning cables and a USB-C cable. Then went and found some lunch. We ended up in a place that had electronic screens in front of each seat, and you order from that which was pretty cool. Except the UI was *terrible* and we would try and order a drink but then food order would disappear, or go back to ordering food but the drink order would disappear. Very frustrating. But we struggled through and got there in the end. Lunch was a *very* nice ramen (I got a burnt garlic one with pork).

Electronic menu and ordering tablet at Darumanome, Akihabara
Electronic menu and ordering tablet at Darumanome, Akihabara

Burnt garlic ramen with pork that I had for lunch
Burnt garlic ramen with pork that I had for lunch

After lunch it was a mission to find Yodobashi Camera! I wanted a screen protector for my phone, but there was like thirty different things to choose from. Which is way way way too many, so I gave up. I also wanted a new camera bag for travel. I wanted a bag that would not only fit my big camera, but also random camera and the video camera. There were heaps there (JB Hi-Fi only had like one to choose from), but I stopped when I came to Crumpler, cause the sweetie would be happy with me getting a Crumpler bag haha. It works great, although the section where I keep all my wallet bits is a bit more awkward to get at, and I miss the top handle.

Akihabara buildings
Akihabara buildings

Akihabara buildings
Akihabara buildings

Akihabara buildings
Akihabara buildings

Akihabara buildings
Akihabara buildings

Yodobashi-Akiba
Yodobashi-Akiba

Then we headed back to Ueno (another ride on the Yamanote line, 133 yen). I let Stu go back to the hotel, and went across to the Keisei line and booked tickets for the morning train to the airport. Then timed how long it takes to walk from the station to the hotel.

Back at the hotel I put on some washing in the coin laundry (200 yen to wash, 100 yen per half hour to dry). It was only two days worth of washing, plus both our jeans, but it does mean we won't have to worry about doing any washing in Southampton, we can just wait til we're on the ship.

My new camera bag next to my old camera bag
My new camera bag next to my old camera bag

I was getting kinda bored after a couple of hours in the hotel. I updated the holiday finances spreadsheet with expenses so far. Fought with Cathay Pacific's online check in system. I couldn't check in until I'd udpated all our passport etc details, but it won't let you edit it without "unlocking" it for "security reasons". It needed the e-ticket number, which I dutifully copy-pasted from the electronic copies we had. But it refused to accept it. As it turns out, you need to paste the number *without the space*. The number is "160 xxxxxxxxxx" but the form only accepts the first thirteen characters and truncates the rest, so I had no idea I was truncating the number. I also had to take out the space in the number. Utterly appalling system. #epicfail Cathay Pacific!!

That done, we headed out for dinner. Walked across the road and found a place that looked like it did karaage chicken of sorts, and the lady inside grabbed the door for us and invited us in, so in we went. As at lunch, this place had an electronic ordering tablet. This one worked a lot better than the one at lunch. We ordered some chicken wings and karaage chicken, and what we thought was "sweet potato and clams" that turned out to be capsicum and prawns (primarily prawns - we were hoping for more vegetation .. hrmm (our bowels aren't happy with our sudden change of diet that has a tonne of extra wheat and much less fruit and veg, hoping it will get better in the UK .. hrmm..)

Chicken wings at Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno
Chicken wings at Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno

Capsicum and prawns at Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno
Capsicum and prawns at Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno

Stu outside Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno
Stu outside Utano Shop Izakaya (鳥良商店), Ueno

Back to the hotel, downloaded all my photos, then washed my hair and we went to bed. Another night in bed by 8:30.

Slept okish. The bed is nice and hard which is great. Pillow is a bit big and hard for my liking and the doona is lovely and warm. Which would be great if the ambient temperature was in the low teens, but not so great when the temperature is in the twenties. There's a split system air conditioner which does pretty great in this tiny room, so had that on but probably not low enough for my tastes. So woke up on several occasions hot and uncomfortable in my neck, but least my lower spine is doing ok...

Got up pretty early, around 5am (7am home time) and did all my blogging, GPS downloading and photo downloading. I think at the moment the only solution to the iPhone bastardising all my date/timestamps is to take screenshots of the dates on the phone itself, so files can be retrofitted later. The photos are fine because I can use tools to edit their dates based on exif data, but png screenshots will have to be manually changed later.

While I was waiting for Stu to get ready I took his "random camera" outside to pick up a GPS signal and get the correct time (I'm pretty sure it died in New Zealand when I dropped it, and broke several of the buttons on the camera, including the menu button, which you kinda need to reset the time).

Then we headed down to "breakfast" which is a tiny room filled with people all jostling around, and a bar of a dozen or so different Japanese pastries. They have little toaster ovens so used those to heat up some savoury pastries.

Breakfast in the hotel
Breakfast in the hotel

Breakfast bar at the hotel
Breakfast bar at the hotel

We'd decided that we may as well do the Skytree first, because the forecast for the next day was rain. There was supposed to be clearing clouds in the afternoon, but by that time it would be getting dark, so thought we may as well get it out of the way first up. So I bought myself a Pasmo card (Stu already had a Suica card, but they weren't available at the machine we went to). And then we headed down to the Ginza line. Except we went to the wrong platform at Ueno and there didn't seem to be any way to go to the other side without going through the barriers again. So we thought we'd go to a station where the platforms are joined and then go back. The train was super crowded (it was like 8:30am) and stressful. Stu thought we could stay on the train "another five or six stops" and change to the line that we actually wanted, but I looked at the map and I couldn't see where they intersected and all the people were too much so we did end up getting off at a stop where the platforms let you go back. (I just looked at another map now and it does look like it would have been ok with just one more stop then we actually went, but I wasn't dealing well with the crowds). So that was ok, but like ten or fifteen minutes wasted. Train from Ueno to Asakusa: 165 yen. At Asakusa we changed to the Asakusa line and took it to the Skytree station (Oshiage, 104 yen).

Once in the Skytree Town, I wanted to go outside and actually see the top of the Skytree to make sure its head wasn't in the clouds. Otherwise it'd kinda be a waste of money to go up. So we did that and it was fine.

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo Skytree
Tokyo Skytree

Inside, we walked around and up and eventually found the tickets for the first level (we decided not to bother with the international "express" ticket which is 1000 yen more, because there was really noone around - no queues at all). So that was all pretty quick.

You come out on the "350" floor, which is 350 metres above ground. The views are pretty amazing. But you can't do a full 360 panorama from there because every so often there's "photo spots" or info boards or cafes or advertising on the windows. So I took a few photos but thought we'd fare better at the top level.

Tokyo from the Tokyo Skytree at the 350m level
Tokyo from the Tokyo Skytree at the 350m level

View to Shinjuku from Tokyo Skytree 350m level
View to Shinjuku from Tokyo Skytree 350m level

Asakusa from the Tokyo Skytree at the 350m level
Asakusa from the Tokyo Skytree at the 350m level

Asahi beer tower from 350m level<br>Photo by Stu
Asahi beer tower from 350m level
Photo by Stu

Crap in front of the windows making it impossible to do proper panoramas on the 350m level
Crap in front of the windows making it impossible to do proper panoramas on the 350m level

So we paid another 1030 yen each to go to top, at 450 metres. Where was completely disappointed and felt very ripped off. The windows at the top are tiny, completely useless for trying to do a panorama. And you go up in this spiral, not even a complete circle. Didn't stay up there for very long because it was kinda pointless.

Taking the lift up to the 450m level
Taking the lift up to the 450m level

Terrible observation deck at the 450m level
Terrible observation deck at the 450m level

Terrible view for taking panoramic photos at the 450m level
Terrible view for taking panoramic photos at the 450m level

View north west from Skytree 450m level
View north west from Skytree 450m level

So we headed back down to the 345 metre level where the top lift takes you back to. But even on that level there's no way to get a full 360 panorama. Or in fact the 340 metre level below that. So this tower has THREE levels at 350 metres, and one and a half at 450 metres and yet not one of them will let you get a clear view all the way around. Such a waste of a perfectly good tower. Very disappointed.

Looking down to the ground from the 350m level
Looking down to the ground from the 350m level

After we came back down we hunted and hunted for a way back down to where we'd come in, as I wanted to look at the Skytree shop on the ground floor. But, like shopping centres the world over, they make that pretty much impossible. We ended up going down outside. Found the shop, but nothing all that appealing, ended up getting a little tower "phone bling". Then we tried to get out of there, which involved more hunting around for ways to get to the other station we wanted to go to. So painful. As we were walking down we happened past a McDonald's. I didn't really want to have McDonald's (we're in Japan!!) but they did have a couple of interesting looking burgers. They had this deep fried prawn croquette would probably be the best way to describe it. One of them had a sweet soy sauce on top and the other had "cheese fondue". We couldn't resist, so that made for a pretty awesome morning tea. I might have burnt my mouth trying to eat it haha.

Weird santa and reindeer at Christmas Market at Tokyo Skytree
Weird santa and reindeer at Christmas Market at Tokyo Skytree

Prawn croquette burger at McDonalds - it was so good!!
Prawn croquette burger at McDonalds - it was so good!!

Found the station on the Keisei Oshiage line and took the above ground train back to Asakusa. We actually ended up on a limited express for the one station, which we probably shouldn't have with just our metro tickets. Oopsie.

At Asakusa we had a wander around the Sensoji Temple area, much like we did in 2009, but in reverse.

Stu at Asakusa
Stu at Asakusa

Hozomon gate at Sensoji temple
Hozomon gate at Sensoji temple

Sensoji temple at Asakusa
Sensoji temple at Asakusa

Inside Senso-ji temple
Inside Senso-ji temple

Koi at Asakusa
Koi at Asakusa

Waterfall at Asakusa
Waterfall at Asakusa

Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa<br>Photo by Stu
Tokyo Skytree from Asakusa
Photo by Stu

Five storey pagoda at Asakusa
Five storey pagoda at Asakusa

Asakusa
Asakusa

Asakusa
Asakusa

After leaving there Stu decided we needed a toilet, but of course out of the tourist area there's not much around. We'd nominally been heading towards Ueno park, but decided to head to the *other* Asakusa station. Sadly the toilets there were behind the barriers. So went upstairs and found a Rox shopping mall, so that was fine. Outside we found somewhere to have lunch. Stu had dumplings and I had a very nice pork and cabbage stir fry.

Pork and cabbage stir fry at Tiger Gyoza Hall
Pork and cabbage stir fry at Tiger Gyoza Hall

Then we went and sat down and discussed our plan of attack for the afternoon. We decided to take the train a little closer to Ueno park and wander around. So we left for the station. I had my camera bag over my shoulder as I always do, but it was only when we got back to the station that I realised I'd left my backpack behind!!!! OMFG panic. So raced back to where we'd sat down and FORTUNATELY it was still there!!! These old Japanese guys had a good laugh at me heh. Could have gone so badly. The only thing of any real value in the bag was the video camera. I had two credit cards in there which would have been a bit annoying to lose, but they aren't my primary ones for this trip so not so bad. And just a few other bits and pieces. But the devastating thing to lose would have been Cutie - I've had her since I made her in 1983 and she's been all over the world with me.

Yeup.

So train from Asakusa to Shin-Okachimachi (165 yen), then walked to Ueno park. Had a bit of a wander around some of the parts of the park that we hadn't seen before. It was after 3pm by this point and Stu was cold and our feet hurt. Oh, I had my jumper on this morning, but took it off at the Skytree because it was too hot for me, and left it off all day. Maybe I'm dying. Hrmmm.

Ueno Station
Ueno Station

Sculpture opposite Ueno Station
Sculpture opposite Ueno Station

Looking south over Ueno Station
Looking south over Ueno Station

Time Forgotten Tower, Ueno Park
Time Forgotten Tower, Ueno Park

No Drone sign in Ueno Park<br>Photo by Stu
No Drone sign in Ueno Park
Photo by Stu

Ueno Park
Ueno Park

Waterfall in Ueno Park
Waterfall in Ueno Park

Crow and Stu in Ueno Park
Crow and Stu in Ueno Park

Shinobazu lotus flower pond in Ueno Park
Shinobazu lotus flower pond in Ueno Park

Artist painting Shinobazu pond in Ueno Park
Artist painting Shinobazu pond in Ueno Park

Boat pond in Ueno Park
Boat pond in Ueno Park

Swan boats in Ueno Park
Swan boats in Ueno Park

Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple
Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple

Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple
Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple

Cherry blossom outside Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple
Cherry blossom outside Shinobazunoike Bentendo Temple

Last time we walked here in 2009 it was all street food stalls
Last time we walked here in 2009 it was all street food stalls

So we headed back through Ueno to the hotel. I went to charge the GPS battery but couldn't find the USB charger brick we have that has four USB ports and four different international sockets. I was pretty sure I'd left it on top of the bed head, but thought *maybe* I'd put it away in the electronics bag I have. We looked all around the bed and I tore all my luggage completely apart. No sign of it. At this point we were thinking it might have gotten caught up in the sheets when they were changing them and taken off to the laundry. Or stolen. Either seemed somewhat unlikely. Then Stu was poking around where the plastic cover of the light is, and found the brick (and the proprietery cable for random camera) had gotten down *into* the light fitting. I really don't know how that would be possible without any sort of human intervention. So that left me pretty stressed.

Charging station at the hotel.  The top of the light fitting slides aside, and that's where we found the charger hidden (the cover had been slid closed).
Charging station at the hotel. The top of the light fitting slides aside, and that's where we found the charger hidden (the cover had been slid closed).

We chilled out for an hour or two. When it got dark we headed back to the park to see a couple of trees covered in Christmas lights that were very pretty.

Crossing Chuo Dori to Ueno Park
Crossing Chuo Dori to Ueno Park

Frog Fountain in Ueno Park
Frog Fountain in Ueno Park

Tree in Ueno Park lit up with Christmas lights<br>Photo by Stu
Tree in Ueno Park lit up with Christmas lights
Photo by Stu

Trees in Ueno Park lit up with Christmas lights
Trees in Ueno Park lit up with Christmas lights

Then we wandered around the large block of laneways south of the station which was a bit of fun looking at all the shops. Stu had a hankering for karaage chicken, but we didn't see anywhere doing that (although that's always difficult when nothing is in english heh). In the end stopped at a yakatori place and had some *very* nice skewers. We had ten small skewers all up, and five beers between us. And they charged us 6588 yen.

!!!

This didn't sound right as we were paying the bill, but we're both allergic to confrontation so didn't question it. But we should have. The skewers were 100 yen each, so that's 1000 yen. The beers I'm pretty sure were 390 yen each, so that's 1950 yen. And we got hit with a gaijin cover charge of 300 yen each (this charge wasn't on the Japanese menu). All up the bill should have been 3550 yen. Ok so maybe tax on top. No more than 4000 yen anyways. So where the f$%& did they come up with 6588?? I was so furious. I don't know if it was carelessness, laziness, irresponsibility or just plain malice. But who the f*&% does that people??  Do NOT eat at 鳥どり酒場 !!  They will rip you off!!!

Delicious yakatori we had, but do not eat at this restaurant!!
Delicious yakatori we had, but do not eat at this restaurant!!

The whole experience with dinner, and in fact the disappointments of the day (did I mention I got sunburnt???) left me feeling pretty bitter about the place. We still have a whole day to get through before we can leave for England.

We were in bed by 8pm.

So we planned a 4:30 wakeup. I woke up at 3:50. Managed to doze for twenty minutes but really woke up at 4:10. Got up, go ready, fed George, and taxi at 5:15.

Had to wait five minutes for the Qantas Club to open at 5:50, then had some breakfast (just toast and fruit/yoghurt).

Stu eating breakfast at the Qantas Club in Canberra
Stu eating breakfast at the Qantas Club in Canberra

Now sadly when I checked in on Saturday, they gave us both aisle seats on the Dash-8, and I couldn't change them either online or at the airport. The flight was super full. So that was a bit sad times. So I took my aisle seat but the person in the window seat hadn't arrived. When she did I was like.. if you don't want the window seat I'll happily take it, and she said that was fine and I'm like.. squeee. So I got a window seat from Canberra to Sydney! Pretty much stared out it the whole trip. Got a muffin as a snack. Approached Sydney from the south west, then when we over the airport did a 270 degree turn to the right and came in on 34R.

Our plane to Sydney - Qantas Dash-8 VH-LQJ
Our plane to Sydney - Qantas Dash-8 VH-LQJ

Looking towards Civic and Canberra after takeoff
Looking towards Civic and Canberra after takeoff

Looking towards Lake Burragorang while approaching Sydney
Looking towards Lake Burragorang while approaching Sydney

Southern Sydney
Southern Sydney

Sydney from above the airport
Sydney from above the airport

Malabar Headland and Eastern Suburbs
Malabar Headland and Eastern Suburbs

Touchdown at Sydney Airport
Touchdown at Sydney Airport

Took the Qantas transfer bus over to the international terminal. Immigration and security reasonably quick, although did have to go through the porno scanner (this one doesn't show any actual detail so that was fine). Gate 25 was packed with people when we got there, so headed back into the main bit of the terminal and Stu got a coffee and some drinks and a snack and we sat and ate/drank those while watching all the A380s (I got a photo with four different airlines at one point!).

Four A380s!  Qantas A380, Singapore Airlines A380, Emirates A380 and Korean Air A380
Four A380s! Qantas A380, Singapore Airlines A380, Emirates A380 and Korean Air A380

Our plane for Sydney to Tokyo was a 787 Dreamliner. When I'd first booked I was annoyed that we got stuck with an over-wing seat and couldn't change it. Turns out we'd somehow ended up with premium economy. I don't think I've ever flown in premium economy before. Ok so the extra leg room was nice, but we had a bulkhead seat, so I couldn't have my bags with me for takeoff and landing, and the "seat" pocket was so far away I couldn't actually reach it with my seatbelt on. I did find that I could stuff things either side of my legs next to me on my seat so that worked out ok. The other problem with the bulkhead seat was not having a screen you can have going the whole time. This was a massive problem because I couldn't get a GPS signal. The 787 has electronic window shades. You can set how much light comes through them electronically. I reckon this is the likely reason I couldn't get a signal, even with it right in the middle of the window with no other metal around. So that was all super annoying and it would have been nice to keep an eye on where were when we were actually close to the ground. Not that it really mattered all that much on account of THERE WAS A WING IN THE WAY. Le sigh.

Our plane to Japan - Japan Airlines Airbus 787 JA868J
Our plane to Japan - Japan Airlines Airbus 787 JA868J

Our premium economy space on the 787
Our premium economy space on the 787

My seat space on the 787
My seat space on the 787

Sadly our view was of the wing
Sadly our view was of the wing

Did I mention it was HOT in the cabin? Urgh, quite uncomfortable. I think I should take a thermometer with me when I travel to quantify the temperature in various places we go to.

Taking off from Sydney Airport
Taking off from Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport domestic terminals
Sydney Airport domestic terminals

Sydney CBD
Sydney CBD

Sydney Harbour
Sydney Harbour

The 787 has electronic window shades
The 787 has electronic window shades

Electronic window shade controls
Electronic window shade controls

View out the window with the electronic shades partly darkened
View out the window with the electronic shades partly darkened

Premium Economy cabin area of the 787
Premium Economy cabin area of the 787

JAL also have Sony noise cancelling headphones. These did make somewhat of a difference, but nothing like Stu's Bose headphones. I watched Crazy Rich Asians first. I was worried it would just be stereotypes, and I suppose it was a bit. But it did seem pretty unrealistic, and I highly doubt the mother would have come round at the end with one little speech. I did enjoy it though, and all the Singapore been-there's were pretty cool (if a little distracting heh). Next I watched Mission Impossible: Fallout. They did a good job of making Tom Cruise look younger heh. Again, lots of been-theres. Pretty silly but a bit of fun. And then got more Rebecca Ferguson in The Greatest Showman. This was ok, I wonder how much if any was based on reality. Then had a little time to kill so watched the beginning of Frozen.

Noise cancelling headphones provided by JAL
Noise cancelling headphones provided by JAL

For "lunch" (at 10:30) I had a chicken dish, with a lot of little extra side dishes. "Dinner" (at 16:30) was fettucini bolognase.

Lunch on the plane.  I had roasted chicken with honey mustard sauce, with salmon salad, Japanese soba noodles, fresh fruits, cheese and crackers and ice cream
Lunch on the plane. I had roasted chicken with honey mustard sauce, with salmon salad, Japanese soba noodles, fresh fruits, cheese and crackers and ice cream

Dinner on the plane - pasta with chicken bolognase, fresh fruits, chocolate cherry cake
Dinner on the plane - pasta with chicken bolognase, fresh fruits, chocolate cherry cake

Landed in Narita from the south east. Went through immigration and customs. Then took Wello's advice and took the Keisei Skyliner direct to Ueno (only forty minutes and didn't have change trains). Figured out our way through Ueno station (the Skyliner arrives on the far western side and our hotel is on the eastern side).

Keisei Skyliner approaching station at Narita
Keisei Skyliner approaching station at Narita

The hotel is fairly close to the station, when you know how to get out (exit 3!). Checked in and dumped our stuff, then I went out on a 7-Eleven run to pick up beer (that went down *very* well), and sandwiches and snackages. Then we collapsed.

Our bed at the hotel in Japan
Our bed at the hotel in Japan

Stu in our hotel room in Japan
Stu in our hotel room in Japan

Snackages we had for dinner and breakfast at the hotel in Japan
Snackages we had for dinner and breakfast at the hotel in Japan

Four Weeks To Go!

I've been having a play with using themes in Movable Type to cut down on the time it takes to setup a holiday blog.  Although I suspect it won't really save any more time over cloning an existing blog, because I'm still going to have to go and change all the descriptors.

Four weeks to go and we still have a *lot* to do!