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.

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.

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.

By this time it was late morning, so we headed back to the hotel so the sweetie could try on his shirt. He 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.

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.

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.

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 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).

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)

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 piece 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ....

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 :(

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.

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.

Landing was about 17:35 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 :(

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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).

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.

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.

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..)

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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 (鳥どり酒場) 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!!!

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).

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.

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!).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Landed in Narita from the 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).

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.

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!