A Kick Out of Neopets**

tumblr_l2b6yffbZU1qzhmovo1_400Ridley: The other day, my brother wandered into the kitchen and found me staring into space and sighing. After he’d made a sandwich for himself and had half eaten it, he asked me what was wrong. I told him about the email I’d gotten from the neopets people (see ** below for neopet explanation), saying because my account had been inactive for over 10 years…38771484

I’d forgotten my password, a long time ago, and every few years I tried to remember it, and because when I signed up, we were much younger and the internet was still ‘new’ (yes, I am of the generation where I remember there was once no internet) my mother was beyond paranoid and insisted that we didn’t give out our ‘real’ information, so I gave a fake date of birth. And to retrieve your forgotten password, what do you think they asked for? And do you think I could remember the date I’d given?

My three little animals, I was locked out from them. (I had wolf type creatures (of course I did), called lupe.) 

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My poor pets, they’ve been digitally put down. I bet they never gave up on me though, they were probably scratching at their non-existent door and whining to be fed. Mammy’s sorry!!

I even had a shop, you know, where I sold things, lots of things. One thing in particular was a fairy in a jar (worth so so many neopoints).

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It’s probably long dead by now, it went insane first I’d say, as I had ‘Take on Me’ by A1 paying on continuous loop in the shop.

I can just imagine the poor trapped magical creature beating against the glass, probably thinking I was torturing it in a cruel and unusual way.

And then there were the expensive spell books I’d managed to save up and buy just before I got locked out. I just can’t help imagining how much they’d have appreciated and what they’d be worth now if I could just get back on. Never mind the other rare items I had for sale (and the food).guide1_1

Or how much interest I’d have made on my neopoints. I’d have also been some sort of platinum, ice gold membership or something.

So all I want to say, though I have absolutely nothing to show for it now, I was there at the beginning!!

 

**(For those of you who don’t know anything about neopets, it is a site where you can own virtual pets (a bit like an online tamagotchi) where you can play, pet, and feed your animals. You earned neopoints, which was their currency and you could use them when you went shopping.Neopian_Bazaar_1st

I used to love exploring the little village (I just popped on their site, they’ve expanded, it’s now a world, a whole earth-like world called The World of Neopia, in my day it was just a few little mushroom like shops). You could also take part in games and interact with other users and their pets.)

P.S. I did a quick search on google, and found this (this sooo could have been me! How I laughed, and look at the name of the membership!! Haha.)

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Time for Tea

A man after my own heart 🙂

Latimer: If there is one thing in life that is the universal response to, well, everything – a piece of good news, bad news or a general break – it has to be tea. A good cup of tea (which must be roughly one out of three cups – I think!), a fine cup of tea, a tasty cup of tea – it must be what dreams taste like.

Dreams, they taste of good tea! At least, our dreams must (I speak for Ridley, hehe, she is like, “Err no, I’ll have you know my dreams taste of chicken! I’ve checked; took a bite out of the last one – chicken!”).

Either way, we adore tea, I mean we really do. It lately seems like we have been visiting tea houses all over the world (well, here and there, now and then!).

For example… Tea in Galway, in the lovely quaint and beautiful Cupán Tae (cup of tea in Irish!)…

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And fancy tea in the Ginza district of Tokyo… (we couldn’t stop going on about how expense tea was in Tokyo – seriously to this day we still talk about it! But well, it was sooo nice here though!)

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So, really how could we go to Oxford, England in general, and not have a cupan tae? Sure we couldn’t; it was top of the list, high-tea (it was something we dreamed of doing when Legend Unleashed was published – to toast it, we dreamed of high-tea in Oxford!)! We researched this a bit, and decided that The Old Parsonage seemed like the high-tea spot of Oxford.

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As the name suggests it is an old parsonage from the 1660s and it’s like walking into a mini-cottage in a forest with twisted, gnarled alien trees with branches that claw at the building.

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It’s fairy-tale like; quaint, English, very lovely. The fire burning in the hearth warmed our chilly bones; for whatever reason Ireland and the UK had been experiencing very cold weather and it was raining and snowing in Oxford.

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It was perfect weather for a hot cup of tea and some cucumber sambos (sandwiches) (that was a first and they are very tasty!) and scones, with clotted cream (which I never really knew what that was, but it’s got the consistency of butter, but it’s yummy!) and strawberry jam. It was lovely; I had the old parsonage blend of tea and Ridley had old English breakfast tea.

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Later that evening we made our way to the famous Eagle and Child pub; this was where the Inklings (a literately discussion group J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis were part of) used to have their Tuesday meetings.

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As we sat and tucked into our fish, chips and mushy pea (and more tea!), supper…

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…we wondered if there were untold stories, or remnants of half-dreamed characters, hidden in the walls, or in conversations waiting to be had… and as we munched away, we dreamed our own Carwick dreams!

Then we toddled off back to our quarters, wandering the dark cloisters of Hogwarts… no wait, Wonderland… ha, Christ Church College 🙂

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Let me in!! Latimer screams…
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Fine, don’t *sniffle, sobble*..

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Find more of our Oxford Tales here 🙂

– Through an Oxford Shaped Looking Glass (Alice’s Christ Church :))

 Forging Magic (Harry Potter-style!)

Too busy for tea? Never!

Rain pounded against the patio window, streaking down the glass to pool on the mossy flagstones outside. Latimer made a face out at it.

With a sigh, she swung away to wander around the kitchen, idly flicking open the cookery books and poking at the potted plant in the sink. She paused when there was a series of loud bangs above her head and someone thundered down the stairs.

“Ridley?” She peered out through the white door into the hall. “You’re being a terrible hostess, you know! I had to make my own tea! Any biscuits?”

There was silence.

Latimer hopped out into hall and down to the living room; steam rose up from her cup obscuring her view. When it cleared, she raised an eyebrow at the mess strewn across the floor. She perched on the edge of an armchair and watched Ridley rush around. The other girl was packing a massive bindle with endless pieces of clothing, creased maps, sunglasses, teabags and thick guide books.

She shrugged into a Burberry-style coat, straightening it over her shoulders and making sure the stiff collar was flicked down. Pinning her M. Latimer-Ridley badge to her chest, she patted it and smiled over.

Latimer sipped her tea. “What’cha doing?”

Ridley slipped on a pair of purple ear muffs. She narrowed her eyes on her friend, her lips thinning.

“You’re not ready…why aren’t you ready?” She started flapping her arms. “We have to leave in the next few hours, there’s no time for tea breaks!”

Latimer scoffed. “There’s always time for tea, ole Bean.”

Glaring, the blonde girl tried to fold her arms, but the ballooning sleeves were too thick, instead she just held them in the air and started to tap her foot. Her fancy heeled boots made loud thumps against the wooden floor as little flecks of dirt dropped off them.

“So,” Latimer took another slow sip of her tea. “Where are we going again?”

Ridley’s mouth dropped open. Her ear muffs slipped down onto her forehead, obscuring her view. Momentarily blinded, she flailed in a panic, then shoved them back up.

“What do you mean where are we going?” She spluttered. “On the internet hike!”

“Oh yeah…that…”

That…” Ridley muttered. She pointed at the table where a large poncho style jacket was folded. “I bought you a coat! I hear when the nights roll in, the internet can get quite cold! Something to do with iCloud cover.”

Latimer crossed her legs and sat back. “You do know it’s only the 25th of November? The first of December isn’t for another week, really. We have plenty of time.”

“Oh…” Ridley slumped down into a chair. Her coat puffed up with the movement, she flattened it down with her hands and leaned forward to glare at her mobile on the coffee table. “Stupid phone, with the wrong date. It’s been reprogrammed, how could this have happened!”

“How indeed…” Latimer hid her grin behind her tea cup.

Ridley shot her a suspicious look, she unzipped her coat and shed the extra layering. It fell like a shell to the floor.

“So…the blog tour isn’t for another few days then…” She pulled off her ear muffs, twisting them around in her hands with a sigh.

“Nope, but when it does happen it should be fun!”

“True…” Ridley pouted, she was quiet for a minute. “Did you make me tea?”

“Yeah,” Latimer said, standing up. “Come along, Ridders, you can show me where you’ve hidden the hobnobs.”

Go West

Latimer goes West…

Latimer: It’s been a very long time since I ventured to the West of Ireland. I put up my hands here and admit it’s been at least ten years.

I don’t ‘Go West’ often, clearly.

Another admission here is that I don’t think I’ve ever been to Galway (I don’t think even Ridley realises this and it’ll probably come as a shock to her, because she goes to Galway pretty often and has lots of childhood memories of the place I’m sure).

I don’t want you thinking though that I haven’t travelled around Ireland much- the Irish childhood, if you were a child in the late eighties and early nineties (and before this), generally involved great family holidays travelling around Ireland because no one had money to be going abroad.

I have all these vague memories of being in odd places in Ireland; places that have become almost like dreamscapes, because back then I never knew where I was anyway. As a child the places you visit are just backdrops that weave and change without you paying real attention to where or what they are.

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I remember being in old manor houses, and stone castles, and forests with waterfalls; and I have this vivid memory of a green valley; standing overlooking massive lakes.

Sometimes it really annoys me, because these are places I would like to visit again.

There’s a massive cave in Ireland; the best way I can think to describe it, is that it appears as if the earth has caved in; you can stand around the edges and look down (WAY down) and this cave opens up beneath you. There are steps than lead down (I remember the walk was a steep decline). And, my memories tell me, that people used to hide down there during Viking raids. The roof of the cave is black from the fires people used to light down there to cook their food when they were hiding. I also have this other memory of someone saying Vikings used to throw people off the edge.

 I would love to go back to this cave, but I can’t remember where it is 😦

Back to the present, I had a ‘fly-by’ visit to Galway this weekend.

Very fly-by; two days, one of which was work related so, really I only had one day to get out and see the small city.

The thing I noticed when I was there was that it was very Irish. I imagine that the image people have of Ireland- the closest thing to it, will be found in the West. There’s this real Irish vibe to the place; which left me feeling weird. I felt like a visitor. I walked the cobbled streets thinking; I don’t know Ireland. It did remind me of when I was young and on holidays. It had been a long while since I had seen the old Ireland. Aran sweaters; the Atlantic… it had been a long time since I stood anywhere looking out at the Atlantic ocean.

I heard people speaking Irish; people just walking along… it’s a sad fact that this doesn’t happen much. I had to turn and think, ‘cad é an scéal!?’ (what’s the story!?). I saw signs in shops written in Irish; I saw the word milseáin written on a sweetshop… It means sweets, but it has been so long since I had said or seen this word. 

Galway is known for having more than the average number of Irish speakers. If you were looking for an authentic, old world Ireland, that’d be the place to go.

The taxi drivers are very chatty too; one I had was telling me all about how he had spent 30-odd days last year doing the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain.

Map of the Camino de Santiago trail

He was so happy he had done it; and he said he had spent his days walking with people he didn’t know, even a French woman who didn’t speak English (‘and me not a word of French!’ he laughed). Still, he said they managed to have a great chat. This is the stamp of a friendly Irish person; they somehow just weave and dive around with random people. He seemed really nice; he spent the drive telling me, ‘you should do it, you should’ so much so, by the end of it, I was thinking’ yes! Yes I will!’ Even though, the Camino is not something I have ever considered!

I have mentioned, our friend Orbie before; Orbie told me two places I had to go in Galway- the breakfast place Ard Bia and the tea shop (whose name she had forgotten. It’s Cupán Tae; when I told her she texted me and said ‘how did I forget that!’…. the term means ‘cup of tea’ in Irish, it’s pretty common! Sometimes Irish people will say, ‘do you want a cupán tae?’).

So I had a mission; Ard Bia for breakfast, Cupán Tae for tea. Huzzah.

Ard Bia is located under the Spanish Arch. I’d heard a lot about this Spanish Arch. The image conjured up a massive arch… actually it’s really a tiny innocuous arch.

However, it was built in the 1500s and has links to the Spanish invaders, so actually pretty historic.

Ard Bia is a tiny stone building by the sea.

It’s a bit like the TARDIS (bigger on the inside :)). But it’s sort of hanging off this stone walk-way. I was staring at if from the outside thinking… that building looks like it’s going to erode into the sea! Well, not for a while, I was alright!

It’s a very sweet and pretty place. You open the door and it smells like freshly baked warm cakes; like a country kitchen (I assume a country kitchen might smell like cakes!). 

The view from my lovely window-box seat was very special.

I had express instructions to get the veggie breakie (Orbie’s favourite).

It was scrummy and very affordable! Got to recommend this place- if you are ever in Galway!

Then, I slipped across the road to Cupán Tae.

It reminded me of Japan. That sounds strange I know; it was packed with floral stuff- cups, tea pots, napkins and tablecloths. The word that jumps to mind is ‘kawaii’.

I got the ‘bad weather tea’ (haha, it rains in Galway a lot, apparently, if not the locals really go on about it- ah the Irish and talking about the weather, we love it) and a slice of biscuit cake… oh heaven on both counts!

And I don’t often like ‘different’ teas! But I figured it was a proper tea place so I should get something different. It was sort of fruity. Very nice anyway, really was.

It cost me 6euro… that in comparsion to our Tokyo tea adventure- 20euro each! I won’t lie, I really enjoyed that tea place in Ginza…

but Tokyo-high-flyers, you got to visit Cupán Tae… put that price in perspective!

After tea, I took a wander around the city (very easy as it’s quite small and nice). Found some interesting places (Druid Lane).

And The Hall of the Red Earl… the remains of an Earls house from the 1200s (lots of history).

There’s a pub called the King’s Head… it’s 800yrs old and used to belong to the Mayor of Galway- it was seized from him by Col. Peter Stubbers following Galway’s surrender to Cromwell; Stubber was believed to have been responsible for beheading King Charles I in 1649 (ergo the King’s Head pub I guess!).

Then there’s the Saturday market- lots of handmade fudge and fresh food- looked yummy (I really love food!)

I also passed a statue of Oscar Wilde (I think I have a thing about statues now…) he was sitting beside Eduard Vilde, as I walked away a child passed with her parents. In a loud, ‘trying to sound adult’ voice she exclaimed, pointing at Wilde; “WHAT on earth is that!”

Poor Oscar!

A nice weekend trip; I should make more of an effort to go West, more often!

Myself and Ridley will be off to the Bram Stoker festival in Dublin next weekend 🙂 Hope to have a lot to say about it!

Broken Laptop & Delirium

Ridley: Apologies for the radio silence recently, we’ve been a little absent from the blogging and twittering world. Mainly because I’m down with a cold (What’s new! I’ve the immune system of a dead person!) and Latimer is currently banned from the internet. Well…her laptop is broken. Yes, I heard the collective wince. I winced even as I typed that. I will readily admit I’m an internet addict (and a chocolate and caffeine one, we all have our vices!) so that would be hell on earth for me (and it is for her too!). You really don’t realise how often you turn on your computer until you no longer have it!

Now, you’ll have to picture her pulling out her hair and pacing furiously, while simultaneously pleading and threatening her silent blank screen. I’m just hoping the IT peoples she brought it to can recover the information on it! I’d say she’d have had to hold back the urge to not punch the IT man as he dithered over whether he could fix it. I imagine it could have gone like this, (but for the fact that she’s a nice, polite self-restrained individual):

Latimer slams in through the glass door of the shop. It’s still fairly empty, having just opened a minute and a half ago. Her feet make a scratching sound as she scurries across their grey carpet, zipping in between the aisles of empty boxes advertising anti-viral software and straight to customer service. When she reaches the white counter, a man in a yellow t-shirt has his back to her. She swings her laptop bag around and slides onto the counter top.

“Help me…please.” She whispers. “It’s broken.”

The man jumps and twists round, dropping his pen. He blinks at her sudden appearance. “Wel-welcome to the IT help desk.” He stumbles and then swoops down under the desk to pick up his biro. “How can I help you?”

Latimer frowns at him and points at the black square bag. “It’s broken. I don’t know what happened. It won’t turn on.”

“Of course, well then you’ve come to the right place. Let me take a look.” He slides the laptop out and peers at the underside of it.

“So it won’t turn on…now, you did plug it in, right?” He asks.

Latimer’s hands drop down to her sides, her fingers twitch. She narrows her eyes. “Yes.”

He nods and opens it up. “Intel pentium core processor…good…”

“Hmm hmm…” Latimer’s fingers begin to drum against her thigh.

He examines it, there’s silence for a little while. Latimer bounces on the balls of her feet.

“So…” She bites her lip. “Does it look bad, can you fix it?”

He starts mumbling to himself. ‘Well…I suppose, I could try to…but then I don’t know if that would work. Hmm…’ He scratches his head with his blue pen. Latimer’s hands curl into fists. ‘I wonder if I…’

He turns the laptop round. He jams his pen behind his ear and jabs at a few keys, frowning down in intense concentration.  Latimer leans in nodding, her eyes widen. “Yes?”

After a few moments, he draws back with a shake of his head. “No, the power button isn’t the answer anyway…”

*SMACK* Latimer throws down her laptop case.

“I’ll kill you!” She leaps over the counter and shakes the man by his collar. “Fix it! Fix it, god damnit!”

“No Latimer! It’s not worth it!”  (Some random person who happens to know her shouts-as I’m not there, but if I was, ’tis what I would say! haha.)

People haul her off of him. He’s unscathed, but the same can’t be said for her. The police are called. It all ends up with her rocking in the corner of a damp mouldy cell, giggling and muttering to herself. “Fix it…fix…fix…fix….I’ll fix it…”

Her one phone call is made to Ridley-not a good idea this time (is it ever a good idea? haha).

Ridley is at home, her flowery covers have been tugged up to her chin. She’s shivering and sweating in bed. There are empty tubes of Tyrozet throat lozenges littering the floor in amongst scrunched up tissue paper and tatty brown cardboard toilet rolls.

She’s randomly hollering out words in her delirium.

“Nurofen!”

“Batman!”

Ridley often gets up and wanders to the kitchen like a grumpy Lurch, peering in the cupboard for things to make her feel better and making endless cups of tea.

When she returns to her room, she peers around.

“Who put these little flashing lights in my room, they won’t turn off!”

Then she realises they’re in her eyes.

A distinct overpowering whiff of TCP wafts from her to join the smell of cooking chicken that’s drifting up from downstairs. Her mother is in the kitchen, she’s like a witch over a cauldron with a big wooden spoon. Churning and churning a bubbling broth in a large saucepan. She’s making Chicken Penicillin and she’s tossing in vegetables, spices, whole chicken carcasses and chanting about, “Bone marrow and antibodies!”

Ridley gladly accepts anything to relieve the misery. She really doesn’t remember when she swallowed the barbed wire that is now stuck in her throat.

As she feasts on her soup, and having taken more drowsy medication, her mobile beside her rings.

“Hello?” She whispers in a hoarse voice.

“Ridley! Help me, my laptop is broken! And I’m in jail!”

Ridley pulls back and peers at the number on the screen. She puts the phone back to her ear. “Who is this?”

“What do you mean, who is this? It’s Latimer! You need to get me out of here, I need to fix my computer!”

Ridley yawns, her tablets begin to kick in. “I don’t understand…my brain it’s not…Lat I can’t help right now, ‘m sorry…ring back later.”

“What!? No, wait…”

Ridley hangs up and immediately nods off.

When she wakes up. She begins to remember the dream, which involved chicken soup and a phone call. She shuffles downstairs, trying to recall its ending. There’s a reporter in the kitchen. There are also two scientists in white coats, huddling over the grubby silver saucepan and poking at a raw onion. 

“I’ve just won a prize!” Her mother beams. “I found the cure to the common cold!”

“Your mother’s made a massive break through.” The man at the kitchen table says with his head bent over his notepad.

“Has she.” Ridley nods to her mother. “Well done. Always said your soup was some good stuff.”

“Your phone keeps ringing, I just took it out of your room, as you were fast asleep and I didn’t want it to wake you.” Her mother hands her back her mobile.

“I’m sure it probably wasn’t important.” Ridley shrugs and scrolls down through the missed calls, the log shows numbers that get longer and more foreign with each hour. There are numerous text messages too.

Ridley, I’m now in Panama. It’s quite hot here.

2 hours later:The Spanish is confusing me, amigo.

7 hours later:Could you send me sun cream?

7 hours and 2 minutes: “Rid, how do you cure burns?

8 hours later:Slowly rising up the ranks, turns out one of the main mob bosses likes Lord of the Rings too. Lots in common.

10 hours later:Am now his right hand man…woman. Thinking of getting a tattoo. Ideas?

12 hours later:It’s a bit loco here at the moment, we’ve decided to stage a break out. I told them all about that one episode of ‘Prison Break’, I watched. It seemed to give them all ideas.

15 hours later:Success! On the way home, can you pick me up from the airport? I’ll show you my new tattoo! Arriving at 5.”

Ridley sighs and glances at the clock, it’s 4.30. Lights from a camera flash blind her. The reporter has started taking pictures of her mother holding up a soup bowl and a spoon.

“I’m going to go change. Gotta pick up Latimer.” Ridley turns to go climb back up the stairs and texts: “Fine. Going to be a little late though.

She gets an immediate reply.

No problem. BTW I’ve brought friends. See you in a bit 🙂

“Have fun!” Her mother calls.

“Depends on your definition.” Ridley mutters.

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And that, my friends, is how it all went down, in my head. Haha. Who knows what happens when I got to that airport. I was probably insanely jealous of Latimer’s great tan and cool tattoo (or horrific sun burn and hodge-podge black smudge?) Either way, fun times!

Need more sleep I think! 🙂

Thanks to freedigitalphotos.com for my pictures (except the TCP one,that’s all mine)

Food, glorious Food!

When lunchtime rolls around in Ireland, Latimer and Ridley find themselves getting hungry, but roast dinners and stews aren’t what occupy their thoughts; no, they’re reminded of their culinary adventures in Tokyo!

Latimer: whenever I get hungry, I think back on food I had in the past. And for me, it can be the very distant past.

For example, my sister went to college in London when I was 6yrs old; when she moved there, myself and my mother went with her, to help her settle into her dorm for a few days. One night we were very hungry so we decided to get chips. I can remember it vividly, how dark and cold it was (my sister tells me now that it wasn’t a good area to be in at night time!), the roads were black, wet with rain, and the chippy was a little suspect.

We got three bags of chips wrapped tightly in newspaper (old school!). They were massive bundles and the chips were delicious!

There were so many that we could only manage to eat a few.So the majority of those chips were tossed in the bin.

That was a lifetime ago, but to this day, I remember those chips when I get really hungry. I think back and always say to myself ‘oh why did I toss them! I wish I could eat them now!’

It’s such a strong memory. We always remember a good meal, as if our body is saying ‘yes, remember how much you like to eat! How tasty food is! REMEMBER!’ Somehow it seems like the body is afraid one day we might not like food anymore!

When we went to Tokyo, it was one of our aims to eat well everyday. When we were in Japan 4yrs ago, we were with other people and it was hard to find food that everyone wanted to eat. This time, we had no worries; we’re pretty similar in that we wanted true Japanese food, and we wanted to eat!

Thankfully, Tokyo was only too willing to feed us!

Every time we went somewhere, I took out the camera and snapped some pictures. Because we wanted to remember the food; we wanted to show people; ‘look, look at the food! Look how yummy it is… we ate that! We remember the taste’.

Looking at these pictures now, I have very fond memories of sitting in these places, munching on this food as Tokyo and its people flashed passed us; we ate in good company, had good chats and dreamed good dreams… so with that, let me show you our food memories!

Day one of serious photo taking involved yummy okonomiyaki (sort of savory pancakes) at the famous restaurant, Sometarou in Asakusa. We mentioned it in a previous post, but it’s worth another mention. It was amazing!

It was also the most tradition place we ate in, and while it was roasting sitting by those frying-slabs, it was just perfect!

Ridley lovingly paints our pancakes, with a substance we didn’t recognise but had the consistency of tar!

Cuttlefish and tiny red shrimp- probably us at our most adventurous I think!

The next day we were off to Ueno Park.

Now the Lonely Planet guide book didn’t recommend many eateries in Ueno, so we were stuck. It was a hot day, the park was vast and we were hungry. Looking around the periphery of the park we managed to find the Korean cafe.

Ah, we love Korean food, it’s hearty stuff, so we were very happy with this find!

Although the waiter didn’t understand us, and we had some mishaps ordering, which left Ridley with food, and me with a drink! Ha! We managed to sort it out and I ended up with food, but Ridley didn’t get her drink! But she didn’t care by then, it was too much hassle!

But actually, the drink was AMAZING! Like drinking sunlight (big assumption!).

The food was typical Korean fare (yummy!)….

Except for these….

Ahhh! What are they? They’re looking at me! Ridley ate them without looking as far as I’m concerned! When I pointed it out to her, she was two mouthfuls in… she was rightly aghast!

When we went to Ikebukuro, we ate in one of the shopping malls.

Which we were kind of thinking was a cop-out as we should eat ‘authentic’ food out in the little restaurants. But the guide book (not that it had become God in the last few days…well actually it had, all hail guide book!) said that the malls actually have some really good places to eat in!

They were right! This was a veggie noddle dish, with rice, served in a pipping hot stone bowl. Which, in winter would be just amazing, in summer a bit too hot, but still lovely!

At one point I remember we spent hours looking for this one restaurant around the Ginza area I think.

Ridley had her google maps out and we managed to find the place where the restaurant should have been. But it was mysteriously absent (she was annoyed because we had spent all that time looking and it was almost like the map had bested her!).

So, falling back on the God, Lonely Planet, we headed into the nearest shopping mall. We judged based on pictures what restaurant we would eat in.

It was on the top floor and faced a massive sky-bar that loomed over the mall from across the road. We sat down, and a lovely waitress came over and explained the menu (we had been staring at it completely bewildered). She had very good English (we were soooo happy!). The first thing she asked though was…. ‘have you ever eaten Korean before’.

Haha, we didn’t even know we’d come into a Korean restaurant. We were even happier!

The food was cooked (by her in front of us) over a small hot plate, in a large steel bowl.

She asked us if we wanted rice or noodles, we said noodles…. but they didn’t materialize. We were baffled, but we ate away not caring.
It was great, sharing food over a hot plate like that. Korean food is so hearty and built to share (kind of facilitates conversation too!).
When we were finished the waitress returned with the mysteriously absent, much discussed noodles. She put them into the remaining sauce and added water, leaving it to bubble away… It was so good!
It reminded us of being in a Korean drama! It was the best feed I think we had while in Japan.

I get very hungry thinking back on this dinner… sigh. On another day we contemplated going back to this place, but Ridley frowned, “I don’t think I could find it even if we wanted to, we did so much walking around… I wouldn’t know the way.”

Ridley is like a human GPS, so if NavWoman couldn’t find it, it wasn’t possible!

Of note here, is that myself and Ridley have this deep love of ramen. It started really from watching anime (Naruto mainly). We always wanted to taste the real stuff in Japan. We managed to on our first trip a few years back and we always regretted not eating more of it (our other friends didn’t really like it that much).

So this time we were noodle crazy- we wanted to go to ramen places as much as possible. It’s a massive bowl of happiness!

This place was a ramen shop around where we were staying (Akasaka). It wasn’t the best ramen we had, but it was nice. We had to use the typical vending machines the Japanese use in eateries like ramen places and curry houses.

Bascially you select the meal you want, pay for it, get your ticket and give it to the people in the shop. It’s a brilliant idea, because us foreigners aren’t left feeling confused… although a few times some kind Japanese people had to step in and help us! You have to match up katakana, kanji and hiragana symbols to identify the food you want on the machine (a little time consuming, so we had to make sure no one was waiting behind us, or sidestep and let them in first!).

I was actually always very happy to see these machines in the places we were going to eat in- a deep sense of relief!

Our search for ramen brought us to another cool, traditional restaurant around Akasaka. This ramen was delicious!

These were Ridley’s gyoza (dumplings… she didn’t like em- too many onions!)

My yummy ramen (I love sweetcorn)

Ridley’s pork ramen (looks delicious)

The best ramen we had, we got in the Ginza district, in yes, another shopping mall! This was our last night in Tokyo, so we finished it with the food we had loved most- (well, next to the Korean food!).

This business man was eating beside us. He was a little rude to the guy making the ramen.

I found at times the meat that was being used was tough. But this was melt in your mouth pork. I feel like Homer Simpson at the moment, drooling away at the thoughts of eating.

I was so tired this night. Me and Ridley sat at this bench for ages. We were the only people there. I nodded to sleep at one point (resting my eyes, haha). When we got up to leave, the two ramen chiefs smiled over at us and gave us big goodbyes and thank yous. It was a nice way to end our ramen adventure!

A side project we had was to have proper Bubble Tea/Milk Tea. This is popular in Asia. Basically it’s a milk-based, flavoured drink, with tapioca balls in it. The straws are thick so you can suck them up. The desire to get the Bubble Tea wasn’t that strong as the days wore on. It was only as we passed through Harajuku on our third round that we found this Pearl Lady place. Which seemed to be where all the kids hung out.

It was all pink and open plan and full of cheap fast-food places selling curly potato fries and so on. 

After about 10mins of trying to remember my Katakana (argh, I hate Katakana). I was able to figure out two flavours, caramel and strawberry! That’ll do we thought!

We settled down at the window overlooking Takeshita dori. We slurped on our Bubble Teas, with intermittent coughing/choking fits when we gulped down a tapioca ball or three, or ten.

We’ve had some bad Bubble Teas (Christmas market, Berlin brings back bad memories of gingerbread, hot Bubble Tea! Oh nasty). So, I was dubious. But this was so tasty. I wish we had of known about this place sooner! Check it out if you’re ever there- it’s so good!

Following a delay in our flight (actually an out and out cancellation), we ended up in an airport hotel. I finally tasted the strange green-tea and cherry blossom flavoured kit-kat I’d bought. It was actually nice. But doesn’t it look weird?

We were offered a free all you can buffet lunch- I should never be offered such a thing! I tried a bit of everything (and felt sick afterward). I snapped a picture of the fancy Japanese sweets because they looked so lovely. But I didn’t like them- they were made from rice dough and filled with bean-paste… I was expecting chocolate- so I was left grimacing, while Ridley nodded, “yep, bean paste! Knew it!”.

On the way home, our fly was practically empty- it was heaven for a long-haul! Everyone, I kid you not, everyone had a three seats to themselves! 

I won’t end with airplane food- don’t worry (it makes me sick and I can’t eat it). But I was able for this ice-cream….

Our final taste of Japan, for a few years at least!

On a book related update, the editing of our book is nearly finished! By me at least… procrastination must be the way of getting things done in a weird way! I’ve done so much of it. Soon we’ll be sending it to the professionals. We are so excited to be walking down this road! Ridley is busy with her book trailer too, so all is going well!

In the editing process I have been armed with my moomin cup (always full of Lyons tea) and my moomin pen for the taking of notes (both bought in Kiddyland in Harajuku)! The kit-kat, yes, is one I bought in Japan. If it keeps I plan to eat it when the book goes ‘live’ so to speak! Keep watch… it might not last that long!

Tea shop

Ridley: When you go on holiday, there comes a point when, despite enjoying your time away, you eventually start to want a few home comforts and familiars. Whether its a television programme, a particular shop, a type of food, a drink, or your own comfortable bed. You start thinking about how great it is.

For us, it was tea. We just wanted a good cup of tea, so when we discovered there was a tea café in the Ginza district, we were a little too excited.

Mariage Freres, Ginza 5-6-6, has 450 different varieties of tea from around the world. Personally, I just wanted a good cup of Lyon’s or Barry’s tea.

The number of teas available was confounding. Sometimes you can have too much choice! I wanted a normal cup of tea, but that felt a bit boring with all the fancy blends, added to that, the prices had our eyebrows shooting upwards. (9 euro for a pot of tea- each!) So the pressure was on to make the experience ‘worthwhile’. In the end, I said feck it and I stuck with the breakfast blends, going for something that basically was like Lyon’s tea. I didn’t want anything fruity!

The presentation was gorgeous. China plates. It was the type of place where my pinky could have tried to stick out, in an attempt at some sort of misguided grace. It also had quite a French feel, though on the way there we’d been expecting an English tea shop.

We decided to splash out so we also had crème brulee. Very tasty!

Ginza is definitely an expensive district, where people with money flutter around. On every corner and street there was a large brand shop, whether it was Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, YSL, all the sort of places that I basically have a security guard dogging my steps as I wander round with an open mouth, releasing various gasps at the prices and the words ‘I could buy ten handbags for that!’

(Without a doubt, it’s a place where the rich and famous hang out. We (well Latimer did) spotted Sean Lennon strolling down the street.)

The tea shop definitely cater to them, less so to the tourists. Its a type of fantasy dining for the Japanese in a way. For an hour or two they can drink fruity concoctions and pretend they’ve step out to a place in Paris. Except for the all male cast of servers in white suits, there were just women eating there.

The ladies were all extremely well dressed with branded handbags, I like to think that they were the wives of hard working rich business men. As with everyone we saw, Latimer and I sipped our tea and we people watched while wondering ‘cad é an scéal?’-literally, what’s the story, or rather what we mean is, what is their story, where are they from, what do they do, what are their lives like? This happens all the time, you see someone unusual, someone normal, someone with a strange hair cut, it doesn’t matter, we’re fascinated by their background. I’ve always wondered, isn’t everyone like this? The more you see the world though, the more you realised there are more people not like you than you ever could have imagined.

Before we left we popped in to their bathroom (its a long standing belief of mine that you can tell a lot of how the way a place is run and its cleanliness by the state of this room!) It had a normal toilet too. There was no fancy stuff with a controller, numerous buttons, heated seat and automatic flushing. It was nice to know where you stood with it! (I’m a sad individual, I know.)

While the café was on the first and second floors, downstairs there was a shop, they sold tea pots and loose tea.

It put me in mind of what an old apothecary would perhaps have looked like, with large impressive black jars of tea for sale and weighing instruments.

If you look closely you’ll see Latimer’s covert picture taking was spotted in the photo below.

While definitely an experience, if you love tea and are up for a once off visit, you should try here. Especially if you’re gasping for a good cuppa! Just be prepared to pay a little (read, a lot) more than you normally would at home

Tokyo Food Puzzles

What’s in it? What’s in it?”

“That’s the point of the thing, not to know!”

– Nightmare Before Christmas, Kidnap a Sandy Claws

We love trying out the different food while we’re here in Tokyo, especially if it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. So far our time here has been a real lucky mix of flavours. We’ve bought a few things where we haven’t the foggiest idea what flavour it is, or even what it is!

Giant Caplico: Not an ice cream, not really a sweet, this ice cream cone lookalike was hard, sugary and we’re still not certain what it was made from.

Ridley: “That was weird, I feel like I just ate twenty different chemicals. Giant Caplico? Giant chemical mess.”

Ketchup flavoured Pringles

Ridley:  (I love ketchup by the by-so these are not for the faint hearted. Latimer’s face of disgust was hilarious!) “After a while the kick of the ketchup is really sour…I like it, but I’d never give up my sweet and sour…no…what is it, sour onion?” Giant Caplico chemicals addle Ridley’s brain.

Peach pieces in peach jelly

Latimer: Does exactly what it says on the tin! Yums. Fruit in jelly can’t go wrong.

Unknown flavour crisps…

Latimer: “I really wish I knew what flavour they are, I can’t taste anything. I really hope it’s not frog.” (Ridley: I wish it was.)

Green tea flavour

Latimer: “It tastes like soil! Why does it taste like soil???” I promptly placed this in the bin after approximately 3 glups (it didn’t get better with time). However, the next day the maid had removed it from the bin and placed it on the floor by the table (as you do!). She seemed to want me to drink it. (Ridley: Waste not, want not! Soil will help you grow!) I poured it down the sink and back to the bin it went. Thankfully, it was gone the next day.

?????

Ridley: Latimer took this lovely close up of tiny fish in a bowl.  It’s Korean food. This was after I’d eatten two lots and thought it was seaweed, I didn’t see the eyes. (Latimer: Even though they were staring right at you.) Ridley: *silence*….I’ve nothing…no comeback to that…damn you. The tiny eyes!! Eweeee….I was chomping on it as I was telling Latimer, “My brother says I eat with my eyes, if it doesn’t look good, I’ll avoid it.” I obviously was blind this time round….

Toppo-reverse pocky, the chocolate’s on the inside! (Latimer: Reverse pocky, evil pocky!)

Ridley: *crunch crunch* “Hmm…they look like bamboo sticks with black stuff in it…I like it!” 

Banana ‘Yogurt’

Latimer: This wasn’t exactly a yogurt… it was more like a solidified, banana milk jelly. Why is nothing as it seems!?

Peach and apple drink (or so you would think)

Latimer: I bought this thinking ‘yeah, peach and apple sounds good’…. but when I took my first gulp my mouth was flooded with fruit jelly-bits. It wasn’t a nice texture. One gulp from Ridley had her face collapsing in on itself; “I don’t…. I don’t, YUCK, I don’t like it! That’s nasty… nasty…”

Mushroom shaped biscuits

Latimer: Ridley hasn’t noticed this, but around Tokyo at the moment there are these cartoon whistling mushrooms (they’ve been on the telly and in the arcades on these really annoying games that whistle the same tune over and over and over again, adding to the din). Well, these are biscuits based on the whistling mushrooms (Ridley: you think! Latimer: quiet you!). They were tasty: biscuit stalk, chocolate cap. No whistling though (I’m disappointed). (Ridley: no you’re not) 

Kirby chewing gum

Ridley: There were three little brown balls (stop sniggering Latimer) in this box, it was chewing gum, a fruity type! I liked them. It seemed appropriate, considering Kirby was kind of like a giant blown up chewing gum bubble…(Latimer: I loved Kirby’s Dream World. Ridley: Me too!)  

We don’t know what this was, we thought chocolate of some sort

Latimer: I was going under the assumption buying this was a steal at 30 Yen. Actually no, that’s 30 cent (euro speak) and that’s not cheap considering what it was. A square of ‘chocolate’… I spent 30 cent on one square of ‘chocolate’? (Ridley: fool.. wait, so did I!). It was white faux-chocolate with a sliver of yellow jelly (custard like, or something). It was tasteless and not worth 30 cent (hindsight is a great thing) (Ridley: you are harping on about the 30 cent, people are going to think you’re tight. Latimer: I am… 30 cent! Do you know what I could have done with that! Ridley: you’re an idiot. Latimer: Damn you!)

 Pocari Sweat (a God amongst the dehydrated masses)

Ridley: Lemony. Latimer: you haven’t had any this holiday. I bought one bottle and couldn’t finish it. Still, I will say it is a GOD! Ridley: you weren’t dehydrated enough… does everything I say get typed? Latimer: yes. Ridley: Pocari Sweat, a lemony rehydration drink. 

More food mysteries coming soon! (if we haven’t succumbed to gastric malfunctioning in the meantime)