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!)

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.

Dreamy scapey

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!

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

Fantasy dining

Ridley: So the tagline for our holiday seems to have become ‘that’s so weird’, mainly because we’re actively seeking out things that are weird, strange and just something you’d never see at home. Interesting is the other word we could use, along with a raised eyebrow!

So with this in mind, we discovered fantasy dining in the Ginza district (I keep calling everything districts, it’s like the Hunger Games, or here, Battle Royal! Mwhaa…). Fantasy dining is where the restaurant is themed and the waiters/waitresses are dressed up. We don’t have this at home, as far as I’m aware (though if we did, it would be epic!), therefore it’s a definite novelty for us! We’ve gone to see both an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant and a Vampire café.

We first went to the Alice place-Latimer is a fan of all things Alice in Wonderland- it was brilliant and the staff were very friendly. They were mainly dressed up like Alice but there were also a few mad hatters wandering round. The entrance hall was lined with giant ‘pages’ from the book, inside the restaurant the walls were covered in man sized deck cards.there was a hanging light made of top hats over one table and in the middle of the room was a giant cup that was also a seating area. Latimer: Within the giant cup there was a group of people we named the ‘High Rollers’. All night they beckoned to the Alices and Hatters, ringing a bell to summon them for more beers or unusual cocktails. They were hidden inside the cup, away from prying eyes. I imagined them walking into the place in a wave of Yen and dollar signs; “we wish to be part of the atmosphere but not of them plebs. Put us on a step above them all… inside a large white cup, so that we may watch them, but not them us!”. Personally, I think the menu was the most unique thing about the place (and that’s saying something!). It was a box, like a big cube, where one side slid open (the menus were made up of this ‘wall’) to reveal a little diorama and it had a tiny battery operated lamp in it. Latimer: A very cool and novel way to sell the fantasy! Lewis Carroll would have been proud.No point to it really, but it was still fun. There was also a cocktail menu that opened up like a picture book into a glossy hat.

The food was decent too, though nothing spectacular. Though Latimer did get a cocktail with a rose in it and then when it arrived they sprayed perfume on it! Latimer: I don’t know what it added to the taste… but it did smell like perfume. The food didn’t sit well with me, pretty ‘blah’ pre-cooked stuff. Not nice, but you pay for the atmosphere and the fantasy, so I didn’t mind so much.

We’ve never seen such little roses with stunted growth, Latimer decided there must be plant battery farms all across Tokyo growing roses that are destined to be cruelly chopped down before their prime and used in our drinks… Latimer: Ah battery rose, of stunted growth, the casualty of fantasy dining.

We also got bread with a little dish of butter (that didn’t taste like butter, just looked like it) It was provided with a little instruction tag, ‘Eat me’. Just like in the books! All in all, I really liked this place. Latimer: When this dish arrived, Ridley thought it was her starter (garlic bread). Even though it didn’t taste like garlic. When her food arrived she looked confused. Ha.

The Vampire café was freaky, that’s the only word for it. We stepped out the lift and tiny little plastic skeleton heads to our left popped out and screamed at us. Then the hostess popped up, dressed in a black maid’s uniform with white make up and red eyes. Scary! It was the waiter though that was really unsettling….and in a weird strange way quite compelling too, for the half an hours we were there (possibly the bad boy attitude he had going on)…I wasn’t the only one, there were quite a number of giggling Japanese girls there, some dressed up too. He was about half a foot taller than me (I’m 5’10)-he had big platform boots on, so it was an artificial height-he had black eyes, black lips, white white make up, the red eyes and back-combed long hair. He was wearing a sort of robe thing, long flowing and swirled quite well when he moved. But I have to say he was quite abrupt. Maybe that was his appeal in a way, in a country that has smiling, unbelievably welcoming people, he was the exact opposite. Not rude exactly, just…like a superior vampire really…! Latimer: We were laughing our heads off during the whole experience, and maybe he didn’t like that. We weren’t taking it seriously, but as Ridley pointed out with a narrowing of her eyes, “HOW can you take a vampire café seriously?”. Haha. Anyway, in retrospect he was just plain rude.

The bathroom there,with free mouthwash!

We were shown to a little booth lined with red curtain (Latimer: It reminded me of how in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine offers Elizabeth Bennett the chance to use her maids piano in her house. She says ‘you’ll be in no ones way in that part of the house’. Implying that Elizabeth should be hidden away from the eyes of the gentlemen and women. It felt like myself and Ridley were being treated the same way!), there was a giant coffin in the centre of the room with dripping red candles on it in a candelabra. And the hall floor was lit up showing pictures of red blood cells…very weird! Haha… The vampire boy didn’t even say goodbye when we were leaving (we said thanks and bye)! I think maybe there was a little bit too much laughing from our booth during our meal, we got a sense that we didn’t take the place seriously enough.

We only got ice cream and cocktails there. We ordered from a menu shaped like a coffin.

We’d already eaten in a very old authentic Japanese restaurant where we got to grill our own food. It was called Sometaro (2-2-2 Nishi-Asakusa, Taiyo-Ku) in Asakusa. Again google maps did not let us down, put the address in and you’ll find it. We got okonomiyaki (cabbage battered pancakes) there.

Now that was brilliant, if absolute sweltering (it was already 24 degrees out and then add in the heat from the grills)! The place was made of old dark wood, almost like a tavern, there was a real sense of history to the place. We got a lot of food there, we wanted to try everything we could, two pancake type dishes and yakisoba (noodle dish), we realised our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We had to take off our shoes and sit on the cushions beside a low table that had a large black hot plate/grill that was heated with gas underneath. For one of our pancake dishes, we picked eggs, cabbage, pork, little cuttle fish and onion, they were all mixed up together and cooked by us (well we got help, being the idiots we are!)

Latimer: This place was great. Felt very traditional. Really enjoyable food and atmosphere. As we search out food in Tokyo, I am gravitating back to ramen (my love). I want us to eat at the best ramen place in Tokyo… but where is it? Damn I wish I knew.

Our food journey continues daily…. ichiban (no.1) ramen…. we will find you!

Metro Madness

Ridley: I just had the subway ride from hell. I couldn’t even engineer some of the situations that I end up getting myself into. On the way back from the Alice in Wonderland restaurant in Ginza (more on that later), we took the subway back to our hotel. The carriage was mental, absolutely packed! I was squashed up against two people in particular. There was one boy and his girlfriend to my right and slightly behind me. As the train slowed to a stop, we both moved further in and away from each other to clear some more space for other people, I was jerked backwards. I looked behind me at the same time as the boy did, to find part of my jeans (the loop of material with the brand symbol-see picture) had somehow caught on a zipper on his backpack. (How I ask you!? Only me…) Now, I’m sure as he felt the tug at his bag, he was thinking, who the hell is stealing from me, while I was panicking with ‘aaah, someone’s got my ass, I’ve heard this happens on the subway!’ He slipped off his schoolbag, as I leant round and tried to unhook myself but I couldn’t see properly. So I let the boy have a go. He alternated between trying to help and putting his hands up as if afraid I was going to accuse him of molesting me, which at this point I wanted to tell him I didn’t care as long as he freed me and I got my ass back. I think he even turned to his girlfriend to reassure her that he wasn’t doing just that. She was craning her neck around his shoulder to see what was happening. My face was a bright tomato red by now. As we struggled, the doors opened and a wall of people mashed into us, we were shoved closer together. It was hot, stuffy and we were laughing and saying sorry in English and Japanese all at the same time, as we fumbled down at my backside and the new people frowned and peered over at us. Thankfully, his girlfriend reached round and freed me. Just in time. I turned away with a final sorry and thanks, only to have the train suddenly shoot forward. I fell back on a few people and grabbed a girl in front of me. Her face filled with such panic it was hilarious (well now it is funny, not then), but it was probably a mirror expression of my own face as I realised her arm was like a twig and it wasn’t going to save me. I thankfully regained my balance, on a man’s foot, and then began another round of apologies, while we all kinda chuckled and my red cheeks steamed with embarrassment. Latimer, of course, was in stitches and so far away from me, she could pretend she didn’t know me. At the next stop, I lunged out through the doors, far away from the carriage of strangers that I hope to never meet again!

Latimer: Up until this very moment Ridley had thought I knew what was going on. Let me now enlighten you…. We were separated- Ridley was sucked into a crowd of people. I hung back at the doors of the train. I was bent backwards at an approximate 90 degree angle, grabbing at one of those hanging hoops you use to steady yourself. Behind me, a man sat reading his paper; in my timeline, I was praying “do not fall on the man! DO NOT FALL ON THE MAN!” while Ridley is strapped to some random man’s bag. I of course had no idea. She’d been sucked to some otherworld as far as I was concerned. Then I turned and saw her looking at me, eyes wide as if to say “ehh?”. The girls in front of her were laughing. I started laughing; then we were all looking at each other laughing. I looked and laughed to Ridley, girls, back to Ridley. In my head “yeah, it’s mad, we are all squashed on the train together… it’s mad? Isn’t it mad… Ridley, girls, Ridley?”. Laugh, Laugh, Laugh…. then we struggled out of the train at the next stop. And I learned the truth of why everyone was laughing. Well, at least everyone thought I knew what was going on… I came off pretty good… ha!