KYOTO – Japan’s Oldest Capital

October 1st 2019 and another train trip – this time to Kyoto.  We were getting very confident riding the Shinkansen and now that all signs are in Japanese as well as English it is much easier to find where you have to be and at what time.  We had booked an ‘apartment hotel’ and found it on one of the main streets of Kyoto and within walking distance to the Gion district.

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A small hotel with very friendly and accommodating staff, we found our apartment which, in reality, was a small double room with bathroom.  A tiny kitchen was squeezed in and in order to make a sitting room, the bed folded up into the wall.  It is ingenious how space is used in Japan!

Kyoto is known as old Japan – with quiet temples, peaceful gardens, shinto shrines and wooden houses.  As well there are geishas in the Gion – or entertainment district – and today they are also very much a tourist attraction.  We had a pre dinner drink by the river one evening and a young geisha introduced herself and sat with us for a photo before moving on to the next table!

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Nevertheless it is lovely to see traditional dress and the colours are vibrant although how the poor women walk in the traditional shoes I will forever wonder.  I am told they have to have one size too small – maybe that is why the steps are so mincing.

A highlight for us was walking the Path of Philosophy.  We caught a bus to  Nyakuoji-bashi where the Path starts.  The walk itself only takes about half an hour and is named for one of its most famous strollers – a 20th century philosopher called  Nishida Kitaro who is said to have meandered lost in thought along the path.

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The path runs along a canal lined with cherry trees and colourful plants and tiny shops selling traditional paper, handicrafts, tea and porcelain are along the way. Beautiful houses with stunning gardens line one side of the canal and on the other are bench seats where people were sitting having their lunch or just meditating.  It was all so peaceful.

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Another highlight was a visit to the Nishiki Market which is covered and has a lot of weird and wonderful foods such as pickled vegetables, Japanese sweets, yakitori skewers, and tofu as well as knives and kitchenware. Souvenirs to take home from here include pickles, tea, sake, rice crackers – and if we were allowed, dried fish snacks.  Sadly we cannot take those home but we enjoyed them whilst there!

The narrow pedestrian streets and wooden houses, colourful lanterns and elite restaurants and bars make the Ponto-cho area a pleasant place to walk in the evening.

 

Kyoto has something for everyone and there is so much to see and do that a return visit is very definitely required!

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FROM OYSTERS TO VINEYARDS

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Another long, straight road awaited us for the next leg of the road trip – this time to finish with the Oyster Trail and get on to the vineyards.  A nice combination – oysters and wine!

Last stop on the Oyster road is Cowell – a pretty little town on the eastern side of the Eyre Peninsula and situated on Franklin Harbour. The waters are sheltered and are very popular for fishing – and oysters.  We found a shack close to the jetty which supplies oysters to various outlets in the town.  On entering we found the proprietor busy shucking the oysters which had just come in from the bay – so without further ado we purchased a couple of dozen and together with fresh lemons and in a cardboard box, we found a table in the park and indulged for lunch!  The verdict?  Excellent!

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Our overnight stop on the way to the Clare Vallety Vineyards was the port town of Whyalla.  Named Hummock Hill in 1802 by Matthew Flinders, the town’s name officially changed to Whyalla in 1902 which is an Aboriginal name possibly meaning “water place”.  The steel industry here is over 100 years old but fishing is also of primary appeal. We were there just before sunset and went up to Hummocks Hill – a local lookout – to witness the change of colours.

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The next day the road was clear and, for a lot of the way, was backed by the beautiful Flinders Ranges.

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We drove through many little towns and villages but the one which captured us was Crystal Brook.  This quiet rural service centre is in the heart of South Australia’s most productive sheep and wheat country and has retained its charming historical links.

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Beautiful shady peppercorn trees line the main street and there are several art pieces in iron, reminders of the part the camels played in this part of the country in the early years.

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The Clare Valley is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions where there are heritage towns, boutique wineries, galleries and beautiful scenery.  We had booked lunch at the Skillogallee Winery where we had been before.  The vineyards here are resting – grapes picked and wine made but the vineyards still looked beautiful.

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The road to the boutique winery is shady and winding at the end of which is the restaurant which seats both indoors as well as in the garden.

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The menu features local produce with wine suggestions matched with each dish. Unable to resist the sashimi, I had, yet again, fabulous South Australian Kingfish and tuna served in a very artistic way.

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Then came the wine tasting and purchasing – thank goodness we had a large car !

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Staying in a little apartment in the centre of the town, we were perfectly placed for a choice of restaurants in the evening.  And that is what you do in these regions – eat great food and drink fabulous wine!

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THE ROAD TO GOLD AND KALGOORLIE

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Beautiful Salmon gums lined much of the road north from Esperance to the Gold city of Kalgoorlie. Located in the Eastern Goldfields area, Kalgoorlie/Boulder is Australia’s largest Outback city and one of the oldest – and many beautiful old buildings remain as a link to the past.  We had heard a lot about this city and the mines and the first sight we came across was the Super Pit Lookout.

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Here we could see a working mine in action and watched a blast.  This pit is 3.7km long and 1.5 km wide and 600 metres deep.  It is quite incredible to watch the workings and see the trucks weaving their way up and down- like little ants in a hole.

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A shovel of a 994F loader is here for visitors to step into showing the sheer size of the machine.

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The tyres are bigger than a man and the vehicle itself is a monster!

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Later, at Hannans North Tourist Mine we had the opportunity to climb inside and then fully appreciated what the drivers of these machines have to do day in and day out. This mine gives visitors the opportunity to experience gold rush history  and modern day mining. Wandering through the re-created part of the mining camp, I really felt for the Pioneers and gold seekers in the heady gold rush days.  Living in tents and huts of corrugated iron in the dry, hot and dusty town must have been hard but all were hit with “gold fever” and were sure they would find their fortunes here.

In a tribute to the Chinese who flocked here in large numbers and contributed to the community in many ways, the city has built a beautiful Chinese garden.  Wandering through with soft Chinese music playing in the pavilion by the lake, it was easy to see how some of these people would have been very homesick and missed their country.

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One attraction in Kalgoorlie that links to the heady gold rush days is “Questa Casa” which is Australia’s Oldest Brothel  it has been in operation for 115 years and is possibly the world’s oldest working brothel. There are countless stories and books about how it was in “old” Kalgoorlie for these ladies of the night and the lonely miners who visited them.

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This brothel has the famous “Starting Stalls” which are still operating and the girls throw open the doors nightly. Tours are available daily – sadly we didn’t have time to do one!

We wandered through the wide streets of the city and marvelled at the beautiful historic buildings – many of which have been restored and are now shops and businesses.  With the golden light of late afternoon, this was a perfect time to appreciate the architecture and imagine the city at the turn of the century and earlier.

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Even the interior of some buildings has retained its past glory – as we saw when we had breakfast the following day before hitting the road across the Nullarbor.

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