Ernest and me

There’s a pervasive Hemingwayness in Havana that’s hard to ignore. He had not one, but two favourite bars – La Bodeguita del Medio was his favourite mojito bar – so of course I had to try one – Then Floridita was his favourite daquiri bar – where he demanded a less girly version of the…

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How to pass for a Guatemalan

Step number one: buy a poncho – Step number two: take up salsa – … but don’t try to take a photo and follow your teacher’s instructions, or you end up making a complete mess of both activities. The lovely Martin was a tiny, swivel-hipped salsa god, who only winced slightly as I crushed his…

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Swerving around cows

What is it with India and cows? They’re everywhere, and nobody takes any notice. It’s completely normal to see a cow … … on a railway station platform – … wandering through the city centre – … having a quick kip in the road – … inspecting a rubbish pile – … and even on…

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Yet another painful experience

In the interests of research, I tried many different types of massage on this trip – deep tissue, aromatherapy, Balinese, to name but a few. The strangest was the chakra unblocking head massage, which I had in the Royal Palace at Bundi. The masseuse flicked and scratched my head and pulled hard on chunks of…

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I’ve seen the future …

… or at least I’ve peered murkily in the general direction, but the pollution-filled haze would have challenged even the oracle at Delphi to see anything clearly. The pollution in Delhi is appalling – a smelly, foggy haze hanging over the city. It’s just downright lucky, for all my blog readers, that I look so…

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A potential change of career

Kanazawa is a wonderful little town on the west side of Honshu.  It’s wonderful for a number of reasons: firstly, it was the seat of an important feudal clan and so has many big houses, temples and shrines, secondly, it escaped bombing during the Second World War, and thirdly, it has one of the top-ranked…

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Categorised as Japan

My first experience of sumo

It was most definitely serendipity times two; firstly to discover that one of the six annual sumo tournaments in Japan is held in Nagoya, and secondly to find that it would take place during my stay.  I felt that there must be a ticket with my name on it – but just to make sure,…

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University life in Japan

Before I arrived, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about teaching in a women’s university.  How archaic, I thought, to have such institutions in the 21st Century in a first world country.  But now that I’ve experienced just how much of a man’s world it is in Japan, and how women are supposed to…

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The Ginger Ninja

I’ve had quite a cultural weekend, one way and another. I went to Kyoto because I had a ticket to see a kabuki play at the Minamiza theatre, which is the home of kabuki.  It’s a wonderful old building, which has been hosting kabuki performances for 400 years – – and I was pleased to…

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Bears and eel chips

Shogun Ieyasu was a canny chap.  When he became Shogun in 1603 he forced all the great lords to spend every second year with him in Edo, or Tokyo as it is now.  This meant that they spent huge amounts of time and money travelling with their vast retinues along the road between Kyoto and…

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Investigating the Nagoya food scene

Every country has its own love-it-or-hate-it foodstuff.  In England it’s Marmite, in Malaysia it’s Durian, and in Japan the polarizing comestible is called natto.  It’s made from fermented soya beans and, according to Wikipedia, ‘is an acquired taste  because of its powerful smell, strong flavor and slimy, sticky texture.’ After coping with the smell of…

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Tokyo food tours

I’ve come to appreciate, during my travels, that signing up for a food tour in a new place pays back dividends.  The guide takes you to all sorts of wonderful hidden-away spots, explains the whole food scene and generally equips you with enough know-how to go solo afterwards.  So when I got to Tokyo I…

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