A Day with the Deer at Nara Park, Japan

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Nara Park is a large park in central Nara. This beautiful park engulfs within its premises shrines, temples, gardens, and deer. Established in 1880, it is the location of many of Nara’s main attractions including Todaiji, Kasuga Taisha, Kofukuji and Nara National Museum.

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The park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer. Nara’s nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. You can feed them with the crackers that you can buy from the vendors in the park. We paid 150jpy for a bag of about 8 crackers. Be prepared to be surrounded by a lot of them once you start feeding them. One of them stole my banana which was really quite funny.

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The park is huge, free to get in and full of deer. Yes, there is a musk smell and you still have to be wary of a wild animal but it is beautiful. You can touch the deer and take photos with them without any fear of aggression. Nara’s deer are surprisingly tame, they really are very comfortable being around humans, probably because they do it every day.

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As with most attractions in Japan, very well organized and of course, extremely clean.
We enjoyed seeing the deer and interacting with them. As with the Miyajima Island, you need to be careful not to let them get too aggressive. I was nipped on the back a few times and they tugged on my clothes to get attention but I was never hurt nor frightened by them. In fact, I found them to be charming and lots of fun. They bow their head every time they ask for food and bow after the food for respect just like the people of Japan

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It was such a fun morning mingling with the deer and also visiting the shrines, temples and enjoying the lovely gardens.

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Eumundi Markets – Sunshine Coast of Qld.

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Located about 20 kilometres from Noosa in the hinterland village of Eumundi you will find these premier artisan markets which are held every Wednesday and Saturday. Eumundi markets are only about an hour and a half drive from Brisbane so you could easily enjoy a day trip.

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We parked in the exclusive markets parking area for $5 for the day and then it was only a 2 minute walk to the actual markets.  As we walked in the entrance from the parking area, there was a tent set up with live indigenous music playing which added a great vibe to the atmosphere.

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The Eumundi Market is one of the most popular markets on the Sunshine coast and has been a twice weekly event for many years. With over 200 stalls, you will find a range of quality goods including artworks, paintings, furniture, handbags and shoes, clothing, home wares and skincare, as well as fashion and jewellery created by local designers. You will find just about anything appealing to different tastes and money.

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Many people come to the Eumundi Market for the fabulous food. Here you will find a wide variety. The choice is excellent which can make the decision making a little more difficult, however we were very pleased with our selections. We also managed time out for a coffee break – the coffee was exceptional.

There are few markets that can complete with the Eumundi markets due to the vast number and variety of stalls. Whether it’s clothing, or cosmetics, or accessories, or craft or … well pretty much whatever … the markets are likely to have it. There is something for everyone. You can spend hours strolling around here. There are toilets on site and dogs on a leash are welcome. You will find plenty of shady spots to stop for a rest  Be sure to take a hat and water, and remember to wear sunscreen as it is out in the open and can be very hot.

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When you need a shopping break, duck across the road to the Imperial Hotel for a cold glass of something that takes your fancy. When we were there, it was a very hot day so a nice cold locally made beer went down very well for me.

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This majestic Queenslander has been welcoming locals and tourists since its opening in 1911. The Imperial hotel with its sweeping verandahs and tasteful decor, overlooks the leafy main street of the town’s creative community.  A wonderful spot to sit back, people watch and enjoy the fabulous atmosphere. And, a fantastic finale to a super day in Eumundi.

Marvellous Mooloolaba – Beautiful Beach, Awesome Atmosphere

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Only about a minute walk from our apartment in Kings Beach was the bus stop for the local bus. The bus service on the Sunshine Coast was so good that once we arrived we parked the car in the garage and either walked everywhere or took the local bus. On two occasions we took the bus to Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba is a suburb and tourist resort township on the the Sunshine Coast about 97 kilometres north of Brisbane. It took us about 40 mins on the bus from Kings Beach to arrive in the heart of this beachside town.

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Our first place to stop when we arrived in Mooloolaba was the Wharf Mooloolaba which is a café and restaurant precinct where you will also find Sea Life Sunshine Coast and the magical Underwater World. The entire place was alive with people, young and old, families, locals and visitors. Only a few minutes’ walk from the Wharf is the beach and beachfront strip.

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We wandered along the grassy bank which runs along the top of the sandy beach overlooking the surf and breathtaking views of the coastline from Noosa to Point Cartwright. All along this grass area there are picnic tables and facilities and just metres away there is Mooloolaba’s glamorous beachfront esplanade with great selection of outdoor cafes and alfresco restaurants.

On our first visit to Mooloolaba we chose a restaurant on the esplanade with outside tables overlooking the beach, for our lunch. Déjà vu was the name of it, and we had the most delightful young lady from Hawaii for our waitress. Our meals were excellent.

This patrolled sweeping crescent of coastline is a perfect family beach stretching from the surf beach around to the calmer waters of the spit.

On our second visit we met up with friends at the Mooloolaba Surf Club for lunch. This iconic destination is located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean with its own magnificent views up and down the coastline. The windows from the dining room were open allowing the sights, sounds and ocean air to create a relaxed, vibrant and truly seaside atmosphere.

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The meals were really good, offering a great selection and very well priced considering the luxurious location.

Several hours later, we were back on the bus heading south to our apartment in Kings Beach.

Mooloolabla is a fabulous place for a beach holiday.

Nowhere in the world is quite like Mooloolaba!

Easter in Coffs Harbour

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Spending time with my family for Easter is a must for me. Spending time on my favourite beach at Easter is the frosting on the cake.

After arriving in Coffs and settling in, I can hardly wait to return to this beautiful beach at Charlesworth Bay.

This place has it all apart from the crowds. And now that the local council has made the area taboo for camping it is back to it’s beautiful, pristine and serene place to enjoy.

This morning on the beach, apart from Buddy and I there were 4 paddle boarders out in the surf.

Wishing you all a lovely Easter break.

Kings Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia.

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After living in Brisbane for 30 + years, it was time to explore the sunshine coast of Qld. I have been visiting the northern end of the Sunshine coast, like Noosa, for years however I had not spent any time on the southern part of the coast. So, we booked an apartment through AirBnB and drove the 90 minutes up to Kings Beach, Caloundra.


20190408_140358Kings beach is very much a small beach community as well as a tourist destination with everything to suit most budgets and holiday types. This coastal town provides a beautiful ocean beach and fantastic beachside ocean pool plus great walking tracks, fantastic restaurants, cafes and shops along the boardwalk.

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It is the perfect spot for all ages. Here you will find a great surf beach which is patrolled, an ocean swimming pool, play areas, water fountains, picnic areas and clean bbq areas, fantastic takeaway food, cafes and restaurants and a brilliant boardwalk by the ocean. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly

We discovered the ‘Coffee Cat’ cafe on our first day and it immediately became our favourite “local” place. The first afternoon we sat outside near the beach enjoying a cold glass of wine listening to a young man playing his guitar and singing. We stopped by in the mornings for a great cup of coffee

Often, we walked some distance along the stunning boardwalk that hugs the shoreline. Despite the heat there was always a cool sea breeze, and a ‘happy vibe’ everywhere with strangers saying ‘hi’ or giving a friendly nod.

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Each morning and afternoon we spent time in the most beautiful free ocean pool.  There was always a friendly bunch of people there who walked, bathed and swam and chatted in this most delightful ocean pool.  This pool was so clean and well used by locals and tourists. It has some shading and plenty of change areas and showers close by.

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Close to this pool there are two large rock pools with gentle waves flowing in to them that you can swim in also. Exploring rock pools at the beach has always been one of my very favourite things to do, and here at Kings Beach we got to do this every day. It was always fun, interesting and a lovely way to relax and enjoy.

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This was a perfect and very easy mini holiday.

Kings Beach at Caloundra has everything you could want and a stroll along the boardwalk is a wonderful way to end the day.

International visitors – In Australia, always swim on a beach patrolled by life savers and swim only in between the yellow and red flags.

Incredible, Amazing, Ancient Temple

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We walked up the hill, along the street which had many stores and stalls leading up to the temple. We were not in a hurry as there was so much to experience and enjoy along the way.

Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizu-dera is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the atmospheric Higashiyama District. The many shops and restaurants in the area have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries and products on sale range from local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, jewellery,  sweets and pickles to the standard souvenirs.

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There it was at the top of the hill. This beautiful bright orange temple is massive. Kiyomizu-dera temple was founded in the year of 780 at a request of (Sakanoue no Tamuramaro). The main hall of the Temple which was built in the year 1633, is famed mainly for its wide wooden veranda in front, protruding over a steep cliff, with breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Kyoto.

From what I was told, this spellbinding large temple is made completely out of wood.  There are numerous sights to see inside of the temple and outside on the temple grounds. It is definitely a must see. The beauty of it all touches you as you walk around and through it. Once inside the temple I felt the serenity of this impressive massive structure. There are  quiet corners in the amazing gardens where we found some relief from the crowds  and benches tucked away in little alcoves, and hidden paths that end in stunning views.

The Temple’s complex includes several other shrines, among them the Jishu Shrine, dedicated to Ōkuninushi, a god of love and “good matches”.

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Kiyomizu-dera which is located in the Gion area of Kyoto is one of the most popular temples of Japan. Kiyomizu-dera is an independent Buddhist temple and is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and listed as UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fascinating Location in Lovely Kyoto

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We set off early from the hotel on the shuttle bus to the district of Gion, Kytoto’s most famous geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue. This area is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses).

It is here among the teahouses and private clubs that you can catch a glimpse of a geisha in full dress including white makeup. We were very fortunate to see a Geisha, who was very “clandestinely” hurrying along the sidewalk, almost as if she was hoping not to be noticed. Seeing a genuine Geisha is quite unlikely especially during the day.

We explored this fabulously maintained district for quite some time just following our noses until we accidentally ended up in the Higashiyama District. This definitely was one of my highlights in Japan.

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The Higashiyama District is one of the Kyoto’s best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These businesses retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated through the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.

While the walk through the Higashiyama District between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine is only about two kilometers long we spent most of the day in the area, visiting the various temples, shrines, shops and cafes along the way. And, I could easily return and spend longer experiencing this fabulous area.

After hours of exploring, shopping, eating, and taking photos we reached the popular Kiyomizudera Temple.

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There are a couple of streets leading up to Kiyomizudera temple that are worth exploring on your way there or back. They are historical streets with paved lanes and old wooden merchant houses. These lanes are filled with small shops selling souvenirs, Kyoto handicrafts and food items.

We arrived early that morning to find it very quiet with not too many people around however, later towards lunch time the streets, shops and shrines were packed. I definitely recommend getting there early if possible.

Delectable Experience in a Japanese Department Store.

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Every day while I was in Japan, I went from one amazing place to another amazing place. Whether it was a shrine, temple, castle, park or in this case a department store.

My first experience with the Japanese department stores was in Tokyo. After a long day out exploring we were happy to have a snack in our hotel room rather than go out to dinner. This is when we discovered the food hall in the department store close by to our hotel. We bought some amazing freshly prepared meals to take away. The selection is vast and the food is interesting and so beautifully prepared and presented. It would be quite easy to buy these meals on a regular basis and in fact I would not be surprised if this is a regular way of eating in Japan. These meals are unlike the prepared packaged meals that we can buy here in Australia.

As we travelled through Japan we realised that these fabulous food halls in the department stores are in all the big cities.

While we were staying in Osaka we went to the underground to the Osaka Train station many times. The elevator in our hotel went directly down to the underground making it ever so easy. There were hundreds of shops and restaurants in this area and this is where I discovered Hanshin Department Store.

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Hanshin Department Store is best known for the incredible variety of food and drink available in the basement food hall.

I thoroughly enjoyed walking around enjoying the colour and bustle and nibbling or sipping the free samples. Viewing all the Japanese sweets, pickled vegetables, assorted tea varieties, and beautifully packaged bento box lunches gave me a short education in Japanese cuisine. There are also bakeries selling delicate cakes and pastries and popular snack stores selling rice crackers with various savoury flavours. Particularly well-known are the “ikayaki” squid pancakes, an Osaka specialty something like a crepe.

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This entire floor offers delectable delights including coffees, teas, pastries, candies, chocolates, pickles, sushi and world class, flawlessly perfect, fresh fruit and even smoothies. And, so much more.

In the drinks section I found a range of local sake rice wine, shochuspirits, Western style wines and spirits, and a pretty good selection of regional craft beers.

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Here in this food hall you will find a wide variety of food and drink, all of which is impeccably packaged and displayed. This is where I purchased several of my gifts to take back to Australia including some pretty amazing coffee.

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Of course there are many other departments in this wonderful store but it was the colourful, interesting and exciting food hall that won my attention.

The Japanese understand quality and this store is no exception, it is upscale, impeccably clean and well staffed. Nobody speaks English and that isn’t a problem at all. Courteous service is the rule.

Photographers Dream in this Timeless Garden

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We were at the Peace Memorial park when we heard about this beautiful garden so we grabbed a cab and headed over to Shukkeien Gardens.

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After the peace park, Hiroshima’s Shukkei-en Garden is an oasis of peace and tranquility and one of this famous city’s little-known treasures. Once the home of Emperor Meiji, the gardens were opened to the public in 1940, and, despite being badly damaged by the nuclear attack of 1945, were completely restored and reopened in 1951.

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Shukkeien Garden is about a 10 minute walk from Hiroshima Castle. The name Shukkeien apparently means “shrunken-scenery garden” and the idea is to represent through miniaturization the beauty of nature such as mountains, forests, valleys, lakes etc.

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There is a main bridge that runs across a lake and divides the garden in two. Walking around was so pleasant; everywhere was something scenic including tea houses, bridges, turtles, birds, etc. There are suggested routes around the garden which helped us to better appreciate its beauty. The entire garden is connected by a path which winds around the pond at the centre of the garden with plenty of signs. The path passes through all of Shukkeien’s various miniaturized sceneries. Following this path around the garden is the best way to enjoy Shukkeien

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The beautiful, almost artificial vibrantly coloured flowers set against the backdrop of multi coloured autumnal plumage is almost surreal. It was such an explosion of vivid imagery with arching bridges and secret stone pathways leading to hidden treasure. Cascading waterfalls provide the perfect tone for this quiet space creating a zone of peace, wonder and utter amazement that such beauty exists after the shocking exposure to the destruction at the peace memorial park.

The lake in the middle is filled with koi and turtles that follow you around and come to the shore looking for a handout. One of the prettiest parks I ever visited. Each corner brought to perfection… the way nature intended.

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This serene garden that survived a great tragedy is beautiful and compact; however, it also bears testimony to the tragedy that befell Hiroshima. It has a leaning ginkgo tree which is the only tree that survived the tragedy. There is also a monument to victims of the A-bomb where remains were recovered as recently as 1987.

 

 

The calm and beauty of the garden was a wonderful relief after the Peace Park, which is important to see, but brings into focus the horrors of war. There is also a small coffee shop here, but the garden is really about beauty. I would definitely spend time here. It is also free with ID if you are over 65.

 

 

Set in the midst of a buzzing metropolis and high rising buildings, this time-out space is a must see. The leaves were changing for Autumn which made it a photographers dream.

Moments of Reflection and Peace in this Beautiful Park.

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We took the bullet train from Osaka to Hiroshima. This is such a wonderful way to travel, certainly as good as flying if not better.  Once arriving in Hiroshima our first place to visit was  the Peace Memorial Park.  Our hotel was right by the main train station so it was easy to take the local tram from the station over to the park.

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Hiroshima Peace Memorial in the centre of Hiroshima, is dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima, the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and,  to the memories of the bomb’s direct and indirect victims.  Visiting Hiroshima is a sobering experience when one considers the devastation that was wrought in August 1945. The fact that the site is now a vibrant city is a credit to the Japanese people. Hiroshima Peace Park is a very tranquil area which provokes thoughts and memories of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb.

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In Peace Park you can see various sites related to the atomic bomb. Before the bombing, the area where the park is located today served as the political and commercial centre of the city. That is why this area was chosen for bombing. Four years after the disaster, they decided not to rebuild the buildings, but to turn the area into a peace park; a park in memory of the 70,000 people killed directly by the bombing and tens of thousands of people who were killed the following year as a result of its effects, a total of 160,000 people. Here you will also find one of the only buildings left in the park after the bomb was dropped on the city. The building is now called A-Bomb Dome which is now  on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

20190211_140703Beautiful and serene, the park definitely has a significant role to play in the hoping for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons from the world while reflecting on the history and not repeating it again. It is a wonderful place just to walk around with so many features including the Children’s Memorial, the Cenotaph, the reflecting pool and eternal flame, the Peace Bell that you can ring, the Peace Clock that strikes at 8.15 every morning, signifying the time when the bomb detonated, the Memorial to the bomb victims and many statues and fountains. It is a gorgeous park with the river flowing along one side and the Atomic Dome on the other side that can be reached via the Aioi Bridge.

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The Japanese people are very determined and the result of the post-war is proof of this. They rebuilt the country on the basis of education and culture. This park in Hiroshima, despite the historical sadness it carries, also brings much to us about the new Japanese era.