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Caro (suffering an incurable case of wanderlust)

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2 Trips
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2 months in Italy
Caro's Travel Blog

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More snow & ice plus some cute animals

Asahikawa, Japan

Ice scuplture contest & zoo

permalink written by  Caro (suffering an incurable case of wanderlust) on February 9, 2008 from Asahikawa, Japan
from the travel blog: Caro's Travel Blog
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Sapporo Snow Festival & Otaru Snow Gleaming Festival

Otaru, Japan

From Furano I took a rather painful (still couldn't sit for long periods) bus ride to Sapporo before catching a train to Otaru. My first experience of a big Japanese station, Sapporo station was a bit overwhelming. As expected, no English in sight so finding the right train was a matter of matching kanji symbols. I stayed in Otaru for the few days of the Snow Festival rather than Sapporo because it was cheaper. I got a really good deal on the Otaru Hilton which was right next to the station and above a big outlet shopping centre with the coast on one side and the mountains on the other. It also gave me the chance to check out Otaru which I may not have done if I stayed in Sapporo.
Otaru is a lovely little city which specialises in glass crafts and has some good shopping. I was there for the beginning of the Snow Gleaming (Snow Lantern) Festival, which is much smaller in scale and more atmospheric than the big Sapporo festival. It was also good to be there a few days before the festival started to see some of the preparations.

Of course the Sapporo Snow Festival was also very impressive. It is unbelievable how detailed some of ice and snow sculptures are and the main snow sets are nothing short of awesome. I had a walk around the festival during the day which was good but I think it was most impressive at night when lighting shows were also incorporated.
Sapporo itself was not as 'Japanese' as I expected - many of the historical buildings are 'American Colonial' in style. Sapporo saw most of its development in the mid-late 19th Century under the influence of American pioneers which explains some of the architecture. An interesting outdoor historical village located in the Hokkaido Nopporo Forest, just on the outskirts of Sapporo, focuses on these pioneering days with various re-created buildings spread over nearly 50ha - I found it really interesting and spent the better part of a day there.

I also took a day trip Jozankei Onsen, about an hour bus ride from Sapporo. Jozankei is basically a spa town situated in a beautiful gorge with lots of hot natural springs. I didn't end up actually going to any of the onsens but I did have a wonderful hot foot bath with some locals before cooking some eggs in the ultra hot well. Took about 20 mins for some perfectly boiled eggs! Little bit of difficulty eating them on the bus ride back to Sapporo though....

Food highlight for this part of the trip was some great crab and prawn sushi from the food market below my hotel!

permalink written by  Caro (suffering an incurable case of wanderlust) on February 4, 2008 from Otaru, Japan
from the travel blog: Caro's Travel Blog
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Australia day on the slopes of Hokkaido

Biei, Japan

After a slightly difficult trip from Asahikawa airport to my accommodation in Furano on the night on the 25th, I spent a wonderful week snowboarding. Actually spent most of Australia day sleeping off my jet-lag before hitting the slopes and trying to teach myself to snowboard. Clearly this was never going to work so the next day I enlisted the help of a very patient instructor who, despite not speaking English, set me on my way. That said, getting off the chair lifts, achieving any sort of speed, turning and stopping were still out of my reach after the first couple of days.
It wasn't until that same instructor (now off-duty) stumbled across me mid-slope and volunteered another couple of hours of his time to get me further up to speed in exchange for some English pointers between runs. I think this was a breakthrough moment - started to actually snowboard without being a complete embarrassment. Don't get me wrong, there was still some massive stacks, but by the end of the week I did make a couple a fall-free runs including some night snowboarding. Unfortunately, I never quite made it off the green slopes.

On my last day in Furano I got the opportunity to take a ride in Japan's biggest hot-air balloon as part of an annual hot-air ballooning competition. I was the only non-local and was very lucky to get the chance to participate. Afterwards, I was invited to a celebratory lunch of traditional 'cook-at-the-table' Japanese food. Despite nearly get stuck in snow up to my waist and being very cold this was an awesome day with some very kind people.

To sum up my week in Furano - one very sore bum, more snow than I've ever seen and a ride in Japan's biggest hot air balloon! Highlights were definitely the outside onsens, smoked salmon jerky and the very accommodating Hokkaido hot-air ballooning community.

permalink written by  Caro (suffering an incurable case of wanderlust) on January 26, 2008 from Biei, Japan
from the travel blog: Caro's Travel Blog
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Scottish Chiefs to the Scottish Borders

Brisbane, Australia

Like any good overseas expedition, the start of this one was celebrated with good friends, a few drinks, a small food-fight, a couple of temporary tattoos, one or two tears and some great memories (although perhaps not as many as I would have liked...). My recovery was interrupted by packing and a road-trip from one home, Geelong, to another, Brisbane. I'm in Brissie at the moment, spending time with the family and trying to make my way through the last-minute to-do lists in preparation for d-day next Tuesday (26th).

My so-called 'unplanned' trip is not so unplanned anymore - just secured work in a small town called Melrose in the Scottish Borders. I've been watching the temperature and it hasn't gone above 12 in the last few days - so much for easing my way into UK weather! Some furious googling has revealed that Melrose has a 400 bed hospital (Borders General Hospital - where I'll be working) but a population of just over 2000. Obviously the hospital services a wider area than just Melrose!

Although I kind of enjoyed watching people's surprise, or in some cases, mortification, when I would tell them that I had no idea where I was heading after London, I must admit I'm actually pleased to have a fixed destination for 6 weeks. I imagine there will be plenty of time for 'travelling on-a-whim' as the trip progresses. I'm due to start work on July 2nd so I've had to cut short my initial time in London to just 4 days. I think some of this time will be occupied with organising living / working details but hopefully I'll get an opportunity to look around as well.

Next stop London!

permalink written by  Caro (suffering an incurable case of wanderlust) on June 18, 2007 from Brisbane, Australia
from the travel blog: Caro's Travel Blog
tagged Preparation and Party

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