Travel Update: Where am I going next?

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So today I had my final formal observation of my teacher training year! Relieved is an understatement. My final evidence bundles are ready to hand in on Wednesday. Just 4 and a bit weeks to go until I qualify – I can see the light out of this very long, dark tunnel.

At least I have so much look forward to: holidays that is – lots of them!

July 2017: Prague and Pembrokeshire, UK

Two days after I qualify (!) I am flying out to Prague for a few days with some of my old school friends. I’m glad to be squeezing some time in to explore a bit more of Europe this summer! If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments.

Flash forward a day or two and I will be in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It started out as a nice, quiet weekend with just me and J. but then he came up with the idea of inviting all his old uni friends, so it’s quite the group who are going now. I’m glad some +1s are going otherwise it would have turned into a lads trip + me! Not so relaxing… It’s my first trip to South Wales and fingers crossed the weekend won’t be a wash-out! Although saying that, I am sure it will be.

August 2017: Peru, Chile, Bolivia

This trip has been so much more complicated to plan than South East Asia was, I just hope that it all works out. Stay tuned for a post later this week on 3 reasons why I am looking forward to returning to Peru.

October 2017: Madriiiiid

For my first October half term as an NQT teacher Spanish and French teacher, I have 5 days solo travel in Madrid booked. I’m being a good Languages teacher – I am going a Spanish-speaking country for professional development…

I am being constantly reminded that, “okay, so you’re finding your training year tough? Wait until your NQT year…” This is not filling me with much confidence, but I am one to focus on what I have to look forward to, to get me through.

I have my hostel and my flights sorted, nothing more. I spent 3 days there two years ago at the end of my Year Abroad and I regretted not going sooner, as I absolutely loved it! I’m looking forward to visiting the museums (finally), eating my favourite food and going to the Hamman Al-Andalus Baths again to chill out. It would be great to do a day trip somewhere new like Córdoba. I cannot bear to return to my Spanish home, Salamanca, for a day. The idea weighs heavy on my heart and fills me with too much nostalgia now I no longer live there.

Are you looking forward to any future travels this coming year? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Robyn

Japan Series: Japanese food you HAVE to eat

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Welcome back to the Japan Series. This is the final installment of my travels in Japan. It’s saddening that this chapter in my travels is coming to a close but I hope you have enjoyed the weekly blogs.

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Not only am I a picky eater, but I also don’t eat pork or seafood for religious reasons. Visiting Japan with these dietary requirements was a worry not only for me, but for my friend who knew just how much pork and seafood is used in Japanese cuisine. And so commenced the challenge to find Japanese food that I could actually eat. Hmm.

However, after 9 days in Japan, the food was hands down one of the absolute best parts of my trip and so varied as well. I was spoiled for choice for what I could have.

Today I am going to share some of the best meals I ate on my Japanese journey to gastronomic enlightenment.

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Tokyo

A great place to get food near Shinjuku is Tori ki zoku, a chicken kebab place which had delicious chicken with a range of flavours. What was great is everything is ordered on a tablet at your table, so you can order as much or as little as you want at a time, and it is in English as well.

Okonomeyaki

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We went to a place near Harajuku, which was very friendly and open to travellers with menus and instructions in English. Basically, to make onkonomeyaki, you cook your own food and choose the ingredients. We chose chicken teriyaki for one and beef, onion and picked ginger for the second one. There was so much food, and it is great because you are the one in charge, so you know exactly what is going into your meal.

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Onigiri

These rice snacks wrapped in seaweed usually have something in the center – it can be salmon, pork, tuna etc. but I really liked the ones with fried chicken! Absolutely delicious for a quick snack, and I just wish we had them in convenience stores back at home. Cheap, quick, easy and satisfying.

Sushi

We went to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo and I was surprised at how cheap sushi is in Japan (70p/plate). For a salmon nigiri, you are looking at roughly £3 in the UK! Sushi is such an expensive meal at home so I was shocked at how affordable the real deal is. As I don’t eat seafood, not much sushi is available to me except the salmon (I despise tuna as well), but there was so much choice with duck and beef as well which I have never seen in the UK before. I loved the automated ordering service, like what I have seen in other restaurants in Japan, it is just so efficient and easy to keep track of what you have ordered.

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Kyoto: Ayam-ya – the best chicken ramen you will ever have

So I love chicken ramen, a dish I often have in the UK. However, in Japan, the real deal is usually made with pork, not chicken. It seemed as though eating an authentic chicken ramen would be impossible in Japan; however, TripAdvisor came to the rescue as there was one place near the station – a Halal restaurant – which served delicious chicken ramen. I did get a food coma but it was the best ramen ever and it’s great that there is a place in Kyoto for those of us who want our ramen fix chicken-style!

Sukiyaki

Before our night bus back to Tokyo, we wanted something substantial for dinner, and we found it. This was by far the BEST meal I had in Japan. Find it upstairs in the Isetan department store in Kyoto.

Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish which I had never heard of before, but after this experience I will never forget. It consists of thinly sliced beef, which is slowly cooked at the table in a nabemono pot (yes another meal where you need to cook it yourself!), alongside vegetables and other ingredients, with soy sauce, sugar and mirin.

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Harrie loving the sukiyaki life

The sukiyaki consisted of all-you-can-eat beef, vegetables AND bottomless soft drinks AND dessert. We had 90 minutes for the table and of course, we made the most of the time. We got through two plates of beef and so many vegetables: cabbage, Japanese mushrooms, leek, onion, tofu, salad greens, etc. so it was healthy to a certain extent…It was magical but I definitely ate too much and was in a food coma on the coach back to Tokyo. Do I regret it? No, not really.

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On the whole, experiencing Japan’s amazing food culture was so accessible to me, there was so much choice and I was never left hungry or without options. I loved the restaurants where we could cook ourselves because it became an experience and I knew exactly what was on my plate. I’m sure Japan has so much more food for me to discover and I can’t wait to get back to sink my teeth into more.

What’s your favourite Japanese dish? Let me know in the comments,

Robyn

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3 Year Blogiversary

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What was first only meant to be a way for me to document my year abroad, this blog has turned into something much bigger. Hundreds of posts and followers later, most of my site’s photo storage is used up and we’re still going!

Seeing the ‘three year anniversary’ of my blog pop up today as a notification was quite weird. Has it been that long? I guess it has.

Really, I am quite amazed by my commitment and perseverance in nurturing this blog along. Some months I post more, others I post less, but no matter what, the site is still plodding along and holds an integral part in all my adventures. I love sharing with the community and reading your blogs, which inspire me to continue to explore and to write.

So happy blogiversary to Robyn Bobbing Travel! Here’s to many more stories to share with you guys!

Also, from the pictures below, it seems I have changed so much in only a few years!

Earliest blog photo of me to one of the most recent:

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Peru 2013, feat. llama

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Japan, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures at Home: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, England

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Waking up at 8am, I looked out the window to heavy rain – total wash-out, not what I was hoping for a day out with some friends.

Undeterred we decided to go to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, after sitting on the living room sofa for half an hour trying to come to a decision about what we should do for the day.

We actually live very close by, and it has been a place on my local bucket-list for quite a while.

What is it?

It really is a sanctuary for animals and conservation while also being interactive for visitors. Not only can you learn about the animals and their habitats, but also about what the Park is doing to support the (critically) endangered animals that they work with. It is also quite big, so be prepared to do some walking if you want to see everything!

The highlights of the park

My favourite area was the Lemur Woods, for of course, the lemurs! I love these little guys so much, they are so energetic and interesting to watch. For the lemurs, you are allowed to enter the enclosure to get up close to them.

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snack time

Still, the experience was not as exciting as the time one jumped on my head for some fun at another animal sanctuary. These guys were a bit more reserved here.

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So cute and on my head too!

The South America Viva enclosure was brilliant to see the tiny but incredibly cute squirrel monkeys and marmosets!

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Look at him though!

There was quite a lot to see but there was just one problem – it seemed that we had our timings a bit wrong, as most animals seemed to have been on their afternoon nap!

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Sleepy sleepy

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Polar bear lunch

On the other hand, the polar bears were tucking into a meaty lunch!

It was a lovely afternoon out, even though the weather wasn’t. I would definitely go back as it is so fascinating observing all these animals and it acted as a good break from work.

What is your favourite animal?

 

The low-down:

How to get here there: situated near Doncaster, England, close to key travel links such as the A1, M1, M18 and the east coast main line linking London and Edinburgh via Doncaster.

The cost: check online, as there are a range of discounts available
What’s on: check the website to see what times the daily talks/feeding times are to plan your day

Japan Series: 9 little things I love about Japan

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There were so many ‘wow’ moments in Japan. It wasn’t even anything especially big, it was all in the detail. Japan is definitely all about the detail. So without further ado…

9 little things I love about Japan:

1. The vending machines

They are everywhere. Not just in the entrance way of a shop, they really are everywhere. There were three on the road we were staying on, just on the pavement. Heck, they were on the top of the Inari mountain in Kyoto just when I needed it (Fushimi-inari). The local metro had about 4 on the platform. Not just cold drinks, no, there were warm drinks too. Hot coffee? Cold coffee? Hot lemon drink (my fav), hot chocolate or grape juice? No need to rush to make a hot drink in the morning when the vending machines have got your back. It is impossible to ever feel dehydrated in this country and I love it. I want my hot lemon drink back!

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My beloved hot lemon drink, I will drink you again

2. The toilets

The first time I saw a Western toilet in a café with all the exciting buttons on it, I had to tear myself away because it would look a bit weird if I spend ages in the toilet, right?

-Where is your friend?

-Oh yeah, about that, she hasn’t seen a fancy Japanese toilet before – she may be a while.

There are buttons to make flushing noises, heated seats, deodorising sprays. It was really weird and wonderful at the same time. I remember being so intrigued when my Japanese housemate in France tried to explain them to us one time in French, after all that time I was not left disappointed. You would find these in restaurants, service stations, department stores… I feel like we are really missing a trick back in Europe. We need to implement these asap!

3. The service

Okay this is a good thing and a bad thing at times. Japanese service is so attentive. Glasses of water are brought to your table and topped up without you even having to lift a finger. On the other hand, they give you a bag for everything you buy in shops, with the little tape round the top – is that really necessary? Even for the littlest thing. Maybe the fact that we are charged 5p for every bag we need in the UK now, it is going from one extreme to the other. All those plastic bags I accumulated in Japan? Yes, yes I did bring them back in my luggage and now I have lots  of plastic bags to use at home. Is that weird?

4. Warm hand towels at the start of every meal

They do this in other cultures, I know, but having a refreshing warm or cold towel before your meal is so nice. Again, we need to implement this and make this a norm in the UK!

5. Everyone carries hand towels in their bags

Hand driers and paper towels aren’t really a ‘thing’ in Japan, so most people carry a hand towel in their bag for this reason. Not only do you feel super organised when you whip your hand towel out in one of these situations and the person next to you doesn’t have one, it makes a lot of sense – maybe even better for the environment (?). Hand towels are a very popular souvenir and I bought such a soft, cute pastel-coloured one with my initial on it to use at home. I will use it (promise).

6. The roof handles on metro trains are just the right height for me to reach. Normally, they are way too high up as I am so small, but Japanese people are on average smaller, so they compensate this on their trains. Yay.

7. On a similar note, no need to find the Petite section in a shop, oh no. Why do that when you can just select a normal pair of trousers and they fit you perfectly, no problem! I wish I could have done more shopping for trousers/clothes in Japan as my height is just the right size for their clothing! I feel bad for tall people though, as like…what do they do..? Oh yeah, struggle like us small people back home. No sympathy.

8. When it is cold, they have under-seat heaters on metro trains. There is nothing more perfect than that.

9. Hanami 花見. I was lucky enough to see Japan during spring-time, near to the end of the cherry blossom season. The cherry blossoms were not in full bloom anymore, but I was lucky enough to see some beautiful sakura (cherry blossom) all the same. I love how there is a Japanese word, hanami (花見) which literally means ‘flower viewing.’ I loved the cherry blossom and it is so cool how there is a universal love and interest in Japan in just appreciating the beauty of nature.

What do you love especially about Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Robyn

 

Japan Series: Tranquility in Tokyo

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How to describe Tokyo in three words? Massive, dazzling, overwhelming. Tranquility ain’t normally one of them!

This was certainly not the case either, when I woke up at 3am on the first night and the room shook for 3 seconds – yes, that was an earthquake! It was only a 2.0 so was not horrific but earthquakes are common in Japan.

As a first-time traveller to the country, Tokyo was really something. I have never been in a city comparable in size to it. The scale of Tokyo only began to unravel when I gazed out through the window in the Government Building tower one night. So. Big. (this is a great way to see the city day or night for free by the way!).

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Still, despite the hustle and bustle of city life, stuffed metro carriages and huge zebra crossings, there are pockets of calm in the form of gardens and shrines that slow down the pace.

Meiji Shrine is one of them. It is currently being renovated in time for the 2020 Olympics, so I did not see her in her true glory, but the size and beauty of the surrounding area is so serene, only a stones’ throw away from Harajuku.

Hamarikyu Gardens, a 40-minute ferry-ride away from the beautiful yet touristy Asakusa temple, is such a tranquil spot to appreciate natural beauty surrounded by the cityscape. The gardens do not hide from the skyscrapers and modern buildings, rather they embrace them. The tea rooms here gave me my first experience of Japanese green tea and wagashi (sweets).

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Asakusa

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Asakusa and my first sight of sakura!! (cherry blossom)

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Hamarikyu

 

On my final day, I braced the area of Shinjuku on my own, clutching my phone with the GPS on, using Harrie’s trusty portable wifi, stashed in my bag, to go to the Shinjuki Gyoen (Gardens). These gardens were massive and only 200 yen to enter. It took me a good 2 hours to walk the length and breadth of this place, but it did not feel anywhere near as magical as the last two places. My only guess is that this is just such a huge area and they simply don’t have the means to truly care for every corner of it. It did feel like it wasn’t looking its best, or maybe I just have high expectations. Either way, it is a great way to spend some time away from the faced-paced city, whilst still in the center of it.

This city really threw me in the deep-end as my first stop on my whirlwind trip to Japan. Despite all that, it was exhilarating and totally different to anywhere I have been before.

 

What do you think of Tokyo? Let me know in the comments!

Robyn

 

Welcome to the Japan Series!

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Three weeks ago I had the pleasure of packing my bags again and flying from Heathrow airport to Tokyo! The main purpose of my trip was to visit my old housemate Harrie. She moved to the other side of the world for her Masters instead of staying in the UK, like I begrudgingly (at times) decided to do for work.

It has been 9 months since we were hobbling around campus in our heels on Graduation Day last July, but it felt like no time at all when we found each other in the Arrivals hall. For this trip she was my rock/translator/interpreter/tour guide/life-saver. Having a Japanese-speaker, someone who knows the customs and culture was so beneficial as I was truly lost at times and overwhelmed by everything around me.

I know just how useful being able to speak the local language is, and I love it when I go to countries where I can communicate without problems (South America, I cannot wait!), and it is so frustrating when I cannot do that! Being able to say the basics though was really helpful and went a long way.  Not many people actually spoke any English but there were signs, maps, menus etc. in English in most places we visited.

All I am going to say, is now that I have experienced Tokyo, and more precisely, Shinjuku train station at morning rush hour, London is so tame – and I thought London was insane! I knew nothing.

We spent the first two days of my stay in Tokyo, a day-trip to nearby Kamakura, two days in Kyoto and two more in Tokyo, three days were travel days.

I am looking forward to sharing all the amazing-ness of Japan with you…!