Tag Archives: fish

Photography Challenge – MORNING

A few of my favourite images from over the years seem to fit the Morning Challenge so here they are.  It’s amazing how some places never change, and how they still attract customers to these old-fashioned deck-chairs.

Mornings in Thailand


TOKYO – Soaring Towers and Electronic Delights

From bonsai in lush landscaped gardens, to kimona-clad beauties shopping in Ginza, and from pale green tatami mats in Ryokans to exquisite floral arrangements, Tokyo, as well as reaching into the future, is picture-book Japan come to life.

This is the first stop on a tour that will take in stays in some of Japan’s most beautiful cities and countryside, Kamikochi in the Japanese Alps, Kyoto, the ancient capital, Takayama, whose beautiful old town still preserves traditions, Hiroshima and Miyajima, and Hakone where a cable-car side-trip to Mount Fuji is planned.  Fingers crossed, the weather will be fine on the day.


Kamikochi, Japanese Alps, turquoise waters of the snowmelt from surrounding mountains – Mari Nicholson

Driving into the city from the airport did not show a green  and pleasant land.  Living space is at a premium in Tokyo, which means that the suburbs are composed of high-rise apartment blocks built wherever space could be found, all in a uniform grey, unbroken by a splash of colour or flowers on a balcony.  Once in the city however, another world becomes apparent.

Getting around Tokyo

Tokyo is a city of districts, each offering something different to the visitor, so it repays a bit of research before you set out to explore.

With its sensory bombardment, the capital of Japan can seem daunting to the first time visitor but with a little planning, we found it to be very accessible.

Tokyo is composed of many different districts each with its own character and charm, and as a capital with a reputation for safety, walking the streets is one of the best ways to absorb the atmosphere, check out the local craft shops, or explore the shopping malls both below and above ground.  I am a leisurely traveller, happy to leave some things unseen, rather than rush around ticking off the sights, so I didn’t try to see everything.

Orientation, subways, and trains


Tokyo Train Station – Mari Nicholson

Rail is, without doubt, the best way to get around Tokyo, and the trick is to buy an IC Rail Pass for 3,000 Yen which is something like the UK Oyster Card, and which is valid on the vast subway network, the equally extensive overland train network, and the Monorail (great for views over Tokyo Bay), and also valid to use in some Japanese cities.  Not only that, but you can use it to buy drinks from the kiosks on every station, just slap your card on the designated spot, and hey presto! green tea or hot chocolate can be yours in an instant.  Topping up when needed is easy, with instructions in English.

Taxis are on the expensive side, but you don’t tip in Japan so at least what you see on the clock is what you pay.  If you decide to hire one, then ask your hotel to write the destination in Japanese and show this to the driver.  Rear passenger doors are automatically locked so wait for the door to open.

Luckily my travelling companions, Ken and Steve, are wizards when it comes to map-reading, especially subway maps, so I was able to rely on their expertise on negotiating the metro.  Even I, after the first day, felt confident beneath Tokyo’s streets, as the system is made easy for non-Japanese speakers, with letters and numbers as well as names on the stations, fail-proof directions to platforms and tannoy announcements throughout the carriages when a station is reached.

Tip:  Buy your IC Card and get a Tube Map as a priority on your first day.  Then hurl yourself into the city and enjoy the experience – remembering to stop for sustenance occasionally.

Tokyo Fish Market

Octopus in Tokyo Fish Market
Octopus – Mari Nicholson



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Eeels in Tsukiji Market – Mari Nicholson








Everyone said the Tsukiji fish market which handles a larger volume of seafood than any other market in the world is a must, and although we had all seen fish markets in the East before, we went there on our first morning.  It’s impressive, with over 400 varieties of seafood on display from massive tuna laid out on marble slabs, squid and octopus squirming in baskets, shellfish heaped up in mounds, baskets of crustaceans, and eels, lots of eels, along with species of fish I’d never seen before.  Tiny automated carts zip around (you need to watch out for these) collecting boxed items to be forwarded on.  I loved the machine where huge blocks of ice were man-handled into a drum which turned it into ice cubes which were then used to pack the fish for the retail market.

Parks and Gardens


Misty Day in Tokyo Garden – Mari Nicholson

Too many to be able to visit them all, so we choose just three, the Shinjuku Gyoen Park where an air of tranquillity heals the spirit, and Koi carp plop in the streams under arched bridges, the gardens surrounding the Imperial Palace which are a superb example of the perfect Japanese Garden and the Kiyosumi Gardens with its large pond surrounded by some very special stones placed in the garden as stepping-stones, paving stones and stones for the waterfall.

ImperialPalaceGarden, Tokyo

Imperial Palace Garden, Tokyo – Japanese Tourist Board

Tokyo Gardens


There are too many Museums to mention and too many to visit on a 3-day visit if one wanted to see anything else, so Fukagawa Edo Museum was the only Museum we visited in Tokyo.  This was an instant lesson in Japanese history and was a great help in understanding modern Japan.  It consists of a display of reconstructed Fukugawa Saga-cho houses, taverns, and shops, all looking as though they’ve just been vacated – as well as a small theatre and lecture hall, all furnished in the period.  There are interactive displays and fantastic model towns, rivers and courtyards filled with people.  Well worth the visit.


Edo Museum – Mari Nicholson



Restaurant Menu – Mari Nicholson

There are so many superb restaurants in Tokyo, that won’t go into the eating experience, but the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo is said to be in Kyubey, right here in Ginza .  Sadly, we just couldn’t make time to visit it as there was just so much sight-seeing to take in but from what we heard from other people, this is definitely the place to go.  The prices are in keeping with the area with dishes from 4,000 to 8,000 yen, while a full set runs from 10,000 – 30,000 yen.

But I was mightily intrigued by some of the ‘alternative’ restaurants in the city.  First up there are the ‘Maid’ restaurants which pander to Japanese male fantasies and allows the customer to interact with real-life manga characters. Waitresses are typically dressed as French maids and customers are treated as though they are the masters/mistress of the house.  These range from standoffish Victorian style maid service to the school-themed cafes where customers pay to be spoon-fed or to be slapped in the face in public.

An eye-opening blog by fellow WP blogger, Stacey Gleiss, is worth reading here, https://thesixfootbonsai.com/2016/05/22/child-bride-a-few-months-shy/ as it explains a lot about these restaurants and the Japanese man’s liking for ‘childlike women’.

Then there are the ‘Cat’ cafes, the ‘Dog cafes, the ‘Bird’ cafes, the ‘Rabbit’ cafes, where you can sip your coffee or tea while relaxing with either your own pet or a rental pet.  As space is so scarce, many people do not have the option to keep a pet so this is the answer to the problem.  Mind you, if you do have the space to have a dog or a cat, you can also buy a pram in which to wheel them about.  It stopped me in my tracks, but the Japanese sailed serenely by, unfazed by this strangeness.

And now there is a ‘Goat’ café as well, 5 minutes walk from Shibuya Station at Shinoda Building 1F, 23-3 Shibuya, but I wasn’t able to check this out to see how they interacted with the goats.  This one sounds seriously weird.

(To be continued)


Marseilles: Like an old Black and White Movie

B & W Marina
Marseilles Marina

It seemed right that Marseilles should live up to its shady reputation when our first encounter with it was the Gauloises-smoking taxi-driver who ripped us off by overcharging for the journey from station to hotel.  Asked if the taxi was metred, he gave a Gallic shrug and raised his eyebrows in amazement that we should think otherwise.  When we got to the hotel however, he announced in a mixture of languages, that ‘Zee taxi-metre ees kaput’.

We managed to laugh as we paid up, for just being in Marseilles, the oldest city in France and a melting pot of east and west was exhilarating.   Its origins go back to 600 B.C. and take in Greek and Roman occupation as well as the various kingships of France.  It was one of the most successful trading cities in the Mediterranean, its port favourable to commercial activity and despite invasions, plague and revolution, business prospered on an international scale.

Fisherman unloading Catch in Marseilles

The best place to start exploring is at the Vieux Port, guarded at its entrance by two massive fortresses.  The expensive sailing boats and yachts that crowd the marina just off the Corniche is one example of how far this once seedy Mediterranean port has come.  A few rough-looking cafés still line one side of the harbour, as though in homage to old black and white movies of the past, and the waiter with sleeked back hair who served us could have come direct from central casting.  Posher restaurants line the Place St. Saens on the other side, and throng the Quay des Belges where just after dawn, fishermen and chefs from the top restaurants planning that day’s menus, haggle over the night’s catch.

Fisherman on Quai, Marseilles

The same fish goes into the superlative boullabaise, a thick, spicy, fish stew, the gastonomic delight of France’s southern shores.  If you haven’t tried it before, or if your previous experience of this dish disappointed you, try the Marseilles version.  Fish soup it is not.

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Church of Notre Dame de la Garde

 Before embarking on a major tour of the area, take the two rides that are available on the ‘Petit Train’ which runs from the Quai des Belges in the Vieux Port.  The 50-minute ride goes up to the church of Notre Dame de la Garde, an enormous Romano-Byzantine basilica which stands on the highest point of the city, surmounted by the gilded statue of the virgin and child. The area was a look-out post until 1978 which has resulted in Garde Hill becoming an urban as well as a sacred symbol, and the spectacular views over the city prove just how effective the look-out must once have been.

Fish seller 6

The second ride circuits Vieux Marseilles via the Cathedral and the Panier quarter, wheezing and shuddering through the steep, cobbled streets of the old city.  Both rides give an excellent introduction to the architecture and the landmarks of the area, easy to locate on your free map.

Cliffs and Sea, Marseilles

From the old port you can take a ferry to the Frioul Islands in the bay, and the 16th century Chateau d’If , immortalized by Dumas as the place where The Count of Monte Christo was imprisoned.  Chateau d’If has reinvented itself and although its history includes no written record of the imprisonment of Edmond Dantès, that doesn’t stop the locals offering trips around the dungeon where he was allegedly imprisoned.  On the other hand, there is a very visible hole in the wall which he is said to have dug.  You can also visit the cell of the Man in the Iron Mask, another non-prisoner in the Chateau.

The modern part of the city is a short ride away, a thriving, bustling place with wide open streets, supermarkets, and department stores, indistinguishable from any other modern French connurbation.   A good way to see it is to hop on the L’Historbus that makes a tour of the city every afternoon and which covers both its modern and medieval aspects, including the Abbaye Saint-Victor with its sarcophagi dating from the 3rd – 5th centuries.

.   Fish sellers 5

Marseilles is a vibrant, bustling, untidy city, full of colour and gaiety, due in no small part to the heavy ethnic mix of North Africans, Tunisians and Algerians.  The apache dancers, the matelots and the inky black bars have gone from the seafront, but Marseilles still has attitude: cynical, sharp, and witty.  That edgy feel is still there.

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Marseilles Street

Just what I remember in fact, from those the old black and white ‘B’ movies I saw years ago.

Recommended Restaurants in the Old Harbour area:  Le Fetiche, Rue St. Saens (04 91 54 00 98) and Chez Caruso, Quai de Port. (04 91 90 94 04)

French Tourist Office:   

website: http://www.franceguide.com

The Best Salmon Restaurant in Sweden

Every once in a while one comes across a really superb restaurant in an unexpected place, sometimes on a main road, sometimes hidden away down a side street, and last week this happened to me.

On the long drive between Gothenburg and Oslo, I found Laxbutiken LJungskile by exiting off the main road to this “salmon house” recommended by my friend Kelly Andersson from Gothenburg, who spoke in very complimentary terms about the food.

The self-serve coffee area.
Cool, clean, Scandinavian decor

Situated beside a lake, with outdoor seating surrounding the elegantly designed restaurant, one could imagine the pleasure of dining in the outdoor space during a Swedish summer, but this was November, so it was inside for us.

The interior did not disappoint.  Elegant décor in grey and lime green set of the food which was arranged in a long glass cabinet behind which stood smiling waitresses with advice.

And advice was needed!   Here was more salmon than I’d ever seen served in more ways than I’d ever known.  Eight types of smoked salmon, from the basic Gravdlax to smoked salmon with different herbs and mixtures of herbs, there was poached salmon, grilled salmon, boiled salmon, salted salmon,

A salmon dish with sauces
A salmon dish with sauces
Salmon in every form
Salmon in every form
A selection of salmon dishes

deep fried salmon, salmon pie, salmon cake and more.  To go with these were delicious sauces like caviar sauce, white sauce with dill, lobster butter sauce, Malibu sauce, and a deep green garlic and spinach sauce.

The choice was difficult so I eventually decided on the Large Salmon Platter which gave me five varieties of salmon, 2 sauces, salad and boiled potatoes (at an unbelievable 145 Kroner).  More than I could eat, I was relieved to be offered a “doggy bag” (a rather elegant box packed in another bag) to take away.

The simplicity of good ingredients well prepared and served
The simplicity of good ingredients well prepared and served