Denver

So sometimes as crew you get down route and think all I want to do is have a lazy trip. And that’s ok. Time to unwind is important especially following a 10 hour flight. So I’ve got a little less than 24 hours in Denver, Colorado – what should I do? I asked myself on the bus to the hotel…..

If you are energised enough to get up early, I am told that it is a good day out to go and see the Rockies and certainly on a lot of people’s bucket list. Denver is otherwise known as the ‘Mile High City’ (no cabin crew jokes please). The reason for this is because it is exactly one mile above sea level. I am told that you can watch baseball in a seat which is exactly one mile above sea level if you so wish! Beer is also a firm favourite in Denver – you can try a brew in the nation’s largest brewery which is the Coors Brewery, or visit the US Mint!

If however, you want to have a little wander but do nothing too strenuous, then I would highly recommend heading for a stroll to the 16th Street Mall area. This is a mile long promenade where you can visit the shops. Here you will find many hidden gems – but my hidden gem for this trip was the place I found for lunch. The Modern Market Fresh Farm Bakery. On looking at the menu I immediately regretted going swimming first thing and not coming out for breakfast first because they have some insane choices to start the day. But for lunch they have some even better stuff! I recommend the gluten free mozzarella and tomato flatbread- sure, it’s not a million miles from what we can have in England, but this heat, view and buzz is.

The bloke who just walked by announced top volumooooo that he left his charger on the EFFING BUS.

That’s not quite the buzz I’m referring to, but still, it adds to the atmosphere! It’s the clear blue skies, the ding ding ding of the tram taking people about their days up and down 16 Street and the people out on a Saturday lunchtime walking their dogs. Lush.

So boys and girls if u come to Denver and either need a chilled day during a busy holiday or are crew who just want some time to relax and unwind before the flight home then this is the place to be. Sun, paninis, blue sky, refillable dark roast coffee, and lost chargers.

Enjoy!

Philadelphia…

Pennsylvania…..another state to add to my growing list of cool places I’ve been able to visit. But what should you do with just 24 hours in Philly?

Well, you could go and visit the Liberty Bell and soak up the history Philadelphia has to offer, it was where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed.

Or

You could stuff your face with Philly cheese steak and cheese fries ‘I’M GETTING CHEESE FRIES’ and visit the first true penitentiary that is the EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY.

I highly recommend visiting the ESP. Following the American Revolutionary War, a group of people including Benjamin Franklin grouped together to debate prison reform. Prisons were dirty and disease ridden. Change was needed. A group was formed in 1787 called the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, and proposed a new concept for prisons based on the idea that crime is committed due to your environment and that solitude would make you regret and penitent. Being totally confined to a cell would give the prisoners time to reflect on the crimes they had committed and a chance to be rehabilitated and genuinely repent for the crimes they had committed.

Some changes started to be made – prisoners were separated by the crimes they had committed and by sex. You can walk into the different cell blocks of the ESP and listen to people talk about the institution.

Prisoners had a toilet which flushed once a day, something which even the White House didn’t have at this time. It appeared revolutionary. The cells used to only be accessed through the yard, but wooden doors were later added. You can listen about a prisoner named John Currant who was imprisoned for stealing his neighbours horse for 2 years and fine 6 cents while looking at his cell. He was made to wear a hood so that no-one could see him and he couldn’t see anyone and the guards wore socks over their shoes so it was completely silent. This was pure isolation. While you wander the cell block, the audio guide questions the extent to which this method worked to stop people re offending. Perhaps frustratingly, we do not know what happened to John Currant, just that they had hoped that when he finished his sentence he would ‘do well’.

What do you think? This certainly gave me food for thought and took me back to my Criminology Law days. Is there a place for restorative justice? Should it all be about punishment, retribution, solitude and being made to ‘pay’ for the crimes you have committed?

Dickens visited the ESP in 1842, claiming that he had wanted to visit the USA so that he could see Niagara Falls….and the ESP! He later wrote that “The System is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement, and I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong….”. He also later wrote “I am persuaded that those who designed this system… do not know what it is they are doing… I hold the slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.” Others studied this new idea; Alex de Tocqueville praised it and wrote “Can there be a combination more powerful for reformation than solitude…leads [a prisoner] through reflection to remorse, through religion to hope; makes him industrious by…idleness?”

While I think it is important that people who commit crime accept the wrong, I do say I have to agree with Dickens; the effects of complete isolation is enough to cause even the most mentally robust person severe issues.

Al Capone spent some time here, after being caught with a loaded weapon. You can look at his cell as it was when he was there – it is a lot nicer than some of the others!! You can also look a death row, where those prisoners awaiting execution were confined, along with the yards, and other cell blocks.

However, the system, placed under pressure from the increasing number of prisoners, started to fall apart some might say. in 1913 the model was abandoned and prisoners were allowed to speak freely. The prison had been originally designed to hold around 250 prisoners, but was holding around 2,000 by the 1920s. The corridors weren’t designed to handle the number of people that were there. By the 1960s it was falling apart and was closed. It is now open for people like you and me to go to, and I highly recommend this, for a thought provoking day out. Followed by a Philly steak sandwich of course…..

Table Mountain – Still writing this post…..

I decided to take a trip up Table Mountain as I had heard the views were stunning – and they were!

At Meclears Beacon the mountain is 1085m high. I contemplated walking up it, for a split second until I realised slash by accident/on purpose packed just my Havianas which one could not possibly climb a mountain in….. (Y)

So instead I took the cable car. Each cable car can caarry 5200kg – so I decided I better ease up on the tuck box M&Ms…..it goes up to 10 metres per second and the cable car has been available as a method of getting to the top for nearly 86 years. It costs 225 Rand for a return adult ticket which is about 10 pounds, and is weather dependant.

On a clear day the views are amazing. You can see a panoramic view of the coastline and also of Robben Island. You have a number of options of where to walk – you can take a long intensive walk or a casual stroll through different areas with different animals that can be seen. My favourites were the Rock Hyrax Dassies.

Want to know more about Table Mountain?

Layers of table mountains sandstone and Cape granite which formed from glacial action and volcanic action, at least 6 times older than the Himalayas

It was named Cape of good hope and reminded Mandela and those in robben Island of a sign of freedom as it stood impressively

Cafe at the top  -treat yourself to a South African wine, or maybe a beer, or a coffee is just 18 rands, approximately 90p. Be prepared to be surrounded by Dassies and birds here though!

24 hours in Haneda, Japan

As I write this latest blog post, I am sitting in Starbucks in Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan by population. I have gone and got myself a winner here – I’ve found probably the world’s best people watching spot and also surrounded by an amazing skyline. Now I can exercise my favourite hobby while armed with an array of different Starbies drinks too which you don’t find in the UK….Or at least I haven’t seen. I’d recommend grabbing yourself a chocolate orange mocha m m m, and taking some time out to chill and enjoy the views of the nearby Yokohama Landmark Tower.

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If you want to go into this tower the views from it are stunning. It is the second tallest building in Japan and has some very speedy elevators, travelling at 12.5 m/s, and yes your ears do pop (if they haven’t already gone weird from the long flight!!). You can enjoy stunning views from the top of the tower and enjoy a drink as well – I believe there is a cover charge to go in the bar. Everything about the East is so different from the Western countries. Just a few things I have noticed are that nobody seems to eat on the go. I was unsure whether it’s custom not to, so I tested it by cracking open my family size pack of KP nuts (honey roast) on the escalator. Didn’t get any weird looks so I reckon I am safe. Until I fell over dropping my nuts (not a euphemism). I also noticed there are a HELL OF A LOT OF PUBLIC TOILETS. Anyone who has been to Japan will know that the toilets are AMAZING (either that or I’m just a weirdo). They offer a heated toilet seat, a front and back bum bidet and pure comfort. Amazing. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!! However, I soon found out on my walk around Yokohama that the public toilets don’t offer quite as much luxury – see photo….so don’t be expecting a warm bum from these! japan 1 japan 4

Fran being Fran I had to locate some good snacks for my brief stop in Japan. Japanese cuisine is clearly very different from here in the UK. I noticed lots of fun looking snacks that if you want a western style treat with a twist then check out the grape fanta, green tea Kit Kats and Raspberry M&Ms.

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Something else I suggest you to if in Japan is visit one of the numerous 100 Yen shops. People rinse these for being the pound land of Japan, but they are actually brillo. Where else can you buy foot pads that are ‘leg slimming’? Ha….. no but seriously there are some good things in these shops and it’s a total bargain. 100 Yen is about 56 pence. I recommend heading to the Collete Mare Shopping Centre on the 4th floor and it is called Daiso. It can be reached easily by getting the train to Sakuragicho and Minatomirai line stations. However I did laugh a lot because it’s 100 Yen plus Tax….I guess that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

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So now I’ve got the food and 100 Yen shops out the way I can write a little more about the other things I did on my short stop in Japan. I have learnt a lot about Japanese culture – I learnt that Japanese people wear inside and outside shoes, so they will often ask for slippers. Also it is polite to present things with two hands, and in shops there are often little trays which you place money in when buying something, and likewise the cashier presents your change back to you in this tray. During my trip the local people I met were nothing but polite and smiley to me, and when the language barrier is so large, a smile goes a long way. I also started to realise how popular ‘Ramen’ or Cup Noodles are. So on my trip I thought I would pay tribute to this and visited the Cup Noodle Museum

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How to get there? If we take a central point of Yokohama to give directions from that will be easier. So….exit the Yokohama Landmark Tower and follow the moving walkway with the big wheel clock being on your left. Then head down the stairs and pass Nippon Maru Memorial Park, cross the Kishamichi Promenade and you will reach the ‘Shinko area’. This is where the Cup Noodles Museum is, just past Cosmoworld!

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When I first got to the museum, I thought, brilliant, a bit of banter to ease the jet lag. I was the only Western person, surrounded by a lot of excited Japanese children (and adults), taking photos with the giant Cup Noodle pot. I enter with a headset so I could listen in English. I learnt that the first Cup Noodle invention was the Chicken Ramen by Momofuku Ando who founded Nissin Food Products. Ramen is a noodle soup, and it was first developed in 1958. Since then hundreds more products have been launched and the first room shows you all of these. Having wandered around the ‘Instant Noodles History Cube’ I was beginning to feel like I was in some sort of dream as I was surrounded by Ramen products. I learnt that even when Momofuku was 90 he was still inventing products, including the Cup noodle in 1971 and then Ramen that can be eaten in space in 2005. I think this is really cool!

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I made my exit from the cube (Phillip Schofield eat your heart out) and moved on to the ‘Momofuku theatre’ where I was to learn more about the inventor who got all of us through our degrees #hungoverpotnoodle Noodles were rife on the black market following the war. Everybody wanted noodles so Momofuku Ando decided he would find a way to provide people with what they wanted. In a solitary shed he came up with the idea of noodles which are cooked in oil then dried, and re cooked by simply pouring hot water onto them. I have to admit, I did LOL when I walked into the next room of the museum to be greeted by a mock up of the shed, with a fake flame effect stove full of ‘visual effect’ cooking oil for the noodles. japan 8

You are probably wondering why on Earth I am writing so much about noodles. However, this next stage of the museum does aim to make you realise that if you have an idea you can take it all the way. And if you are receptive to some deep thoughts (despite the inevitable jet lag), the shed, though hilarious, does aim to make you realise that you don’t need lots of tools and money to make something work. Six ideas are emphasised – we should aim to discover something new, find ideas in all sorts of places, nurture our ideas, look at it from every angle and don’t go with the status quo and never give up! How do they get the noodles in the cup? Yes I genuinely spent 10 minutes of my life trying to work this out. It seems like a silly question, but it’s not! You can’t put the noodles straight in the cup, because they don’t fit. So instead they have conveyors of the noodles in the shape of the pot, and the pot is placed over the top of the noodles, then flipped, so the noodles fit perfectly with room underneath for the hot water to drip to and to allow the noodles to cook. Having explored all of these parts of the museum you then have the option to go and make your own Ramen, and of course there is a gift shop for meeting all your (my) tat needs.

Cost: 2000 Yen deposit for the English audio guide which you get back at the end and entry fee of 500 yen which is around £2.70 So do I recommend a trip to the museum? YES! If you want to venture slightly further afield into Tokyo, then I would recommend Yoyogi Park which I have since learnt was where the opening ceremony was held for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and also the location of the first successful aircraft flight in Japan (cheers Wiki). Also try to visit Harajuku a district in Shibuya in Tokyo. Here is the popular Takeshita (don’t) Street – it is lined with clothes shops, and lots of independent shops with really cool stuff! It is definitely worth a visit. I will definitely be going back there to explore more when I next visit Japan. If you get a chance visit the Shibuya crossing – here the lights all go red at the same time and everybody walks across from all sides. It is often described as being like watching marbles roll. Quite random but a nice spot to visit and grab a Starbies (in the Tsutaya building on the North side of the crossing) for the perfect view of the crossing.

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Hasedera Temple:

I decided to go and visit the Hasedera Temple “Great Kannon Kamakura Hasedera”. Here is the home of the Hase Kannon statute which is absolutely amazing! It’s 9 metres high. I learnt that Kannon who represents compassion, mercy and love has 11 heads which signifies that he/she listens to the wishes of all the people. I also learnt that although in English it translates as the Buddhist goddess of mercy, it is neither masculine nor feminine in strict terms, instead it is a Bodhisattva which was a future Buddha who will reach enlightenment.

So tell me more about the temple?

Legend has it that in 721 AD monk Shinin found a large tree with such a big trunk that he could carve two statutes of the 11 headed Kannon out of. So the statute carved from the bottom half of the trunk was enshrined in the Hasedera Temple, and the statute made from the upper half was put in the sea in the hope it would come back to save people. It is said to have washed up ashore with light rays coming from it, therefore this temple honours it.

One thing you must do if you visit here is go into the Benten-Kutsu caves! Here there is a statute of Benzaiten. She is the God of good fortune in general and the shrines for her are located near water as she is a sea goddess. Benzaiten reformed her husband who was a wicked dragon and so is often seen riding one. She is said to prevent earthquakes and is especially worshiped on islands.

How to get there?

From Sakuragicho get the number 4 track one stop to yokohama then change to track 9 and go approx 6 stops to Kamakura.

If you get confused the staff at the Sakuragicho station are lovely and will happily help direct you in the right way.

This cost me 780 yen return which is approximately £4.50.

Once at Kamakura, exit the station and turn left, then take a right at the end of the road with lots of lovely little shops including one of many sought after 100 yen stores! Here you can also find a hideen little gem – a shop that sells second hand designer goods including Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton- a girls dream!!

It is about a mile walk to the shrine so wear comfortable shoes and take some water as it can get quite humid! Just down from this temple is the big Buddha!

Cost? 300 Yen plus 20 Yen to go inside the Buddha Amida nyorai in kamakura started being constructed in 1252. It is 13.4m high, and weighs 121 tonnes

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http://www.yokohamajapan.com/

http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english/index.html http://www.yokohama-landmark.jp/web/english/ tokyo 1tokyo 2

Something I would be keen to visit next time is the Yokohama English Garden – if anyone has been let me know. You can reach it by catching the Negishi line from Sakuragicho station to Yokohama station and then getting the Sotetsu line to the gardens. Until next time! x

24 hours in Sydney

So you’ve arrived in Sydney, Australia. Home to the koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, fit silver fox Karl Kennedy. What should you do with your time?

I highly recommend climbing the Sydney harbour bridge. The cost is quite steep (whey) at approximately 250 Australian dollars, around 150 pounds, but it is by far worth every penny. You start with a briefing on how to climb the ladders the correct and safe way, with lots of giggles involved, and you are advised how you will be attached to the bridge in every way possible so as to prevent falling. Even your sexy blue Sydney harbour bridge climb hat included in the price Is clipped onto you so it doesn’t blow off!

Your instructor tells you lots of interesting facts about the bridge, it’s formation and maintenance. One fact being that it will never stop being painted because each bit takes so long to paint that at any one time some of it will always be being painted! Bit like my house….come on dad, get that dulux out! You can’t take anything up with you apart from sunglasses which are clipped onto you teacher style. So be aware that this can be an expensive visit as 10 photos that the instructors take for you are around 60 Australian dollars and then each one after that is 5. So it is worth going in a group, for the experience together and also to group together and save a bit of dosh!

Upon reaching the top, the views are spectacular. The opera house one side, and goate island, celebrity houses, government buildings and other spectacles to enjoy. You can also see the residence where Kate and William stayed when they were on their tour.

The bridge climb truly is a must have experience.

Post climb you can also take a walk to see the Sydney opera house. If you head to George street and can the 555 bus, this is free and will take you to the station right by the bay. You can walk from the station and take those must have photos at the opera house, and visit the guylian cafe- WHY DO WE NOT HAVE THESE IN ENGLAND?! I recommend the veggie panini, which has aubergine, courgette, halloumi, sundried tomatoes, and a praline hot chocolate. YUM.

Some other bits and bobs that are worth a visit are paddys market which is just slightly on from darling harbour. There are plenty of signs to direct you to this. If like me, you enjoy a bit of koala themed tack, then my friends, you have hit the jackpot!! Here you can find everything from mini koala bear key rings, to full size koala toys, to tea towels, cork hats, kangaroo in road signs, beach towels, a kangaroo claw back scratcher (ewww) kangaroo ball bottle openers….you get the picture. Deffo worth a trip for those tacky gifts for friends and loved ones. Darling harbour is very pretty too but be wary that the prices in the shops there are a lot higher than at paddys market. In darling harbour you will also find the aquarium and Madame Tussaud’s.

To end your 24 hours why not enjoy a lovely dinner- I recommend visiting the waterside grill where you can select a range of steaks, vegetarian food including a divine pumpkin soup salads, burgers, all while enjoying the lovely views of the waterside and the lit up skyline. Then head home for a well earned rest.

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24 hours in Cape Town

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Cape Town, the Tavern of the Seas, the second biggest city population after Johannesburg in SA, Table mountain, great white sharks, wine tasting regions, whales, the legislative capital of the country, PO BOX 8000, Mayor Patricia de Lille, area code +27 021… Wikipedia you’ve served me well…

On a serious note, there are endless things to do in Cape Town. But what should you do with only 24 hours?

ADRENALINE JUNKIE?

SHARKS. Gansbaai is 2 hours drive from Cape Town, though a long drive, very worth it. There are plenty of companies that offer shark cage diving tours, but one I would definitely recommend is “Shark Lady”.

I recommend this because seeing grown men wearing a wet suit with shark lady written on it, is amusing.

You are picked up from your accommodation and driven to Gansbaai where you are greeted with breakfast, coffee and a briefing on the morning ahead. I went first thing in the morning so pick up was 3am, and you head to sea at approximately 7:30am. The team started to make a trail of fish guts to draw the sharks nearer the boat, and when ready 5 of us got in the cage. When told that they were going to open the lid of the cage and you have to slide off the side of the boat, I was as dubious about whether I would be positioning home as a legless (not in a good way) passenger rather than working…But of course all was fine, I saw loads of sharks, and a whale!!

Surprisingly you are not far form the shore, and the sharks can be found in relatively shallow water. We anchored about 10 minutes away from shore. We were briefed on the importance of not sticking limbs, selfie sticks, or indeed any other kind of stick out of the cage. We had about 15 minutes each in the cage and we were lucky enough to attract the sharks quite quickly. We had a wetsuit and goggles, but no breathing equipment as such. You bob around in the cage until given the command to go “down” – don’t, you filthmongers, and the crew will direct you which way to look. It all happens very quickly but the sharks come very close to the cage, as they are drawn in by big fish head bait. If you’re lucky the sharks will breach the water which is where they jump, I saw a half breach where you get a really close glimpse at their jaws!

I took an underwater camera but in my opinion it maybe isn’t worth it, because you need your hands to hold on and keep yourself steady in the cage. You get the best shots from the top deck of the boat.

Definitely recommend it for those adrenaline junkies among us.

Cost me around 70 GBP

WINE TASTING:

Groot Constantia

We took a bus from Cape Town to here, and paid approx 5 GBP to wine taste. You can choose 5 wines from reds and whites and also pay a little more if you want cheese or chocolate to taste with the wines.

I would recommend trying the Blanc de Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot mix. Looks like a rose, tastes delicious. It’s got hints of strawberry, peach and raspberries! Enjoy!

And you can take home some bottles for around 4 pounds each!!

Great afternoon but potentially the SA Wine Rack- only joking, it is a lovely afternoon and worth a visit!

I will update this as I visit South Africa more, but for now, if you have 24 hours I recommend a bit of adrenaline rush then wine to calm down!

On my recent visit to South Africa, I decided to do something a little different….

ROBBEN ISLAND

TABLE MOUNTAIN