Wednesday, 30 September 2015

From Stables To House: Coming Soon

Good Day Everyone,

I thought I'd do a little update post telling you what hubby and I have been up to since leaving Japan. After a stopover in Singapore (vlog to come soon), we arrived back home to the UK in June.

Never ones for a quiet life, we jumped straight into our next adventure. This one wasn't quite as glamorous as moving to Japan, in fact it was a bit of a step back when it came to our living space... a caravan! We bought Cora the caravan (that's right we named her) the same Saturday that we landed in the UK. We picked her up on Sunday and come Monday morning hubby drove her to her new location, and that's where we currently live!
Change is always on the horizon
Hubby and I are currently in the process of turning what once used to be a horses stable into a house. This may sound a bit random, especially compared to our recent expat life in Singapore and Japan, but it's not too random for us. In all the time that hubby and I have been together we've had a tendency to jump from one adventure (and at times disaster) to another, with little time in between. I'm not sure why, but our lives never tend to remain stable, calm and routine-y for long. Change is always just around the corner. I know change is the only constant in life but we just seem to go through more change than most people we know. It just seems to be our thing!

For example, a year after I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and realising that it was spreading quite aggressively, we decided to simplify and re-prioritise our lives.... by moving half way across the world to a country where we knew no-one, Singapore. It sounds crazy, but in reality and with hindsight, it really was one of the best decisions we've ever made #NoRegrets! I'm not yet sure I'll be saying the same about the horses stable but you kind of get the idea of how our life tends to work.

So what possessed us to buy a building in a part of the UK that we'd never been to before, miles away from friends and family? The fact that it was a beautiful blue sky sunny day on the day that we went to view it might have had something to do with it. I'm not sure the outcome of that visit would have been the same had it been typical British weather of rain and drizzle. Also, the fact that the building is less than 30 seconds from the beach, surrounded by beautiful public gardens with a little stream running in front of it may have played a part. The setting is very idyllic and I promise you, the fact that the building came with it's own teeny tiny bridge taking you over the stream had absolutely nothing to do with it- honest! Although, it does make our friends chuckle when they visit and we tell them to park their car on our bridge. OK, so the bridge, even though it's very small, is kind of cool ;o).

I'm going to be doing a series of vlogs on YouTube as well as blog posts here sharing our journey from stables to house very soon, and in the meantime, here's a little taster of what's to come.

For those of you that enjoyed the Japan vlogs/posts, don't worry I still have a few more of those to come from the end of our time there :o).

Love Sheen xxx
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Thursday, 17 September 2015

JVlog #24: A Typical Sunday Afternoon in Yokohama

Good Day Everyone,

I've been rather inactive on my blog lately due to struggles with my arthritis ridden body. Living with chronic pain, and the subsequent insomnia this causes, means that I don't have the physical energy to do much at all. Even eating leaves me feeling utterly exhausted at times. However, on days like today when I'm feeling a bit more able, I try to do what I can :o).
An iconic steel sculpture in Yokohama
Yokohama sights, incl. the Nippon Maru ship museum and Cosmo Clock 21 ferris wheel
In today's post I wanted to share a vlog with you showing you what a typical Sunday afternoon in Yokohama was like for us, sharing some of the local sights. Yokohama is Japan's second largest city and just a 30min train ride away from Tokyo, making it a good day trip spot. It is an old port city and it's proximity to the water gives it a more relaxed vibe compared to Tokyo. Many sights/activities/places of interest are all within easy reach of one another. It's the kind of city that you can easily explore on foot or bike. There are self rental bike stations (Bay Bike) at most tourist sights.
On this particular day we wandered through a less touristy part of Yokohama where there was a  street festival taking place. After quickly realising that we'd seen many of the acts at a previous street festival we decided to catch the subway to one of my favourite parts of Yokohama, Motomatchi, the last stop on the MinatoMirai subway line. Motomatchi and the neighbouring hills of Yamate/Bluff area are where many of the foreign traders settled when Yokohama opened itself up as a port town, after the Edo period where Japan's rulers prohibited interaction with foreign countries. 
A (very faint) snow capped Mount Fuji behind the trees in the centre
In this area there are many western style buildings, some of which have been turned into museums and coffee shops, as well as a foreigners cemetery. On a clear day you can see Mount Fuji in the distance near the cemetery's main entrance. There is a walking route which takes you along the edges of the cemetery down to the back of Motomatchi shopping street. Along the way you get a great view looking out towards the iconic Yokohama Landmark Tower and during spring there are some beautiful cherry blossom trees to admire.
Yokohama Landmark Tower and Motomachi
We wandered through the residential streets at the bottom of the cemetery so that I could show you what a typical residential area looks like along with the style of Japanese houses. With space at a premium, houses are small and don't have much in the way of gardens/outdoor space, unless in a rural location (such as what we saw in Kawaguchiko/Mount Fuji area). Even the smallest of house will have a gap between itself and the neighbouring house. You don't see terraced houses in Japan. I'm guessing this is to allow wiggle room in the event of an earthquake. To me, Japanese houses all look very different to one another. You don't see the kind of uniformity that we get in England with streets and streets of houses that all look the same. Even though most houses don't have a front garden, (or if they do it is a very small), there will always be some sort of potted plants/flowers outside the house, which I think is rather nice touch.
In the midst of the residential houses there is a large fish pond which is home to some beautiful koi carp. I remember the first time we came across this purpose built pond, it felt quite random, just tucked away amongst the houses, but then Japan is definitely home to randomness and that's what we love about it. Can you just imagine a pond like this in the back streets of England?!
From the fish pond we headed for a bite to eat, before wandering through Motomachi shopping street. This street is the closest thing I ever came across in Japan that resembled a traditional high street that we get in England. As the name suggests it is a street lined with shops (including many familiar brands like Zara and Gap) and cafes and restaurants. It is especially beautiful during Christmas time when it is decorated with festive lights. It is definitely worth exploring the side streets that come off the main shopping street as there are lots of independent shops selling anything from crockery and lace to food and witches... yep that's right witches! There is a whole shop dedicated to witches, as you'll see in the vlog above.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into our time in Japan. If you're ever in Tokyo then I would highly recommend a day or two in Yokohama.

Love Sheen xxx
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