“It is not down in any map; true places never are.” ~ Herman Melville
And so we make it all the way to O. As lost and lovin’ it as always. Now here’s the lowdown on the O-spots… Openly and honestly. Unfortunately some of our O`s won’t make it on the blog today. Some of our trips to Osaka were so much fun that, those photos will never make the light of day. Ever. And the photos of us in Old Tingri in Tibet with Trace being chased by a rogue donkey, have mysteriously disappeared. (But believe me… it’s Dee here, and I am so ON tracking them down…that and the re-telling of the Trace + the toilet restaurant fiasco in the very same town…). We can never go back. We know. So, OH dear. Let’s see where we’ve been and the obstacles and oodles of tales to tell. Quite sure we can fill our O quote in this entry.
USA. Oklahoma City was born in a single day – what was just a solitary railroad station grew to a tent city of 10,000 residents overnight. But it was the 1995 bombing of a federal building that catapulted the city to headline status. Since then, Oklahoma City, has reinvented itself – Bricktown entertainment district, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Trace visited the museum that recounts that fateful day and the days, weeks, and years that followed with eyewitness accounts, actual news footage, and exhibitions that document everything. The most moving room in the museum is filled with photographs of the 168 victims, who are honored again in an outside memorial by 168 empty chairs lined in rows; smaller chairs represent the 19 children who died in the blast. Oklahoma City’s other top attraction is the outstanding National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, which celebrates the life of the cowboy and the Old West with historic artifacts. It has to be seen to be believed. Memories: meeting an inmate at the bus stop, not understanding anyone’s accent, Mickey Mantle, John Wayne’s kachina dolls, the waxing fiasco, a helpful cabbie, an emotional time at the memorial, a storm to end all storms.
Aomori, Japan. Mt Osorezan (“Fear Mountain”) is a volcano in the center of the Shimokita Peninsula. Almost as remote as it gets. It has long been considered one of Japan’s most sacred places and is notorious for its oracle or medium said to be able to communicate with the spirits of the dead. The mountain stinks with sulfur and vapour emission. It is on this barren landscape, where the only signs of life are black ravens perched on leafless trees, that Entsu-ji Temple (円通寺) was founded in the 9th century. The temple is dedicated to souls of unborn babies and dead children that the Buddha images are supposed to soothe. The nearby Lake Usoriyama also has connections with the world of the dead, a bit like the river Styx in Western mythology. Memories: the peace, the feeling of being so alone, the smell, the air of mystery and spiritualism, the amazing colours in the water.
UK. A very brief stop in Oxford had us running down The High, one of the most striking streets in England; past the old student pubs; students whizzing past on rickety bikes; towers and spires rising majestically. Home of one of the greatest universities in the world. By the 12th century, Oxford was growing in reputation as a seat of learning and the first colleges were founded in the 13th century. Ultimately, the test of a great university lies in the caliber of the people it turns out. Oxford can name-drop a mouthful: Roger Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Donne, Sir Christopher Wren, Samuel Johnson, William Penn, John Wesley, William Pitt, Matthew Arnold, Lewis Carroll, Harold Macmillan, Graham Greene, A. E. Housman, T. E. Lawrence, and many others. Women were not allowed until 1920, but since then many have graduated from Oxford and gone on to fame – Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher both graduated from Somerville College. We wanted to take a look at some of the ‘Harry Potter’ locations in famous Christchurch College – but it was closed that day. Will have to go back. Memories: true British drizzle, a sense of history and academia, the majesty.
Northern Territory, Australia. I’m not sure that this one should be under O anymore, as The Olgas are now more often called by their Aboriginal name, Kata Tjuta. Although not everyone has heard of massive Mount Olga (or “the Olgas”), a sister monolith an easy 50km drive west of Uluru, many people who have say it’s lovelier and more mysterious. Our feelings on it are that they are pretty equal in that regard. Known to the Aborigines as Kata Tjuta, or “many heads,” the Olgas’ 36 momentous red domes bulge out of the earth like turned clay on a potter’s wheel. The tallest dome is 200m higher than Uluru. The Olgas are more important in Aboriginal Dreamtime legend than Uluru as well. Two walking trails take you in among the domes: the 7.4km Valley of the Winds walk, which is fairly challenging and takes 3 to 5 hours, and the easy 2.6km Gorge walk, which takes about an hour. Both have lookout points and shady stretches. The Valley of the Winds trail closes when temperatures rise above (36°C). Memories: the deep red everywhere, the no more petrol for 200km signs, beautiful weather, hot summer heat, Aboriginal culture, being so excited about experiencing Australia’s ‘red centre’.
Hokkaido, Japan. Visited here 3 times in winter, once in summer. Our winter photos don’t make the cut here on the blog. First lot are on film. The next two times we arrived in Otaru in total blizzards. So here’s what it looks like in Summer – and it surprised even us at it’s quaint charm from under all that snow. Otaru is a small harbour town 30km West of Sapporo. Its main attraction is its charming canal district. The canal runs through Otaru which is adorned with Victorian style street lamps. During the day it is a hive of activity, and buskers play on the boulevards that run alongside, although it comes into its own at night. Otaru certainly is one of the more picturesque Japanese cities, in a vicinity which is abundant in natural beauty. Otaru attracts a large number of Japanese tourists as well as Russian visitors. Otaru is also well known for its beer, and Otaru Beer, adjacent to the canal, is a popular restaurant with a medieval theme. Otaru is also known for the freshness of its sushi. In the dead of winter – where we trudged in knee-deep snow and on icy sidewalks, and in the summer – we experienced blue skies and canal-side strolls. Memories: the beer, the Sophia II, the ski lift, the view from the top, freezing to death in winter, the canal by night, the unique feel of this quaint city, the SEAFOOD.
Tokyo, Japan. This is Tokyo’s newest district, quite literally – it was constructed from reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. Connected to the mainland by the Rainbow Bridge and the Yurikamome monorail, Odaiba is home to hotels, Japan’s largest convention space, several shopping complexes (including the very fancy Venus Fort), futuristic buildings (the Kenzo Tange-designed Fuji TV building), several museums, a hot-spring public bath, a Ferris wheel, and Megaweb (a huge multimedia car amusement and exhibition center sponsored by Toyota). It’s a good escape from city life, with a seaside park and a sandy beach that capitalize on the city’s bayside location. It also has it’s own Statue of Liberty (Not unlike many areas in Japan…) Memories: Nat’s birthday, Le Meridian Grand Pacific, photos along the shore, the boardwalk, Joypolis, don’t ‘kick’ or ‘punch’ the monster, Coca-cola World, always a good time.
Have a fabulously opulent, over-indulgent and outlandish weekend.