We miss you…

Bella and I visited Kensington Gardens for a different reason today. We wanted to drop in at the park and lay flowers for Princess Diana because today was the day when the princess died in Paris 20 years ago.

We alighted a bus at the bottom of Kensington Church Street and bought a bouquet of flowers from an open-air florist by the church.

Gilded gate outside the palace was turned into a makeshift shrine for the princess and crowds were gathering around it…

On the same day 20 years ago, I was in Japan, spending my summer holiday with my parents. I still remember clearly what we were doing when the news of her death came in. It was an ordinary sunny Sunday morning and we were watching some news review show on TV. Out of the blue, a guy who was panelling the programme started to listen into his earpiece intently and then announced, ‘Princess Diana seems to be hurt in a traffic accident in Paris.’ My late dad, mum and I looked at each other and uttered ‘Oh my god!’ simultaneously. Then, we saw the same presenter’s expression turned very grave as he received more updates about the princess’s condition. ‘I am afraid to inform you but the princess has died.’ We all lost for words. ‘No, no, NO!’ Princess Diana was very popular in Japan. She was loved because of her beauty and her charity works. We were devastated by the news.

People were reading notes attached to the shrine and laying flowers…

I wanted to come here 20 years ago and mark my respect. Now, I can finally do it, I felt very emotional as I placed my bouquet along the fence.

I never saw her in person but I adored her beauty, especially her warm gaze…

It was difficult to believe that 20 years had passed since she was gone…

She was the best loved British royalty for sure and I miss her very much…

Britain did become a less interesting place since her death. Despite her sons has grown up to be two fine men, they can never match their mother’s star quality and charm. Diana really was one of a kind. She was a treasure.

Lots of media were there to cover how the public were marking their tribute…

BBC, Sky News, CNN, etc, all camping out between the statue of Queen Victoria and Round Pond…

I miss you, Princess Diana. Please rest in peace.

I will never forget you.

Lost in translation @ Augsburg

Ok, Augsburg did defy our expectation. We were vaguely imagining the place to be crammed with medieval buildings, cobbled streets, gothic churches and so on. Instead, we found the city kind of modern and rather ordinary.

Sure, we shouldn’t have expected every town and city on Romantic Road to be “picture on a biscuit box” perfect, all pretty and picturesque. However, our first impression of the city was…, grey!

A distance between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Augsburg, was about 186km (116mls) and Google map suggested the journey would take 1 hour 44 minutes. Don’t you agree that satnav always underestimates journey time? In fact, the route using A7 and A8 and then to the city centre using R2 took us almost 4 hours!

When we arrived at our hotel in Augsburg, it was almost 3:30 pm. Bizarrely, I was met by no one at the reception except a workman with a paint brush gesturing me to call a number on the wall, ‘Chef! Chef!’ You mean am I to call your boss??? I picked up the phone and dialled the number. A man’s voice answered and I explained that we were hotel guests and wanted to check in. The man on the line assured me that we would be with us shortly and also show me where to park our car. Sure enough, a middle-aged man arrived after 5 minutes and introduced himself as Albert. He owned the hotel and a beer garden nearby. He explained that he was away from the reception because the beer garden needed his attention before opening that evening.

The room we were to stay over night wasn’t that great. It was clean and the bathroom seemed to be redecorated recently, however, the bed was a bit saggy and the closet was full of tired-looking wire laundry hangers (the one you get from a dry-cleaner!) and shop hangers instead of proper wooden ones you would normally expect in hotel closets. Oh dear…

‘I don’t like English breakfast!’ I thought that was what Albert said when I went to the reception the second time for a password for their Wi-Fi. I was like ‘??? You don’t like English breakfast??’ First of all, I hadn’t come across anyone ever who didn’t like English-style fry up. And why is he telling me this? Is it because I live in London?? It was Albert’s turn to be startled, ‘Oh, I like English breakfast. I used to live in Britain!’

Then, it dawned on me. ‘Do you mean “Brexit”?’ ‘Yes, Brexit!’ His English with a heavy German accent made “Brexit” sounded like “breakfast”. Hahaha.

I told him that I was as gutted as him about the UK leaving Europe. We both agreed Brexit and Donald Trump were complete disasters…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Rotten Apple (Maps)

It was supposed to take only 40 munites. Instead we spent more than four hours on the road to reach Rothenburg ob der Tauber, thanks to stupid and useless Apple Maps! I wish if I could send them an invoice for the extra fuel I had to spend and clain conpensation for the unecessary, anxiety-ridden and unpleasant time mum and I had to endure.

Up until then, the app was working impeccably, directing us to the addresses in Reims, Strasbourg and Würzburg without any hitch. However this time, it made a monumental error. When I asked a route to Rothenburg, the app led us to Frankfurt Airport and beyond instead!

You may say that I should have consulted a map properly and grasped geographical bearings instead of setting off in an unfamiliar country with satnav alone. Yes, my shortcoming was obvious in hindsight but it was not at all obvious at the time.

When I consulted the app, it directed us to a northbound A3. Even though mum and I found the instruction a bit odd because the town we meant to go was in the south, we convinced ourselves that using the autobahn was the fastest route. We carried on like this for another two hours. Then, we saw a jumbo jet flying over us and realised something was seriously wrong. We were fast approaching Frankfurt Airport. Why are we here? Why are we in Frankfurt?? Then, it dawned on me, ‘Are we a victim of the notorious Apple Maps’ error?’

At first, I was in the state of disbelief, and then I became very very angry. Because of some idiot in Apple programmed a wrong coordinate while creating Apple Maps, not only I wasted my time and effort but also was abandoned in a Frankfurt suburb!

‘Mum, we have to U-turn and head back to Würzburg!’ I instructed mum to retrieve a paper map from the rear seat as I made a three point turn. We were definitely not in the mood to trust any satnav, Apple or Google.

We managed to find signs for the autobahn fairly soon and we were on our way back to where we started. However, a return journey to Würzburg, using A3, was far from smooth.

‘Gee, why is the traffic so slow?’ The traffic was very heavy on A3. The three lanes motorway was reduced to two lanes with a 80kph (50mph) speed restriction. But the average speed of the traffic was less than 40kph. Ugh! We’ve got to get back to Würzburg on the double!!

Then, another concern surfaced. Petrol!

We had already driven extra 105km (65miles) so far, therefore, the amount of fuel left in the tank was not enough before reaching Rothemburg. Early on, we saw a broken-down car being pulled into the lay-by with a girl shouting into her mobile phone. Oh god, we can’t share the same fate on this Autobahn, mum and I both shuddered. Could I arrange a recovery or a repair over the phone in the middle of traffic jam in Germany on Sunday? The prospect was too scary to contemplate.

Eventually, a sign for the service station came up and we had a sigh of relief. ‘Let’s fill up the tank and also buy some bottled water.’ We also used their loo and came back to our car. Then, another problem surfaced. We found the traffic on A3 almost standstill!

It took us ages to rejoin the autobahn from the slip road as the queue on the road was solid. The pace of the traffic was crawling and it carried on like this for a good hour. Then, two lanes was reduced to one lane! Why? Any accident ahead?

Yes, there was. A cab of the HGV was about to be transferred onto a recovery vehicle when we drove by. The front of the cab was completely caved in like being punch by a fist of a giant! We guessed that the lorry must have rammed into the back of another lorry. The way the window was smashed, the driver must have got hurt badly too.

After passing through the restricted area of the autobahn, the traffic gradually gained its normal pace, and we arrived at our starting point, Würzburg, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

By the way, mum proved to be a very able navigator through this unplanned detour. She read the map and directed me towards Rothenburg. How reassured I felt by it, glancing at her chubby finger time to time, tracing the Michelin route map on her lap!

I turned on Apple Maps again to see if it behaved any better when we reached to a fringe of Rothenburg.

The stupid app still asking me to go back to Frankfurt!

I lost faith in Apple Maps completely. I will never use it as long as I live, I swore.

Then, I turned on Google Map and it took us to our hotel in Rothenburg in no time. Oh how I wished if I used Google in the first place! We didn’t have to spend 4 hours on a bloody autobahn!!! And I had no idea how I managed if I didn’t have mum helping me…

You, damn, stupid, useless, Apple Maps! I hate you FOREVER!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

London Pride 2017

I must have a break from our road trip memoir today. There are yet bucket-loads to write about and I want to carry on while my memory is still fresh. However, today was a day for Pride in London, and Hubbie and I went to see the parade with Bella in tow.

Before joining a crowd on Regent Street, we decided to have lunch at SAID on Broadwick Street…

SAID has been a fixture of Broadwick Street for a number of years. They sell ludicrously tasty chocolates with amazing twists and also serve delicious Italian dishes. I just love the way they present their simple yet exquisite offerings.

I had SAID Salad – Honey coated roasted goat’s cheese with walnuts and dark chocolate shavings…

I must say, every mouthful was absulute joy. Who invented this amazingly moreish salad? Chocolate in salad? What a crazy but also wonderful idea!

The walnut had a hint of warm sweetness which went very well with the saltiness of the cheese. And the chocolate, it added another depth to the already colourful elements on the plate.

While we munched through our lunch, a group of drag queens were heading towards the parade…



They were gorgeous!

Later on, I saw them on London Live TV, performing in Leicester Square.

After lunch, we made our way to Regent Street via Carnaby Street and Beak Street. The street was really busy with the manifold of crowds lining along the barriers, waiting for the parade to commence.

‘Too many people here and can’t see a thing. Let’s move towards Piccadilly Circus!’ Hubbie suggested.

We weaved through the crowd, made a detour to an exhibition at Beetles + Huxley and eventually, made it to Piccadilly Circus.

Then, the party started!



Alas, I could only see moving flags and hear the beat and cheer.

‘Shall we move further down towards Pall Mall?’ We drifted along the crowd who seemed to have the same idea.

But our effort was in vain. Pall Mall was choking with the crowd too!

And Bella decided to sing along with the parade…



We ended up walking as far as Trafalgar Square but decided to throw in the towel. There was no way we could find any decent spot to see the parade properly anywhere along the route.

‘We should have planned it better.’ Hubbie and I agreed as we trudged towards Green Park tube station in the hot afternoon sun. Needless to say, Bella was fast asleep on my lap as soon as we were on our way home by tube…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura


After returning to our room from our evening saunter, we turned on the TV and scrolled down to check what channels were available in Strasbourg.

My French was almost good enough to get by as a tourist. I could understand French TV programmes as long as it was not too complicated so mum and I had a load of fun during channel surfing in our hotel room. I served as a translator, and we shared lots of giggle.

Hötel Cathédrale didn’t offer any English programmes, such as BBC or CNN, but French and German. At Reims, we discovered Les Guignols and found it hilarious therefore we were looking for something similar.

Then, we found “Verstehen Sie Spaß?”(Do you understand fun?)…

A German prank show!

It was because we understood very little German, except ‘Wunderbar!’, ‘Bitte?’ and ‘Danke’, we didn’t understand what those poor victims in the show were actually saying. Still, their reactions were priceless and the ideas behind the pranks were brilliantly funny. Long live Spaß!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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