Exploring Strasbourg

When we took Petit Train Touristique de Strasbourg during the previous visit, it took us towards southwest and went around the old city centre clockwise…

The tour showed us all the musts of historic area of Strasbourg, and it also gave us a comprehensive overview of the city. However, the route did not include the area north of Place Gutenberg, and we wanted to explore what they offered there.

We felt a little peckish, so we bought some pastries at local boulangerie, an almond croissant for mum and a brioche for me, and munched on them as we sauntered along Rue des Grandes Arcades. Unlike small side streets around the cathedral, Rue des Grandes Arcades was wide and lined with major high street stores, such as Mango, Adidas, Promod, Levi’s store, etc. Because it was Saturday, there were numerous clusters of people, the locals and the tourists alike, milling around and moving slowly on the pedestrianized grand thoroughfare.

‘Mmm, it’s a bit boring, isn’t it?’, mum and I agreed.

Nowadays, all the high streets in the major cities seemed to sport all the same cookie-cutter façades. It wouldn’t matter where we went, we would end up running into those ubiquitous corporate giant brands. Oh, how depressing.

We just carried on walking along the street and arrived at Place Kléber. The sun was beating down brightly, and it was becoming scorching hot…

I wanted to sit mum down for a break but there was no bench available in the shade.

At the northwest end of the square, we saw a few police cars…

The policemen appeared to be there to keep their eyes on things around the square and to give assurance to the general public.

Then on our right, we saw a tram station.

Hey, shall we hitch a ride on a tram?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Franco Manca @ Tottenham Court Road

I am very sorry for not updating my blog at all recently. My Mac went haywire and it disrupted my routine greatly. Anyway, it’s started to behave again and therefore I am back in the blogosphere!

‘Yes, they are gone!’ Now I remember. Gahhhhhhh!
One Saturday afternoon, I slapped my forehead as I stood on the pavement opposite to where once Jossep the camera shop used to be but now replaced by Morrison the supermarket.
I was after a certain bland of memory card for Hubbie’s Leica however, the task proved to be trickier than I anticipated. I trekked to three different locations but none of the shops stocked what I wanted. Specialist camera shops in Central London are a dying breed, aren’t they? They seem to have gone virtual or folded all together. And all the spaces they used to be are now occupied by fast food chains! There are too many of them! How many Starbucks and Pret alike do we need?

When I eventually knocked on the door of Hubbie’s office, I felt defeated, miserable and hungry.
‘I’m starving!’
So we headed to Franco Manca on Tottenham Court Road. Ever since opening their first West End branch in last November, there has been a sizeable queue in front of the restaurant all the time.
Even though the sight intrigued me but I was not a huge pizza fan and therefore I did not taste their offering until then…

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It was around 5ish in the afternoon so there was no queue.
The first table we were ushered to was too draughty due to being too close to the entrance. So we moved to the seating further down the dining room…

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I had a pizza with ham.
So this is the real McCoy…

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I wish if I could rave how great the pizza was. However, I was rather underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong though. The pizza was decent and proper. But would I queue up for it? No, I don’t think so. My pizza just didn’t blow me away.  Oh well, never mind. At least I know what it is like.

Normally, the outside of the restaurant looks like this…

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Maybe I should have tried their Margherita instead…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Antiques In Nagano

When it comes to vintage-hunting, I must admit London is much better than Nagano. Weekly vintage markets in & around London are teeming with people and a craze for anything vintage & antique is palpable. Apart from the actual markets, more than a few TV programmes related to bygone times and artefacts are on-aired on a daily basis whereby it indicates how much the Brits are into all things vintage & antique.
In Japan, however, that level of enthusiasm towards Japanese antique is non-existent. As the reflection of the fact, there are only a few vintage shops around the Zenkō-ji compound.

I came across this shop a few blocks away from the temple entrance…

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The shop front was inconspicuous and looked rather private. The items on display consisted of ceramic plates, dishes, cups, pitchers as well as old dolls and roof tiles (瓦).
By the entrance, there was a bargain basket…

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They were priced as ¥1,000, approximately £6.00.
The basket was stuffed with wooden bowls, a champagne cooler(?), a metal horse and some tools.

Then, I found this shop which seemed to be specialised in vintage ceramics a few minutes walk away…

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The plate on the upper right looks like a delft blue plate, don’t you think? And I loved a Persian blue glassware in front of it….

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It would not be strictly true to say that the Japanese are not interested in antiques. A few years ago, I visited the Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park and encountered a few coach-loads of Japanese housewives shopping for European vintage kitchen ware and chests. They do like vintage as long as their origins are western. I suppose it is related to the fact that the majority of contemporary Japanese houses are built and decorated in a western style, and non-eastern vintages fit better to it. Also a lack of variety in Japanese vintage in general keeps its audience number very small.

Next door to the antique shop, I found lots of cats…

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If some of them ever manage to survive the passing of time, they may be cherished as “Kawaii” vintages? I sincerely hope so.

By the way, there is a really fun weekly TV programme featuring antiques in Japan. The show is called “Nandemo Kanteidan” (何でも鑑定団) – The Troop of Appraisers.
Participants bring their treasures to a live show and experts appraise them on spot. It sounds like the BBC’s popular “Antique Roadshow”, doesn’t it? Non, non, NON. On the stage with the venue full of gleeful audiences, each participant presents his /her (most of them are men) treasure, recounts the item’s history (how it comes to their possession) and estimates a monetary value of the item.
Then, the experts who sit on the tiered seating on the stage examine the item and give it their evaluation. The treasures the participants bring are worthless more often than not. And it is a kind of guilty pleasure to see how they fall flat on their face.
I am sure there are a plenty of fake and rubbish brought to be appraised in the BBC show too. Why don’t they show the moment when the expert says “Ohhhh, I am so sorry to tell you”? Wouldn’t it be more entertaining, don’t you agree?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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