Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Arriving in Kyoto and visiting the Nishiki Market

We took the incredibly cheap local train from Osaka to Kyoto, and then promptly walked off in the wrong direction - again - although this time because our hostel was shown in the wrong place on Google maps. In common with much of Asia, Japan has lots of little lanes, that aren't properly marked on maps and often don't have street names on them, so they can make it tricky to find your way around. Anyway, we spotted a postman, which I always think is the best person to ask for an address, and with no shared language, but a lot of pointing and gesturing, he was able to set us in the right direction.

Of course by the time that we got to the hostel, we had missed our opportunity to check in, so headed out in search of some food. Having already walked around unnecessarily, we didn't feel like lugging the packs too far, so we're happy to settle for whatever was nearby. We drew the line at McDonalds, but found a little Japanese fast food place instead.

It took us a moment to work out what to do. There is a machine near the door where you order and pay for your food, and it spits you out two little tickets for each item. You give one of each these to the staff, and sit down, and they bring everything to you. This is where I first discovered a liking for tonkatsu, which is really just pork in breadcrumbs, but somehow tastes so much better. Perhaps it's the panko crumbs, or how they cook it, I don't know, but I like it.

Now this place wasn't the best for tonkatsu, we had some really excellent ones in some proper restaurants, but for a fast food place, the quality was actually very good. And you can certainly fill up, especially if you like the extras. Most things come as a set meal, with the usual shredded cabbage and unlimited rice accompaniments, but also a bowl of miso soup, pickles and something a bit like a not so tasty panacotta. I never worked out exactly what that was, but except for one place in Nara, where it was very nice, I wasn't keen.

Hunger satisfied, and the hostel now open, we went to check in. Our hostel - more of a guesthouse really - was run by a lovely Japanese couple in what used to be their own home. It was our first, but certainly not our last, experience of sleeping on Japanese futons. They are actually far more comfortable that you'd expect - and much more so than some of the rock hard beds we had in China. It is only a thin mattress on the floor, but the floor is covered in tatami mats which are themselves quite cushioned, so not too bad at all. The worst thing for me, with my bad knees, was getting up and down from the floor.

We decided not to head straight out for temples on our first day, and instead went to the shopping area and the Nishiki Market. The market is quite interesting to wander through, looking at all of the different foods on offer. I tried a selection of gel like cordials, and took quite a liking to yuzu, a sort of sweeter lemon flavour. I also liked seeing, but didn't buy, the doughnuts decorated as animals.

Nic tried a few fishy things, although he passed on the tako tamago, the tiny octopus with a quail egg stuffed into its head. Neither did he choose to sample the fish eyes.

During our ten days in Kyoto, we did make a couple of souvenir purchases at the market, both of which were connected to food and drink. We decided to treat ourselves to a nice pair of chopsticks each, and spent ages in a shop with thousands of designs. We eventually agreed on some twisted wooden ones.

We also bought a nice little pottery sake set, so then of course, we had to buy a bottle of sake to christen it.

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