One of my most distinct memories of Japan (of which there are many) is standing in the above ground train stations – in Kyoto and Hiroshima and maybe a couple of other places, but I don’t remember exactly – and noticing all the little birds flying around. Finches or sparrows or something – I’m not really sure, but they were tiny little things, and flew about energetically and ceaselessly. I was in awe at the presence of so much birdlife in the middle of these big cities. Continue reading
So with my revised blogging schedule, I’ve decided to skip ahead a few days on my Japan trip recount. These, I think, I’ll most likely return to as Thursday Doors posts, or some other random post as I think of them. Today I’d like to share one of my most memorable days from the holiday: Tuesday February 14th, which KF and I spent in Kyoto.
Having travelled there by bullet train the day before, this would be our first full day in Kyoto. Prior to the trip, I did do a little bit of research about places to visit in and around the city, but on the day we arrived, we visited the tourist information centre (helpfully located near the main train station), and a very helpful guide/assistant (who also spoke really good English) gave us a few pointers about getting around town. We left with a map of the bus routes, bus passes, and a better idea of what we’d be doing the next day. Continue reading
This might seem like an unusual thing to really like about a town, but something that I really liked about Queenstown was that almost every restaurant, pub, bar, shop, etc played really good music. A lot of this music was from the ’90s and early 2000s. I reckon every day I came across a song that elicited that “wow, I haven’t heard this song in ages” reaction or the “wow, I used to really like this song” response.
At first, we hypothesised that maybe they were all tuned in to the same radio station that just played really awesome music, but then we realised that there were never any ads or announcements. The next theory was that, since Queenstown is essentially a tourist town, and a lot of their tourists are in their 20s, they all had the same bright idea to play music that would be most nostalgic to (and hence get the best reaction from) our generation. (A lot of places also seemed privvy to the benefits of advertising “free wifi” to foreigners who didn’t want to pay expensive roaming charges, but wanted to update social media statuses and upload happy snaps.)
But not all of the music was from 10+ years ago. We pretty much always had the radio on in the car when we drove to/from places, and the radio stations we listened to played a decent amount of new music. In fact, we noticed a few songs that were ridiculously overplayed that we seemed to catch them almost every time we got in the car. Among these, that I can remember, were ‘Black widow’ (Iggy Azalea), ‘Ugly heart’ (GRL), and my personal favourite, ‘Ghost’ (Ella Henderson). I think we also heard ‘Budapest’ (George Ezra) a fair few times – not that I’m complaining. These are the songs that have reminded me of NZ everytime I’ve heard them since coming back home (not because of any lyrical relevance, though).
To be fair, those songs are probably over-played on Australian radio, too, but I hardly ever listen to the radio here, so they retain their association with driving around in NZ.
In order to avoid dragging this out any longer, I’m going to make this my last NZ post. When I was thinking about what I wanted to write about from the holiday, I always knew music was going to be the primary topic of one of my posts because it really left an impression. What I want to finish on is something else that also made a big impression, and is probably the most commendable thing about Queenstown: hospitality and general friendliness.
I like going to cafes and shops and whatever where the staff are nice to you because they’re actually nice people, not because they’re forced to be nice. And a bit of small talk makes the whole experience just that bit more pleasant. It was like they all understood that a lot of their customers are tourists, and we’re just there to have a good time (locals probably go to restaurants, etc for a good time too, but you get what I mean) Yeah, sure, they benefit as much as we do from good service (do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising!) but there was something genuinely warm about Queenstown service that had nothing to do with the contrast to the cold weather outside.
This friendliness also extended outside of the commercial world, and was most notable on the slopes. I’m the sort of person who finds exercise to be generally quite therapeutic, but there just seems to be something about being on a snow-covered mountain that just makes people more amicable.