As we journey up north again and bid a sad au revoir to our dear Venice (Florida), where the weather is going to improve greatly next week, I leave you with the Dollar Shop gearing up for St Patrick's Day. Well you can't plan ahead too much..
A pretty car at a crossroads.
The beach in better weather
And as a change from all those sunsets, sunrise over little Venice Airport, which we are unfortunately not flying from as we don't have a private plane.
In Florida. Yes I'm back for a couple more days of wind chill and spitting rain and a very slight feeling of superiority that it isn't actually snowing here, as it is further north, in places like Georgia and Alabama, which haven't seen the white stuff for years.
Still, a rainy day in Florida is better than a rainy day in Peckham. For example, you can go to a place called Punta Gorda, where there are some nice old houses with balconies and verandahs and a souped-up Fisherman's Village full of cutesy shops.
More to the point, it's under cover.
There are glittering lights, just like in Palm Beach.
And a cafe with pictures of 1950s American cars
Interesting art work
And you can queue up for a sunset cruise. It might be a good day to go, if you've brought your down coat and woolly hat. They're aren't many takers. You might have the sunset all to yourself if you could see it.
You can have your picture taken next to a big shark and pretend you're Ernest Hemingway.
Unless mermaids and pirates are more your scene.
This duo complained that they'd been playing for twenty minutes and no one had yet given them a tip. This was understandable as the tables were out in the rain and all of them were empty.
Some eclectic Florida imagery.
And a place to sit and eat conch fritters and calamari and drink rum cocktails and watch genuine doughty fishermen in sou'westers beat a path out into the bay and a loan, brave sailing boat.
After which more window shopping, whether for a mermaid feature
T-shirts for dogs
Or those funny metal signs
Americans will always find a way to enjoy themselves.
Alas an even shorter time to spend. On the way to Jakarta I overnighted in Tokyo, took the N'ex train (Tokyo's equivalent of the Heathrow Express, with the English translation of the announcements spoken by the most wonderful plummy, Sloaney girl's voice) into the city and more by luck than judgement succeeded in meeting up with my friends. They took us on Tokyo's equivalent of the London Underground, cleaner of course but still nostalgically familiar, via this car showroom with the gorgeous E-type....
to a restaurant far above the city, where lights glittered below us and the waitress brought a special frame to stand by the table so I wouldn't have to put my bag on the floor.
The Japanese sense of the aesthetic is without parallel. Here a napkin like a waiter's shirt with a spaghetti bow....
Here just a tiny part of a serendipitous meal ..
With sweetly arranged condiments...
The green glob on the left was the most exquisite pistachio ice cream.
Then an overnight stay at a boutique hotel with everything in perfect working order. They provided cotton pyjamas that lulled me to sleep. And in the morning on the way back to the airport, my amazing friends met me with coffee and tiny Japanese doughnuts and showed me a bit of the city. We drove past Tokyo Disneyland, including Sleeping Beauty's castle, austerely grey in the morning light but edged with twinkling fairly lights.
And on the way back, a few hours' sojourn at Narita Airport, a serene haven, with neat little rooms you can rent by the hour to catch up on sleep. And shop displays like works of art.
I loved these cats...
The effect is a little tarnished by so many people going around wearing masks, presumably to avoid germs, including most officials in customs and immigration, where I had to walk by a heat detector to make sure I didn't have a temperature. You can drink the water though, which is more than you can say about Jakarta. I hope I can come back to Tokyo one day.
Taking the "sometimes elsewhere" blog brief to extremes, here are a few shots of Jakarta - sadly I only had my phone camera to hand. One really should not pontificate about a country one has visited for only three days but maybe a few impressions won't come amiss.
Well, for starters, they have the right idea.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you're at the other side of the world..
not to mention........
Sometimes not so hard...
The view from my hotel put it in a nutshell. Between the skyscrapers of the business district, rather more modest accommodation.
And you can see something of the floods, which sadly cost some lives in parts of the city while I was there. The rivers ran an ugly chocolate brown and the roads were in chaos.
The food was eclectic - this handsome fellow ended his days in a Chinese restaurant...
Local jokers call this chap "Pizza Man".
Everyone was getting into gear for Chinese New Year
Once they'd done with Christmas, that is (see the sign on the bridge)
Incidentally I was surprised by the newness and dentlessness of the cars.
Not so the national treasures, the little 3-wheeler taxis...
There are still some old Dutch-style houses on a square that could be in Europe.....
....or then again, perhaps not.
Still, there's optimism....
And examples of beautiful classical architecture - this is a museum
In the far distance you can see the railway station, reminiscent, my American friends say, of Cincinnati.
At this restaurant I first encountered the infamous durian, a fruit that stinks of all the worst things you've ever smelled put together. I can't imagine why they think it's a delicacy.
Actually I was in Jakarta for a wonderful wedding - here's a taste of the reception.
Any resemblance to the bride and groom is purely coincidental.
The food - and dessert - was to die for.
Nice touches on the wedding car.
The day after, an interesting lunch ...
....at a swanky hotel with Balinese musicians gently setting the mood
Cool spaces in every sense of the word
And trust me to come on the only cool day.
Life was a constant battle against rain and water.
In an unfamiliar place I met some familiar friends
Next to the cathedral (see below) is a very large mosque, the population, of course, being overwhelmingly Muslim. They have established a modus vivendi. The mosque allows Christmas worshippers to use its car park. But there are certain tensions. And sporadic attacks by extremists mean churches are diligently guarded.
And hotels used by westerners have heavy security: guards, gates, x-rays, sniffer dogs.
But in other ways, we're all part of one big, happy family.