I feel I owe some of the followers of this blog an apology of sorts, as it's been a long time since I last updated. A mixture of looking after a growing family, running a business, holidays and making improvements to the house combined with a now very cold winter in the country have turned me into a much earlier sleeper these days. I must confess as the house has gotten more comfortable I haven't felt a lot of inspiration lately to write the blog once the kids have gone to sleep.
None the less much has happened and II do want to keep this blog updated, so there's going to be a lot of belated news activity getting posted now...
Last summer was extreme - one of the hottest on record in Japan. I don't do so well in the humid stifling heat and sweat profusely. 3 cold showers per day aren't enough!
From this summer I did realise we needed more ventilation in the house and - someday I hope to build a naturally self-cleaning pool, although the ventilation is a necessity which must be in by summer 2013 and the pool, well - that's a luxury I'll have to get around to when the more necessary things are done, which could be a good few years yet!
My wife had joked that as I planned to be away in Europe for the end of the summer, it was OK, she was going to Bali wuth the kids in the summer!
It had been 3 years since we'd been for a proper holiday, so in July we took off for as long as we could. She & children spent an entire month in Bali, where I joined them for almost 2 weeks.
Breakfast our favourite resort in Ubud.
The little ones were happy together.
Our daughter's grown up a little.
We're a family that loves water... All the more reason to make that pool!
A view of dawn over Sidemen village, Bali. This picture was taken on the last morning just before I returned to Japan. I couldn't help thinking although beautiful & unspoilt it'll probably change a lot within a few years. This may be our last trip to Bali...
With one of my brothers getting married in August, he & his bride spent some of their honeymoon in Portugal - so what better excuse to go and visit the family for 3 weeks as it had been years since I was last there.
Although I felt a little sad at not travelling as a family, I had the opportunity to enjoy time with a lot more freedom and so I experienced one of the most fun summers discovering places I'd never seen before. As I would usually always visit over Christmas in the past I hadn't enjoyed summer there since my teens!
With 2 of my bro's. Sadly the other was away working during the day but he also found time to be with us! It had been years since we'd been together.
The view from the boat, on the way to Alentejo for a long weekend.
Beautiful unspoilt golden beaches which only the Portuguese know of.
Yoga on the beach.
The newlyweds, like 2 peas in a pod.
Right after this picture, he could no longer find his t-shirt and almost ran after a tourist that had passed by to demand it back... whilst I did my best at a straight & innocent poker face.
Quinta Da Regaleira is a beautiful place to visit in Sintra.
Lisbon still has trams running that are over 150 years old.
As is traditional when we're in Portugal, a gathering of some of the cousins that could make it at short notice for dinner was arranged. Always fun.
The 4 brothers at home with mum.
And 2 of the other halves.
Shortly after the above pictures were taken, the newly-wed's honeymoon came to an end and so the ensemble of brotherhood was split until the next opportunity.
I'd figured travelling so far to Europe, there would have been no point in returning too fast, so I still had a few weeks to enjoy. The Portuguese typically take all of August off from work and so the fun times with family & friends continued.
One of the cousins has a lovely house at the edge of the water for Barragem de Castelo Do Bode which is a huge man-made reservoir that supplies water to Lisbon.
A beautiful & tranquil place to enjoy a holiday. With many forest fires throughout Portugal every summer - the land surrounding his home had burnt just a few days before, but fortunately the house and his land had remained unscathed!
And so some of the family joined together to relax, water-ski, swim and enjoy time together just as August was coming to an end. This was a first time - but it would be a shame if this didn't continue as a tradition, as we all had a fabulous time together!
Swimming & lounging off the pontoon.
The view over the water was spectacular.
Alex is a kite-boarder so he took to wake-boarding like a duck to water.
We all had a go and enjoyed riding, or watching spectacular falls.
All too soon it was time to each return to Lisbon and for each to begin preparing to return to work. I enjoyed seeing some of the beautiful places in Lisbon. It's a stunningly charming place.
Naturally, food plays a big part in my enjoyment of visitting. These are two of my favourite places.
In Coimbra (Which we visitted on our return from Porto & the Douro region - below).
In Costa Caparica, on the other side of the river from Lisbon.
I'd promised to visit a close friend's mum I'd enjoyed meeting in Tokyo earlier in the year and so mum & I drove up to see them in the beautiful city of Porto.
The riverwalk area that had been so run down for many years had been transformed and was now a beautiful place to walk & take in the views across the river of the old part of the city.
We were met by our friend's family and warmly welcomed. The following day they took us to the spectacular Douro region, driving over beautiful winding roads where we were surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye could see!
To cap it all, we were treated to a day with some long established wine traders, where they casually spent a day sharing their clearly enthusiastic knowledge of wines, sampling some very special ports and finally, giving us various great bottles of wine to return home with. This was one of the many highlights of the holiday, although I was enjoying the experience so much and learning all I could, that I only got this picture of the vine in their courtyard - mostly as inspiration for the trellis I will build this winter so we can grow some grapes of our own at home.
Such great memories were made, that I am hoping to return this summer with wife & children to share some of the great times I know we'll have together. Not least, it'll be good to take the little ones to meet the large side of the family and see some of the other half of their heritage.