Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Treasured Jewellery; Old and Made-New

I am so full of love for my favourite vintage almost-shiny things that I MUST share their stories with you. 

I emphasise 'stories' because that's what I love about old things; they have their own past, present and future often NOT akin to "manufactured in Asia, distributed to UK, sold in Workington Topshop last week"- though yesterday I did buy this adorable ring-bracelet (ringlet? racelet?! Sounds like an Ann Summers product) in Toppers after watching Great Expectations at the cinema with Pops. It made me happier than the film at least!

Below is a charm bracelet I've been working on and I love it so much I don't actually want to wear it in case I lose it! The chain itself was my Mum's from her 18th Birthday and I added to it some charms from my Great Aunty Margaret's charm bracelet, which mostly consisted of Canadian maple leaves due to her family in Ontario.

I have bought charms in New Zealand, Australia, Tokyo, England and both coasts of the US so far, and am always on the lookout for new ones to add!

Personal favourites so far include the acorn that opens to reveal a squirrel, the mini bible containing tiny printed pages and the statue of liberty- though the gramophone handle actually turns which is just DARLING too!

While in San Fran I dragged my friend to Treasure Island Flea Market to hunt for some treasure of our own and boy did I find some!

The pendant on the left is actually a clip-on earring that I've clipped to the central pearl on an old necklace, and the stone at the top is just threaded onto a gold chain so I have to make sure it doesn't flip over while I'm wearing it. Must fix that... Actually while I was in the Town Hall Antiques shop in Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes last week I got this matching brooch too (oh and if you're in the area, The Black Horse is delicious!).

The tiny cuckoo clock and the key I got in a 'thrift store' in upstate NY where I worked at camp. The woman who owned it was such a darling she gave me a discount on all the things I was buying including this sparkle-tastic embellished cape-top...

The feather earrings I made by just attaching the feathers I got at the flea market to earring hooks using little metal hoops like you find on the ends of necklaces, and I intend to give a pair to my Mum as a gift this Xmas.

I also made these cute-as-a-button earrings by super gluing some of my Gran's beloved button collection to flat-fronted earring backs I had in my old craft box (who am I kidding- one of the many craft boxes that litter my loft!) and gave two pairs of them to my lovely friends for their Birthdays last week. 

I have made loads of button earrings in the past, including the three heart-shaped pairs below I made at camp. The closest ones are actually copper shapes that I sanded and dusted with enamel then baked to set- gotta love Camp's Arts and Crafts department! The middle Cath Kidston buttons and the floral ones were sent to me in Birthday parcels from adoring friends whilst I was in the US- thanks guys! 

If you don't have any earring backs like I've used above you can use old earrings as long as they are flat-ish, I've used flowers and smileys before but the ones below were stuck to old heart studs. 

Back to Aunty Margaret's hand-me-down heirlooms now, just to show you my new favourite old rings...

...And some of my favourite vintage necklaces. This tiny locket was my Mum's from when she was a Bridesmaid and contains photos of her parents (my grandparents), and the larger one contains photos of my Grandad and his Mum <3

These final three tarnished treasures were my Grandma's- the bottom one being a gift my Grandad bought her for their wedding anniversary- they were married 56 years and had the kind of love that just doesn't seem to exist anymore. Watch this space for the love story of their lives that I must get round to writing one of these days... I am sure it would be better than the stories behind the items in my jewellery box!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Xmas Jewelry and Clothing SALE!

SO because of my penchant for shopping and partying, I have a wardrobe that's bursting at the seams with party-perfect dresses and other clobber and a very empty bank balance! PLUS a treasure-chest of jewelry that I can't possibly take with me on my upcoming move to Melbourne,

My remedy- another clear-out SALE! Now any of you readers who also enjoy a bargain can peruse my items and make me an offer- WIN WIN- I get dosh, you get a fabulous new addition to your wardrobe!

Simply comment the post, tweet me @staceybarnes276 or email me at to make me an offer or express your interest!

Happy Shopping!

All Saints Gainborough Dress- Size 10, worn once! Beautiful embellishment (who doesn't love sparkles), SOLD

Size 10 Zara dress- thick material, very flattering, would look adorable with a collared shirt layered underneath! £8

Size 10 ASOS puff-sleeve dress, concealed back zip, silky material,  dusky pink, also in blue (see below!)
£10 each for both for £15- SOLD!

Same as above, different sexy colour! Size 10

Silky pink floral dress, not really the season for it but it's too pretty to leave out! Only worn for this shoot! Would fit size 8 or 10, very short so not suitable for super tall people! £10
Hot Pink silky dress, NEVER WORN! Size 10, pretty bow tie at the back, SOLD

Galactic print jumpsuit from A Wear,  would fit 8-12,  elasticated waist with tie, worn once! SOLD
Forever 21 purple zip dress (watch your friends don't zip it off you on a night out!)  Size 10,  £8

Topshop frilly-sleeve blouse, cute buttons just under bust, very low neckline, would fit size 8 or 10, reminds me of fireworks! £5
Puff sleeve Dorothy Perkins top, would fit size 8, 10 or small -busted 12. £5

Also, fancy something SNUGGLY this cold coming winter?

GLORIOUS double-breasted vintage cardigan, nice and snug, bright and cheery! £5

Looking for something SPARKLY to reem-up a plain outfit?

Sequin floral blazer, feels kinda festive! £5

Vintage brooches with working pin fastenings, make me an offer!

Pea-pod necklace. Awesome

Letter-side of necklace

Postcard side- cute as a button

Chunky heart necklace from House of Fraser,  smooth on front and cut like a precious gem on the back :)

Big Apple necklace


Pretty in pink and pewter statement necklace with ribbon tie

Chunky marble-effect red and grey statement necklace

Charm bracelet with clock- two lovely things in one!

Travel Blog- USA's Wonderful West Coast

Following my incredible four months spent working at summer camp in upstate New York (partially as a fitness instructor, then as wedding staff!) I got the chance to explore some of the highlights of the USA's West Coast.
Loving life in Times Square

From the notoriously brash city lights of Manhattan and the spontaneity that always seems to ensue (we found ourselves in the pool of a rooftop gay club overlooking the meatpacking district!), my friend Kate and I boarded a flight to San Francisco.

I had heard that San Fran is a fabulous liberal mecca- a place homosexuals and hippies flocked to during the 1969 Summer of Love and 70's gay rights movements- a place of cultural diversity, homelessness and great shopping. The first three points I can attest to but sadly I couldn't do any shopping as I could not possibly fit another item into my case, even with my beloved snugpack!

San Fran almost didn't feel Californian- a term which conjures images of the sun-kissed beach babes I was later to see further down the Californian coast. The city felt more cosmopolitan and multi-faceted than I had imagined- I could feel the Spanish roots of the city in the Mission (where we were couchsurfing), it's fishing industry buzz at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, it's gay-friendliness in the Castro, it's financial and retail hub around Union Square and it's Asian flavours in Chinatown and Japantown.

We bought the great value City Pass which included unlimited rides on MUNI public transport (the cable cars are busy but good fun and better than hiking the steep streets by foot) plus entry to the small but mesmerising Aquarium, the SFMOMA where I got my art geek on, the fascinating Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts, the Californian Academy of Sciences where we sadly missed and a trip to haunting Alcatraz, all for $69.
Mesmerised in the Aquarium of the Bay

San Fran's Chinatown is awesome- we indulged in only-fairly-dodgy MSG-laden buffet and fortune cookies, sampled delicious green teas and bought cheap Chinese souvenirs en route to the Beat writers' hangout; the City Lights Bookstore and it's seedy but lovable surroundings. We enjoyed the view of Union Square from the Cheesecake Factory atop Macy's and reflected on the 'prison of prisons' on Alcatraz Island where we enjoyed an informative if slightly creepy audio tour. We rummaged through the stalls at the Treasure Island Flea Market, climbed the Filbert steps to Coit Tower to see the murals and soaked up the festival atmosphere of Dolores Park with friends and booze. Happy days :)

Inside Alcatraz

One of the highlights of our visit was hiring bicycles from Blazing Saddles and cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge. The ride was at times strenuous but very easy to navigate (follow the tourists!) and we thankfully got the $10 ferry back to Pier 39 after a couple of ice creams and a well-deserved rest in quaint Sausalito.

From San Fran we had a short but scenic flight over the Nevada desert to Las Vegas. Our time in Sin City was a little different to what we were used to as a friend hooked us up with a VIP experience we will never forget. From limousine airport transfers to daily room service treats in our beautiful suite, an amazing pavilion at an exclusive beach club and seafood platters, custom-made cocktails and delicious deserts at Rick Moonen's RM Seafood restaurant (who we met- he's lovely!) our time in Vegas was unreal.

We also enjoyed unique chef selections from the Bellagio's amazing Yellowtail restaurant, incredible seats for Cirque Du Soleil's magnificent show 'O' and table service or VIP at some of the Strip's best clubs including 1OAK, Pure, Hyde and The Bank.

When we weren't partying or relaxing on our poolside daybeds (such hard work!) we were soaking up the atmosphere of the Strip- riding New York New York's roller-coaster, one of the Venetian's gondolas and gambling on the addictive slot machines. We also spent a day exploring the Grand Canyon via a scenic flight and a multistop bus tour, which was breathtaking and totally unforgettable.

Sad to leave Vegas but in need of some R&R we flew to Los Angeles, where we did a pit-stop tour of all the touristy attractions like views of the Hollywood sign from the Planetarium Observatory, the Chinese Theatre's celebrity imprints and the Walk of Fame's stars, but I have to say LA did not capture my heart quite like other places we visited. Everything is either too busy and touristy, or too far apart and soul-less. I'd be willing to give it another go in the future but I have no burning need to return!

From LA we visited Santa Monica which was lovely- quite seaside-y and great to watch the fit acrobats at Muscle Beach! In LA we hired a car (NOT from Enterprise as we had booked- the 0800 number lady told us we could hire with international licenses and a debit card which is NOT the case, you need a credit card if you don't have a US license!) and drove down the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at any beach that ticked our fancy. We made it down to San Diego nice and relaxed and had a wonderful few nights going to the beaches and Balboa Park, swing dancing and spending the last of our $$$.

All in all I had an amazing time on the West Coast- California has now become my favourite state and if I HAD to I could force myself to live by the beautiful sandy beaches of the Pacific Coast or the ever-changing City by the Bay in the future. Only if someone forced me to, that is ;)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

My Ultimate Bucket List

100 117 Things to Do Before I Kick The Bucket:

UPDATE: I've done 68 so far!
  1. Skydive
  2. Be in a Book Club
  3. Parasail, Paraglide or Para-something else
  4. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef
  5. Scuba Dive in the Ocean
  6. Be in a Boxing Match
  7. Swim with Dolphins
  8. Bungyjump
  9. Gamble in Vegas
  10. Climb the Eiffel Tower
  11. See the Pyramids
  12. Walk along the Great Wall of China
  13. Go to the Ballet
  14. Party at the Rio Carnival
  15. Go Snow Skiing
  16. Go to an Ice Bar
  17. Go to an Oxygen Bar
  18. Party at a Mardi Gras Parade
  19. Ride in a Helicopter
  20. Go to a Huge Festival
  21. Cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge
  22. Visit a Japanese Onsen
  23. Go on a Cruise
  24. Watch sunrise in a Beautiful Place
  25. Be Part of La Tomatina in Valencia
  26. Be Part of a Flash Mob
  27. Be an Extra
  28. Visit Niagara Falls
  29. Do a Cookery Course
  30. Make my Own Sushi
  31. Go on Safari
  32. Use a Pottery Wheel
  33. Feel an Earthquake
  34. Ride an Elephant
  35. Visit a Fortune Teller
  36. Sunbathe on a Nudist Beach
  37. Go Kayaking somewhere Beautiful
  38. Go Cave Tubing
  39. Meet under the Grand Central Station Clock
  40. Fly First Class (or Business!)
  41. Go Hunting
  42. Party until Sunrise
  43. Skinnydip
  44. Catch and Cook my own Fish
  45. CouchSurf
  46. Watch the Vegas Bellagio Fountains
  47. Run for Charity
  48. Start a Family
  49. Go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
  50. Go to the Edinburgh Hogmanay
  51. Get a Tattoo
  52. Break a World Record
  53. See the Grand Canyon
  54. Milk a Cow
  55. Eat strange foods- snails, frogs legs, crickets...
  56. Go to the Opera
  57. Waltz with my Grandad
  58. Climb a (notable!) Mountain
  59. Visit Machu Pichu
  60. Blow Glass
  61. Go Wine Tasting
  62. See the Taj Mahal
  63. Cook a Roast Dinner from Scratch
  64. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
  65. Do Yoga alone on the Beach
  66. Go to Hollywood
  67. Ride a Motorbike
  68. Hike a Glacier
  69. Send a Message in a Bottle
  70. Own a Herb Garden
  71. Play Digeridoo
  72. Participate in the Holi Festival
  73. Learn the Alphabet in Sign Language
  74. See a NY Broadway Show
  75. Cuddle a Koala
  76. Do an Army Assault Course
  77. Visit a Concentration Camp
  78. Surf a wave
  79. Bake a Creme Brulee
  80. Dance in the Rain
  81. Ride a Segway
  82. Watch a chick hatch
  83. See the Aurora Borealis
  84. Visit The Louvre
  85. Go Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
  86. Host a Cocktail Evening
  87. Drink from a Beer Bong
  88. See Cirque Du Soleil
  89. Publish a Book
  90. Make an Igloo
  91. Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  92. Ride a Camel
  93. Browse the Marrakesh Markets
  94. Visit the Colisseum in Rome
  95. Bake my own Bread
  96. Distill my own Alcohol
  97. Start my own Business
  98. Teach Children
  99. Be in a Protest
  100. Hitchhike
  101. Canter on a Horse
  102. Climb a Waterfall
  103. Try Wakeboarding or Waterskiing
  104. Give Blood
  105. Vote
  106. Become a Lifeguard and know CPR
  107. Fast, for more than a couple of hours
  108. Go Rock Climbing
  109. Make a Souffle
  110. Swim in the Rain
  111. Try trapeze
  112. Lounge in a Hot Spring
  113. Drink Absinthe in the Decadent way
  114. Fly a plane
  115. Go to see a Movie alone
  116. Shoot a gun
  117. Sell my own Artwork

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Things You Should Know About Camp

More and more Brits are choosing to spend a summer working at an American Summer Camp - hell, I've done it twice so it must be a good idea! There are, however, a few things I wish people had told me before I signed that much sought-after contract.

For those of you unversed in how this works, here's a brief overview:

Brits usually have to apply to a third party company like Camp America, Camp Leaders or Bunac (the summer camp arm of which recently shut up shop after changing US Visa requirements have caused all sorts of problems for future applicants and such mentioned companies). You pay them and they take a cut of your wages in return for sorting out all the stressful stuff and getting you to camp- easy and often necessary but fairly expensive.

I didn't use the regular application process, I went to a last-minute Camp America recruitment fair in London and did the 'HIRE ME I'M AWESOME' thing and got a gig as a fitness instructor at a beautiful all-girls camp in upstate NY. WIN. However, I was lucky- other friends who used the normal application process actually never got 'chosen' by an American camp, so even though my approach was riskier, it worked out better for me.

The second year I decided to go it relatively alone from my end, using only the US company chosen by camp who help sort out your visa. This ended up being a tad cheaper but VERY stressful (applying for a US visa while travelling in Australia and liaising with Americans = pain in the A**). Nevertheless, I got here and made more money from the summer because of being paid as a returner and not giving up some of my wages to a company- happy days!

Now, to entertainment and wisdom!

Thing You Should Know About American Summer Camps... The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

1) Expect the unexpected- from kids grabbing your boobs and colouring in their pubic hair with face paint to having to give up all semblances of dignity in a moment's notice (no-one is above plunging an overflowing toilet or galloping around trussed up like a horse).

2) Pack comfy clothes that STRETCH- you are likely to gain weight! See point 5.

3) Pack nice clothes too- you will relish any opportunity to go out and socialise, even if you're only putting on your 'good shorts' to go to Walmart. (On that note, compared to the People of Walmart, even in Primarni's finest you will feel like a celebrity, and get stared at like one too).

4) Bug spray is a necessity, every night! Especially on 'OD' sitting outside bunks being Mosquitoes' evening snack!

5) It is not necessary to eat desert every day, PBJ sandwiches after every meal, afternoon snack, evening cookie AND then go out for ice cream at any opportunity. Hellooo chonks!

6) Not every camp allows bikinis, so pack a few appropriate-ish swimsuits that will give you minimal tan lines in multiple places!

7) If you wear trainers (sneakers) every day, you will get sock tanlines. Bring fake tan to patch it up or spend as much time in flip flops as possible in between periods! Let your tootsies BREATHE!

8) You will acquire Camp Goggles. Unwittingly and invisibly worn, they allow the greasy geek you saw in orientation to seem like an adonis after a few weeks. Keep your hot-ometer in check by regularly oggling fit men in magazines, or on Vampire Diaries.

9) Friends with cars will make your life one million times better. Find one!

10) The kids can be brats- often they are very privileged and (in their own words) 'JAPPY' (from the acronym Jewish American Princess), but remember they may have family issues, social anxieties or personal problems like any other kid. Be their friend and confidante, and maybe you can make a difference.

11) Little things make a big difference. Remembering the name of one of your kid's dogs, or that they were playing in a softball tournament that day, or that they are obsessed with Justin Bieber is important. "Yes, Lil' Bow Wow would LOVE an arts and crafts dog collar", "How did you play against that other camp today?" and "Here's a picture of Bieber I got from the shared staff magazine pile" are phrases that would earn you counselor points, and show them you care.

12) Don't expect to make a financial profit from the summer. You will work long hours, doing tiring work, for very little money. What you do earn is easily squandered on socialising, getting off camp and shopping. Some camps allow you to stay later and work a post-camp season (my camp has weddings every weekend, that's how I'm earning my trip to Vegas :D).

13) You WILL however, gain a lot in other ways. You will actually enjoy your work (which often doesn't feel like work), you will gain amazing friends and experiences, and will make a difference in kids' lives, which is pretty priceless.

14) No matter how many times your kids make you cry, stop you sleeping, wear you out or infuriate you, you will grow to love them, and miss them, even their crazy behavior and incessant singing.

15) You will become emotional. I thought I had a heart of stone, but I found myself weeping at movies, feeling fuzzy at campfires and bawling my eyes out whenever the kids of staff left camp. Even the tough are not immune!

16) You will not get as much sleep as you are used to. With younger kids? They wake in the middle of the night homesick or incontinent and they wake at the crack of dawn. Older kids? They refuse to go to bed when told, hold secret midnight soirees in the closet and will need you to drag them out of bed in the morning even when you'd like an extra 5 minutes too.

17) You might not get a chance to shower every day. Wet Ones and dry shampoo the rescue!

18) You need to be able to entertain kids. Whether that's by playing games, telling stories, painting nails or throwing impromptu dance parties- a sudden storm may have you bunk-bound and bored, but use that time to bond with your brood and all the better for it! (Erm, yeah I like alliteration).

19) You have to be able to put others first. Let the kids get treats first, let them have a go on the bouncy thing first, let them finish the race while you care for a kid with a sore knee- you get the picture. Patience is a virtue :)

20) You might be staying in a cabin, a lodge, a tent, or a shack. Make the best of it, and keep it clean! Once ants get at dropped candy there's no getting rid of them!

21) You will use code words that will not work. Whether alcohol is 'chocolate milk' or candy is 'dead dog's ashes' (don't ask), the kids WILL know what you're talking about!

22) Being able to plait or braid is not good enough. The ability to french, dutch, waterfall, fish or spiral braid is where it's at!

23) Enjoy every moment. It might be the only summer you spend at camp, and come rain or shine, joy or exhaustion, it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

For more advice, insights and hilarious anecdotes, check out Secret Diary of a Camp Counselor, Camp Confessions, Those Camp Things, Summer Camp Culture and my personal favourite... All I Do Is Camp Camp Camp!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Travel Blog- Bye Bye Oz... Hello Tokyo!

Time for the final installment of my Travel Blog diaries, this time re-capping the rest of the awesome Aussie East Coast and my few days in TOKYO!

After hippilicious Byron Bay (shared my love of there right HERE) came a pit-stop in Surfers Paradise, which I didn't think much of (jogging on the beach felt weird with so many high-rise hotels just metres from the sand) but we had a fun night out there before moving on to Brisbane to visit some friends I'd made on the Kiwi Experience bus in NZ. In Brissy we enjoyed BYOB meals, pre-St Paddy's day parties, riding on the speedy CityCat ferry and chilling out on the lush man-made lagoon (with a view of skyscrapers beyond the river when looking out at what would be the horizon- very strange).  I returned to Bris-vegas for a week after continuing with my friend further up the coast, and on my return I really got a feel for this under-rated city. I got my art geek on in two great galleries and expanded my mind in the museum, I tasted goods at the weekend city market, shopped on Queen Street and beyond, mooched Uni campuses pining for my lost studenthood, and of course sampled the city's nightlife :)

CityCat, CiityCat, my, how you go so fast...

Next stop Noosa- first time around it poured it down all day and night, so we sought solace in free sausage sarnies, goon and St Paddy's revelry at our Nomads hostel. The second time I stayed with a friend's family; home-cooked meals, sunshine breakfasts on the balcony and family sofa-times made Noosa seem very different this time around! I even spent a day with 'the oldies' (the grandparents' words not mine) at the Eumundi markets, drinking tea and eating ice cream before afternoon nap-time- retirement ain't so bad it seems!
Ah being fake-old, this is the life :)

From Noosa I visited Australia Zoo- Steve Irwin's loveable animal emporium where I finally got to cuddle a smelly but cute koala! The zoo itself is kind of a must-do in Australia, and I did really enjoy it, but it's by no means mind-blowing, just a nice day out!

In Hervey Bay we stayed at the wonderful Flashpackers Hostel ready for our Cool Dingos trip to Fraser Island- the largest sand island in the world. It's beautiful there and we has an amazing time on out 4x4 safari tour- bush walks, off-road driving, dingo-spotting, shipwreck exploring and swimming galore. I especially enjoyed floating down the beautiful Eli creek, using the jacuzzi and pool at the local resort and eating good food washed down with pitchers of cocktails with our new-found friends. Regular cookie and tea breaks didn't hurt matters either!
My friend Anna and I at Lake McKenzie

The other major gotta-do-it tour I did was a fabulous cruise to the Whitsunday Islands from Airlie Beach, which I loved! Airlie Beach is an awesome place- basically you party all night, sunbathe by the lagoon all day and hang out with your friends. Not a bad life ey? My Whitsundays trip was incredible too- watching sunrise and sunset with new friends on our lovely sail boat, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, sunbathing on Whitehaven Beach's pristine white sillica, enjoying good food, bad wine (goon) and learning to sail- epic!

Sunrise in the Whitsunday Islands taken from our sailboat
Our 'Mandrake' posse on Whitehaven Beach!

My last destination was Cairns, which I was so sad to leave! I stayed at the infamous Gilligan's Hostel (it's intense but amazing!) and had the best time just doing what travellers tend to do at the end of their trip- topping up their tan, spending their last dollars on drinking, shopping and eating too much. I loved every second of my self-indulgent faux-decadence, and will miss Cairns (and Australia!) dearly, along with all the incredible people I met on the way.

Cairns Lagoon

The last destination of my trip was Tokyo- the bustling metropolitan capital of Japan, where I met my friend Becky who is over there on the JET program teaching Japanese kids English. Thank-god she could understand and speak pretty-good Japanese or I would have had some problems! We stayed in an Asakusa hostel and used the subway train system to get around the huge city fairly easily. Arriving on the Friday evening, the only thing to do was to buy multiple rice-based Japanese treats and canned alcoholic drinks from the 7-Eleven and get 'On It', sampling lovely plum wine and awful sake before embracing that much-loved Japanese favorite; karaoke. We had a booth just for our little group and it was great fun, even if i did lose my voice the next day!

In the morning we made it to the huge Tsukiji wholesale Fish Market and gawped at the weird and wonderful seafood to work up an appetite for some amazing fresh sushi (now I've tasted the finest, Tesco's pre-packaged just won't cut it!). We toured the city to see the Imperial Palace and gardens, a traditional cemetery and shrine, different city districts including Harajuku with it's interestingly-dressed girls, and many beautiful temples, before heading to the city's best onsen; Ooedo Onsen Monogatari.

An onsen is basically a natural hot springs, that you go in totally naked, with other members of the same sex. This particular onsen deserves a whole paragraph to itself, because it was AMAZING! It wasn't just about the bathing; the whole experience was magical, from donning my slippers at the door to choosing my kimono and embracing the Japanese way, I l-o-v-e-d it! Once I got over the initial embarrassment of being the only tan-lined, blonde Brit amid many seemingly opposite women, I was hooked. Sitting in a huge bucket spa outside with the rain refreshing my face and the steam opening my pores, chatting happily with my friend (Top Bonding Time) I realised what a healthy and valuable thing an onsen is, especially since the West lacks non-sexual forms of nude interaction and young people are increasingly subjected to non-realistic images of the human body. This onsen themepark also had places to eat, drink and shop, be entertained, have your fortune told and have a pamper. The sodium and chlorine ions must have had a magical effect on us because we left feeling wonderful, ready for our night out in Shinjuku!

Ready for my first (and far from last!) onsen
The next day we visited the largest temple in Tokyo, finding our fortunes and observing the traditions surrounding shrines and temples in Japan, particularly the vast and beautiful Meiji Shrine. We shopped at the market and on the streets of Shibuya, ate tasty Japanese curry, takoyaki (octopus dumplings), sushi and noodles, and I ended my stay in another seemingly-strange Japanese entity- the capsule hostel.

The female dorm in my capsule hotel
I loved my little box-in-the-wall bed with it's pull-down blind, tv and radio, though to some it would have been claustrophobic! I also had one last onsen dip just before bed in the hotel's much smaller but still wonderful version, which was like having a huge hot bath, naked, but with no-one else there. Bliss!

Now I'm back in England and I'm enjoying seeing my loved ones, but it won't be long until I leave the drizzle again to return to camp in New York! Oh, the traveller's life for me!