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Montgolfiere Weekly

An exploration of culture in its many forms

Travelling in Japan: Koyasan

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the final instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day. After Kyoto, we went to Mount Koya or Koyasan, which is an area of religious significance, being the centre of Shingon Buddhism.  One attraction for visitors, apart from the town’s natural setting in the mountains, its history, its many temples and other religious buildings, is the opportunity to stay in a temple lodging, Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Koyasan”

Travelling in Japan: Kyoto

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the third instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day.
In Kyoto, we stayed in a two-hundred-year-old wooden building that had been operated as an inn by the current owner’s family for over a century. The ground floor is now a whisky bar with Belle Époque–style stained glass. The upper floor has traditional Japanese rooms with rice-paper screens, tatami mats and cushions to sit on, but there is also an Edwardian sitting room with a wooden floor and armchairs. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Kyoto”

Welcome to Montgolfiere Weekly!

This blog exists because I wanted to do a different kind of writing from the writing I do in my day job, and I even managed to persuade some of my friends to contribute their thoughts on culture in its many forms, from the visual arts, letters and music to human health, habits and customs, with occasional references to hot air ballooning. There is a whole world out there, and this is a small way of exploring it. Continue reading “Welcome”

Travelling in Japan: Nikko

By Patricia Lightfoot

Here is the second instalment of a brief tour of Japan presented through the Japanese words I practised each day.
The train from Tokyo took some time to leave the greater metropolitan area, which was not surprising as some 38 million people live there, and move into a landscape of villages, small holdings, rice fields, trees with no leaves but bearing orange fruit, a few large houses with gardens of manicured trees, and distant mountains. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Nikko”

Travelling in Japan: Tokyo

By Patricia Lightfoot

Based on a recent visit, these are my impressions of Japan. It’s a Western country, so a lot is familiar, but there are many fascinating differences. I was struck by the great contrast between the skyscrapers and neon signs of downtown districts and the older neighbourhoods. Walking into our neighbourhood in Asakusa in Tokyo was like entering a film set: narrow streets were lined with wooden houses that are hundreds of years old, often where the same family has lived or run a business for many generations. In these areas, businesses can be hard to find, because they can be very discreet. Continue reading “Travelling in Japan: Tokyo”

Under the spell of Malcolm Lowry

by Carolyn Brown

Day of the Dead — when the boundary between the land of the living and that of the dead becomes porous — could not be stamped out of Mexican culture by Spanish missionaries and was instead uneasily grafted onto All Souls’ Day. Over the succeeding four centuries, its primordial appeal has never flagged. “We Mexicans have a weird relationship with death,” explained one of my students as we drove by a cemetery festooned with marigolds and tables of offerings — ofrendas — for the festival. “We laugh at it, and we hate it.” Continue reading “Under the spell of Malcolm Lowry”

Playing with robots

By Patricia Lightfoot

I have been thinking about Nora Ephron’s account of her obsession with Scrabble Blitz, “a four-minute version of Scrabble solitaire,” which left her with “all the symptoms of terminal attention deficit disorder,” as she dreamed about scrabble, fell asleep memorizing two- and three-letter words and tuned out of conversations. I am now beguiled by the Bridge Base Online (BBO) app. I play the anonymous form of the game with three robots. My symptoms are not as pronounced as Ephron’s, but there’s no telling how far this might go. Continue reading “Playing with robots”

Schweine Museum

By Amy Flora

Walking up the road in the 30-degree heat I wondered, “How will I know exactly where the museum is?” Fortunately, an enormous pink pig–themed school bus appeared on the horizon: the first of many surprises. Continue reading “Schweine Museum”

The China trip continues

By Anita Hamilton

After we left Chenjiagou, we took the train to Luoyang in order to see the Longmen Grottoes — over 2,000 artificial caves and tens of thousands of carved Buddha sculptures (from bunches in finger size to several metres high) in the side of a hill. This, our first train ride in China, started on a stressful note as we found that on our tickets (which we hadn’t inspected closely in advance) we were seated in two separate carriages on the train, four carriages apart. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t had all our suitcases (all way too heavy) to lug around with us. Continue reading “The China trip continues”

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