Tag Archives: Language Barrier

Oh the Places You’ll Cruise??

My dear co-worker and friend Candace married her long time girlfriend Genna last month in Chicago. They had a lovely wedding, but like all weddings go…it is finally time for the honeymoon!!

Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio

They booked a Mediterranean cruise that goes from Barcelona to Naples/Pompeii to Rome to Florence/Pisa/Livorna to Cannes to

Pisa Cliche
Mom at Pisa

Palma, Majorica. I have been to six of those nine places. I thought I could give some good insight to it. Then I decided for a wedding gift that I would make them one of my iWander books of their cruise for free of charge!

It was a lot of fun to make, because I have always wanted to know all the potential places I could go to in limited time and therefore I (or whoever I am writing it for) would have lots of options once there. But, this was a cruise.

I gave Candace her book!
I gave Candace her book!

They are only allowed 10-12 hours in each place. How does one see all of Rome in 10 hours?! Well. Actually. One doesn’t. So I did a lot of research of finding the best one day excursions in each place. I looked up blog suggestions, must-do’s and must see’s, and travel sites suggestions. It was a really fun book to make because I was able to set personalized suggestions of where to go and when.

Here is a blurb of my Barcelona part:



History: The city is the capital of Catalonia and is Spain’s second biggest city. They have a population of about 1.5 million people. Best known for the Olympics being hosted in Barcelona in 1992, and since then the city has changed its neighborhoods and the way the city is presented today. It was originally under Roman rule. Barcelona was founded under two stories: the first being Hercules (yes, the Mythological God) founded the city, and the second being founded by Hamilcar Barca the statesman of Cyrene. He was said to command the forces in Sicily from 247 BC to 241 BC. The Roman redirected the city as a military camp around 15 BC, and used for its excellent harbor.  After the Romans were the Visigoths conquer, and this was a rule by the Moors for the next 100 years. The city gained a reputation during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century with the World’s Fair in 1888. Catalonia fought for freedom from the rule of Spain through the 20th century, and with this heightened Barcelona’s importance.

Suggested Options for A Single Day in Barcelona:
(On your first day, with only a few hours, it might be beneficial to start one of these and then finish the suggested list on your return back and be able to spend more time in a museum or Cathedral.)

    – Mirador de Colon         – Placa de Catalunya                 – Parc Guell
    – La Rambla                 – La Rambla                          – Train to Sangrada Familia (Go in?)
    – Detour thru Barri Gotic   – Mirador de Colon                  – Av. Diagonal to Casa Batllo (Go in?)
    – Visit Museo Picasso      – Placa Reial                         – Casa Mila (Go in?)
    – Walk back by Catedral     – Thru Barri Gotic                   -Thru Barri Gotic
    – La Boqueria (off of La Rambla) – Visit Catedral               – Visit Catedral (Go in?)
    – Placa de Catalunya           – Walk to Can Culleretes         -Visit Town Hall
    – Casa Batllo (Go in?)          – Montjuic                           – Olympic Stadium
    – Casa Mila/Pedrera (Go in?)  – Sangrada Familia (Go in?)        – Montjuic hill
    – Avinguda Diagonal              – Train to Parc Guell        
    – La Sangrada Familia (Go in?)                    
    – Train to Parc Guell                        

* (G) signifies Gaudi Work

– Avinguda Diagonal – A collection of bars and restaurants on one of the most important streets in Barcelona. It was designed by IIdefons Cerda (one of the city original planners).

– Barcelona Catedral (of Holy Cross) – The cathedral was started in the 13th century and finished in the 15th century. It was built on the site of an old Roman town (close to what was once the Roman Forum). The Roman city’s gate was once across the street (Carrer del Bisbe) and you can still see the lower segments of the towers as well as a Roman aqueduct at the base of the Bishop’s Palace (Palau Episcopal).The cathedral was spared by the anarchists during the Civil War and is the place where Santa…..cont.


Japan Trip in a Nutshell

I think that there may be a couple of things I need to wrap up about my trip to Japan. Let’s all get the first thing straight about Japanese people (from my own observations and experience), everyone we met wanted so much to help us and advise us as best as they could. Most times when we would be at a loss and asking for help, the locals

Wayne and Japan
Wayne and Japan

that we would be asking would go out of their way to look it up and try their best to explain it (but in Japanese). The culture of the Japanese seems to be very polite and happy and inclusive. It was just that the language barrier was so in your face, I couldn’t help my frustration getting the best of me. There were many situations where we would ask for help and the person would fully understand us but be incapable of answering. Much of the literature I had read about traveling to Japan said that English was quite present, people I talked to who had visited before had said that English was very common, Wayne’s friends agreed and said the same thing….lies. Not true. I just wasn’t prepared. Especially when doing the research and being completely side swiped by the shock of it.

Also, we were very rushed in Tokyo. I don’t think you could ever prepare to be in Tokyo

Imperial Palace grounds
Imperial Palace grounds

and be rushed. There is just so much to see and do there. There are so many places that claim to have the best food of Tokyo, and dozens of beautiful parks and so many neighborhoods. If you have limited time and are headed to Tokyo, do NOT…I’ll repeat…please Do Not ask people of the “must see” places there. I made that mistake. I had it in my head that I knew all the places we “had” to check out. Well while I am sure that the garden in Shinjuku is absolutely incredible in full bloom, it however is NOT a must see on a cold and slightly rainy March afternoon. I think (if you were to listen to my advice) if I were to do it over again, I would lay out each neighborhood and commit to one. There are a million things to see Tokyo. There is a ton of history there, and you will never run out of things to do or places to eat. If you try and hop all over Tokyo in one day, you will be almost guaranteed to spend ¾ of your day in the underground system.

Shrine in Hakuba
Shrine in Hakuba

Best parts of my trip to Japan (because I hate to give off the impression to my friends and family that it was a terrible trip, when it just -> Didn’t Go As Planned) were:

Three girls in the park with sign that read “Free Hugs” and just about peed their pants when I hugged each of them

The amazing guys in the black van outside of the train station who saved me and Wayne from sleeping on the streets of Tokyo

Tokyo restaurants and how everyone working at them had our backs, and literally ran to get us the menu in English

The Meiji Shrine. Incredible. Serene. A true escape to one of the most peaceful corners of the world in the middle of a big city

2012-03-07 11.50.33Hakuba. Best little/big town in the middle of the Alps. The skiing is so accessible, and there are secret shrines and temples, and countless places to eat. If I were to go back to Japan, it would definitely be to this BEAUTIFUL  town.

Keido (aka Shannon)the Australian who helped Wayne and I with so much in Hakuba.

The history that is very present in the sites around Japan whether they are shrines, sculptures, temples, geishas, or food.

I am so happy I had the opportunity to go to Japan. I am disappointed on how the last few days turned out and I am definitely working on getting a control on my frustrations, but I do not want to dismiss Japan. The best advice I could say about going ANYWHERE in Japan…do your research.

Ultimate Language Barrier Extreme!

Ok….places I’ve been with English as second language: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Malawi, Ghana, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Street of Red Light district
Street of Red Light district


imageNow don’t get me wrong! I am not bragging, I am just trying to make a point. In all these places there was a large language barrier. Giant in fact. But never once have I ever felt the severity of a barrier as I do here….In Tokyo. No one speaks English (and if they do then they lie and tell me no). No one.

I do not expect a lot of English. But I am baffled by Tokyo’s reputation as a world wide hub. All streets are in only Japanese, every customer service person truly wants to help you but lack the ability for explanation translation. I couldn’t even read the map (which hasn’t been an issue since I was 7 years old).
Tokyo is such a great city, it’s too bad they do not cater to the English Language. Not culture! They’ve got that one down to the tee. They really try as best they can, but why the disconnect? Wayne mockingly called us “arrogant” for demanding more English around. But honestly, why not? Americans are spoiled ignorants when it comes to some culture. We are only expected to learn English (and sometimes even that’s a feat-Honey boo boo), now the rest of the world? They learn their language AND English. Even British folks learn French in school. But this only proves my point! If everyone else in the world has some English down, isn’t this our common denominator?
Again, I am only complaining because I am beyond baffled. When preparing to come to Tokyo almost all my research confirmed that language would not be a huge problem because everyone in Tokyo mostly spoke English too. Every restaurant here even has English menus but No ONE understands you! Perhaps, everyone does know English…woman on escalator who ran into me spoke perfect English to say she was sorry, and those 3 girls giving out free hugs in the park knew exactly what I was saying. Is it a joke against me? Most customer service people know what I am trying to ask, they just are not able to answer. Perhaps against all tourists to avoid the nonsense? Well played Japan…welled played.