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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Impressions of Home: London, Tokyo and Amman

In my travels, what always fascinated me the most was where and how people lived. Yes, visiting national monuments, heritage sites, ancient ruins, beautiful cathedrals, weekend markets, pulsating arts districts, and Grimm fairy tales villages are de riguer for when I'm visitng a new destination, but I'm also that type of tourist who like shlepping through residential neighbourhoods, checking out the architecture details (more of than not, they don't have the expensive, high-profile stamp of rah-rah celebrity architects on them,) getting glimpses of regular, day-to-day life (generally by eye-balling people's homes from the street, car, train or bus,) pondering real estate ads in storefront windows and trying to visualize the living spaces, and play-pretend that I'm a local, even for a few minutes or hours.

To that end, I suppose it's inevitable I've put together a series of images comprising of my own personal, extremely subjective, impressions of "home" in some of the cities I've visited (and those that I've actually lived in) from the past.

Here are London, Tokyo, and Amman.
Because I'd stayed for prolonged periods of time, in two back-to-back trips to London, first at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel and later at the neighbouring 47 Park Street (Grand Residences by Marriott), I became somewhat familiar with this totally swish neighbourhood. 
It's an eclectic mix of embassies, high-end fashion houses, townhomes, and low-rise apartment blocks - flanked by the retail chaos that is Oxford Street on the north, Hyde Park to the west and the genteel Dorchester in the south.  Couldn't quite say how many times in the evenings I've walked up and down these streets (where one wrong turn will get you steely stares from the Marines standing on post at the U.S. embassy on Upper Grosvenor Street) but I remembered it was a lot
Enough to make it my lasting memory where some lucky residents call home in this city. 

This was the view from my friend's living room / guest bedroom / dining room in Tokyo.  Her apartment was teeny (about 400 square feet if we're feeling optimistic) but then again so's she, so it all worked out well.  Best parts about staying there were the fact that it's in the very-happening district of Roppongi (where residents and tourists are still in heated debates as to whether it's a seedy enclave or a vibrant up-and-comer,) there's a lovely wee park just across the street, and her workplace, the stunning Ritz-Carlton within that Midtown Tower - the second tallest in Tokyo -
is just beyond the greenery.

I'd already chronicled my crazy, hunger-fueled, panic-tinged drive through (and beyond) Amman here, but all that drama doesn't detract one iota from the seemingly endless and amazing sights of the densely populated series of hills surrounding this remarkable and historic city that I hope one day to return.
    (All photographs by Weng Ho.)

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