Towards the end of June, I escaped from the increasingly hot and humid Japan and hopped on the plane.
My first (real) destination was Poland, where the flowers and fruits were singing summer's songs under the blue skies.
It was my first ever visit to the country, and although - or perhaps because - I knew very little about the place before setting my foot in there, I had somehow come to associate Polish summer very strongly with fresh strawberries.
I wish I could have bought one of those baskets of gorgeous strawberries, but a kilo (two pounds) of super-ripe fresh berries that appeared to be all on the verge of being rotten didn't seem like a manageable amount for someone on her travels, so I (grudgingly) settled for fewer berries at a time.
As it was, there were other things I had set my mind on for my visit there - and doughnuts were at the top of the list.
pączki in Polish - are apparently very popular among the Poles, and I can totally get it; I think I could eat them every day. Almost.
Then again, it was not these doughnuts that I encountered on every street in Poland I set my foot on, but it was ice-cream.
But it was totally understandable; with all that heat, who wouldn't? I certainly jumped on the bandwagon!
My second destination: London.
And yes, the English have pride in their own English strawberries.
Early? Apparently. Sweet? Definitely.
I'd had at Wimbledon years ago, was excellent - so was the basket of organic strawberries I'd bought at the market.
And what followed the strawberries?
Keiko picked for us on that Saturday happened to be a wholesale bakery in East London; their selected line of bread is available to the public for purchase on Saturdays only, including their dreamily airy, cream-filled, sugar-drenched doughnuts. Heaven! Loved it.
And like in Poland, the weather cooperated excellently throughout my stay in England, and all the sunshine and heat certainly warranted ice-cream.
As crazy as I might sometimes be about ice-cream, I'm not a big fan of soft serve in general. But this cone of soft serve ice-cream with a Cadbury Flake (or more) sticking out, commonly referred to as a 99, had something nostalgically charming about it that made me want to have one.
I got mine at a (English!) beach, while strolling about amongst the beach crowd.
While both Poland and the UK boast long summer days, it'd be hard to beat the Nordic countries when it comes to the length of daytime during summer....
And if you thought the Poles were crazy about their strawberries, wait until you see the Finns...
And indeed, strawberries seemed to have a very special place in the people's heart in Finland.
And considering how short my time was in Helsinki, I think I ate quite a lot there - mostly at the market and out on the street.
which turned out to be of a piglet. Filled with apple jam (I think), this flat but rather large doughnut was not too sweet or heavy, and went down fairly easily - maybe a little too easily.
And a mere few hours after my breakfasts, I found myself drawn to one of the kiosks at the corners of a large park near the port...
Well my ice-cream was definitely very close to it, prompting me to gobble it down as I hurriedly walked back to my hotel to pick up my luggage before heading off to the airport for my flight back to Japan, after the much too short time in the city.
When I plan my trip overseas, I try to make it a long stay whenever possible, especially for places far from home. But this time, for a combination of reasons, I had to make it rather short and my time just flew by way too fast.
It was my first trip out of Japan in over a year and half, which is fairly a long interval for me. I had a lot of friends over there I wanted to see after such a long time, but the shortage of time made it difficult for me to plan get-togethers with most of them. I wish I could have seen more of them.
So thank you so much to all of you who spent time with me while I'm there - I do hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, I am also hoping to do a travel post or two here, or a photo album on flickr at the very least. Now I wish I had taken less pictures... oh well.