Thank you!! We use a Nikon D3100. We are lucky to have amazing friends that gifted it to us for our wedding.
- The lack of the game Craps in casinos all around the world says something about us back in the States - I just dont know what. Do you think it is; (a) we have a Freud-ian fasination with dice because they remind us of our private parts (Craps is an almost exclusive male game btw), (b) our goverment doesnt care enough for us to protect us from bad decisions (craps is both the best of odds in a casino and the worst depending on where you put down your bet), (c) the game is too complex to translate into other languages (assumes an American made up the game) or (d) none of the above it just isnt fun for anyone other than us.
- What appears to be the Argentine national cookie is two rice cakes covered in chocolate and stuffed with a sugary filling of sorts, honestly it feels like a dessert off the Weight Watchers program, no clue why EVERYONE seems to like them.
- Currency exchange is one of the biggest inequities of traveling. The difference between a good exchange and a bad can be upwards of 40% of the value. So be aware and bring a calculator if needed, but dont just assume the banks are being fair.
- Itis not just the Spanish who refuse to acknowledge English as the universal language, they taught the same indifference to their South American friends.
- Taxis are cheap in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
- There is nothing more sad than a brown ocean. The sea should invoke more than just an urge for a Yoohoo.
- Montevideo has the best local art market we have seen on the trip.
**Arrived on December 12th and departed for Thailand on the 15th
After leaving Tokyo, we took the high-speed train to Kyoto, which was once upon a time ago the imperial capital of Japan. A lot of people had recommended Kyoto to us because it had many of the original wooden temples still in tact. After several days in a very modern Tokyo, we were excited to see the more traditional side of Japan.
We lucked out with our accomodations and were pleasantly surprised when the cab rolled up to an upscale hotel instead of a hostel. It was excellently situated, right next to the main shopping district and the Nishiki market.
It never gets old walking around the local markets! All the food products, they way they’re prepared and displayed, are so unique - it’s truly a visual feast.
The next day we set out to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine. We were quite surprised to find it painted a super bright shade of orange!
The shrine is very large and is just one part of a much more extensive complex. It’s most famous for its thousands of torii gates which decorate a labryinth of trails that lead through the woods and up the mountain behind the shrine. We of course failed to do our research ahead of time and had no knowledge of this, so when we set out to walk the trails we were a tad unprepared for the miles of walking and steps that lay ahead of us!
It was here, as we were walking along, admiring all of the torri and mini torri gates, gorgeous foliage, and buddha statues, that we had our coolest experience in all of Japan. Two women (a mother and her daughter), along with their personal monk, befriended us and invited us to participate in their prayer ritual. The monk would stop at various buddha statues along the path and he would perform a small ceremony at each that involved him putting a powder on our hands that we would pat all over our body, light incense, and then put our hands together and bow while he chanted a prayer. Now, nobody in our group is religious, so I can’t say we were spiritually moved by this experience, but it was definitely super interesting to see the ritual behind their prayer because it was so much more involved than just putting your hands together and saying a few words.
Once they were done and we were about the leave, they invited us to watch them during waterfall training. We had no idea what that entailed and figuring that we’d never have such an opportunity again to witness something so authentic, we happily took them up on their offer. They drove us to a private park in another part of Kyoto - it was so beautiful, but unfortunatley we weren’t allowed to take photos there.
After a quick prayer session, they scurried down some stone steps to where the waterfall was located. They undressed and put on some thin cotton robes. It hurt just looking at them because it was very cold that day. The point of the exercise is that the impact and force of the water is supposed to expel all the demons and ills out of you. Before heading under the water, the monk spent a good 5 minutes chanting loudly and using some kung-fu moves over their bodies as if to scare off whatever bad may be inside of them. Then they would stand under this very strong waterfall as he continued to chant — we can’t even imagine how freezing that must have felt or how much conviction and belief they must have in this process to do it monthly!! We felt very fortunate that they let us observe them - they were the nicest people and it was a very special experience for all of us.
After refueling over an incredibly delicious lunch of ramen, we headed to the Higashiyama district. This is a very quaint, old-style walking district with a cobble-stone streets that are lined with cafes and artisan shops. At the end of the street stands the Hokan-ji Temple and the Yasaka Pagoda - they’re at the top of the hill and the view of Kyoto below is quite beautiful.
From Kyoto, Osaka is just a quick hour long train ride away. This was our last stop in our week-long jaunt across Japan! We had no idea that Osaka was such an expansive city - it was really much larger and more sprawled out than we had imagined.
Our first stop was the Osaka Castle. Its a very impressive structure, built on a wall of cut rocks and surrounded by a big moat.
On the top floor is an observation deck that offers 360 degree views of Osaka. It’s a very modern looking city - if we hadn’t told you this cityscape was from Osaka, don’t you think it could easily pass as the cityscape for any number of other cities around the world?
Since we had done a lot of sightseeing of markets and shrines, we opted for a change of scenery and visited the aquarium! It was the perfect way to end and amazing trip :)
Next up…two weeks in Thailand!!
So excited!! We’re featured in the Weddings section of NY Magazine :)
We spoke with the writer of this story back in July when we were in Paris and we’ve been waiting anxiously for this to appear online or in print - so finally, yay!!!
Obviously a few things have changed since then - for one, we’ve since visited 20 more countries and we also made the decision to cut our trip short by 3 months. We had originally planned to spend our last leg in S. America, but surprisingly, traveling for long periods of time is tiring!! So we’ve been back stateside since the beginning of the year and are acclimating to the ‘real world’ again :) In a nice twist of fate, we got to see a bit of S. America after all — Chris had to go down to Montevideo, Uruguay for work this week, so we headed down a few days earlier to check out Buenos Aires, Argentina as well.
We’re going to do our best to get this blog up to date very soon - we still have the remainder of Japan to write up and then Thailand and Argentina/Uruguay. Thanks for being so patient with us :)
- Argentina is shockingly similar to New York; unfortunately it is not the quaint neighborhoods, but rather a sprawling version of midtown.
- The Argentinian people have committed a unforgivable sin - they have taken upon themselves to modify the Big Mac. Up until now the sanctity of the burger had been upheld, but as I type this I stare at a three patt-ied, over sauced, under lettuced monstrosity. At least they gave the imposter a new name the “Triple Mac”.
- What did Blackberry invest all there profits in over the last decade? There browser sucks, there app store is not user friendly and all the features I love where in my OG version.
- The construction crew currently ripping up the streets below our hotel has a wheel barrel full of coal burning? A barbie for lunch or is there some industrial use?
- You really have to watch your step in Buenos Aires as the streets are completely hazardous, filled with holes, cracks, and lose objects. Even Val has switched to flats and she has climbed mountains in her heels before.
- Our travels in the last year have taken us to 5 out of 7 Continents - Is there a destination city with SPG property on the Antartic?
- If the pigeons in your home town make you uncomfortable then stay away from Buenos Aires as the pigeons here look like crazed, rabid and angry versions of our pigeons with twice the ugly.
- Why does the median height of a population have no correlation to the median height of the toilets used within that population?
- Rojo Tango was a spectacular Argentine Tango show - dare we say the best performace we have experienced on the trip.
**Arrived on December 8th and departed for Kyoto on the 12th
We flew into Tokyo Narita Airport the evening of the 8th and waited around the airport for Grandpa who was flying in from Atlanta. Mom was flying in the next day, so the three of us spent the night at a nearby airport hotel and met her at the airport the next morning. Once all four of us were reunited, the adventure began!!
Since we took an absurd amount of photos and saw tons of places, we’re going to try a little bit of a different format to show you our time in Tokyo - here goes!!
1.) Where we stayed - Asakusa: this is located in the Taito district of Tokyo and it’s one of the few old-style neighborhoods left. We loved the traditional, authentic feel and there was lots of amazing shopping and sightseeing.
This part of town is famous for being home to the Senso-ji temple, a Buddhist temple and the oldest temple in Tokyo. Next to it is the Asakusa Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine. Can anyone tell us what the HUGE golden thing on the Asahi building is? A carrot? A tadpole?
The temple and shrine are absolutely beautiful - there is so much detail and colors are so vivid. There is a lot of ritual involved in visiting, such as lighting incense and breathing in the fumes and taking a sip of water from the fountain.
Leading up to these beautiful structures is a street called the Nakamise-dori that is full of shopping and food stands. We got a lot of souvenirs here and tried some interesting Japanese foods - the fish were filled with chocolate and the dumplings with red bean paste! The use of bean paste as a filler in pastries was uniquely Japanese.
2.) Tsukiji Fish Market - we woke up at 4 am, it was FREEZING, and took a 30 minute cab over to the fish market so we could get in line for the famous tuna auction. After close to an hour of milling around the warehouses, trying to find the tuna auction location, we finally got close and were rudely shooed away by police. Apparantly the tuna auction isn’t open to visitors in December. Major bummer, but we were already up and out, so we settled for the scenery of the fish market.
In our rush to get out the door and over to the market in time for the auction that was not meant to be, we had no time for coffee, so we set out on a mission to find some. Lo and behold, we were pretty astonished to find that it’s sold at 7-Eleven, in a can! Already warm and you can choose your’s black or with cream - ingenious!
We saw fish in every state imaginable - fresh, dried, frozen, marinated, etc. A lot of the vendors put out samples of various weird goods, so Grandpa had a field day trying everything!
Many people advised us to eat sushi while at the market, and while we can certainly see the logic behind that, since everything is so fresh, we just couldn’t stomach raw fish at 5 a.m. Plus, since it was freezing, steaming hot ramen seemed much more appetizing - it was delicious!
3.) Meiji Shrine & Yoyogi Park - Shabuya district - with our bellies filled with ramen, we set out on a long walk. We came upon the Yoyogi Park, which reminded us a bit of Central Park. The leaves were a gorgeous array of reds and yellows, there were bikers and runners, dogs on walks, and cheerleading teams practicing. Right next to it, is the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine which you reach by walking through a forest of evergreens. It was strange to one minute be in the middle of a bustling city and the next in total peace and solitutude walking down a forest path to an old shrine. We loved the wall of old sake barrels and by the temple is a wall of prayers and wishes written in lots of different languages on thin wooden shingles.
3.) Roppongi Hills - a modern and upscale neighborhood offering more high-end shopping and lots of restaurants/cafes. It is all impeccably manicured. Originally our plan for Roppongi was to see the city from the top of the Mori Tower. That was defused when they explained there was a lofty entry fee and that a similar view is available from the Ministry Towers for free. So our backup plan was to grab a quick bite and then pop back across town. Seeing as we don’t recall the names of the streets we walked, this will have to be a more general warning - do not simply pick a direction to try and find a lunch spot near the Mori Tower. Of course, we learned this the hard way. Nothing like 2 hrs of walking in a big circle to get your tummy rumbling.
4.) City Streets - we did SOO much walking…probably more walking than we’ve done since the week we spent in Paris at the end of our first month of the trip. The photos below are a complilation of sights - the skyline view of the Tokyo Tower, the streets around Shabuya, and Hachiko Square. Tokyo felt so similar to NYC - if you just changed out the signage, we think you’d have a hard time telling them apart!
5.) Tokyo Bay — we were lucky enough to be in town for the Tokyo Motor show. It was a bit out of the way, but we got to see some amazing views of the Tokyo Bay from the train. The architechture is so unique!
6.) Tokyo Motor Show — not for the claustorphobic, we visited on the last day and they were anticipating 900,000 visitors! The convention space was HUGE and pretty much every single car maker was there. While it was nice to see the new models, the coolest part was seeing all the concept cars!
7.) At Night - Tokyo is so alive with bright lights and thousands of people out and about.
Tokyo was a blast and we were thrilled that it lived up to Grandpa’s and Mom’s dreams :) Next up - Kyoto!