Montreal 2018- Day 4

Hey guys!

Here we are, the last blog post of our trip to Montreal. It really was a fantastic four days, and this day did not disappoint!

Day Four:

We slept in! OK, I always start the posts off with how we woke up, may be weird but I think how we wake up sets the tone for the day. We had planned to get up early, but instead, no one set an alarm and we slept till around 8AM. Big win in my book since it’s Summer, and I have been naturally waking up at 5/5:30AM from the sunlight.

Which I love, I am actually an odd duck in that I am a night owl who wakes up like an early bird, because I sleep without my shades down on purpose to rise with the sun. This is something I love because I don’t need an alarm clock, which is the Devil’s creation. What a horrible sound!!

Ok, back to our last day.

We really had no plans other than eating breakfast somewhere different because we swapped our quad bike reservations to the night before. I had packed up the room the afternoon before when we came back to the room to cool off from the parade, so all we had to do was shower and go out for the day.

We went to check out a fun spot we read about that was nearby, Artisans. It is basically like an upscale food store, like Williams-Sonoma, that has cookware and linens, but also a places to eat: a creperie, a bakery, a charcuterie, a pasta area, a market, and a teaching glassed in classroom etc etc. super cute and amazing quality.

We loved it!

The girls got a sweet crepe, raspberry, and a waffle topped with strawberries. The raspberries were the sizes of champagne corks, and the fruits tasted like what I imagine Heaven tastes like. If Heaven has a taste. My husband got a savory crepe with French ham and cheese, and I got a savory crepe, which was a buckwheat pancake, and I filled it with spinach and mozzarella. It was all delicious and so light, that we felt great.

After breakfast we walked around the store, bought some stuff to take for the ride; like French bread and maple flavored homemade marshmallows. Then we walked around the city a bit before heading back to the hotel to leave. We had late check out, and plans to stop in VT along the way home.

It was a beautiful morning, Montreal is just a wonderful city. If you have never been, well, I hope you consider it a stop sometime. The people are wonderful. The sights are to be seen. The food is fantastic. And the bread! My gosh, for that alone I hope you go. Haha. But, seriously. It is like traveling to a European country, but just not as far. You get the European mentality mixed with Canadian, in a bubble where they appreciate food, art, sports, music and cultures from around the globe.

Now it was time for us to go. (Insert sighs and sad faces here.)

As I mentioned before, my husband and I have been going up to Montreal since we met. We were dating a few months when he asked me to go away with him. My first real boyfriend asked me to go to a foreign country!! I was so excited that I started prepping right away and told no one that I was going till the day before!! Sorry Mum! Haha.

The best part of that trip was all the surprises he had in store for me, things have not changed in 22 years. On the way up, he told me we would make a stop to rest and eat. Which was great. He surprised me with the location, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in VT. I was so excited when I saw the signs (I am like a child about everything). So we walked over to this grassy area where they had tables, as I noticed he was carrying a cooler. He didn’t tell me was that his very Italian, very old, great-aunt Lucy, whom I liked a lot, packed us a picnic of my favorite things to eat. It was the sweetest gesture I had ever had in my life at this point and one of my favorite memories from dating.

Ok, now that we have all gone down memory lane… so, as we were going with our kids I wanted to surprise them with a stop at Ben and Jerry’s too! Since on the way up my husband ended up having a meeting change to earlier in the day, we couldn’t make it, so we planned going on the ride home.

The girls were ecstatic! And the place was totally different than how I remembered it. It seemed more built up. We took them on the tour. You start the tour off with a movie of how Ben met Jerry, and how they made ice cream… and how they sold to Unilever. I forgot they had. Then they walk you through the processes, packaging and advertising. The tour is super quick, cheap and totally worth a go. Plus, you get a super delicious ice cream sample at the end, which was the size of a kiddie cup! But we got ice creams after it anyways, because that is what we do.

It was a fantastic stop along the way home and a great way to end our quick getaway to Montreal.

Xoxo

Montreal 2018- Day 3

Alrighty, guys!  Here we are on day three.  This was by far my favorite day.

Day Three:

It was Saturday, and my husband did not have to work anywhere, so we were able to spend the whole day together from the start.  Our only plan was to grab coffee at Myriade then grab pastries for breakfast nearby.  We walked up to Myriade, which is in the basement level of Club Monaco.  Super swank store, if you don’t know it.  The basement level is their sale section, but right at the bottom of the stairs going down is the Myriade Cafe.  The coffee was so good. I got my usual latte, but I stupidly allowed my girls to have iced mochas, which I forgot to say decaf…so womp.  It didn’t haunt us till bedtime.

When we left Myriade, we realized that we were a short block away from the Barbie Expo.  So before grabbing food we went over to check it out.

WOW.

We had read about this expo, as it was listed as a fun free thing to do with kids in Montreal.  It is an exhibit of Barbie dolls dressed by all these world-renowned designers like Bob Mackey, Christian Dior, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Louboutin, Zac Posen, and so many more.  There were a lot of celebrity look-alike Barbies, like Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand, Prince William with Princess Kate and Cher, there were a few of Cher!  It was probably the most impressive collection of Barbie and Barbie Fashion any of us have ever seen.  I don’t know for sure, but there had to be- at least- a thousand dolls.  It was definitely a fun walk through for all of us. I grew up on Barbie, and my kids love her too.

From Barbie, we headed straight to Maison Christian Faure, a fun pastry shop, patisserie. This place was just a sweet tooth’s dream come true..and they had some amazing croissants.  We grabbed a chocolate twist croissant, chocolate filled croissant, a plain croissant, and a Napoleon…and another coffee! This place did not disappoint.

Feeling full and happy, we made our way back to the hotel. Our plan was to go swim a few hours, but we stopped to shop a little bit, souvenirs for the girls. Then on our walk towards the hotel, we heard these crazy sounds of a party. Then we saw a street blocked off, which we walked down towards the noise and it opened up to this cool sight. My husband had read somewhere that there was going to be a parade but we didn’t expect it to be so big. It was the Caribbean Parade on one of the major boulevards. Huge!! I am talking it went for miles! The sounds of the crowds, proud to see their country represented. The crazy awesome and different Caribbean music blasting from each truck bed. The traditional costumes on people walking along…and the dancing. IT WAS SO FUN!!!! We ended up staying to watch, and I danced, for an hour to each beat. It was a beautiful day, I personally love interacting with all cultures, so I truly appreciated what I was watching and learned some great moves.

When we got to the hotel, we decided to just chill a bit to refresh ourselves then head back out. We started our evening off by exploring the areas of old Montreal we hadn’t before. This part of Montreal is the best to walk around as there are parts not made for cars, so walking is nice. Lots of shops and restaurants, but mainly art galleries. The end of this walkable strip comes up to a piazza filled with artists, caricaturists, vendors and cafes. It felt like we were in Europe, not Canada. By this point we were hungry, so we decided to indulge on a late lunch/early dinner, or as we paraphrase it from Seinfeld, linner.

My husband got us reservations that morning for Terrasse Nelligan, it is a hotel rooftop restaurant that overlooks the city. My husband had stayed in this hotel a month ago during his last work trip. Super cool. We had a great time with the people and the food was really good. The girls loved it because they had music pumping, and a lot of the songs they knew. The girls got a shrimp taco and a cheeseburger. We got a carafe of red sangria and a wagyu burger each. We all enjoyed our meals and yet again the topic of dessert came up. I mean, did any of you eat dessert as much as these kids? It’s like a sweet toothed epidemic around me. But anyways, we promised them crepes..again because well they’re awesome!! Our kids are awesome, too.

We left the rooftop to walk the seaport/boardwalk area. We had pre reserved quad bike rides for the next morning but we swung by to see if we could use them this night instead. And we could. Yes!!

Some backstory… my girls LOVE to ride bikes. They have been riding bikes since they were able to run. Though we have a horrible driveway for riding and a stone paved patio, they persisted to learn and ride. Eventually, moving on to parking lots and side streets. Now, they go on daily rides together after school or camp for an hour or more exploring the neighborhoods or going to friends. So when I mentioned bike rentals as an option, they were all for it. Only thing, I was nervous to rent single bikes in the city for them, because I wasn’t quite sure what the city would be like with them; though now I wish I had brought their helmets! Next time!

Anyways, no single rentals because we decided to surprise them with renting quad bikes instead (the ones with dual rider pedals). We rented them for a half hour because it was late evening. It was the perfect amount of time. We got to take them through a huge paved lot facing the river, down a walking path and park along the water to this historic clock tower and back. With time to take picture and switch up riders, which means my husband and I got to ride alone. Finally alone!

As we returned the bikes, we opted to sit marina side for a while to enjoy the views and catch a sunset. Our plan was dessert then back for fireworks. Apparently, Montreal is home to an international fireworks competition every Wednesday and Saturday. This night’s theme was ABBA. We didn’t want to miss it.

When the sunset ended, we hopped across the street for crepes. Yup, back to Chez Catherine, but this time we only got two crepes, one filled w vanilla ice cream and maple syrup, the other filled with Belgian chocolate and cream. I had some glow sticks and necklaces for the kids that were opened at this point.

All garbed in glow, we ran to grab the perfect spot for the night’s attraction. The funny thing is that in the middle of the seaport there is this two floored metal structure, what it is for I don’t know, but we went up it and watched the show from there. It was perfect. You could hear the music softly (they had it pumping in from far away), and the fireworks were impressive. The cool thing was, do you remember I mentioned in my previous post that there was a lighting exhibit across Old Montreal? Well along the tree line in front of us where the ferris wheel was located, they had projected people’s faces onto the trees. They would move with emotion and it was just super cool to see. I tried capturing it in the pictures so you can see what I am talking about.

So Saturday. Woke up to sunshine, ate and drank delicious food and coffee, saw Barbie, danced to an insane parade, rode quad bikes AND watched fireworks… it was a good day. 🙂

Montreal 2018- Day 1

Hey WordPressland!

It is Summertime, my favorite time! We kicked off Summer with our Fourth of July BBQ which I shared this week, following that we took off on our first getaway of the season to Montreal, Canada.

Ahh, Montreal.  L’architecture, les cultures, l’histoire, l’amour… le pain.

This trip was a work trip for my husband, he had two important meetings, so our girls and I hopped along to enjoy the city …AND EAT BREAD…my God the bread.

Lordy lordy lordy.

It was so good. Like being in Italy or France good!

Gah.

Ok, let me focus.

Since we don’t live terribly far from Canada we drove up.  Part of the fun is the road trip,  right?  Getting to the destination.. and snacks.  At least that is what I was told.  The scenery through Vermont and Canada was beautiful; the amount of green farmland is breathtaking; along with red farms flanked with silos.  Picturesque.  My husband and I had driven up to Montreal for years; our first trip was a couple of months after we met, but I don’t ever remember all the beautiful landscapes like we saw this time.

Day one:

We stayed at the Hotel Bonaventure, right in downtown Montreal.  There aren’t many hotels with outdoor pools in the city.  We booked another hotel that had an indoor pool, but then when we saw the weather was going to be avg 90F all week, we rebooked to this hotel for the outdoor pool.

The girls and I arrived in Montreal itching to get our swim on.  So my husband checked us in then left for his meeting. We three girls went to get our white bodies to the sunshine!  The pool area was aesthetically pretty basic.  There was a pool with chairs around, a large hot tub and a cocktail bar, EXCEPT you are on the fourteenth floor of a high rise…super cool!  The pool was heated  which was nice, and it had an interior entrance point for Winter outdoor swimming. The hot tub was super hot, but I actually sat in it most of the time …yup in 93F, too!! I LOVE ME SOME HEAT!

Ok. So, MY ONLY COMPLAINT  this whole trip is that everyone and their grandmother staying on property was out there all day and night. So loungers or seating were pretty slim, if there was any at all.  This first day, I had pieced together three seats in an hour, just in time for us to eat some lunch.

After a few hours of swimming and sunbathing we got ready so once my husband got back we could head right out to dinner.  We explored the hotel a bit when he got back, then walked about three blocks to Rue Metcalf (Metcalf Street) to the Dominion Tavern Square.  This place was right up my alley; he always reserves fun places.  It was a historic, 1927, tavern. I love vintage pubs.  We sat at a round table in the middle against the wall, where my husband and I sat on a vintage booth style unattached bench, upholstered in vibrant orange leather.  I LOVED THIS SEAT!!  It was comfy. And I love sitting next to my husband since our kids like to split us up all the time.   It was nice they let me sit without racing their dad for the seat.  hahah

From dinner we decided to take a walk through our old stomping grounds.  I was surprised at how much of the city had changed, but it has been almost twenty years.  Erg, has it been that long? Wow, I AM old.  But, I liked the changes.

We walked down St. Catherine’s till we hit the JazzFest.  Which we had gone to on our first trip, and it was totally different!! They had the area zoned off, flanked on each side of the street with vendors then it spilled out to a huge stage at the center.  There were so many people and things to see.  We had a blast!

It was a great start to our Montreal getaway. 🙂

 

Tokyo Day 5- Asakusa Sensoji Temple and Our Last Day

Hello World!

We are on our last day here!

Really loved reliving this trip this week, and drafting this last post is making me sad.  Tokyo is a fabulous place, so unique and we experienced so many things that I will hold in my heart forever.

Tokyo Day 5- Isetan and the Asakusa Sensoji Temple

On this day, our last day, we slept in a tiny bit, till like 8AMish.  We needed the rest after the night before, AND, we needed the rest to get us through traveling back home. We quickly packed up the room, got ourselves ready, said goodbye to our room with the incredible Mount Fuji view and checked out.  As I mentioned in the first post, we hired a car service to take us to and from the airport, today he was scheduled to pick us up at 3PM. So, we had a good chunk of the day to spend in Tokyo.  SCORE!!

We decided to go grab some breakfast at Isetan a few blocks away.  They’re the largest and best Tokyo department store, and their food bizarre level is crazy insane!  I saw things (and bought things for family) I never had seen anywhere else in my life.  I am still floored thinking about all the prestigious foods and knowledge I acquired from that area.  My husband surprised me with taking our breakfast up to their rooftop deck, open to eat and relax.  Wow, what a stunning place!  They had a large grassy park flanked by a small shrine and vending machines of course with an incredible view of the city. Definitely recommend this quiet sweet spot.

After chilling roof top, we walked around the city to find some souvenirs for the girls before hitting up one last attraction, the Asakusa Sensoji Temple.  Man, souvenir shopping was the hardest part of the trip.  Oddly, though the Sanrio stores there were big, the sections in toy stores back home were better than their specialty shops in Tokyo.  Surprised?  Me, too.  But I was not freaking out because we still had shopping in Asakusa and the airport.  The airport, by the way, is the best spot to shop for any type of souvenir you are looking for; I scored for the kids there big time!

Finally, we made our way by taxi to Asakusa; it’s about a thirty minute drive.  I am so glad we didn’t opt for a train like we did back in 2004.  We ended up seeing a totally different side to Tokyo driving from Shinjuku to Asakusa, like real life.  Working class people.  Their homes.  Their parks.  Their stores.  No flash.  No lights.  Not a thousand people hoarding around.  Real life.

The Asakusa Sensoji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temples in Tokyo, and was one of my most memorable stops thirteen years ago. A lot of people visit this place, from all over the world.  It looked the same, except there were about 50% more people in the area than I remembered.  But it could be because it was a weekend, I don’t know.  Tokyo seemed flooded with more people than I remembered before in general. The experience, with so many people, was different.  Not bad, just different.  The gates to the Temple are a colorful wonder, with a giant lantern in the middle flanked by two intimidating statues that open to the grounds market.  This place is so great, and the shopping was a lot of fun, grabbed a lot of Japanese souvenirs for the girls here.

The Temple itself is at the end of the market; it was so crowded we didn’t actually have that type of time to wait in the line to go in after walking through the market. I did go inside in 2004, so this time I walked up to the large incense burner right out front where a mass amount of people were there lighting large incense sticks they were buying along the building.  I gently wafted some of the incensed smokey air over to my body, from head to toe I pushed the air around me for a blessing.

Now my trip to Japan was complete.  🙂

We left the Temple to find a taxi, well, first we stopped for coffee then hailed a taxi back to the hotel.  I never mentioned this before, but my husband never drank coffee till last year, and I really love having a coffee drinking partner in crime everywhere I go now!  haha  It’s the little things people.

We got to the hotel just with two minutes to spare!  The driver was there waiting for us, so we grabbed our bags from the Bell Hop to hit the road.  The drive back to the airport was great.  Saw all the fun spots we visited in 2004, and those sights we couldn’t make this trip. Like the tower and of course the big one for me, Tokyo Disney. I saw it on the way in but didn’t want to mention it.  You guys have no idea how much I am still bummed I didn’t make it, because we were staying at an affiliated hotel that had direct bus service, so I literally had planned out a whole day to go for when I was alone while my husband was at work that day.  Up till three weeks before we left I had these plans,  then everyone made me realize how sad that would be for me, no one to share the day with, and riding rides alone…it sounded super lame without anyone else, so changed it to what I did. Which ended up being a lot nicer on my own and was invited out with everyone that night unexpectedly for dinner.  Something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I went to Disney and something that ended up being LESS depressing!  haha

Anyways, I am not bashing it, but Tokyo Disney from the highway above looked real small, sort of like Disneyland shrunk down. The entrance was right near the highway and I saw Cinderella’s castle, which was small.  I think smaller than Disneyland’s!! They had a gorgeous hotel next to it, and it was more beautiful than the castle..so.  Also, by the ads on the hotel TV, not what I researched online, it looked more like an amusement park near my house, Canobie Lake, with Disney themes, than a Disney theme park.  I was reminded many times I made the right choice.

Ok, so back to this day…  We had an extremely nice, comfortable ride and got to the airport in 1.5 hours.  We checked in, grabbed some food for the ride and gift shopped some more, then boarded our flight at 6:10PM Sunday.  We landed in Boston at 4:54PM Sunday.  We grabbed a car home, and we arrived to a wonderful reception of family waiting at the house.  The girls went bat shit crazy seeing us, crying and laughing, and I swear held onto me for a half hour straight!  I wasn’t letting go so.  haha

 

This was an amazing trip!  Every day I learned or was experiencing something new, and that was exciting.  Tokyo is an exciting city, with so much history, tradition, yet so modern and forward, the art, the buzzing crowds, and so many wonderful things to see!  I really didn’t expect to go back to Japan, and I am so grateful I had this opportunity again to visit such a beautiful country.

Thanks for reading along!  Till next time!

xoxoxox

 

To read about the whole trip:

Day 1– Traveling to Tokyo

Day 2– Tsujiki Nippon Fish Market/Taito City

Day 3– Shibuya / Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Day 4– Harajuku / Meiji Jingu Shrine

 

 

 

Tokyo Day 4- Harajuku, the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

Hello friends!

We are steaming along now..onto day 4!  We had been in Tokyo for four days so far yet it felt like we just landed.  We stayed in Tokyo for 5 days total, and we basically ventured in just one ward.  There is so much to do and see that I don’t honestly know how much time is enough to see all of Tokyo.  In 2004, we stayed at two hotels in two districts of Tokyo, but we also ventured out of the city for a day Nikko and Fukushima for an overnight.

I guess we just need to keep going back!  🙂

 

Day 4- Harajuku, Meiji Jingu Shrine and the New York Bar

We started first thing with a train ride from Shinjuku station to Harajuku.  We decided to grab breakfast, crepes, and walk around.  The district is so unusual, this is the most eclectic part of the city for certain.  We saw a whole bunch of fun things right off the bat leaving the train station like the cat, hedgehog and owl cafes, local shops, exaggerated foods, their famed toy stores, then hundreds of people lined up to enter stores that only allowed a few people inside at a time, some lolita and goth girls (which I would totally be a lolita girl if I lived in Harajuku), traditionally dressed women and children, businessmen, and just all the people walking around.

The first stops I was pressed to visit were for my children.  Our girls don’t ask for much, but they really wanted some Japanese character toys, so I wanted to make sure to find some for them.  We stopped first at Line Friends store, which was adorable as all heck.  I definitely was giddy like a child going through.  The first floor was all accessories and housewares, then downstairs it continued to the back where there was a huge space dedicated to Brown Bear’s room to take photos to post on InstaGram!  It was such a large space where people were loving it. We indulged too even though we had NO clue who the characters were from this show.  I didn’t find anything for the kids, so we moved on to Kiddieland.  Kiddieland is the coolest store ever.  EVER. It’s four floors of toys and toys, from Japanes brands like Sanrio to US brands like Marvel to obscure brands.  I had a blast going through the store, and found our youngest a Pusheen mermaid she was vying.

After all this toy hunting, we decided to hit up Takeshita Street.  The heart of Harajuku shopping and people watching; AND MY LORD THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE.  The street was flanked on each side with accessories/clothing shops, candy shops, and toy shops, but between it was wall-to-wall people walking up the street. It was so much fun.  But we have fun doing anything.  We spent about an hour or two here going through all the shops, then we needed a good break.  Off to coffee we went!  After a small rest, we headed to the Meiji Shrine a few blocks away.

The Meiji Shrine is absolutely beautiful.  The shrine’s gates were so large and impressive, that I felt like I was transported to a different time. It also helped that on the weekends people head to the shrines dressed in traditional kimonos or yukatas on their birthdays. Seeing the beautiful children all dressed up with their hair primped just to walk around and play in the paths.  So colorful and beautiful.  One little girl, who was dressed up, loved playing peekaboo with me.  I tried to get a photo of her because she had the most infectious laugh and sweet smile, I didn’t want to forget her.

Oh speaking of beautiful sights, we made our way up to the shrine complex where an elderly gentleman waved me over to say that we were just in time to see a traditional Japanese wedding!

Actually, we ended up seeing THREE in total during our stay in the complex!

What a sight of beauty, so perfect and majestic a backdrop.  The brides wore traditional white jaquard dresses with domed head pieces while the grooms wore a formal yukata.  The couple was walked down the path with their families and the whole wedding party following.  I was mesmerized by the formality and traditional processional.  Really something to see.

As the day started to turn to dusk, we left the Meiji Shrine to grab a snack before dinner, well actually ‘linner’ because we skipped lunch.  We had planned to check out this highly rated noodle shop that was fifteen minute walk from the shrine, but when we go there it had a line of like 20 people deep.  We got in the line, but it didn’t move for a long while, so we decided to jump from there to walk closer to our hotel’s area. The walk was long, but the sights we saw made it worth it.  Also, I got to show my husband some of the spots I found on my journey yesterday.

We found a noodle shop near the hotel!  This place was fun too.  It was the type of fast service restaurant where you pay/order your meal through a ticket machine at the front!  I have always wanted to eat at a place that did that type of ordering, IDK why! haha   I have such weird life experience desires.  After we ate a little, we headed to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the night.

We made a reservation for the New York Bar before we left home, the jazz bar from the movie Lost in Translation.  It is located on the 52nd floor of the Hyatt Tokyo, about a ten minute walk from our hotel. We were seated at a table smack dab in the middle of the dining area right in front of the jazz band. We were so high up, with 180 degree windows, we were surrounded with the most amazing views.  Gah, what a magical evening.  We ordered a few rounds of drinks, their cocktails list was extensive plus they could make any drink not listed for you. After a lot of conversation, getting tipsy and soaking up where we were, we decided to eat, and we both wanted to try the wagyu burger.  Which I am so glad we did.  Just awesome.  That burger was dream worthy.  haha

After dinner, we took a taxi over to the middle of Shinjuku. We had never hung out in the area so late, which we soon found it was quite different from during the day.

There was a store we heard was a must see, Don Quixote.  What a mess!  This place was so jam-packed with shoppers, and each level was too hard to walk through because of the mob of people. Just insanity.  We walked through then left just as fast as we could.

We walked all around, you can get so lost walking through the many blocks with everything lit up.  Soon we realized that we definitely were not in Kansas anymore …but the red light district.  heehee  It was a lot of fun, well to walk with my 6’3″ husband, cause ladies beware, the men are out in full force at night! ahaha  We stayed out pretty late walking around, then headed back to our hotel because we had another early start tomorrow.

Our departure day :(, which is up next!

Tokyo Day 2- Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market / Taito City

Hello Everyone!

Here we are on our real first day out in Tokyo, but day two of our total journey.  We did so much on this day, that this post is extra long but rich with photos.

Day 2- Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market / Taito City 

Since I passed out so early the night before, and I’m so happy I did, I was ready to go at 5AM, but I held myself back from getting out of bed until 7AM, because my husband was still sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him up.  This gave me a lot of time to check messages, news, and text the kids.  Once my husband got up, we got ourselves ready for a big day out in Tokyo.  Our plans were to hit the fish market area and just wander around trying to hit the places we didn’t get a chance to see in 2004.

First, let me mention that the hotel gave us a free mobile phone to use that had free wifi and calling across the globe, so we were able to navigate properly everywhere we went through Google.

We started by grabbing some breakfast in Shinjuku near the station.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then hit the trains!

Ok, so the train system in Tokyo is a web of so many lines that even if it were in English it would still be hard to maneuver, but in Japanese it is like staring at artwork rather than a train system! And it is an art to get tickets and figure out where the trains actually are!!  Let me explain:

There is an e-card pass system called SUICA to use the transit system (some taxis, vending machines and stores).  It is pay as you go; you put money on the card and it withdraws at every entrance / exit gate.  It is real easy to use.  You touch the card to the turnstile SUICA pad, it pops up with the amount on your card and how much the entrance fee is. When you leave you repeat touch the turnstile with the card and it pops up with how much is on the card and how much the distance fare is. The cards are refillable anytime, and can be done through these kiosks below.  We were advised to purchase a SUICA card with 2000Yen on each card (around $20 USD each). We ended up using it for multiple train rides and even on our last day to pay towards taxi service.

They didn’t have this system in place when we were there in 2004.  The card system made using the subway a lot easier without paper tickets to carry just a credit card type prox card like at home/and in NYC.  The fun part was figuring out that they had this system and acquiring a card!!  hahah Oh the Lost in Translation moments.

My husband is great at navigating around places, even if he doesn’t speak the language.  He knows where to go and just figures it out.  Traveling with this guy is a great thing!  Our first stop was the Tsukiji Nippon fish market.  We took the train straight there, walked down this little incline that opened up to this massive street where there were a handful of alley ways with hundreds of vendors selling food from sushi to dumplings to full restaurants and some stores that only sold cooking items.

Some things that struck me right off the bat… There was no smell in the air of fish or that you were even near the fish market area.  There were hundreds of people working or walking around/eating, yet it was organized.  Not one barrel around, but it was clean!! Also, that people came from all over the area to eat.  It was a pretty great experience and I ate some street food from places I would never dream to eat from.  A definite happy stop on the trip.

After the market we decided to walk through to the Ginza district, which we had visited in 2004, but man, I didn’t recognize it! The Asahi Beer Hall fashioned after a German beer hall, which we loved, was no longer in the district, which was a bummer.  We had such good memories of that place.  Everything just seemed so much larger, so many more people, and just so much more to see.

Our first stop was to the department store Mistukoshi. This department store is one of the largest chains in the country.  Now I know it sounds bizarre, specifically going to a department store in Tokyo, and we visited many this trip, because these stores are like a whole experience that only you would get in Japan.  I have been to some elite department stores in various cities, like Harrod’s in London, Bloomingdales in Beverly Hills, Bergdorf Goodman’s and Saks in NYC, and obviously all those throughout Boston, but let me say they have nothing in comparison to these in Japan. Nothing.  The elegance and refinement of these stores, just at the top of the list of class. Also, the employees working the areas are like old world humble salespeople from a time lost a long time ago.  They care about you, like really they care about you!  You feel like you are somewhere really special.

I have found that the Tokyo department stores are usually somewhere around 8 floors high, and each floor is as big as the next, with furnishings from the elite to the local.  But the best parts are the basement levels..well, if you are a foodie.  They have these food bizarre type levels that just knock your expectations out of the park.  The food is everywhere, fresh, delicious, colorful, and just in a word AMAZING.  This was the first department store we visited this week, and I left in shock and awe at what I saw.

After the department store overload, we relaxed at a nearby Starbucks to figure out where to go next.  My husband had researched an area he wanted to check out, a city area called Taito, which has a few districts; Ueno and Yanaka that he heard were fun. So we hopped the train for Ueno! We got out of the train and walked straight to this area of called Yanaka.  This town has the most old world Tokyo style buildings still standing, spared from the bombings.  It is a tourist stop as they now call themselves the cat sanctuary because of the strays in the area…which I saw none.  haha I did however grab a lot of fun souvenirs for my kids.  It was a sweet area to walk through and shop around.

We left that area to walk a bit aimlessly around, with the mobile phone it made it easier, because this is something we like to do when we are away.  We like to stumble upon local places or people to see how it is off the tourist paths.  This day did not disappoint.  We ended up on this great road where we found a vintage shop chock full of the coolest Japanese and American artifacts.  After this, we trekked down the road where we stumbled upon a stretch of street that had a collection of shrines that were scattered away in the most perfect settings.  We counted about 15 shrines and cemeteries in all!

We had walked a ton so far, but it wasn’t over yet!  I should mention that Tokyo doesn’t have a lot of resting places, like there are not a ton of places you’ll see a bench.  It’s almost like they don’t want people to loiter around.  Which I understand with almost 10 million people in the city, it could get overwhelming.  So if you decide to take a trip to Tokyo, or Japan really, wear sensible shoes and rest anywhere you see a seat because even their parks have like a bench or none per quarter mile.

Then we walked further along and saw on the map that the Ueno public garden/park was not terribly far.  We decided to make our way there.  It is a large park peppered with trees, landmarks and water features.  It was beautiful.  It is the well-known park for the cherry blossoms.  We had a great time walking through the paths holding hands. Seeing all the foliage.  We saw some unusual birds and talked (well I did with gestures) to an elderly couple who wanted to talk to me. It is funny that even with a major language barrier two people can speak (AND MAKE A JOKE) without knowing the other’s language. It was a nice way to spend the evening.

And we didn’t stop to rest, so the walking wasn’t over!

We left the park right about sundown, so we headed to the Ameyoko market street.  Another fun district that has shopping, restaurants and just so many people!  The shopping was good but the people watching was pretty spectacular.  Tokyo is such an amazing place.  The sights. The foods. The people.  They have this wonderful way that they carry themselves, it’s like they have a lot of pride, but are very humble.  I don’t know how else to describe the feeling they give me except that I see them being a very humble and honorable culture. They are a quiet, hardworking people. So respectful of each other and to outsiders like us. It’s quite wonderful.

We finally were hungry so we ended up eating at a tendon place we looked up. Tendon is a tempura rice bowl…which is so good.  Yum.  We ended the night with walking around the city more, then headed back to the hotel for some relaxing and for me sleep! haha.  We clocked over 20,000 steps, so we were beat and needed the rest!

 

Day 3 up next!

Vacation Diary-Day 2- Cruise Embarkment

Hey WordPressland!  

Happy Friday and Happy April Fool’s Day!!  

Unforch, I am working today…though working from home! 🙂  

Still can’t believe this trip is overz, but I am loving all that I am reliving through these diary posts.  Man, I miss everything about this trip, I am surprising myself.  

So, day 2, we woke up to sunny skies that quickly turned grey and rainy.  The weather was seriously cuckoo, it rained hard one minute then the sun was shining brighter than bright the next.  So in between the rain falling, and through a sea of people walking in a big AIDS walk, we ran to Starbucks on the strip for a coffee and a noche; looking at the waves of Fort Lauderdale’s beach. Ahh Beach life, man.  Why do I live in Boston again?

After we got our fill of the waves, we trotted back through the drops to our hotel to grab a taxi to the Everglades port to get on our cruise!  I was so nervous, excited, nervous, anxious, nervous..did I say nervous?  One of my worries, you see, is that I suffer from mild vertigo sometimes.  It’s not a big deal, but once every two years or so, I get the spins that last a few seconds.  My father has it too, and I am thinking it’s probably a genetic disorder that only the awesomest of the awesome get.  Ahem.  So, anyway, I already don’t go on super spinning rides at amusement parks because I fear aggravating it, so my thoughts were at a constant worry of ‘what if i get vertigo or worse from the cruise?’.  I researched a lot on this topic, and found so many drug options and people who have the same condition.  I bought them all before our cruise to be safe.  (Luckily, I needed nothing throughout and am just a worry wart!!) 

We had never been on a cruise ship before, and even with all the research, talking to friends and watching youtube videos, I still wasn’t entirely sure what I would feel or experience. So I was pushing my butterflies down through this whole morning.  

 

TILL I GOT ON THE BOAT. HOLY AWESOME!

 

We cruised on the Regal Princess, which is the Love Boat. This cruise was headed to the Western Caribbean for 7 days- Princess Cays, Grand Cayman, Mahahual and Cozumel, Mexico.
What a spectacular place; from the moment we walked onto the boat it was just beautiful and all my fears were squashed.

First there is the group photo at the entrance after you check in at the gate..here’s the one I snagged of me with my family.

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As you enter, you are greeted by staff directing you where you need to go from the fourth floor elevator embankment.  It’s beautiful.  All shiny, with the nicest details..like a luxury hotel.  As we went up to our rooms, the glass elevators had the snappiest travel sayings that I loved reading every day. For example… 

We were in room M511 (Marina deck aka 15Fl; room 511).    It was way more spacious than I figured.  If you look in the first room photo, you will see that my daughter is sitting on the convertible couch, then above her is the drop down murphy bed, which when laid out at the same time, acts as a bunk bed.  Then there was a giant closet across from the bathroom.  The bathroom was small, but it worked out well for us.  

 

As soon as we settled in, we jetted off for a bite to eat on the 16th floor buffet since our luggage was not dropped to our room yet. There were so many people there…like our buddies!  The food choices were real good surprisingly.  They had everything and anything you could think of, switched out every twenty minutes or so. 

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We enjoyed a quick lunch together, before going off to explore some of the boat and performing the mandatory Muster Station/emergency walk through.  Soon after that we sped up to our rooms to unpack. Then the cruise ship departed port and we watched the ocean as it made it through the channel. What a beautiful sight! We even saw some dolphins along the ship after a few minutes. IT WAS SO SURREAL!!!!

We then got dolled up for my friend’s big fortieth birthday dinner at Sabatini’s.  This restaurant was not part of the price of the cruise, it was an additional service price of $25 per adult and $15 per child.  The food and atmosphere were beautiful.  So tasty.  We started off dinner at 6:45PM and finished at 11PM!  We sat talking the whole time, enjoying the kids laughter and each other’s company.

It was a perfect way to kick off our first night on board!

 

 

 

This was day 2!  So far so good!  🙂

 

xoxoxoxo