^^ A very merry, happy, jolly 2017, from our little family to yours.
Well friends, 2016 is over and I have to say … I don’t miss it one bit. Of course Lotte being born was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but other than that, 2016 was kind of awful in a lot of ways. So we’re moving on over here, embracing 2017 with open arms and hoping that it’s a much kinder year.
We’ve had family in town since before the holiday so I’m way far behind on my WW postings, but for now, here’s a short look back at what we got up to in 2016 …
So two Saturdays ago was our last full day in Kyoto before heading back to the states. Chris’ parents had gone back to Tokyo the night before to catch their super early flight on Saturday morning, and we had the whole day stretched ahead of us to finish up some final things we really wanted to see and do.
Then … that all got sidetracked for a couple of hours while we spent some time on the phone with American Airlines trying to figure out what to do about the fact that Chris had left his green card back in Denver. This is such an important topic for those of you with green cards, that Chris has said he’ll write his own little post on it and share here, which means I won’t go into a ton of detail on this post, other than to say … don’t do it!
Anyway, after (sort of) sorting that out, we headed out into beautiful Kyoto for our first stop — the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I had been dying to do this ever since I started researching Kyoto about a month before our trip, and I’m so, so glad we made it there, because the experience really is incredible. Luckily for us we happened upon a bike shop on our way from the subway to the grove, though, because without the bike rental, I think it would have been pretty difficult for my preggers legs to do all the walking we would have done that day. So — that’s just something to keep in mind for anyone who maybe isn’t so into walking miles and miles. Even if you don’t mind the walking, though, renting a bike is a great (and super fun) way to take in the grove! It does get pretty busy, though, so there were times when maneuvering a bike through the crowds was tough. Still, overall, I’d say we were super happy to have had the bikes. Plus, riding bikes or taking bike tours on our trips (or even where we live) has become something of a traditional with us. We’ve done it in New York and Denver, Munich, Iceland, Berlin, New Orleans, London and now in Japan. It’s high on our list of recommendations for things to do when traveling.
Anyway, here’s a bit of what you’ll see at the Bamboo Groves. We spent a good two or three hours here, with a trip into the beautiful garden and temple area that’s right around the grove and a quick stop for a picnic lunch (meaning pastries!) that we had brought, as well.
After the bamboo, we got back on the subway and headed back to the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) that we had missed the day before with Chris’ parents. This place is gorgeous and serene, with its manicured rock gardens, temples, streams and foliage. There’s also a tiny hill you can walk up and get a pretty nice view of the city skyline.
It doesn’t take very long to see the whole park (if you don’t want it to, or you could spend an hour or so meandering around, it’s perfect like that), and afterwards there is a gorgeous little 1.7 mile walk called the Philosopher’s Walk nearby that I would suggest doing as well. The end of the walk will bring you pretty much right out to a bus stop that can bring you right back to the center of town.
^^^ The Silver Pavilion inside Ginkaku-ji
^^^ An artist making the most of Philosopher’s Walk
And that was pretty much our Saturday, friends. Dinner was out at a noodle restaurant, and then it was back to the hotel to attempt to pack up for our bullet train back to Tokyo to catch our flight back to the U.S. the next day.
Japan, you were everything I imagined you would be, and also so much more. Thanks for showing us such an amazing time. We hope to make it back here again to do even more!
So a couple Fridays ago, it was our last day in Kyoto with Chris’s parents before they flew back that night to Sydney, and we definitely wanted to make the most of it. Attending a traditional tea service in Japan was high on my mom-in-law’s list of things to do, but after breakfast we started our day out with a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, a sprawling Shinto shrine with thousands of vermillion torri (gates) lining paths that crisscross into a mountain. It was unbelievably gorgeous, and definitely a must-see if you’re in Kyoto …
^^^ These torri … so mesmerizing!
^^^ The whole gang’s here!
After spending an hour or so at the shrine, we hopped back on the subway and headed to the Kiyomizudera Temple area of Kyoto, which was this adorable, historical section of town, where we attended a traditional tea service — and learned how to make traditional Japanese tea! — at Camellia’s Japanese Tea Ceremony. Camellia (that was the woman’s actual name, my MIL asked!) was lovely and she explained to us the whole tradition behind the tea service in Japan and demonstrated herself first how to make the tea, before passing off the ingredients to us to make our own.
After the service — which lasts about an hour, depending on how many questions you ask (we asked a lot!) — we finished walking around the Kiyomizudera area and grabbed a quick bite to eat (because preggers is always starved!).
^^^ Chris’s fried octopus hushpuppies, which he says were delicious. I’ll just take his word for it.
Then we tried to catch a train to Ginkakuji (aka the Silver Pavilion), but unfortunately it closed at 5 and we were just a couple minutes too late to see it. Chris and I would actually head back there the next day — our last day in Kyoto — but alas my in-laws had run out of time. So it was back to the hotel we went for them to pack up and head out.
Thanks so much for spending the most amazing couple days with us in Tokyo and Kyoto, Connors! It’s been a real treat traipsing around the world as spectators together to watch Chris complete these World Marathons. Let’s hope something new and equally as amazing ushers itself into our lives so that we can continue to go on these adventures 😉
After the Connors left Chris and I were starving, so we headed over to a sushi train restaurant in Kyoto Station, which turned out to be Chris’s favorite meal of the whole trip. I was pretty happy with it, too, since there was tons for me to eat and everything was clearly labeled. (Avocado, cucumber and cooked shrimp sushi … yum!)
^^^ Pure bliss! (And yes, that stack of plates next to Chris was all ours … and we weren’t even close to being done yet … )
^^^ The restaurant, should you feel so inclined to try to find it 😉
And I will leave you with one final thought for this post, my friends, which is the below pic of me rubbing the head of a Buddha statue for good luck and prosperity.
Is there anything more calming than that?
I’ll be back soon with our final day in Kyoto, friends. Until then, bis bald!
^^^ Here we are, all ready to hop our Japanese Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto — yehaw!!
Last Wednesday we were making the trek from Tokyo to Kyoto for the rest of our trip, but we were making it in style by riding the bullet train 😉 We had booked our JR Pass before we even left the states, and we decided to go ahead and upgrade to first class which, as I mentioned previously, turned out to be quite nice. I only caught a glimpse briefly of what the regular seats would have been like as the train whizzed into the station, and while I’m sure they would have been perfectly fine, for someone who had just run a marathon and another someone who was pregnant, we certainly weren’t going to complain about the extra legroom, foot rest and spacious seats.
One word of advice here — even when you book first class tickets ahead of time, you still need to go into a Rail Pass station and book in tickets for your exact seat and train time. I’m not sure what would happen if you showed up to a train where you hadn’t booked ahead of time, but luckily for us my father-in-law figured out before that happened that we needed to book, so we did so for our trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, to Hiroshima from Kyoto and then back from Kyoto to Tokyo to catch our flight on Sunday.
The ride was pretty glorious, friends. Lots of beautiful countryside to take in, and small towns along the way to peruse. I know I’ve shared this photo on Instagram already, but it’s just too good not to post here, too:
^^^ See? Ooooohhhhhh … pretty 😉
Anyway, the 452 kilometer ride (aka 5 1/2 hr car ride) from Tokyo to Kyoto only took about 140 minutes on the bullet train, and it was far more comfy then any car ride would have been. In Kyoto the train arrives into Kyoto Station, which is such an amazing place I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not catching a train. There are tons of restaurants (good restaurants!), bakeries and shops — there’s a lot to do there. The hotel we stayed at was the New Miyako Hotel, which was literally right outside the train station and super convenient for exhausted, weary travelers who just want to drop their bags off in their room and take a quick rest before heading back out. (Not to mention how great it is to only travel a short distance when you need to hop the train to get back to Tokyo!)
Anyway, after resting up for a bit, it was pretty late, but we decided to hop on a city bus (again, thank you Chris Connor for showing us how to get around!), and went to check out the Gion District, which is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and is filled with shops and restaurants (and while we were unfortunately a tad early, I can tell you this area would be gorgeous with cherry blossoms probably right about now, too!). The Yasaka Shrine is also right next door to the Gion District, so you can easily knock both things off your list in one trip.
^^^ Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine. We thought the shrine closed to visitors at 5, and most of the stalls and things were closed, but you can still walk into the actual shrine area past 5, so seeing it at night (and then again later during the day) was special.
^^^ We were starving and decided to get sushi (no raw fish for me!) at a little place we happened upon in the Gion district. They had vegetarian noodles, so I started with those, and then gorged myself on veggie sushi, as well. Yum!
The next day we decided to hop back on the bullet train and head to Hiroshima and neighboring island Miyajima. I have to admit that I was hesitate to partake in the Hiroshima part of the trip. I knew it would be an emotional thing to see, and we only had a limited number of days in Kyoto and I just wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it, but after going, I’m so glad I did. Yes, the Hiroshima sites and museum are incredibly heartbreaking, but the area is so beautiful and there’s just so much history there, to go, you really feel like you’re a part of something, for better or for worse.
^^^ We caught the ferry from Hiroshima over to Miyajima Island first.
^^^ Chris & his dad about to chow down on some fried oyster donuts. Chris said this was one of his favorite things he ate the entire trip.
^^^ The wild deer are indigenous to this island, and while they’re cute and friendly, they will try to eat any paper you have hanging around, if you let them!
^^^ We also took the Miyajima cable car up into the mountains for the most incredible view of the area, including Hiroshima in the background. There’s also a beautiful walk that you can take back from the cable car area down into the village, which I would recommend. It’s a steep climb up, so we took the bus to the entrance of the cable car, but to walk down isn’t so bad, so that’s how I’d recommend doing it.
^^^ Back down on the island …
^^^ After Miyajima Island it was on to Hiroshima, where our first stop was this structure, now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. As one of the only standing reminders of the atomic bomb, you can obviously guess why it would have been a controversial decision to keep it standing all these years later, but after much back and forth, the building was finally designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and today is protected. There’s a really good explanation of this building and how it remained standing after the blast right here.
^^^ The city as it stands today. Incredible. While it’s obviously been a while since the attack, it’s still pretty amazing to see how the city has built itself up around the ashes.
Anyway friends, I didn’t take too many photos in and around Hiroshima, and I didn’t take any inside the museum, but I’d say if you are in the area (or in Kyoto), it’s worth a visit. Just brace yourself, because it’s as upsetting as you might imagine it would be.
After a pretty full day of touristing around, it’s safe to say we were pretty tired. So we headed back to the station, bought some food to eat on the ride home, and caught the bullet train back to Kyoto. The next day would be Chris’s parents last with us before they headed back to Australia, so you just know we had to jam pack that day full of goodies, too 😉 I’ll have more on that tomorrow, my dears. Until then, bis bald!
Well friends — we’re home. In the blink of an eye, our 10-day trip to Japan is over. This trip was so many things, and to be honest, it was sort of emotional. This was my first (and last) international trip while pregnant, and our last international trip as a couple before becoming parents.
This was Chris’s final trip to complete the six marathons in the World Marathon Majors series (have I mentioned how proud I am?!). It was the first and last time (probably) that I’ll have seen my in-laws while pregnant. This trip was amazing and eye-opening and exhausting and yes, at times, stressful (that can happen when you’re pregnant and vegetarian and traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language!), but all-in-all, I’d have to say it was every bit the life-changing experience I thought it would be.
It will probably take me a while to download and edit all the photos from my camera (as I try to fit that in with getting back into the swing of things with work … don’t you just hate that part of coming back from a trip?), but I’ve been trying to stay pretty up-to-date on my Instagram page, and in the meantime, here are a few additional photos from my iPhone to tide you over 😉
So for now, bis bald, friends! I hope March is treating you well …
Tokyo — Chris’s 6th and final World Marathon … COMPLETE!
Noodles in Japan are no joke.
The splendid gaudiness of Robot Restaurant (more on this later)!
Meeting up with one of my sister’s friends who lives in Japan was a highlight.
Super early morning Tuna Market viewing.
Itsukushima shrine on Miyajima Island
Not my oysters (don’t worry!), but yum!
Visiting Hiroshima was a sobering experience
When in Japan …
One of our favorite meals was our second-to-last night at the sushi train in the Kyoto Station. In case you’re wondering, yes, all those stacked plates are ours, and no, I didn’t eat any raw sushi 😉
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Biking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves in Kyoto, Japan
We were a bit too early to catch the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but no matter what time of year you visit Japan, there’s always something pretty to look at