Saturday, September 19, 2020

Charleston, South Carolina

Guess who just celebrated their 5th year wedding anniversary? I can't believe it's been 5 years! time sure does fly! our original plan was to go to Punta Cana but life happened and we had to change plans. I had googled the most romantic cities in the US for couples and Charleston kept coming up so that piqued my interest and I figured, why not? it certainly wasn't in my radar but I was willing to give it a try. As for hubby, let's just say he pretty much goes with the flow and since Punta Cana didn't work out he was more than open and willing to check out whichever other location that came up.

I am usually the trip planner but with this trip I really didn't feel like doing much planning given how crazy this year has been. After booking our hotel and flight we decided to go with the flow and let the city surprise us, we were just excited to have the chance to get away for a bit.

The city certainly didn't disappoint, we stayed at the Hampton Inn which is conveniently located in the downtown historic district, making it easier to walk to various attractions. On the first day we got a few pointers from the hotel staff and off we went exploring.








The weather forecast had predicted rain in the afternoon so we decided to make a quick visit to the nearest beach before the downpour. It was around noon and the weather had started getting cloudy but at least we got a chance to explore a little bit of Folly Beach which is located about 20 - 30 minutes from the historic downtown district. Unfortunately it was cloudy and so windy with sand being blown all over but we tried to make the best out of the situation. 








On the second day one of the staff at the hotel recommended a popular walking tour of Charleston in order to learn more about the city's history. We ended up taking a tour with Lowcountry Walking Tours which was pretty interesting, the tour lasted for a couple of hours and to make matters better the two of us were the only attendees so we developed a good rapport with the tour guide which made for a fun tour. 













On the third day which was our last full day, we spent our time lounging about while it rained outside then walked around aimlessly around downtown discovering pretty alleyways & streets, stopping by cute shops and stuffing ourselves silly with all kinds of food while partaking in one too many happy hour drinks. That's it folks! all in all it was a time well spent together and one of the chillest getaways, just as we had wanted. Happy anniversary to us!



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Exploring Ueno & Ginza

Today I decided to go to Ueno, an area well known for having the first designated public park in Japan. The park is called Ueno Park and it's famous for it's cherry blossoms. The first time I visited this park the flowers hadn't bloomed yet but this time around, there was quite a spectacle! a lot of the buds had bloomed and the flowers looked so pretty. The park was full of people taking photos of the cherry blossoms and I took my time walking around enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather. 










After getting my Zen on at Ueno I headed to Ginza, a district well known for upmarket shopping. Today being Sunday, the main street was closed to traffic and allowed only pedestrians so it was nice getting all that street space to walk about freely. Tables and chairs had even been set in the middle of the street for people to sit on and relax. I wasn't at Ginza for any shopping but I enjoyed taking a lazy walk up and down the street checking out the window displays of some of the designer shops.






I decided to go back to Asakusa where I am based at and today being my last full day here, I wanted to do more last minute sightseeing and take on different adventures and that's how I ended up taking a rickshaw ride. In Asakusa one of the first things you will notice are the number of rickshaw rides, they are everywhere.

My ride took me through different parts of the city that I hadn't explored yet and It was interesting to learn the history of some of these areas. 




The ride was enjoyable although I felt it was a bit over priced but I wanted to treat myself so I figured why the hell not. My next stop was Sumida Park, a public park in Asakusa where more cherry blossoms can be seen.





That's it folks! from the park I ended up walking up and down the lively streets of Asakusa taking in the sights until my feet declared defeat. Right now I am super tired but impressed that I even managed to update this blog albeit half heartedly. This trip has been bitter sweet for so many reasons but I am so glad I was able to celebrate my 40th here, now I have to go back to reality which at the moment isn't looking too good. Any who, Japan is the coolest country I have visited so far and I couldn't have picked a better place to usher in my milestone birthday. 




Saturday, March 21, 2020

Shibuya

Today I woke up with so much energy and decided to put it to good use by exploring some of the areas I had briefly been introduced to, on the Tokyo walking tour that I had taken on my first day in the city. My first stop was at the Asakusa Tourist Information Center where I got some very good tips on places to go and how to get there. The lady helping me spoke English and was super helpful, she kept telling me, "anytime you get lost please ask anyone and they will help you, ok?" she was so sweet and even informed me of an observation deck at the top floor of the building where I could get good aerial views of the city. I wasted no time in getting up there for a couple of photos before starting my adventures.


I used the subway to get to Shibuya, one of Tokyo's busiest districts that's famous for shopping, dining and clubbing. I don't know if I had mentioned this before but Shibuya is the birthplace of many fashion trends in Japan. I decided to start my exploration by visiting the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto Shrine honoring emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken who led the rapid modernization of Japan. Unlike the first time I had been here, today there were more crowds but it wasn't too overwhelming and I was able to peacefully explore the surrounding gardens at my own pace.






The very pretty barrels you see behind me are sake barrels offered by various sake breweries wishing to show their respect for the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.


The Meiji Shrine



There is always that one awkward photo, Ooh! well, my lipstick looked great though! 


After having my fill of the Shrine and it's surroundings, I headed to Takeshita street which is said to be the focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture. I loved how vibrant everything was and it appeared more lively than the first time I visited, I especially enjoyed entering some of the quirky shops to look around. There were several Nigerian and Ghanaian men working along Takeshita and I struck a conversation with a couple who gave me an insight on how life is in Japan. They were helpful in recommending where to eat, hang out and gave me a bunch of other useful tips. 







If you thought the photo below is of ice cream, you're mistaken. These are all crepes and of course I had to try one, very filling!



After getting a sensory overload at Takeshita, I decided to head to the nearby Yoyogi Park for a little bit of relaxation. Yoyogi is one of Tokyo's largest city parks where you can have a picnic, walk around the extensive grounds, catch a show or just chill out at one of the park's seating areas.





If you are luck enough you might also witness a wedding photo shoot.


I got a good rest at the park and after I felt ready, I decided to check out one more spot before heading back to my hotel. I was determined to once again check out the purported busiest intersection in the world, Shibuya Crossing. A lot of articles online suggest going to the Starbucks in front of the crossing for a good aerial view so that's where I found myself and trust me, the place was packed! I had to be very patient to get a good spot to take a good photo of the crossing. 




Feeling accomplished after getting my photos from Starbucks, I decided to explore the surrounding streets which were full of stores.



Thankfully I remained disciplined and didn't do any damage to my wallet. My feet were aching and I was feeling really tired so I decided to call it a day but not before taking one last photo of Hachiko. Hachiko was a dog that journeyed everyday to Shibuya station to wait for his owner's arrival from his daily commute from work. One day the owner did not come back from work because he had died but the poor dog continued his journey to the station. The dog became a symbol of loyalty and this statue was erected in his memory, it also serves as a meeting point for many of the city's residents.


That's it folks! I felt very accomplished today and my feet can testify to that, I am getting the hang of Tokyo and getting more comfortable with moving around using the metro. I can't wait for more exploration tomorrow.

Random Thoughts of The Day:

I am always a bit scared of  getting lost in any city that I am not familiar with but I don't feel the same here in Tokyo, as long as there is a train station nearby I can always find my way to wherever I need to go and also people have been very helpful whenever I asked for direction.

The train system here is very extensive and can be confusing for a newbie but there is always an attendant at the various gates ready to assist. I am never shy when it comes to asking for help so if I get confused I just approach one of the attendants for assistance.

Here is a fun fact, years ago prior to moving to South America I had planned to move to South Korea to teach English. Japan had actually been my first choice (I went through a phase where I was really into the Japanese culture) but at the time South Korea seemed to be the easiest option so I settled on that. I did my research thoroughly and was prepared for the big move but unfortunately it did not work out and I was crushed. Now being here in Japan I can't help but wonder how things would have turned out had my plan gone accordingly, hmm?! anyway, no complaints here because my move to South America brought a lot of good to my life.

While I was in Shibuya I came across this one store selling a famous Japanese shoe brand. Their shoes were cute but pricey and I just wanted to check them out without buying. The attendants were very helpful and I felt so guilty that I had mentally decided I was just going to close my eyes and have them swipe my card because it would have been a shame to leave the store empty handed after having been attended to so graciously. Luck was on my side today because the guy helping me asked if I had my passport so that they could scan it in order to waive the 10% tax on the shoes. I told him I never walk around with my passport so I did not have it. I grabbed that opportunity for what it was and feigned great disappointment at not having my passport, the guy understood and I got out of that store real quick! he was even asking if he should hold the shoes for me but I told him I might not make it back. Phew! saved by my passport, those shoes were expensive and this girl has a tight budget.

Although English is not widely spoken here, a lot of Japanese from what I have been informed do understand the language because it's taught in school, but may be too shy to speak it for fear of making a mistake.