Tag Archives: gates

Kyoto, 2016

On the train from Kanazawa to Kyoto I snacked on an immaculate take away bento box while we passed a huge lake.

The warehouse apartment that we were staying at in Kyoto was near Goo temple opposite the Imperial Palace Park.

Also known as the pig temple, the Goo temple was a shrine to 300 boars that saved a lord from death. It was an interesting little place.

The Imperial Palace Park was walled with entry gates, long gravel walkways and huge trees that looked pretty in the afternoon sunlight. We saw some cranes and the Tsukushima Shrine surrounded by water.

To get inside the palace itself you need to book ahead and children under 20 aren’t allowed into this, as well as other palaces in Kyoto.

We found a local supermarket that was so bountiful with fresh prepared food that we didn’t need to go out for dinner.

On our first day in Kyoto we went to the two main things I wanted to see here- the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine.

The Tenryu-ji temple marked the entrance to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The grove itself was very green, cool and peaceful. The trees were truly very high and bent into each other. A couple were getting pictures at the end of the walkway, her red dress a stunning contrast to the bright branches.

Our next stop was the Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine. Thousands of red gates in rows of varying closeness dotted with statues of foxes. We entered through the impressive decorated two-storied gate at the entry, past the main shrine and the place where good luck charms of little red gates are hung.

Where the gates were most close together was the Senbon Torii- 1,000 shrine gates, which led up the mountain to the inner shrine. We stopped just past this point as the road got steeper and the gates more spread apart. The place was one of my favorites in Japan and more than lived up to expectations.

On the way back down we stopped for a tasty kebab, orange juice served inside an orange and a tiny toy fox to take home.

In the afternoon we went back to the Imperial Palace Park. My daughter had spotted a large children’s play park there the day before and wanted to go back. I think she had started to miss playing with other kids, or maybe just being a kid and having a swing.

Related posts: Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Tokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and Shibuya

In the morning we went to the Imperial Palace, surrounded by a great moat with a swan in the water. While we waited for it to open, we breakfasted on takeaway squares of fried rice from the 7-Eleven. It was much better than any food you can get in the chain back home.

When opening time struck, not a moment before or after, we went through the outer gates, past the dolphin statue and in through the inner gates. We found the last blooming cherry blossom tree, but half of the flowers had already fallen off.

We walked through some large stonewalls, past various traditional guardhouses to a field of green where my daughter enjoyed running around. There were tall topiary trees, tea bushes and bamboo stalks. From the top of one bastion we spied the beautifully mosaicked music hall.

The best part was the water garden where we saw our first koi fish in Japan, a waterfall and a large pond. It was another beautiful oasis of green in the busy city.

For a change of pace, we then went to the busiest intersection at Shibuya Crossing. There were lots of tall buildings, many cars and people trying to cross multiple roads. Why do they play that funny tune when people cross the road? I guess it’s better than a beep. The most expensive real estate overlooking the crossing was a Starbucks.

I took my daughter into a cat café. I had heard about these strange places and thought it would be a quirky experience that she would like. Why cats and hedgehogs? There were many rules inside. We had to wash and sterilise our hands, wear special slippers and not touch the cats unless they came to you.

Being cats, of course they didn’t come to us, until we bought a small jar of cat pellets and then one bossy cat was all over us before any of the others could get in. After that, my daughter decided she needed to buy some cat ears in one of the nearby costume shops.

On the way back, we saw people closing off one of the roads in Shibuya and putting down flooring for an event. The efficiency with which this took place was amazing to watch. It turned out to be a Paralympics demonstration of wheelchair rugby and trampolining which my husband was very happy to watch.

After the display, we had one of our best meals in a local restaurant down an alleyway where you had to put coins in a machine and press the button for which Tsu Rutonton Udon noodle soup that you wanted. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best.

For a treat, we took our daughter to Kiddyland, which had every kind of kids toy you could want, from Hello Kitty to Disney, on four levels of fun. There were some very strange characters in there, including the latest toy which was a chicken that was born out of an egg. My ulterior motive was that there was also a Desingual in the area for me to peruse.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku

It was raining, so we decided to go to the Tokyo National Museum. A museum is always a good wet weather plan and this one was top of the list as it has a collection of samurai swords and armour, which I knew my husband, would be keen to see.

The metro system was fast, efficient and we figured it out fairly quickly. The only downside was we sometimes had to walk a long way to transfer between lines. I amused myself by looking at the manga style advertisement posters on the walls and the practiced power nappers in the trains.

There was a highly organised stand outside the museum for all the umbrellas. Inside, I was drawn to the beautiful kimonos, room divider screens that told a story with pictures and the unusual tea sets. My daughter loved the kids stamping section and couldn’t get enough of it.

Outside the museum, we discovered that it was set in Ueno-Koen Park with the famous Ueno craft market that had been recommended to us. There were teapots of all shapes and sizes, colourful wooden chopsticks and other cooking pots and implements.

Next we went to Harajuku as I thought my daughter would enjoy the teenage haven. Takeshita-dori was packed and had lots of cute shops with novelty items for kids like the Paris Kids shop where my daughter got an umbrella with a rabbit head, some hairclips of fruit and sunglasses with rabbit ears.

Locals come to Harajuku for crepes and rainbow fairy floss, but we came to see the teenagers dressed up. However, not many were, just a few girls dressed in short skirts and high shoes. Which led to the question- where have all the Harajuku girls gone? Probably elsewhere to escape the tourists. The store staff at the lolly shop were dressed up the most with their cat ears for Halloween.

We had lunch at a local restaurant and then went over Harajuku Bridge to Meiji-jingu- Tokyo’s grandest shrine. The old wooden gate popped out of the oasis of green trees. It got a wow out of me- this was what I had come to Japan to see. The walk to the shrine was one of welcoming cool in the busy city.

There were lots of families in kimonos and their Sunday best, clapping when they pray. There was the massive wishing tree and the marriage trees tied together by a rope with lightning bolts. We also stumbled upon a wedding procession. The bride was still in white, but had a strangely shaped hat.

For dinner we went to the closest neighbourhood restaurant for Hantei skewers of pork. The chef of the restaurant was also our waiter. He thought we tipped too much, but it was so delicious, that it made me wonder, why is it bad manners to tip in Japan?

Related posts: Japan, 2016

Campeche and Merida, 2011

After Palenque, my husband and I headed to the coastal town of Campeche in the Yucatan peninsula where we stayed in a cute hotel with a small pool.

Our first stop was the restaurant at the Campeche City Hall. From the first floor balcony, we could see over the top of Plaza Principal central square which had a bandstand in middle, surrounded by churches, all enclosed by a city wall with arched gates. It was fun watching the band play and all the locals milling about.

Campeche was filled with bright murals, bronze statues, colourful houses and round towers. It really was a pretty little place. We saw the old lighthouse, a street of wedding dress shops and got a great viewpoint of the town from Baluarte de San Carlos.

My favorite part was walking along the Malecon waterfront promenade at sunset past all the modern statues and bars- mostly closed for the off-season. The Cathedral de la Purisma in the main square also looked pretty spectacular lit up at night.

A little outside of town up a hill, we went to the yellow Fuerte Museo San Jose del Alto, which overlooked the Gulf of Mexico. The fort even had a drawbridge and I loved the rounded turrets.

The rest of the day was one of my husband’s favorite times of the trip. We sat in a seafood restaurant on the water drinking, playing cards and eating the best free fish ceviche for whole afternoon. We had the restaurant to ourselves so were able to watch the cormorants fishing nearby and soak in the atmosphere for as long as we wanted.

Next stop was inland to Merida. Merida was hot. So hot, that my husband felt sick. So sick, that he didn’t have the strength to protest when I got ripped off by a Mayan hammock seller that we had met in a café. He took us back to his shop and sold me a bracelet and an overpriced picture after I flat out refused to buy a hammock for a ridiculous price. At the time I figured it was the lesser of two evils, but I still got scammed in the end.

After this disappointing episode, I ate the largest burrito I have ever seen and we retired to the air conditioning of a Frida themed hotel.

The next day, we discovered that cruise ship visitors had invaded the city. So after a quick spin around the main plaza with it’s Cathedral, the old Bishops residence and the red city hall with black and white checkered balcony, we left as soon as possible.

My highlight was the discovery of some interesting modern murals inside the green Government offices at the top of a large staircase that ran from the courtyard.

I never realized how much of a coastal dweller I was until I was in the middle of the Mexican heat of Merida. I longed for the relief of a sea breeze once again, but first it was off to the to see the desert ruins of Chichen Itza.

Related posts: Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Split and Zadar, 2010

The bus to Split was a necessity as no boats were running up the coastline in the off season.  Nevertheless, my husband and I saw some of Croatia’s larger islands along the way as well as a walled fort. We even went through Bosnia, as the country owns an area of seafront along the coast.

Split turned out to be my favourite spot in Croatia. We spent hours drinking and people watching on the Riva and enjoyed every second. The seafront overlooked the port where you could catch a ferry to Italy, but not in the off season. This was becoming a bit of a theme for our trip.

The main attraction in Split was the Diocletian Palace which had a busy market in its basement halls where I bought a pair of earrings that go with everything. We emerged at ground level to see the roman ruins in Peristil Square and the Cathedral of St Dominus. Working our way around the old town we found the silver, golden and iron gates that mark the boundaries of the palace.

We found the main street, Paplice Palace and the tall rounded vestibule. We went inside one of the palace houses and to Vocni square. I found Narondi square most interesting with its mix of old, semi-old and new palaces surrounding the square. Out the back of back Diocletian Palace was a huge statue of a wizard called the Gregorius of Nin and the modern Grgura Ninskoy garden fountain.

It was fun wandering through the side streets of Split and I was pleased to discover that they had a Zara on Marmontova St, just past the Republike Prokurative square. We enjoyed many Italian style dinners and loved the little local guest house that we stayed in on a back street.

Zadar, our next stop, seemed very bizarre. We stayed in Villa Hresc on the lakeside and took a sunset walk into the old town. The main square had the Cathedral of St Anastasia, the round Church of St Donat and roman ruins. We also found the watch tower in Narodni square. My favourite was 5 wells square and shopping at the Mango shop that we found down a side street.

The city is more recently famous for its outdoor nightclubs like The Garden. Also new is the sun salutation and sea organ, which made louder noises as the waves from a passing cruise ship hit the instrument. We found the new seafront nearby and the ferry terminal where of course there were no boats running.

And so, the next day we caught the bus to Pag Island. I was starting to think we were never going to be able to never going to be able to get on a boat!

Related posts: Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010