Travel & More
5.9. - 14.9.2017
I will not take my kids to travel with me! You know why? Because I have traveled the world with my parents as a child and I barely remember any of it. It’s a shame having hundreds of photos of these incredible places and no memories to go along with them. So what now? Well, I better start visiting these places again, starting with Hong Kong.
Man Mo temple
When I learn about the city I’m going to I like to tag a lot of places on my map with no actual intent to go there. But if I find myself in the neighborhood I might as well take a little detour, like to see this beautiful temple. Sinking in the surrounding of everyday Hong Kong, providing a lovely contrast with the sky-high resident building.
So iconic it’s one of the few things I actually remember from my last visit. Or from the first visit? Basically, a mini shopping mall awaits you on top with not that much to offer, but the view… the view is just spectacular.
The Central district
The center of Hong Kong is where the nightlife happens, at least that what I read online, I’m not much of a “going out” person. Through my eyes, the Center was a luxury shopping heaven. Due to being a foreigner, the shop assistants seem to be oblivious to the fact I would have to sell my kidney to actually purchase anything, so VIP treatment all around.
On our way to the shopping mall strangely called Time Square, we hit a couple of tags I had put on my map. Visiting the Tin Hau Temple Garden, Victoria Park, and Jardine’s market. Our trip led us all the way to Time Square with all it’s flashing screens (probably that's why the name), where we went straight to the Lego store. Who would have guessed they will be selling sets that have been sold out for ages in Europe.
It became almost like a tradition when visiting a country with a distinct cuisine we take a cooking class. Not only you get to go to an authentic market where locals shop for ingredients but also get to learn something we can then (try) recreating at home. Here is the actual cooking class we took.
I was a bit worried about the Hong Kong Disneyland since some of the reviews I read were not too pleasant. There might be some truth to them since the park was not as big as the others and it looked like the Toy Story had seen better days. Other than that it was absolutely magical. The overall lack of people made entire park our playground and I enjoyed every minute of it. Every ride had some unique twist that took me by surprise and the level of detail of the decoration made me smile the entire day.
Since we had no intention of taking a 3-hour hike in 35Cº we decided to board the cable car to Ngong Ping village. And yes, on top of the mountain is an entire village. Mainly build for the tourist it includes such Chinese classics like Starbuck but just a couple of steps further down the road a complex of Buddhist structures reveal themselves. The peaceful atmosphere is strengthened by freely running cattle and all vegetarian restaurants.
22.9. - 29.9.2016
Whenever I travel to a metropolis I commit. I do my research on all the one-of-a-kind attractions but still make sure to have enough time to roam the streets with no particular goal in mind. This time it was tough call since Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are so close and I desperately wanted to visit both. So I gave up to temptation and decided to split the vacation between the both of them.
Gardens By the Bay
The city center seemed to be designed to offer one big gorgeous photo op. All the prominent landmarks are surprisingly near each other and it seemed that regardless where you are you have a non disturbed view of all of them.
After getting a strong recommendation to not miss out on the Universal Studios, not that I needed much persuasion, a day spend in Shrek’s Far Far Away palace seemed like fantastic idea. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The rides were amazing and the park was designed in such way, that visitor didn’t have to spend long amount of time in the ever-present beaming sun. Just don’t go for lunch to the Hollywood China Bistro, trust me on this one - just don’t.
Since there is a large Chinese community living in Singapore it comes as no surprise that the streets of Chinatown were filled with busy vendors and authentic restaurants. If you have never seen outdoor being air conditioned using giant ceiling fans now is your chance. Classical chinese decoration meshed with hi-tech style of Singapore creates unique cultural blend that I have yet to see anywhere else.
Legoland is located near the south border of Malaysia so it is much closer to get there from Singapore than Kuala Lumpur but you do have to cross the border. This unfortunate location has one great side effect - very few people. The entire park was slightly simplified version of the German Legoland spread across a vastly larger area. The main difference was the Miniland that focused on Asian cities and displayed some very intricate historical architecture, of course made entirely out of Lego.
16.9. - 22.9.2016
After I came back from South Korea, I got a message from a friend I haven’t talked to in years: “How are you? I see you've been around the world? Will Malaysia be one of the stops?” Well... and that is pretty much how I decide to go to Malaysia.
After patiently ignoring all the horrific stories about muggings and attacks on tourists that happened to son of a friend of his uncle’s cat I was ready to pack my summer gear and head out. Call it naivety or just plain luck but I felt genuinely safe in Kuala Lumpur and even felt guilty for some stereotypes I had about this leading third world country.
Since we wanted to take a closer look at the unique architecture of the Kuala Lumpur railway station (not to be confused with the KL Sentral Station) we decided to take a train to Batu Caves. This complex of caves was unusual due to ever present monkeys and a giant gold statue of Murugan. As luck would have it vast majority of Hindu artefacts were covered with scaffolding that made making instagrammable photos very difficult - but not impossible.
After signing an agreement binding us not to attempt jumping down, we were taken to the Skydeck of the KL Tower. There we’ve found ourself 421m above the ground with just a ridiculously small glass railing separating us from the biggest drop in Kuala Lumpur. Getting the first look at the intriguing architecture of the Petronas tower and even glimpse of distant Batu Caves. When city offers you an incredible 360º view of it self, you take it.
Finally the day has come to see what’s in the shiny Petronas Tower that are so colossal one will struggle to get them in one photo frame. Not much surprise that the first couple of floors are dedicated to luxury shopping. A handful of floor higher, more specifically 41, we have reached the glass bridge connecting the two towers. After strict 15min. we took a separate lift all the way to 81th floor where one got the chance to get close and personal with the pinnacle of the second Petrona tower.
Tips & Tricks
● Almost none of the vendors accept credit cards, not even some international food chains. Fortunately there is a lot of money exchanges throughout the city, so you can exchange money whenever needed.
● You have to reserve a particular time slot if you want to visit the glass bridge between the Petronas tower. My advice would be to do it online in advance.
● As you will find out sooner or later the public transport in KL is bit of a mess. Either stick with taxis or get a local SIM card and order yourself a Grab, which is a local alternative to Uber.
● The Grab is so convenient that even getting all the way from the airport is cheaper than taking the KLIA Ekspres.
16.8. - 22.8.2016
This trip was a tad different from the usual, someone might even call it spontaneous. My boyfriend was unexpectedly sent on a business trip to Long Island and what better to do than tag along. Instead of the regular walks through the city in a couple I was left to my own devices and as an odd lonely lady roam the streets of Manhattan. Shoving my camera into hands of strangers hopping they manage not to crop me in the middle of my forehead or worse, run away with it.
The Central Park is huge, I mean HUGE. My plan to walk all the way from the top to the bottom turned into a painful, sweaty hike. But my excitement reinforced with all of the beautiful views Central Park offers soon brought me to the wanted destination -- Alice in Wonderland Statue. I’m a devoted fan of Alice and even the scalding hot copper the statue was made of didn’t stop me from taking a pic. To continue the Wonderland theme I made a pit stop at an Alice inspired tea house on the 72nd street to cool down with some strawberry sorbet.
Thanks to my budget which was running thin due to expensive transport from Long Island I choose to follow “Free things to do in New York” list. From the overcrowded High Line to the Public Library that was partly under reconstruction I’ve seen it all. Strutting down the 5th Avenue I realized most of the iconic spots are closer than one might think. Short walk from Rockefeller Center is Time square, Time square is just around the corner from the Public Library and two blocks down the street is the Grand Central Station.
Sea Cliff, Long Island
It’s been years since I was at a beach and I can’t even remember when I’ve spent more than an hour there. As you might probably guess it didn’t end up well. Long after returning home I’m still peeling of skin from my rosy red legs. Apart from firmly believing you can’t get sunburn if you stay in the shadow, it was certainly the most relaxing day of my summer. Despite being a person who is unable to switch off, the beautiful weather mixed with graceful soothing waves did just that.
Since I didn’t get to see The Book of Mormon in London why not see it on Broadway. One reason might be that the ticket price are almost double, but then again it doesn’t get much better than Broadway. The production was amazing with loads of talented actors and singers, but since it was from creators of South Park I didn’t expect the humor to be so, how should I put it, safe. Never the less it was still incredibly entertaining and I understand why it became such a hit.
Being named the best free attraction of New York I couldn't skip the round trip to Staten Island. On the way there we made a rookie mistake of pushing our way all the way to the top of the ferry. The upper deck was so stuffed with tourist it was nearly impossible to see anything and after while we just gave up and sat in deserted indoor area. On the way back we used one of my favorite traveling rules: “If a significant number of people are going in an odd direction, follow them”. We came out right at the front of the ferry surrounded by regular commuters who couldn't care less about seeing one of the most iconic view in the world.
12.7. - 15.7.2016
Weekend in London
Even a short trip to the UK’s capital can be a bit pricy, but I couldn’t live with a fact I’ve been to London half a dozen times and still haven’t visited the Warner Bros. studios. The rest of the time in London was available for any other mischief that would catch our attention along the way.
Since the British pound is at it’s all time low, it would be a pure crime not to do a bit of shopping. After a good night sleep and a hasty breakfast we headed out towards the Oxford street. 9:30 sharp the doors of Selfridges opened and we got a chance to walk through the bright beautifully fragranced passages undisturbed.
Warner Bros. Studio
This Warner Bros. studio is solely dedicated to Harry Potter movies and it consists of sets and props used during the filming. The level of detail that went into every single piece is remarkable and the whole tour really makes you appreciate not just the actors but all the technicians and artist behind the scenes.
London is one of the cultural capitals of Europe, yet I have never even thought about attending one of the numerous theaters. I was pretty tempted by The Book of Mormon. Being written by the creators of South Park, makes it almost certain we were going to have a ball. As title suggests we got swayed by star power of The Spoils starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kunal Nayyar. It ended up being a great decision since the show was hilarious with just right amount of fekal humor.
10.9. - 21.9.2015
I never thought about visiting Seoul and I’m still not sure why I choose to do so but I’m very glad I did. From a city that I knew nothing about became one of my most beloved places on this earth.
Incheon to Seoul
You will probably get to first touch the Korean soil on the Incheon International Airport. The airport is a chapter by itself. It is located on an island just outside of Seoul on an artificially created piece of land and it has been crowned the best airport worldwide for the past decade.
Getting to city center from airport is fairly simple since you can take a regular train heading to Seoul main train station. The labyrinth of metro is marked both with Hangul and Latin alphabet so getting to our final stop, Myeong-dong station, was a matter of minutes. The modern Staz hotel, we were staying at, was set in the middle of a slightly rundown neighborhood, but the breakfast… Ouuu the breakfast in the hotel made it all worth it.
This was probably the best decision of our trip to find a hotel that is walking distance from center of Myeong-dong. Countless number of restaurants, shops and cafes filled up this flashy district and we ended up heading out into streets of Myeong-dong almost every evening. Our go to place became the 유가네 restaurant where they would fry a mixture of rice, meat, vegetables and/or cheese right in front of you, plus you get to wear a fancy apron.
Oppa Gangnam style
This well known party distric was certainly something we were not going to miss out on. Although we had more of an alternative motive when visiting Gangnam, the state-of-the-arts Samsung D’light building. Other then than we spend hours roaming the streets aimlessly stopping for some incredibly delicious Bulgogi (불고기).
N Seoul Tower
Even though the concentration of tourist raises around the N Seoul Tower it was still one of my favorite places we visited. Sitting on a top of a hill in middle of a Namsan Park the tower marks the highest point of Seoul and offers incredible 360º view of the city and surrounding mountains. The icing on the cake was a restaurant HanCook located on top of the tower offering an all-you-can-eat buffet. The park itself has a jungle-like feel and has provided us with some peaceful moments aside from the vibrant city.
Even though we are not big fans of taking guided tour, we were probably not going to get in Korean Demilitarized Zone on our own. Our guide was deeply passionate about the relationship between South and North Korea. She helped us to understand the mentality of both countries and the efforts made to make the situation better.
The closer we got the more we started realizing the seriousness of the circumstances. The american soldier with dark sunglasses and strict voice guided us through every step. Where to take a picture, in which direction to take a picture, where to stand, what not to touch… To ease the atmosphere our guide encouraged us to take picture with the a lone North Korean soldier standing on the other side of the court. Which was only fair since allegedly the North Korea took pictures of us too.
Unlike some other countries, Korea didn’t let all the infrastructure built for the summer Olympic games in 1988 go to waist. The Olympic park is alive and well with stadium used for concerts and tournaments. The park itself is impeccably kept and became a fantastic place to unwind in middle of the day.
The staple food of korean diet is served free with almost every meal. The strong taste might take a while to get use to but when you do you are hooked for life. Since we enjoyed cooking class in Tokyo so much, we decided to take one in Seoul as well. In O'ngo Korean Culinary School we learned to prepare bulgogi and kimchi. It may be rather difficult getting all the ingredients for kimchi back home but Bulgogi turned out to be a simple tasty dish.
Tour de Palace
There is number of stunning palaces around Seoul, most of which are completely reconstructed due to Japanese occupation till the year 1945. One could spend days roaming through the spacious areal while enjoying the detail architecture of individual buildings.
Clean elegant architecture surrounding the Cheonggyecheon stream is another beautiful pit stop when traveling through the city. Cold fresh breeze arising from the river is incredibly refreshing in humid warm air of the city.
Tips & Tricks
● Learning Korean alphabet Hangul is surprisingly easy and it can help you a lot, especially if you want to go to more authentic restaurants.
● Don’t sit on the seats that are reserved for elderly or pregnant even with intention to get up if needed. You will get a lot of resentful looks.
● Foods to definitely try are Bulgogi (불고기), Tteokbokki (떡볶이), Gimbap (김밥) and of course Korean BBQ
2.7. - 3.7. 2015
Weekend in Vienna
Vienna is just a stone's throw away from my current home, Brno. It is a perfect destination for fine art lover like my mom and shopping lover like myself. So why not have a little mother-daughter getaway. After not even two hour bus drive we arrived at the busterminal Stadioncenter and we proceeded to find our way to the hotel. Wanting to stay as close to center as possible we decided spend the night at Falkensteiner Hotel Am Schottenfeld. Mainly because it aceppted Hotel.com Rewards nights, which I religiously collect. The one night then came up to only the price of value-added tax.
Gardens at Belvedere
In the style of stereotypical Czech tourists we ate our home prepared sandwiches and headed out to the center. We didn’t have an exact plan of what we wanted to see, fortunately for us you don’t have to do much searching to stumble upon monumental architecture in Vienna. The moment we got out of Stephansplatz
metro station we got immediately welcomed by St. Stephen’s Cathedral and all the chaos that surrounds this majestic church. We made a quick walk around and continued our way through crooked streets of the center. After a short stroll we arrived at the Albertina. The museum was about to close in an hour and half so we had the building nearly to ourselves. Having one of the Europe’s largest private collections of classical modernist paintings the permanent exhibition was filled with world renowned artist. My absolute favorites were Edgar Degas, Zwei Tänzerinnen and Andy Warhol, Mao Tse Tung. To my delight there was also a traveling exhibition of Alphonse Mucha whom I adore. On the way back to hotel we picked up some pizza and champagne and toasted to wonderful day in Austria’s capital.
Andy Warhol, Mao Tse Tung
Next day was the day to splurge and go visit some stores on the Kohlmarkt promenade. Thanks to my impeccable orientation skills we managed to go in completely opposite direction and ended up walking past the Cafe Central. It looked stunning and assuming from a large circle marked on my map it must have been quite well-known. The hot chocolate I ordered was very similar to one I get at my school vending machine but the intriguing surrounding made it all better.
Red Valentino at Kohlmarkt promenade
We wandered through the promenade passing countless luxurious windows of high-end store until we reached our destination, Mulberry. I’ve been eyeing the pretty little Mulberry bag named Lily for months and I finally got a chance to pick it up. Carrying my prized possession we headed out to go to Belvedere, another art fanatic must see. It is an spectacular complex of two Baroque palaces and extensive gardens. The Upper Belvedere is home to the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection, including his masterpieces Der Kuss and Judith I. The majority of curios guests were crowded around these gems, apart from them we could spend hours wondering throw royalty decorated rooms undisturbed.
To complete the full Austrian experience we stopped for a generous portion of a wiener schnitzel and headed back to Brno.
10.9. - 19.9.2013
Tokyo, the land of beauty, traditions and the strange stuff you come across while browsing the dark sides of the web. I was always intrigued by the pikachu infused madness, the odd restaurants and shops that can not be found anywhere else in the world and the unique cuteness of Harajuku fashion. Decision has been made, I was convinced that Tokyo was place for me. After making an estimate on the budget and finding a perfect place to stay it was time to inform my boyfriend that we are leaving in two months.
Transportation to Exhaustion
It is an ongoing joke that the longest part of the trip is getting out of the Czech Republic. Expressway was jammed, transfer between two buses was delayed and after five hours we weren’t halfway in Tokyo but just got from Brno to Prague. Adding to our impatience was the fact we didn’t sleep the night before after calculating that by staying awake until the second flight we would wake up in sync with Tokyo time. Great in theory, miserable in practice. After a transfer in Frankfurt we got on a Lufthansa's Airbus A380, the currently biggest plane for public transport. I quickly got comfortable with my neck pillow, sleeping mask, ear plugs and seamless socks and I was ready for the take off. I woke up twice during the 10 hour flight, once for the dinner and once for the breakfast. I give the flight five out of five stars.
We landed at the Narita airport and started our second adventure of getting to the hotel. Everything was as organized as we expected to be and in no time we were sitting on Narita Express train heading to the Tokyo station and from there we continued by metro to Kayabacho station located right next to our hotel. The trip was so swift we got there two hour before check in, so we left our suitcases behind and after 35 hours on the road we could finally start discovering the unique corners of Tokyo city.
Restaurant across from our hotel
Witchcraft and Wizardry in Roppongi Hills
We woke up on a 10th floor of the Smile Hotel Tokyo Nihonbashi in the tiniest but impeccably clean room. The executive decision was made that we are going to avoid the so called Capsule hotels but still we wanted desperately to be near the center. Just a quick shower in the world smallest bath and a little chat with the electronic toilet and we were good to go.
We headed out into what we soon found out to be typical Tokyo weather. Warm humid air with a sky covered by a layer of opaque clouds. We disappeared in the first local convenient store called Lawson where we supposedly should find a machine allowing one to print a ticket for the Harry Potter Exhibition. Well we found it and after half an hour struggle with kanji instructions we managed to get the tickets, at least we were quite sure those were the one.
Harry Potter Exibition
Exhibition was located in Roppongi Hills, a mega-complex of apartments, shops, restaurants, movie theatres… It was also a first place where we spotted an international fast food chain, to probably no surprise it was McDonald's. We headed of to the most prominent building of them all, the Mori Tower and caught up to a group of Harry Potter enthusiast ensuring us we were going the right way. We got into an elevator and we ended up on an impressive floor number 42. It’s sometimes nice not exactly know what’s going on, you can get pleasantly surprised.
Dozen of costumes, props and life size replicas reminded me why I love Harry Potter and the short movie clips dubbed in Japanese gave it a whole new feel. After spending excessive amount of time in the gift shop we were ready to head on out. My nosebleed disagreed and I had to make a urgent stop at the restroom. When I stumbled out I noticed another elevator heading to the roof, now aren’t I lucky?! The elevator took us all the way to the roof of this 238 meters tall giant and we had exceptional view of this never ending concrete jungle.
View from Mori Tower
Today was the day to conquer some of the Tokyo’s finest boutiques and where else to do that than in the center of bizarre fashion, Harajuku. We got of the metro at the Meiji-jingumae Station and continued down the main street where mostly international stores like Zara and Topshop are to be found. When we turned the corner and went to a more narrow street things got bit more crowded and bit more colorful. The Takeshita Street was filled with tons of flashing light, big colorful billboards, shouting vendors luring you into stores and strangely low hanging electric wires. Pure chaos. Not really something I enjoy but vision of getting unique new pieces into my closet kept me motivated.
After finally leaving the madness behind us, we directed our way to the Harajuku train station with a nearby bridge Jingu Bashi known for gatherings of the eccentrical Harajuku girls. Well, there was not a single one of them in sight. We probably should have checked that they meet only on Sundays.
By crossing the bridge, we suddenly stepped into a forest surrounding the Meiji Shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji. We got the leave the city smog behind and entered oaza of calm whispers of the trees. The vegetation around the wide footpath was so diverse and dense it reminded me of an jungle. We stopped in middle of a arched bridge with a stone railing and decided to take some pictures. Immediately we were approached by a kind stranger gesticulating if we wanted to take a photo together. Well yes, we’d love to.
We passed the a panel of sake barrels called kazaridaru symbolizing donations of sake for the ceremonies held in Shrine. Continuing down the path we reached a gigantic wooden gate leading us to the Shrine, complex of stunning buildings with wooden detailedly curved out roofs. We looked around the spacious yard and admired the individual structures. After there was nothing more to discover we made our way to a display of small hanging boxes where visitor could leave their preys. Wishing for love and happiness seemed very appropriate in such a spiritual place, we have them both now but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Sake barrels in Meiji Shrine
Our morning routine started to became more and more repetitive. We wend down to the closest 7-Eleven store and grabbed some rice triangles wrapped in seaweed or a little box of pre-made sushi with some sodas and snacks, the more kanji was on the packaging the better. Afterwards, we headed out to find the real Pokemon Center. Yes, the real deal. Since we learned to ride the metro like pros it wasn’t much of a challenge getting to the planned location, but finding the particular building was not as easy. Lots of Tokyo’s large buildings have multiple entrances without differencing which one is the main and even more confusing are the entrances found on the second floor.
After circling the block multiple times and reading every possible sign, our attention was caught by full size mast coming straight out of pavement. It was around 10 meter tall and even after closer examination we could figure out the purpose of it. We did however in pursuit of this monstrosity managed to walk all the way to a pier and had a chance to look out into the gray waters of the Sumida River. We spent couple of minutes just sitting on a bench watching a fully loaded cargo ship passing by. After a while we were ready to pick up where we left off, no one ever said that finding the pokemons is an easy task.
We did manage to find the center, it was one of those ridiculous second floor entrances which was accessible by using an escalators in a completely different building. Nevertheless, it was fully packed and after filling my cart with essential pikachu-like shaped pancakes and socks with pokeball it was pretty hard to maneuver in the place. It was evident the shoppers weren’t there out of nostalgia but that pokemon are still going strong in Japan.
Pokemon Center entrance
Luci in Wonderland
By asking for help from my very worldly friend Google translator, I somehow managed to make dinner reservation on website fully written in kanji. The restaurant was in the Alice in Wonderland theme and I was extremely excited. We rode the metro to the Ginza station and blended into heaps of people heading in our direction. Rushing pass the Wako store, the most characteristic building of Ginza, and then turning the corner. There was no traffic on the four-lane highway going through the Chuo Dori street and people were freely walking in all directions.
Caterpillar shaped sushi
This building finding was starting to become quite an issue. Fortunately we found this tiny sign next to a dull entrance hidden in otherwise vibrant street. We got into an elevator without much confidence where it was taking us. Some assurance came in a form of a little girl bluntly staring at me and asking her mom if I’m Alice. I guess my blond hair was enough to throw her off.
Alice in Wonderland restaurant
We were welcomed by a hostess wearing overall butchered Alice costume and she lead us down the hallway decorated with enlarged pages of the original book. Seating area was a one big tea party (I would definitely recommend trying to reserve the giant tea cup as a table). Everything was customized and the details they went into kept surprising me throughout the evening. The music from the Disney soundtrack playing in the background was often interrupted by noisy younglings, but my slight annoyance was quickly fixed by one stiff drink. Before we managed to take picture of everything, we got served the most adorable dishes I have ever seen. I had the marvelous caterpillar shaped sushi and my boyfriend had the Cheshire cat shaped spaghetti bolognese.
When we got back on the street the traffic was now in full motion, till today we don’t know what was going on sooner. I guess it will be another one of life's great mysteries.
I personally believe it is a sin to travel to a city with a Disneyland and than don’t go to the Disneyland. Even though I have already been there once, I was very little and I barely remember any of it. Like true enthusiasts we set our alarm clock to 8 am to make sure we were first through the gates when the park opens. We were well on our way and getting comfortable on a train heading to Tokyo Disneyland Station just waiting for it to take off.
Well it didn’t take off, at least not for another 6 hours. After an announcement from the conductor, which we of course didn’t understand, couple of people stood up and left. We decided to hang in there with passengers that also decided to stay on the train. As the time passed by and we were almost the last one left, we decided to make the best of it and visited a nearby newsstand. It’s quite funny that when you purchase an alcohol in Tokyo you have to watch a short video about public drunkenness and confirm on the touch screen that you have understood. It’s even more funny when you are watching it after couple of drinks for the 6th time at the same vendor. We even managed to find out what the complication was, apparently some kind of typhoon hit close to Tokyo.
King Arthur Carrousel
We were in the good mood, as you can probably imagine, when the train finally left the station. The typhoon was actually the best thing that could have happened to us, even though the weather was still bit shabby there were barely any people in the park. It’s not uncommon to wait up to hour and half for a ride but not this time! We swiftly left the opening gates of World Bazaar behind and went straight to Tomorrowland which became the home of the Star Wars franchise and some of the less kids friendly riddes. There are not really any heart stopping rides in Disneyland's but they can surely bring out your inner child and pure excitement that comes with it.
The next stop was Toontown, where we made the ever so popular visit of Mickey Mouse's house and then wined and dined at the fine Huey, Dewey and Louie's Good Time Cafe. After finishing our shrimp burgers we headed out for more adventure in Fantasyland, Cricket Country, Westernland and finally Adventureland, plundering every gift shop we passed by. You see, when I last visited Disneyland it was with my parents and they bought me just one thing, one thing out of the hundreds and thousands of colorful merchandise I got just one. And being the spoiled child I’m it scarred my little heart and I wanted to compensate, I wanted to compensate hard. Cheshire Cat hat, check, Mickey Mouse popcorn box, check, Minnie Mouse hair bow, check, Donald Duck lantern, check…
With more ornaments on me than the christmas tree, we waited for the daily fireworks symbolizing the grandiose finish of the day in The happiest place on earth.
Disneyland at sunset
Buddha Bellies Sushi
When in Japan, do as the Japanese do. Even though we prepared sushi at home on numerous occasions fairly successfully, surely there was still a lot more to learn. I couldn't recommend more the class at Buddha Bellies Cooking School. We took the regular sushi class, but for those who have their basics down the school also offers Decorative art sushi class which I definitely want to attend if I ever return to Tokyo.
We arrived at the Jimbocho station, the meeting point where our instructor was suppose to pick us up. It was a first in very long time we’ve seen some western faces. There were just 5 other attendees which promised a very hands on and intimate lesson. The possibility to communicate with the instructor in English was quity refreshing, the English isn’t as common here as one would think. She talked about the commitment and artistry that sushi chefs must demonstrate, how they treat their hand and forearms as precious instruments. During the lesson she suggested tips on how to perfect our sushi assembling and even taught us one type of decorative sushi. Yes, I made this and I’m very proud of myself.
Tips & Tricks
● After landing in Tokyo make a stop at JR EAST Travel Service Center and get your Suica card. By preloading it with some cash you can use it in metro to get around Tokyo and apparently you can even pay with it in stores.
● We haven’t came across a single exchange office (maybe at the airport), but there is not a big need for a lot of cash since they accept credit card practically everywhere.
● Bring a map if you are looking for specific location, even though locals are always eager to take a picture for you, they aren’t much help when describing the directions.
● Luxury shopping centers are almost at every corner in Tokyo but the prices of world renown brands are considerable higher than in Europe. Even the tax relief for foreigners doesn’t bring down the price anywhere near.
31.10. - 11.11.2014
I had my fair share of visits to the United States and never made a lot of positive memories, but I was ready to leave my prejudice behind and visit the flashy city of Angels. The entertainment capital of the world presented a great deal of unique temptations and since I took the reins on planning the last trip, this year my boyfriend was put in charge of the schedule. He let his inner geek fly free and created one educational, yet bizarre adventure with the main event being the 2015 Blizzcon held in nearby Anaheim. It is something like Comic-con except it’s dedicated to Blizzard games (e.g. World of Warcraft, Hearthstone).
WiFi on board
We tried avoiding American Airlines at all cost, mainly because we do not like being treated like cattle and then sit for 9 hours in, as my dad likes to call it, knees-under-chin position. As luck would have it, the operator of our flight got changed last minute and we ended up right there, on the board of American Airlines. Huge relief was realization the plane wasn’t even half full and we had a row of 4 seats all to ourselves, plus free WiFi. My opinion did a 180˚ turn and with legs extended across three seats roaring of the engines slowly put me to sleep.
The Milner Hotel
Shortly after being served a humble lunch we landed at the LAX airport, even though it is one of the most important international airports in the US it is wasn’t as grandiose as one would expect. After we got greeted by suspiciously casual customs we proceed throw the arrival hall packed with people waiting for their loved ones. Well there was certainly no one waiting for us so we headed out to take our first steps on the American soil.
The density of skyscrapers was increasing as we were getting closer to Downtown LA. We got out of the bus right in front of The Milner Hotel, where we were planning to stay our first six nights. The Hotel was noticeably dated and I couldn’t make up my mind if in good way or not. There is something about old-fashion decor and stale air I find quite charming. It reminded me of the cheap hotels in the center of London, well not cheap cheap but London cheap.
The Griffith park squirms it’s way up the hill to the probably best place to have a great view of the city. It is possible to take a bus all the way to observatory, but if you are capable of walking couple of kilometer I would definitely recommend starting at Los Feliz Blvd and make your way up on foot. Staring at a small picnic area I recharged my energy with an incredibly sweet Arizona tea and a pack of cheese doritos. How I love my vacation diet. Passing by some local residence welcoming passers by using signs like: “Trespassers will be shot at sight!” we wandered along dusty unkempt roads. After reaching the top the entire Los Angeles unveiled in front of our sight and surprisingly a pretty good view of the Hollywood sign.
View from Griffit
The Griffith Observatory itself was this stunning building with three domes sitting right on top of the hill. Inside you will find a museum filled with scientific experiments and exhibits. If you are a curious individual with a child-like spirit it will be a real treat for you. My favorite part was the Foucault Pendulum which provides a simple proof the earth is actually rotating and then the Tesla Coil because it just looks really cool with all the sparks and everything. There is also supposed to be an open access to the Zeiss Telescope in one of the domes, unfortunately we were there during the day. Admission to observatory is free.
Making our way back down we used one of our favorite exploring tactics and headed out in random direction. The streets were looking more and more familiar and then out of nowhere we stumbled across a first star on the sidewalk. We accidentally got all the way to the Hollywood. Even though in Downtown LA we have barely seen another soul, Hollywood was packed. Crowds of people heading in both direction, loud music playing from the stores and the most annoying part was the guys shoving CDs in your hands. Whatever you do, don’t take the CD! We searched through dozens of celebrity names we couldn’t recognize until we finally came across Walt Disney star. We quickly took couple of photos and then got the hell out of there.
Walt Disney in Hollywood
To make this trip even more educational we headed to California Science Center, the home of the great Endeavour shuttle. The center itself was an outdated interactive museum probably aimed as a destination for primary school field trips. But we were there for the main attraction which is a retired NASA orbiter Endeavour. Endeavor was part of 25 missions and spent together 295 days in space. Neat. Part of the tour was a short documentary showing how the shuttle was transported to the center. From the delivery on back of an aircraft to delicate maneuvering of this 37m long and 23m wide monster through the streets of LA.
Afterwards we made our way to nearby Chipotle for a burrito, which according to South Park spouse to make your rectal bleed. The line that was all the way out on the street made it seem worth it, so after about an hour and half we set down to burrito filled to the top with rice, beans, cheese and sour cream.
We got on a bus heading to Rodeo Drive. The painful look on my boyfriend face made me wonder if there was some truth to the South Park joke. The moment we got of the bus we were on the time quest trying to find a restroom. Well we were certainly not going to find one between Chanel and Prada. We walked for a good while before finding a restaurant that didn’t look like we would have to spent an entire paycheck in. After the crisis was averted we took a walk along the shiny windows of the most luxurious stores where Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman went on her shopping spree. I did get a pair of sneakers in nearby Nike store so I technically can say I shopped at Rodeo Drive.
Miu Miu at Rodeo Drive
During our stay in Downtown LA we appreciated the location of the hotel more and more. Not only there was a great take-away pizzeria right around the corner but also the bus heading to Disneyland had a stop right in front of the doors. We went out of our way to make sure there is least amount of people possible by going outside the touristic season and during the week. Well this plan certainly didn’t work out. An hour before opening a never ending line was already forming in front of the entrance. Aren’t these people supposed to be in work or something.
Mickey Mouse in Disneyland
Fun fact! California Disneyland is the only Disneyland designed under the direct supervision of Walt Disney in 1955. But I’m guessing that it wasn’t part of Walt Disney’s vision to have a board at the entrance with list of attraction that are out of service. That seemed to be a common theme throughout the park. During our visit three more attractions have broke down including the notorious Splash Mountain I was so looking forward too.
Other than that, the park delivered everything that is promised. The positive vibes lingering in the air were incredibly addictive and you tend to forget the bad stuff when you get passed by Darth Vader and more than a dozen of Stormtroopers.
That was one thing the Disneyland located so close to LA had plenty of, great actors. Not only the ones covered from head to toe in costumes but also the ones that had to master the voice and face expression of original characters.
My god, I think I saw Alice. It was just a glimpse before she disappeared behind the corner but I certain it was her. With my newly purchased sequence Minnie Mouse ears I was on a mission to find her. When I finally did, she was surrounded by little girls trying to get an autograph from her. I fent a bit silly trying to push through a crowd of children so I decided to take a picture with Mad Hatter instead. Best day ever!