Marc's Public Blog - Trips to other locations


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This is a collection of my blog entries related to short or long trips I, or Jennifer and I went on.
I have some master pages for some specific locations/trips:

Paris over many years | Australia over many years | Canada over many years | Japan over multiple trips | Italy in 2011 | France in 2013 | Indonesia in 2013 | Japan in 2013 | Japan in 2014 | Taiwan in 2014 | Indonesia in 2014 | New Zealand in 2015 | Japan in 2015 | Costa Rica in 2015 | Singapore in 2016 | South Korea in 2016 | Japan in 2016 |

Table of Content for trips:

More pages: February 2017 January 2017 December 2016 October 2016 September 2016 August 2016 July 2016 June 2016 May 2016 April 2016 February 2016 January 2016 December 2015 October 2015 August 2015 July 2015 June 2015 May 2015 March 2015 February 2015 January 2015 December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 September 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 October 2012 September 2012 June 2012 April 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 June 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 September 2010 August 2010 May 2010 January 2010 September 2009 August 2009 June 2009 January 2009 December 2008 August 2008 February 2008 January 2008 October 2007 July 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 October 2006 August 2006 July 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 June 2005 April 2005 December 2004 October 2004 July 2004 June 2004 January 2004 January 2003 January 2001 August 1997



2013/06/30 France Day 13: Eyzies-de-Tayac Grottos: Grotte du Font the Gaume, Combarelles, Cap Blanc, and Grottes de Rouffignac
π 2013-06-30 00:00 in France2013, Trips

As another day of "let's do in one day what others do in two" :) , I had to get up at 07:00 to go in at at 07:20 for a 09:30 ticket sale and a 10:00 visit. Don't get me started on how messed up that was, or the fact that the broke government wouldn't sell any tickets at inflated prices by reservation instead of forcing everyone to go stand in line earlier and earlier outside hours before the ticket booth opens. After all this, we did get to see Font de Gaume. It is the only grotto left you can visit and that has real polychrome paintings. Only about 80 people are admitted per day. Putting aside the 2H+ line outside before the ticket counter opens, it was nice and probably the best such grotto still open to the public today. The paintings are over 17,000 years old:

bright and early
bright and early

over 2h later, the ticket counter opened
over 2h later, the ticket counter opened

the guide was really good
the guide was really good



We went to the prehistoric museum a couple of times between assigned times in the grottos:







Next, was time for our tour of Grotte des Combarelles, which is also full of drawings etched with lines in the rock about 12,000 years ago. They take an even fewer 66 people per day:





Cap Blanc had a huge fresca etched into the face of a mountain where Cro Magnon man used to live, although it had unfortunately been quite damaged by the clueless folks who first found it. Still, it's one of the only examples in the world:



Last, but not least, we went to grottes de Rouffignac, which you get to visit by taking an electric train 1km down. It also had lots of drawings, including holes where bears used to go hibernate:





To be honest, it was pretty cool to see art, and some was pretty good art, made by so called cavemen (really Cro-Magnon) about 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, and effectively the oldest writings of man left today. That was a lot of grottos and prehistoric drawings for one day, so we ended the day at Domme, a nice little village at the top of the cliff, with view on the Dordogne river, and headed to our hotel at la Roque-Gageac for dinner and much needed rest (we had a nice dinner there too):




view from our room
view from our room

2013/06/29 France Day 12: Cahors Market, Grottes du Peche Merles, Grottes de Cougnac, Rocamadour, Foie Gras Farm, and sleeping at Eyzies-de-Tayac
π 2013-06-29 00:00 in France2013, Trips

After leaving Carcasonne, we got up early that day (06:40, argh!) to drive towards Cahors and catch the local market.

Cahors
Cahors


encore du vin, merci! :)
encore du vin, merci! :)

We then had to head out to get to the Grottes du Peches Merles for our tour at noon. Since they wanted us to be 30mn early and I optimized the driving (lots of curvy roads there), we got there at 11:30 and they had a special tour at that time that we were able to catch. This was despite Google maps which had been giving me horrible directions in rural france, and sent me on a dirt road that was more for horses and hikers. I ended up driving there rally style which was fun, but I really ended up on a walking path and made it to the Grotto parking lot on the wrong side of "don't cross this" metal pillars. That was a bit awkward. Still, I got there early somehow:





Catching an early tour at Peches Merles allowed us to visit the Grotto and museum and have time left over to see les Grottes de Cougnac which allows taking pictures in one of their grottos (the ones with formations, but no drawings):







After that, there we went to Rocamadour to visit the town and impressive cluster of churches by the rock.





lots of stores for tourists :)
lots of stores for tourists :)

nice wine names :)
nice wine names :)

and the little trains for offsite parking
and the little trains for offsite parking





If you think we had done two days' worth already, we didn't quite give up so quickly and while there, we also went to see a Foie Gras farm and how they feed the ducks for our enjoyment :)


foie gras has been made for 4500 years!
foie gras has been made for 4500 years!

those ducks have a much happier life than the poor farmed chicken
those ducks have a much happier life than the poor farmed chicken

they only get brought in cages for their feeding and are let go again after that
they only get brought in cages for their feeding and are let go again after that

We then saw a movie on how they use all parts of the duck and prepare it:





there, I'm hungry again :)
there, I'm hungry again :)


This then left me with a drive to Eyzies-de-Tayac (1h20 away) to sleep just next to Grottes du Fond the Gaumes so that I could be there at the ticket booth to stand in line too early the next morning. Damn, that was a long day :)

2013/06/28 France Day 11: Arles and Carcasonne
π 2013-06-28 00:00 in France2013, Trips

We hadn't gotten to see the Arena since it was closed for a concert the previous night, so we started with that:





decent view from up there
decent view from up there




And on our way out, we stopped by the Nécrople des Alyscamps.





From there, we drove to Carcasonne, a great medieval city:
















must resist :)
must resist :)

Somehow, not sure how that happened, but we got another foie gras dinner :)


After dinner we went out for a walk around the walls and see the city at night with its illuminations:







2013/06/27 France Day 10: Les Baux de Provence and Arles
π 2013-06-27 00:00 in France2013, Trips

That morning, we started by going to Les Baux de Provence Castle:






nice weapons
nice weapons

I like the name :)
I like the name :)











A bit farther down the road, they had a really quarry with art projected on the walls:








One the way, the Glanum Archeologic site was worth stopping by:







From there, we went to a museum in Arles:

what Arles used to look like
what Arles used to look like


they had both arenas and a theatre, good for them
they had both arenas and a theatre, good for them




during the middle ages, the arena was used for protection
during the middle ages, the arena was used for protection


this was recovered from the river
this was recovered from the river

And we used the rest of the day to walk around:










until we reached the theatre:





very nice crypts underground
very nice crypts underground



And we went back to the same exact restaurant for more yummy double decker seared foie gras:

not sure why, but Jennifer looks happy :)
not sure why, but Jennifer looks happy :)


2013/06/26 France Day 09: From Vaison La Romaine to Pont du Gars, Nimes, and Arles
π 2013-06-26 00:00 in France2013, Trips

For day 9, it was time to leave Vaison La Romaine to go to Arles after a good visit of Nimes on the way. It was nice to have spent 2 nice at the same place for a change :)

Internet was non existant, but I had my phone taped to the window to act as an access point that routed to the cell service (which wouldn't reach through the brick walls) :)


So, we went to Pont du Gard, the impressive Roman Aqueduct:






still standing after so many years, impressive
still standing after so many years, impressive


From there, we went directly to Nimes:








There was nothing left of this stadium, but impressive:



they had a huge water arena for water sports
they had a huge water arena for water sports

They had other nice monuments:



From one tower, you could get a really nice view of town:








We walked down the gardens:











The water from that amazing aqueduct that went on top of Pont du Gars eneded here to bring water to Nimes:



From there, we finally went Arles where we had just enough time to see les thermes de Constantin:




We walked around Arles a bit before going for a great dinner with seared foie gras sandwich. To die for :)



oui-euh!
oui-euh!



2013/06/25 France Day 08: Visiting Around Vaison La Romaine
π 2013-06-25 00:00 in France2013, Trips

We started with a good breakfast by our loft with the gobs of cheese, saucisson and foie gras:


and we went down to the local market:

this is an ancient (2000 years old) bridge
this is an ancient (2000 years old) bridge



piggie, so cute :)
piggie, so cute :)

Next, we went walking around a while a nearby village (creslet):




We then drove to Mt Ventou, a local peak, for views:





On the way down, we went to sample lost of wineries:



plus de vin, merci!
plus de vin, merci!


encore more vin!
encore more vin!



And after a long day, we had a nice dinner on our private terrace with salad, vin, and foie gras :)



2013/06/24 France Day 07: From Avignon to Vaison La Romaine, via Orange
π 2013-06-24 00:00 in France2013, Trips

When we woke up that morning, we walked to Palais des Papes (we had thankfully secured a coveted parking spot and didn't want to lose it).















After saying the Palais des Papes, we went to the Fort Saint André across the river:









On the way out, I found out that the French airforce training is going on right there at Les Beaux


And we were driving to Orange to see its Roman Theatre, the best preserved one to date:













A nice arch on the way out:



And we ended up in Vaison-La-Romaine:





And we went for another nice dinner, this time with a meat fondue (in boiling oil) before going back to our room high up



2013/06/23 France Day 06: From Cassis to Avignon
π 2013-06-23 00:00 in France2013, Trips

After getting up in Cassis, we had to drive out already (no time to spend a whole day to hike to a Calanque), so we drove to to a market on our way to Avignon, and went to see other things on the way.

We stopped at a nice little town to visit and see the local market: L'isle sur la Sorgue.










Next, we went to a Lavender Museum and other nice views:



Chateau de Gordes in the background
Chateau de Gordes in the background



And drove towards an Abbey which we unfortunately didn't have time to visit, and their lavender hadn't quite bloomed yet:



Next was to go see the Rousillon Ochre, quite nice:






And finally, we arrived in Avignon, a bit late, but not too late to see a few things before dinner. Le Palais des Papes is impressive. We went to see it the next day, so we went on the famous Pont D'avignon that evening:












And time for another nice dinner:


But we went back out quickly for some sunset pictures:






And finally time for bed :)

2013/06/22 France Day 05: From Villefranche sur Mer to Cassis via Antibes
π 2013-06-22 00:00 in France2013, Trips

After our 2nd night in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, we visited the local town and its market before heading towards Antibes and Cassis.

We checked out the market














We then drove to Fort du Mont Alban before heading out:




While driving across nice, we realized that that orthodox church was opened and we could make it there with 5mn to spare if I turned out quickly, so we did. I then had to run back to my car to get long pants since I was not allowed in, in shorts :)





And we then headed down the coast towards Antibes:




Once in Antibes, we spent a quick hour to walk around the fortifications and old town:







nice place to get a little sandwich for the road
nice place to get a little sandwich for the road


Back on the road, and towards Cassis.
You're supposed to go on a boat trip to see the calanques, and we were rushing to be able to go on a longer trip that did 5 or 7, but the water was rough, so we only got a short trip for 3 calanques, and the idiots left 10mn early without us, so we had to wait 30mn for the next one (not so bad, except we ran out of sunlight for pictures when we came back). Yes, I still hate that boat company today :)







the hotel we were staying at, with a great view
the hotel we were staying at, with a great view


After the boat ride, we went on a scenic road where you hoped no one was going to come the other way :)








After that, we got a nice dinner with view and sunset:









2013/06/21 France Day 04: Visiting Around Villefranche sur Mer, Eze, La Turbie, and Nice
π 2013-06-21 00:00 in France2013, Trips

For Day 4, we got up to drive around the area, starting with going back to La Turbie after stopping at the scenic Eze and its nice gardens:

fantastic views
fantastic views


















From there, we went back to La Turbie for some great high up views:










Le trophée des Alpes was built for one of Julius' Ceasar's children:




this is what it looked like many years ago
this is what it looked like many years ago

not much is left
not much is left


From there we walked down to the local quaint town attached to the monument:






Next, we went to Nice to see the Chagall Museum. To be honest, it's mostly because we got tricked by our guidebook's author who was a personal fan for ethnic reasons. Oh well...




the Chagall Museum was kind of a waste of time, so we took the tram to downtown nice from there and continued on foot:




We climbed up to where the Nice castle used to be:









We then walked down to old town:






Jennifer got excited :)
Jennifer got excited :)








From there we went back to our hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, dinner and sleep:



2013/06/20 France Day 03: From Chamonix to Villefranche-Sur-Mer through Italy and Monte-Carlos
π 2013-06-20 00:00 in France2013, Trips

On Day 3, we got up and went directly for the Mont Blanc Tunnel towards Italy since it was 3H faster to reaching the south of france than going through France:



After crossing Italy (still a long drive, but kind of boring, so I didn't stop or take pictures), we got to see la Principauté de Monaco and Monte-Carlos








my yacht is bigger than yours
my yacht is bigger than yours





we couldn't stop and see the casino, wrong clothing and no parking
we couldn't stop and see the casino, wrong clothing and no parking

We then went to the aquarium:






awesome fish with feet
awesome fish with feet

nice camouflage
nice camouflage




They had tortoises on the roof:



From there, we drove up the very scenic and narrow road with a fantastic view:


the aquarium we had just visited
the aquarium we had just visited




The plan was to go to la turbie, an ancient roman monument, but it was closed. I still went to take a peak:


So we went to Villefranche-Sur-Mer to check in our hotel and have dinner nearby before getting well deserved rest:



2013/06/19 France Day 02: Chamonix
π 2013-06-19 00:00 in France2013, Trips

For day 2 in Chamonix, we had some well deserved sleep and headed out to see other lifts.

Unfortunately the weather was windy, and the gondola at the top of Aiguille du midi was broken the previous day when the weather was fantastic, and fixed the second day, but the weather (wind) made it not possible to get up there. As a result, we went to other chairs to get other views.


we went to enquire about taking the Helbronner, but no dice
we went to enquire about taking the Helbronner, but no dice

we went across to the Brevent lift instead
we went across to the Brevent lift instead



you could tell the weather across was no good
you could tell the weather across was no good


I think the snow was under control here ;)
I think the snow was under control here ;)

we could have hiked this, but it didn't feel worth the time
we could have hiked this, but it didn't feel worth the time


Next, we went back to the glacier since we weren't able to see it the previous day:


that's the gear the train uses to climb without slipping
that's the gear the train uses to climb without slipping




The glacier doesn't look like much, but actually part of the dirt is dirt on top of the glacier. That said, the amount of receeding that glacier had done in the last 50 years was heartbreaking and worrisome at the same time:


that gondola was supposed to take you to the foot of the glacier
that gondola was supposed to take you to the foot of the glacier

but we were not even close
but we were not even close

it's all the way down there
it's all the way down there

level of the glacier in 2000, we're not even close still
level of the glacier in 2000, we're not even close still











Oh man, we have to go all the way back up to where the Glacier used to be
Oh man, we have to go all the way back up to where the Glacier used to be




When we were all done with this, we drove up the valley to Col de Balme to take that chair:










to be nice on Jennifer's ankle, we took the chair back down
to be nice on Jennifer's ankle, we took the chair back down

Swiss style bad ass bell
Swiss style bad ass bell

From there, we drove to the Parc Animalier de Merlet (in the opposite direction) to see some animals:






the owner used to have a plane and land there
the owner used to have a plane and land there









And after a longish day, it was time for a well deserved dinner:


Eh, that's my sweater you thief! :)
Eh, that's my sweater you thief! :)

See more images for France Day 02: Chamonix
2013/06/18 France Day 01: Chamonix
π 2013-06-18 00:00 in France2013, Trips
Day 1 was a bit tough since we got to bed by 01:00 due to the flight issues of the previous day, and the fact that we wanted to get to the peak early to catch good views before the clouds were forecast to roll in. I think we got up around 06:30 or somesuch.

While sleep was low, and time too early ;) the morning weather was beautiful. We walked from our hotel to the gondola for Aiguille du Midi (noon's peak).


so tempting to pick up a 2nd breakfast on the way :)
so tempting to pick up a 2nd breakfast on the way :)



beautiful view on the way up
beautiful view on the way up





lots of fresh pow in June still, but Johannes wasn't there with his splitboard :)
lots of fresh pow in June still, but Johannes wasn't there with his splitboard :)

slide danger was very minimal :)
slide danger was very minimal :)

Mont Blanc in the background
Mont Blanc in the background




more Mt Blanc
more Mt Blanc


this looks perfectly safe :)
this looks perfectly safe :)

Before going down, we stopped by the climbing museum they have up there:







We then stopped at the mid station to go hiking, but it was a late season for snow, so the path wasn't super clear. My GPS came in handy to make sure we were on the trail we couldn't always see. I talked Jannifer into buying hiking sticks, which turned out to be very handy considering the conditions in some places:





We stopped for a well deserved lunch with local wine and a view:




And then back to work towards the Montenver Glacier (mer de glace)




it wasn't bad the entire way
it wasn't bad the entire way




We got there too late to go down and see it though, so we took the little gear train down (it uses a gear into a track with holes to make sure it gets traction):




I used what was left of the day to see a crystals museum:







We then enjoyed some well deserved rest with the welcome in your room package we weren't able to use the previous night and headed out again for dinner (long days due to summer time):



See more images for France Day 01: Chamonix
2013/06/17 Long Trip to France
π 2013-06-17 00:00 in France2013, Trips
(ok, it's a bit sad that I'm posting this a whole 10 months after the fact, too much travelling in 2013, and I accumulated a backlog which I'm trying to fix now).

Jennifer had been wanting to see a bit more of France than bits of Paris in the cold during Xmas, and I couldn't blame her for that. On my side, I was pretty ignorant of France too, so that sounded like a great idea.
After a lot of research, she made a packed 3 week itinerary for us while I took care of the hotel bookings.

We had a huge trip ahead of us, 3700km across France (with a quick shortcut through Italy):

By June, we were finally on our way, with a business flight to Geneva through Germany:


Unfortunately, the plane to Geneva was not able to land and had to divert to Lyon, putting a small wrench in our trip. Lyon was probably fun to see, but we had no time for it since we had to get to Chamonix that night, and my luggage didn't even make it on the plane, so I had to go back to Geneva to get my luggage there instead of just driving to Chamonix directly from Lyon:



We took a long but comfortable bus to Geneva, picked up our rental car late just around the time that my luggage got there on the next flight, and I drove into the night to Chamonix, arriving around midnight:


honor system imigration, I love it :)
honor system imigration, I love it :)

See more images for Long Trip to France
2013/06/05 Visiting Japan Trip Wrapup
π 2013-06-05 00:00 in Japan, Japan2013, Trips
As a wrapup for our trip to Japan, it went great. Considering I only had about a couple of weeks to prepare almost the entire trip (as you can imagine, knowing where to be, for how long, how to get there, and have everything lined up like we did, isn't done by just hoping off the plane and wondering "where should we go tomorrow". As a matter of fact, some hotels, I had to book early and in some places I got there too late, or got the last spot.

I was thankful to have learned some Japanese, and while I did not remember a lot of it, I was able to relearn a lot in just a few weeks with pimsleur tapes in just a few weeks, and have enough Japanese to survive in places where I couldn't expect locals to speak much or any English.

I'll finish the tour with a few random pictures on these topics.

Japan has hilarious signs, even if you can't read Japanese:

the very sorry sign is very sorry and sad
the very sorry sign is very sorry and sad

don't mishandle the deer in Nara :)
don't mishandle the deer in Nara :)


Japan still rules for vending machines, available almost everywhere (although that's a lot of trash and there were very few or no places to recycle containers :( ).


common sight, lots of choice
common sight, lots of choice

Orangina, score!
Orangina, score!

A fully digital vending machine (all pictures were changeable drawings on a screen)
A fully digital vending machine (all pictures were changeable drawings on a screen)

And of course, you can't talk about Japan without talking about trains:

  • The train system worked really well, especially if you have google maps with transit directions. It was a lifesaver in giving us complex routings between trains from multiple companies. We did complex trips and connections thanks to that. I cannot imagine how they would have happened without google transit navigation
  • While JR train service worked quite well and was indeed reliable and on time, the JR pass is just not worth it if you're planning on doing long trip including bullet trains, unless you have all the time in the world. Being forced to arbitrarily wait for a later train due to the "you can't take any Nozomis" restriction is just bullshit. In many cases, it will also not save you money. I was ok with that, since I bought it for convenience, but once I figured out that it made travelling harder and aggravating due to the Nozomi restriction (I wouldn't hate JR as much for this if you could just pay an upgrade fee, but they make you pay full fare, or $220-ish per ticket for Tokyo-Kyoto).
  • Note that there are competing train systems to JR and they are usually faster, so if you don't have a JR pass, you can easily pay for them instead without feeling bad (for instance Tobu for Kyoto-Nara and Tokyo-Nikko).
  • The bullet trains look and sound mean, but they are artificially limited to 280kph (290 in places maybe?), so they are slower than the TGV in France or its siblings in Germany and Italy. That was disappointing a bit. Then again, an extra 20-30kph doesn't matter as much when you have trains that leave every 10mn (like the Nozomis).
  • The train displays were colorful and clear
    The train displays were colorful and clear


    Gotta love the nose :)
    Gotta love the nose :)

    of course they had slower trains too
    of course they had slower trains too


    good luck with that if you don't have transit navigation on your phone, it's only one map out of 3 different systems.
    good luck with that if you don't have transit navigation on your phone, it's only one map out of 3 different systems.

    this one makes it easy for tourists not to get lost :)
    this one makes it easy for tourists not to get lost :)

    other train companies could learn from this, it shows you exactly where to stand for your wagon
    other train companies could learn from this, it shows you exactly where to stand for your wagon

    Other random things I noted and tips:

  • The Japanese were still super helpful and nice with foreigners.
  • For the most interesting parts of Japan, stray off the beaten path a little, we found some cool things when we started getting to hard to find temples that weren't really on the map. Of course, at that point, speaking some Japanese is definitely recommended :)
  • getting a licensed guide in Nara was a definitely worth the money. Free guides, well it depends what you're looking for, obviously they're not licensed professionals, they're volunteers. I personally enjoyed the two we saw in Tokyo, it was nice to be able to interact with locals a little bit and chat during the day, even if it meant that we'd do a bit less that day (quite frankly, considering how much we did most days, that was ok for a change). But we'd never have seen so much in Kyoto in 2 days with the electric bikes had we had a guide with us, so if you have time to prepare, and you're an efficient distance covering tourist, keep that in mind :) (yes, I know that less can be more :D).
  • If money is not object, they have really good sushi. Who would have known? :)
  • Yes, ryokans are a must do. We only had time for two since you shouldn't go to a Ryokan if you're planning on doing late sightseeing or need to leave early in the morning (ahem, we kind of did the later, but never mind).
  • For places like Kyoto and Harashiyama, you just must rent electric bikes. Bikes make getting around so much easier than taking the bus, and because it's hilly, and you'll be biking quite a bit for a full day like one of ours, electric bikes will totally make a difference.
  • Ok, apparently when we were there, it was schoolkid week, but there are definitely places where you'll be gently assaulted by school kids who will ask you scripted questions in English for their homework, and maybe take a few or many pictures with you. We played along :)
  • While Japan isn't quite the country for "you've never seen this anywhere and you'll never see it at home" electronics anymore, it still has some cool things, and Akihabara is still a must see.
  • Japanese people are really worried about cleanliness, floors especially but not only, but for some reason you couldn't find soap in virtually any public bathroom. That just didn't make sense.
  • While I'm usually fine respecting most local customs, having to remove my shoes multiple times a day, sometimes more than once in a single temple visit, was a big pain in the ass for me due to the time it takes me to take my shoes in and out and lace them properly (I have wide feet with special inserts). That was not fun... OF course Asian people cheat and have fake shoes they can slip in and out of (almost slippers) without even bending over half the time...

    I stopped counting how many of those we went through, they were my nemesis :)
    I stopped counting how many of those we went through, they were my nemesis :)

  • As Jennifer remarked there are lots of little jobs that people take seriously. Note that they usually get a uniform and even white gloves. One example amongst many.
  • to be honest, I felt a bit bad for the guy, but I guess it keeps more people employed
    to be honest, I felt a bit bad for the guy, but I guess it keeps more people employed

    And that's it for Japan. Again, we had a great time, we got to see way too much in too little time, and hopefully we'll get to go back.

    See more images for Visiting Japan Trip Wrapup
    2013/06/05 Offsite to Vegas, followed by short trip
    π 2013-06-05 00:00 in Trips


    A few pictures of the offsite with my coworkers:




    party
    party


    In Vegas, you have AC to cool the air outside :)
    In Vegas, you have AC to cool the air outside :)

    The next morning, a few coworkers and I went Rock Scrambling around Icebox Canyon


    After the company event, Jennifer joined me, and we spent a bit of time walking around Vegas:

    nice view from my room
    nice view from my room

    I think it's lame to go to a swimming pool in Vegas, but some are nice:



    gamble in the pool...
    gamble in the pool...

    We missed the Mirage Secret Garden and Habitat last time, so we fixed that:








    The Bellagio is always very nice and had birds in its conservatory:







     The fountains are of course always nice
    The fountains are of course always nice


    The Flamingo, had .. flamingoes ;)




    I think the ducks are free to fly off, but they likely know they'd die quickly in the desert
    I think the ducks are free to fly off, but they likely know they'd die quickly in the desert


    Mob Attraction at Tropicana was well done:





    People in heavy heat outside:





    Random Vegas Pictures:













    I had been earlier, but I used some of the time to see the Imperial Palace (now Quad)'s great auto collection again. Click on the link to get the all the pictures on another page.


    And yes, Jennifer got buffets and food :)


    Dinner at le Cirque:




    Expensive breakfast buffet at Bally's. Lobster, crab, caviar, and much more:




    Obviously, Vegas is also about shows, so we went to see some:

  • Zarkana felt rehashed and so-so


  • I got tickets for an advance performance of MJ One. That was actually good and novel:


  • Céline was back in Vegas, and I had never seen her there, so I figured why not (even the tickets are some of the most expensive ones). She did a good job still:



  • And just after, we went to see Absynthe also at Cesar's. It was different and funny:


    Outside of Vegas itself, we also went out for a few things (click on each for a link to their own page):

  • Exotics Racing near Las Vegas Speedway. I got to drive expensive cars on a smallish track, which is difficult to do elsewhere. Worth the money? That's up for each person to decide.

  • Jennifer and I went to Sky Combat Ace for dogfighting, and that was a lot of fun, especially when she was able to shoot at me:

  • On our last day, Jennifer and I went to the Hoover Dam for the "Dam Tour" (a more thorough tour where you can see the inside of tunnels). That definitely was a nice visit, and among other things we learned that the Hoover Dam is actually only there to regulate water flow, while making electricity is just a byproduct which nicely pays for the bills.








  • this is how they filled up the hole to make the dam
    this is how they filled up the hole to make the dam

    The inside was nice:








    After that, we walked to the bypass bridge that got built in the last years:




  • Last, but not least, we went quickly through the Atomic Museum which takes more time to visit than the measly 1h we had (and they were nice enough to let us in just before closing and keep us after closing):





  • And that was it, just enough time to go back to the airport after that.

    2013/06/04 Visiting Japan Day 15: Our last day in Japan with more Tokyo touring
    π 2013-06-04 00:00 in Japan, Japan2013, Trips


    After packing up, we started with a visit of the Google Tokyo office, and had lunch with a couple of cowrkers as well as a quick visit of the buildings.

    From there, we went to see the Emperor's palace on a 75mn guided tour. In hindsight, that was a mistake, it was totally not worth it and we should have spent more time at Google. The imperial east gardens redeemed the visit somewhat. The former imperial palace in Kyoto was much nicer to visit IMO while the Tokyo one was a Japanese only tour and the location was a bit sterile, despite the guide who actually seemed to be a comedian but his humour in Japanese got lost a bit for us :)









    From there, back to Akihabara to try a maid café as recommended. It was overpriced but lighthearted fun, and we spent the rest of the time in Ikebukuro at Amlux (Toyota showroom), Sunshine City, and walked through a huge department store, Seibu, before taking a train back to Shinjuku to get our luggage and a bus to Haneda airport.






    while most of their food looked bad, the ice cream was quite good
    while most of their food looked bad, the ice cream was quite good









    if you say so, by the way for next time, it's sympatique :)
    if you say so, by the way for next time, it's sympatique :)





    And that was the end of 15 crazy sightseeing days in Japan :)

    2013/06/03 Visiting Japan Day 14: Tokyo Skytree, Akhabara, Ginza, Sushi Mizutani, more Ginza and MET nice pictures
    π 2013-06-03 00:00 in Japan, Japan2013, Trips
    On our 3rd day in Tokyo, we started by going to the Tokyo Skytree (highest tower when it was built and much higher than the Tokyo Tower), but you see there was a line to get a ticket to let you come back to another line 3H later, so that you could then stand in line for 30mn to buy a ticket that would let you stand in line to get to the elevator that took you to the middle floor where you could stand in line to buy a ticket to go to the top.
    You could buy tickets online but only with a Japanese credit card we didn't have (clearly tourists lose out there). I was kind of pissed, but I took some tickets, and we took a subway back to Akihabara where I was planning on going later. Jennifer went to enjoy some noodles while I went to scour a few geek stores :)
    Today Akihabara doesn't really have anything I can't buy at home, but it has lots of stores that have what you need right here, including all kinds of electronic parts, so it's generally cool :)

    I'd have spent more time there, but I had to rush out to make it back to the skytree just in time for our timeslot to go stand in line to buy tickets (only 2H in Akihabara, barely enough...), and we got there by just 3mn which allowed us to go to the top and enjoy about 1H there before having to come back down and go to Ginza.
    The unfortunate time pressure came from the fact that our second sushi dinner at Sushi Mizutani in Ginza was at 17:00. We got there for more hand made overpriced Sushi deliciousness (unfortunately they don't like pictures while they're working, but the chef will take one with you before you leave if you ask). That sushi bill was a bit cheaper than the previous day (we also had a little less) and it was also excellent. Mizutani was also a disciple from the original Jiro.

    After dinner, we finished the evening in Ginza at the Sony showroom, and Don Quijote, a 24H store that has everything you need and don't need day or night in a super compact space. Amazing how compact it is :)
    Oh, on the way back we went back to the top of the MET for a few night pictures there.


    After going all the way to Tokyo Skytree just to pick up tickets to come stand in line later...

    we went there first, but by the time we got there, it was already too late, there was a 3H wait. Grr...
    we went there first, but by the time we got there, it was already too late, there was a 3H wait. Grr...

    I elected to go to Akihabara to see a mix of anime, fanboys, maid cafes, and of course computers and electronics:

    Maid cafes, we'll get back to this the next day...
    Maid cafes, we'll get back to this the next day...


    dual screen android phone, where have you been when I needed you? :)
    dual screen android phone, where have you been when I needed you? :)


    Gamers was both weird but kind of worth seeing
    Gamers was both weird but kind of worth seeing

    pictures in the elevator. No comment...
    pictures in the elevator. No comment...

    Some singer of the day, till she turns too old and gets replaced with another one
    Some singer of the day, till she turns too old and gets replaced with another one



    even the urinal is a video game, you play with your stream (no kidding)
    even the urinal is a video game, you play with your stream (no kidding)

    old consoles from the 80's
    old consoles from the 80's

    oh my, this brings back memories :)
    oh my, this brings back memories :)

    there were buckets of electronic stores with all kinds of components
    there were buckets of electronic stores with all kinds of components

    But before long, it was time to hurry back to the Tokyo Skytree for our ticket buying time. To be honest, I could have done without the extra running around, it was unnecessary extra stress, but we got up too late, and got there too late, so now we had to deal with the ticket buying bullshit.
    We got back there in time to go stand in line 30mn to buy a ticket (with 3mn to spare), and after 30mn queueing, we got a ticket that would allow us to go stand in line with our ticket another 30mn to get up. A line to go stand in line to buy a ticket to go stand in line, yeah!



    finally, we got to the top.
    finally, we got to the top.






    Ok, it was a pain to get up there, but the view from that high up was interesting. In theory, you're supposed to stay there and shop and do local things while waiting for your turn, but we didn't really do that:



    By then, it was more than time to go to Ginza for our sushi reservation at Sushi Mizutani



    I wasn't supposed to take pictures inside as I found out later, but got a few before I was asked to stop. The chef did however agree to take pcitures with us at the end:



    can't argue with that outburst of happiness :)
    can't argue with that outburst of happiness :)

    Next,we wwent to the Sony showroom and walked around ginza some more, finishing at Don Quijote:





    Before going back up to our room, we went to the nearby MET for some night pictures before going to bed:




    2013/06/02 Visiting Japan Day 13: Tokyo tour with Toda-San: MET views, Edo Tokyo Museum, Asakusa/Nakamise Dori, Mori Tower, Subayashi Jiro
    π 2013-06-02 00:00 in Japan, Japan2013, Trips
    After taking an early train from Nikko, we went back to Tokyo and went up the MET for some views. We then met Toda-San, our tokyo free guide (nice volunteer who likes to spend a day out showing the town to foreigners and speaking with them) and went to the Edo Tokyo Museum together, passing next to the Sumo arena. After that, we walked back to Asakusa via Nakamise Dori and all its shops and got to see the temple open this time. Eventually we headed back towards Mori tower for good views with our guide, before having dinner at Subayashi Jiro, one of the sons of the famous Jiro who is still serving the best sushi in Tokyo at 85 years old. We finished the night by going back to Mori tower for night views.

    Pretty bullet train on our connection back to Tokyo from Nikko
    Pretty bullet train on our connection back to Tokyo from Nikko

    The lobby of the Hyatt we left our luggage at before going out to the MET for city views
    The lobby of the Hyatt we left our luggage at before going out to the MET for city views




    On our way to the Edo Tokyo Museum, we went by a sumo stadium





    The Edo Tokyo Museum was a nice museum on early history of Tokyo, back when it was called Edo instead of Tokyo





    nice way to get around in style
    nice way to get around in style



    nice little lunch in the museum
    nice little lunch in the museum

    with Toda-San
    with Toda-San

    Next, we walked towards Asakusa to see it during the day, with some views of the Tokyo Skytree on the way. This time we were able to get into the temple.






    Next, we went to a nearby park before going up to the Mori tower for some great views:





    you can actually walk on the roof of the Mori tower, for a great view
    you can actually walk on the roof of the Mori tower, for a great view






    After the Mori tower, we went to Subayashi Jiro for some very good sushi (albeit very expensive, $700 bill for two). You don't actually know how much yo'ure going to pay in advance since it depends on what they're serving that day, and there are no prices the entire time, even for drinks or options. You only get a piece of paper with a number to pay at the end. It's the Japanese way I guess :)


    Subayashi's dad, who runs the famous Sushi-ya in Ginza that the movie is based on
    Subayashi's dad, who runs the famous Sushi-ya in Ginza that the movie is based on



    The 'apprentice' who had been there for a mere 17 years or so :) Thankfully he had spent time in Australia and spoke English well
    The 'apprentice' who had been there for a mere 17 years or so :) Thankfully he had spent time in Australia and spoke English well


    it looks the same, but it's not :)
    it looks the same, but it's not :)

    it comes from a pretty big shell
    it comes from a pretty big shell


    needless to say that this just melts in your mouth, no chewing required
    needless to say that this just melts in your mouth, no chewing required





    more sushi, oui!
    more sushi, oui!







    finishing with the fluffy tamago omlet
    finishing with the fluffy tamago omlet

    the unknown bill until the end at least includes a picture if you wish :)
    the unknown bill until the end at least includes a picture if you wish :)

    After dinner, we went back to Mori tower for some great night views, before heading to our hotel for some rest:





    2013/06/01 Visiting Japan Day 12: Nikko
    π 2013-06-01 00:00 in Japan, Japan2013, Trips
    Nikko was our day trip out of Tokyo, we had to get up early to get the only direct 07:30 train from Shinjuku/Ikebukuro and got there in just under 2H. The owner of the pension nicely picked us up at the train station, took our luggage and dropped us off at the first temple to save us some time, super nice of him.


    Tosho-gu was by far the most awesome temple we had seen anywhere in Japan. It's a great thing we saw it almost last, because it would have ruined all the other ones. The amount and quality of various art on the temple is just mind blowing. I'm not an art guy, but it was difficult not to appreciate this gem.

    It was a bit early for Jennifer, but she was able to rest a bit in the train
    It was a bit early for Jennifer, but she was able to rest a bit in the train

    Ready to start our temple tour
    Ready to start our temple tour

    It's _that_ high :)
    It's _that_ high :)


















    the art is absolutely beautiful
    the art is absolutely beautiful


    On the way out, we went through an open market and two more temples:












    We then took a bus to lake Chuzenji to see Kegon Falls, the lake, a nature museum, and some quite snack by the lake while enjoying the views:


    Kegon Falls isn't bad, but if you've been to Yosemite or Maui, it's a bit less impressive :)
    Kegon Falls isn't bad, but if you've been to Yosemite or Maui, it's a bit less impressive :)




    that monkey was trying to scare me off. I held my ground and it left :)
    that monkey was trying to scare me off. I held my ground and it left :)





    The bus ride down was fun, it was a fantastic road I would have loved to drive with the right car, and went to Pension l'Escale for the night where the owner, Fujita-San (Kaz) also cooked for us. The dinner was quite yummy and he was a great person to talk with (luckily in English since my Japanese was a _lot_ more limited than his English).




    We were happy that we were able to sleep there and only worry about the 2H+ train back early the next morning.

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