Saturday, June 30, 2018

We're Off To: Iceland!

Iceland wasn't really planned this year, but we saw a nonstop fare deal that we just couldn't pass up - less than $400/person! And since Iceland has been very high on our wish list for a while, it was just perfect timing. It's our first experience on WOW Air, but we're prepared with plenty of water, snacks, and downloaded movies for our 7 hour nonstop "no frills" flight.

We'll get to explore both Reykjavik and the South Coast. We'll be checking out the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, taking a zodiac boat around a glacier lagoon, and snowmobiling on a glacier. We will also get to experience the midnight sun. It's going to a wild 5 days! Hoping we still have some money left over when this trip is over - Iceland is CRAZY expensive!

In other news...

This will also be our first "post-Southwest Airlines" trip. If you haven't heard, Jason accepted a job at Facebook and starts mid July, so we'll be packing up shortly after Iceland to move to California. We are SO excited about this move, but are obviously sad to leave our friends and family in Texas. The Bay Area is one of my favorite places and we can't wait to explore California.

Since we have the pup, we'll be road-tripping it from Texas to the Bay Area, so the recaps of our trips may be a bit delayed. Also, the blog will continue so we can document our California adventures and other international trips as well, but it will definitely need a new name - recommendations welcomed! :)

Follow along with Iceland and our road trip on instagram like always!


Photo Credit: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/

Sunday, May 13, 2018

5 Days in Tokyo, Japan

We left Osaka in the afternoon and arrive in Tokyo 3 hours later. Gotta love those bullet trains! We checked into our hotel (Courtyard Tokyo Station) and took off. There was too much to explore!

Our first stop was Soeun for their green tea infused liquor tasting and wagashi (small bites). We started with 2 types of traditional green tea and moved on to 3 liquor tastings. My advice is to go with someone else, because we got to try double the amount! The pours were VERY generous, so we needed some more substantial food after this.

Taking a quick train to Shinjuku, we walked a few blocks to "piss alley" aka memory lane to grab some yakitori. This area was rebuilt after a fire and was meant to show how traditional Tokyo was back in the day. Walking along the cramped alleys, we followed our noses to a couple of amazing yakitori joints. 

We got super lucky and seemed to find a few great spots. We asked some locals for their advice on what to order and were definitely not steered wrong. We had a few drinks at both places, so between the earlier tasting and this excursion, we were feeling pretty good. Overall, this might have been the most fun night we had on our trip!


The next morning we took it easy - eating the breakfast at our hotel and working out in the gym for a bit. We had an early lunch at Kanda Matsuya. They are known for the cold soba (made in house), which you dip in a sesame dipping sauce and green onions. Simple and delicious!

Afterwards, we went to the Sensoji area in Asakusa. We explored the temple, but it was so crowded! Definitely more so than the last time we visited. We got off the main drag and enjoyed ourselves much more. Must tries in that area are definitely the melon pan and taiyaki treats!



We had something super exciting planned that evening. This was probably the thing Jason was most excited about all trip - MariCar! Included in the tour is the costumes - Jason picked Mario and I went with Yoshi! Somehow we ended up being on a private tour, so even better. We left from the shop in Akihabara, drove by the Imperial Palace, Ginza, across the RAINBOW BRIDGE to Yokohama and next to Tokyo Tower. 

This was such a fun way to experience Tokyo. Only downside was the torrential downpour we found ourselves in when we were crossing back across the Rainbow Bridge. Going 50kph with rain pelting you in the face? Yeah, not the best. The rain stopped once we were back in Tokyo proper at least.  We warmed up at our hotel with a few drinks and snacks afterwards. Also, loved that our guide took tons of pictures - much appreciated!!


While the cherry blossoms were mostly gone from Tokyo, there were still plenty in Shinjuku Gyeon (garden). It would have been nice to bring a picnic or something here as well - hanami was still happening here!


Definitely hungry, we went back to a favorite from last time - Harajuku Gyouzaru. Delicious gyoza for two for less than $10? Yes please!

I had saved some room for Totti Factory's famous cotton candy as well. It was bigger than my head and I can definitely say that I had a sugar hangover after eating this all by myself. No, I didn't tell Jason he couldn't have any - he hates cotton candy. Which is just crazy in my opinion... 

That evening, we had a few drinks at our hotel before heading to Seirinkan. We watched Ugly Delicious on Netflix the week before we left for Japan, so we had to go. It was really a sign! We made reservations, and I'm glad we did. Overall, it was probably one of the best pizzas we'd ever had. Simple, but amazing! And to be honest, it was nice to switch things up from all the Japanese food we'd been eating for the past few weeks.


Our last full day in Tokyo, we took a trip out to Tokyo DisneySea. This park isn't owned by Disney, but they still have some creative control. There were many differences from the parks back in the US, so we loved experiencing all of them. 

Our main takeaways were couples outfits (I'm sad we didn't prepare well enough!), absolutely insane lines for food, and weird and delicious popcorn flavors. The Tower of Terror was my favorite ride, followed by the Indiana Jones one. We were basically able to ride most of the rides we wanted to (thanks to Fast Passes!), but we were EXHAUSTED after walking all around the park all day.


Our last morning, we had set the alarm for 3:30am. When it went off, I rolled over and told Jason that nope - it wasn't happening. We had hoped to go get sushi at Dai, but ended up being perfectly content to get up at 7:30am and go to Daiwa Sushi. We waited in line about 45 minutes, but it was absolutely worth it. 

Located in the Tsukiji Market, Daiwa is one the very best places to get sushi in the world. They get the food out a little faster pace than Dai, but the sushi is still exceptional. Let me put it this way. The girl that we saw in line at Dai when we got in line at Daiwa was still in line (about 10 spots closer) when we left Daiwa. To the die-hard sushi folks, I'm sure it's worth it, but we were extremely happy with our choice.


We went back to our room to pack up - really sad that we had to leave. Random story - Jason had left his jacket in our hotel room in Fukuoka and we didn't realize it until we got to Tokyo. We contacted  the hotel and they were able to get it to us the DAY we left - for free. Absolutely fabulous customer service! 

We jumped on the Narita Express and were at the airport in an hour. Thanks to our United credit card, we had access to the United lounge before our flight, so we loaded up on more sushi and food (we don't eat plane food if we can avoid it) as well. Thanks to our Ritz Carlton card, we had used our credit to upgrade to economy plus for both of us as well - making the trip home just a bit nicer.

Well, what can I say? Japan remains one of our favorite places in the world. The entire trip (with the exception of my being sick) was fabulous. The food, the people, the hotels? We'd been looking forward to this trip for over a year and I'm SO sad it's over. One thing's for sure though - we'll be back!