Blythe Doll

This is post #6 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip: part 1 of Wednesday, November 8, 2017.

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Today is the day I’d set aside to track down a Blythe doll in Tokyo.  I was determined, equipped with a hot spot and working phone, to track this tiny shop, Junie Moon, and buy myself a doll.  They are pricey little creatures in the United States, but if I picked one up in Tokyo, it would be about half the price.

Dave went off to his meetings, I figured out my transit and headed out.  Here’s some of the sights that morning:

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Upon opening the hotel room blinds, I see that the rooftop garden has been thoroughly excavated, and now they are working on another section.

A block down the street, the make-up teams and dressers are welcoming the contestants for the 57th Miss International Beauty Pageant, Tokyo.  I am always so taken in by the uniformity of everything: all the dressers/make-up team are dressed alike, down to the types of shoes they wear. (click to enlarge the photos)

I figure out which train to ride, loving the conductor for the previous train gesturing out  his window as he took off.  The train car I was in was like a curated art exhibit for the watch Why Knot, which looked to be one of those watches for which you trade your firstborn son.  By the time I watched the little video above my head, I’m convinced it was the best watch on the planet, and not just because it reminded me of my father, who is always asking “Why Not?”  I snapped a photo and sent it to him along with a short note on the jiggling Metro car.  I realized I could get very used to having a hot spot/portable wifi when we travel.

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I always think I’m prepared for travel, and then I get upstairs out of the tunnels and am completely flummoxed, as even though I know which stop, I don’t always know which exit to use, which is usually a critical piece of information.  I stop to ask the station master at his window.  Just as I was about to ask, a young woman came rushing up, asking him (in rapid Japanese) a question.  He put up his hand to indicate I should wait a second, then answered her first.  I suppose there is a protocol for attending to tourists, and having been in her shoes, she had the greater urgency.

I follow his directions to go down the stairs and out, but to “please use the pedestrian bridges.”  Will do.

I only took one wrong turn, which is pretty good.  The day was threatening rain, but so far — no drips.  The street I walked along was next to part of the train station, and I could hear the little tunes they play when the trains arrive and leave.  They are called “eki-melody” and each station has their own jingle, which is played when the train enters the station (although some say, as it departs).  Luckily I don’t have them fixed in my head, or they might drive me nuts.  Here’s one of them in Tokyo.

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I catch a glimpse of the Junie Moon Shop, as on this drab day, it’s like looking at a pink doll house.  It’s the first floor of a building, with mint-green shutters and large pictures of the Blythe doll, whose claim to fame is that she can have her eyes moved into three different positions, each position a different color.  I know, I know.  This doll also has a bit of a cult following.  Some resourceful people take the basic doll and change it, either via wigs or sanding down the face and applying new color, or adding eyelashes, or changing facial characteristics.  Lately I’ve been seeing a lot that are elven in quality.

I arrive at 10:57, and knowing about Tokyo’s punctuality, I wait outside until the young woman looks at me at 10:59, and I decided it’s okay to go in.  I’d been following the Blythe craze since it first started around 2010 or so, and you could buy them easily in the U.S. but I never had the funds to be able to buy one.  I’d put them in my Amazon cart until someone else purchased it, then repeated this until there were none available.  I was still wasn’t 100% sure I was going to buy one, even though I was here.

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The shop was like being at an art exhibit with posed tableaus; these dolls aren’t for sale.  In the middle of the shop were round tables with doll merchandise, books and accessories, including different wigs.  I rifled through the book on how to personalize the doll, but it was in Japanese.

I finally looked at the dolls for sale.  The shopgirl (I began to think of all these young woman as shopgirls) spoke no English to speak of — about the amount of Japanese I speak — so there was a lot of gesturing, and me pulling out my Google Translate. I bypassed the smaller dolls, with no moving eyes or moveable joints, in favor of the taller dolls.  In my journal I wrote “I probably should have purchased one of each?”

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One of the two dolls looked so pale: no color, no lip color, as if it were a doll to be personalized.  The other doll had a shiny face, which I wasn’t that keen about.  I asked about the matte face, but the shopgirl said “Special order.  Two months.”  By now I had decided that I was leaving with one of the dolls.  I compared two more (did I mention that these dolls cost some serious change?), and went with the one with more hair. I did add a pair of glasses to match mine. I pointed it out to the shopgal, and she took it to the register.   Below is the website description:

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Then I had to read the agreement to purchase, and sign a paper saying I agreed with it. I signed.  As I was signing the register tape receipt, the time stamp was 11:20.  All of this only took twenty minutes.  She put the doll in a large shopping bag, slipping a clear plastic bag over the handles and taping it on the bottom.  “For rain” she said.  She gave me two extra stickers and I was off.

I retraced my steps, heading towards what I thought was the Shibuya scramble intersection, but it was the wrong direction.  I retraced those steps, heading up and over the pedestrian walkways (thank you, Station Master).  I felt incredibly conspicuous with my bright pink Junie Moon bag with a large Blythe doll looking out at people, but I had come to find a Blythe doll, and it was mine.  Now to get it home to the U.S., but I wouldn’t have to worry about that for a while.

Next post: Shibuya, lunch, home, then out again.

 

 

Kamakura, Part 2: Hasedera, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura

This is post #5 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for the second half of Tuesday, November 7, 2017, a continuation of the previous post.

After walking back to the station, we are hungry and tired and maybe even a little bit hangry, so we both hit the gift shop looking for something to eat.  It’s a maze, so we miss each other coming out (typical) but eventually reunite.  I bought two drinks, which we guzzle down and Dave bought a French pastry with chocolate chips — er, red beans.  Still can’t get used to finding beans in all my food.  We join the other masses of school children to ride the Enoden, the electric train.  We all pile on when it arrives, and it’s a noisy, happy two-stop ride to where we get off.

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We are headed to the Hasedera Temple, but we all wait on the platfrom for the train to pass, then go down the steps, crossing the other tracks, and through the trestle-arm gates. TokyoSeoul3_17a

We turn left by the tsunami signs (sobering, as I watched many videos of the tsumani that hit Japan in 2011) and walk a short distance to the shrine. As with so many of these shrines and temples, the origins read much like my religion’s crickets-and-seagulls story, examples of God’s divine providence, but perhaps unintelligible to other peoples from other lands.  This one had to do with a sacred large camphor tree, a stump carved like a Kannon statue which was then thrown into the sea only later returning, and a temple constructed to honor and house it.  We enter the grounds, pay our entry fee and start up a winding path to the top of the hill.

Along the way were many small statues: “Along the steps to the Kannondo are statues of a much less monumental size but perhaps greater visual impact. All around are rows of small statues of Jizo, the guardian deity of children. Historically, parents came to Hasedera to set up these statues in hopes the deity would protect and watch over their children.  Today, though, the Jizo statues represent the souls of miscarried, stillborn or aborted children. Some of the statues are dressed in bibs, hand-knitted caps and sweaters. More than 50,000 Jizo statues have been offered here since the war, but the thousand or so currently displayed will remain only a year before being burned or buried to make way for others.” (from here)

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Small reflecting pond next to the garden of statues

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I bit and bought one of these. Who wouldn’t want a “perfect state of health” and “success in life”?

Sign at one turn of the steps on the way up to the Kannon-do Hall, at the top of the site.

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This was my favorite of the temples, with its stark black-and-white, the pristine nature of the grounds and the view to the sea. It’s sometimes easy to forget we are on an island:

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I do like the vermillion temples, but this was so different looking. Inside the main hall is a giant goddess of Mercy statue (no photos allowed, except for the one from the tourist site, below).

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from the Kamakura Visitors Site

I was attracted to a small area to the side, where you could write down the name of a woman who had had a miscarriage and submit it (with a small fee) to the priests, who would pray for the mother and the unborn baby.  I thought of my daughter and all the miscarriages she’d had before getting her last child over a decade ago.  I could see her coming to this place, and writing down her name here.  But we also have collections of names in our Latter-day Saint temples that we pray for, and we don’t need to offer up money.  Her name was in those temples a lot in those days.

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This shrine was originally dedicated to Kojin, the god of the cooking stove and fire, but it has been rebranded as Inari-sha, due to the presence of the oyster shells attached to the carved stump that found its way back to the land (all info is from the brochure).

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More places of homage.

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Bussokuseki (stone engraved with the Buddha’s footprint)

I sat and waited for my book to be signed (or, I waited for my “go-shuin”), while Dave explored the grounds.  He saw the small smiling statues, the footprint of Buddha, the Benten-jutsu Cave and other sights:

TokyoSeoul3_28aThese ice creams in the vending machine are tempting, as I am flagging because of no lunch, but we press on.

We leave the Hasedera Temple and walk up the hill to the Kotokuin Temple, pay the money and enter.  Immediately we can glimpse the giant Buddha.  We are there with (it seems) entire legions of elementary school children, who are happy and noisy and very charming.  (I wonder if American schoolchildren are this polite.)

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I head to the building to the right to get my go-shuin; Dave sits down on one of the big rocks in the area, while I take photos and explore.

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Apparently you can go inside (for an additional fee) the Daibutsu of Kamakura (what they call it).  Cast in about 1252, he has sat in the open air since around 1492, when the temple that used to surround him was destroyed.

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Ando Hiroshige: An Exposed Buddhist Image of Josenji Temple, Great Buddha at Kamakura, c. 1820–50

A woodblock from the late 19th century shows one view, but all the trees are grown now, so we couldn’t see the sea from this temple. However, we did see many schoolchildren.

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I wanted to take a photo of one young man’s hat ON him, and asked him (that old thing where I think they understand English).  He takes off his hat, and says, with eyes downcast, “Sorry.”

I realize he thinks I’m telling him to take off his hat in deference to the Buddha.  I hold up my iPhone.  “No,” I smile “Photo?” and his friend whaps him on the arm and says something in Japanese with the word “foto” in it.

He grins and let me take the photo of his hat.  I still remember the time in Dubrovnik when the little boy, well-trained by his parents to deal with pesky tourists, screamed NOOOOOOOO!! when someone asked to take his photo.  I’m more cautious now.

I do wish I had a hat with a slogan that reads “Every Day Full of Drive.”

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Less shy young women.

I picked up my signing book, Dave, and we head toward the bus.

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These are the school children of the Pink Bandanna.

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Dave snaps this photo as we leave; when we look at it later, the monk’s expression seems to say “You tourists.”

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We pass a “Stitch” shop on the way to the train station.

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You can see the divide here right down the center of the subway train car, as people face toward the windows.

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She likes ruched flowers.

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Home.

TokyoSeoul3_Kabuki TheaterUp on the street, the neon lights start their performances, and we think about dinner.

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This is about a one-minute walk from our hotel/subway stop, and we decide to try it out, given our success yesterday.  Note the wax food display on the outside, left.

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Where are the chopsticks?  In a little drawer on the table, underneath the condiments.  Dave has vegetable ramen, I had tonkatsu and we share lightly refried rice and six gyoza, which were really delicious.  The whole meal hit the spot.

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Two specials.  Or something.  Right as we finish, the lady at the next table lights up a cigarette.  Apparently smoking is not allowed on the street, but okay in this restaurant during these hours:

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No smoking on the first floor between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m, and on the 2nd floor between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.  We asked about these hours; apparently it’s so women and their children aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke, or at least it’s what the hotel clerk told us.

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We walk the block to our hotel, and enter the elevator, knowing that we are being watched:

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I lay my collection of ema and go-shuin on the bed and admire them all.  I still have my treasured books from our last trip, and now have another new one for my collection.

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I record today’s purchases, and write in my journal.  And I hope for a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s a big day: Dave starts his conference and I try to find my way to buy a Blythe doll.

 

Kamakura • Part 1: Hokokuji, Jomyoji, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Temples

This is post #4 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for the first part of Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

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Just to remind myself: I am in a different country.  Good morning, Tokyo.  Today is Kamakura Day!

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We squared away our travel on Hyperdia, got ourselves ready and headed to City Bakery to get our breakfast to go. TokyoSeoul3_1b

From the City Bakery, we had a wild walk through the tunnels of the Shimbashi Station through throngs of commuters–snaking up and down and around, 10 and 12 deep in lines coming down the stairs, just waiting to get down on the platform.  Tokyo rush hour at its finest.  I would have stopped to take a photo, but we were rushing to make the train for Kurihama (Kamakura).

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It was a crush, and I admired this fellow’s set-up, of head-on-pole-for-a-rest.  But the farther out into the country we headed, the more room there was on the trains (the journey to Kamakura was about 60 minutes).  A young family with two boys — one more gregarious (read: out of control) than the other — were also in our car, and they spoke English.

We struck up a conversation and found out the young mother had grown up in Japan, but now lived in New York City on Staten Island; the children were being “World Schooled.”  I later wondered to Dave if that means that the parents just wanted to travel the world during school time, and not be tied down.  I had to wonder what the boys would remember.  The young mother shared with us their itinerary (below), which was thoughtful.  We must have looked more lost than we felt.  The train came to a stop and she told us that this was the station, and we should get off.

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We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and after buying our two bus passes, we looked for a place to eat our breakfast, which of course, this being Japan, there are no easy places to eat unless you are in a restaurant or in your home.

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So, dorky tourists that we are, we sat down on the bus station bench and ate our breakfast (the green letter “B” on the map below).  Then we ambled back to the train station and caught the small tram out to our first stop.

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Overview of our day: five stops

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The tram was really crowded, but at the first stop many left.  We continued on to Hokikuji, the “bamboo forest” temple.

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The tram stopped across the street, and the entrances were well-marked.TokyoSeoul3_2TokyoSeoul3_2c

This is what we saw when entering the temple area.

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To our right were discreet signs blocking entrance.

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The building directly in front of us, also had elegant structures, restricting our entrance.

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But the more faithful paused and said their prayers.  Usually they let you get close enough to throw the money into the box with the slotted top, but even that wasn’t available.  We proceeded further to the left, to an open window.   I handed them my book; they handed me a tag with a number on it; there was also a charge to get my Shuin-cho (folded signature book) signed (300 Yen). We found out that they charged entry for this temple (200 Yen, about $1.80/person); we paid up and entered.

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Even their pathways show great attention to detail.

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We enter the bamboo forest.  It’s smaller than we thought (when they say “forest,” we Americans imagine something along the order of the Amazon), but quiet and beautiful.  This species of bamboo, “moso,” is the biggest kind of bamboo reaching heights of 92 feet; it is originally from China.

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There are many small shrines along the pathway, which led up a small rise, near some “yagura,” which is a cave to accommodate tombs, but we really couldn’t see into it.

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The grounds are beautiful, with a koi pond, and beautiful trees, which were being trimmed that day:

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We saw three other school girls along the short path through the forest, and we kept dodging them.  Finally I offered to take their photo (not the group above), and they offered to take ours.

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We try to get a “Christmas Card” photo on every trip, and were happy to have a candidate so early in our travels; we did end up using this one.

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The short walk over, we collect my book, and head out, landing ourselves in the accompanying graveyard.

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This being Japan, and this being a long day of being on the go, when I saw the sign for restroom, I took advantage of it.

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Okay, not this one.  I found a Westernized toilet in one of the three stalls, and was also happy to notice that they provided toilet paper.  As I near the toilet, the sound of running water starts up from a speaker next to the toilet.  Whether it’s to encourage quick use of the facilities, or disguise any sounds, I don’t know.

Street scenes: manhole covers, and a Hello Kitty blanket hanging from the balcony.  I try not to look around too much because in all the tourist brochures we have strict instructions:

  • Please visit shrines and temples in a calm and quiet manner.
  • On the streets in town, please be careful not to bother the residents.
  • Please mind the people around you when eating and drinking on the streets.
  • And my favorite: Please take home your own garbage, do not leave them.

We did carry around a “garbage bag” into which we put our trash, as public trash cans are few and far in-between.

 

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We walked from Hokokuji (Bamboo temple) across the street to the Jomyoji Temple, mainly because it was…right across the street.  Again, we leave our book at the front little building, and walk around to go in.  A group of tourists was just coming out and one of them, a man, called out, “Don’t go there!”  After ten minutes, we’d seen just about everything, so he was mostly right.

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I liked their water spout systems–much prettier than a gutter snaking down the wall.

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While the temples don’t really let you in, some visitors take their shoes off at the top step, some don’t.  All bring their hands together and bow.  They were serving tea inside one of these buildings, something we guessed was part of a tourist tour, so we crept about.

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A funeral had just ended, and we hung back to see the priest, and the patrons (below) climb up the hill into the cemetary.

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Leaving Jomyoji.  The place where we left the book is to the right at the bottom of the stairs (where the young man is headed).  Price for this one: 100 Yen (a little less than a dollar), but the book was 300 Yen (a little less than $3).

Walking down the street toward the bus stop, we heard some sounds coming from over the wall.  Looking over, we saw a man in waders with a week-whacker, trimming up the stream’s vegetation.  Vaguely hungry, we entertained the idea of eating a “garden of herbs, wild flowers and vegetables,” but settled for buying a bottled drink at the vending machine next to the bus stop.

The bus took the corner and dropped us about a block away from the entrance.  We swam upstream against a group of school girls, all dressed in matching uniforms.  By the end of the day, we could identify whose parents spent the most on their schooling, with the top of the ranking being the complete matching uniforms (like the ones above), moving downward to matching shirts only, and from there on down to matching kerchiefs around their necks, ending up with matching color of hats.  My children would have been in the latter category, for sure.

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Dave got a great shot of the scramble crosswalks in front of the torii gate, the large red structure marking the transition from the mundane to the sacred.

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A good map of the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  After walking through the torii gate, there is a long open walkway with booths selling items: desserts, cotton candy, ice cream, loose bins of candy (fill your own bag), and pineapples.

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Dave patiently waits for me while I purchase some stars; happily we seem to be over our “first-day adjustment phase.”

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After the open yard with the booths, we approach this series of buildings: the temizuya (water purification basin), the maiden (lower worship hall), and the Shrine Office.

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Wikipedia gives some details about the purification font:

“A chōzuya or temizuya (手水舎) is a Shinto water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite known as temizu.  Water-filled basins, called chōzubachi, are used by worshippers for washing their left hands, right hands, mouth and finally the handle of the water ladle to purify themselves before approaching the main Shinto shrine or shaden (社殿). This symbolic purification is normal before worship and all manned shrines have this facility, as well as many Buddhist temples and some new religious houses of worship.  The temizuya is usually an open area where clear water fills one or various stone basins. Wooden dippers are usually available to worshippers.  Originally, this purification was done at a spring, stream or seashore and this is still considered the ideal. Worshippers at the Inner Shrine at Ise still use this traditional way of ablution.”

I’m in love with the vermillion-painted buildings, with shiny brass fittings and decorative painting.

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In this view, the shide, or paper streamers, hang down from the rice rope around the top.

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Dave sends me over to where I can get my book signed (to the left of the tented area), and wanders around while I stand in the long line.  He comes back and holds my place while I buy an ema for this place.  They have two colors of wooden gingko leaves; I buy the green, but will forever wonder why I didn’t buy the gold…or both. I rejoin him in line in time for the monk to sign my book.TokyoSeoul3_10aTokyoSeoul3_10b

And then I shyly put forward my ema for him to write on, which kind of blows his mind, as it’s totally against what is supposed to happen.  He explains, kindly, and in Japanese that I’m to write my own prayer, and I, kindly, and in English, ask him to write the symbol of the temple on the ema.  After a bit of back and forth, and me offering to pay again, he does, but I’m sure he thinks I’m a bit nuts.

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Children of the Matching Hats

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Dave had gone over to the flower show on the side of the temple grounds.

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These were amazing–the large sprays overflowing the table are all grown from one plant.  They also had displays of different types of flowers:

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And up the steps we go to the main shrine, or Hongu.TokyoSeoul3_12bTokyoSeoul3_12cTokyoSeoul3_12dTokyoSeoul3_12e

It’s huge, ornate, and again, no photos of the interior.  This present building was erected in 1828, according to the brochure I carry around.

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Green? or Gold? I’m still debating, but am not going back down the steps to get another.

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We already did this dance at Asakusa.

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There are multiple of small red buildings on this site; I stop trying to figure them out, or why they are important, and just enjoy the visuals.

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To the left of the Hongu are these toriis; we head up to the Maruyama-Inarisha Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of harvest.TokyoSeoul3_14aTokyoSeoul3_14bTokyoSeoul3_14cTokyoSeoul3_14dTokyoSeoul3_14e

Is it wrong to covet ema?  If I could have figure out how to buy one of these in a torii shape, I would have.

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We head down the backway, onto a small street that brings us back around to the main area.  We head to the bus stop, sort of wondering about lunch, or something, as we were ready for a break, and were hot and a bit tired.

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While we were waiting at the bus stop, a man comes out of the rickshaw shop and says “It’s only a five-minute walk to the station.”  We thank him, and continue waiting.  Then another random man comes up to us and says “A couple of minutes walk is all,” and gestures vaguely down the street towards the station.  We decide to walk.

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And after five minutes walking facing the sun, we decided we were played, that the helpful locals could safely be categorized as bending the truth.  It was a 20 minute walk, but we made it.

Next up: Kamakura, Part 2.

Tokyo: Asakusa and Kappabashi

This is post #2 of our Tokyo-Seoul trip, for the first half of Monday, November 6, 2017.

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Coming out of our hotel room after a typical first-night-in-a-new-country sleep, we see this.  I guess we can tell where the elevators are.

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Our hotel is in the Ginza area of Tokyo, near to where Dave’s conference will be, and before we leave the hotel’s wifi, out of habit, we check where we are going for breakfast.  Later on in the trip, we wouldn’t do this, as we would become used to the fact that we had a wifi hotspot in our backpack.

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As newbies in town, everything was fascinating and intriguing — the Nissan building with the car in the front window, the Mitsukoshi Department Store clock, and the pyramid of seasonal chestnut treats:

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More on this later as nothing was open yet, and we were headed to City Bakery, then to Asakusa Temple.

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This is the first time we saw a scramble intersection: where everyone could walk every which way at once.

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City Bakery didn’t disappoint this Monday morning.  So much to choose from.  We tried using our Google Translate app on this item, a “Baker’s Muffin” in order to see what was inside.  It pulled up something like “flour, egg, and breath of angels.”  Hmmm.  We found that idioms didn’t translate well into English, and sometimes were completely off-track.

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This was also available.  Beautiful, but no.

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Since we’d been to Japan before in 2001, we knew the drill: get the tray, use the tongs to put the food on the tray.  At the checkout, we buy juice to go with our breakfast, and pick up plastic ware for the road, and silverware for in-restaurant use. We sit down at the only vacant table, apparently vacant because all the regulars in this coffee shop know that the ventilation system blows gale force right where we sit.  We anchor all the napkins under our baked goods, and enjoy our meal, saving a few bites for later.

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City Bakery was in the basement of a building, and this was the area next to it.  Later on, we’d learn that we could take a train from here and get places, but we are early in the trip, so re-trace our steps upstairs to get to our train, passing by the “love-inviting”  stone cat, which people stroke for luck.

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We used our Pasmo cards, and (hopefully) get to the correct track, correct train.  The Hyperdia app was invaluable during our stay here:

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I used my Snapseed app to label critical photos in my feed, like what our home station was near our hotel.  Now it seems silly, but then it was a lifeline.

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Another thing I did habitually was to photograph the exit from the subway at a particular destination so I could find it again, like this time, when it dumped us into a small non-descript alleyway.

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I wondered when I would see my first display of wax food in Tokyo.  This is actually pretty convenient for non-Japanese-speaking tourists, as it provides the opportunity to see what the restaurant served, and the chance to point at it, if you can’t make yourself understood to the waitress.

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Oh, yes, I always have egg on my spaghetti.

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We made it to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, founded in 628.  It has a main temple and a five-story pagoda.  We pause in the main gate area, underneath the Kaminarimon Gate — or “Thunder Gate” —  with its huge red chochin lantern.

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“Its chronicles put its founding at 628 AD through one of these stories that legends and religions are made of: While fishing in the Sumida River on the morning of March 18, the brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Takenari caught in their nets a small golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon. They tried to get rid of it, but it kept coming up so they decided to keep it. When they returned to the village, they showed it to one of the chieftains Haji no Nakatomo who being a devout Buddhist understood what it was and built a temple to house it. The temple was, of course, Sensoji. ‘Senso’ is another reading of the characters for Asakusa and ‘ji’ is ‘temple’.”  (from here)

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From the main gate, there is a walk up Nakamise Dori, the shopping street, full of small shops.  We are early, so some are not open, but I loved the sprays of (faux) fall foliage jutting out from the roofs.

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Overview of the area.

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Hozomon, the Sensoji Temple’s actual main gate.

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Not Geisha.  I found out later that kimono are available to rent, and many young women will rent them and tour the temples, taking their photos as they go.

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A group of school children, with matching red hats, with the five-storied pagoda in the background.

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I made Dave do this with me, under great protest: drawing an omikuji.  I had an English-speaking Japanese tourist help me, as I couldn’t quite remember the drill.

We both drew bad fortune, so instead of being to bring the paper home, we had to tie it to a rack.  Judging by how many pieces of paper are tied at all these temples, I wonder if the temple puts out more bad fortune papers in those drawers, than good.

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Now that we’ve donated money to the temple, we go to explore more of the area, in spite of the crush of tourists.

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Private-school students, with matching uniforms.

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Around us the incense is blowing around, the smokey air playing havoc with breathing (and even though we are supposed to draw the smoke over an aching body part, we side step it and head into the temple

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And then we go out again.  No photos are allowed and a service was going on in the inner sanctum, so not much to see.  We appreciated the gorgeous decorations; I buy an omamori charm: a small bell.

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Looking out from the doors of the temple toward the Hozomon Gate.

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We read the guidebook, appreciate the pristine gardens and the beautiful five-storied pagoda, available for entry only at certain times in the year, and only if you have family buried here.

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Our first Japanese vending machine of the trip.

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Mine must have had caffeine in it, because it kept me going the whole day.

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We head into another building, and buy an accordian-folded book, so the monk (or his assistants behind him) will write their shrine’s name in calligraphy and then place the shrine’s stamp in it, in glorious vermillion ink.  This costs 300 yen, or 500 yen sometimes — about $4.50 US dollars.  The shuincho is notebook, and the shu-in is a stamp with calligraphy.

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We got a Christmas Card photo shot–one of several we’d take.  Such beautiful doors!

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They have tree-trimming down to a art.

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She’s holding her selfie-stick to one side of the photo.  We see them strike this pose repeatedly for tourists.

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We wander over to the Asakusa shrine, another ancient place (but apparently not reconstructed like everything we see — WWII bombs didn’t destroy this one), and get another signature in my new accordian book.

Outside a family is posing for pictures.  Was it Children’s Day? as both the little boy and the little girls are dressed up in traditional dress.  Dave thought maybe it was that they presented the them to the priests at a certain age.  It’s Shichi-Go-San.

“In the custom, which literally means “seven-five-three,” families with three- or seven-year-old girls or five-year-old boys visit a shrine or temple to pray for the health of their offspring as they grow. Shichi-Go-San is traditionally observed on November 15, although with the busy pace of modern life it has become common for families to schedule visits to shrines on a weekend or holiday before or after the date.” (from here)

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Dave steps up and offers to take the family’s photo.  All smiles, all around.  Dave later told me he thought tourists ought to be good for something!

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We leave the shrine and wander down a street perpendicular to the Temple and see a lot of little shops in a decorative arcade.

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We are headed to the the “kitchen street,” Kappabashi, but notice all the decorative surfaces as we walk.

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We’re here, but what is it?  It’s basically a street filled with little shops of things we don’t need: knives, steamers, pots.  We amble and amble.  Our first big disappointment in Tokyo Touristing: overly-hyped attractions, supposed “gems” found in my research at home on the internet, but in real life? Not so much.

 

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Random Gold Statue that I made Dave pose in front of.  I later found out that this is the Kappa Kawataro Statue, where Kappabashi gets its name.  On a tourist website, I read:

“A kappa (“river child”) is a creature of Japanese myth: a humanoid, frog-like amphibious creature with a plate-like head, scales, webbed feet and beak for a mouth. However, although pronounced the same, the “kappa” in Kappabashi and the mythical “kappa” are written differently. The association is coincidental, but Kappabashi has nevertheless eagerly latched on to the kappa as a mascot. The street’s kappa statue is a gold-plated bronze statue erected here in 2003 for Kappabashi’s 90th anniversary.”

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But it is interesting to see these decorated buildings: I wonder if the one with plates and silverware is related to the fact that we are in the Kappabashi area?  Tired of trying to make sense of this area, we turn back toward the Metro.

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But first, lunch!  Love the take-out window in the front right, but we go inside and head upstairs.  In our guidebook we read that Tendon is a combination of bowl (don) with tempura (ten).

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They scurry to bring us the English menus.  We are happy to know we’ll be eating non-stressed-out prawns.

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We point to the special and it turns out to be very good, although eating the squid was a bit strange.  The tempura was squash, green beans, white fish, prawn, lotus root over rice.  It also came with a cup of miso soup.

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Our table.

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We figured out that we should take the bill downstairs and pay for it on the way out.

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Design is all around us, as even the heavy metal grates that straddle the the sidewalk to the street are decorative.

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We stop at a dish shop, buying four little plates, two bowls and two chopstick rests.  It goes into the backpack along with everything else.

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We laugh when we make our way back to the Metro and the shop right outside the entrance is a TENDON TENYA, where we had just eaten.  They turn out to be all over the place.

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Time for a break: We head back to the room for a rest.

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Placard in the metro car.

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Clearly we are below par with our shoe choice of American athletic shoes.

We arrive back at the hotel, and Dave immediately crashes into a deep sleep, but the caffeine in my early drink keeps me awake.  I upload Instagram photos, watch the skyline from our our room, pondering what they are doing on the roof of the building just beside us.  This mystery will be solved by the end of the week.

*** Photos of these sites from our trip in 2001 ***

Goodbye Dublin, Hello Berlin

This is post #5 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

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I have a reminder that I am in a different country, whenever I pull up my phone and there is a different language on my screen.

I woke up this morning thinking Happy News!  That’s the last time I’ll ever have to sleep in that bed (or not sleep, as the case may be).

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Yesterday afternoon (Friday), we’d decided to come back to the National Gallery of Ireland, when browsing through their book shop for 15 minutes just wasn’t enough.

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Dave wolfed down his breakfast, while we stood a few doors away, in front of this interesting building from the past: Pure Chemistry.

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The stairs up to the exhibit of Roderic O’Conor and The Moderns.  Of course, no photos were allowed, so the following are culled from the web, by doing a search on his name:

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The painting notes emphasized O’Conor’s use of stripes to color the shadows, give dimension to his work, and the influence of Gaugin in his use of bold color.  I loved one of the quotes in the title cards:

“Remember that a picture —before being a battle horse, a nude women, or some anecdote – is essentially a plane surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” Maurice Denis, 1890

Yes, “plane” is spelled correctly.

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However, once we crossed into the atrium between the old space and the newer space, we could photograph, enjoying this wooden sculpture.

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This wing was constructed from a Georgian Terrace House, and the planning board asked that they leave the basic construction inteact.  When you walk in, you wonder what kind of lives were lived here, and you have the sense that you are guests in a very grand house.

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Upstairs.  Photo by Dave.

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One of my favorite shots. Photo by Elizabeth.

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Dave’s doors (with old people and walker).Dublin NGArt_4d

Elizabeth’s doors (modern style).

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We are sprinting through the galleries, sorry we don’t have more time to spend, and even though we asked for an hour extension on our hotel check-out, it still didn’t give us lots of time.  Next trip.

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Back to the original gallery, down their stairs.Dublin NGArt_6

We brought a few things home from the gift shop, but these stockings stayed there.Dublin3_2

In a strange land, even the mundane catches your eye, like this tiled stoop, which matched the gray sky.

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We head back to Sprout for a repeat bowl meal.

Mine was “Sataysfied Turkey Bowl.”  I believe Dave had “Superguacabowl;” the guacamole was on the side in a little container and did NOT look authentic.  But the color was right for this country.

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Another one-word shop title.  We check out, then spend a couple of hours in their basement, where the check-in desk is located.  I decide to wander a bit, leaving Dave to mind the luggage.

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I wandered over to the donut shop, and got three to go.  (They went.)Dublin3_7 Shop Shuh

We caught the express airport bus this time, and as we slugged our way to the airport, saw one last one-word shop: Schuh.

Our flight was at 5:55, so we tried to grab some food from the Dublin airport, knowing that Aer Lingus was considered a bargain airline, I doubted we’d get any free food on board (I was right–they even charged you for the water).  This food court was upstairs, a convenient area to wait for the gate to be announced. (The catsup was in those little bottles in front.)

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And the plane has landed, refueled, so we’re off to Berlin.

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And a couple of hours later (and one time zone shift) we land.  As is usual for European airlines, they put you on the ground in the new country, bragging that they were “early,” but you have to schlepp off the plane, get onto a bus, driven over to the terminal, thereby getting you to the baggage claim, etc. waaaay later than if you’d just waited and parked at a gate.  I’ll never understand this logic.

I sat by a young woman who was flying down to see her boyfriend run in the Berlin Marathon the next day.  We had a great conversation on the plane, about those things you talk about with strangers: her lack of divorce (complicated Irish law), how her children are doing with the father moved out of the house (fine), how she met her boyfriend, and how she voted in the recent Irish referendum on abortion (yes).  She did all this while painting her fingernails a bright glorious pink.

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Unusual to see profanity on a sign.  I know there a lot of English speakers here, so I assume they know what they are putting up there.  The German phrase translates out to “The first bank you will love.”  We grab a taxi and after 25 winding-around minutes, he pulls up to the door of the Movenpick Hotel, where we are greeted by a competent young clerk name Lina, who I became friendly with.  I’d called from the States a couple of nights previous to our trip, asking for a good room, since we’d be there so long.

Our room was wonderful, and I thanked her every time I saw her.

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It was wierd to have a glass-walled bathroom, but really the privacy level was okay, and if you wanted more privacy, you left the lights off.  We are hopeful for a good night’s sleep after seeing this on our nightstands:

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Meeting Dublin

This is post #1 of our Dublin-Berlin trip in September 2018.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

We left Los Angeles Tuesday evening, on Aer Lingus, an untested airline.  Now having flown them internationally and locally, go for international.  They make you pay for water locally (pet peeve of mine).  This was taken Wednesday, before we arrived in Dublin.

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I asked if everyone spoke Irish.  Nope.  But the law mandates dual language signs.  Actually it’s probably a pretty good thing, to try and keep the language from disappearing.

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We clear customs, get our luggage, and made our way onto the airport bus, that was the meandering version.  It took us past the harp-shaped Samuel Beckett bridge, one I didn’t see again.

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After the bus left us off, we walked down O’Connell Street, snapping photos.  Dublin is pretty enamored of their donuts, but they are more like cream-filled donuts than regular ones.  By the end of our stay, I was pretty enamored of their donuts, too.

The William Smith O’Brien statue was wearing a hat, as were some others.  Later I found out it was part of Dublin’s Fringe Festival, a combination of plays, performances, art pieces, and some hi-jinks — like hats.

The River Liffey.  We really had great weather while we were there–only a few rainstorms.  My first impressions of Dublin are of a smaller town with lots of energy, a long flat river bisecting it east-west, lots of statues, lots of donuts, and lots of tourists.  Oh, and it is very very green.

We had lists of things to see, from friends and neighbors and even our son Chad, who had come here last year with his family.  One place I wanted to see was the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial with a reflecting pool in the shape of a cross and a beautiful statue of children being changed into swans.

The Dublin Post Office was on the way, and I often buy one beautiful stamp from a country as a souvenir.  This time I purchased postcard stamps as well.  What a beautiful building!  I imagine the other ones aren’t like this, but I did have severe Post Office Envy.

I loved the hexagonal stamps they sold, but left them there.  We are at the stage where we only buy things that we think we’ll enjoy in our lifetime (as the children will throw out the bulk of our possessions, we’re sure!).  I could see framing them, but then what?  I just enjoyed them there.

The Millenium Tower, aka The Spire, is right on O’Connell street, serving as a landmark for us as we scooted around.  It was finished in 2002 (two years late), and apparently some hate it and some love it.  It is kind of cool looking.

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Still on the trail to the Garden, we heard chanting, like an enthusiastic call-and-response, and we realized we had happened on the Labor Rally for that afternoon, perhaps to get them fired up for the talk (below):

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Looks like Jim Larkin’s spirit still persists.

We arrived about 5:43 and the gatesman said he was closing soon.  “6:00 p.m.” I asked.  “In five minutes,” he said. So I raced down into the garden, up to to the statue and then back again, all in five minutes.

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The statue of the Children of Lir, a tale from Irish mythology.  It’s complicated, but love, suffering, and revenge are at the heart of it.

According to Wikipedia, “In Celtic custom, on concluding a battle, the weapons were broken and cast in the river, to signify the end of hostilities.”  The broken weapons are in several places in the reflecting pool.

We look pretty good for being so jetlagged.  Little did we know that we would never have a good nights’ sleep in our hotel.  More on that later.

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All the buildings are so different from our town, we found ourselves snapping photos left and right.

Now it’s time for our traveling ritual: Hunt For Food.  These days we have guidebooks, internet, Yelp and Google to help us find our way.

Fabric Store!  Fun to see that night, but of course it was closed.  And of course, I never got back to it.  That also is a ritual of traveling–seeing things, and never getting back to them.

We had downloaded Google Maps Offline, which keeps us oriented even when we don’t have Wi-Fi.  That kept us on target to cross the Ha-Penny Bridge, so named for the original toll, keeping Us on one side, and Them on the other side because of the steep (at the time) toll to be paid.  Now it’s just a charming and well-used bridge over the Liffey.

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Dave on the Ha’Penny Bridge • Dublin, Ireland

Fun stores and buildings on the way to dinner.  We also saw the first of many many many buskers (or street musicians–the term can vary) (click the link to see a white Irish Rapper).

We were headed for Fallon and Byrne, where we heard they had good food.  We opted for the restaurant in the Cellar, where we had a really great meal, though unexpected in their offerings.

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I had the Irish Chicken atop Sweet Potato (what we call a “yam” in this area of the world).

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Dave had the Beetroot, Avocado and Tofu Fritter, but it was like all of that mixed into a sort of “patty” that rested on a ciabatta bun.  Tasty, it was!

Twisting and turning, we made our way to the Molly Malone statue, a tourist tradition.  Home, and then experience the wonder that is a hotel room in the Temple Bar area of Dublin: no quiet anywhere.  In fact, even given the jetlag, we saw more awake time because of all the action, than we did sleeping time.  No whining while traveling, right?  Yes, but it’s difficult.  They do like to party All.Night.Long.

Annecy

This is post #2 of our 2017 Geneva, Switzerland-France trip, September 2017.

The town of Annecy was a short drive from our hotel in Talloires, so after lunch on Sunday, we drove over there. These mountain are known as the “teeth” mountains–the Dents de Lanfon–we see them just as we drive out of the little village of Talloires. We are aiming for the old section of Annecy, and keep driving in and in…until we can’t go any further.  Someone honks behind us and we pull to the side to let them pass, which they do: right into a parking garage.  We join them, noticing that there aren’t too many places.  Dave’s so-called “Parking Karma” emerges again. In the center of town is this church with a golden statue of Mary over the front door, and is the Notre Dame de Liesse, or Our Lady of Joy. It had a most unusual, patchwork-type rose window over the altar, and in each of the transcepts. One of the more unusual things about Annecy is its series of canals through the town.   Of course, I always look for the decorative arts and fabric — or tissus– shops wherever I go. Feeling the jetlag, we grab a sandwich from a Paul shop to take back with us, and start to head back to the car in the carpark. We figured out how to pay, how to leave (again, Google Off-line maps was really helpful) and headed back to our idyllic Talloires, where we spent the rest of the day on the deck overlooking the lake, enjoying the scenery.