Tokyo JAPAN

Since we had free WIFI as a perk at our hotel when we were at Tokyo Disneyland, I was able to put iphone pics on the website much more timely, but some of the below photos were taken by my photog. According to information I had about going to Tokyo, free wifi was supposed to be not super easily accessed in one of the world’s tech capitals, but it was offered to us as an upgrade at the Tokyo Bay Sheraton since we achieved Gold SPG status on that stay. It was quite timely since by the end of the trek, I wasn’t really in the mood to go to the lobby to connect. Since our return, hotels have upped their game bigtime a few weeks ago for something that seems fairly standard to me. Some of the frequent travelers I follow aren’t happy about their perks being diluted due to this change, but I definitely don’t live at a hotel like some so I won’t get too excited either way. On our 2nd day in Tokyo after having FINALLY gotten a great night’s sleep, we woke up and headed to Harajuku. I’m no expert on Harajuku, but I think we should have been there later in the day, but you do what you gotta do and we were there in the morning. It was interesting, but I’m sure it would have been a different world at another hour. After that, we walked to Meiji Shrine which wasn’t too far, but on the other side of the subway. We meandered our way through some neat neighborhoods surrounding Harajuku. One thing that stood out was definitely the fancy cars. We never once saw a jalopy in Japan, but this neighborhood had exceptionally fine cars. We hit a dead end or two and since we were on a tight schedule to check-out of our luxury hotel on time, I was getting nervous, but we found our way. The weather was a cool crisp autumn day on 12/2/14, but pleasant. Meiji shrine was an interesting place. One thing that stood out to me was you could buy little wooden pieces like a Christmas ornament, write a prayer on it, and hang it with thousands of other prayers in different languages.  At one point, I think I walked out of bounds as some security guards headed toward me and I exited before I was able to ruffle their feathers. In Japan, we had already encountered a few “sticklers for the rules.” For example, we had a heckuva time getting through customs. We had to fill out our paperwork 3 or 4 times and we were very slow moving from the lack of sleep and jet lag. On the final attempt, we discovered I had marked (female) for my husband and I thought we’d never get in the country at that point. Miraculously, he was undisturbed by that mistake. So, when I saw some security looking guys heading toward me at the shrine and discovered I had somehow walked into a roped around area, I got OUT fast. We made it back to the Park Hyatt with enough time to spare for a rest before heading out to Urayasu where Tokyo Disney is located.

Harajuku

Harajuku

Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine

at Meiji shrine

at Meiji shrine

subway riders (the one is green belongs to us...)

subway riders (the one in green belongs to us…)

floral shop Harajuku

floral shop Harajuku

Harajuku cookie lovers

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Mt. Fuji view from Park Hyatt Tokyo

Mt. Fuji view from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay view

Mt. Fuji view from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay view

Mt. Fuji view from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay view

Mt. Fuji view from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay view

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Wedding Anniversary……

I got married 15 years ago today in the St. George Latter-day Saint temple. (Mormon) My ancestors built this temple and I’m distantly related to most of the original settlers of the town. Getting married in a Mormon temple isn’t the easiest endeavor. If you know any Mormons then you know we live a bit counterculture. Mormons tend to get married earlier than their peers. Many Mormons are pretty much broke and in college when they get married. We were a lot better off as I had already graduated from the University of Utah, but my husband was a bit younger and just getting started. I started my first real job a few weeks after we got married, but he wouldn’t be done for many years with a doctorate in engineering. We had our honeymoon near my home since we too were broke. The groom was an Idaho guy. We went to Zion National Park. If you have read this blog then you’ve probably already come across that destination. It’s my favorite of all destinations. We stayed in the park at the Lodge from 12/28-12/31 when we got kicked out due to full occupancy. The lodge has really good breakfast IMHO; if you like thick slices of egg battered and buttered French toast and every other American breakfast item. There was definitely some hiking involved to work it off. Of course after we got kicked out for New Year’s Eve 1999, it snowed at Zion. That was a real disappointment since I missed it and it doesn’t actually snow that far South often and I love snow! We got to see the pictures in the local newspaper or the news before going back North to Salt Lake City for job and school. A lot of people would like to get married somewhere very beautiful and the St. George temple definitely qualifies, but more importantly the entry requirements for marriage there make it so people often value their union.

St. George Temple

St. George Temple

Fitness comes in many shapes, sizes, and personalities.

One of the main reasons I want to promote 1. WALK 2. HIKE 3. BIKE is because I have a lot of extreme fitness fanatic friends and I don’t buy into that philosophy. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just not for me. I ran track in high school and I was the slowest person on the team. I didn’t really mind being the slowest person on the team, but when my coach finally got super excited cause I ran the 250 meters super fast and he thought I’d “FINALLY” found my niche; I didn’t like the pressure. There was no hiking team, well it was a team of 1 I guess. I always won those events 😉 and the mountains were 2 minutes behind my house. I’ve always had strong legs and I could leg press more than other guys at the gym at the University of Utah. I used to check cause I’d always add more weights than the men twice my size. (I’m a petite female.)  Anyway, I like LOW IMPACT stuff and I want to promote stuff any reasonably healthy person can do. You can walk! If you can walk, then you can hike! Biking is not hard either. If you don’t know how, I bet you could get someone to teach you. Nevertheless, one of my high school running mates turned ultramarathoner posted about this on facebook and I find this article physiologically quite fascinating. I think I have a lot in common with the guy in the article, but he’s a “wee” bit more intense. (I have really low blood pressure and I’m not usually intense!) I was raised in a mile high town and I spent much of my childhood at 10,000 feet. Pretty interesting and very insane! http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/running/trail-running/FKT-Up-Kilian-Jornet.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign

Christmas Day

I still haven’t wrapped up my Tokyo commentary, but I’ll interrupt that for this. It is Christmas. I enjoy the Christmas holidays as much as the next gal, but Christmas day for me has always been a bit boring. One of my best friends texted me today and I told her to fly to Oregon from Salt Lake City so we could go to the movies. This was her tradition. When I first heard of it, I thought it sounded like heresy. However, we went once or twice together on Christmas day and it was great! It really cut up the boredom after the dramatic Christmas climax. (I saw The Hobbit 2 nights ago, but I could definitely go for it again. EPIC!) I love singing carols and hanging around the Christmas tree from December 1st to December 24th, but after that I won’t sing carols anymore until the next December. As we sat enjoying our Christmas breakfast feast this morning, I said: Let’s go to the coast. My husband thought that sounded like fun so we got showered and a plan was hatched. For the record, some Oregonians don’t call it “the beach.” Due to the fact that you are rarely likely to enjoy the Oregon coast as you do “the beach.” (ie. swimming, tanning, etc.) It is generally always too cold for those endeavors. The summer after we moved here, it was 105 degrees in the city/suburbs. So….we jumped in the minivan and went to the beach about 80 miles away. When we approached the town of Cannon Beach, the temperature dropped to 59 degrees. NO JOKE! I took a few cute toddler shots in swimming suits and we went back to the city to warm up. The weather there is unpredictable, but it can be glorious there too if you plan on layers. You may even be able to take some of them off. We had never been to Cannon Beach during the Christmas season and it was decorated really nicely. All of the quaint seaside structures were decked out in nice attractive garlands and lights. The town was nearly empty and the weather wasn’t bad. We didn’t even get rained on during our walk on the beach. The fun was over when the kids got hungry, but since everything was closed; the chocolate and h20 in the car would have to suffice until we could get back to our leftovers. As we were exiting the town, an amazing sight was about to be seen: a herd of elk peacefully lounging next to the road. I got out of the car and approached at a safe, but close distance to photograph them. I had seen elk herds before in Utah and Wyoming, but always on the move. These elk (about 20 or so) were resting serenely as if also enjoying Christmas. Quite a shock and what a sight! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!

We had this Christmas dress up garb so I grabbed it for fun.

We had this Christmas dress up garb so I grabbed it for fun.

not in sync. ;) I used to try to be flexible like Jean Claude Van Damme I got pretty close until I injured myself many moons ago.

not in sync. 😉 I used to try to be flexible like Jean Claude Van Damme I got pretty close until I injured myself many moons ago. Sometimes, but not lately I’m an avid yogi too.

cb3 cb1

Nature

Nature

BUD to NRT = (Hungary-Tokyo)

November 30th got started off early for us.  It wasn’t so bad for me since I had still been suffering from insomnia so when we had to get rolling at 3 a.m. it wasn’t hard as I wasn’t asleep anyway, just lying in bed. Exhaustion also helps for people who normally can’t sleep at all on airplanes; eventually, you hit a wall and can sleep on the cement or standing. We had a shuttle to catch to the airport and then we were off to Tokyo. From my experience on my 2 long cross country road treks and flights, once you are in the groove, it becomes far less painful. For example: In 1993, I did my first cross-country drive. The first day from Southern Utah to Denver was so awfully boring. The following days until the destination, I didn’t feel it anymore, I was just in a vegetative state of boredom. Of course this only works if you are NOT the driver! Drivers/pilots don’t have the luxury of being bored. So, the trek to Tokyo was not a challenge. We arrived at 9 a.m. local time on December 1st. in Narita airport. Upon arrival, we booked shuttle bus tickets with destination Park Hyatt Tokyo. I had researched all of the great and least expensive ways to get there and that wasn’t it. However, it would do the trick and after a lot of sleep deprivation swiping a credit card for certainty is far less expensive than stupidity. (ie. maneuvering more challenging routes) When we boarded our shuttle, I expected it wouldn’t be long. Boy was I wrong! I already knew the airport would be out in the rice paddies, but once we hit the city is still took FOREVER. Once we finally arrived at the awesome Park Hyatt Tokyo, I really didn’t care that I was in Tokyo for the 1st time, I just wanted a shower. Eventually, we ventured out of our hotel room on the 48th floor that day, but we didn’t get very far when the wall of jet lag hit us so we returned and told the staff we DO NOT want turn down service since we were going to sleep. Good thing I’ve lived in Belgium so I’ve had a fancy chocolate or two in my day. 🙂 We at least stayed awake until dark and had eaten some dinner. (see the post when it actually happened. It was McDonald’s, don’t h8!) https://walkhikebike.com/2014/12/01/park-hyatt-tokyo-with-kids/

view from our room. Since I prefer ranch style homes, I didn't know how I would handle being on the 48th floor. (photo by my significant other...)

View from our room……Since I prefer ranch style homes, I didn’t know how well I would handle being on the 48th floor.
(photos courtesy of my photog)

Early to bed, early to rise.

Early to bed, early to rise.

I'm not an early riser so this was awesome and without photography, I would already not remember it.

I’m not an early riser so this was awesome and without photography, I would already not remember it.

The stores still have stuff for last minute shoppers……

I had one goal today. NOT GO TO  A STORE. I had to get some wrapping paper and a calendar so I ventured out yesterday. It was too chaotic in suburbia, I thought I’d never get out of the shoppers’ traffic jam. Well, I failed at my goal. I decided I’d drive my husband to work and while we waited for him to do a few things, we went to a sporting goods’ store. Since the area was mostly business/industrial, it was pretty dead in there. While I was admiring all of the good deals on bikes, my kids spotted a 3 wheeled bike. I like bikes, but I spend very little money on them. One of my bikes’ is a $35 beach cruiser from Target. (Thank you end of season sale!) Another one is a very old hand me down from a bike fanatic. As a family we own several more. Some people I know, I won’t name names, have bikes that cost more than normal people’s cars. Well, I have been seeing these adult trikes around rarely for awhile now and I have wanted one. This is rather embarrassing to admit as they look rather like they are for the elderly and I’ve got a long bike ride to go on before I get there. So…. we walked over to inspect this bike and I was like: WHOA, a thousand dollars????? My kids, who wear glasses can apparently read far better than me,  said: It says a MILLION dollars! I’m inspecting it and it also looks used. That’s kind of funny. Then this guy comes over and asks if I want to buy his bike? As this doesn’t usually happen in one of the nicest sporting goods stores, I’m kind of amused. I tell him how I admire it. He tells me that it is his personal bike and he is the bike repair guy for the store we’re in. (Think, huge big box awesome sporting goods store!) So, then I say that if he is riding around on one then maybe I’ll get one cause he is definitely a lot younger and hipper than me. Very clever though to have a real price tag on it with not $1 thousand, but $1 million.

I showed this post to my daughter and it turns out she took a picture of it. It looks like I'm getting some ROI on my monthly ATT bill! ;)

I showed this post to my daughter and it turns out she took a picture of it. It looks like I’m getting some ROI on my monthly ATT bill! 😉

Have you ever dreamed of traveling, but you don’t know where to start?

I started collecting miles in 2003. Collecting miles is for frequent fliers, right? Yes. (Not necessarily! It can also be for those who want to become frequent fliers.)  In 2003, I set up many different accounts and always booked the best deal airfare I could find, but always added our ff numbers. We had moved from Utah to Pennsylvania, but our family was still in the Rocky Mountains so we’d need to get home regularly. The miles added up little by little. When we moved back where we could reasonably drive to visit family, I quit my mileage banking.  In 2008, we flew all 5 of us from PDX to EYW for free on earned mileage. (…….kind of like a frequent diner’s card where you obsessively don’t forget to get your card stamped!)  In 2008, I needed to get to BOS the next day. Last minute flights across the country are not cheap, but I still had some earned miles banked and it saved me hundreds of dollars. Actually, I simply wouldn’t have been able to go if I didn’t have miles. That year, we also flew on miles PDX to SAT for deep discounts. All of this because I started banking miles before frequent flights starting in 2003-2007. In 2013, I discovered www.frugaltravelguy.com I was a traveler before and I will be regardless of this discovery, but I learned a lot from this website and I started my banking up again. Would you like to travel smart too? Others will call it free travel, but I consider that a misnomer. I can send you a personal invitation to a great credit card to start off your journey. Disclaimer: Your credit is a very valuable asset. It belongs to you. You need to use it wisely! If you pursue this offer, it is a contractual offer between you and the issuing bank.

More drama and then a day in Budapest……

It wasn’t exciting enough to end up in Rome as an unplanned destination, but there would be more drama after the cancellation and then “rerouting.” Luckily, I had come across a blog post indicating that you need to check your passport expiration dates before traveling cause each individual country has a different expiration date. Wait, my passport doesn’t expire on the expiration date, but possibly before depending on the country? So, I went to the U.S. Dept. of State website and discovered that you have to have a valid passport for 3 additional months for Hungary and no special requirement for Japan. “Hungary is a party to the Schengen Agreement.  Your U.S passport should be valid for at least three months beyond your planned date of departure. U.S. citizens may enter Hungary for up to 90 days within each 180 day period, for tourist or business purposes. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.  For additional details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.” (US Dept. of State website) I knew this well before our trip and could have renewed, it’s just that I didn’t want to pay for new passports then cause they would still be valid as I had done the calculations. We had about 115 days, which is more than 3 months! So when we got in the Air France line at LAX and a guy takes off with our passports from the passport check-in line, I’m sort of suspicious. He comes back a few minutes later and returns our passports to us. Then, we get to the check-in counter and the female employee again takes off with our passports. My husband has no idea what is going on as he doesn’t want to know these travel details, but he’s starting to get nervous. I’m just thinking, I know my calculations were good, I just hope they haven’t arbitrarily made some change. Finally, she comes back…. Apparently calculating simple arithmetic can be quite challenging. She wanted to know when we were planning on leaving Europe and I said the date and it was still a fair bit earlier than the requirement (as our itinerary should have indicated on her console) so we then got our boarding passes and we were off to our A380. So, just make sure your passport will be valid in the individual country before you try to go there; unless you have a shiny new BLUE one, then you’re probably good! Back to BUDAPEST…. We spent the entire Nov. 29th walking around the city. Lowlights: The 1 Euro store where my friend’s wife had to get some supplies (It made Dollar store look like Nordstrom!) and Highlights: being with my friend, seeing the Christmas market, touring St. Stephen’s Basilica, and having the rest of the family see the Danube and surrounding buildings lit up in all their glory. The Christmas market was fantastic. As a person who very much loves Christmas carols and singing them, I found the American Christmas music piped in to be a little unfortunate. I know they were probably catering to the paying crowd, but at least they could have played: Stille Nacht and O Tannenbaum. ( Just so you know, I’m aware that I wasn’t in Deutschland….) However, I didn’t come to hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Our fellow American countrymen were aplenty as we saw many full Viking River Cruises buses, but the market had a good variety of Europeans and Americans. On another note, I have never seen lodging so cheap as what hotels were going for in Budapest so I expected that things would be cheaper there. This was not the case, the prices were comparable to the rest of Europe. For example: 22 Euros per person breakfast at our hotel was a bit too high for us in my opinion and it was nowhere near the chicest address in town either! Without further adieu…….                                                                                                               DSC_0111 DSC_0119 DSC_0126 DSC_0129 DSC_0135

Budapest street

Budapest street

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Christmas market in from of St. Stephen's Basilica

Christmas market in from of St. Stephen’s Basilica

I was very proud of how my kids handled all of the walking. It was cold and we walked all day long with no complaints!

I was very proud of how my kids handled all of the walking. It was cold and we walked all day long with no complaints!

new friends...=offspring of old friends. :)

new friends…=offspring of old friends. 🙂

Stroll about Budapest……

As I said, we weren’t supposed to go to Rome. I got a call from Orbitz that my connecting flight from Rome to Budapest had been cancelled. Due to the fact that my travels were taking place on Thanksgiving week, I knew I needed to get out of the United States so I wouldn’t be affected by all of the crazy Thanksgiving travelers; but for about 5 days, we were at an impasse. They were happy to refund me my money, but I was adamantly opposed to that action as a crazy deal cannot be reduplicated with 3 weeks out, if ever! So after several back and forth calls, it got resolved. We flew on our original itinerary and stayed in Rome until the next flight out on the same carrier. We had fun in Rome, but my friend was waiting for us in Budapest. He had flown in to see me with his family from St. Petersburg, Russia. I had invited him. We have a long friendship and have visited many places together. We met in 1993 in Moscow, not the Idaho one. When Budapest was in peril, that didn’t only affect me + my four, but 4 other people. Luckily, I had miles to get there if necessary on my own, but I didn’t want to do that as I wanted my entourage and I didn’t have a “million miles” by any means for 5. Our families were meeting for the first time; though I knew and was good friends with his first wife, now I would be meeting wife #2 and he would meet my family for the first time ever. From my perspective, it went well. Upon arrival, we had some dinner with all 9 of us. If you have ever done family travel, it is super annoying trying to eat with a lot of people. Luckily, it was past the regular meal time as we nearly filled the restaurant. Considering the name of my blog, I then told Igor I wanted to go walking. They had been there for a few days so I counted on him to already know where everything was located. All of the little kids needed to go inside and sleep, but I was ready to go. I made my tween and my #1 walking sidekick come along with us as I wanted to go see the Beautiful Blue Danube but, she was highly reluctant. Back in the day, I had fiddled a song or two about this river and I was ready to see it! We walked and walked around beautiful Budapest until we retired at midnight with plans to do it again the next day. Note: Buda and Pest are separate sides of the river and we went to both, but I never really figured out which one was which. These night shots were taken by my husband the next night much earlier in the evening. The views were magical.

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Pasta for Thanksgiving and we’re not a bit Italiano….

I’ve already warned you that we’re not “foodies.” Well, that isn’t to say we haven’t eaten good food, as I’ve been served the best of French food from the French table many many times. I used to live in France and I ate the best food and was offered the best wine in the world, but I was a Mormon girl so I had to pass on le vin. (I’m still a Mormon, but no longer a girl.)  Also, I spent my day cooking today so while that doesn’t make me a “chef” it certainly makes me a cook, a baker, and a soccer mom. Anyway, some people might enjoy a post about our Thanksgiving feast. We arrived in evening to Rome and we were starving, but didn’t want to stray far from our hotel. We found a nice pizzeria not far from our hotel and had some good pizza and pasta. The next day being Thanksgiving, we just started walking and before long the kids found the “golden arches.” It wasn’t on my list for breakfast, but it would be easy and with pictures. So, we followed the signs and found a hole in the ground (literally) Mickey D’s. After waiting for an incredible amount of time behind some other customers, an employee comes to change the breakfast menu to lunch. I then start freaking out about what I’m going to do. People of a certain age will remember a film and I felt like I was about to channel my inner Michael Douglas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eREiQhBDIk Anyway, we ended up leaving. It was for the best as I soon found a grocery store and got much tastier supplies for less and we found a bench and had a late breakfast. A few hours later, I walked into a grocery store for a soda break and also found us some awesome sandwiches for lunch and Kinder chocolate to finish it off. Near the grocery store, we found a small piazza and so we parked there and ate. At the piazza, there were some locals and some feral cats hanging about and US. As one of my children is quite allergic to animal fur, I didn’t want the cat near us nor our meal. So, without wanting to get any homeless person upset, I kindly guided it away from us each time they got too close. Then, some fellow American women arrived and became quite taken with the cats. There was a lot of iPhone videography going on. It was highly amusing to us as when I worked at Zion National Park, it never failed that tourists would photograph the local wildlife; in particular: squirrels and skunks. Let’s just say locals DON’T pet the black and white cats!!!!!!!! After a day of walking, we returned to the hotel for a swim before showering and then had some budget pasta not worthy to be called a Thanksgiving meal. Upon return to our luxury hotel, I had to go again to the lobby for free wifi. All day long, they had been prepping for a big soirée and I didn’t linger as long as I would have as I was feeling rather frumpy when the black tie crowd started to encircle me about in my awesome Zion hiking shirt, flip flops, and Lucky brand jeans. 🙂

the night before Thanksgiving.... a boring thing called h20 as a Mormon drink of champions.

the night before Thanksgiving…. a boring thing called h20 as a Mormon drink of champions.