Sixth in a Series
At first, it wouldn’t seem that heading to some of Kyoto’s most popular attractions during cherry-blossom season would qualify as an escape.
But the key to finding the peace and quiet we were seeking amid the throngs, my wife Catharine and I found, was to just keep walking — and climbing — once we got there.
On the same day we visited the Ryoan-ji Zen rock garden and the Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion), we boarded an antique narrow-gauge railway that carried us in romantic style to Arashiyama on the western outskirts of Kyoto. (You can also take more modern trains from Kyoto station, or take a bus or the subway.)
It was obvious when we arrived that however they had gotten to Arashiyama, a good portion of everyone visiting Kyoto had conspired to visit at the same time as… Continue reading
Fifth in a Series
Kyoto has so many cultural and spiritual treasures that spending just a few days there can be an exercise in frustration.
But once you accept the fact that no matter how long you stay, you’ll probably only scratch the surface of what’s there, you can zone into a sort of Zen state and do and see just what you can. I’m sure most visitors, as we did, vow to return in the future to take in more. Still…
Even coming back
Many times will never be
Enough so chill out
Well, I never was very good at Haiku, but acceptance of the inevitable is key. Pick your battles and go forth and conquer what you can — even in the crush of visiting hordes.
I was impressed with the Zen-like demeanor of a German couple we met… Continue reading
In most years, we would have landed in Tokyo right at the peak of cherry blossom season.
Alas, my wife, Catharine, and I arrived in the Japanese capital a few days too late in early April this year because the winter there had been unseasonably warm and most of the delicate cherry blossoms had already drifted off the trees in this breezy city.
Nonetheless, some trees remained in full bloom, as did many other types of fruit trees. And as we walked through parks that offer a wonderful respite from Tokyo’s crowded streets, scores of Japanese families were still laying out their traditional picnic blankets and baskets under the cherry trees, blossoms or no. And having a great time of it.
From our little Airbnb-rented apartment in the teeming Shinjuku district, we set out to explore the city — at… Continue reading
Third in a Series
Arriving in the Shinjuku train station, Tokyo’s busiest, can be a bit intimidating, especially after a trans-Pacific flight with little sleep and in the middle of rush hour.
An unfailingly polite people in every other way, Japanese commuters plow through the station like bullet trains, with little deference to gobsmacked tourists staring in bewilderment at the maze of signs and passageways. These folks appeared to be on a mission, and accomplishing that mission — getting to wherever it is they’re going — wasn’t about to let us stand in their way.
If you don’t like crowds, you might want to avoid Tokyo — the world’s largest metropolitan area at nearly 38,000,000 people — and beat a quick retreat to the Japanese countryside.
Fortunately, our Airbnb host, Yasu, had provided us with a video of… Continue reading
Second in a Series
My previous travel experiences in Japan had been very brief before my wife, Catharine, and I flew off to Tokyo in early April, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
How much of a language barrier would we find? Is Japan as expensive as it’s reputed to be? Would we face greater-than-average logistical problems there?
Those taking an organized tour to Japan can avoid most of these potential problems, of course, but — just as some people enjoy figuring out how cars or watches work — I like figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B while traveling as efficiently and economically as possible.
I also like to follow my own schedule, choose my own lodgings and restaurants, and not have to follow a guide around. (This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed some wonderful… Continue reading
My wife, Catharine, and I are just back from two weeks in Japan, with the jet lag to prove it. And while I don’t count jet lag among the reasons to travel to (or from) Japan, it would never be enough to keep me away.
Here are eight great reasons to travel to Japan — 10-hour trans-Pacific flights notwithstanding. (This list is intended to provide an overview — I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of traveling there in future posts.)
- The People. We were continually amazed and impressed by how polite and helpful the Japanese people are. This ranged from our airbnb hosts and attendants in subway stations to cashiers in grocery stores, servers in restaurants, and just about everybody else we came in contact with. We were never made to feel unwelcome or rudely dismissed by anyone of whom we… Continue reading
Mexican tourism has suffered some blows recently, with tourist favorites Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cabo San Lucas, and Oaxaca among areas beset by reports of violence, some against foreign travelers.
Six Mexican states are on the U.S. State Department’s “Do Not Travel” list, along with the likes of Syria and Yemen.
On the other hand, our family — my wife, two adult children, their significant others, and one grandchild — enjoyed a very relaxing three days in the Sonoran town of Rocky Point a few weeks ago, renting a beach house, gorging on fresh seafood, tamales, and guacamole, taking long beach walks, and admiring the sunsets over the Sea of Cortez.
One of our most memorable experiences was being greeted as we arrived by a man who introduced himself as the owner of Peter’s Tamales (his business card for Mexicans… Continue reading
The first day of spring usually conjures up images of birds singing, fruit trees and daffodils blooming, melting snows providing new sustenance to streams and rivers, and a general rebirth of life. The optimistic phrase “Spring is in the air” sums it up nicely.
Alas, the East Coast of the U.S. is being hit by another blast of snow and ice, according to reports. Here in Tucson the skies are sunny, the air is crisp and the birds are singing, but if you’re beset by storms, you don’t want to hear that.
What you want to hear is that March 20 is also World Happiness Day.
Officially known as the International Day of Happiness, March 20 (the Vernal Equinox) has been celebrated as such under the aegis of the United Nations since 2013.
Naturally, the UN has issued an annual report,… Continue reading
Thanks to the hundreds of people who stopped by my booth at the Tucson Festival of Books over the weekend!
It’s the nation’s third largest book fest, attracting more than 100,000 visitors per year from around the U.S. and beyond.
The festival lineup features dozens of writers, publishers and other literary types appearing on various panel discussions, as well as hundreds of booths stocked with books for sale, informative events and demonstrations, and fun book- and science-related activities geared for kids, among other attractions.
My grandson, Conrad, age 2, was thrilled to meet the costumed character of Pete the Cat, his favorite literary figure. (Pete the Cat is known for his slogan, “It’s all good,” even in the face of adversities such as stepping in piles of strawberries or seeing duck friends… Continue reading
Today we have a guest post from my friend Mitch Stevens, who leads hikes and adventure trips throughout the Southwest for the Sierra Club and as founder of Southwest Discoveries.
Mitch recounts a recent rafting trip along Utah’s Green River through spectacular Dinosaur National Monument. This family-oriented trip is perfect for multi-generational travel with grandkids. (And what kid doesn’t like dinosaurs?).
By Mitch Stevens
We hiked through a narrow defile carved through red sandstone. The foliage in the canyon was lush: Boxelder, grapevines, Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees all thrived in the moist environment. A clear stream murmured near the trail, contributing to the serenity.
We rounded a bend in the canyon and heard falling water in the distance. Soon our group came upon the source of the sound, a breathtaking waterfall tumbling 200 feet down a sheer… Continue reading