Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Honeymoon, Day 14 — Walking About

May 2nd, 2009 Comments off

On our last full day in Athens, Sachi and I decided to simply walk around; we went on roads we had not walked before, but still kept to the Omonia/Monastiraki area. Along one road where there were a lot of public buildings, it was hard to miss the classic influence on their design.




Just as hard to miss were all of the street vendors, again reminding Sachi and I of the streets of Shanghai.


We also saw this kind of sight twice: street vendors who had gathered up their loot quickly and were on the move. Once we saw them dashing rather madly, making us wonder if they’d been chased out by the police or something.


We found that other cafe I mentioned in the last post, which was far cheaper–about €12 for food for the both of us–and was much better food. A Souvlaki sandwich, Caesar salad, and ham & cheese pie, along with drinks, at a place called Coffee Right. Yummy.


We continued our walk, and saw more of the same-shop-type-concentration, this time with candy shops.

Candy Shop-01

Candy Shop-02

Candy Shop-03

Something else you see a lot of on the street in Athens is street vendors selling bread products–not quite pretzels, not quite bagels.

Bread Vendor

Along the way, we also hit on something relatively common in the city center–a church, or chapel, or whatever kind of religious building.

Happenstance Church-02

Happenstance Church

The artwork over the door was odd; Jesus looks like a dwarf, and Mary looks like a guy in drag with a sardonic expression.

Happenstance Church-03

After eventually hitting Monastiraki, we ventured in yet another new direction, and stumbled upon a strikingly different neighborhood: it was clean and nice-looking.

Nice Neighborhood-01

Nice Neighborhood-02

In that area, we stopped at a cafe that sold gelato, which, for some reason, is usually kept heaped in improbably high piles.

Nice Gelato Shop

While they are present in numbers almost everywhere in the city, we seemed to notice a lot more bikers in this nice area.


At this time, I was finally able to snap a photo of a local swallow. Usually, they are on the move, flying constantly. But if you can catch one landing, it usually is on a bare wire, cable, or branch close above you, and they don’t scare away easily.


One thing that stood out to Sachi and myself was the sheer amount of graffiti on the walls of most neighborhoods. This is everywhere. Although the ‘finest’ and official establishments seem to keep their walls fairly clean and the ancient stuff is unmarked, everything else is fair game–and barely a spot is left unpainted. Graffiti is all over the place.



Eventually, we hit some parks west of the Agora, and decided to call it a day. We headed back to the hotel and packed for our trip into Rome the next day. We had to get to sleep early, because our flight left at 8 am, meaning a 4 am wake-up alarm.

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Honeymoon, Day 13 — The Acropolis

May 2nd, 2009 Comments off

We set aside this day for the Acropolis–and a good thing, as if we had delayed for one day, it would have been chilly instead of warm, and the tour would have been much less pleasant. As it turned out, all but the last day in Athens was warm and pleasant. We seem to have had quite good luck with the weather on this trip, at least relative to what it could have been.

Before we took the subway, Sachi wanted to stop off for a bite to eat. She got a spinach pie at one of the ubiquitous shops that sold these kinds of food.

Spinach Pie Breakfast01

The one I liked was ham and cheese. The pie is made up of many layers of pastry bread.

Pie Counter01

We headed off to Acropolis Station, which had an interesting feature: a kind of museum display as you came out. A few stations had displays like this, including one (Monastiraki) that had a whole section of a preserved ruins. Acropolis Station has this:

Acropolis Station-01

While I’m on the subject of stations, Sachi and I were puzzled by how they work. There are no gates and no watchers at the ticket-taking machines. There are no barriers to keep anyone from walking through, and no checking of tickets at all upon exiting. It seems as if there is nothing to stop someone from simply walking into the station without a ticket, riding the train, and then leaving–all for free. Sachi and I never tried so we didn’t see how such a transgressor might be caught, but I could not figure any way of doing it. (We encountered a similar experience with buses in Rome.)

Acropolis Station-03

Back to the narrative. We left Acropolis Station and followed the signs to the Acropolis itself. The entrance was via other sites, notably the Dionysus Theater. Built in the 5th century B.C., it could seat between ten and twenty thousand people. You can go up and sit in the stands yourself, this being a slightly more hands-on site than others.

Dionisos Theater-04

Dionisos Theater-01

Dionisos Theater-02

Dionisos Theater-03

A bit farther up the path is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, another theater built about 400-500 years later–and one that is still in use, being partly restored.

Acrop Climb-01

Herodes Theater-01

Acrop Climb-04

Along the way, there were other exhibits. Sometimes the marble pieces were almost scattered, as if left where they fell when buildings collapsed. Others were collections of pieces. One exhibit contained several pieces which, strangely, consisted of engravings on marble blocks above carvings of male genetalia.

Littered Marble01

Littered Marble02

Acrop Climb-03

Acrop Climb-02

When you make it up to the top of the Acropolis, you enter via the Propylaea, the gateway to the top of the mesa. The Acropolis is the name for the area itself, not the individual buildings (many mistakenly identify the Parthenon as the Acropolis).



Just about everybody goes through here, so the traffic is heavy, but often interesting.


After you get through, the Parthenon dominates the view. Built at the roughly the same time as the Propylaea, it was originally used as a temple and a treasury. In the middle ages, it was taken over and used as a Christian Church and then as an Islamic Mosque. A lot of the damage to it happened when an Ottoman ammunition dump housed there exploded when attacked in 1687. When we arrived, it was undergoing some reconstruction and/or maintenance, so there was scaffolding obstructing much of the building.






We made our way around the building, to an observation platform bearing the Greek flag to the rear, and the other temples and structures on the Acropolis.





Sachi was patient with me as I did some birdwatching as well. Along with the many sparrows, swallows, and magpies, I also saw falcons, I believe Peregrine Falcons; they were elusive at first, but I eventually got a pair that were gliding in front of the Propylaea.




Of course, there were spectacular views.

Athens View-01

Athens View-02


At the exit, there was no shortage of enterprising salesmen who understood that no drinking water was available on the site.

Acrop Salesmen

Later on, we were accosted by cats occupying an abandoned building on the path down.


That evening, Sachi and I tried out a place called “Joy’s Cafe.” We were looking for an intermediate-quality eatery, someplace cheaper than Hermion, but still good. Joy’s was not what we were looking for; the food was not good at all. The bill came out to about €25. Later on we found a different cafe that cost about half that and the food was a lot better.

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Honeymoon Update

May 2nd, 2009 Comments off

Now that Sachi and I have finished out honeymoon trip, and I have almost a week off before work starts again (and I have finally recovered from a mild-to-moderate bout of food poisoning), I am taking the time to finish up the series. When I went to Spain 6 years ago, I blogged on the first four days and then stopped, not having the patience apparently to get through the whole thing. I’d like to finish it this time, while the experiences are still fresh.

I have updated the Day 12 post with lots of images I had intended to put in but must have skipped, publishing while forgetting that I had not included them. Accordingly, I have upped the publish date of that post so it appears more recently.

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Honeymoon, Day 12

May 2nd, 2009 Comments off

Our first full day in Greece belied some of the opinions we had formed the previous night. While we still concluded that this was a Shanghai-type city, we did very much enjoy our walk south of the hotel to the area just north of the Acropolis.

From the hotel, we headed to Omonia Station, from which a street called Athinas runs south to Monastiraki Station. On Athinas midway between the two stations is a heavy market area. Here we discovered a pattern in Athens: shops of a certain type clump together. If you see one pet shop, you are bound to see several others nearby. Same with meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, spices, jewelry, nuts, plants, electronics, shirts, bags, and so forth. The central market area has nut-sellers on the street; we tried some cashews from one, but they were not very tasty. Go down one lane, there are meat sellers; another lane featured fish; across the street, produce; down the street, spice sellers.

Fish Market01

Fish Market03

Nut Market01

Produce Market01

Produce Market02

Market Meat

Spice Market01

We enjoyed the walk, but didn’t buy much. It was more for sights & sounds. An interesting side note: every once in a while you will see something titled a “sex shop”; it’s not what you may think, it’s just a DVD shop selling porn, unless they had extra rooms in the back selling more (we didn’t check). But we did notice that street kiosks often featured R- and even X-rated material out in plain view. (We also saw a few prostitutes here and there later in the evening.)



We got to Monastiraki Station, at the center of a large shop district, just north of the Acropolis.

Monastiraki Square01

We were hungry for lunch, but doubted the cleanliness of many of the eateries we passed, so we opted for some McDonald’s. Again, there was the pushiness. Surprisingly, one of the counter people told me to wait because others had come before me, despite my being ready to order when they were not–and just a few seconds later, the other counter person tool the order of people who had just walked in and pushed by me. Go figure.

The kitchen was upstairs, and a dumb waiter carried finished orders down. We went upstairs to eat the lunch, and were not too impressed with the room, frankly. Despite no-smoking signs throughout, people smoked freely (apparently the norm here, as well as many places in Europe). Beggars walked through the dining room; we were approached three times. When not soliciting free change, they took leftover food and drink from the tables. One of them was a small boy with a pink backpack selling lighters and tissues. His mother (or whomever the woman with him was) sat idly in the square, collecting what he got.



We also noticed another thing about Athens: stray dogs. They are everywhere. Most of them are larger dogs, ranging from Labrador Retriever-size and upwards. They could even be seen at the Acropolis and in many of the ancient sites.



We then went down some of the shopping streets, which abound in the area around Monastiraki. There’s a lot of everything, including the inevitable tourist-oriented shops, but thee were surprisingly many jewelry shops. It was here that we spied the Hermion/Epmeion restaurant, taking note of it so we could return later.

Shop Street 01

At the end of one of the streets, we found the entrance to the Ancient Agora, and bought our tickets there. You can buy tickets separately, but the best bet is the €12 strip of all-attractions tickets, which gets you in to the Acropolis but also has several miscellaneous tickets which can be used to enter all of the smaller sites spotting the area. I’d recommend that.

The Ancient Agora (agora: a public open space used for assemblies and markets) was very nice, and this is where Sachi and I really began to relax and enjoy. It is essentially a park, but is spotted with all manner of ruins and ancient statues.

Walk up a hill and you are at the Temple of Hephaestus (Vulcan), a beautiful Greek temple which is well-preserved.

Hephaestus Overview





On one side of the agora is the Stoa of Attalos, a reconstructed building which houses a museum of artifacts ranging from a 6,000 piece of sculpture, to more modern but still ancient pottery, statues, coins–even a child’s tomb and an infant’s potty trainer from a few thousand years ago.



Nearby were other sites, such as Hadrian’s Library and the Roman Agora. These sites are all over the northern Acropolis area, and are interesting to walk around. Just loads of ruins you just happen to note date back 2,500 or so. Jacketed sentinels shout at anyone touching or sitting on anything they aren’t supposed to. And there were always the wonderful views, with the Acropolis dominating it all.

Acrop View02

Acrop View01

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel, and in the evening, returned to that restaurant we found; it was excellent (see review here).

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On the Scales

April 30th, 2009 5 comments

One thing you probably don’t usually notice is missing from hotel bathrooms: a scale. When traveling, you tend to eat out as you have no kitchen to cook in, and restaurant food is usually not too healthy. In London, I had lots of fish & chips, in Madrid it was tons of chorizo (often with cheese), in Greece is was Souvlaki, in Rome it was pizza and gelato. While Sachi often reined me in, I ate a heck of a lot more bad stuff than usual over the span of three weeks. Hey, it was our honeymoon!

I got on the scales just now: I gained only one kilo.

Must have been all the walking. One day in Rome, for example, we walked about 10 km, probably more with backtracking and roaming around inside places like the Roman Forum. We walked most days for considerable distances, relatively speaking. It must have been a lot; I recall my feet getting really tired after a day of walking in London and after going through the Prado in Madrid, but was surprised how well we still felt after going through the Vatican Museum.

Nevertheless, I am sticking to my pledge of more exercise and dieting upon return.

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April 25th, 2009 Comments off

Here’s a story that makes me feel like a genius to put our iPhones on Airplane mode (Wi-Fi re-activated afterward) while traveling: a man was visiting Mexico from the U.S. and his nephew wanted to watch “Wall•E,” so he put in his data card for his wireless carrier and downloaded the movie. When he got back to the U.S., his carrier billed him for $62,000. When he contested the charge, the carrier cut it by more than 70%, but it was still $17,000–the claim being that was what it cost the carrier.

The core question is, why is global roaming so expensive? When I checked out prices for Sachi and I to use our iPhones in America, it came to $2 a minute–even when we just received calls. Carriers usually claim that the costs are the foreign carriers’ fault, but these carriers charge just as much themselves. They will say that the charges are necessary for “capturing the information and rebilling across multiple countries, combined with exchange rate considerations,” but the $62,000 charge belies that. First, the $17,000 reduction shows that the home carrier adds about 70% on top of what the foreign carrier charges, and second, I seriously doubt that a single data transaction like downloading a movie costs $17,000 to track the exchange and rebill, not to mention that exchange rates would have a miniscule effect relative to the whole transaction. Rebilling happens all the time in many industries and should not cost that much, and the data tracking should not be so expensive either.

In short, carriers simply see an opportunity to bilk people and all carriers cooperate to do so in cartel fashion. The EU is working on legislation to prevent this, and frankly, all countries should be doing so.

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Honeymoon, Day 11

April 25th, 2009 Comments off


Sachi and I woke up at a reasonable hour to leave Spain. Unlike other flights, this one left at a civilized hour, about 1:00 in the afternoon. That meant that, with a -hour time difference with Greece, we arrive in Athens after 5:00. Our arrival here was met with all kinds of minor unfortunate twists. First, the train line we’d planned to take into town was closed, for several months. Fortunately, there was an alternate line which served just as well–a nice train, in fact, very smooth and quiet. From a transfer station, we changed to the Green Line, where we experienced rather heavy sensuality among the car’s occupants–at least three couples were engaged in some rather heavy oral massages.



We also experienced an introduction to the less attractive social graces of Greece. At the transfer point, I was heavily laden and right at the door to get out. When the door opened, people flooded out, a few pushing past me. I let them go, but tried to get out after them–but the line of people behind them just flowed past. No courtesy go-ahead. I was without doubt “ahead” in line, and indicated clearly that I was moving forward, but they didn’t let me through, until I just shoved my way in. On the Green Line train a few minutes later, Sachi and I found two seats open together and Sachi stood over them while I set up our suitcases in a stable manner. Despite there being a single conspicuously open seat very close by, a man muscled his way past Sachi and sat in one of the two open seats she was clearly hovering over. We sat apart.

This is not to say that Greeks are impolite. When I have asked for directions, they have answered graciously and with a smile. A ticket-taker at the Ancient Agora was not only helpful with information, but joked and was very congenial. Shopkeepers have been very helpful in volunteering directions and suggesting other businesses we could visit to suit our needs. But there is the other end of the spectrum, like the metro ticket seller who grunted when we paid and virtually threw our tickets down. And then there’s the street urination, which leads to the rather unpleasant smell gracing so many of the smaller avenues in downtown Athens.

Another thing which bothered me, which happened a few days after we arrived: a cashier tried to cheat me, no less irritating that it was for a paltry sum. There was a pastry shop (“Apollonian”) we found the first evening which had a great assortment of tasty looking treats. The other morning, I went there to get some morning pastries, and when I checked out, the total came to €7.57. I had a €5 bill, and some €1 coins, but I wanted to give exact change. However, I didn’t have a 50 cent piece or the equivalent in smaller change, so I put three €1 coins, a 5-cent and two 1-cent coins along with the fiver to make €8.07. The cashier took it, put all the money in her drawer first, and then handed me back a 20-cent coin. I objected, and she took the 20-cent coin back–and gave me a ten cent coin. I objected again, making a five-fingered gesture to denote the bill I gave her, three fingers while saying “Euro” again, then seven fingers with the word “cent.” The woman said something back which obviously disagreed, and when I objected again, she called for an English-speaking staff member to translate. I told her what happened, and she translated–then reported back that the cashier claimed I had only paid seven Euros. Clearly a lie: she would not have given me change at all if that were the case, and the 20 and then 10-Euro change also indicated that she was full of it. The woman clearly had tagged me as a non-European tourist and figured she could make a few dimes off me and I wouldn’t know the difference–rather contemptuous when you think about it. The thing is, one skill I’m good at is calculating change–I made no error there. What’s strange is that the woman did it for such a small amount. The staff member she called apologized quickly, but it was clear she wouldn’t help (I can only assume that the cashier, an older woman with a better position, was her senior in the workplace). Also, there were many people waiting in line behind me. I gave the cashier back the ten cents in a show of contempt myself and left. The money mattered not at all–it was the utter disrespect showed that galled me.

Essentially, the Greeks seem to have a wider spectrum of civility than most other cultures I’ve encountered–many people on the gentle, kind and generous end, and many on the other end. A snap analysis that may be in error, but that’s what it seems. Sachi has compared it with Shanghai, and I have to agree that it’s close in many ways–crumbling pavements lined with sellers of fake goods, pushy people often shouting and making a fuss, obnoxious traffic and more. People commonly jaywalk (Sachi calls it “Shanghai Walking”). It is certainly closer to Shanghai than anywhere else I’ve been.

Shanghai Walking01

In any case, back to the narrative. Sachi and I got in to the station where our hotel was, and soon became more depressed about our choice of venues. We were tired and it was late, and being the Monday after Easter Sunday, almost everything was closed. We walked from Omonia Station, but the sidewalks were not made for suitcases. The small tiles of the sidewalk wreaked havoc with poor Sachi’s suitcase wheels. And although we have since gotten the feeling that it is relatively safe, it very much had the feel of the “wrong part of town.”

After checking in, we asked the hotel receptionist and he told us that there was probably nothing open, but we ventured out anyway. It turned out that a small kiosk right outside the hotel sold drinks and snacks, even beer, for a lot less than the hotel did. We stocked up from there, put it in our room, and then ventured out farther, finding a few shops open, including the pastry shop mentioned above.

However, our opinions of the area dropped even more after our short walk out. We got more than an eyeful of some dank and dark streets, and witnessed all too closely why the streets have that special urine smell. Going back to our hotel room, we concluded that the hotel was very nice indoors, but the environment outdoors was far less attractive. At the time, we were pessimistic about Greece being a very good honeymoon stop. That opinion would change soon, but it did put a damper on our first night in.

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Honeymoon, Day 10

April 25th, 2009 2 comments

As noted previously, our ninth day was spent resting, getting ready for our final day in Spain and our next hop to Athens.

Our last full day in Spain we spent in two parts: first, we went to the Sunday Market at Cava Baja, south of Plaza Mayor, and then for dinner and later we went to Aunt Berta’s for her famous Paella.

The trip to Mayor and the market was straightforward. Every Sunday, there is a huge market in the old part of town. You go to Opera Station, the one close to the Opera House in front of the palace. You can walk down a shopping street with just a fair amount of activity, and eventually take a right turn to Plaza Mayor. From Mayor, you exit the south gate and walk for a few blocks, and you’ll find the northernmost end of the market. From there, it stretches for a long ways to the south, on and on and on, with side streets branching out shortly here and there. There is no food, just items for sale, mostly clothing. It’s quite a sight to see, all of that activity, all of those people.

Cava Plaza-01

Cava Street-01

Cava Bags-01

After we got through it all, we headed back up to Mayor and continued my chorizo shopping, and stopped at a cafe for a drink and a snack. At first it was just for a drink, but we felt a bit hungry and asked if they had any chicken fingers or fried chicken. The waited said no to the fingers, but claimed they had chicken. What he brought us was a plated of chicken full of bones in a strange curry-like sauce–not at all what we wanted, and they charged us €15 for it (we should have asked more). But it was nice to sit and relax in the plaza, in any case.

Plaza Mayor-00

Plaza Mayor-01


Mayor Sachi

There were some sparrows hopping around underneath, and though perhaps we should not have, we fed them some bread.

Mayor Sparrow-1

Mayor Sparrow-02

Some people were in costume around the square, including this guy in a Spiderman outfit. I think it’s Jack Black.

Mayor Spidey

At a shop in the square where I picked up some chorizo, I noticed this game–something that most restaurants in Spain seem to have, but just one. I have no idea what it is or does, nor was I interested, beyond the fact that they seem ubiquitous.

Rest Game

Eventually, we made it back to Opera Station and to the hotel, where we rested for a while before dinner.

My father, who is also in Spain, picked Sachi and I up before six o’clock and took us to Aunt Berta’s apartment, where she had been working most of the day to cook a paella. I feel bad, because I mentioned it casually and was not aware of the heavy work involved, but since I did mention it, Bert probably felt obliged to deliver. And deliver she did. Her paella is the stuff of minor legends, and she is called on to cook it at parties and get-togethers now and then. She certainly did not disappoint for us.










After the wonderful dinner, Vicente happily obliged us also, providing some more music that I will hopefully use as a soundtrack for a video I’ll be making of our trip, mostly from photographs but with what video I took stitched in. We’ll see when I can get around to that and what form it will take.

We also got to see some of Berta’s photos, including her wedding photos.

Berta Wedding

Berta Vicente Marriage

Then there was the famous (in my family) drawing of my grandmother, a beautiful woman in her day:

Mama Poza

After we said our goodbyes, my dad drove us back and we spent the last few hours of the night packing and getting ready for the trip to Greece the next day.

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Honeymoon, Day 8

April 23rd, 2009 2 comments

This is the day we decided to go on the open-top bus tour. In retrospect, we should have waited until the last day, but we had no way of knowing what the weather would turn out like.

I should pause here to describe the weather for our trip, as it has been a bit funny. Before we arrived in each of the three cities so far–London, Madrid, and Athens–weather forecasts were all the same: sunny and warm projected before we arrived and after we left, but for the exact times we planned to stay, rainy and col. It was as if the cold and rain were projected to follow us around precisely where we went, vanishing when we were not there. The funny thing is, the rainy weather, for the most part, failed to materialize. In London, a few days had spotty light rain–enough that you spent much of the time wondering if you should use your umbrella or not, and if you did, you usually put it away just a few minutes later. But other than that, every day the forecast would predict showers, and every day the weather would be anything from overcast to sunny (Although temperatures in London and Madrid were chilly). As I said, this happened all throughout London and Madrid and our first full day in Athens. Today, our second full day in Athens, they predicted sunshine–so naturally, it’s overcast. At least here in Athens, it’s nice and warm.

Back to Madrid and the eighth day. We had our usual lazy sleep-in, and before noon walked a fair distance to where these bus tours could pick us up. These buses are ones you will see all over the place in Madrid. I saw them so often, in fact, that I quickly got the impression that they came every 5 minutes or so. So when we got to the stop and saw a bus just leaving, the top looked a little crowded, so we didn’t race to get on it. Big mistake.

Forty minutes later, I was fed up and called the bus service. The pamphlet said to wait 10-20 minutes, and we had waited quite a bit longer than that. The result was predictable, and this always happens like magic: you call up to complain, and the bus arrives just as the operator picks up. Of course, since this bus was so late, the bus was jam packed. Sachi and I could not even sit together. My seat had a defective headphone plug, so no commentary, and the guy sitting in front of me was the tallest on the bus, natch. Since the seat was in the back row, the higher rails also blocked my view in all other directions. So much for a pleasant start.


The tour has two routes: Historical/cultural, and Monuments. We went on the historical and cultural first. Eventually, things looked up. As the bus made stops, people would get off and on. Sachi was disinclined to move up as spots became available, but we did at least get a nicer row with functioning headphone jacks. This was nice for a while, until a woman and her daughter got on the bus and sat right in front of us. Again, the worst-luck principle applied: the daughter constantly stood up to take photos (no one else on the bus did), which again blocked my view of most things I wanted to photograph. Eventually, I got fed up and migrated to near the front of the bus. Sachi stayed behind.

Poor Sachi: I was OK with the temperatures, but she was freezing cold. She said that she wanted to move downstairs and I encouraged her, but it turned out that no seats were available. So she braved it out on top. Eventually, we got to Plaza Mayor, and got off the bus for lunch and shopping.



We found a little restaurant which had what we both wanted: seats inside, out of the cold (most seats are outside on the plaza), and not a lot of cigarette smoke (Europeans seem predisposed to smoke, a lot–even Japan is better). Sachi ordered paella, and I got a plate of fried chorizo.

Another aside: I love chorizo. My mother got ahold of some of the authentic stuff when I was a kid and included it in a Spanish stew she made for my father. Since then, I can’t get enough of the stuff. In Japan, they have something called “chorizo,” but it bears absolutely no resemblance to the real thing. The real thing is thick (at least one inch across), dark red with the smoky-hot pimenton spice, and tastes, well, like chorizo. The Japanese stuff is just another bland Japanese sausage, sometimes slightly more spicy than other sausages. (Upon leaving Spain, I bought 9 or 10 chorizo in three different types–hopefully, no customs agents will spoil my trip by confiscating them.) I tended to order chorizo at every opportunity, as I did in Plaza Mayor–and their chorizo was fantastic. (We wound up going back there a few days later for a second helping.)



After Plaza Mayor, we got back on the same line we were on, and then transfered to the Monument Line at the Prado. When we started on that line, the weather had become sunny and warmish, but along the route, the weather turned sour and cold again, and it started to rain. We got off the bus soon after that, walked to Colon Station, and took the line back to Goya and then walked back to the hotel.

One thing I did get a good look at: architecture. You see a lot of buildings with a lot of different styles.














That just about wiped us out. In fact, Sachi was feeling poorly enough that we stayed indoors the whole next day–something which made sense anyway. After all, the honeymoon was about us having a good and comfortable time, not running ourselves weary being tourists.

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Honeymoon, Day 7

April 23rd, 2009 Comments off

There was a lot happening on this day, but not much to put into photos.

In the morning, Sachi and I visited my Aunt Mille, who lives in a residence for the elderly in the countryside south of Madrid. It’s a lovely area, and I wish that I could have had time for birdwatching–there was ample bird life around the place. But we had only sparse time for visiting, and Millie insisted that we go into town to the shopping mall and having lunch at a Chinese buffet. We did, but that left us only a short amount of time to actually chat, much less time than we would have preferred.


After lunch, my father drove us to Alcorcon Station, where we took the train back to Plaza de Espana. Sachi and I took a few minutes to check out the plaza before heading on.


The next stop: the Prado Museum.


The problem from a blogging perspective: I don’t know enough about art to comment intelligently on it, and they don’t allow photos anymore. The latter is strange: I remember quite clearly six years ago when we visited, photos were allowed (not flash, of course). I wonder what changed? Not enough people buying reproductions in the gift shop? So, just a few photos from that time years back, from a few of the exhibits I remember being there both times.



After we got through with the tour, we wandered the streets a little before heading back to the hotel. Something Sachi and I both enjoy is finding some interesting back streets to explore.


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Honeymoon, Days 5 & 6

April 22nd, 2009 1 comment

Sach and I are not extremely tough, hardened travelers; put us through airports, planes, and trains for a day and we’re beat. So there’s not much to report from day four of our honeymoon. Day 5, however, we got around, at least some. We checked out the neighborhood, including a department store called El Corte Ingles, which is all over Madrid. Interestingly, it follows the exact pattern of Japanese department stores: food sold in the basement, restaurants on the top floor, and mostly clothing on the floors in between. We went to the restaurant on the top floor and had lunch–and it was very good. I said it before, I’ll say it again–the Spanish know food.



One thing I found interesting was the prices of the drinks. Not that they were especially cheap (which, relative to Japanese restaurants of the same type, they were), but because of the relation of a few prices:



As you’ll note, some of the soda prices were higher than some of the beer prices. Beer is cheap here.

When we took the trains, I was reminded of something that I was struck by the last time I visited Spain six years ago: people begging for money. Not just ordinary panhandlers, which you would see sitting on sidewalks from time to time, but musicians. Lots of musical panhandlers. And in Madrid, they ride the trains. Every other time you get on one, you can at least hear them somewhere on the train, and often times they will pass through your car. Caught this fellow in the next car on the train we rode to the palace.


Another thing we noted: a lot of public snogging. If I may jump ahead of my narrative (it is now a week later and we’re in Athens), it seemed to progress as we traveled: in London, we saw some; in Spain, we saw more; in Athens, several couples were practically humping on the trains. Well, not quite so far, but we’re talking three couples, in one subway car, giving each other quite thorough tonsil examinations. Nothing more than first base, mind you, but they were going to town on that one base.


Anyhoo, Sachi and I saw the Royal Palace, not used for much except ceremonial events. A lot of what you would expect–ornate rooms with nice tapestries and elaborate paintings on the ceilings involving lots of cherubim, with baroque furnishings and beautiful china on display. Some of the curtains, carpets, and furniture were kind of worn and tattered in ways, and frankly, I would have been somewhat depressed living in a place like that. Maybe it’s more that it is a museum now, but even so, it’s hard to imagine it as being a place to live. There were the usual odd details, like having one chamber exclusively set aside for the king to get dressed in, the act being referred to as “ceremonial.” Not much more to report, as photographs were prohibited. Some nice images from the outside, however:





On the way back to Opera Station, we stopped for some “Nice Cream and Coffee,” which delivered as advertised (mint chip and strawberry cheesecake).



That night, we visited my Aunt Berta and her husband Vicente. They have both lived in Madrid for quite some time, my aunt having moved there as an adult after growing up in New York. Bert worked on a U.S. Army base for some time, and Vicente has been the Guitar teacher at the American School in Madrid for the past 23 years. He loves the guitar and will play it for you at any opportunity. That, and his personality, which is flamboyant, vivacious, gregarious… not enough words to describe Vicente. He is constantly joking.

Sachi And Vicente

We got video of Vicente playing the guitar, and have put a few pieces–a Flamenco piece, and an improvised “Sakura”–on YouTube. Here they are.

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Hotel Highway Robbery

April 22nd, 2009 1 comment

A few posts out of order. We just got in to Athens, and had to deal with Easter Sunday a second time–turns out the Orthodox Greeks have it a week after the rest of Europe does (or at least they did this year). So the day we arrived, Monday, a lot of shops were closed down. Fortunately, we were able to find some kiosks and shops open, even after 6pm, but almost had to buy from the hotel, which won’t even offer water for free–you have to buy that.

Here’s a sample: at the street kiosk we found, Sachi and I bought six drinks: four 500 ml. beers, a 1-liter bottled water, and a 500 ml. Coke Zero. Total bill: 7.5 Euros. Had we used the hotel mini bar, it would have been 37.5 Euros, for four 330 ml. beers, a 500 ml water, and a 330 ml Coke Light–smaller of everything, but exactly five times the cost!

And laundry fees are even higher here than they were in Spain–8.5 Euros for a single shirt, for example.

I think we’ll use the laundromat down the street.

I can only imagine that there are four reasons people would use these services:

1. They are rich
2. They are on an expense account
3. They are desperate and have no alternatives
4. They didn’t notice the prices and are in for a shock

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Honeymoon: Day 4

April 21st, 2009 Comments off

The last full day in London we wanted to make sure we saw the rest of the major sights, so we headed over to Waterloo Station and made our way to the “London Eye,” the huge ferris wheel on the Thames. On the way, we got sidetracked by yet another street food market (a lot of those in London, not enough in Madrid).



One thing I have to say about London: they handle queues very badly. Or did I mention that before? In any case, the lines for the London Eye–or I should say, the line, it was a common feeder line–was huge, in large part because they sold tickets to lots of stuff there, not just the wheel. So, essentially, you have to wait on a combination of lines even if you want only the one ticket. It was quite a long wait.


Worse was actually in line at the wheel itself. Sachi and I were shuttled into one line, but somehow, people after us were allowed into a line right beside it where they ran past us, probably 50-100 people let in before we were despite getting in line much later. Very annoying.

Once on the wheel, however, you forget a lot of that. It’s a brilliant location for a wheel, good thinking there. The views are wonderful, though you do have to jockey for position inside the car for a good shot. But it’s lovely from up there.


The view of St. Paul’s, lit up very locally via a break in the clouds (click for 800 x 1200 version):


And of course, Westminster Palace and Big Ben (again, click for larger):


Off the wheel and on to Westminster:


No need to post an image of Big Ben from the street–rather common image. But I was interested in the detail of the clock:

Big Ben Detail

Didn’t know there was an inscription on it: “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.”

In a small park across from parliament, a whole bunch of people for and/or for Sri Lanka were gathered in protest. The center of it was just in front of the statue of Winston Churchill, who seemed rather peeved at them.


In another part of the park was a statue I did not necessarily expect:


Maybe I missed the statue of Gandhi.

Westminster itself was a beautiful set of buildings, splendid architecture:


Afterwards, we went to Buckingham Palace, which, frankly, was not incredibly impressive–not nearly as much as Westminster was. There were two of the enormous-hatted guards in front (can they see from under those things?). In a flight of fancy, I imagined the Queen opening the door, leaning out, and screaming, “Get out of my god-damned driveway, you f***ing tourists!!!” But no, just the armed guards pacing back and forth. Seems like a rather boring job.




After that, we were off to Hyde Park, because the weather was good (or good enough) and Sachi was agreeable to me doing some birding. In Western Europe, a common bird is this particular magpie, in starkly contrasting white and black. It was essentially the same as the Azure-winged Magpie seen in Japan, right down to the long, broad tail, save for the coloring–and its commonness. Like the crow or bulbul in Japan, the magpie is everywhere, and frankly, I prefer it over the common birds of Japan.

Magpie Flight


Also well-represented in waterways in London are the cousins the Moorhen and the Coot, as well as Great Tits (with more yellow on their sides than I recall seeing in Japan).




But this is one I didn’t expect to see: a beautiful bird I spied at a distance once before: the Horned Grebe.


Click this one for a larger version:


Also in the park were some interesting denizens, among them a horde of squirrels.

Hyde Squirrel

There was also no small amount of horse, er, residue; equestrians were the reason for this. I wonder how much money you need to do this kind of hobby in downtown London.

Hyde Equest

We then went to the corner of Hyde Park which I’d heard of before: Speakers’ Corner. I wanted to see what Britons wanted to talk about. Of course, it’s not completely free speech; breach certain limits and the cops will stop you. But at that time, only one person was speaking, a fellow going on about Lazarus, to no purpose I could discern.

Hyde Speaker

At night, Sachi and I enjoyed some good food at “Ye Olde London,” a pub we wnt to mostly because it was close to the hotel. Sachi was less impressed by her vegetable order (too many potatoes), but I loved the fish & chips they served.


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Honeymoon: Day 3

April 16th, 2009 1 comment

Already falling behind… here’s what we did on the third day of our honeymoon. Encouraged by our experience at the Borough Market, we tried a few other markets. Neither fully measured up, but were interesting to go to. The first was Old Spitalfields (is there a good way to pronounce that name?), close to Liverpool Street Station, and which is held in a mall.


As usual, there was an abundance of very unhealthy snacks.




Somehow pork looks a little more harrowing when you can make out the full form of the animal. Not that this discourages people from eating it, else, they wouldn’t display it like this:


Sachi and I lunched at a restaurant called “Giraffe,” in part due to an inside joke. You know how sometimes when you are with another person and you see a shop or sign, you read the name aloud to make note of it. Sachi and I quickly noted how redundant and needless this often was, something that peaked with our seeing a giraffe in an ad and jokingly naming it. After that, whenever one of us spoke aloud such an obvious and easily-spotted name, the other would say, “giraffe!”


This was on the way back from Spitalfields. I presume it refers to unwashed detectives.


The answer to the mystery: what did he do after he split up with Simon?


The above we spotted while shopping down Oxford Street in Soho. The street is largely a tourist drag–tons of kitschy tourist bauble shops and currency exchange counters. But the backstreets held some nice shops, and one avenue perpendicular held a stumbled-upon gem:


Alas, it was closed, like many shops in London on the weekend.

After that, we went north to Camden Town for their market. What we found was an incredibly crowded street scene. Mostly, the market was clothing shops, and didn’t seem worth the hassle.





However, I did see one tee-shirt I almost bought. A lot of clever gag tees in London.


On the way back, we too the bus to Tottingham Court Road. Mostly because I did not want to leave London without be able to say that we rode in a double-decker bus. We were in London, for crying out loud.

As we approached our destination, I kept an eye out and say a sign for the Underground. When I saw it, we got off the bus… and soon found no station. Sachi was somewhat miffed, especially when I was unable to find the sign I had spotted. It felt like we could have been a mile from where we needed to be. But after walking a bit, I felt something was familiar, those threes along the street… and looked where I thought it would be–and yes, there was Frevds! This was a pub pointed out to us by a coworker who got his degree in London. I had staked out the pub using Google Street View, otherwise we not only would not have found the pub, we probably would have walked right past the Underground station and gotten lost. So we stepped down into the pub and had a few mulled wines.


In my opinion, more countries should serve mulled wine. Yum!


As we got back home, we noted a procession passing by St. Paul’s. After all, it was Easter Sunday.

Stpauls Proc-01

Stpauls Proc-02

That was our second to last full day in London.

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Honeymoon: Day 2, part III

April 14th, 2009 2 comments

After Sachi and I left the Globe Theater, we headed a bit south, knowing there was something called the “Borough Market” that we wanted to check out. And while it was not what we expected, it was better: a food-laden, farmer’s market-slash-tasty goodies bazaar. Though full of people, it was an excellent experience, maybe one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Borough Market-01

Borough Market-01A

One of the first places we found sold mulled wine, something we later discovered was not so uncommon here. The charming lady selling the wine was pleased to hear that we were on our honeymoon, and offered us a free refill (usually 2.5 Pounds).

Borough Market-02A

Borough Market-02

But there were lots of produce sellers…

Borough Market-03

And tons of food stands, of all sorts.

Borough Market-05

Sachi and I had lots of small stuff, and did not neglect the chorizo. I love chorizo, and they had lots of it here–the real stuff, not the weird stuff they sell in Japan and call “chorizo,” but the actual chorizo, red and spicy and delicious.


We got some of that, of course. But I passed on the pimenton (the spice used to give chorizo its taste, a lovely smoked pepper, “bacon in a tin” taste), knowing that I’d get the best chances in Spain next week.


But nearby, they had a chorizo sandwich stall, and they were fantastic.


Loaded with “rocket,” a popular vegetable condiment here. Found out that it’s called “arugula” in America–yep, the same veggie that got Obama tagged as an elitist by right-wingers during the campaign. Don’t know what the hell they were talking about, it’s quite pedestrian–but then, I’m pretty sure those wingnuts had no idea what arugula was, either.

Another thing we noticed at the market was the sweets. I loved their golden-colored yet distinctly licorice gelato:

Borough Market-04

And some of it was cute, like the owl cookies:

Borough Market-06

But most was simply decadant:

Bad Food-01

Bad Food-03

And these “triple chocolate brownies” you see everywhere. My opinion: “triple chocolate” should have one of the three chocolates be in hard chip form; these were just plain brownies.

Bad Food-02

These fatty foods were all over the place, in large quantities. Along with sausages, pizza, fish & chips, potatoes and more potatoes, meat pies and lots more wrapped in heavy-doughed breading, and in the shops there is tons of junk food–and let’s not forget the beer.

So the question is, how the bloody hell are the British not as fat as Americans? Seriously, you don’t see nearly as many overweight people.

Borough Market-07

Anyway, we ended the market experience with a nice lamb burger with cream cheese and more arugula, eaten in a cathedral courtyard (seriously, cathedrals are all over the place here). Then we walked on to London Bridge (with the prerequisite childhood-song-singing), which, disappointingly, is not the one with the towers. Actually, London Bridge seemed pretty pedestrian to me, kind of an anti-climax.

The we made it around to The Tower, the central London castle fortress built almost a thousand years ago by William the Conquerer (played by Michael Gambon). Sachi and I wanted to go inside until we saw the lines. That’s one thing they don’t do well in London. Fish and chips, well, incredible. Beer, excellent. Manners, first-rate. Queues, not so good. Now, Japan knows queues. Zip-zip, and you’re through. But here, it’s like people manning the lines are constantly confused and distracted. Polite, but distracted.



Really, for me, the highlight would have been the funny hats, anyway, and we could see them from the outside.


So we made it on to the Tower Bridge (which, for some reason, I had always thought was the thing that had the crown jewels and the prison, which confused me as it’s awfully small and let’s face it not the most logical place for that kind of stuff–I must have confused “Tower” and “Tower Bridge”). Along the way, we saw about several guys selling candy-coated nuts (which, for some reason, we only saw sold on bridges. And why are they always from some area between the middle east and central Asia?).

Peanut Seller-01

Bad Food-04A-1

What is there to say about the Tower Bridge? Complimentary photos:

Tower Bridge-00

Tower Bridge-01

After that, we were beat, and wanted to get back to the hotel. So we walked to the closest underground station, to find it closed. Yep, London, city of the partially-operating subways. Maybe it’s that the underground is really old and is falling apart, or maybe that they’re renovating seriously for the 2012 Olympics. Or maybe they just don’t do quick repairs. The Circle Line has been out our whole stay here along with one or two other lines, and half the other lines are partially closed.

So we tried to catch a bus. Ha! Way too crowded with people who couldn’t take the subway. So we caught a cab, it wasn’t too far.


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Honeymoon: Day 2, part II

April 13th, 2009 3 comments

Some miscellany here from walking about London, stuff that won’t fit so neatly into a regular post.

Because you never know…

At Any Time

London Spaceport, I believe.


Actually, the Swiss Re Building, a.k.a. 30 St Mary Axe a.k.a. the Gherkin. Cool skyscraper near Liverpool Street Station.

Turns out that on escalators, at least, Londoners are just following the rules as opposed to being naturally polite. In Tokyo, the change happened without prompting. In London, not only are there signs like these, but sometimes even announcements over the PA telling people to stand to the side if they’re not walking up and down the escalator.


As for No Smoking, it’s nice that most places are like that here. Even pubs. But again, it seems to be the law, not politeness.

Taxis in London seem cheap for short distances–the meter starts at 2.2 pounds, but increases immediately, and goes up quickly from there. But the taxis also have incredible leg room, set up with fold-down chairs to accommodate 4 or 5 people. But spacious for just two.


A fun restaurant name:

Feng Sushi-01

Though I have to admit, I don’t get the ‘slap’ joke. Unless it’s randy, in which case I still don’t get it.

There are a lot of Japanese restaurants here, more than I would expect. But now that I mention it, there seem to be a lot more Asian people–aside from Indians, Pakistanis, and Middle Eastern immigrants–I should say, more East Asian people here than I expected. In any case, London is more a melting pot than many large American cities.

Speaking of Japan, there are also a lot of Cherry Blossom trees here.


And while I’m on things natural, we spotted some local variants of rather randy Tree Sparrows having at it, mating-season style.

Randy Sparrows

And while on birds, it’s always fun to spot the nerdy pigeon:

Wigged Pigeon-01

Finally, this is something I have been seeing a lot lately:

Apple Face-01

Seeing the Apple logo in front of Sachi’s face reminds me of The Son of Man. I tried to explain it to Sachi, and she didn’t get it. Later, I showed her the painting, and she still wasn’t impressed. I chalk that more up to my own skewed sense of humor, though.

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Honeymoon: Day 2, part I

April 13th, 2009 Comments off

Yesterday, Sachi and I had a fun day walking about central London, rather thoroughly unplanned. One thing we quickly discovered: a lot of shops don’t do business on weekends. We didn’t know where they did do business (lots of good shopping areas), we just happened to walk around St. Paul’s around 10 am, and it was virtually a ghost town. Still, we did get to see some nice sites, street stuff, cool buildings and the like. London atmosphere.

I love these little side streets, whether they are Shanghai, London, or Tokyo.


And some of the buildings on these roads are very nice.

Town Walk-01

Town Walk-02

Something that Sachi tended to do was to spot a landmark that seemed unusual, and suddenly insist that we have to see that. “Why?” I would ask; Sachi would say, “that’s an important place!” “Really?” I would tease, “what is it?” And of course, she wouldn’t have the slightest clue. That became a running gag for us. “Hey, look! That building must be important!

Important Building-01

Important Building-02

We eventually found our way down to the Thames, and crossed a pedestrian bridge just south of St. Paul’s.

St Pauls Bridge

Walking a bit on the other side, we stumbled across a building I recognized: the Globe Theater. It’s kind of cool to be walking along and just happening to see Shakespeare’s workplace, like “Oh, hey, look.”


More soon….

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Honeymoon: Day One

April 11th, 2009 4 comments

Sachi and I just flew in to London, and have at least partially decompressed after our first night’s sleep. The flight over was on British Airways, which has no better leg room than any other airline, it seems, but was not particularly bad, either. Surprisingly, it was the rowdiest flight crew I have ever seen–when we were locked down for landing, the attendants were quite loud in chatting and laughing in their area, and during the flight seemed a cross between casual and frantic.

One nice thing about the seats on the plane was that the headrests had “wings” that folded down to brace your head–a brilliant idea which should be executed on every airplane. That helped me actually get to sleep–maybe the first time I have ever done that on a plane. At least, the kind of sleep that feels like it could be for several hours. I was therefore greatly annoyed when our attendant, for some reason, felt the need to access the overhead bins right above me, but was far too short to do so–so she leaned in and pushed heavily against me for a minute or so, ending it with her cardigan wiping across my face. Hard to sleep through that, and I was incredibly annoyed, having been woken up and unable to get back to sleep again. Sleeping on an airplane is quite an accomplishment for me, and this person completely destroyed that experience. Yargh.

Still, we got to the airport intact and not too wiped out, took the Piccadilly Line to Holborn and transferred to the Central Line. At Heathrow, the Underground station was less than impressive–there were only two ticket machines and neither worked properly (the first had a broken touchscreen, the second refused to accept paper money), and the single manned ticket window took literally two minutes or more to sell each ticket to each customer–no exaggeration. We missed one train while waiting on line and just caught the second before it left.

The trains are smaller than Tokyo train cars; in Tokyo, there is enough room between seats so that two or even three rows of people can stand between seated passengers; in London train cars, there’s room enough only for one person between seat rows.

It was at the stations that Sachi and I noted a few things about Londoners, though: first, there is no shortage of gentlemen. Twice, when we had to lug our suitcases up or down stairs, men easily volunteered to help Sachi with her suitcase, carrying it for her. Second, London escalator protocols are similar to Tokyo, in that people who do not walk up or down the escalators move to one side to allow passage for those who do walk. Interestingly, Londoners line up opposite Tokyoites–Tokyo lines up on the left to allow passage on the right, London lines up on the right.

From St. Paul’s Station, it was an easy walk to the hotel. What helped was being able to use Google Street View in advance–I was able to familiarize myself with the area, which helped a lot. We noted three Starbucks along the way–and it was a short way. Yikes.

We are staying at a hotel literally a few steps away from St. Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London Borough and the heart of the city. Not a long walk from here to most of the stuff we will want to see in the city. Here is the view right outside our hotel room:


They say that this St. Paul’s is the fifth. I suppose the first on sank in to the swamp. But the fifth one stood up! (Sorry, Python & the Holy Grail joke.)

The room is right over street traffic, and it’s certainly noticeable, but not terrible–and we’re fairly sensitive to that. The cathedral’s clock tolls every fifteen minutes, we can tell you. But the noise is charming in a way. And there’s no doubt we’re in London–these things pass by outside all the time:


The hotel is nice–cheap at about 75 pounds a night for a hotel this central, and the room, if not spacious, is not small either. Free high-speed WiFi, too!

So we plan to just go out and walk around today, with more structured stuff later on. Alas, we’ve hit rain–maybe our last full day here will be partly sunny, but otherwise we’re in for wet and grey–which, perhaps, is authentic London I suppose.

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Roman Holiday

March 30th, 2009 4 comments

Sachi and I are still trying to nail down the accommodations of our long-overdue honeymoon. We will be in Rome in late April, but it’s turning out to be harder than I thought to find a good place to stay. Hotels in the center of town are nice, but are far too expensive. At first I thought the prices were for the full five days, but the sites keep that nebulous just long enough to try to get you hooked; when I found out that 300 Euros was what these hotels charged for a day instead of all five days of our stay, that dropped out as an option. We found a great hotel in central London for a better price than anything that’s turned up in Rome, even outside the city center.

Apartments are available for rent around the city center, but they too tend to be overpriced. My sister stayed there when she went, but that was a better solution for her family as it was four people. The only affordable (under 100 Euros a day) apartments I can find lack both laundry and Internet, which are not exactly deal-breakers but do put a damper on things.

Hotels outside of city center look better–I found an acceptable place not too far out of town for about 105 Euros a day–but it is all a bit disappointing. One would think that something for less than $130 a day would be halfway decent, but not that I can find.

We’re still trying to figure out which to go for–the more centrally-located and cheaper apartments downtown, or the nicer, more-fully-equipped, catered hotels just outside of the city center which are nonetheless a short bus trip away.

Anyone with suggestions would be very much appreciated!

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March 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Sachi and I came in from China to Narita Airport this morning. We woke up early, at 5:00 am, and got ready to go. At 6:00 am, we went to the lobby and checked out. We caught a taxi to the airport, and arrived earlier than most passengers, securing nice opposing aisle seats in row 18. We left Shanghai Pudong Airport at about 9:00 am, and arrived at Narita just past noon. The pilot warned of turbulence coming in for landing–in fact, I recalled pretty clearly that there were more warnings than usual about that, but simply accepted it as a special circumstance. As we landed, we watched the approach on the cameras below and at the front of the plane, giving us a runway view of the landing. Coming in, as advertised, the plane was buffeted by winds and felt less stable than most planes on landing, but once on the runway, the landing was smooth and clean. De-boarding was uneventful, nothing seemed untoward, and we just went home, happy to be back.

Just now Sachi and I watched the news and saw something they (naturally) did not mention to us: there was a plane crash that morning at Narita, a plane that had left China just like ours had, buffeted by winds just like ours had. The pilots died, but since it was a FedEx flight, they were the only casualties.

But Sachi and I felt kind of spooked when we heard that, remembering the turbulence on landing, and that the flight was, like ours, a large jet from China to Narita. It must have crashed just before we checked out of the hotel. There but for…

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