So as I briefly mentioned earlier, the main reason I decided to revisit Tokyo was because Tim wanted to see one of his favorite trance DJs at a nightclub there. Club ageHa is this huge club that’s situated past a river to drown out the loud bass that plays all night. It had several different rooms with DJs playing different types of music. There were about 2,000 people there, and go figure some of the first people we meet are a couple of UCI kids that are studying abroad here. Oh Irvine, zot zot. Above & Beyond was pretty fantastic, and Tim pulled us up to front row center as soon as it began. This was Tim’s sixth time seeing them but he said it was by far the best one. Apparently the guys started out in Tokyo and the crowd was obsessed with them. Best part was that no one was pushing so we weren’t suffocated at the front, how often does that happen at shows?! We ended up leaving the club after 5am as the sun was coming up, even though other DJ’s had come on after them and the place was still bumping. Of course we got lost on the subway getting back and by the time we got back to the hostel it was past 7am. Good news is that 7am meant the start of free breakfast at the hostel so we headed straight for the kitchen. I’m sure everyone enjoyed watching two sweaty kids still dressed from their night out (and probably me with eye makeup down to my cheeks) walk in and grab some seats. Needless to say, we didn’t get much of an early start on Sunday. We had been wanting to have some GOOD soba for a while now and I did some research and found a really cool restaurant that was built in 1880 and is now hidden amidst skyscrapers. It was a super cute spot with a bamboo garden entrance and a really peaceful, chill ambiance. And the soba was amazing! So healthy and light and filling all at the same time. Great way to end our lazy Sunday, and our short but fun weekend in Tokyo.
Senso-ji Temple. Asakusa, Tokyo
Kando Yabu soba restaurant
Above & Beyond at Club ageHa
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Grilled oysters in Miyajima
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What the heck, I’m in Japan? Last week I was in Italy and this morning I was in NYC and now I’m here.
Japan has been very cool so far. What a different type of trip from Europe! I met my parents and sister in Tokyo this past weekend, and we spent a few days checking out the busy streets and exploring beautiful temples in the outskirts of the city. This morning my parents and I woke up at 3am (yes, you read that right) and went to the fish market. A friend of mine just recently told me about a show he watched on tv about it and how interesting it was, so I knew I couldn’t miss it. We got to see GIGANTIC pieces of fish pieces and witness some of the auction. After that, my dad and I stepped into one of the small sushi restaurants next door and had the freshest sushi I have ever had in my life. I’m a fan of eel but this eel was on a whole other level. So soft and delicious, and my dad commented on how it didn’t even have that fishy taste a lot of sushi has. I was very proud of my dad because he does not eat sushi, but there he was next to me eating squid and whatever else I put on his plate for him. Sushi at 6am – now that’s a first!
Tokyo Fish Market - 5:30AM
The freshest unagi I have ever had in my life!
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When someone tells you “One of the finest meals you will ever eat will be at…” and adds that it’s super cheap, you listen and you go!
Back when I was initially planning my trip, I sent an SOS out to my friends asking if they had any contacts in Europe that were in the know. MaiLien reached out to her friend who lives in Poland who was super friendly, but at that time I thought the chances of me getting out here were slim to none. So when I randomly sent Matthew an email last night saying “hey guess what I’m in Kraków” I wasn’t expecting much since it was so last minute. But this morning I was pleasantly surprised to open my email and find an essay on where to go, what to eat, and things I must do while I’m here. I have no idea if he had this laying around somewhere or if he wrote it up this morning, but its chock full of great tidbits. Like, skip the inside of the castle but do check out the alter in the church. I would have missed that entirely but decided to see what he was talking about, and when I walked into that church all I could say was WOW. Definitely one of the coolest churches I’ve seen with all of the intricate patterns and the huge, stunning alter with beautiful stainglass over it leading up to a gorgeous ceiling. He’s also mentioned some other great spots like a coffeeshop and a small museum that I will try to hit up too if I can fit it in.
So here I am, sitting at the swanky Szarsa Kazimierz in the Jewish District, enjoying a tasty meal and being VERY thankful for a warm day. When I first arrived in Kraków, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. The train ride was long and confusing, I was exhausted and felt so far from the places I wanted to go to next, I wasn’t sure if I liked my hostel, and it was too cold! But I think I was just burnt out from traveling because after a full nights sleep I got to see some of the beauty and history of Kraków and I started to really enjoy being here. Also, my hostel is very much like someone’s apartment with a very easy-going, friendly vibe. I went out for a few drinks last night, and when I came back one of the employees was in the living room doing the night shift. We ended up chatting for another hour over coffee and pasta (did I mention they have free breakfast and dinner!) and I got to hear his story about how he ended up in this city and at this job. I always love a good story. I like this city more everyday I’m here, and now I’m a little bummed to be leaving tomorrow. But I guess that just means it was worth visiting. Maybe I can learn Polish and move out here someday! I’ve been saying that about a lot of cities huh.
Next stop… Italia!
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I have had such a fantastic time in Berlin – it really is such a great city! I probably wouldn’t have come through this way if Robert didn’t live here, but I’m so glad he moved here hehe. Robert was an amazing host (his apt is siiick, bonus!) and he made sure to take me around to a bunch of different spots and teach me about as much history about the city as he could in 3 days. We even had German lessons – I can successfully say 2 words in German now, good job Robbers! I’m so proud of him for making this move here, and for sticking it out even when things didn’t go exactly as planned. He’s settling in really well in Berlin and is experiencing so much more than he would have been had he stayed in his NYC bubble. Major props, my friend.
Things I noticed about Berlin:
– The typical breakfast here is fantastic! Lots of meats, cheeses and veggies. Everything tastes so fresh, and it was a much needed change from my typical pastries. Oh yea, and their coffees are HUGE here! I felt like a kid in a candy store when I got my order! The service however is just as bad as France, oh well.
– Everyone has a dog and these dogs can go everywhere: in restaurants, on the bus and in the subway. And I’m not even talking about the little prissy dogs people fit in their purses either, but fortunately the dogs are all super well behaved.
– There are a lot of reminders and memorials about the Holocaust (more on that later.) Germany is definitely still apologizing for what happened.
– The dance party scene rocks. We hit up an outdoor bar with some of Robert’s friends the first night and danced until 5am. It was exactly what you would think of with the Berlin scene: grungy and dark, with lots of people wearing leather and rocking out to techno music. It was as if we were all dancing together because everyone was into the music. I had a total blast. You Germans know how to have a good time.
– The birthday tradition here is different in that the birthday boy/girl throws and pays for their own party. Robert took me to a birthday bowling party for one of his good friends which was also a lot of fun and it was great to get to meet some of his friends here.
– Biergartens and bratwurst. Just as awesome as you would imagine. Love!
– Its not as difficult to get a job here as it is in other European cities even if you don’t speak German (well it would be a lot easier if you did, but there are opportunities for the English speakers.) It’s possible to get a temp visa and then your work will typically provide a working visa for you. Hmmm, idea! Working in Europe for a few years is something I still want to do, so you never know…
Graffiti art along the Berlin Wall
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Initial Observations on Brussels:
– Ahhh Northern Europe is cold and I’m completely unprepared wardrobe-wise.
– They weren’t kidding about the number of drunk people stumbling around.
– Wow, this is the first time in Europe that they’ve served butter with bread! (Also, earlier today a friendly waiter handed me ketchup with my meal and said he knows I like ketchup… Ooh American stereotypes, even though it is true for me!)
Brussels and I didn’t get off to a great start. I got off the train to a beautiful overcast, rainy day for one. The hostel didn’t take credit cards so I had to run around looking for an ATM (I started to be moody to the reception guy, but then decided I should be nice to him since it’s not his fault and well, he holds all the power.) My hostel stinks and even though my roomies are nice they aren’t much fun – I definitely don’t plan on spending much time there. And then I got majorly lost trying to find a recommended dinner place and my umbrella turned traitor on me and cut a huge gash on my knuckle. So, imagine me holding a scarf over my hair while sucking on my knuckle with one hand and holding a soggy map with the other, all the while stepping in giant puddles and trying hard not to fall on the slippery streets — I was not a happy camper. But then with the help of a few local angels, I finally found my way to the restaurant and dove face-first into a giant bowl of moules frites (mussels). Also, the moment I sat down I got some texts from my friend who lives an hour away – he made the drive over just to hang out with me, so sweet! We hit up Delirium, a popular beer bar in the city which boasts hundreds of draft beer. For starters, I got a pint of Belarus Triple which was delicious and surprisingly 10% alcohol! Had to switch to Barbar Blonde after that just to make sure I was able to get myself home. My friend Bren was a total sweetheart though and made sure to drive me to my door so I wouldn’t have to walk home alone. Bren, it was so great to see you after all these years. I’m so happy that you’re business is thriving and I’m quite impressed by you, even though I gave you a hard time about certain things. :) Thanks so much for coming to hang out in Brussels with me, and please come visit me in NYC so I can return the favor!!
Brussels was a very interesting town to visit. The contrast between rich and poor is pretty extreme at times, with one block being super nice and the next one being graffitied and run down. At one point during my walk around town I even felt unsafe and turned around to head for a more crowded area. There is a lot of diversity, more than I expected, and I’m curious to know if the neighborhoods are more or less segregated. Oh, and most of the time I heard people speaking French over Dutch, and as Bren tells me that’s more common here even though more people should know Dutch (apparently the older people speak Dutch but not the younger ones as much.) I had 2 nights in Brussels and I think that was enough to get a good feel of the area. If I had more time I would have liked to visit other cities in Belgium, but that will have to be at another time. I hope my hostel in Amsterdam is better than the one I stayed at here, and I am sooo excited to be staying at an APARTMENT this weekend! Can’t wait to see you, Robbers!
- This belgian waffle definitely isn’t made for breakfast!
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Today I definitely didnt have a case of the mondays.
Monday was my last full day in Barcelona and I definitely wanted to make it worth it. John suggested doing the bus tour, and I thought it’d be a great way to be a lazy butt but still be able to feel somewhat accomplished as a tourist. Thanks, John – it was a pretty good tour and I soon became overwhelmed with all the things to do and places to see. Should I take the cable car up to the palace, or roam around some gardens? Check out a museum? Noo, instead I decided to beach it. That’s more like it! I spent my afternoon having a long delicious seafood lunch by the beach, with a friendly waiter who gave me free dessert and this amazing amazing grappa. Then I strolled to the beach and soon fell asleep, woke up and realized I was late for meeting Ramon, a friend of Abi’s who is a local. Ramon was sooo great – he took me on a mini tour around the city, showing me his favorite squares and places. He also got me hooked on the Catallan drink of vermouth with tea and soda. Dangerously good!! He was such a great person to hang out with, and I hope to repay the favor when he visits NYC in the winter. After we parted ways, I wandered into a bar to watch the Barcelona game with a rowdy group. It was a lot of fun and the guys yelled out for free shots every time Barca scored (and they scored FIVE times.) At one point one of the players who scored took his shirt off in a victory moment and one of the guys did the same thing – too bad the physiques didn’t match, but it was still hilarious nonetheless. All in all, I would give today (and Barcelona) an A+, and I feel so blessed to be able to be on this journey.
Next stop, San Sebastian!!!
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