Tokyo, Day 2: Shibuya, Harajuku & late-night yakitori

Chicken skin skewer at Toritake in Shibuya

Chicken skin skewer at Toritake in Shibuya

One of the things I liked best about our trip to Tokyo was wandering through the city’s intricate web of side-streets and alleyways, finding unique sights and enjoying the different culture.

Our second day in the country was spent getting familiar with the streets of Shibuya and Harajuku, the two districts where we would spend most of our time. Along with the rest of our Portland posse, we followed our Japanese guides as they led us from the UNU farmers market (where we would be giving cooking demos) to Iki-ba (the event space for our big dinner) and on to Grain (our commissary kitchen) and back again. We walked the route so many times that my feet were aching and I’m pretty sure that even now, more than a month later, I could find my way from Grain to Iki-ba in my sleep.

But with the crazy traffic, walking was truly the best option, and exploring by foot allowed us to really get a feel for the area. And while it was awesome to be in the hustle and bustle of the city, it was all of the small whimsical touches (from business logos to street art) that won my heart.

It took me two days to figure out this is the logo for a carrier company. As a cat lady, I approve.

It took me two days to figure out this is the logo for a carrier company. As a cat lady, I approve.

Maneki-neko (beckoning cat) statue in Shibuya

Maneki-neko (beckoning cat) statue in Shibuya

Akita dogs getting to know each other. Art by the famouse Hachikō statue at Shibuya Station.

Akita dogs getting to know each other. Art work near the Hachikō statue at Shibuya Station.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tokyo, the first 24 hours: Ramen, shrines & Portland beer

Straw-wrapped sake barrels in the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo.

Straw-wrapped sake barrels in the Meiji Jingu Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo.

I got back from Japan just over a week ago and my body clock is finally back on track. Having to wake up at 8am for work has been pretty miserable but with every sad morning, I think —  I can’t believe I was in Tokyo!

Since I have been terrible about posting lately, I figured some Japanese adventure stories would be a great way to re-live the fun I had and get me back in the blogging saddle.

So, for the back story, my husband and I were part of a Portland group (he was one of three chefs, but we also had a brewer, a wine maker and a coffee guy with us) that traveled to Japan as part of a “PDX meets Tokyo” festival. The event was primarily sponsored by Columbia Sportswear, Airbnb and Travel Portland, which means I got a sweet new rain jacket and we had a free place to stay. Can’t beat that!

The whole trip was a lot of fun, but it was a good amount of work too: we sold Portland products at the UNU Farmer’s Market, the chefs each did two cooking demos, we toured three urban farms and catered a Seed-to-Table dinner for 100 people on Halloween night. While I’ll be posting about those adventures later, I’m going to backtrack to the very beginning — our 24 hours in the city.

Flying in to the Narita Airport

Flying in to the Narita Airport

My husband and I arrived in Tokyo on Monday, Oct. 25, around 7pm. We had been traveling for more than 14 hours, ten of which was the final flight. I love flying so it didn’t actually didn’t seem that long to me. My husband, on the other hand, is antsy by nature and was dying to get off the plane.

Continue reading

Copenhagen, the first 6 hours: from sleep deprived to satisfied

Our first Danish sunset - I've never been so happy to see the sun set at 10pm.

Our first Danish sunset – I’ve never been so happy to see the sun set at 10pm.

When we left Iceland I was practically in tears. Not because I was sad to go — which I really was — but because I was so tired.

I’m not sure if it was vacation jitters or the very real midnight sun (it literally never got dark the whole time we were there) but the last two nights we were in Reykjavik, I didn’t fall asleep until after 6am. While the first morning I could sleep in, the second morning we had to be ready for our shuttle to the airport at 9am.

I think I clocked in 90 minutes of actual shut-eye before it was time to leave our apartment and lug our suitcases to the van. Sleep-deprived, my mood teetered from dazed and confused to frustrated and teary. If being hangry is a thing — and I believe it is — there must be a word for being so exhausted you’re just angry at the world. And particularly angry at all the well-rested people who had probably slept for a full 8 hours the night before. I hated those people.

After groggily making my way through customs and onto the plane, I collapsed in my window seat in sheer delight. I have never been so excited to sit on a plane in my life! Not even the exuberant Danish kids behind us could keep me from falling asleep before we even left the ground. It was magnificent.

And thankfully, upon waking up as we descended into Copenhagen, my feelings of anger had dissipated, leaving only excitement for the week to come, and especially for the evening ahead of us. To celebrate our first night in Denmark, my husband had made dinner reservations at Amass, number 66 on the list of the world’s best restaurants. A good reason for an attitude adjustment if there ever was one!

Continue reading

Eclectic Reykjavik: Odd bits from Iceland’s capital city

Hákarl, Icelandic infamous rotten shark. We wanted to try it but the timing was never right. Toted as one of the worst things in the world to eat, this takes more nerve than my stomach could managed on this trip.

Hákarl, Iceland’s notorious rotten shark. We wanted to try it but the timing was never right. Toted as one of the worst things in the world to eat, it took more nerve than my stomach could manage on this trip. Next time, putrified shark, I’m coming for you!

Reykjavik was a wonderland of charming oddities – from some of the cuisine to the names of bars, our four days there barely seemed like enough time to soak it all up.

Here’s some of the fun things we enjoyed:

A bike is recycled as part of a fence down one of the main pedestrian streets

A bike recycled as part of a fence on one of the main pedestrian streets

Continue reading

Icelandic waterfalls, Geysir and hooray for rain jackets!

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Anyone who knows me knows I hate the cold. I hate snow and winter sports (except for sledding, that counts right?) and trust me, no amount of boozy hot cocoa will convince me to feel otherwise. But when my husband and I decided to make Iceland our next vacation spot, I resigned myself to being cold and wet. We even bought new rain jackets for the occasion, which struck us both as funny since Portland was gearing up for an insane heat wave (it’s been in the 90s since we left). And yet, I’m not sad to be out of the sun. It’s been an amazing trip so far and we fully embraced our Icelandic adventure, spending our third day exploring the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is one of the “must see” Icelandic excursions for a good reason – it includes some of the most awesome natural sights on the island, all within a few hours of each other. Our first stop was at Þingvellir National Park, which was the site of the original Icelandic parliament back in 930. It’s also home to a rift valley, where you can see the division of two tectonic plates, the North American and the Eurasian. The part we were in was so deep it actually created a canyon, which has a pathway winding down to allow for some exploring. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland Continue reading

Reykjavik, Day 2: A little culture and a lot of hot dogs

Sólfar, Reykjavik, Iceland

Sólfar, Reykjavik, Iceland

We started our second afternoon in Iceland with brunch at the KEX hostel, a popular place to stay as well as to eat and drink. It’s a quirky little spot – I can imagine young international backpackers feel right at home here. For us, the food was decent, but the service was a little lacking. We did find out that the trout on the sourdough toast is smoked locally with a combination of moss and lamb “poo.”

The smoked trout was quite tasty but being used to applewood and cherrywood, we couldn't place the flavor profile. Upon asking, we learned it was smoked over lamb dung and moss.

The smoked trout was quite tasty but being used to applewood and cherrywood, we couldn’t place the flavor profile. Upon asking, we learned it was smoked over lamb dung and moss.

KEX hostel

KEX hostel

From the hostel, it was a short walk to the Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture on the Reykjavík waterfront. While some understandably mistake this for an homage to a Viking ship it’s actually an ode to the sun. Regardless of its meaning, it’s a stunning art piece, perfectly fitting for the stark landscape.

Continue reading