Osaka is the last stop in Japan. The intention was to have it be relaxing – which it was but it was also pretty “action packed”. And I use that term loosely because “action packed” means something totally different when you’re in your thirties. This leg of the trip consisted of lots of food, claw games, and sightseeing.
A trip to Osaka would not be complete without a visit to Osaka Castle. As we headed up towards the castle, it looked almost ominous due to the rainy clouds that were hovering over us. I have to admit, I was a bit angry that we got rained on but not long after I nearly bit off the Mr’s head, the clouds parted ways and the skies started to light up again.
Right outside the castle walls were these beautiful cherry blossom trees that rested next to some very steep steps. While there was a long line to take photos (gotta get that ‘gram photo), we managed to get our pics and scurry out to get some more yummy eats outside the castle.
Because we needed to stuff our faces some more, we went to explore Dontonburi and I was amazed at how underrated this place is! I just LOVED IT! As soon as you set foot in the general vicinity, you can smell the food that were sizzling on the outdoor grills. And I can’t leave out all the arcades. THE ARCADES! There were probably nearly 10 on each block – ok, exaggerating, but it surely felt that way. I’m ashamed to admit how much we spent but it was all in good fun (for me – frustration for him).
Before concluding our trip in Japan, of course we had to find the perfect location to see some more cherry blossoms and The Mr. did not disappoint with this one.
I’m back with another Japan video. This vlog will cover our first full day in Tokyo.
The vlog opens with us preparing to board the N’EX (Narita Express) from Narita Airport. This train ride was included in the Japan Rail Pass so we were able to board for “free”. You do have the option to reserve your seats ahead of time but we didn’t plan ahead so we had to ride in the unreserved cars – which had plenty of room. The train was immaculate! It was clean, spacious, had hooks for your coat, a drink holder and plenty of leg room. It was honestly nicer than our flight in!
Once we arrived, we spent some time wandering Shinjuku Station because, well, we were lost. We eventually found our way to our AirBnb and dropped off our things.
After dropping off our things we wandered around the Shinjuku area to see what was near us and then headed to Ikebukuro area to grab some sushi at Kura Sushi. Ok, I have an confession: I am not a sushi fan. Whew, so glad I got that off my chest. My whole life I just figured that I never ordered the right sushi roll or I just wasn’t getting the “good stuff.” Now that I have had sushi in the homeland of sushi, I can honestly say that sushi is not for me. So I will let the Mr take over from here.
Discovered this place as we were waiting for the Alice in Wonderland Cafe and thought it would be fun to check out. Walked in, got a waiting ticket, then got seated relatively fast. It is a conveyor belt sushi place but is pretty unique due to the fun casino like game you can play with your empty plates – more about that in a bit!
In regards to the food, definitely would say it has great value – decent tasting sushi at a relatively cheap price!
Back to the casino like game – once you collect 5 plates, you can insert them into a slot and have the tablet above you “run” a game. We had no idea what the different games did but it was pretty fun watching the animations! Unfortunately, we didn’t win anything as our characters fell off cliffs or got crushed by boulders…haha crazy right!?
Ok, I’m back. One of the themed cafes I really wanted to check out was the Alice in Wonderland Cafe. I was under the impression that the different themes were all housed under one roof only to find out that they were all spread out around Tokyo. We ended up visiting Alice in an Old Castle in Ikebukuro. The cafe was down a flight of spiral stairs and shared the basement with 2 other equally amazing themed restaurants. The host was gracious enough to quickly explain the rules of the restaurant which were: 1 food, one drink item per guest and a 500 yen sitting fee. Since we already ate beforehand, we only ordered a couple drinks, fries and parfait. What the cafe lacked in taste, they made up in presentation. The attention and detail that was put into the decor and food was impressive! Take a look for yourself!
After the cafe, we made the trek to the Anata No Warehouse arcade. The Mr was compelled to visit because he saw something that paid homage to Mortal Combat?
Unfortunately, they banned video and photography (obviously I snuck some in) so I will do my best to explain. The arcade was 3 floors of sensory overload. The first floor had several large arcade games and a TON of claw games – MY WEAKNESS. 2nd floor was full of arcade games, pool tables, darts and ping pong tables. Lastly, the third and top floor had all the pachinko games and other games for cash rewards. We put in 100 yen in some game that dropped balls similar to “plinko” on the The Price is Right — apparently we were doing ok because we were playing for a solid 15 minutes. Not bad for 90 cents of entertainment!
This pretty much sums up our first full day in Tokyo and I have so much more show/tell you so hang tight! Watch the vlog below:
We have been back from Japan for a couple weeks now and I’m just getting around to editing the footage we compiled during the trip. I’ve been avoiding them but the longer I wait the less likely I will edit them so here I am with the first vlog from Japan! Actually, more like our travel day vlog but it contains footage from our flight and the footage from the capsule hotel!
We flew Japan Airlines on a Boeing 787 on the usual sunny San Diego day. As we were boarding the first thing I noticed was how cramped it was. I realize that because we were flying economy I wasn’t going to get a luxurious lounger but I was pretty bummed at how little leg room we got considering it was an international flight. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Japan Airlines so maybe I had set my expectations a little too high? Other than that, I was still under the weather so I was extra stuffy and extra gross. I usually can’t sleep on flights so I stayed up almost the entire flight. All in all, my time on the flight was horrible.
After a grueling 11 hour flight, we landed in Tokyo at Narita airport around 5pm. After checking in at the 9h capsule hotel, we walked around the restaurants and shops at the airport in an attempt to stay awake until 9pm.
The 9h capsule hotel was an awesome experience. It’s the perfect place to stay if you have a flight during the wee hours of the morning. They provide you with a bag that contains a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers, and the most unflattering pajamas ever made. Men and women are in separate quarters with separate bathrooms, separate showers and separate pod areas. The capsules themselves are spacious but I’m also only 5’3″ so it may be a squeeze for the taller folks. 9h capsule hotel is a no frills sort of place that provided just what we needed, a place to sleep. To be honest, it was nicer than some of the Airbnb’s that we stayed at during the remainder of the stay but we will come back to that later.
Enough of my babble, here is the vlog to fill in any gaps.
Wow, is it really October already!? I blinked, and the next thing I knew it’s fall. Well, the California version of fall which is sun, sun and some more sun. I can’t really complain though because we LOVE it here so far.
A lot has happened lately and I just don’t know where to start. We have been keeping busy by exploring sunny San Diego. And by exploring, I mean we have been doing a lot of eating. There are so many good eateries within a few short miles of us that it is often times very difficult to resist the temptation. So we usually don’t. HA!
The eternal sunshine allows us to be able to do a lot of outdoor activities with Ittybot. Whether it be a walk in the park, a trip to the playground, cute picnics or even movies in the park! And we have definitely been taking advantage of our gorgeous community pool.
While San Diego still feels like an extended vacation we are so incredibly blessed and happy to call this place home.
But enough of my jibber jabber, lets get you all up to speed with a couple vlogs.
We will try to be better about this blog but seriously, no promises.
For New Years, we decided to head over to visit the Mr’s aunt and uncle in Spain for the first time since we have moved here. Took us long enough, right?
They graciously offered us a room in their home for the 3 days that we were there. Their kids were also in town so it was a full house and we couldn’t ask for more! We had a fantastic time hanging out drinking delicious wine over tapas.
Let me tell you, the food, OH MY GOOOODNESS. The food was amazing.
We spent an afternoon walking around the old city of Avila. The city is enclosed within walls built back in the 12th century. Unfortunately, most of the shops were closed because it was New Years day but we got to see the beautiful cathedrals in town.
The Mr and I got a virus of some sort and we were out of commission the rest of the time. We felt terrible for being in bed all day but they were so kind to watch Ittybot while we tried to rest up. Ittybot loved playing with his cousins that he didn’t even notice that we weren’t around!
We tried to explore Madrid on our last day in Spain but we were still feeling quite ill where it wasn’t even a pleasurable experience 😦
BUT we do have some vlogs for you to check out – what we got of it at least 🙂
Before we even left Florida, we found an amazing deal with IcelandAir to go back to MN in December WITH a 3 day layover in Iceland for under $500. Of course we had to leap on that deal!
People thought we were INSANE for doing Iceland during the winter but they seem to have forgotten that we were born and raised in the arctic known as Minnesota.
I scheduled a tour for each of the three days we were there. Northern Lights tour the first night, the blue lagoon the second day, and a southern coast tour on our last day.
The reason I scheduled the Northern Lights tour for our first evening there is because of the unpredictability of the Aurora Borealis. If there are no sightings on the first night, Grayline Tours will reschedule us for the next night. Unfortunately, the outlook for the first two nights wasn’t very good so they cancelled the tour on Friday and Saturday. Luckily, on our last night in Iceland, the tour went on as planned AND we got to see the northern lights!! To watch the lights dance through the sky was such an incredible experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
On the second day, we hopped on the shuttle to the Blue Lagoon at 10am and got to there at 11am. It was a rather cold and windy day (it was negative single digits!) but it was PACKED. We opted for the premium package so we got a robe and slippers to use during our stay.
As soon as you step out to the lagoon you are first greeted with the bitter cold but you are so consumed in the beauty of the milky blue water and snow-covered mountains backdrop that you hardly even care that your toes are slowly going numb. I’m sure you have seen the pictures of the beautiful women taking what looks like a graceful dip into the pool – I was probably the most ungraceful person RUNNING into the pool trying to get warm with Ittybot. Yes, we brought Ittybot. I’m sure 98% of the people there thought we were NUTS for bringing him but how can we deprive him of this experience?! The water in the lagoon ranges from 100-102 degrees so that first dip was heavenly. Ittybot LOVED the experience as did we. We later found a grotto that kept us warm for the remaining time we had there.
On our last full day in Iceland, we did an 8 hr southern coast tour. We stopped by several larger than life waterfalls and even a black beach! It was a pretty long tour but we got to see some pretty remarkable sights.
If you guys are wondering, we booked practically everything with Grayline tours since I had a 5% discount. Anything helps right?? They have everything from shuttle to/from the airport and many other tour options. The only gripe I had with them is that they were rather uncoordinated at times. There was a lot of confusion around bus transfers which left us out in the cold for longer than we would have liked.
Enough of my babble – here are the vlogs for your viewing pleasure!
It’s been almost a month since we have gotten back from Florida and I’m just now writing about it. It’s a mixture of jet lag, a little bit of Ittybot sickness, and a lot of denial. I didn’t want the vacation to end!
As soon as we landed, we headed straight to Chipotle and Target. They were everything I had been dreaming of for the past 2 years. Ittybot was a big fan of Chipotle – I was a very proud mama at that moment. We spent about 1 hr to 1.5 hrs in Target and spent $200 on who knows what. The true Target experience!
We landed a day earlier than the family so we stayed with some close friends in Orlando. It was great to see familiar faces and it really felt like we never left. I feel so blessed that we have garnered such quality friendships in the short 2.5 years that we were there. Wish we could see them more often 😦
The next day, the family arrived at MCO and I couldn’t be more excited. We see our family quite often via Skype (thank goodness for modern technology) but it’s just not the same. I thought Ittybot would be a little startled by their overwhelming excitement to see him but he was probably just as excited as they were!
After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the sprawling 2 building beach house on Anna Maria Island. Per usual, the family chose an amazing home to spend the next 5 days of bonding together.
There was a little apprehension about the tropical storm that was heading towards the gulf but after living in Florida for a couple years we weren’t even phased. We knew there would be heavy storms for a couple hrs and the sun would soon shine again.
We ended up having an amazing time on the beach, Siesta Key Beach, and we took a couple pontoons over to the Anclote sandbar. And I can’t forget the pool that was situated between the two buildings. That’s where we gathered most of the time – other than the kitchen of course!
Speaking of food, the family basically stocked up for the end of days. Let me remind you that we were staying there for 5 days. I’m talking 7 bottles of fish sauce and 5-6 bottles of soy sauce. WHAT!? They like to go overboard on the grocery shopping but I really can’t complain. Amazing home cooked meals fo’ days! No matter where I have traditional Lao food, nothing beats mama’s home cooked meals. On the days we felt like getting out, we ventured out for some awesome food nearby.
We spent their remaining couple days in Orlando; where we did Downtown Disney, Outlet Malls, and even more pool time. We loved watching Ittybot interact with his cousins. He absolutely adores them. Makes me sad that he can’t see them more often.
After the family left, we had an extra week in Orlando to meet up with friends and do lots, I mean LOTS, of shopping. It is my favorite past time after all. We ended up having to pick up another luggage to bring all my new goodies home. And it was well worth it!
We stayed at the Marriott Vacation Club and I don’t know why we haven’t taken advantage of them sooner! There was a kitchen and laundry machines in the room for us to utilize and being a small family, it helped us out tremendously! There was a small grocery store on site where we could pick up milk, drinks, and snacks. The boys enjoyed the arcade and the many, many pools on the grounds. We definitely would stay with them again whenever possible!
Our friends brought us to King Cajun Crawfish and oh my goodness it was SO amazing. So good we had to go back again before we left. Spicy and messy is the only way to go and they delivered!
We had such a good time back in the states that we booked tickets back before we even left. It does help that there was an amazing deal that fell on our lap and we had to jump on it.
I tried to keep this blog post as brief as possible because the vlogs basically say it all. Check out the playlist below!!