Tag Archives: Travel

Two Perfect Days in Yokohama

Yokohama harbor For a quick birthday get-away, my husband and I decided to head down to Yokohama, only about an hour’s train ride from Tokyo. We stayed at the Hotel New Grand, an 88-year old hotel located near Chinatown. (I have a thing for historic hotels.) The dark, stately Sea Guardian Bar II serves wonderful cocktails…

drinks

…while Le Normandie offers a nice breakfast buffet with gorgeous views overlooking the harbor. (Picture below courtesy of Hotel New Grand.)

La Normandie

Our first day was spent wandering around Chinatown and the Motomachi/Yamate district (or “The Bluff”), where expats built beautiful homes and embassies in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I was especially intrigued by the ruins of the home of the French consulate, destroyed by fire in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The ruins sit right in the middle of a park with ivy and plants growing over the bricks.

ruins

Dinner was at Aqua Olivine, a French restaurant near the hotel. From the amuse-bouche (who knew seaweed jelly with tuna, crab, & avocado could be so good?!?) to the New Zealand beef, each dish was delightful.

The next day, we spent time at the Yokohama Silk Museum, which was probably the highlight of the trip (to me). They’ve really focused on helping visitors to understand how silk is made, dyed, and crafted into beautiful garments. Among my favorite displays were the live silkworms (I’ll spare you the picture) and an interactive display where you can weave together silk strands straight from the cocoons.

spinning silk

The display showing natural dyes was also really interesting.

silk dyes

Our final stop was the Yokohama Ramen Museum, which is really more like a ramen food court. While my dish was quite good, I can’t say that I would make an effort to return.

ramen museum

Overall, it was a great little get away and I can’t wait to return in warmer weather to enjoy the many gardens, piers, and walkways!

Six nearly-perfect days in London & Paris

My husband and I try to take an annual trip to someplace out of the country or to a US city we’ve never explored. This year was supposed to be Tokyo, but the earthquake hit just as we were booking our flights. We decided instead to head for London & Paris. A copy of Eyewitness’ Top 10 and Hemisphere’s Three Perfect Days article for each city helped us to make the most of our limited time there.

One lesson learned on this trip: NEVER arrive first thing in the morning. We spent the entire first day forcing ourselves to stay awake and trying to look like happy tourists.

After checking into the Hilton Trafalgar, a wonderfully modern, hip hotel right off of Trafalgar Square, we headed to the British Museum. Highest on my list was to finally see the Mildenhall Treasure, a collection of Roman silver discovered buried in a field by a British farmer. I had been pining to see this exhibit ever since reading about it in Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More as a girl.

Next, we headed to the London Eye, where we had already purchased the Champagne Experience. The views are absolutely stunning and are even better with a glass of bubbly in your hand.

london eye

The next day included the Victoria and Albert Museum, which includes a vast display of Victorian silver and an extraordinary art collection. We ended the evening at Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea which was, by far, the best meal of the trip.

Instead of flying to Paris, we decided to take the Chunnel. It was a little more expensive and took a bit longer, but by the time you add cab fare and travel time to and from airports, it comes out pretty even. For the most part, you are above ground, enjoying the English and French countryside. You only go below for about 20 minutes. I was worried about getting a little claustrophobic, but it was really no different than being on any other subway.

Arriving in Paris was a jolt. School girls were screaming at people to sign some petition, scalpers were trying to sell used subway tickets to unsuspecting tourists…pure bedlam.

We hailed a cab to our hotel, The Hotel Regina, where I had previously stayed when I came to Paris in my 20s.

hotel regina

Relatively cheap by Parisian standards, it’s right across the street from the Louvre and has maintained a wonderful old-style Parisian quality, which provided a nice contrast from the ultra-modern Trafalgar. The rooms are TINY, which forced us to negotiate curious chess-like moves as we went about our business. (“Honey, if you’ll just step to your left, I can get around the bed to my suitcase. Then if you can move to where I’m standing now, I’ll have a clear path to the sink.”)

Most of our time was simply spent walking around and taking in the beauty of the Jardin des Tuileries,

jardin

Place de la Concorde,

concord

Arc du Triomphe,

arc du triomphe

and Le Tour Eiffel.

eiffel tower

Place de la Madeline became my favorite neighborhood and I especially enjoyed going into Maille mustard’s flagship store. (Mustard mixed with chablis? Tres bien!)

We found the Metro extremely user-friendly. I chuckled at this safety sign, which warned people not to catch their hands in the subway doors, as the oddly cartoon-ish rabbit is clearly doing. (Don’t be like this silly bunny! Be a smart bunny!)

metro sign

Thanks to Hemisphere’s 3PD article, we knew to buy our Louvre tickets on the other side of the museum rather than waiting in long lines for over an hour through the pyramid entrance. We got our tickets first thing in the morning, then headed across the Seine for “petit dejeuner.” The building where we ate just happened to the former home of d’Artagnan, one of the primary persons on whom the Three Musketeers is based. By pure serendipity, a bus with the ad for the new Musketeers movie passed us as we enjoyed our cafe au lait et croque monsieur.

petitdejeuner

Overall, you are inundated with history and gorgeous architecture in these cities and you can’t help but bring back a little of that with you. We already have a list of sites we’d like to visit when we return.

For now, however, Tokyo beckons.

imperial palace