Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday, May 1: Locating a Gluten Free Restaurant and the Two Towers

You can find them on Trip Advisor
Mary was trying to look up some things on the internet, but the connection in our room was dubious.  She ended up sitting in the hallway to get a good connection.  She apparently researched some gluten-free eating establishments.  She wrote the information on the subway map we were using and she still has it, so I cannot provide full information on this.  We left the hotel and headed for the subway and got off quite near the Little Bird Café, although we could not find it.  So, we went back into the subway where the internet connection was good and we looked on Google maps program (instead of trying to use GPS).  I saw which way we needed to go from the map, based on where we had already been on foot.  It turns out Mary is top notch with subway maps and with GPS.  I am good with what lays on the land and normal maps.  Together we are a good team!  I explained, in my previous post, how to get to the Little Bird Café in Tokyo.  We did locate it right across the street from the Library, as indicated on the website.  We were early: they do not open until 1300 hours.  We decided to go to the Tokyo Tower, then return for lunch.
retaining wall with lovely flowers
 We walked back to the subway and got off near the Tokyo Tower.  It was a beautiful day for a stroll through lovely downtown Tokyo.  We crossed the street by The Green Building and were at the foot of the tower in no time.  Down a slope, in the parking area outside the main entrance, was a man and his monkey entertaining a crowd of onlookers beneath row upon row of wind-filled fish.  We paused momentarily, then stepped through the entrance of the Tokyo Tower. 
Hasegawa Green Building

We went way up and enjoyed great views of the city. There was so much to see.  In one place there was a glass window in the floor and Mary laid down and took a selfie, so I took a photo of her taking a selfie.  It is the best. She is so pretty!  We had a great time and relaxed at the diner way up there, I had a Coke and she got something evil; ice cream or something. Then, we were on our way out and guess what?! they had a gift shop. Who knew?  Mary bought some bling for our zipper pulls. Then there were other shops, that apparently were not the official gift shop for The Tower, as they only took cash. So, Mary could not get the awesome Hello Kitty samurai shoulder bag and chop sticks.  We needed our cash for the subway and we were both relatively low on yen. 
Tokyo Tower
Looking down!
 You can see down below, that the monkey show and gathering has departed. Those little lines, way down there, are the strings of wind-sock fish blowing in the breeze.
 Then we headed out.  It was overcast and suddenly a Japanese raindrop hit my face. Then BANG!! Lightening struck very nearby.  Scared the crap out of me, Mary, and several passing business men.  I rather took off down the street.  While Mary stood her ground, as she was attempting to take a vertical panoramic photo of the tower at the time of the huge crashing noise.  Turns out she did not see the flash of the lightening.  I had seen it, and it was simultaneous with the noise, so  . . .    We laughed and Mary dug in her purse and found the little flat umbrella she had bought in Japan on her first trip here, over five years ago.
Here is a photo, I took, which captured the street we came and went on and the surrounding area.  It really started to pour, and Mary's umbrella was compact for a reason: it fit one person under it.  So, we went back passed the Green Building and stood in a doorway with some other people sheltering from the rain.  Then out into it again, to the bottom of the street to the 7-Eleven (yes, that's right!).  We used our bank cards to get some cash, as the Little Bird Café only accepts cash.  We went back out, the rain letting up some, and walked one short block to the Shakaden Temple.

Mary and her compact yellow umbrella
It was huge. We walked around the court yard and did not stay. It's great steps were cordoned off with a rope.  We headed back toward the train station. It started raining hard again, so we took a break in another door way, then continued to the train.  The entrances to the subway tunnels have great winds in them, that are apparently caused by the trains (so I read).  We took advantage of the great winds blowing in the stairwell to dry our clothes as we descended.  We made our back to the Little Bird Café.  It was drizzling and such a lovely day, I felt like writing a poem, but we were walking to the cafe from the subway, and there was no way to sit around and wax poetic.  Mary was cold because she had worn a sleeveless t-shirt today.  It was warm in the elevator, which was just big enough for two people. Up to the third floor.
I followed Mary into a narrow corridor into a bright and cheery dining area with kitchen to the right.  The walls were gray concrete, but there were window posters on the walls giving the effect you were looking out on Tokyo and Greece and a couple port holes where you were viewing sea turtles and fish.  Around the upper part of the room were colorful extra virgin olive oil cans and the occasional pot or pan.  The tables were painted brightly.  We sat at a pink one.  The proprietor had squares of fake green vegetation attached to the front of the counter surrounding the kitchen.  There was a little metal bird sculpture on the counter and a pine cone, that had been painted silver, hanging from the overhead A/C unit. 
The menu was thick with photos of dishes, with name and description written underneath.  All Gluten Free!  How was I to chose?  Then my eyes fell on "waffles and fried chicken"!  That is what I had at the GF place in NYC, when Mary and I went there.  Of course, I got the waffles and fried chicken.  Mary got with waffles with butter and ice cream on top and a Coke.
Mary's waffles with slabs of butter and fancy ice cream
I hardly knew what to eat first.  It was a most delightful experience; worth the earlier trip to find it. Mary said the combination of butter and ice cream was wonderful on waffles. The presentation was lovely and every morsel was delicious.  When I saw the lone pine cone hanging above the kitchen, I told Mary it was for good luck. She said that wasn't true, unless it rhymed.  So, I wrote a poem:
We had a delightful time there. Mary and I did 'rock paper scissors' and she won, so she got to pay.  I paid for our dinner later the same evening, when we went to Denny's, which is located in our hotel, but that is a whole other interesting experience.  I thanked the woman there for making me so happy. She said that she and the man assisting her in the kitchen were both gluten intolerant.  They were very nice.  I did not get her name, but will make efforts to give her a top review in Trip Advisor. **End of Fab Experience**

I stopped and took a train video at a busy intersection, while Mary shivered in her sleeveless t-shirt.  It had stopped raining. She says it's called a tank top, but I think not.  Here is my train video: train crossing in downtown.
We walked passed the hat shop, where I noticed they had taken the "Happy Birthday" hats in, likely due to the earlier down pour.  While having a delightful time eating GF food, we decided to catch the train to the Sky Tree Tower.  When we got to the end of the purple Z line, there was actually signage directing us to the Sky Tree.  We took several escalators up (following the crowd) into a mall/shopping area that walked through to a large outdoor court yard decked with rows of fish wind socks flying in the breeze and picnic tables.  These fish had the flags of different countries on them.  Mary found the Greek one!  Photo of it is in the sidebar - - ->
Sky Tree Tower, Tokyo
We took some photos before going in.  Apparently it is the tallest tower in the world. We went up to the 450th floor.  Besides the fantastic view, they had some aneme thing going on up there, with doom and gloom music; perhaps a movie theme or something.  We could not see Mt Fuji from there, due to it was late afternoon and the sun was blinding us and it was quite hazy far off in that direction. 

you can see the shadow of the tower in the photo
After we came back down on the elevator we sat on a bench and rested our feet.  Mary had a fold-out of the 360 degree view, naming sites you can see all the way around.  I took it and made it into a tube and put my head inside, then rotated the thing around my head, and said, "I can see Mt. Fuji!"  Mary said, "All the people getting off the elevator think you are an idiot."  We went out through the gift shop, where Mary bought some more bling for her purse/bag.  Then we took photos of the fish in the wind with the sun setting and re-entered the evil, tempting, shopping area. 

We went into the Hello Kitty Store, but they did not have the cutemous chop sticks or samurai Hello Kitty shoulder bag.  We left Hello Kitty empty handed.  Mary found more bling in another shop, and this shop also had more cat bags! Oh, the torture! I did buy me one cat bag.  Soooo cute!  There was one store that had bandanas folded around cubes to make animal shapes, and one with just knives, and one with chop sticks, fans, and wonderful small animals shaped in stone and glass.  Mary was looking for a jacket or sweat shirt.  She found a jacket, but the price was 22000 yen, meaning $220.00. We left there in a hurry. Then she found a one-size-fits-all hoody jacket, that she tried on with the help of a young lady there. It has one button that holds the front closed. It looked perfect on her and cost $18.00.  She calls it her Jedi cloak.  Then we rode the Z line and changed to the G line, then when we changed to the H line, the machine took our tickets! We had to each buy another ticket to go just two stops on the H line.
We came out at the exit nearest our hotel, which we did not do when we arrived here yesterday.  Mary said we would need to cross the river. I said, "Look, there is the foot bridge and the shrine we can see from our hotel window."  So, we did not cross the river, but turned around and turned the corner and proceed on to our hotel.  We rested a bit, then went down to eat.  There was a Denny's on the 2nd floor of the Akihabara Washington Hotel.
Denny's does not have the same menu as in the USA. I got the 100 percent beef burger, with no bun.  It came with a bed of onions, some potato wedges, and a cooked green vegetable.  They did not understand 'ketchup', but it was delicious just the same. It was furnished with higher quality tables and chairs than in the US.  We went back to our room and got in our jammies, and watched "Hudsucker Proxy."  Lights out around 11:40 p.m.

Directions to the Little Bird Cafe, Tokyo

When traveling there, take the H line to C2, to street level and go right when exiting the subway. Walk passed the Donky Pastry place then cross the street and continue in the same direction.  You will pass a very busy intersection with a busy train crossing.  Continue to where the bicycle parking is on the left and go down that street.  Enjoy it's relaxing meandering, and when you see the library on the right (a brick building with a broad entry way), look for the bluish bill board just opposite the library.  It states "Gluten Free Café -Little Bird -3F", which means it is on the 3rd floor.  A little further down the street you spy a 7-Eleven, where you can get cash from the Seveni ATM, as you need cash to pay.  LBC does not take credit cards, as they are a very small business.  The Little Bird Cafe is only a brief, and delightful, walk from the subway.
on the way to little bird café

Friday, May 19, 2017

Sunday, April 30 arrived in Japan

We stayed Saturday night at the Novotel in Suwon. This was due to I would not be able to claim my drivers license at Suwon AB security until 6:05 a.m., and we needed to get going prior to that time in the morning to go to the Inchon Airport to fly to Japan.  We got up real early and caught the bus (airport limousine) to Inchon Airport.  We waited in a very long line to check our bags and get our boarding passes, but we were soon relaxing near our departure gate. The flight to Japan was about two hours.  We landed at Narita Airport.  Then we found a money exchange place and we got some yen. Then we went down the escalator and got on the Sky Liner train to the north part of Tokyo. We had reserved seats.  It was a relaxing trip into the city.
Sky Liner sleek and comfortable
When we got to Ueno Station, we transferred to the subway and headed to Akiba, two stops down.  We were disoriented as to N-S-E-W and went out the wrong exit, so we walked up the street and asked for directions from a very helpful hairdresser.  We were looking for Akihabara Washington Hotel.  It was pretty nice, and they gave us damp washcloths at the front desk to freshen up before our trip up the elevator to our room on the 7th floor.  We had a great view from our window.  It was overlooking the river, a shrine, a pedestrian bridge, and two or three train tracks.  It was awesome!

See the blue pedestrian bridge at the bottom of the photo.
It proved a quick way to cross the river from our hotel.
After we checked in and rested a short bit, we ventured out and found this multi-story electronics place.  It was packed with people and a sales person every eight feet or so.  They were selling all kinds of computers and peripherals.  They kept playing fast tempo music "Mine eyes of seen the glory of the coming of the Lord . . . Glory Hallelujah . . ." with occasional singing by a children's choir in Japanese.  Mary kept singing to the music, but she sang "The Brady Bunch!" theme.  She kept saying it was the Brady Bunch song.  Anyway, about one-fourth of the first floor was every design imaginable cell phone covers and iphone cables.
a small portion of the cell phone cover selection
 We found an escalator and went up one floor and made a magical discovery.  Office and paper supplies! OMG! The cutest sticky notes, sticker applicators, clamps, scissors, post cards, note books, 2-pocket portfolios, staplers, adhesives, pencil bags out the . . ., roller stickers, origami paper, rows of pens and pencils, character erasers, blah blah and blah!  That is where we spent our money!
Then we went around the corner and discovered the largest selection of luggage known to man.  Fabulous stuff!  We spent at least 20 minutes perusing the luggage.  To our surprise the had no zebra stripe luggage.  Then we decided we had had enough stimulation and headed back downstairs.  We went out the side door into a covered walkway that was wall-to-wall French pastry establishments.  This is where Mary fell in love.
It was Club Marion, with all the delectable stuffed crepes.  The photo is in the side bar to the right-->.
This is the cover art on the two-pocket portfolio Mary purchased.
It is Sumiko Gurashi.
These crepes came in a variety of combinations including such yummy ingredients as bananas, strawberries, chocolate, whipped cream.  I think we then went on to dinner across the street at a fine Japanese restaurant.  It was relaxing and tea was divine.
Then we shopped a little on the way back downstairs, before heading back across the street to our hotel.  Busy, busy!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Saturday, April 29 -visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

We got up early and walked to the Suwon AB gate and got my DL back (at 6:05 a.m.), and caught the train to Osan AB.  We got a cab to the Doolittle Gate to wait for the DMZ tour bus.  We watched a documentary, on the bus, while enroute.  It was about how the whole situation came about, the cease fire, the DMZ, and how it has evolved into what it is today. We visited the location where tunnels were discovered after a defector notified SK about the tunnels under the DMZ (1974).  We actually went, on a military bus, into the DMZ passed the farming village known as Peace Village, and to the border, where the talks took place. We were encouraged to take cameras and recorders. We were briefed to make no gestures and to stay where we are told.  We proceeded through the Peace House onto a paved area (in two lines), the stood in single file facing the North Korean border, which was about 50 feet away.  The US Army soldier, who was assigned to us, told us about the buildings there and about the ROK soldiers on this side of the border facing the NK border, and about the one soldier on the NK side who was looking in our direction. They call him Bob.  Then he told us we could take photos.  
The building on the left is P2. The three soldiers near
these buildings are ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers (S Korea)
In the foreground is our US Army soldier in charge of us.

Mary took a photo of me in front of the border. Then we got back into two lines and were taken across the road into the blue building , known as P2, where the talks were held.  This building IS ON THE BORDER. The north half is in North Korea, and the south half is in South Korea. He said that when they bring tours to this building, the lock the door on the NK side, and when we all leave the building they unlock the door on the NK side and lock the SK door. The flags of the countries representing the united nations, are in a picture frame on the wall, because when they were on the table, the North Korean soldiers would come in and blow their noses on the flags and wipe the boots with them. The border goes right down the middle of the conference table, where NK sit on their side and SK and United Nations sit on the south side.  It was a tense thing being there.  I never thought I would ever actually be inside the DMZ.
    We also visited a site just south o the DMZ where S Koreans come to pray for reunification, where they have tied ribbons to the razor wire fences with prayers about reunification.  We also visited a site where you could see over into North Korea.  The US Army soldier who was in charge of us, told us to never go into the woods that run along the south side of the DMZ, due to there are still two million unexploded land mines in those woods. 
Prayer ribbons
After we left our Army soldier behind, we were taken to the Dorasan Train Station to see the hopes and dreams of the South Koreans.  This train station is new and beautiful, but hardly anybody uses it.  It is for the day that reunification occurs, they want the north to come down and they want to be able to go north and visit their relatives there, thus a big train station ready to move all these people.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Friday, April 28, went to the river and park

We took the train to the river. We walked and relaxed and walked some more.  We observed many (high school?) students along the river walk. Some had camp tents to keep the sun off.  One girl had a rip-stop sort of big yellow bag, she caught the wind in, then fastened it closed for a sort of chair couch thing.  It was pretty cool!   and a big water faucet (taller than us).  

We found water features, a running track.  We walked up a bunch of steps and walked to the VIP Steak and Salad place, were we waited 20 minutes to be seated. When Mary gave our GF information card to the waitress, she indicated they had nothing for me to eat, not even the salad. So, we left and found a better place on the next block. It was Kkanbu Chicken since 2006.  They brought me most of a broiled chicken, rice, and hot tea. Mary had fried chicken with potato wedges. She was way happy because they had Mtn Dew.
We walked and found the park that runs several blocks from the river into the city. It has a 'squishy way'.  It looks like green asphalt, but is soft to the step, and easier walking for tired old feet and legs.  The Yeouido Park has statues, ponds, birds, play grounds, and lots of resting spots.  We rested awhile and did some people watching.  Eventually we walked to the nearest train station and found a big fish sculpture on the way.
I think it was a fountain, but it was not spouting when we came across it.  It was completely covered in ceramic tiles.  Lovely.  I fell asleep on the train. When we got back to Mary's place we put on "Some Like It Hot", and had Ruffles potato chips and peanut M&Ms for dinner.

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Tuesday, May 25 -going to Dongdaemun textile & craft market!

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