Seoul, S Korea, a walk in the park.

After 12 hours in the airplane, checking into the JW Marriott (company paid for) was wonderful. Full service for sure. I wasn’t allowed to carry my bag and was escorted to my room personally. Very lovely. Sleep was easy.

Waking up at 3:30 am local time was a bummer. Still, 6 hours was enough that I just decided to stay awake and futz around the internet a bit. Breakfast at 6 in the concierge lounge before the day started.

“Breakfast at the lounge. Soup, green veg, grilled tomatoes and and Americano. With whatever this beautiful roll is. It’s early here. 6am. I was up at 3:30. Exercise, a tourist destination and then a nap before dinner I think. 😘” (That’s the text my hubby got.) The attendant was very nice, and said she’d try for me when I asked her to find a ballet class I could take. Strange request, I’m sure but she gave it a shot. It didn’t happen.

I decided to take a walk to the Han River as it was still only 8 am and nothing was open. Google said walking wasn’t an option! Weird. The front door concierge gave me the “jogging route” card and directions. Right turn at the Starbucks and under the freeway.

Directional tiles in the street assured me I was going in the correct direction. Banpo Hangang Park was lovely for a walk in the brisk spring morning air. 45 degrees outside on the early April day. (The Visit Korea app is a great tool for finding information in English.) People out getting exercise like myself and a few walking their dogs, a few bikers maybe going to work.

Late March early April is cherry blossom festival time and there were lots of blooms. There was a small block park I passed through that had evidence of a Cherry Blossom festival. Late March and early April is the season for that and I’m guessing that’s why the Lanterns were on the trees.

It was a riot of pale pink. Really pretty.

On the way back I successfully navigated the pedestrian tunnel to get across / under the freeway. And later at another big intersection, a mostly closed underground shopping mall. Might be worth visiting again when it’s open. 😉 Watching were people cross is helpful! Aka, following the crowd. The sign is translated via Google Translate app. All in all a good morning. Up next, my visit to the N Tower.

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Paris momentarily – Victor Hugo

Embarking in a brief sojourn in Paris. The Champs Elysées Marriott is gorgeous and after a nap to reduce jet lag and adjust to the time, I’m heading to the bar for a cocktail. An aperitif before dinner. Many restaurants are closed on Sunday or open at 7pm. This girl is going to have to adjust.

Ordering a Victor Hugo cocktail. Named after the French poet / author (whom I had to look up). So I do know Les Mis and Hunchback of Notre Dame and should have known Victor Hugo! Shame on me.

Victor Hugo. The beverage is delicious! And, progressive France, came with paper straws. Love it. Cheers.

And typical me, ease dropping on the conversation (in English) between a French woman and two foreign men who’s accent might be African (?). She’s very passionate. The 4th, a woman just arrived and off they go. All very elegant. And my business associate has just sat down. Fun.

Great Buddha at Kamakura

Beginning to write is the hardest part. That beginnings are hard could be said about many things in life. And with my Libra indecisiveness it can sometimes be a real dilemma. I was having some trepidation about braving the Japanese train system all by myself, especially after having witnessed rush hour the previous evening. Thank you to my sweetie for just the nudge I needed. After committing emotionally I had a really lovely day exploring the Kotoku-In temple. Getting there was easier than I had anticipated.

The Shinagawa station was just a block away from my hotel. The people at the information desks were very nice and directed me to the ticket kiosk, which had an “English” tab thankfully. After getting my ticket and directions to the platform (another stop at an info desk) I was on my way. I have to say google translate and google maps were super helpful. The platforms have colored bars spaced about and I had to ask a nice woman where to stand. She was very sweet and had good English of course. It was a 50 minute train ride with about 10 stops and the people watching was fun. Mostly older people, mostly women, with the exception of a cute young couple dressed all in black. Japanese goth perhaps? Probably not.

After getting off at the Kamakura station I decided to walk the 1.7 km to the temple. “Mostly flat” according to google maps and it was. An easy casual walk. Noted some other Caucasians heading in the same direction and sure enough we all made it.

These guardians greeted us at the gate. Once inside we paid our ticket fee (very cheap, cash only). Glad I went to an ATM the day before. The grounds were of course beautiful and immaculately groomed. Serious yard envy. I loved all the contrasting colors of green and textures. The Great Buddha really was beautiful.

http://www.kotoku-in.jp/en/characteristic.html

His face had a serenity to it that was relaxing and peaceful. I really felt it. Walking around the bronze was amazing with the perspective and workmanship. And you can even go inside the statue! Super cool. Down the stairs then back up a slight spiral gets inside. That was the opportunity to touch (and I wasn’t the only one, note the student in the picture).

When the belly of the Buddha filled with more people and students I headed out. To find that the tour busses had arrived. Lots more people milling about and photos galore. The 4 glamour boys posing was hysterical. #livingintheageofinstagram. So I wandered around and looked at the special spaces. It seems that heads of state are known to visit and leave a gift, such as tree being planted or a dedicated piece of stonework with a quote or saying of graciousness. I had to laugh at this one who left a portrait of himself. (Again google translation to the rescue, sort of.)

I even tried to peak in the employees only portions, wanting to see how people lived and worked. Not much to see. Nobody around at all.

So after a snack, buddha shaped cracker and plum soda, I walked back to the station via another route. Kamakura was charming! A lovely town, and adjacent to Japan’s only beach I think. It reminded me a California’s Mill Valley. A downtown business district with busses and public transportation, then residential and a gentrified walking, shopping, dining district. There were lots of signs in English only, so evidently there is an expat community or they are seriously marketing to tourists. Maybe both. I could certainly live there, much more relaxing than big city Tokyo. I leave you with some more pictures of a lovely afternoon.

Students eating lunch on their mats.

Tokyo Totos

Aka toilets. Such a learning curve. Arriving to Tokyo mid evening the city lights were gorgeous. Bright and busy as expected. We, I and my coworker, check into the hotel and decide to have a small bite and a glass of wine. So meet in the bar in about 10 minutes or so. The hotel is elegant but not too lavish. You swipe your room key past the elevator scanner and it takes you right to your floor. Once inside, like European hotels, you have to turn the master power switch on for everything else to work. Whew. Put the luggage down and find the toilet. It’s got it own separate closet, away from the shower and tub. The light is already on as I open the door.

What the hell is this? Buttons on the toilet?! Now what? Well, nature calls, so while sitting I do a little research. BTW the seat was warm, very comfy. Thank you google translator for being able (somewhat) to read the buttons. The red square is “stop”. Should have been intuitive now that I think of it. The umbrella looking button is butt, causing a mild bidet action, the third button is “female butt”, changing the angle of the bidet action (not really helpful). I have to admit that YouTube was actually more helpful with this one. How to Survive in Japanese Toilets Thanks buddy! I needed that. Bidet water pressure I figured out to adjust. And last, but not least is the drying action. A warm breeze is supposed to dry everything. I didn’t have the patience to wait that long.

The public Toto I used at the Tokyo Tower had a music option also! I’d like that in my hotel room next time please. 😉

Google translate not quite right. Once that app is open you can select camera and align the lettering. Proper alignment is everything and I have to believe that Asian characters are more tedious for that app. Some of the words were pretty funny and clearly wrong.