Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So this one time, on Christmas, I almost got attacked by a monkey

Luckily for you guys, Andre had the camera and was more than happy to take pictures and laugh and encourage me to get closer. 

I blame it on the Japanese. They are far too trusting. They seem to think that if they print it on a sign, people will read it and obey it. Clearly, they aren't accustomed to Americans...

Today we went to the Monkey Park. It was awesome. You can actually walk up to within inches of wild monkeys. So, naturally, I did. 

My first attempt was a success. I said hello. The monkey looked at me and then just moved away. 

The second time, I thought, well hey the first time went well, why don't I try to play with one. So I picked up some snow. 

I waved the snow at the monkey and that's when things started to go south. 

As you can see, the monkey was clearly not pleased. Apparently I didn't back away fast enough and so the monkey decided to follow up his menacing stare with a hiss at which point, I jumped away quite quickly...

I'm surprised Andre was able to take a picture given how hard he was laughing. 

Today's lessons:  #1 Don't try to play with wild monkeys. #2 Obey the friendly informational signs in Japan. They aren't kidding. 

Here are some more pictures from our day:

Ummmm...excuse me, Mr Nice Monkey, I need to get buy...

That's it for now. We're about to have our first dinner at our hotel run by local Japanese folks. I have no idea what I'll be eating tonight. Eeek. 

Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tokyo - Day 2

Tokyo - Day 2:

We didn't escape the jet lag quite like we hoped and so we didn't wake up until after 11!  But have no fear, we still managed to see the Meiji-Jingu shrine, visit Harajuka and Shibuya and play some video games!

The Meiji-Jingu shrine is A Shinto shrine built in honor of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken.

You pass through three of these torri on the way to the shrine

Here's a shot of the back of the entrance to the shrine. I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside (people come here to pray) 

They also hold weddings here and we got lucky and got to see a couple in full traditional Japanese clothing

After getting our culture for the day, we headed over to Harajuka which is just madness

I am loving the Christmas decorations!

We joined in the shopping madness and even found an entire store devoted to small dogs. Guess who got two new outfits to wear in Zurich?!?!?  While exploring, we found an arcade so, of course, we went inside to play!  Look closely at the picture to see if you recognize anyone...

After that, we headed to Shibuya to see the famous Shibuya crossing. They stop traffic from all directions and then just masses of people cross in every direction imaginable. 

On the way home, we stopped at the 7-11 for a snack. 

We bought Pringles and popcorn instead!

Tomorrow, our goal is to get up and out around 9. We can DO it!

Tokyo - Day 1

I tried to think of a clever title but clearly failed.

I'll get to Tokyo in a minute but first a public service message:  beeeeeeeeeeeeep - for the next 30 seconds, this blog will provide you with useful life information.  Dear Americans, airlines in America are unbelievably bad. Whenever you fly, choose a European or Asian airline.  This test will end immediately following the picture of my gluten free lunch provided by Turkish Airlines. Thank you for your attention. 

That's right. Those are lamb chops. And a hot gluten free roll. Oh right AND as much free red wine as I can drink. 

Tokyo - Day 1:

Soooo...moving on...Tokyo is awesome!

I think we made a good decision and booked ourselves on a Tokyo After 5 Tour the day we got here. The jet lag is pretty intense so after landing and navigating our way via train to the hotel, we took some power naps and then headed out to meet our tour at 5pm. There were a total of four of us plus our awesome guide, Meg. Our first stop was a Yakitori restaurant. We got there by walking through some pretty narrow alleys crammed with restaurants. 



After the Yakitori, we headed to Tsukishima to try out Monj-yayaki. We cooked it ourselves while sitting around a very low table. 

They bring you the fresh ingredients in a bowl. 

Chef Andre at work:  Step 1 -  grill the meat and veggies

Step 2 - make a circle from the grilled stuff and then pour the batter into the middle 

It looked pretty gross but everyone swore it was delicious. Unfortunately, the batter had flour in it so I couldn't eat any. 

Andre got me this instead:

I'm going to starve here

We also tried a traditional dessert called tai-yaki.  It's a cake shaped like a fish and filled with different flavored creams like chocolate, strawberry, etc

Andre enjoying his fish

Check out what we saw in front of the Mikimoto store on the way home

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A very American/British/Australian/Irish Thanksgiving!

It's official.  We're insane.  We did Thanksgiving at our house this year!

Even though our friends volunteered to bring most of the sides, we still ended up cooking most of Friday night and allllll day on Saturday.

I let Andre order the turkeys without supervision.  Before I knew it we had TWO 12 pound turkeys in our fridge.  We ended up baking one and it turned out surprisingly well!

major props to Andre for this!
the other turkey was the big American treat for everyone...we fried it!

Andre and Mitch totally have this under control

needs a bit more oil
we were low on space in the fridge so this is how we kept the beer cold

the table!  for all 14 people

dinner's ready!
trying out the hats mom bought us

the gang's all here!  (except photographer Andre)
Yoda trying on the hat
I believe the rest of the pictures will have to remain offline in order to protect those involved.  

We had a great time and we'll totally do it again another year (maybe in like five after we've finally finished cleaning up from this year...).  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Invasion of the Body Snatchers! errr...I mean the relatives came to visit!

We had more visitors!  Aunt Augusta and Uncle Pete stopped by for a weekend visit while out and about touring in Europe.

We're always really glad to have visitors because it gets us out of the house and out exploring.

We took Aunt Augusta and Uncle Pete to Mount Rigi and Lucerne on Saturday and then on a tour of Zurich on Sunday.

Mount Rigi and Lucerne

We woke up on Saturday to a grey overcast cold day.  We almost suggested not going to Mount Rigi but boy are we glad we went anyway.  We found the sun!  Now I think we understand why the Swiss all flee the city and go to the mountains on the weekend.  It's the only way to see the sun - get above the clouds.

our ride up the mountain
that's the cloud layer folks
We didn't really plan well.  Since it wasn't too cold in Zurich and there was no snow on the ground, we all thought jeans and tennis shoes would be perfectly appropriate attire.  

we were wrong
Sophie was better prepared than we were!

even at the top of a mountain, Sophie can find new friends
Uncle Pete trekking through the snow
he made it!
couldn't help ourselves - it's Sophie-Heidi!
After Mount Rigi, we headed to Lucerne to see the Chapel Bridge and have some weiner schnitzel

Andre and I were all excited because Uncle Pete said he wanted a weiner schnitzel and Andre found this restaurant in Lucerne that cooks the weiner schnitzel at your table.  So imagine our shock when we get to the Old Swiss House and we open the menu to read all about the Old Swiss House at Busch Gardens in TAMPA!  Are you kidding me!??!  At least the one in Tampa never cooked the weiner schnitzel at your table so that was cool.  Everyone said the weiner schnitzel was delicious.  Probably because they used approximately 1 pound of butter for each schnitzel!

mmmmm - the smell of melted butter was amazing

it took two people to handle this crowd

And one last shot of the bridge as we headed home:


We were total lame tourists on Sunday and didn't take any pictures!  We did a guided tour of Zurich which was actually really cool for Andre and I and probably much better for Aunt Augusta and Uncle Pete since they actually got to hear the history of the buildings and things we were looking at instead of just me and Andre pointing at stuff and saying hey isn't that cool?!

Who else wants to come visit???