Sapporo

Sapporo

After checking in at our Sapporo hotel (Gracery, across the street from the station) we visited the huge food market adjacent to (or in?) the train station before hopping a few subway trains across town to find the famous Genghis Kahn BBQ restaurant for Jingisukan. beautiful, clean (char)coal! Remember what I said about that Ferris Wheel requirement? After dinner we went to the JR Tower observatory next to our hotel. These folks prefer their glowing lights a little closer, thank you!…

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Noboribetsu

Noboribetsu

Another few trains and a bus ride later we arrived in Noboribetsu, also known as “Demon City,” which welcomes you with a big angry club-wielding demon at the train station. A good dentist could really clean up in this town. On the bus ride to the hotel we went past a giant blue demon, like Paul Bunyan’s evil brother at a Duke game. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of that, but he appeared again later in the…

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Hakodate

Hakodate

On Tuesday morning the family assembled for a long three train journey to Hokkaido. At our first destination, Hakodate, we visited the cape just as the sun started to set behind Mt. Hakodate. I disappeared to take this picture as the cabs waited for us. I could hear Sam yelling for me, but she couldn’t see me. A few minutes later the rest of the Fam realized what the view looked like on the western side of the cape and…

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Tokyo

Tokyo

On Sunday we took a Shinkansen from Odawara to Tokyo to meet up with Sam’s family. Both her sisters and their husbands joined us as well as her mother and her brother-in-law’s mother for the rest of the trip. Her sister booked us all rooms in the Shinjuku Prince hotel, a high-rise not far from the subway station and across the street from the bustling core of Shinjuku – the densest part of Japan. After the family assembled in late…

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Kyoto

Kyoto

On Tuesday morning we started our JR passes and took the express to Kyoto. On the express, the ride is only about twenty minutes, surprisingly quick. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we walked to Nishiki Market for lunch. Interesting to look at, but maybe not to actually eat. Unless your name is Sommarat. We were a little bit frustrated because we were refused seats at a few restaurants (apparently for being foreigners) and then were served rather…

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Hakone

Hakone

Saturday we took a Shinkansen to Odawara. I can’t stress enough how wonderful the Shinkansen experience is. It’s insane that we do not have this option for travel in America. I travel to Oakland for work often and I’d much prefer to take a high-speed train than take a southwest flight.  Remove the time of checking in at the airport, boarding, deplaning, etc. and the train would actually be faster (if we can make them as fast as Japan does). After…

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Osaka Aquabus

Osaka Aquabus

Yes, I did see the actual aquabus. It is a real thing. 16-year-old me would be so proud. Now the lyrics make a little more sense. Before I could see the bus, we had to get to Japan. Our flight on JAL was nice. (international flights always tend to be “easier” than long-haul domestic) the large seats with ten-inch screens and new movies made the nearly twelve hours on board somewhat comfortable. The food was decent for an airline and stewardesses…

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Jasper/Banff 2018

Jasper/Banff 2018

Friday night we flew into Calgary around 9. We made it to our hotel around 10pm as the sun was setting.  The next morning we went back to the airport to pick up our rental car. The thrifty agent let us know they had a “special” on 4x4s and he recommended it if we were driving in the mountains. It would only be twice the price of the compact we’d requested. We declined. Suddenly our original compact car disappeared from their system…

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Loreto Snorkeling Trip 2018

Loreto Snorkeling Trip 2018

Last year Sam and I stayed in Loreto on our way to and from the San Ignacio Lagoon. We snorkeled on Coronado island and at Playa Santispac and enjoyed such a diversity of underwater life that I vowed to come back. As luck would have it, six of my snorkeling friends (though, sadly, sans Sam) agreed to try it out when the water warmed up in May. We unspooled from our flight and waited in that long customs line around…

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Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

On Thursday morning I drove east on the 10 past the stretch of Los Angeles suburban sprawl until the malls faded into gas stations and the houses thinned to shacks and sheds. Once in the open desert on the other side of Riverside county I realized I forgot the annual national parks pass we’d purchased in sequoia last spring. A warning, perhaps? When civilization whittled to nothing and the last turbine faded from view, an oasis appeared on the horizon. At…

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