Tag Archives: travel

Japan: The Food! Part Four (Finale)

To see Parts 1, 2, and 3, click here! To read all my posts on Japan, click here.

We continue the food journey of Japan in Kobe, where we once again got lost because of the really lame map in our guide book. We were attempting to find a gyoza (dumplings – that’s all they serve) restaurant, with very little success. This kind man offered to help us, and after calling the restaurant multiple times, and wheeling around in circles for about 10 minutes (hey, even he was lost), we eventually found it. Not really worth the effort, but as good as gyoza can be, I guess. Kind of a dive, though.

JP looks unimpressed.

The real reason for being in Kobe was to try Kobe steak. Oh, yeah, baby. We had a reservation at the restaurant recommended in our book, and made sure to find it ahead of time. It wasn’t too hard to find, but we had about an hour to spare before our reservation, and it was chilly out, so we stopped at the local Victorian-style Starbucks.

Finally, time for dinner.


I cannot express just how amazing this meal was. We sat right in front of a grill, watching the chef cook during the whole meal. He was methodical, and precise with every movement. Each little onion ring was flipped individually. Mesmerizing.

Started with a salad and raw scallops.

Then… time for the steak. He only cooked part of it at first, then cooked vegetables, then the remainder of the beef. Perfectly done, melt-in-my-mouth tenderloin steak. It was the best meal of my life. I’ve never had a steak that comes even remotely close to the tenderness, and the amazing flavour of this one. That’s saying a lot because I live in Alberta, home of Alberta beef, which is pretty darn good.

I want to keep talking about this steak, but I really don’t have anything new to add!

So, on to the subway station, where we spotted this gem. From super-delicious to none-to-appetizing (just goes to show how much packaging affects our decisions to buy food!):

That night, JP wanted a little snack, so he went to pick up a banana at the local 7-11. Here’s what he found (there’s no shortage of packaging in Japan):

Finally, to conclude my food posts of Japan, I will end with my birthday dinner at The New York Grill, in Tokyo. This is the restaurant where scenes from “Lost in Translation” were filmed, and easily our most expensive meal ever. It was pretty posh! The food was amazing, and I decided to treat myself with Japanese steak again; it wasn’t Kobe beef, but from a different region of Japan – still freakin’ amazing.

Before dessert, I informed the waiter that it was my birthday, and asked if I could please have some candles with it. I was really pleased that he used two candles: they look like the number “11”, same as my birthday!

I chose the brownie sundae.


Japan: The Food! Part Three

To see Parts 1 and 2, click here! To read all my posts on Japan, click here.

When we were in Osaka, we wanted to eat some of the locally popular okonomiyaki, which are thick, savoury cabbage “pancakes”, filled with meats or seafood, and drizzled with a sweet sauce and mayonnaise. Following our Frommer’s “Japan Day by Day” book, we went looking for a restaurant called Takonotetsu.

Let me just say, that while our guide book is certainly beautiful to look at, with great photos, glossy pages, and fairly decent write-ups, the maps suck. Seriously, they suck. It was really difficult to determine where exactly the dot on the map was supposed to be in real life. There are very few street names on the map, and even if there are some, we couldn’t always find them on the streets. So, we went walking where we thought we would find this restaurant, and walking… and walking…. We finally found someone who had a cell phone and could help us find this place! Once again, people were so helpful! This guy actually went out of his way for at least 10 minutes to walk us to the restaurant.

Yes, that’s right. It took 10 minutes, because that’s how bad the maps are in our book. Argh! So, we get into the building, go downstairs, and the first thing we saw was a little taste of home, in a weird way:

Then a few more paces and our helpful guide informed us that we had a arrived. The restaurant he had brought us to was named, “Pizza Ball House.” Um, ok, thanks. Remember, we were looking for “Takonotetsu”. Our guide left, and JP and I decided we would try it since we didn’t feel like walking anymore, and besides, it looked like they served the same kind of food. Turns out, we were at the right place, but the name Takonotetsu is only written out in English on the menus. The food was really yummy, but we should have tried the okonomiyaki, too, because we didn’t really get a chance to after that – that’s what the ball shapes are for on the griddle. They are balls made from octopus, ginger and scallions, with a special sauce.

As we were walking to our hotel, through the train station, we came across a humungous underground marketplace. It was insane! I couldn’t get over the range of food and the amount of money people would lay down for confections! People were lined up out the door for chocolate covered rusks (and they weren’t cheap!!). There were cute character cakes,

really pricey gift boxes (this one is over $300!!),

amazing salads,

and fill-your-own sushi trays, with individually wrapped sushi pieces!

This place blew my mind, and we knew we would return the next day to get food for our train ride to Kobe!

There is still more…
To be continued!

Wordless Wednesday: Tokyo

(For more Japan posts, click here. So now this post is officially not wordless.)

Japan: The Food! Part Two

To see Part One, click here.

OK, I admit it; when it was time to eat breakfast in Japan, we totally cheated. The idea of having rice and miso soup (not to mention all the things we didn’t recognize) first thing in the morning just didn’t cut it. Luckily, there is no shortage of French bakeries, so we were able to find croissants easily. This was a typical breakfast for us in Kyoto (that’s yogurt, by the way):

During our stay in Kyoto, we decided to have lunch at Izusen, a famous shojin-ryori (Zen Buddhist monk cuisine) restaurant, located on the grounds of Daitoku-ji, a sprawling Zen temple complex. Talk about complex: we got lost trying to find the restaurant. We were *this* close too, when we turned around to try a different direction! Eventually we asked someone for help. One thing I will say about people in Japan is that they are extremely helpful! There were a few people who bolted away from us as quickly as they could, presumably because they spoke no English, or we were really scary looking. But for the most part, people went out of their way to help us.

We arrived at the restaurant, and there were plenty of tables outside, in a beautiful garden. When we stepped into the restaurant, one of the women working there ran over and, with a worried look on her face, said “Japanese restaurant!!!!” We tried to explain that we were aware, and we wanted to eat. When she asked, “Inside/outside?”, I don’t think she meant it as a question, because when we said outside, she kept saying, “Inside/outside!!!” Eventually I said, “Inside,” hoping it would calm her down, and we could proceed to lunch. Then J.P. stood on the wooden platform with his shoes, which was a big no-no, and she freaked out a bit. After removing our shoes, we were seated. On to the meal…

We were seated on the floor in a tatami-mat dining room with sliding doors: exactly how I pictured restaurants in Japan (although it’s the only one we went to that was like that!) An elderly woman brought us English menus, but the only English on the menus was the word, “vegetarian”. Good thing too, because I’m not sure I’d be so adventurous if I knew there could be strange body parts involved.

After we ordered (set menu – no idea what was coming), the first couple bowls started to arrive. There was this gelatinous stuff, with a powdered coating and a toothpick. I found it odd, and difficult to put in my mouth politely, but strangely addictive. J.P. couldn’t stand the wiggly texture.

Some plum liqueur (umeshu) was served, and a few more bowls of food. At that point, the server laid the bill on the table and we assumed that meant we were done. Um, still hungry here!! I told J.P. not to worry, that if this was indeed the end of the meal, we could still hit the French bakery outside the grounds of the complex. Thankfully, that was not the end. In fact, there was plenty of food, some recognizable, like the tempura and miso soup, but most of it strange, beautiful, and tasty (except for the green gelatinous thing – different from the gelatinous thing at the beginning of the meal!) Almost everything I ate that I didn’t recognize tasted different, or had a different texture, from what I expected. It was a fun meal.

When our meal was done, the bowls all stacked nicely into each other (which we found out by watching a couple next to us)! How perfect!

There is still more… much more. To be continued!

Japan: The Food! Part One

For my 40th birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a trip to JAPAN! I knew I was going somewhere, but I didn’t know where until the night before. We just returned a week ago – it’s hard to believe it’s already a memory. I have so much to write about, but I will start with the food. For us, travel is always about the food.

Our first day in Tokyo, we went to the Tsukiji Fish Market. It was unlike anything I have ever seen before – I didn’t even know what half the stuff was!

Even though our book suggested getting sushi at the market (“what could be fresher?”), we were chilly and decided to get a bowl of ramen noodles from a very busy stand.

This little place even had a write-up in the New York Times!

As far as I could tell, the cities we visited only had beverage vending machines (with the exception of two: one ice-cream machine, and one snack food, both in a subway station). These beverage vending machines were everywhere, even in little alleys, making it really easy to find water. We did try some of the other drinks, but it was almost impossible to know what it was going to be unless there was a picture of fruit on it. There were even alcohol and cigarette vending machines.

Whenever we stay in hotels, we seem to get a craving for chocolate. I can probably blame the minibars for tempting me, and the fact that I will almost never take anything from a minibar because it’s so outrageously expensive. Needless to say, we made several trips to the local 7-11, but the chocolate bars left something to be desired.

There was not a huge amount of selection, but Japan does seem to have a bit of a love affair with Kit Kat. There were all kinds of flavors of Kit Kat: green tea, dark, regular, some weird one that I never tried and had no idea what it was, white chocolate with Oreo-type cookie, and even strawberry (which tastes like strawberry Pocky).

Kit Kat became the official bar of the trip, and I made it my mission to find the best priced green tea Kit Kat to bring back home.

There were lots of these little cookie/cake places around. I’m not sure what they actually are, but they are usually made fresh (the smell is amazing), they look cute, and they are filled with something chocolatey-ish. We tried one and it was kind of like a not-so-good waffle, and mega disappointing. In fact, many of the baked goods were disappointing, except in the French bakeries, of which there were many – we are still wondering why!

There were so many “fast food” stands, with many things that I had no clue about. I gave one a try and it was pretty tasty. It was a deep-fried rice/sesame batter with some semi-sweet stuff inside.

That’s it for now… but there’s more, much more.

To be continued!!

I’m away, but I don’t know where yet!

Not totally true. I do know by the time you read this, but not now, as I write this. I am turning 40 this year (yay!) and my amazing husband has planned a very secret trip for me. We are leaving soon (ok, we are gone), and I don’t know where we are going!!

His surprised was almost ruined when I received my birthday present from my mother-in-law. She gave me a Kindle. I registered it, which means I hooked it up to my amazon account, which is the same account my hubby used to register his Kindle. I had a look at the archived items, mostly stuff I didn’t want to read, and some dictionaries and a travel guide. HELLO… a TRAVEL GUIDE. It didn’t even register until he came home and had a look at my Kindle, saw his books on there, and kinda silently freaked out. Funny thing is, I could NOT remember what country the travel guide was for. I just didn’t pay attention, and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was! I promised I wouldn’t peek (I haven’t).

I’m looking forward to telling you about my adventures!

By the way, here’s what I “know” (he could be tricking me on any of these points):
1. I need my passport.
2. Fall weather.
3. We may both want to do some shopping.
4. Flight leaves in the morning.
5. His Dad sent him a package which he wouldn’t open in front of me.. which makes me think we are going somewhere his Dad has been, or on a cruise.

Here are all the guesses I have come up with:
1. Hawaii – but no more, since fall weather.
2. Spain – he says no, could be lying.
3. Japan – ?
4. Cruise…
5. Peru (I don’t think this fits with the shopping part).
6. Portugal
7. Turkey
8. New Zealand

What do you think?

Flashback Friday: 1993

I was a young one in this picture: 20 years old! Hard to believe it was so long ago. This was taken during our whole family’s trip to Israel. Fashion of the times: layered hair and bangs, tortoise-shell glasses, necklace by an Israeli artist. I remember loving it because the gems looked like candy. This trip was during my first year of dating J.P., so I am pretty sure I was thinking about him all the time!

From the CD vault: All That She Wants, by Ace of Base. This song was in rotation on the airline “radio” channel during the flight back to Canada. I had my earphones on during most of the flight, sleeping on and off, but always waking up for that song (and thinking about J.P.).

Gratitude Tuesday: Weekend Getaway in Banff

Today I am grateful for:

Spending the weekend in Banff with my daughters. It was our 6th annual “Girls-only” trip to Banff!

A fun hike up Johnston’s Canyon, without too much complaining! And yes, they carried the stuffed animals all the way up!

A double-room upgrade after being next to two yappy dogs in the “pet corridor”!

The view out our window after getting the upgrade.

Back-alley roughness made beautiful.

Close encounters with nature.

Bonding time.

Fun-loving hubby and son to come home to.

There are no words. Then again…

Last night I returned home from the Makerie retreat in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. There is so much to say, so many pictures to show, I just can’t do it all at once. I am aiming to share it all with your over the next week or so. It might take awhile. For now, there is this:

This weekend changed my life.


I’m back from Los Angeles! I had a picture in my head of how I thought L.A. would be, and it really wasn’t like the picture in my head at all. Maybe I didn’t see enough of it to know, but considering I was staying right in Hollywood, I doubt it.

I stayed at a quirky Bed & Breakfast, aptly named the Hollywood B&B. I would go back there in a heartbeat – friendly owners, clean room, good breakfast, pool out back – what more could you ask for? (ok, a gym would be nice, but it’s not happening at B&Bs.)

During the weekend, I took an intuitive painting workshop with Michele Cassou. I have read her books and done some process painting in the past, so it was wonderful to finally meet her and learn more about it! In a nutshell, Michele teaches painting as process, rather than focusing on a product. It’s a way to get the creativity flowing, and really notice how the mind works to prevent that from happening! Very similar to a meditation retreat, except that the brush is always moving. I would love to try one of her longer workshops, as two days was barely scratching the surface.

I met up with my cousin Chloe for dinner on Sunday night.(right)

On Monday I had the chance to meet Jenny Doh,¬† author extraordinaire! I recently contributed to a project that Jenny is working on and will come out next year. Super excited about that! We ate brunch and then did a little collaborative drawing in my sketchbook (read about it on Jenny’s blog here!) You know how when you are sitting with someone, and there’s silence and you feel kind of awkward? Well, it wasn’t like that. We are both on the introverted side, and our moment of sketching silence was comforting to me, like a cozy mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter day (which describes Calgary, not L.A.). I really enjoyed the conversation we had, and listening to some of Jenny’s observations about painting.

Later on Monday, Marisa from Creative Thursday (who I have admired since I saw her in an magazine issue of Where Women Create several years ago) stopped by the B&B. [An interesting point to note: Jenny Doh co-wrote the book called “Where Women Create”. Cool!]

Marisa brought her computer and huge Yeti (see me hogging the Yeti?) and we sat and chat and recorded a podcast for the Creative Coconuts, interspersed with several minutes of coughing fits on my part! We had dinner at a cute little French restaurant.¬† I felt such a mix of disbelief (that I was finally meeting Marisa for real) and that feeling as if we’ve been friends for a long time- kind of a strange mix.

I had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing both Jenny and Marisa again at the Makerie in April!

P.S. – Apparently this is my 100th post!