After my blog on JeJu Island, my Silverado Oaks friend, Sharon, wrote to tell me that Lisa See has a new book out called “The Island of Sea Women”, so I am reading that now. Haven’t got far enough in to tell you if it’s any good, but it sure is the same island.
On April 9, we docked in Kobe All we did on the first day was go out to shop. It was pretty good shopping, though, and a nice city to walk around.
Dinner at 7:00 at Qsine was a lot of fun. In the end there were 21 of us. We sat around a huge oval table, with an upside down chandelier emanating from the middle of it. The rest of the chandeliers in the room were upside down table lamps, hanging from the ceiling. We didn’t know what to expect.
For menus, we all got tablets, on which we were to tick off anything and everything that appealed at all. There was quite a variety and we ended up with most of it. It represented the best tidbits from all the cuisines of the world and ranged from healthy veggies, of which we ordered few, to the deepest of deep fries, of which we ordered plenty. We all waddled out of there, very glad to have tried it, and glad to have had dinner together. It’s a very good group.
The second day in Kobe, April 10, I had a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon delivered to my stateroom, because we had a 6:15 am call to meet our tour to Kyoto. We met our tour guide, Mickey, and he led us to Kobe Station for the Skinkasen, the Bullet Train to Kyoto. It had started to sprinkle but the rain didn’t really come into its own, until we were on the bus to the shrine. We all got out and started climbing the hill. Steve quit pretty quickly. The weather was foul, cold and wet. It was slippery underfoot and the roadway was angled straight up. He announced that his plan was to go back to the bus. I went another five minutes or so and chickened out, too. I was starting to feel chilled and I didn’t see any point in getting the flu over this. I shopped my way back to the bus, arriving with some mystery hard candies and a box of chocolate Daifuku. They are rice balls, similar to the contents of sesame balls. These were filled with a chocolate cream and dusted with cocoa. Steve and I had a couple on the bus. They weren’t all that good for the price paid. Next Trish, who was still coughing from the cold she had picked up in Beijing, got back on. A few more people did the same.
It was raining even harder at the next stop, which was the Golden Pavilion. Steve and I didn’t even get off. I wasn’t feeling any too great. We were soon joined by a few more chickens, while the die-hards had some perfectly miserable touring. I had been to these sites in 2007, under much better conditions and had decided that was how I was going to remember them. The Golden Pavilion doesn’t shine in the sun when it’s pouring.
Trish felt awful and announced she wasn’t even coming to dinner. Steve and I went, but I declined a large table, as I had started to cough and didn’t want to infect anyone else. I figured Steve was immune, as he had been living with five days of Trish coughing, already. I was running a fever by this time and barely had the energy to eat. I had two cheese soufflés, as about the easiest thing on the menu. They were good, too. I didn’t even have the energy to go to the show.
I dosed myself up with Mucinex and Advil “Cold and Flu” and went to bed. I didn’t sleep, though. I just lay there waiting for the medical center to open at 8:00 am. The fever broke and I started feeling a little better around 4:30 am, but not so well that I wasn’t the first person at the med center’s door. It was April 11, and we were now docked in Shimizu, the port for Mt. Fuji. My preliminary check exposed the remains of the fever and I allowed that it had started at dinner and had been worse until early this morning. They took a nasal swab, which is a nasty procedure, and it came out positive for flu. Ships do not mess around with contagious diseases. I got a double dose of nebulizer,
a dozen Tamiflus, a bottle of cough syrup and a mask. I was told to put the mask on, go to my room, and stay there, except to come back at 5:30pm for more nebulizing. I felt like crap, so I didn’t resist.
I called Trish and told her what I had, and that I would be in isolation for 48 hours. She brought me a couple of croissants, and I ordered hot water, lemon and honey from room service. Trish took herself to the Medical Center. The good news for her was that by now, she had shaken off the bug, but the bad news was that she had bronchitis, which at least they treated. We’ll both be claiming on our insurance this time.
I slept for a couple of hours, finished writing my Farewell Letters and got the Event Coordinator, to print them. I signed them and collated them with the comments cards and called her again. The Conrad hotel had given me a couple of Pandas, and I gave her one, with which she was well pleased. The little bear had a little pink Chinese jacket on and really was cute. The letters went out and I went to bed.
The next day we docked in Yokohama, Japan, but I wasn’t going anywhere. Trish called to offer breakfast delivery, but I was happy enough with room service. A few passengers called to thank me personally, while I was packing. I had the drawing among those who had filled in their comment cards and had the money transferred to the winners’ cabin. Then I called them and told them the good news. They had more kind words for all of us. I still wasn’t feeling great, so I went to bed early.
We got off in Yokohama, Japan on April 13. Disembarkation was smooth and efficient. So efficient that our Hotel Okura car wasn’t there waiting for us. It showed up in about twenty minutes, but not before I had called the concierge to chase it for us. We had a great view of Mt. Fuji, from the van on the way into Tokyo.
We dropped Scott, Roz and Donna off at The New Otani, and checked in to the Okura. Our rooms weren’t ready, so I spent an hour and a half with the concierge, putting Metro stops to our plan. I asked her about City Tours, HOHO buses, and any other suggestions she might have but she said our plan was excellent as it was. She had never seen anyone come in with a better one. Kudos to Linda and Bev and Oki. Anyone visiting Tokyo is welcome to a copy of the plan. Just ask.
We got our rooms around 12:30 pm, got settled, and went out around four. By the time we found and negotiated the subway, and got to Shinjuku, they had closed the park for the night. Who knew that would happen?
We walked along the edge of the park and could tell it was a really nice one. It had been especially recommended for its abundance of cherry blossoms. Alas, we had arrived at the very end of Cherry Blossom season for this year, so we didn’t miss much.
At the other end of the park, Shinjuku starts in earnest. It reminded me a lot of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, around the Excelsior Hotel. It is a warren of shopping streets, selling everything under the sun and moon. It didn’t look like it was going to close anytime soon, so we thought we’d find a restaurant and shop after dinner.
There were restaurants in just about every building, on different floors, with pictures of the food down at street level. It was soon obvious to us that every restaurant specialized. Since cooked meat was our common denominator, we looked for a place that specialized in it and had an English menu. We had seen just enough descriptions in English to know we needed one. That is to say, Steve and Trish did. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t care what part of the animal my food comes from, as long as it isn’t a plant.
The place we picked was very small, but it was spotlessly clean and was cooking everything right in front of us. For our main meal, we picked the “Blucky Set” which was beef sirloin, along with miso soup and rice. We added some chicken legs and one order of beef tongue, to try it. No entrails. The beef tongue was just fine, as was the rest of it. We were very happy with our choice and it cost about $50 for the three of us. We thought eating in Japan was going to be expensive and here we were nicely sated for under $20 apiece.
There was a Drug Store across the street and Trish needed something. I found myself singing along with the Japanese words to Battle Hymn of the Republic. Only I was singing “John Brown’s body” and “Jesus saves His money at the Bank of Montreal”. I bought another watch, a real Casio, this time. I showed them my $15 fake FitBit, which amazed them, but they were selling “real thing”. I wish I had bought more of the $15 ones, but I had to try one first and by the time I knew I liked it, the ship had sailed from Beijing.
With only some difficulty, solved by the Okura’s free cell phone, we found a Metro station and got ourselves home.
The next day, April 14, was Sunday, the day Ginza St. is closed to traffic. We had the hotel’s big breakfast to eat, or we might have been lining up at the best lunch places, with the rest of Tokyo. But we can now say we have strolled The Ginza on a Sunday and we have some nice paper goods as souvenirs and presents.
Trish and I were still recovering, and Steve is Steve, so we were happy to go back to the hotel for a nap and an hour of exercise before dinner. The concierge had told us about a dining building, just a five-minute walk down from the hotel. We decided to explore it. There we found a restaurant specializing in tempura. Everybody’s a specialist. This does not bode well for my getting sushi, as neither of the other two will touch it. I like tempura a lot, though, so this was fine.
It was a strange new concept in restaurant dining. You order from a vending machine and put your money in it. The food doesn’t come out of it, thank God. You get tickets, for shrimp tempura, set meals, beer, wine, etc. The tickets, you take to your seat at the counter, from which you watch your food being prepared to order. It was fresh, piping hot and delicious. And it was another fifty bucks for three. You can’t beat it.
Monday was our most ambitious day. We took the Metro again, as we have every day, only this time we went all the way to Asakusa. There we visited the shrine and its surrounding shopping streets. When we were tired, we boarded a waterbus and took it back downtown to Hamarikyu Gardens. The gardens are beautiful and there were a few cherry trees still hanging on to their blossoms. That’s Trish on the far right.
After the obligatory nap, we were back on the Metro, bound for Roppongi, just one stop from the Okura, where the local night life is. The Hotel Okura, you see, is in amongst all the Embassies, and is quiet as can be. We wanted a bit more action. And we found it. And we found a restaurant that advertised both sushi and iron fried meats. We ended up in our own little tatami room, with a huge office party in the room next to us. We didn’t mind the noise. It was happy noise. We ordered by pressing on a reverse pager. Someone always came and got us what we wanted.
There was so little sushi on the menu, that I was afraid to touch it after all. We had a very nice meal, a little more upscale and it cost a whole hundred bucks for the three of us. Who would have thunk it?
I should have gone to the bathroom before we got back into the metro. By the time we got home, which involved a sprint straight up hill, I was desperate. My back teeth were floating and so was my brain. I sat down so fast I forgot to take my phone out of my back pocket. When I got up, it did a back flip, right into the toilet, with my hand following it down, but not fast enough.
I took it apart immediately, as far as I could get it, wiped every minuscule drop I saw and plugged it in. But it was dead. I left it there and went to join Steve and Trish in our rooftop bar on 12. Only they weren’t in the bar. They were outside the bar, having been denied access, because they didn’t have a reservation. Who ever heard of needing a reservation to have a drink in a bar? I pulled my card key out and went back to the desk for another try. When you lead with evidence that you are a resident, a hotel cannot really refuse you, and they didn’t. It was very odd, though. I was led though the Chinese restaurant, past the kitchen and bathrooms, and through the smoking bar, to an elevator which led to the non-smoking bar. Then I went back, thorough all that to pick up Steve and Trish. The non-smoking bar was very small, but it wasn’t full, and they had no problem serving us, or charging us, either. It was as much as dinner. But it was time for us to have a nightcap.
Tuesday, Steve figured he had dragged himself around Tokyo all he wanted to, so he sent us girls off on our own. We hadn’t seen the Imperial Palace or the Meiji Shrine yet, so we were batting clean-up. We spent a lot of time and about 10,000 steps trying to find the Imperial Palace. When we did, we wished we hadn’t wasted the time. Mind you we did walk through a beautiful and very large park, and we also did a lot of walking the streets around the government buildings. We popped down the nearest Metro and found our way to the Meiji Shine. That was at the end of another very beautiful park and by the time we had been there and back to the Metro station, I could barely walk. There went the shopping trip. Sorry, Trish, but from the twinges in my bad knee, after an hour’s rest, I know I was on the verge of causing myself some big trouble. That rebuilt knee almost never hurts, but when it does, the pain is sudden and acute. I got just enough to know I didn’t want any more.
I had worked with the concierge to find a better restaurant that would have sushi, tempura, seared meats and all. She came up with Gonpatchi, a ten buck cab away. We were ready to be spoiled a little. We even dressed up. Gonpatchi turned out to be what I used to call “an expat restaurant.” There you’ll find every nation on the globe among both the patrons and the staff. The sushi was good, because their 3rd floor was a sushi restaurant. They did the frying on the ground floor and the second floor was a balcony overlooking it. We were seated on the ground floor and our waiter was Gabriel. I think he was from Spain, but it might have been Italy, or the USA. The waiters hollered at each other, and the chefs, from all around the restaurant. It wasn’t quiet and serene, but the food was great. I had the best maguro I have ever had, in a restaurant, in my life, there. Maguro is raw tuna. It’s not even the fatty kind which is three times the price. I prefer it lean. I’m a cheap date, as far as sushi goes.
And we have been home for almost three weeks, and that’s how long it has taken me to get this out.
My next cruises are:
August: August 4 – 18 – HAL Rotterdam – Scottish Highlands http://tinyurl.com/2019HALRotterdamScotland
And its sequal August 18 – Sept 7 – HAL Rotterdam – Iceland, Greenland http://tinyurl.com/HALRotterdamIceland
Christmas: December 21 – Jan 4 – Seabourn Ovation – “Thailand and Viet Nam” – Singapore to Hong Kong – http://tinyurl.com/SeabournDV
Holland America just sent me an email that these cruises are now on sale. Want to come? Just call or email me.
I am also in the process of bidding for my 2020 assignments. Call or email me if you want to influence my choices.
Andy and Alice said:
Gee Helen, Did you not get my email regarding Lisa See’s book? /alice w. >
Judy Symansky said:
You certainly kept calm and carried on!