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My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.

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Entries in Travel (606)

Thursday
Nov132014

Up and Over Mt. Rokko

In September when I was in Japan I spent a relaxing Saturday at Arima Onsen after a long work week. When evening came I needed to head back to Nagoya since I was flying home from Centrair the next day. Arima Onsen lies north of Kobe on the other side of Mt. Rokko giving me two options to get to Kobe where I needed to catch the Shinkansen back to Nagoya. I could go back the way I had come which was by a train line that went west around Mt. Rokko. The second option was to go up and over Mt. Rokko by cablecar which is what is what I decided to do.

I walked up to Arima Onsen Station (有馬温泉駅) and purchased a Rokko - Arima one-way ticket (六甲・有馬片道乗車券). The ticket includes one way on the Rokko Arima Ropeway (六甲有馬ロープウェー), on and off riding the Rokko Mountaintop Bus (六甲山上バス) and one way on the Rokko Cable (六甲ケーブル). The station was pretty desolate and only one other person boarded the aerial tramcar with me. The views as we rose up the mountain were fantastic but due to the speed we were moving the few pictures that I tried to take all turned out super blurry.

We rose from 433m above sea level to 880m, arriving at Rokko Sancho Station (六甲山頂駅) twelve minutes later.

From the station it was a short walk to the Rokko Garden Terrace (六甲ガーデンテラス) with shops and restaurants. I was intrigued by the beautifully illuminated Rokko-Shidare Observatory (自然体感展望台 六甲枝垂れ) and headed toward it.

The structure was designed by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi almost entirely from hinoki wood. In the winter the lattice structure attracts frost and in the summer ice that was collected in the winter cools down a seating area inside. It was quite beautiful to walk around inside and admire the architecture as well as the view.

While I was visiting an art installation called Rokko Meets Art was taking place on the mountain top. At various places different pieces of artwork were on display and you could walk around to see them. My favorite was Cosmic Seed by Kazumasa Taniguchi (谷口 和正) which was located inside the base of the thermal chimney of Rokko-Shidare Observatory. A metal egg shell frame was composed of words and illumated from inside casting out blurred shadows of the words. Upon looking at the sculpture up close I noticed that there were tiny birds nestled among the letters. The whole effect was really beautiful and serene.

Walking back out of the thermal chimney I took in some more of the lovely views over Kobe and Osaka Bay.

It was getting late and so I thought it was time to start heading on. I walked to the bus stop where there was quite a line waiting. When it arrived I managed to squeeze on since I didn't want to wait for the next bus. Luckily the ride only lasted fifteen minutes since I was not terribly comfortable standing up wedged in between the door and a bunch of tightly packed people.

When I got off the bus at Rokko Cable Sanjo Station (六甲ケーブル山上駅) I thought I would stop for a few last glimpses of Kobe from the mountaintop before taking the cable car down. It was a beautiful, clear night and I couldn't have asked for better weather to enjoy the view.

I headed into the station, boarded a cable car and ten minutes later I arrived at the base of the mountain at Rokko Cable Shita Station (六甲ケーブル下駅).

The view from the top of Mt. Rokko is said to be one of the best night views in Japan and I would have to agree that it was gorgeous. Although going over the mountain instead of around it took longer and was more expensive it was definitely worth it.

Thursday
Sep112014

9/11 Memorial  

As the United States remembers the terrible events that happened on this date thirteen years ago, I wanted to honor today by sharing my visit to the National September 11 Memorial.

Frank and I went to the Memorial last year while we were in New York during the "Interim Operating Period" when construction on nearby World Trade Center projects surrounded the Memorial. Because of this we had to have ticket reservations and wait in line to enter, however as of May of this year visitors can freely enter the Memorial Plaza during its open hours from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

The main feature of the Memorial is two enormous waterfalls and reflecting pools which stand in the location of the original twin towers' footprints. The design was intended to symbolize the loss and void left by the terrorist attacks with the sound of the rushing water drowning out the city noise to create a reflective atmosphere. 

 

The most haunting aspect of the memorial is the bronze plates that surround the pools inscribed with the names of the victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. You can't help but feel overwhelmed by the devastation and loss of life as you walk around the pools looking at the names. Seeing the words "and her unborn child" after a woman's name was particularly gut wrenching. Visitors left remembrances for loved ones by placing flowers in their names and the park staff honors the victims by leaving them a white rose on their birthdays.

The Museum was dedicated and opened to the public in May of this year, but was still under construction when Frank and I visited.

Among the grove of over 400 swamp white oaks in the Memorial Plaza stands a special callery pear tree known as the Survivor Tree. It was found severely damaged in the rubble of Ground Zero in October 2001 and after its recovery was planted at the Memorial in 2010 serving as a living symbol of perseverance and rebirth.  

Visiting the Memorial was profoundly sad. I have the deepest gratitude to the people who serve our country and my heart goes out to all those whose lives were shattered on that terrible day.

Wednesday
Jul232014

Nagoya Oktoberfest (名古屋オクトーバーフェスト)

When I was in Japan last week my trip would not have been complete without an evening at Nagoya Oktoberfest. I know that you are likely thinking 'German beer in Nagoya?' 'Oktoberfest in July?' but honestly it is a really fun time and a great place to hang out and relax with friends.

Nagoya Oktoberfest began in July 2011 and my first time going was in 2012. The pictures in this post are a combination from that summer as well as this one. Stretching over two plazas in Nagoya in Sakae, Oktoberfest consists of huge tents filled with picnic tables ringed by German beer and food stalls and a stage for some German entertainment.

First off, I have to say that I love the logo. Oktoberfest in Japanese is "オクトーバーフェスト" and they turned the "ーバー" into two hands clinking beer mugs. Very cute and very Japanese!

If you are at Oktoberfest you can get wine or soda if you would like, but why would you when there are over 40 German beers available from 10 different breweries. All the beer is served in glassware individual to the brewery. To get a beer you pay for the beer plus a ¥1,000 (about $10 USD) deposit for your glass. If you go back to that same brewery's stall for another beer they will swap out your glass and you just pay for the beer. At the end you return your glass and get your deposit back. The tricky part is that you have to return the glass to the correct brewery stall since each one has different glasses. It's not a big deal but wise to make a note of before you start drinking.

In addition to beer there is a wide variety of wurst, sauerkraut and other German food that you can enjoy. I did also see among other things available edamame and churros, which I thought would make for quite an interesting pairing with wurst.

At the far end of the plaza, a stage is set up with dancing and music that is fun to watch and enjoy made up of both German and Japanese performers. You haven't seen anything until you've watched a Japanese guy dancing in lederhosen.

Both summers that I went to Nagoya Oktoberfest I had a great time catching up with friends who still lived in Japan as well as other friends who happened to be back in Japan at the same time as me. With the laid back atmosphere and German beer you can't go wrong on a summer evening in Nagoya.

Nagoya Oktoberfest is held in Nagoya at Hisaya Odori Koen Hisaya Plaza (久屋大通公園久屋広場) and Angel Plaza (エンゼル広場) which you can access by a short walk from either the Sakae Subway Station on the Higashiyama Line or the Yabacho Subway Station on the Meijo Line. Oktoberfest lasts for two and half weeks in the middle of July, open from 11:00-21:00 on Saturday and Sunday and 15:00 - 21:00 on weekdays. This information was accurate at the time of writing, but please confirm prior to visiting in case time or location has changed.

Thursday
Jul172014

Kehi no Matsubara (気比の松原) 

This past week I've been in Japan on a work trip. I'm actually writing this at the airport about to head back to the states. Although I had a lot of long work days, I did squeeze in a bunch of fun over the past weekend. One of those things was visiting Kehi no Matsubara (気比の松原) in Fukui Prefecture on Saturday morning.

I took the train to Tsuruga and then walked about 40 minutes to get to Kehi no Matsubara. Along the way I passed though a cute small shrine, Matsubara Jinja (松原神社),  nestled among some pine trees.

Approaching Kehi no Matsubara I walked through the lovely pine grove on the way to the water.

It was blistering hot outside so most of the Japanese visitors were enjoying the view from the shade of the trees or in pop-up beach tents.

The view was really spectacular with the pine grove along the water. Over 17,000 trees line the shore on Tsuruga Bay.

I walked down to the water to put my feet in. Honestly, it was not the most fun beach to walk on since it was very coarse pebbles instead of sand. I did think it was pretty neat that just a week and a half earlier I was walking in the surf on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean.

The extreme heat was getting to me (it was about 90 degress and very humid) so I walked around in the shade of the pine grove for a little bit and then decided to take a taxi back to the station.

If you find yourself in Fukui, I think that Kehi no Matsubara is worth a stop for the view, but due to the rocky beach maybe not the best spot for a beach day and swimming.

To get to Kehi no Matsubara you can take a bus to Matsuba-cho from JR Tsuruga train station and get off at Kehi no Matsubara stop. I walked from Tsuruga station and taxied back which is also an option.

Monday
Jul072014

Griffith Observatory 

Last Tuesday while I was in LA on a business trip I finished up work at seven pm. Since I am not one to go to my hotel without some sightseeing fun I decided to visit Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood. I had been there a few times before over the years and it is a great place to go for a view over the city.

It was a beautiful evening and it seemed that quite a few other people had the same brilliant idea as I did which meant that I ended up having to park a mile away from Griffith Observatory on Western Canyon Road. Unfortunately, I had just come from work so I was sporting a dress and heels which was not prime attire for hiking up a curving mountain road. I am not known for being deterred by inappropriate footwear (Exhibit A: Hiking up Mount Warning in broken flip flops) so of course I headed off toward the Observatory anyway.

Along the way I had a lovely view of the Hollywood sign as the sun was low in the sky.

Twenty minutes (and quite a few pictures) later I was at Griffith Observatory. Construction on the beautiful Art Deco building began in 1933 and was opened to the public in 1935.

I headed up the stairs to the observation terraces to check out the view. One of the telescopes was open to the public, but the line was incredibly long so I settled for looking out at the horizon instead of peering up into the sky.

I watched as the daylight faded and the city streets below lit up. The view was really quite beautiful.

After the sun set I headed inside to check out the exhibits. There were so many neat displays relating to astronomy and our universe. One of my favorites was a periodic table with actual samples of the elements. I honestly could have wandered around forever but it was getting late and I needed to get to my hotel.

At this point it was pitch black outside. Other sensible people had flashlights with them however I was not so well prepared. Be advised that walking a mile back to your car in the dark with no flashlight wearing four inch wedge heels is not a good idea nor for the faint of heart. 

In the end I got back to my rental car safe and sound with no twisted ankles. Was my unprepared visit a smart thing to do? Decidedly not. Was is worth it? Absolutely.

Griffith Observatory is located at 2800 East Observatory Road in Los Angeles. Admission to the building is free, however there is a fee for planetarium shows. Griffith Observatory is open 10:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday and closed on Mondays.

Wednesday
Jul022014

An Evening at Manhattan Beach

At the beginning of this week I've been on a short trip to LA for work. I flew out on Monday afternoon and had made plans to get dinner with a friend, Don, who had recently moved out to California at 7:30 at the Strand House in Manhattan Beach. The traffic from the airport wasn't as bad as I had anticipated so I ended up getting there early leaving me some time to walk along the beach. I started by strolling out along the Manhattan Beach Pier for some lovely views back at the beach and the surfers trying to catch waves near the pier.

After walking the length of the pier and back I took off my shoes and descended down the stair to walk along the beach. There really is nothing like walking barefoot in the sand.

I walked in the surf soaking up the last remaining rays of sun and breathing in the salty air. It was perfect weather and everything looked gorgeous bathed in the early evening light.

I've never met a sea bird that I didn't take a picture of...

It was time to meet up with Don so I walked back towards the pier and used the public showers to rinse off my sandy feet.


The Strand House is located on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, perched for a perfect view overlooking the ocean.

It was really great to catch up with Don, learn about his move and how he was enjoying settling in. Our dinner was also really delicious. We shared a salad of pickled watermelon and speck, hamachi crudo with avocado, a prosciutto pizza with burrata and arugula and roasted peanut semifreddo with cacao nib cake for dessert. Everything was absolutely fantastic.

In addition to having fun chatting with Don and eating a delicious meal, the view from the restaurant was fantastic. All too soon we were done, the sun had set and it was time to say goodbye to Don.

Before I got in my car and drove to the hotel I couldn't resist one last photo looking out at the pier as I ended the evening.

Saturday
Jun282014

Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) 

With all eyes on Brazil as the World is gripped with World Cup fever (Congratulations to the US Team for advancing to the Knockout Stage on Thursday!) I have been thinking back on my trip to Brazil in the summer of 2007. I had friends that were living in Florianopolis for a few months so I couldn't resist going to Brazil to visit them. I spent a few days in Floripa with them and then headed off to see Iguaçu Falls and Rio de Janeiro by myself.

I thought I would share a few stories from that trip, starting with my visit to the iconic symbol of Rio de Janeiro, the Christ the Redeemer Statue (Cristo Redentor in Portuguese).

Built between 1922 and 1931, Christ the Redeemer looks down over Rio from a perch atop Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park. Chosen from several design submissions, the statue was a collaboration between French-Polish sculptor Paul Landowski and Brazilian civil engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. In 2007, the statue was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World through international voting.

Christ the Redeemer was constructed from reinforced concrete and soapstone and stands at an amazing 98 feet tall without its pedestal. Before visiting I knew that the statue would be huge but I really didn't have any concept of how big it actually is. To put it in perspective, I am shorter than the statue's nose.

In my pictures you can see that there were some damaged spots on the statue and in 2010 the statue underwent a massive restoration.

Apart from seeing the awe inspiring statue up close, visiting Christ the Redeemer also was wonderful for the amazing views of Rio from the mountaintop.

My favorite view was overlooking Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) and the mouth of Guanabara Bay (Baía da Guanabara).

I also had a lovely view Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon (Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas).

Here I had a peek of the famous Copacabana beach and the ocean beyond.

I also had a few beautiful views of the Two Brothers (Morro Dois Irmãos).

I tried to take a picture of myself with Pão de Açúcar in the background but ended up completely blocking it with my head.

Visiting Christ the Redeemer was an awesome experience to see not only the statue but also the views of the city. It is a must see for anyone visiting Rio de Janeiro.

Friday
Jun202014

Flying Over Norway

In April Frank and I started our Scandinavian vacation by flying from Detroit to Amsterdam, continuing on to Oslo. I slept well on the first leg of the journey but on the short flight from Amsterdam to Olso I was glued to my window with the beautiful views. The clouds were gorgeous, lit up by the early morning sun. Later when we dipped below the cloud cover I could begin making out the coastline of southern Norway. 

At the time I didn't know exactly what I as looking at, only that it was lovely. Since returning home I used the satellite view on Google maps (yes, I enjoy being a dork) to figure out where I was looking when I took these photos out the window. Below is the town of Lillesand nestled into the rugged coastline.

I was quite amazed at how clearly I could see these bridges linking Stathelle and Brevik.

At this point the flight path veered away from the coastline over the beautiful countryside of Vestfold County.

Next I caught a glimpse of the islands of Kommersøya, Gåserumpa, Killingholmen and Bjerkøya.

We proceeded past Drammensfjord with a view of the city of Drammen in the distance.

Below Drammensfjord is on the left with the town of Sætre on Inner Oslofjord on the right.

Finally we approached Oslo. You can see Bygdøg on the left with the city center on the right.

Straight down out the window I could see Nordstrand and the cargo terminals of the port.

Looking back out I now had a closer view of Oslo. On the left along the water is Tjuvholmen, the neighborhood where Frank and I stayed while in Oslo. Continuing along the water is Aker Brygge and then the ferry terminals of the Port of Oslo. The tall brick building just inland of the ferry terminals is the City Hall and right up the hill surrounded by trees is the Royal Palace.

After flying by Oslo we continued northeast over more lovely countryside, finally landing at the Oslo Airport. It was such a gorgeous flight and it made me even more excited to start our trip.

Thursday
Jun122014

10 Pictures From Fort Myers in March 2014

Frank and me on the Fishing Pier at Fort Myers Beach

This winter was a tough, long one for us in Ann Arbor. We did escape the polar vortex for a long weekend in Florida to visit my grandparents and also stop in Fort Myers where Frank used to visit every spring with his family when he was growing up.

View of Matanzas Pass Bridge from Nervous Nellie's

Although the restaurant that Frank would often grab clam chowder for lunch when he was a kid was gone, another restaurant was in that spot and we stopped there for the largest lobster rolls I've ever seen and a beautiful view of Matanzas Pass Bridge.

Lobster Roll at Nervous Nellie's

After lunch, which was on the harbor side, we walked down Old San Carlos Boulevard toward the Gulf, passing through the little shopping area known as Times Square.

Clock tower at Fort Myers Beach's Time Square

Being a beautiful weekend the beach was packed with people enjoying the sun and water.

Colorful beach umbrellas along Fort Myers Beach

Frank and I walked out on the Fishing Pier for a lovely view back at the beach and a few sea birds as well.

Pelicans on the Fishing Pier at Fort Myers Beach

View looking back at the beach from the Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier

That afternoon we drove past the house that Frank's grandmother once owned. It was only two blocks from the Caloosahatchee River and every night when they were visiting her they would walk to the river to watch the sunset.

Looking across the Caloosahatchee River

We spent the next morning on Sanibel Island and headed back to Fort Myers in the afternoon. When we drove down McGregor Boulevard with its impressive palm trees flanking each side, Frank told me that when he was little seeing those palm trees meant he was almost to his grandma's house.

Palm trees lining McGregor Boulevard

Our last stop in Fort Myers was downtown where we grabbed lunch at a great deli and walked around a bit admiring the Art Deco buildings before our flight home.

Art deco building in Downtown Fort Myers

Although we weren't in Fort Myers very long it was great to see some of the places that were part of Frank's childhood, plus escaping from the snow didn't hurt, either!

Wednesday
May072014

Scandinavia!

Frank and I got home Monday from a wonderful two and a half week trip to Scandinavia. My maternal grandparents have Swedish and Norwegian ancestry so this was a particularly special trip to me. With my combination of jet lag and long days  to start catching back up at work I thought I would just share a few favorite pictures from the trip today. I look forward to sharing more in the future!