Tokyo – Kyoto

I know it’s a little early to say this, but Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan. 

We woke up early and took the Shinkansen, a super fast, super organized rail system that can take you all over the country. 


In my two days in Japan I have developed a new mantra: if it has a long line it’s gotta be good. We used this formula to grab a bento box before we boarded the train. 

After we arrived at Kyoto station, we wandered the streets in search of our hostel and I became enamoured with the little bakeries and boutiques that lined the streets and alleyways. 

Kyoto has a beautiful balance of old and new. You’ll see businessmen and geisha, skyscrapers and temples. It’s easy to picture myself starting a new life here.

New York – Tokyo

I’m always in a state of denial whenever I get off the plane in a new place. Especially one with a significant time change.

In my mind the 14 hour flight went by quickly and seemed easy enough. When it was time to disembark my body begged to differ. 

We found our way to the hostel, but it was far too early to go to bed, so we decided to walk around the neighborhood, Sumida, who’s main feature is the second tallest structure in the world, the Tokyo Skytree. 

Next to the skytree is a massive mall called Solamachi which has restaurants, shops, an aquarium and much more. Here we had our first meal- conveyorbelt sushi. 

Afterward, we walked around the shops until our legs started to give up, and headed back to the hostel and went to sleep.

I woke up at 3:00am and stared at the ceiling, still in denial of my whereabouts. One should not be so fortunate I thought. The girl who thought the furthest she’d go was Arizona was now on the other side of the world – again.

The next day we went to the neighborhood of Taito and visited the Senso-Ji temple and Ueno park.

At Senso-Ji I got my fortune. I inserted ¥100 into a slot and shook a metal can full of sticks. While shaking I had to think about a wish. I then took out a stick which had a number on it. The number had a corresponding drawer which contained a piece of paper which told me my fortune. 


I don’t usually believe in stuff like this, and I did it simply because I thought it was a cute gesture and would make for a nice souvenir, but for some reason in that moment, reading that fortune, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

As we roamed the streets of Akihabara, my consciousness was finally winning the fight against jet-lag and I was able to comprehend my surroundings.


So this is Japan.

The Van Slyke Castle

 

I promised myself that I would go hiking at least twice a month, thinking it would be a quick fix while I awaited the sweet release of another trip abroad. I had only been on a few trails, so I was still very new to the hiking world.

IMG_7332

So this was very reassuring.

The first twenty minutes of my hike were spent making as much noise as possible, kicking rocks, jangling my keys in my pocket, and whistling. I searched the patterns of the forest for any variations that might kill me.

Not a Bear

Not a bear

I thought about turning back, but I was on a mission. After twenty minutes I was used to being in a place where no one can hear me scream, and I started to appreciate my surroundings.

Flora

Flora

Fauna

Fauna

I eventually arrived at my destination – The Van Slyke Castle.

Beam and Chimney

Built in 1909, the Van Slyke Castle, also known as the Oakland Castle or Foxcroft, was the vacation home of Wall Street man William Porter.

One night in 1911, Porter and a bunch of friends decided to throw a party before his wife, Ruth Halliwell Porter, came back from a trip on the Lusitania. On the way back to NYC, they got into a car accident that led to Porter’s death.

Ruth ended up staying in the house the longest. She died in the home in 1940, after which the home went to a couple going through a divorce. It was later abandoned until it was destroyed in a fire in 1959. In 1976, the state bought the surrounding property to make Ramapo Mountain State Forest, making it accessible to the public.

BurntBeaam

Burnt wooden beams 

InsideWide

Inside the property

They even had a pool!

Pool

Marco!

A pipe leads further up the mountain to a cistern, still in good condition.

Cistern

I was glad I overcame my fears because it was the best trail I have been on so far. Despite some graffiti, it looked as if people hadn’t been there in a long time. It felt like I had stepped into another world.

 

Happy Chinese New Year!

Thought I would take a look back on my trips to China. Here are some of my favorite photos:

China_17The Forbidden City on a smoggy day.

China_6Street food vendor in Shanghai.

China_4A photoshoot.

SummerPalace_4Fun activities at the Summer Palace.

Night_1The National Centre for the Performing Arts.

Night_2A futuristic food cart in Beijing.

Quito – Bogota

It was my last day in Quito, my last night in Bogota, and tomorrow I was going home. 

We started the day by going to Old Town Quito. This beautiful part of the city is full of plazas, churches, and history. 

  

We then went to an artisanal crafts store by our hostel for some souvenirs and drinks before our trip to Bogota. I got my hands on a Canelazo, a hot beverage of aguardiente, sugar, and cinnamon water. 

  
We then made our way back to Colombia on the infamous Viva Colombia. The take off was terrifying as we tried to clear the mountains. I never used to be afraid of flying until I had to take budget airlines.

We arrived at our home base, then headed out for some dancing at a place called Andres Carne de Res.

The whole experience was overwhelming. Loud music made it impossible to hear someone at your ear, the decor looked like the attic of an 80s post apocalyptic science fiction film, and the menu was an actual magazine with an index which was greatly needed. 

It was actually the perfect end to my journey. I was 10% scared, 30% confused, but 60% enjoying myself.

In the end everything went a lot more smoothly than I had anticipated. I did far more than I thought I would and had so much fun. I can’t wait to come back to South America.