Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tuba Christmas in Denver

In 1974, Harvey Phillips started a yearly tribute to his teacher and mentor, William J. Bell, who was born on Christmas Day in 1902. Held worldwide, Tuba Christmas is a concert of Christmas music performed by Tube and Euphonium instrumentalists.

I'm not quite sure where I first heard about this but I knew I wanted to attend.Happily, I found out that there would be a Tuba Christmas in Denver while we were there visiting over Christmas last year. A bit quirky, fun, Christmasy and free to attend, it was right up my alley.

Tube and Euphonium players are invited to attend and perform each year. (You can download the sheet music from the Tuba Christmas website and be aware there is a $10 registration fee required for musicians)

We arrived a few minutes before the concert started and stood for several Christmas songs along with a small crowd in a plaza in downtown Denver. There were several family members playing together - moms and sons, dads and daughters, three generations of musicians and even the youngest, who I believe was 11 and the oldest, who was in their 80's. They also announced those who had been playing in Tuba Christmas for years. 


It was short, quirky and fun! If you're interested in attending a Tuba Christmas this year, check here to see if your city or one near you is participating.

I hope everyone's holiday preparations are going well. It's been a week of hiccups here at The Unpaved Road - I pulled a calf muscle putting up Christmas decorations - yes, putting up Christmas decorations - we had to send a car to the scrap yard and my computer was having some problems. But I'm counting my blessings for only small problems! 
If you celebrate Christmas, where will you be celebrating this year?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Opryland Christmas Extravaganza

Most everyone likes Christmas lights, right? There are Christmas light displays at people's homes, businesses, city and county parks, malls and hotels. Me? I'm a big fan. So when I realized that we would be driving by the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville right after Christmas last year, I decided it was high time that I experienced their display in all it's glory. Billed as a "lavish holiday display, with more than 2 million twinkling lights" Opryland is Christmas central in Nashville. Not only can you see the lights, you can see a Dr. Seuss musical, go tubing in real snow, ice skate on an outdoor rink, see The Gatlin Brothers in a christmas musical, slide down a slide carved from two million pounds of ice, and take a carriage ride around the grounds and through the lights. Whew! 

We were driving home from Colorado and would be hitting the road again in the morning,  so it would have to be just a quick look at the lights for me. But beautiful lights they are! 

Some tips for visiting Opryland at Christmas -

- There is a $20.00 charge to self -park! This is not just at Christmas but year round. You can avoid this by parking at the Opry Mills Mall behind the hotel or by finding a place to park across the street from the hotel (restaurants and other hotels mainly) and walking there. You can also valet park and they will validate your parking if you spend $20 at one of the restaurants inside the hotel. I would suggest advance reservations if this is the route you're going.
- Be prepared for swarms of people. Like Disneyland at Christmas, bump into you, swarms of people. We were there after Christmas on a weeknight and it was so crowded. Come to find out that there was a bowl game going on during that time - the Music City Bowl - and that was part of the crowd. I'm not sure how to avoid the crowds unless you go in November on a weeknight possibly. 
- This year the lights run from November 11 through January 1
- Of course, all the above mentioned activities aren't free - except the lights. Almost all of the other things to do include a fee and sometimes advance ticket purchase.

How about you? Have you been to see the Opryland Hotel at Christmas? Or maybe it's sister properties in Orlando, Texas or Washington DC?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Wearing Kimonos in Narita, Japan

My oldest daughter flew home from Tokyo a day before my youngest daughter and I. We grabbed a shuttle from Shinagawa to Narita to accompany her to the airport - and since we were flying out the next day - we headed to the Holiday Inn Narita airport. Looking into things to do in the area, I came upon Rainbow Narita Tours run by Mr. Katsumi. A fantastic option for people who have long layovers at Narita airport, these tours take people around  Narita (a highly underrated area of Japan in my opinion.) So let me take you along on one of my favorite days I spent in Japan.

We scheduled the afternoon tour - from 1 to 5 pm - with our guide. He was born and raised in Japan but went to school at UCLA and lived in Los Angeles before returning home. He picked us up at our hotel in his minivan and we were off. Oh, and by the way, the minimum on each tour is two - and that day we had our own private tour.

Our first stop was at the Narita-san Temple, a Shingon Buddhist Temple. Our guide took us inside and told us the history of the temple - including showing us photos of a visit by the Dalai Lama. We walked around the grounds and saw the prayer cards, the fox statues that represent this particular temple and even saw some palm trees(which for some reason I found fascinating as I didn't see any other palms on our visit)

After that, Mr. Katsumi asked us if we would be willing to be dressed in kimonos at the visitor center for a photo opportunity. Would we be willing? My daughter answered that it would be a dream come true! We entered the visitor center and after a short wait, several women helped us pick out our kimonos and dressed us - including the shoes. Then we walked through the streets of Narita-town and took some photos. Our guide explained that the visitor center was trying to draw in more visitors to the Narita area and these women volunteered to help - and it was completely free of charge. So if you will be in Narita, check into this. It was an experience beyond compare!

We strolled down the Omotesando road, the shop lined streets of Narita -while our guide explained that Narita is known for it's eel cuisine and many people come here solely for that- on our way to another awesome experience - a fire ceremony at Shinshoji  Temple. We watched the buddhist monks file in, removed our shoes and took a seat on the floor. This ceremony has been done in the same way for over 1000 years and it was an incredible thing to be able to see. (No photos allowed)

Have to try the eel next time - no time this time!

Carved and painted wood!

Not done yet, our next stop was Bosu No Mara (or Bosu Village Park). This park is an open air museum with typical buildings from the Edo period. We had the whole museum to ourselves - and only passed three people the entire time. There are examples of houses, stores and a samurai's house. Upon leaving we were able to drive by a public park with burial mounds from 300 to 530 AD.

Our guide explaining the flags

And last but not least, we stopped at a fertility shrine. After walking up many, many steps - there are two steep, narrow staircases to the top - we entered the shrine and viewed all the prayer cards for fertility. And then, not knowing what was coming next, we entered into a room with many phallic symbols. Lots and lots of them. And...with a twinkle in his eye, Katsumi told us, "the largest one in Japan. Go ahead and touch it  " Obviously, this phallic symbol wasn't real - it was made of stone and was very large. Something I never thought I would say that I'd done was touch the largest phallic symbol in Japan!

So folks, if you have a long layover at Narita airport in Japan, consider taking  a Rainbow Narita tour. Katsumi speaks excellent English, the ride is very comfortable and I learned so much. It was one of my favorite days in Japan - I truly enjoyed seeing this area of Japan which we would never have done on our own. And I'm gonna do another another one if I ever make it back!

This post is part of a link-up with: Weekend Travel Inspiration at Malaysian Meanders, Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and The Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party