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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

STAY: A guest cabin on a ranch in Colorado

When I was young some of my favorite books were the Marguerite Henry series of horse books - Misty of Chincoteague, Sea Star, Stormy and Misty's Twilight. I became a bit horse obsessed and always thought it would be so cool to own one - even though I'm sure the work is way more than I ever imagined it to be. Mr. UR even bought me riding lessons for my 30th birthday - which, by the way, was one of his best gift ideas ever. So while planning a trip to Colorado about 10 years ago - even before my oldest moved there - I came upon a cabin on a horse ranch outside of Durango and immediately decided I had to go there. But, of course, as life happens I didn't go on that particular trip. I did, however, bookmark the cabin and when I found that we would be heading to southwestern Colorado this past summer I decided I had to stay there. Please let it be available!

The H&D Ranch is located in Hesperus, Colorado.( H&D stands for horses and black and tan coonhounds) They rent out their one bedroom with loft and hot tub guest cabin on VRBO. After finding the bookmark, I checked the rental cabin schedule and contacted the renter for a particular weekend. After a bit of phone tag, I sent the deposit as soon as we had confirmation that it was available. 

We drove from Telluride to Hesperus using directions from the owner. It is in a very isolated area - but I knew right away that it was worth the drive. Unfortunately, the owner was out of town when we were there but the ranch foreman helped out with anything we needed. We stayed for 3 nights touring Colorado by day and sitting on the back deck watching the horses and sunset in the evening. When darkness fell, it was time to stargaze and one night, watch a far away lightning storm from the hot tub.

We also were visited by the resident hound dogs - the owner leaves treats in your cabin that you can feed them when they come by - which was a treat for us also.

One morning Mr. UR and I drove around the ranch and visited with the horses - which made me happy. Most of them didn't pay much attention to us. And one evening my son's girlfriend fed them a few carrots - which made the horses happy.

This cabin was a dream stay for me. It fulfilled my expectations - and even though we didn't ride any of the horses it was fantastic to sit out on the back deck at sunset in the peace and quiet with just the sounds from the ranch around us. Utter delight.

How about you? Have you ever stayed somewhere at the top of your wish list? Did it meet your expectations?

This post is a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Albom Adventures, Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings and Weekend Wanderlust Travel Blog Party!