#TBT: Japan April 2005: Kyoto: Kyoto Station, Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, Seeing Beauty & The Beast

So after waking up at 4:20am (yes, 4:20 in the morning. Jetlag sucks!) and catching up on our internet/computer stuff, Joe, Steve (MODERN-DAY NOTE: Steve is a friend of ours) and I started our day by using the hotel’s shuttle to go to Kyoto Station. Lesson #1 is get to the shuttle at least 15 minutes before it has to leave because it fills up FAST:
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
We made it onto the shuttle bus, but there were a LOT of people who didn’t. My favorite was when the driver had squeezed in every single body he could, there was no room to breathe, people had suitcases on their laps, and someone came up and said, “Do you have room for 4 more?”

Arrived at Kyoto Station around 10:00am. Re-built and expanded around a decade ago, that place is HUGE…besides being the main bus, train and Shinkansen (Bullet Train) center for Kyoto, it also encompasses a few shopping malls, a department store, a hotel, the theater where Disney’s Beauty & The Beast was playing, and I forget what else…I mean it’s HUGE.
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
This picture of Kyoto station, which shows how cavernous is it, is only a tiny piece of the whole complex.

We wandered around for an hour, getting our bearings and looking for a place to eat. Found a noodle shop that opened at 11am and had a good breakfast/lunch of stuff that we mostly knew what it was (wink). The shop, which was within the confines of Kyoto Station, gets a lot of tourists (and non-tourists too), so one of the workers helped Joe and Steve with what they had to do with their food (“put these spices in this liquid, mix and dip your food into it”…that sort of stuff). I apparently “won” the “Stupid American” contest…the guy only helped me once…told me to pour the broth over my noodles and shrimp and then he left me alone (wink).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Front of the noodle shop. Notice the display of plastic food on the left side of the store. Besides showing potential customers the type of foods they offer, those who don’t speak the language can go outside with the person who is taking your order and you can point to what you want.

So after several stops at several information booths, we found our train and made it to the Imperial Palace. It’s a group of very big, old buildings inside a park. Actually, it’s much more than that. The Japanese Imperial family lived in these buildings before they moved to their Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 1868. It was built and rebuilt (ten times due to fire) between 750 and 1855 A.D. The do have free guided tours, but you need to apply in person (not by mail or phone) to be able to go on one. That didn’t work for us logistically, since we had just arrived a day and a half before, plus the tours are only conducted in Japanese. We were only allowed to stand outside the buildings and, at best, peer inside.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
One of the more ornate buildings that is in the Imperial Palace complex.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Looks like Epcot, doesn’t it?

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
General description of what we’re seeing in this particular building.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Close-up of what was described. And no, that’s not an orb.

Since we made it to one tourist spot without incident, we decided to take our chances and took another train to Nijo Castle. Another “big ol’ opulent house where someone important used to live.” This one began construction in 1601, as a residence for the Shoguns and, like many old Japanese buildings, was burned down and rebuilt many times over the centuries. We were allowed to go inside this one, albeit after taking our shoes off to protect the centuries-old floorboards. Nijo castle was built in such a way that the floorboards always squeak if someone stands or walks on them…it was done that way on purpose, so guards could hear intruders at nighttime. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the buildings but took shots of the outside and the gardens.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Main building of the castle

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Main gate before the castle (taken from the castle courtyard, looking back, after you’ve already gone through the gate)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Visitors are allowed to climb the (VERY STEEP!) stairs to just one of the guard gates. This is the view from there.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
A very photogenic building in the Nijo Castle complex [wink]).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
A view of the moat

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Nice shot of the Nijo Castle garden.

By this time it was about 4pm. Beauty & the Beast was scheduled to open their doors at 6:10pm so we trained it back to Kyoto Station and found a sit-down place to eat called Toh Sai. Joe and I both had the pork cutlet in curry with white rice (before we had gone on this vacation, someone told us that when in doubt, get the curry platter) and Steve had a beef dish. Decided to get dessert…Joe and I shared a chocolate parfait, which was chocolate soft-serve ice cream with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and frozen raspberries on top, and a layer of mandarin oranges, pineapple chunks and more frozen raspberries on the bottom. I’ve never been a fan of chocolate and fruit, so all I’ll say is that the ice cream part was good (wink).

Made it to B&TB…the show is exactly like the Broadway and/or traveling version, though, of course, all in Japanese (“Ohayo Belle!” instead of “bon jour”). We were able to follow the storyline without a problem though…between the 3 of us, we’ve seen it 20 times between Broadway and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (grin).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Posters advertising the show. Photo taken at Kyoto Station. Notice what show is coming next…Aida!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Stairway that leads to the main entrace of the theater. The opening to the right leads towards a hotel that is also in Kyoto Station.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
A picture of the inside of the theater. Very plain, undecorated black walls and ceiling, with these BRIGHT pinkish-purple seats.

Japanese audiences are very different from American audiences…besides a few nuances that wouldn’t translate over (i.e. when Belle sings the line, “Madame Gaston, his little wife, UGH!!!”, the “Ugh” is MUCH less accentuated in Japan…because people generally just aren’t that mean to each other in Japan where they would say something that bad about someone else [grin]), their applause between songs is polite and short-lived, there was little-to-no laughing at the parts we Americans always laugh (i.e. when Gaston knocks LeFou to the ground), but they clapped for 5 minutes straight, non-stop, for TEN curtain calls at the end of the show! Now, this COULD be because the show was scheduled to close the next night, but even so, it is, by far, the LONGEST applause I’ve EVER seen!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Joe and I and a lifesize cardboard cutout of Lumiere.

Overall, we had a very nice time and the only disappointment was that they didn’t have any Japan-specific, or Kyoto-specific B&TB merchandise…all of their shirts, mugs, etc., all had the generic “B&TB: A Broadway Musical” logo. Only thing they had was an ornament for a cell phone that had “Kyoto – Finale!,” to commemerate the closing the show, so we got one of those. I would have bought the CD but, of course, I got that YEARS ago (wink).

Took a city bus back towards our hotel and amazed ourselves at not getting lost between the bus station and the hotel. Was in bed by 11pm, with plans to meet Steve at 8:30 Saturday morning, to go on our next adventure.

Resort Fees And Parking Fees And Taxes, Oh, My! Choosing A Hotel In Las Vegas

I’m well into planning mode for our big trip to the Southwest, which means I have to start researching hotels. I love the planning of trips almost as much as I do going on them; it is part of the fun for me. There are times where the planning starts to drive me, and Sharon, a little crazy (edit by Sharon: a LITTLE?!?!?! hahahaha!!!).

Part of our trip will be a stay in Las Vegas. Due to the number of activities suggested to us when we asked for help with planning, we extended our stay there to 3 nights. It’s been a
while since I’ve been to Vegas so I needed to brush up on my hotels. Many of the places I Continue reading “Resort Fees And Parking Fees And Taxes, Oh, My! Choosing A Hotel In Las Vegas”

#TBT: Japan, April 2005 – Osaka to Kyoto: Shuttle Bus Ride, Holiday Inn Kyoto, Jet Lag

We arrived yesterday afternoon and after a 2-hour shuttle ride from the airport in Osaka to our hotel in Kyoto, we fell into our beds at 9pm Thursday (Japan time), after being awake since 4:30am Wednesday (Orlando time). All told, we were awake for probably 26 of the past 28 hours. I’m getting WAY too old for this (grin).

During our shuttle bus ride to the hotel, we already stared seeing lots of Engrish. A factory that made ice products had a logo that said, “Always to make your life the best!” I saw an establishment called “The Glory Hole” and laughed. Don’t know what it was, though I doubt it was what I thought it would be if it was in the US (grin).

The hotel, Holiday Inn Kyoto, is nice. Apparently it’s a “hot spot” for Americans (mainly older ones on tours…but I love old people [grin]) so the 3 of us are not the only ones who speak Japanese. We’ll appreciate that more as the days go on and we understand NOTHING [grin].

MODERN-DAY NOTE: If you look at their website and compare my photos from 2005 and theirs that are copyright 2017, you’ll see that the building has not been change AT ALL. Same carpet in the lobby, same furniture in the room).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Our hotel’s lobby
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Our floor (7th floor) – a view from the elevator

The rooms are small…about 11’x20′, bathroom included, but it’s just Joe and I in this room (Steve [MODERN-DAY NOTE: Steve is a friend of ours] has his own room for this leg of the trip) so we’re using the 2nd double bed as an extension of floor space (wink).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Joe and Steve at the computer (my laptop) in our room
Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Duck on bed in his and Steve’s room. The radio is composed of 6 pre-determined stations and the red thing on the bottom shelf of the nightstand is a flashlight, in case of emergency (earthquake). No Gideon Bible in the nightstand, though some places had the works of Buddha.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
You can’t see it, but you have to step over a 4″ rise in the doorway to get into the bathroom. They also give you slippers to wear in the bathroom (since it’s customary to take your shoes off when you enter the hotel room and you don’t want to run the risk of getting your feet wet in the bathroom). That dark, rectangular thing on the floor between the toilet and the shower is a drain. They don’t use caulk as often (or as much?) as we do, so water from the shower is allowed to drain/drip/pour onto the bathroom floor, which is oh-so-slightly graded towards the floor drain. It’s probably a cleaner system, since caulk gets dirty and moldy, but it really messed with the minds of us stupid Americans who were trying to put down floor mats and couldn’t figure out why they were getting SO wet during our showers! (grin)

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
The toilets in most of our hotels were made by Toto, which is a Japanese company but they sell them in the United States, as well. They were awesome…all the ones we experienced had heated seats (with adjustable temperatures), automatic closers (so you don’t slam the seat down) and a bidet. Some of the fancier ones also had “odor neutralizers” (automatic scent expellers), “courtesy flushes” (automatic half-flush when you sit), noise cancellers (computerized sound of a toilet with the press of a button, so no one hears you “going”), etc. Steve hated the heated seat and both of the guys thought the bidet was scary (grin) but I thought the whole setup was GREAT! I want one. No, really. I do. I don’t think we can do the bidet thing because our water is too hard and the sprayer would be chock full of calcium deposits within 6 months (and Joe is wonderful about letting me buy stuff but he’s already drawn the line at a water softener for the benefit of a more efficient bidet [grin])…but all we need for the warm seat is a plug…which I think we can do…woohoo! (MODERN-DAY NOTE: I did get my own Toto Washlet in 2008, when we gutted & re-did our master bathroom. Calcium deposits are not an issue and it still ROCKS!) That thing under the toilet paper, with the round hole, is the smallest garbage can known to man. Two tissues and it was all filled up.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Our complimentary bath sponges from the room (grin).

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
They also gave us disposable toothbrushes, toothpaste, things to pull our hair back and razors, but none were as funny as the bath sponges.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
The view outside our window. I like the contrast of the parking lot on one roof, tennis court on the other roof, residential area across the river, and then mountains.

We don’t have many solid plans today, since we don’t know if jet lag will hit us later in the day. We’re seeing Beauty & The Beast tonight though…all in Japanese (we know the story, so it’s OK)…I can hardly wait!

Anyway, it’s past 6am and I’m gonna go start getting ready to take a shower. This hotel has free DSL in the rooms (WOO HOO!) and we’ll be here for the first 5 days, so y’all will get reports here and there.

Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa

Spoiler alert – I had a really hard time deciding how I felt about this hotel. I mean, my reviews are normally my thoughts about a hotel based on my stay. But after visiting the Hyatt Centric Key West for a few days, I discovered my thoughts about a hotel can be changed by what I expect going in (and how much the hotel costs).

KWHyattFrontSign

Right after getting home from our stay, I wrote about how I spent 75,000 Hyatt points to stay at this hotel. I would normally think that many points for a 3 night stay would be expensive. That was until I looked up a cash price of a room and saw it would have cost us $1876.84. That means this hotel, after taxes and fees, would have cost $650 a night. Turned out this was “season” for Key West and as our favorite bartender told us, “Those Continue reading “Hotel Review: Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa”

Looking For Off-Property Hotels Around Disneyland When “Plan A” (DVC) Didn’t Work Out

I’ve already documented in a previous article the difficulties I came across when trying to book a room at Disneyland with my DVC points, and now it was time to start looking at Plan B, Plan C and, if needed, Plan D. Now, I don’t have much experience with booking hotels in and around Disneyland. We’ve stayed in the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel several times. Going back many years ago, we stayed at the Sheraton Anaheim Hotel (now renamed the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel) with a group discount from a theme park message board we helped moderate. On our most recent trip, we stayed at the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort (that’s a mouthful). It wasn’t my original choice, but I was lucky enough to win a free night during a online contest that had to be Continue reading “Looking For Off-Property Hotels Around Disneyland When “Plan A” (DVC) Didn’t Work Out”

BoardingArea