Happy Sunday to all of our travel friends, both near and far! Here are some articles we’ve read from other bloggers (and other sources) that we think you may like, as well, so we’re passing them along.
We’ve made a choice to avoid flying on United Airlines. For our normal travels, it doesn’t cause much of a hardship as we don’t live at a United hub airport. We’ve been able to find flights to where we want without using them and they’ve never been the cheapest or best option anyway. The problem is that we still have a stash of United miles that we earned from the United MileagePlus Explorer card sign up bonus. We didn’t renew the card but those miles are still ours and I need to figure out a use for them.
Thank goodness for airline alliances. United Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, which means we should be able to use those miles for flights on Star Alliance member airlines. You may also hear this being called “using miles on partner airlines.” So where can we fly from our home airport, or nearby, using our United miles?
It’s the beginning of a new year. A time to reset and restart. If you didn’t notice, we’ve done some refreshing of the website. How do you like our new logo? I sure am glad we have talented friends to help us with things like that :-).
On the other hand, a new year is also an opportunity to set some goals. While you can set goals for your health (who’s going to the gym tomorrow? Go and get it!) or for your education (that thesis? easy peasy lemon squeezy!) you can also set some goals for your travels. I wrote down several things I want to accomplish this year (and got a head start on one of them already)
Woke up 8am and finished our last-minute (high speed) internet and packing. It was very overcast, so no view of Mt. Fuji today.
I had been promised Starbucks and was going to hold the guys to their promise . I had asked for directions from the concierge a day or two before and after finding the place (an adventure in itself…at first all we saw were steps and we wanted either an escalator or an elevator. I eventually found the escalators…but not after Joe and Steve took the ramp into a dental facility’s elevator), I was satiated with “good” coffee.
We did the reverse trip that we had taken last Friday, taking 3 trains back to TDL (we’ve been teasing Joe all trip about his continuous use of maps, even nicknaming him “Magellan,” but the truth of the matter was that he did a terrific job of getting us from city to city without getting lost even once). We had seen on the Japanese news stations that there had been a major train accident somewhere, but since we didn’t understand Japanese, we didn’t know the details. Our trains were all on time and the only indication of problems was written information that 3 train lines were “delayed” because of “accident.”
We arrived at Maihama Station without incident and made use of the advance check-in at Ikspiari, which was within walking distance to the station. We were able to get our monorail and park passes there, plus drop our luggage off with them, so we didn’t have to drag it with us all the way to the hotel. I made the mistake of saying “yes” when they asked me if there was anything fragile or valuable in my luggage…I had my laptop in my wheeled bag so I wouldn’t have to carry it in my backpack and they said they couldn’t be responsible for equipment like that…so the computer wound up in my backpack after all. Grrr…..
Free of luggage (except for the laptop), we went to the Bon Voyage gift shop, also right by the station, to pick up the souvenirs we saw on Friday but hadn’t wanted to drag with us to Tokyo.
Took the monorail to Miracosta and checked in. Although our room wasn’t ready yet, we were able to upgrade our room to a better view of Port Paradiso (that’s the best view they have…we wanted to go out in style ) and made arrangements for shuttle pickup to Narita airport for tomorrow.
After checking in, we went into TDS through the front entrance…we had never done it last week because we always took advantage of the park entrance within the hotel. As we entered, I found a locker for my laptop while Joe got his one roll of Advantix film developed (Note: I am finishing this entry up on the plane between Narita and Chicago and as of this writing, Joe and I taken 1,780 digital pictures and Steve has 2,626 under his belt…and both cameras have a few more pictures to be downloaded yet. That includes “let me take it a second time just in case” shots and the ones that, if they were on paper, would be burned).
After entering the park, Joe bought a TDS watch and while he was waiting 10-20 minutes for them to remove a link, we went on the Great Search For The Mayor of Porto Paradiso. We are friendly with someone who was the Mayor for several months in 2001-2002 and so we REALLY wanted to find the Mayor. The last 2 days we had been in TDS, there was no Mayor to be found, at least not where and when we looked. Joe had tried to ask Guest Services about the Mayor back on Wednesday, but they didn’t seem to know much about him. Today I finally saw a group of some non-Asian performers so I asked them about the Mayor…the recommended asking their Stage Manager…who said he would still be out at 2pm, 3:10pm and 4:10pm…it was about 2:15pm by them, so we started looking where she pointed. And FINALLY we found him. We took a pic and, strangely enough, felt like we had accomplished something.
At this point, we split up with Steve to do our own thing.
After Joe picked up his watch, we went on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea again (twice, actually), because I wanted to videotape it with Night Shot (I’m back to my old habits of taping just about everything…I think I have 14 hours of videotape logged for this vacation).
Joe was getting hungry so we stopped off for lunch at Vulcania Restaurant, which is near 20K. The buffeteria-style restaurant was as well-themed as the rest of the Mysterious Island land, and had the best Chinese food we had had all trip (yes. Chinese food in Japan).
We next saw the “Sail Away” show by the Columbia steamship. The entire show, (including the American songs like “By The Beautiful Sea”) was in Japanese, including the speaking roles by the non-Asian performers. It was very colorful and the music was moderately entertaining but I have no idea of the plot.
We met up with Steve at 4, got my computer out of the locker, went back to the hotel front desk and found out our room was ready. It took Bell Services 10 min to find all our stuff (some left here from last week, some left with Welcome Center that morning and some left with Bell Services after we went to Bon Voyage) and another 10 minutes to try to load it onto the bellman’s cart.
Our room, #4301, was a mirror image of our last Miracosta room, but with a couch instead of a bench and a table instead of a desk. Our view though, was awesome…we were just a few rooms away from the center of the building, looking over Porto Paradiso and the Mediterranean Harbor.
While in the room, we unpacked what we needed through the next morning and started re-packing to get ready to go home. Steve was still waiting for his battery to recharge so Joe and I went to the park. We went on the 3 best E-Ticket rides again (Indiana Jones, 20K and Journey to the Center of the Earth), then staked out our spots for BraviSEAmo.
BraviSEAmo had been down for rehab for the past 2 weeks and, in fact, we had come back to TDS this one day specifically to see it, since it was still not in operation last week. It was held on the water of Mediterranean Harbor and it was our understanding that it was the TDL version of Fantasmic (a nighttime water show). Joe asked a CM where was the “ichiban #1” place to see the show and she directed him to an area on the western side of the water, where about 2 dozen people were already sitting. We took our spots and waited the hour or so until the show. The show finally began with Mickey on a mythological-looking water cruiser, speaking to the audience (in Japanese), all around the harbor. And everything else was VERY Japanese. No narration…just fountains and some small fireworks, a big barge with a big person-shaped “god” made out of water (torso and head were simplified shapes and limbs were streaming, shooting water) and a spider/dragon shaped red thing that spewed fire balls out of its several “arms.” I think they had a fight or maybe they equaled each other out or maybe the water won…I dunno. The audience appeared enthralled. We were very “WTF?” Again, a time where we lost something because of the cultural differences. We taped it from “our spot” and Steve taped it from our room. Maybe we’ll understand it more when we watch the tapes. I doubt it though.
After BraviSEAmo, Joe and I went to Zambini Brothers Ristorante for dinner. Italian this time…I had rigatoni with meat sauce and Joe had gnocchis (we were amazed that the cashier could pronounce “gnocchis” better than most Floridians do…I grew up in an Italian neighborhood…they are NOT “guh-NAH-chees”…they are “NYOH-kees” ). Again, very good food. This restaurant has its own private label of real Italian wine, which includes a medallion and ribbon that commemorates TDS…we thought about buying one but decided it wasn’t worth $38/bottle.
Went on JTTCOTE one last time while we could, then headed back to the room to pack, when the park closed. I was POSITIVE we were going to have to use a shopping bag for some of our stuff but Joe is an excellent packer and between the 2 of us, we managed to get everything into 4 checked bags, 2 carry-ons and 2 personal bags.
Went to bed around midnight or so…and then Steve’s cell phone rang around 4:30am. Steve is computer programmer for an insurance company and is on call 24/7, even when he is on vacation. They apparently had a problem with a program so they called him. He and Joe got the laptop set up so he could fix the problem remotely, then all was quiet again.
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Today was our 8-hour guided tour of Tokyo, provided by Sunrise Tours. I had taken the same tour, Dynamic Tokyo, when I went to Japan in 1994 and thought it was so good that we should do it this time.
We woke up at 6:30am (after going to bed at 12:30am…argh!) and were in our lobby for a 7:55am pickup. The bus, which was just a pick-up bus for several tours, came to our hotel right on schedule (NBD – it’s Japan) and after making 2 more stops, we went to a centralized processing place to pay for our tour (5% discount and a free sushi magnet because we paid with our Visa card ) and get on our tour bus.
Continue reading “#TBT: Japan, April 2005: Doing Tokyo Like A Tourist”