Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

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Ten Places In The United States That I Have Been To And Will Return

“America ….. is the land of the richness of life, of the fullness of every hour in the day, the country which gives you the sense of carrying out a huge amount of activity, even though in fact you achieve very little, the country where solitude is impossible.” Italo Calvino

America is big and there is so much to see in the land of the free and home of the brave. The geography, climate, wildlife and people are extremely diverse. We have a brief history compared to Europe and the UK but it is interesting. Here are ten places in no particular order that I love to visit.

Washington DC is the capital of the country and our political center. That might not sound like the place to be be right now but it’s beautiful in the spring with the cherry blossoms in bloom, and in the fall with the leaves changing color. DC is a walkable city if you stay downtown.You have to do the basics. First there are the monuments – Lincoln, Washington, Martin Luther King, Jefferson and WWll. You can see them at night as well. Get your Capitol and White House Tour tickets before you come. It’s fun to just walk down the National Mall and see all the museums and monuments. The Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums all over the city. I also like Newseum, the Holocaust Museum, National Portrait Gallery and my favorite the National Gallery Of Art. Union Market has an amazing food scene and the food in DC is eclectic and delicious. If you have kids, the FBI and the Mint are fun to see.

People from Los Angeles love San Francisco. Their rich people are techies not Hollywood types. It is geographically tiny and you can walk everywhere.  Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is cool.  Riding the cable car is an excellent way to see the city.  Taking the ferry to Alcatraz Island is interesting.  You can walk along Fisherman’s Wharf which is really touristy. I dont recommend eating there.  Swan Oyster Depot is better for seafood. San Francisco is a foodie city so there are many  great restaurants. Go to the largest Chinatown in the US for dim sum and Japantown for sushi. The Ferry Building which has been converted to a market and food court is a great place for lunch. I love the newly renovated San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art. There are many interesting neighborhoods with walking tours. Bring a jacket- even in summer.

Amelia Island is a quiet barrier island, located in the Northernmost portion of Florida, not too far from the Georgia border. The island is one of the Sea Islands, a chain of coastal barrier islands stretching from Northeast Florida to South Carolina. It is great place to relax with southern hospitality. Amelia Island offers 13 miles of quiet, secluded beaches. The setting is quaint and beautiful, with many historical inns, beautiful seaside homes, hiking trails and a few resorts.The weather is mild year-round with an average winter temperature in the 60’s. You will find that the area is not overdeveloped, but rather reminiscent of the old days in Florida.

Chicago, Illinois has the the hospitality of a midwestern city with the  famous architecture and multiculturalism of New York. The food in Chicago is first class and the Art Institute is one of my favorite museums. The elevated Bloomingdale Trail and the Lake Michigan bike paths are fun when the weather is nice. I also liked the Architecture Cruise given by the Architectural Foundation which is a fun way to see the famous buildings. Chicago is home to the comedy club Second City (think SNL) and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (think Broadway). The best time to visit is spring and fall. 

The Big Island is also called Hawaii. I love the Kona side with its volcanic landscape and black sand beaches. The Hilo side has a lush tropical landscape and is definitely a day trip. Yes Hawaii is expensive because it is an island and everything has to be shipped in. If you have never seen an active volcano, go to Hawaii Volcano National Park. Stay after dark to see the glow from the Caldera. I usually never leave the black sand beach.

 As an ex New Yorker, when I visit New York City, I want to see and do it all. It’s a frantic schedule even for a New Yorker. It’s impossible to see it in one visit and you have to resign yourself to see and do what you can. The lines for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Empire State Building are long so get there early. If you are interested in the World Trade Memorial, get your tickets before you go.Times Square is always crowded with tourists. Get tickets for you shows in advance or go to TKTS booth in Times Square for discount tickets to day of shows. See a concert or ballet at Lincoln Center. There are walking tours in every neighborhood so pick neighborhoods that interest you. I grew up in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn and recommend both as a way to relax in the city. The HIghline is an urban walking park which runs from 34th Street to the Meatpacking District, built on old elevated train tracks, is lovely on a nice day. NY is filled with excellent museums so budget some time for those. The Met is one of the biggest museums in the world and  has something for everyone so I recommend that. I love the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. Food is a whole blog. NYC is filled with amazing restaurants and many different immigrant cultures who bring along great food. When I return, I must have pizza and egg rolls from any family run place, cannoli from Venero’s, bagels from Ess A Bagel and a hot dog from Grey’s Papaya . NYC was my last plane trip in the old world so I am particularly nostalgic. 

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Plan to be amazed by the intense color of the red rocks and the night skies filled with stars. There is a magical , spiritual quality to Sedona, Arizona . Sedona has a moderate climate and though it is hotter in summer and snowy in winter, you can really visit anytime. The natural beauty and energy vortexes make hiking, dining, spa and  personal growth experiences even better.

Boston, Massachusetts is one of the most historic cities in the United States. I have been there many times and love the food, museums and the fact that is a slower paced city than New York.The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walk through historic Boston. It takes you through all the major sites and monuments relating to the city’s founding and the Revolutionary War. The trail passes through Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall so plan to stop for lunch.There are beautiful neighborhoods with their own vibe and history to walk through. I love the North End which is the heart of Boston’s Italian community. It involves waiting on a line for cannoli at MIke’s Pastry. You might also want to see a Red Sox game or visit Harvard. Museums in Boston are free to students which is another thing I love about the city.

A new England summer vacation had never occurred to me until my daughter went to camp in Maine. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts is not actually a place to lie out on the beach for eight hours with a drink in hand.The weather can be iffy. There are great restaurants especially if you are a fan of lobster and sea food. The Vineyard is divided into six towns each with their personal vibe, so explore them all, by foot, bike or if it’s raining –  car. If you bring a car, make sure to have a car reservation for the ferry in advance or purchased from a resident. 

I love skiing in Park City, Utah. Growing up as an East Coast skier, the incredible Utah powder is so wonderful. Whatever your level of skiing, you will find runs in Park City. I love Deer Valley. The resort is consistently ranked at the top when it comes to grooming, service, access, on-mountain food, lodging, dining, and kid friendliness. Park City was founded in 1884 after the silver boom of the 1860s, and its mining heritage plays a strong role in defining the Western flavor of the charming little downtown scene. There is an abundance of restaurants and bars to choose from. It is also the host of the world famous Sundance Film Festival which takes place in January every year. 

Sty safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Kyoto, Japan

Things I Have  Learned in  Kyoto, Japan

“The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.”

~ Buddha

Kyoto is the headquarters of Nintendo.

Kyoto has almost 2000 Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples. I haven’t seen them all – yet. ( female monks )

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Sanjusangendo is a 12th century temple (partly rebuilt in the 13th century after a fire) and it has 1000 identical life-sized Buddha statues arranged in 10 rows by 100 columns. In front and around some of these columns there are also 28 unique statues of guardian deities. Directly in the centre of these 1000 statues there sits an impressive giant Buddha statue covered in gold. Don’t go if you happen to  be allergic to smoke.  It also has a thousand candles.

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Ryoan-ji Temple’s dry rock garden is a puzzle. Nobody knows who designed it or what the meaning is of the 15 rocks scattered across its expanse of raked white gravel. Some academics say they represent a tiger carrying a cub across a stream; others believe they depict an ocean accented with small islands or the sky dotted with clouds. There’s even a theory that the rocks form a map of Chinese Zen monasteries. The only thing scholars do agree on is that Ryoan-ji is one of the finest examples of Zen landscaping in the country. You could stay there for years quietly contemplating the garden’s riddles and still get no nearer to an answer, and maybe that’s the point.

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Downtown Kyoto is quite ugly.

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Uji is known for the production of high quality green tea.  It has many tea houses and is a great place to sample green tea, green tea desserts, green tea mochi, green tea cakes, green tea soba and green tea ice cream. Byodo-in Temple is there and is also on the back of the ten yen coin.

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Many stores and restaurants  in Uji  are closed on Monday which makes it the time to go ( not crowded) and not to go. (looking for a restaurant)

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Kyoto was never bombed during World War Two. You can still find 100-year-old streets and lots of old wooden buildings. Some of the structures have withstood earthquakes and have no nails.

Kyoto is Japan’s craft capital, where skills are still passed down through generations. Tiny specialty shops in Shijo Dori, Kawaramachi Dori and the Kyoto Handicraft Center  have Yuzen-dyed fabrics,wooden combs, fans and everything you need to host a tea ceremony.  Shinmonzen Dori and Furumonzen Dori and are filled with antique shops and galleries selling woodblock prints. The department stores around Shijo Kawaramachi intersection and Kyoto train station are good places for lacquerware and kimonos.

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The 7-5-3- festival occurs  around Nov fifteenth.   Five-year-old boys and seven or three-year-old girls are taken to the local shrine to pray for their safe and healthy future. This festival started because of the belief that children of certain ages were especially prone to bad luck and hence in need of divine protection. Children are usually dressed in traditional clothing for the occasion and after visiting the shrine many people buy chitose-ame (“thousand-year candy”) sold at the shrine.

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The most famous  Buddhist temples in Kyoto  are Ginkaku -ji and Kinkaku -ji (the gold and silver pavilion).  I bet they are a lot more beautiful when it isn’t raining.

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Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple .  it is  the Gold Pavilion. The garden complex is an excellent example of a Muromachi period garden. The Muromachi period is considered to be a classical age of Japanese garden design. The correlation between buildings and its settings were greatly emphasized during this period. It was a way to integrate the structure within the landscape in an artistic way. The garden designs were characterized by a reduction in scale, a more central purpose, and a distinct setting. A minimalistic approach was brought to the garden design, by recreating larger landscapes in a smaller scale around a structure.

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The Golden Pavilion was built to house some of Buddha’s ashes..There you’ll witness the flow of Japanese people of all ages praying, paying homage, writing their wishes on colorful ema boards, and buying special charms called omamori in hopes that their aspirations of finding a spouse or succeeding in an exam will someday be fulfilled. (i see my ema board it is one of the few non japanese ones!!!!)

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You will see a lot of school children with their classes at all the temples in Kyoto in November. It is the time for luck and they are all praying for good grades.

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Ginkaku-ji is the Silver Pavilion..  The tea ceremony is said to have originated here. The exterior of the pavilion was originally going to be covered in silver foil, in emulation of the Golden Pavilion (14th century) at Kinkaku – ji. Without ever having enjoyed a coating of silver, the Silver Pavilion is one of the most graceful structures ever built.

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Kiyomizudera Temple  contains several other shrines, notably Jishu-Jinja, dedicated to Okuninushino-Mikoto, a god of love and “good matches”. Jishu-jinja possesses a pair of “love stones” placed 18 meter apart, which lonely visitors attempt to walk between with their eyes closed. Success in reaching the other stone, eyes closed, is taken as a prediction that the pilgrim will find love. One can be assisted in the crossing, but this is taken to mean that an intermediary will be needed. The person’s romantic interest can assist them as well.
 It is the highlight of the yearly school trips to the temples for luck in exams.

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Here is the famous love stone.

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It’s not the only geisha district left in Japan, but Gion, a collection of streets defined by its old wooden buildings, tea houses and exclusive Japanese restaurants, is by far the most famous. Spend an hour wandering the area and chances are you’ll glimpse a geisha or two shuffling between tea houses in their cumbersome zori sandals and exquisite kimono. Much to their annoyance, you’ll probably see camera-happy Japanese tourists stalking them too.

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You get free tofu refills with an eight course tofu dinner – so delicious. ( Tousuiro 075-561-0035 )

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Few museums are as hands-on as this old elementary school turned shrine to manga, or comic books, and its collection of some 300,000 comics and manga-related exhibits. Visitors can read any piece of manga they want at the  Kyoto International Manga Museum  from the towering wooden bookcases that line every wall and hallway. Some read propped up against the walls or sitting crossed legged on the floor; others hunker down with a coffee at the museum’s wood-decked outdoor café. The eclectic and universally transfixed crowd is a testament to how much a part of mainstream Japanese culture manga has become. http://www.kyotomm.com/english/

French Japanese food served by beautiful girls with strong knees is tres bien. ( Takumi Okamura, Gion  075-541-2205 )

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It’s touristy, and  tacky, but dressing up as a samurai and watching TV actors hamming it up on set does hold a certain charm. Eigamura or Kyoto Toei Studio Park to give it its English name, is a working TV and movie set that doubles as a theme park, where besides dressing up in period costume you can wander around a mock-up Edo-era samurai town and take in exhibitions of the well-known TV series and films shot here.It’s the live studio performances, however, that steal the show. The sword fights are extravagant, the facial expressions and body language overly dramatic, and the dialog at times delivered about as convincingly as an elementary school end-of-year play. It’s Japanese kitsch at its finest. Quentin Tarantino would love it. http://www.toei-eigamura.com/en/

(Heian Jingū) Heian Shrine  was  1895  and is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city,  A giant torii gate marks the approach to the shrine, The real shrine grounds themselves are very spacious, with a wide open court at the center. The shrine’s main buildings are a partial replica of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian Period built on a somewhat smaller scale than the original.

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Behind the main buildings there is an attractive, paid garden with a variety of plants, ponds and traditional buildings. The garden’s most striking feature are its many weeping cherry trees which bloom a few days later than most other cherry trees, making the garden one of the best   around the tail end of the season, which is usually around mid April.

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Omikuji are paper fortunes that can be bought at both shrines and temples. The fortunes range from great good luck to great bad luck. There are trees to tie the fortunes to avert the bad luck if you are unlucky enough to draw that fortune.

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One of my fortunes is framed in my house. The others might be on a tree. The  thing about luck is that it always changes.

for more info go to

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/japanese-food/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/things-i-have-learned-in-okinawa-and-hiroshima/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/things-i-have-learned-in-japan/

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/things-i-have-learned-in-tokyo/

ki o twu kete

JAZ