By the time we got back to Tokyo Station from Kamakura, dusk was quickly approaching.
We got back to the tiny apartment, freshened up and relaxed for a bit. Then it was off to Ebisu Station to meet our good friend Reiko, who we hadn't seen since we had dinner at Tanyaki Shinobu. Hearing that the Missus loved Yakitori, Reiko wanted to take us to an "old school" yakitori "joint" named Tatsuya.
It is a place where salarymen and old timers hang out shoulder to shoulder at the bar, drinking and filling themselves with reasonably priced skewers.....
The business hours; 8am to 5am (?!?) kind of tells you what kind of place this is.
To be honest; the yakitori here is fairly generic.......the Missus and cracked up when we actually had problems figuring out what was kimo (chicken liver), because all of it looked kind of alike!
It was an interesting view into life in Tokyo........ And super reasonably priced as well. And I'm sure this stuff would be great after like 3-4 (or 5-8) beers. It was a fun experience.
Tatsuya 1-8-16 Ebisu-Minami Shibuya, Tokyo
Reiko had another stop planned, but the place was closed. So we decided to walk into a nearby yakiniku shop.
Reiko rarely has yakiniku so she was all for it.
So we ordered a couple of plates and some beer for us.
Good lord this stuff was so good!
I mean, the beef tongue and highly marbled rib meat (A5 Kobe) was great as expected. But the Missus just loved the liver and I was just amazed at how almost buttery and tender the horumon was. And the flavor from the charcoal.......oh man!
It's amazing how a little serendipitous moment can turn into such a great meal. So now, I may have to find a great yakiniku place the next time we're in Tokyo.
There's no info in English on this shop; just a rather light entry in Tabelog.
Oumiteipurasuwan 1-8-10 Ebisu-Nishi Shibuya, Tokyo
Arriving back at Tokyo Station....walking past all the all the men displaying what we call the "Asian Gene", we had to smile.
Yes, Tokyo is a lot of bright lights, hustle and bustle....there's something going on all the time, the folks here walk really, really fast....but a few blocks away you'll find a serene moment. It's that charm that makes me want to keep on coming back.
The temple the Missus really wanted to see (among several) was Jochiji located up a trail away from the main road.
Jochiji is one of the great five temples of Kamakura.
There were a couple of interesting things to see; the Kanro-no-I, the "Nectar Well", one of the "Ten Wells of Kamakura".
But we enjoyed the statue of Hotei; the "God of Happiness". The friendly folks encouraged the Missus to rub his belly for good luck and prosperity. He does look like a jolly fellow, doesn't he?
The Main Hall features statues of the "Three Buddha's", Amida, Shaka, and Miroku.
There are quite a few caves on the temple grounds and it was quite an interesting visit.
Also, from here, if you're in the mood, is where the Daibutsu Hiking Trail begins or ends...depending on which direction you care to take.
We decided to pass. I was getting a bit hungry so we headed back to busy Komachi Street to look for something to eat. We came across this rather charming looking doorway.
Looking at the sign, there was an English translation; of which there was an English translation, it became apparent that this was a soba restaurant. We weren't quite sure to start, but decided to have lunch here.
There's a nice walkway to the restaurant. Which seemed formal, understated, but welcoming at the same time.
Heading down that walkway you enter the restaurant and we instantly saw that they made their own soba here, which sealed the deal.
The place was just starting to fill up....with tourists....Japanese tourists, which wasn't a bad sign.
Since it winter, we went with the hot soba.
The Missus had tororo; grated mountain yam...that somewhat pleasantly gooey and gluey, and mildly sweet stuff.
I went with the Tempura Soba.
The tsuyu was very pleasant, rather light, the noodles were nicely drained, slightly springy, with a nice pull. For some reason, the Missus doesn't care for the lightly battered tempura, which I like....She prefers the rather dense style you find in tempura places in the US....sigh.....
The one thing both the Missus and I didn't care for was the slightly "floury" soba cooking water (soba-yu) that they provide at the end.
The Missus says it tastes just like jiaozi cooking water that they also consume in Qingdao; so go figure.
Overall a nice meal.
Kamakura Yamaji 1-7-3 Yukinoshita Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan
After lunch, we headed back to the train station and caught the Electric Train on the Enoden line and got out at Hase. A short walk away is Kotokuin Temple.
This temple is famous for the iconic Daibutsu; the Great Buddha of Kamakura. While the Bronze Buddha of Nara is larger; the outdoor setting makes this rendering of Amida Buddha seem more impressive.
Don't you think?
On the way back to the station we passed this tiny temple.
It's Shugenji Temple. If you scroll down a bit on this website you can read the rather interesting story of the temple and the individual who formerly lived on this property Shijo Kingo.
We contemplated checking out the nearby Hasedera Temple. But decided on returning to Kamakura on another day. We needed to get back to Tokyo, to rest up a bit and then meet a good friend of ours for dinner.
After a fairly busy couple of days on Easter Island, we decided to take a little break during our first day in Lima. We had a wonderful lunch at El Veridico de Fidel, managed to check into a pretty nice upgraded room.....freshened up, then took a nice nap. It was starting to get dark when we awoke.
So, it was time for dinner! We headed out, taking our time......
We passed this fountain looking thing on Tarata Street. It's called the Monument Paseo de la Solidaridad.
We ambled our way to our dinner destination. Right before walking to Maido the night before heading to Santiago, we stopped by a restaurant to make reservations for our first night back in Miraflores at Restaurant Panchita Sazón Criolla, part of the Gaston Acurio empire. Pachita celebrates Perivian Criollo (think Creole) cuisine; the multi-national influenced dishes that equates to comfort food to many in Peru. The Missus headed to Panchita with a bit of apprehension after our so-so meal at Gaston Acurio's celebrated cebicheria La Mar. Still, I was looking forward to some anticuchos. The Hostess had remembered us from the evening we dropped by and made reservations.
We were lead to our table, passing trays of skewered meat....various parts of different creatures.
The woodfired oven looked ready for action.
The customers were a mix of Peruvians and tourists. The service was decent....some bumps in the road but good overall.
I started with a Cusquena Dorada Golden Lager, slightly sweet, mild malts, very nondescript.
Of course the Missus got a Pisco Sour, requesting it not too sweet. This was good, but nowhere near as good as what we had at Maido.
We were asked about bread and had initially thought about skipping it. But decided on getting it after all. If I recall 7 S/ (about $2) per person. This wasn't very good...very much like typical heat and eat stuff.
The Missus was fascinated by the various braised dishes and is a fan of Seco, the traditional beer-cilantro sauce. so She ordered the El Ossobuco Entero (88 S/ - $26), which featured "seco gravy".
We actually had to send this back initially because it was below room temperature. When heated properly, this was quite nice. Rich, a complex, mild herbaceous-sweet-savoriness, and the Missus loved those beans. The ossobuco was very tender and mild in flavor. This is total comfort food. The rice was meh......
I first ordered the Sweetbread Anticuchos (36 S/$10.50).
The sweetbread were lovely, very creamy interior, smoky, rich. Very nice. The Missus loves the potatoes in Peru and this was no exception....and of course, She could never get enough Choclo, the crunchy, large kernel corn, of Peru which She plowed through in a matter of seconds. Starchy instead of sweet crunchy, Choclo differs from Hominy in that it is not dried and treated with lye.
Still, I needed my Anticuchos de Corazon (39 S/ $11.50), beef heart, one of my favorite Peruvian dishes.
This might be the best anticuchos I've had. It had obviously been grilled, but not to the point of getting too firm and chewy. The texture was very nice; firm to the bite, but also quite tender. The marinade was nice, as it wasn't too salty. The Missus wiped out the Choclo again; though I got the potatoes this time. I'm not sure what it is about potatoes in Peru; but they always seem to taste better than what we have here in the states.
While we were eating, this older couple sat at a table nearby. The Missus told me, "they look familiar.....you know, that painting?" Good lord, She was right; give the guy a pitchfork and they'd fit perfectly in a Grant Wood painting!
We really enjoyed our meal at Panchita and the Missus has the place on Her list for a return visit if/when we're back in Lima.
Restaurant Panchita Sazón Criolla Calle 2 de Mayo, Miraflores, Peru
We rolled back to the Courtyard bellies full. The night was getting a bit chilly. We'd had a great day. It was Friday, so the main streets of Miraflores were full of people and cars. But the area around the hotel were much less hectic. We'd have a nice night of sleep.
After a relatively relaxing day in Bordeaux, the Missus decided that we should take at least one day trip. I thought a nice 40 minute train ride into the village of St Emilion, which, in addition to claiming to being the oldest wine producing area in Bordeaux (dating back to Roman times), the village is a World Heritage Site.
Getting off the train, you immediately know what the cash crop here is......
You are engulfed by grape vines......
The walk to the village from the train station was about 15 minutes.
We had decided to arrive fairly early and the streets were sedate, it was quite charming. There were basically no one on the sometimes narrow street as we wound our way up the hill. I guess it wasn't quite "wine o'clock" yet.
There are two distinctive landmarks in the village. The first is the Chateau du Roi, which is located on the hill west of the center of St Emilion.
According to what I read, this used to be the King's Castle and dates back to the 13th century. You can buy tickets to climb to the top, but since it was early the place wasn't open yet.
From here, you can view the rooftops of most of the village and get a nice glimpse of the other major landmark of St Emilion; the Eglise Monolithe, Saint Emilion Monolithic Church.
We were even more impressed after taking a tour....more on that in a bit.
We headed back down into the lower part of the village, then back up the narrow streets until we arrived at Place des Creaneux. This is where the TI office is located. They had just opened. We asked for maps and some other recommendations. As with our other experience at the TI in Sarlat, the young lady here was amazing; such a joy to deal with. She asked us if we'd "like to see a very interesting part of St Emilion that is not open to the public?" And we said, "of course".....so she booked us for "Underground St Emilion"...the first tour, which started at 1030.
This meant that we had about forty minutes of so to kill, so we wondered around a bit. Around the corner from the TI is the Eglise Collégiale, the Collegiate Church. The Romanesque styling means this church has been around for quite a while.
The cloisters, built in the Gothic style is what this church is known for.
It was quite amazing to have a place like this all to ourselves.
It was getting close to the time of our scheduled tour. So we needed to get to that plaza below us. The way down was rather steep and we passed through a gateway; the Porte de la Cadene. There was a very rustic (and old) wooden structure next to the gate, I was told that the name of the gate is derived from "catena", which meant chain. Apparently, there was once a chain which controlled access to the main square of the town at this gate.
There a quite a few questions about the existence of this gate and structure; since it was within the village, why was there a "chain/gate" here? Who was being defended and/or protected? Who doesn't love a little mystery?
We were told to wait for our tour in front of the "three windows".
The tour itself was quite good. We got to learn a bit about the history of St Emilion, which is named after a monk, named, well Emilion, of the Breton Priory, who fled to this area to escape persecution from the Benedictine Order. He settled in a cave, dug out of the hillside that is now St Emilion. During the 45 minute tour, we visited what was (supposedly) his bed, carved out of bedrock, visited catacombs, and we saw paintings within the Trinity Chapel, done in the 13th century. The most impressive thing to us was seeing the amazing "church" carved out of the stone. There were huge devices which looked like they were used to stabilize the ceiling. It was quite amazing....as this all started as a cave carved out by a single monk. What was more surprising....is that we exited by a door near those three very windows where we first gathered. Who knew what lay behind them!
Even though our tour was in French, the young lady also spoke English so we really got a lot out of our time. Highly recommended!
It was still fairly early, so we decided to head back to Bordeaux. And while the train was rather late....there was an interesting conversation I had with a nice gentleman who told me that the "French are very detailed oriented, like the Japanese"....after which I told him, "however, if the trains ran as late in Japan....you know, heads would have rolled....", which got a nice laugh.
Getting back to Bordeaux, we caught the tram and got off near Cours de l’Intendance.
It was for me to "payer le prix promis".....to go ahead and "pay the promised price" to the Missus. I had told Her that She could get whatever scarf She wanted from Hermes whenever we visited France (this, BTW has changed and gotten a bit more pricy). and so, the Missus got the scarf of Her choice....after all, love is priceless, no?
We had decided to finish up the eggs and cheese we had purchased the day before for lunch. But, we had seen some interesting beer in St Emilion....I know, we went to one of the great wine producing areas of France and bought some beer......which isn't even from the area. But the Missus still had another bottle of Her Chateau de Grand Moulin, so why not try these?
The Biere de Ferme Truffle was kind of weird....it had an strange off taste, little foam, kind of weak......fragrance of truffle, but the flavor is very difficult to describe.
The Ambree, on the other hand was very good...nutty and on the sweet (very Belgian) in flavor, I found it to be quite pleasant to drink.
We had a nice short nap, then it was off to dinner. The destination was close by. I'd read about a shop called Saveurs D' Aquitaine, which specialized in small dishes of local ingredients....the highlight being truffle. Since it was just a few blocks from where we were staying, we stopped by before leaving for the Dordogne and made dinner reservations for our last night in Bordeaux. So this was to be our last meal in Bordeaux. On the way to the restaurant, we ran into a woman who was lost, and insisted on me trying to help her....really! It was like some scene from a reality show.....me....trying to help some poor French woman...who kept speaking to me in French. Finally, she got the clue, and started cracking up at the strangeness of the situation.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was strangely closed. Soon after, a young lady arrived and opened the doors. So here's what happened; the young lady who took our reservations, didn't know that the chef was booked for another event on the day we requested. The folks at the restaurant tried to get in touch with us....but hey, we didn't have pocket wifi this time around and where we were staying didn't give out customer info...appropriately so.
They could have easily closed us out.....but instead, we had a small private dinner for two....albeit, simplified and prepped ahead of time, by a very, very, nice young lady....I could not get a grasp of her name....so she said to call her "Vic"!
And so, while there were quite a bit of truffles present for dinner.....it didn't quite raise our sails....this was a very special meal....
The restaurant could have easily locked us out....it would have been totally acceptable. But instead, they went ahead and prepped us our own little special dinner. Which if not amazing, was still quite special. '"Vic" made the meal, as we got to talk about how life is in Bordeaux, and life in general......she was the highlight......and I'm hoping she is doing well in Bogota, which is where I understood she was headed after graduation.
In a way, this might have been our best meal in Bordeaux. Perhaps one day we'll return and actually have proper meal here.
Saveurs D' Aquitaine 16 Place des Quinconces Bordeaux, France
As we took our final walk around the city....this joyfully unpretentious locale....I wondered, as I stared at the mesmerizing "head" by Jaume Plensa.....
We'd had a great time in Dordogne, but were pretty tired and were happy to be back in Bordeaux. It all seemed familiar to us....we knew the drill, how to catch tram from the Gare Saint Jean. In fact, shades of Saint Jean de Luz, seeing us use the tram ticket machine...folks would ask us....in French how to us the quite easy ticket machine. It was so strange. If there was one person who really didn't look like they belonged, it would be me. Anyway, we ended up helping a couple of folks get their tickets..... We were staying at the same apartments, so getting settled in was a snap. As was getting back to our favorite little place in Bordeaux, Bar a Vin.
We got a simple cheese plate and a glass of wine each.
I had a glass of the 2008 Saint-Julien Chateau Langoa-Barton, Grand Cru......
It was lovely, rich, berry flavors, with not too much tannin.....
Bar a Vin 3 Cours du 30 Juillet Bordeaux, France
The Missus then decided that it was time for a walk, so this time we headed up along the Garonne River, passing some interesting sites on the way.....
The Chartrons neighborhood was once filled with the homes of rich merchants, but eventually fell into disrepair. A large renovation project has turned the Quay des Chatrons into a hip and gentrified neighborhood.....
And further north is Bassin a Flot, once lined with warehouses, dry docks, and other industrial businesses, the place turned into a wonderful urban renovation project....now lined with bars, restaurants, and hip shops.
It was time to decide what to do for dinner. The decision was quite easy. Our favorite meal in Bordeaux was having some cheese and baguette, with a bottle (or two of wine), and just relaxing.
We turned around and headed back to Marche des Grands Hommes and the Carrefour Market.
We picked up some wine and other items and headed out.
On the street on the other side of Marche des Grands Hommes, that lead to Allee de Tourny was a cheese shop that I wanted to check out named Fromagerie Beillevaire.
The guy working here was quite nice and the selection was nice.
It was hard picking just 2-3 cheeses....but in the end we basically just chose three.
Fromagerie Beillevaire 8 Rue Michel Montaigne Bordeaux, France
Looking back, I noticed we'd done quite a bit of walking on this day. No wonder we were pretty tired when we got back to the apartment. This time around, they put us in a huge 2 bedroom unit on the third floor, which was very comfortable.
The kitchen was well equipped.
And because we travel light, the washer/dryer was welcomed. As was the tub where the Missus could soak and relax......
I was really struck by the view out the round windows.......
Dinner was a simple, but satisfying affair.
With the Missus' favorite bottle of 4,9€ (about $5.40/US) bottle of white.
The folks that ran the apartment also left us a nice bottle of white as well.
A very nice gesture.
The Missus had a bath, I had my glass of wine and started a post while looking out onto the street below.
After all of the activities of the previous couple of days; it was nice to just sit back and relax.
There was one reason why we came to Les Eyzies. It was to visit Font de Gaume, the only site in France with "polychrome" (colored) prehistoric cave paintings still open to the public. The catch was, there's no advance tickets sales, you need to show up and wait in line and purchase tickets for one of the "tours". The ticket office opens at 0930, we got there at 7am and there were already people in line for one of the 52 tickets available on this day! Carbon Dioxide is starting to damage the 15,000 year old paintings of 230 animals, so access is limited. We could have gone to Lascaux and visited the Lascaux II, which is a replica of the original, now closed to the public because of carbon dioxide damage....but seeing the real thing was on the Missus' bucket list, so here we were. One of the reasons we stayed where we did was that it was a short 2 kilometer walk up the street.
Folks were sitting around chatting, checking their smartphones, staring off into space, or like me, checking out this very social little guy, who seemed totally unafraid of humans.
Like clockwork, the place opened at 0930. We were about number 14-15 in line. The only English tour of the day was at 10am and we easily got tickets to it! Since it would be starting fairly soon we just hung around for 15 minutes and off we went up the trail.
Of course photos aren't allowed, but let me just say, this well worth 5 times the 7.5 Euro ticket price....that's right, it seems they really care for this place and aren't gouging you. Much like the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, this place left us amazed and truly touched. The artwork is quite amazing, one of the particular paintings, which looked somewhat abstract and 3-d had our guide tell us, "see, even then, they had a Picasso!" And then there was the famous "Reindeer Kissing" painting. This is truly a worthwhile place to visit. I'm not sure how much longer it will be open to the public, but it is truly a treasure.
We left on a high, we decided to walk back into town and grab some lunch. But first, the walk......Les Eyzies is in essence a one street village, near the north end of that walk is the Hotel Cro-Magnon.
This hotel was built in 1868, basically on the site where the first Cro-Magnon skeleton was unearthed. The owner of the hotel was Monsieur Magnon and it was on his land the remains were found. Thus the name, Cro-Magnon....which in simple terms means, "Mr Magnon's Hole".....you gotta love that! Just think, all those guys you called Cro-Magnon.....you were calling them "Mr Magnon's hole......" Which might have been appropriate!
Turning back, it was time to decide on lunch. We were kind of tired...sleeping on what felt like plastic sheeting didn't translate into a good night's sleep and the Missus really enjoyed the salad She had the night before, so Pizzeria La Milanaise just seemed like the easy choice.
So the Missus got Her salad. Meanwhile, I decided to go just go for it and got the Pizza de Campagnade (14,3 €/about $16US), mainly because it was topped with...yes, this is the Dordogne...Foie Gras. My curiosity had gotten the better of me it seems...or maybe not as this was pretty good.
It was a nice thin crust, the edges charred, but not bitter. It was merely topped with foie gras after the pizza baking process, which answered my questions of how foie gras would survive on a pizza. Under that cheese was a nice amount of "magret fume" smoked duck breast which was quite good; the "sauce" was persillade, basically a parsley-herb-garlic-oil-vinegar mixture that really resembled pesto in this case. It was quite rich....as in after the salad, we had one-third of the pizza and the foie gras and took the rest to go. So here's the thing, sixteen bucks here in the Dordogne gets you smoked duck pizza topped with foie gras........
Pizzeria La Milanaise 41 Avenue de la Préhistoire Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, France
We walked back to our unit, stopping again at the win shop at the end of the street....this time we noticed a photo of the owner; the guy running the register, who looked a bit less dapper than this photo......his "Bond....James Bond" picture.
Getting back to the apartment, it was a bit too early for a nap, so we got into the car and decided to take a drive around the countryside. We came across a village named Campagne.
The Chateau and park was closed, but it was a charming little stop. Wikipedia says the population of this town is 345.
Which of course makes one wonder what life here is like......
Later that evening, while we finished the remnants of the pizza along with a nice bottle of wine, I noticed some movement on the hillside. There were some deer grazing. In some sense it looked so peaceful......in harmony with the surroundings. Perhaps this was what the beautiful Dordogne does to you.....
As much as I enjoyed Easter Island, I was thrilled to be back in Lima, as I really enjoy the food in this city. For the Missus it was all about Cebiche. For me, it was noticing the interesting way that the cuisine has changed here since we first visited back in 2007. Back then, it was places, which are still around like, Astrid y Gaston, Pescado Capitales, and El Fayke Piurano. On this trip, we'd already seen the evolution of "Nikkei" cuisine at Maido, but were on the fence about our meal at La Mar. The Missus wanted Her Cebiche....a good and pure cebiche, which for Her is the ultimate taste of Peru.
We landed at Jorge Chaevez airport ontime at a shade after 11am. Like before, our driver from Taxidatum was waiting for us as we cleared immigration. It was too early to check in at our hotel, we were staying at the rather new Courtyard Miraflores. So we dropped off our bags and headed out to find some lunch. I knew the Missus really wanted cebiche, so we headed off to one of the places on my list. A place named El Veridico de Fidel.
Located rather close to Maido, Calle Colon is fairly quiet, as was this place when we arrived.
No English menu, just one very sweet young lady who spoke English, I guess she gets any tourist who visits. It was our kind of place. An unfussy menu, which started off with some canchita.....which was decent, but not as good as what we had earlier at La Mar.
On the menu, it said....in Spanish of course, that the "Nuesto Plato Bandera" was Leche de Tigre.....leche de tigre? Now, I love the liquid used as the base for classic Peruvian cebiche....but a dish based around that? I had to try it. I saw "erizo" on one of the versions of this and had to get it, the "Leche de Tigre Super Especial" (28S/$8.50). In case you don't know what "erizo" is, the picture is worth a thousand words.
Yes, it's uni...and a nice fresh and sweet scallop with roe, and nicely marinated lenguado, whitefish, in an interesting broth. Not quite as sour as chugging straight leche de tigre; but creamy, tempered, flavored with cilantro...this was so refreshing, I just loved it. The Missus poached the camote (simmered sweet potato) which She enjoyed. Man, this was good.
The Missus got the Ceviche Clasico (38S/$11.30 US).
The Missus loved the lenguado; She said it was perfectly prepared and flavored for Her taste. We told the nice young lady that we do enjoy "picante" so she brought us some aji limo, which were spicy, but quite sweet and floral. I gotta get my hands on some plants. The Missus of course enjoyed the camote (sweet potato) and the corn. She was less enamored with the concha negras, which were a bit too bitter for us. Still, She loved that ceviche.
I also wanted to try the Causa, so we ordered the Causa Langostinos.
Which we really didn't enjoy too much. The potato portion was a bit too dry for our taste and there was too much mayo.
On the funny end, I hadn't tried Chicha Morada in years! This "Kool-Aidish" style drink was quite sweet, but we still enjoyed this as it made us feel like we were really in Peru.
The place filled up fast. What we noticed was the customers in this faux patio were all limeños having lunch.
Simply put, this is the kind of place we enjoy. It's really no fuss, no muss, straight forward food. Quite good...the Missus loved the place. So we made reservations. We'd have our last meal in Lima here at El Veridico de Fidel.
El Veridico de Fidel Calle Colon 246 Lima 18, Peru
So....we managed to finally get into our room at the Courtyard rather late. And they did a nice thing and we got upgraded to a corner suite.
And in spite of not everything making sense in the room; for instance, the "espresso pod" machine was on a shelf that didn't pull out, so you had to actually unplug the machine, then put in on some table, then plug into run........it was quite a comfortable room.
And when it came down to location, this was great; a nice convenience store across the street, a nice view at night. Or even during the day......
After getting back to Tokyo and a good nights sleep; the Missus was ready to go fairly early in the morning. Being a short minute walk from Tokyo Station meant transportation would be a snap. The Missus had decided on a day trip to Kamakura, the former capital during the Kamakura Shogunate from 1185 - 1333. She was interested in all the temples and of course, the Daibutsu (The Great Buddha). We enjoyed Kamakura so much that we ended up returning the next day.
We arrived quite early.....during this part of the day; before hordes of tourists descend on Kamakura, the place has a relaxed, sleepy feel to. Even Komachi Street......
We decided to find a place to stop for our caffeine fix; so I kept on the look-out. I noticed the sign for Komeda's Coffee on the scond floor of one of the buildings. The place looked open so we walked up the stairs. We were cheerfully seated and handed some menus.
Looking at the menus, we were nicely surprised to see that Komeda's had a "morning special", free toast and a boiled egg with any beverage purchase. I guess the Komeda chain is well known for this special. Perfect!
The Missus and I both ordered coffee along with the "special".
Which turned out to be enough to hold us until lunch.
The young lady working was very nice........and heck, you can't complain about free breakfast, right?
Komeda's Coffee Komachi, 2 Chome−2−18 2F Kamakura
After finishing up; bolstered by caffeine, it was a short walk down the street to our first stop, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. The shrine, dedicated to Hachiman, god of war, is Kamakura's most well known and important shrine.
The backdrop and greenery makes for quite a dramatic sight.
I read that over two million people visit this shrine over the New Year holiday.
The bridges and ponds are quite lovely.
We saw this family; children in traditional garb ascending the stairs..... About halfway up; you could tell the kids were totally over the experience!
We exited via the gate on the northwest side of the temple and ended up on the road leading to our next stop.
I believe this marker is to commemorate the visit of Dogen, the famous Zen Masters' visit to Kamakura.
It was a nice walk; slightly uphill at first, then back downhill. The weather was cool, but pleasant. We had thoughts of stopping at Orindo....but decided to pass.
We also passed on a couple of other temples along the way as well.
And ended up at Kenchoji, Japan's oldest Zen Monastery, founded in 1253.
Things are set-up in the very typical Zen style with all the gates and the main buildings built in a straight line.
The Bonsho (Temple Bell) is considered a National Treasure. The Butsuden (Buddha Hall) contains a well worn statue of Jizō Bosatsu (Bodhisattva).
In direct contrast to the rather austere structures was this gate, which really stood out.
This is the Karamon (Grand Gate).
After lingering for a few minutes more, we set off.....to the next set of temples the Missus wanted to see.
We took a short nap after our poutine lunch. It was pretty warm in Vancouver and the sun didn't set until 9pm, so having dinner fairly late (for us) sounded like a great idea. Upon waking and freshening up, we decided to take the long way to dinner. So we headed Southeast on Robson, then down Richards, and back onto Georgia, where we came across this impressive structure.
This is the Vancouver Public Library. I loved the distinctive design. From here we took a left down Cambie Street, the neighborhood started looking a bit more gritty, though still much cleaner than Seattle.
The main reason for walking down Cambie Street was to view the Gastown Steam Clock. I pointed to it as we headed down the street. At first the Missus said, "that's so puny, what's the big deal?" Until we walked up to it and She saw puffs of steam coming out of the top of the clock.
For some reason She was smitten as were a good number of tourists. This being "Gastown", the steam clock might seem to be a remnant of some bygone era. This was actually built in 1977. Gastown much like Pioneer Square in Seattle is the oldest neighborhood in the city. It has all of the kinds of things that these type of neighborhoods have; tourist shops, boutiques, bars, restaurants, and a good number of homeless. Still, the Missus really enjoyed the character of this neighborhood and we'd return to visit Kit and Ace and Lululemon....and even walk down Alexander to the Alibi Room. But that's for another day.
We walked to the waterfront, the views were quite nice, the air clean and crisp. Looking away from the water, here's a photo of Harbour Centre.
I had made reservations for dinner at Miku and we were trying to find the entrance. There was quite a bit of construction going on and the signs pointing to Miku lead to a locked door. A nice young man saw us and asked, "are you looking for Miku?" How the heck did he know? Anyway, he provided some directions and we found ourselves at the quite busy Miku Restaurant.
I gave my name to the hostess at the stand, who looked, frowned, and asked us to wait a second. A few minutes later, a very nice young man came up to us, and introduced himself as Kevin. I believe he was managing the front of house. He was so pleasant, shook our hands, then told us that they'd missed something on our reservations. I'd requested their kaiseki dinner when making reservations and immediately had reservations about doing so. Kevin explained that they would do the best they could to put together something for us, but I told him not to worry, we'd be perfectly happy ordering from the menu. He smiled and said, "great......I'll make sure that you both get one of the best tables we have!"
I saw this fellow waiting for his mom or dad outside Miku while we waited for our table to be prepped.
Poor guy. Folks kept taking photos or trying to comfort him, but he wanted nothing except his owners. He was adorable.
We loved the view from our table.
In case you're wondering if Miku was one of these touristy, overly fusion, pan-Asian, type restaurants.....you might be partially right. You see Miku is owned by the Tora Corporation headquartered in Miyazaki, Japan. I believe they own a number of Kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) and Aburi/Oshizushi type restaurants in the Miyazaki area. I was quite intrigued by a aplce specializing in aburizushi. I've had a nigiri or two of aburi sushi at a number of places, including Urasawa, though in most American style sushi joints it's kind of a gimmick.
Anyway, we were on vacation...in Vancouver....it was time to relax and have a cocktail....or two.
There were a few interesting custom cocktails along with some standards like a Moscow Mule and Pisco Sours...which I ordered. The Missus looked at me and told me to "not be so boring...." So I relented.
The Missus ordered the Genmai's Tea, which included green tea infused vodka and cucumber. It was fine, but nothing special. I ordered the Shiso Mojito which we both love....shiso was a natural for a mojito, as this tasted so clean.....it also seemed fairly low in alcohol as well. Delish!
We started with the Aburi Beef Carpaccio, which was everything we expected and more.
The torched beef was very beefy in flavor and the texture was fantastic. The sousvide egg added a wonderful creaminess and the yolk tasted delicious. Nice, not too sour ponzu, with a mild kick. The Missus felt that the baby greens was a bit of overkill, detracting from the overall flavors of the dish; though the Asian Pear added a nice mild sweetness and crunch, like in a good Yukhoe.
The Missus had never had Tori Nanban, which I thought was kind of strange....but thinking back, I usually order the stuff for lunch. So I decided to get that.
I was surprised at how much She enjoyed the rice vinegar tones and mild sweetness in this, though She could easily leave the tartar sauce out. The chicken was light and crisp outside, very tender and moist. I was told that they get their poultry from Fraser Valley Chicken in BC. Very nice.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Oshizushi on the menu at Miku. As I've mentioned before, oshizushi is a bit of a specialty. There are three aburi versions here at Miku; Salmon, Ebi, and Saba. Now for me, Battera is the classic pressed sushi. The Missus isn't the biggest fan of saba as in most places it's oily and fishy....though for some strange reason She loves sardines and some anchovy. I convinced the Missus to try the saba version and am glad we did.
The prepared rice was pressed well, though it was rather mild in vinegar tones. The saba, which had cured inhouse and torched was really good, not too fishy, but with a nice cured-cheesy flavor to it. The torching provided a touch of pleasant smokiness. The miso sauce was nice, slightly sweet, savory, but not too salty.
By this time, I needed a drink. Kelsey, who was our Server was fantastic, efficient, pleasant, friendly, but not overly so, suggested something by a local brewery; Strange Fellows. The ale was very nice....the Missus actually loved this and we'd be getting their brews every chance we had.
We finished our meal with a foursome of aburi nigiri. Clockwise from the top left; Hotate (scallop), Wagyu, Toro, and Hirame.
All of the seafood was fantastic and the beef decadent. The one problem for us and since this is nigiri it was a major issue was the rice which was really mushy and formed with too much pressure......I'm figuring most folks wouldn't notice; but any nigiri lover would immediately pick that up. The hotate was tender and sweet, with the torching adding a wonderful touch of flavor. The hirame was very fresh, but the toro was just fantastic as it melted in your mouth as did the wagyu beef which was out of this world.
Night had settled in as we finished up our meal. We marveled at how the service and pacing here at Miku was just perfect for us. They struck the perfect balance in terms of service, friendliness, and made us feel very comfortable. Kelsey was quite knowledgeable and his recommendations, after asking us a few questions, were spot on.
And while Miku looks like one of those stylish-hip places, the food delivered, and the atmosphere was totally not stuffy.
There are times when you just have a great experience....where a place just seems like a perfect fit for you. Miku did that for us. In terms of price; our meal, including drinks came out to something like $115 US......which I thought was a bargain. I've spent more at Sushi Yaro for dinner! I'm sure we'll be back to Vancouver. And we will definitely be back to Miku.
Miku 200 Granville Street Suite 70 Vancouver, BC V6C 1S4, Canada
Here's an interesting tidbit; mention Easter Island to someone in the Spanish speaking world and you might get a blank stare. The official Spanish name is Isla de Pascua. I mentioned Easter Island a few times in Santiago and got quizzical looks. Upon returning, I mentioned Easter Island to one of the folks in another department, she is Peruvian (Tusan!), and she had no idea what I was talking about until I said Isla de Pascua! She loves talking to me about Peruvian food and I'm definitely going to get some recommendations from her next time we travel to Peru.
Our The flight out of Hanga Roa didn't leave until 11, so we had some time to take a short drive and refill the fuel, and stuffs like that. While I was taking the trash out I heard the sound of hooves and took a look around the hedges! There was a guy riding a horse down the street....with a pony following! You sure don't see that everyday here in San Diego!
I quietly walked back to the cabanas, when, I was met by a familiar creature....dum, da, dum, dum......
He looked rather irritated and I'd had enough. I let the cat sit in my lap and gave it some attention. When I put the cat down....it got rather angry, but I moved quickly enough and avoided any parting shots.
Having escaped the clutches of the cat, we headed off and did a last short drive around Hanga Roa.
We got the specialty of the house; the eggs and Nescafe. This time I got a polka dot cup.....
We then went to the gas station, filled up and headed back to the cabanas to relax before our trip.
Check-out went smoothly. When Vero, the wonderful woman at Marae - Cabañas went to call us a shuttle, we told her that we'd rather walk. The airport was just a 15 minute walk away.
Check-In and everything else was fine; a bit slow, but again...this is island life....you don't rush things. Once past security, while waiting we watched the excited visitors exit the place. This is where we were just a few days before.
Due to the time change, it was almost 9pm when we got into Santiago. Our flight to Lima left at 8 the next morning so there was no sense in heading into Santiago. There's a very convenient Holiday Inn right across the street from the airport. After grabbing a sandwich in the airport, this is where we settled in. We decided on a nightcap and went to the bar.
The guy working the bar was so nice and friendly that we decided to stay for a second drink. We talked about Santiago and he mentioned how busy the city is. We asked about classic Chilean dishes and he was nice enough to pull photos from Instagram and other sites, describing the various dishes. What a great guy.
He also made a decent Old Fashioned.....
Soon enough, it was time to head back up to our room. We'd try to grab some shut-eye before our flight to Lima in the morning......though I could still see Moai dancing in my dreams!