We attempted to create a post about how we pack but life got in our way and we ended up throwing together our stuff 10 hours before leaving. On Friday morning we put our luggage in the car, stopped for Starbucks and brought Fred to my parents (where he was spoiled rotten).
After the 4 hour drive we pulled up in front of the Hilton Millenium One U.N. The bellman helped us with valeting our car and welcomed us to the hotel. Since we only had one suitcase we brought it in ourselves to the check in desk. The following experience wasn't up to their normal standards. We weren't welcomed as Hilton Diamond members, we were handed 2 bottles of water, and weren't offered an upgrade. We asked about an upgrade and at first were told we were given a nice King room. This is what we booked. After a while of searching on her computer the staff member was able to secure us a corner room.
Room 3240 offers a hallway closet, coffee bar with safe, a King Bed, a couple of chairs, large desk, large bathroom, and 2 very nice views. The downsides to this room can be easily rectified by the hotel. The first is the rug is shredding a bit right in the middle of the room and should be trimmed. The second issue is that the wall behind the bathroom sink is quite stained and could use a fresh coat of paint. Otherwise we were very happy with the selection.
Tonight we had reservations for dinner at a restaurant that I have been wanting to visit for a while. We arrived a few minutes before our reservation time at Roki Le Izakaya. You should definitely follow them on Instagram! The restaurant didn't disappoint and has become one of my favorites in NYC.
We were seated at the bar which we love! It's wonderful to be able to watch the chef's create and interact with them. Greg and I both ordered the Old Fashioned cocktail while we perused the menu. We ended up ordering a lot of small plates for our meal because everything looked so good!
Our Japanese canapes were Uni, Ahi Poke, and Truffle & Mushroom. The Canapes come on small squares of crispy rice and each one had a wonderful balance of taste and texture. My favorite was the Poke.
Next up was the beautifully presented small Sashimi Platter. We had two types of tuna, crab, amberjack, and three other types of fish (one was from New Zealand). Every piece was fresh, portioned nicely, and didn't need any accompaniments.
The third course was the special for the night. A fatty tuna hand roll which was very tasty but needed to be eaten quickly as the seaweed would get soggy.
The fourth course was the highlight of the evening! Powdered Foie Gras over Duck Chashu is a perfect dish. The Chef brought over a dish of duck chashu topped with arugula. He then proceeded to shred frozen Foie Gras over it and top it with pink peppercorns. The duck was savory, the arugula peppery, and the Foie Gras melted in your mouth. An absolutely perfect bite.
The Pork Belly Bun was next for us. The dish is presented for you to configure your own sandwich. You have the bun, cucumber, the pork belly, and then an aioli. I enjoyed this dish but I did find it a little messy to eat.
Our final dish was the Organic Chicken Karaage. The flavors of this dish were nice. You had the hot and juicy chicken with the sweet and sour sauce on the side (nice so you can add as much as you wish). My complaint is that I wish the chicken was a little crispier.
With the cool atmosphere, friendly staff, and delicious food we highly recommend every dine at Roki Le Izakaya when in NYC.
The other day I was updating our travel tips and I was inspired to share more of our experiences when things didn't always go right. We have always been able to find the best in every trip we have taken but that doesn't mean that there weren't bumps along the way.
Sometimes it's best to leave your options open
When you are planning your trip everyone has to consider their budget. I also feel you need to weight that budget against any possible restrictions. It's sometimes better to book directly with the airline/hotel/cruise and pay a little more but have the ability to modify or cancel plans as needed.
We planned a road trip down south. We were planning on spending half of our week in Orlando and then the other half on the beach in South Carolina. We weren't too concerned about the weather hindering us in Orlando because you can always find something to do there. While driving to Orlando we spent 24 hours in torrential downpours. At this point we started looking up the forecasts for the week. We realized the weather in South Carolina wasn't letting up any time soon. No one wants cold and stormy weather during a beach vacation.
We spent some time rethinking our plans and decided to be adventurous! After Orlando we drove through Georgia in search of the Uncle Remus Museum and then continued on to Kentucky for a first visit to the Bourbon Trail. This definitely wasn't the trip we planned but it was so much better! We added new states to our repertoire and enjoyed wonderful experiences at several distilleries thanks to our cancellation policy being flexible.
Travel Insurance isn't a waste
Prior to 2011 we had never thought about purchasing travel insurance. Can you guess what happens when you go to Mexico during hurricane season but the hurricane hits Boston Massachusetts?
That's right! Our flight got cancelled; we couldn't leave Mexico for an additional 4 days. Thanks to having travel insurance we were able to secure a new flight, a wonderful hotel for the additional nights, and new car service. Almost all of our additional costs were reimbursed to us.
Always try to keep your sense of humor
Have you ever arrived at the airport not so bright eyed and bushy tailed? You are sitting in the terminal and suddenly the airline tells you your flight is delayed or, even worse, cancelled? How do you handle the situation? Do you get frustrated, yell at the staff, and ruin your mood further? We try to do the complete opposite. We laugh at the situation, grab some food, possibly change clothes (always keep some clothing in your carry on), and try to find the good in our predicament.
On a trip to Aruba we arrived for a very early morning flight and everything seemed to go wrong! 24 hours after getting to the airport (2 planes and a refuel in Puerto Rico) we arrived in Aruba. There were many others who arrived with us that were cranky, tired, and just plain rude. People were cutting others off, stealing taxi's, and pushing ahead in lines. Greg and I stepped back, laughed at the insanity, shared a cab and were the last ones to our hotel. Of course we were tired, cranky and ready for our vacation to start but what good will it do to be rude to others and to demand things from the staff. You have the ability to not ruin your vacation and also to not take things out on others. You'll be better off and happier if you stay calm and find the good.
It's okay to ask for help
For my sister's destination wedding I also planned a city tour of Paris along with a picnic for all of the wedding guests. 2 days before the scheduled tour I received information that it was being cancelled due to an impending strike. I then spent 2 hours on my phone (we were out on a tour of wineries ourselves at this point) researching other tours. I emailed and call companies explaining our situation and asking if there was any way they could help us out. It was getting late and businesses were closing up for the evening.
The next morning I heard back from one of my contacts and she thoroughly helped me find a tour that would meet our needs. She went above and beyond helping me when I was limited in the technology and communication availability (certain requirements were needed for bookings). I have found that people in the tourism industry genuinely want to help and not just meet their bottom line. Thanks to the help I received, our tour and picnic wowed our guests!
Where to go - Tokyo
Here's my 2nd post in my Where to go series!!
One of the trips we're considering for this year is Tokyo, Japan! Here are my high-level ideas on what I would like to do and see when planning this trip. Hopefully you will find some inspiration for your own trip to Tokyo.
Places to stay
For a traditional stay outside of Tokyo I would love to spend a night or two at RYOKAN SAWANOYA. It definitely wouldn't be what we're used to but I am intrigued by the the traditional bedding (futon mattress) and bathing areas.
Within Tokyo my top choices for hotels would be:
Hilton Tokyo - I always have to choose one Hilton as we are Diamond Members
Hotel New Otani - As cheesy as this sounds the hotel looked lovely on a particular tv show
My last two hotel choices are modern and well rated:
Prince Gallery Hotel
I was also researching Ryokan's in the Hakon region and would love to stay at Yama No Chaya.
Things to see and do
After getting a small taste of her amazing art installations in NYC I would love to visit the Yayoi Kusama Museum.
It's probably a little on the cheesy side but I feel it's a must to cross the street at the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble. At Shibuya Crossing there will be hundreds if not thousands of pedestrians running across the intersection throughout the day. Greg hates crowds but I'm sure he'd suffer through it for me.
It's not my typical choice for clothing but I love the colors, textures and unique styles in Harajuku. After exploring the many shops in the area I might stop in for something at either Anywhere Door or Kawaii Monster Cafe.
A few more top sites I would visit are:
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Meiji Jingu Shrine
Senso Ji Temple
Shopping in Ginza
Day trips from Tokyo
I could think of a million other areas I'd love to see in Japan but with limited time it's probably best for us to take shorter day trips. So far my research has brought me to booking a day tour with either Viator, Japan Panoramic Tours, or Japan Wonder Travel.
My top 4 places are:
Mt Fuji - I would love to hike the mountain but I'd settle on taking in the views.
Ashikaga Flower Park - It would be preferable to visit in May but I suppose anytime is stunning
Hakone - visiting Lake Ashi and the Hakone Shrine (plus that possible stay at a Ryokan)
Kyoto - a must see is the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine along with the many temples nearby
Where to eat
I don't know if I would get to try all of these but I would love to compare tea houses in Tokyo. I would love a nice cup of Matcha tea and to be able to try a piece of Wagashi (Mochi - sweet rice flour treats).
Here are the ones I found most interesting:
Aoyama Tea House
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Tea House
Other restaurants I would like to try are:
Tapas Molecular Bar
Han no Daidokoro Kadochika
Glutenfree Cafe Littlebird - which also provides dairy free options
Ichiran, Shibuya - for a nice bowl of Ramen
We will be attending both the New York Times and the Boston Globe travel shows over the next month. We decided not to make any decisions on adventures until after the shows (hopefully we'll be more informed). Stay tuned to see if we decide on our Tokyo trip for 2018!
Ruka Restobar, Boston MA
Whether you are a Bostonian or visiting Boston you can't go wrong with dining at Ruka Restobar. Ruka is near the Boston Opera House, Emerson Paramount, Boston Common, and Downtown Crossing so you will have plenty to see and do nearby.
This was our 2nd visit to the restaurant and they didn't disappoint. We had a reservation for 3 and even though we arrived a little early we were seated right away. We started with cocktails and a mocktail for my little cousin. The menu is comprised of shareable plates sort of like tapas but a little bigger in portion size.
We started with the Tuna Poke and two orders of the Blackened Octopus (yes they are that good). The next couple of dishes that came out were the Chao Shou Pork Wontons (sans dairy), the Crispy Lamb Belly Katsu, and the Japanese Fried Chicken. The Japanese Fried Chicken does contain dairy so I decided to eat it along with some Lactaid pills. Any pain I may have had from dairy was beyond worth it! The Japanese Fried Chicken was the best dish of the night (it also happens to be a new addition to the menu). The textures and flavors hit on all notes and leave you completely satisfied. Our final savory dish was the Chicken Fried Rice which was also very good.
Apparently we weren't full enough and we decided to be gluttons. We ended up ordering 3 desserts. I brought the Lactaid pills with me especially for dessert. The fried dough bites (I can't remember the exact name) are amazing. They are warm, soft, and the perfect amount of sweet. The other two desserts were a big hit although I didn't try them so I can't speak to specifics.
The one issue I have with Ruka Restobar is really just a personal preference. I am a fast eater normally so I wish the dishes would come to the table a little slower and give us more time to relax. Everyone who visits will not be disappointed with the drinks, food, and service at Ruka.
I read blogs, articles, and stories about people taking a year or two to travel the world. I am inspired and in awe of these people and would love to do that eventually but my hope is to really explore where I come from. Greg and I have traveled to other continents (definitely need to do more of this type of travel) but I want to show off the continent where I come from, the my home country and the country where part of my ancestry comes from!
If you read my stories you've seen us all around the east coast of Canada, New England and down to Florida. The year long trip I came up with is trying to explore the places we haven't been to or haven't spent much time in. With this trip we would traverse all of Canada, check off all the rest of the 50 states we haven't visited, and explore central Mexico.
In addition to those goals I would love to meet people from all over North America, see where they are from through their eyes, go off the beaten path, and challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.
Now that I came up with the idea and the game plan I just need to figure out the time and funding for such a year. Here's to having hope, sharing positivity, and finding a way!
Top 5 places I want to visit
Instead of counting down to my # 1 destination to visit I decided to let my practical side come out to play. I listed these 5 destinations by likelihood of visiting given restraints from job, distance and not wanting to leave Fred too long.