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Japan! (And Thanksgiving in Singapore with friends)

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This was a trip that Brett and I have actually been talking about for YEARS. Our schedules had never lined up well enough to take off enough days that we would want to visit this beautiful country for. Finally, we pulled the trigger and went! We based this trip off the fact that we knew we also wanted to spend three nights in Singapore to visit friends for Thanksgiving. But before THAT, ….Japan.

We started the adventure in Tokyo. We had our packs on our backs, and took the train into the city from the airport, and to our neighborhood that we would call home for the next few nights; Shinjuku. Our hotel was about a 15 min walk from the train station, and even though we hadn’t really slept on the long flight over, and the air was brisk and chilly, and our bags weighed a ton, we had huge smiles on our faces and eyes wide open. We were trying to take everything in! We checked in and dropped off our bags and headed into the Golden Gai for a few drinks.

Then next day we trained around the city a bit, stopping at the Meiji temple first, where we saw a WALL of sake.

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Then (not pictured), we headed to MARICAR! Sorry, no photos of this, but basically Brett and I dressed up as Mario and Yoshi for three hours and go-karted around the streets of Tokyo. I am not kidding. It really happened. But before that, we had our first AMAZING sushi experience!! Below you can see our chef making our sushi. He spoke NO english, and all we told him was “sushi!” with eager eyes, and he smiled and brought us a feast. It. Was. So. Good.JapanSingaporeBlog-8JapanSingaporeBlog-9JapanSingaporeBlog-10JapanSingaporeBlog-12JapanSingaporeBlog-13JapanSingaporeBlog-15JapanSingaporeBlog-16JapanSingaporeBlog-17JapanSingaporeBlog-18JapanSingaporeBlog-19JapanSingaporeBlog-20

 

After MariCar, we headed up to Asakusa to check out the temple and grab some dinner. It was the BEST calamari I have ever had. Pictured below. Nom Nom.

 

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After Asakusa, we started to head back to Shinjuku, but first stopped near Shibuya to watch the famous Shibuya Crossing. First we watched it from above and thousands of people hurriedly crossed the street, then we crossed ourselves!! After Shibuya, we took the train back to Shinjuku, and stopped by “piss alley” near the station for some yakitori! It was fun sitting amongst the locals in the tiny restaurants.

 

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Pictured above is the view of downtown Tokyo from the Mori Tower Observation deck. It was a cloudy day, but usually you can see Mt. Fuji! Below is a shot from our quick trip to Takeshita Street in Harajuku. It was extremely crowded so we didn’t explore long. After that you will see photos from the infamous ROBOT RESTAURANT!; which didn’t have a lot of robots, and wasn’t much of a restaurant, but a really fun show! A must-do when staying in the Shinjuku area!

 

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After saying goodbye to Tokyo, we hopped on the bullet train and headed south to Kyoto! Kyoto is Japan’s oldest city, and is famous for the traditional geishas that are seen in the Gion district, as well as some of the countries oldest temples. We saw it all! We got a hotel in the Gion district, so we actually got to see a LOT of geishas while we were in Kyoto. While there are many people/tourists that come to Kyoto to get fitted for a traditional kimono that the geishas wear, these are not the *true* geishas you see running around. I found it pretty obvious to tell the difference in a real geisha vs. someone just playing dress up. If you look closely, you will find ONE in the photos below! Can you tell which one is the real geisha?

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Brett and I got up very early one morning to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine. (We aren’t a huge fan of crowds, and we didn’t want our experience at this peaceful place to be tainted by large numbers of people!) The famous orange gates are what you might see on most post cards of Japan. We walked up this mountain through the gates for about an hour, and still didn’t reach the top! They go on forever! It was truly beautiful.

 

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I seem to find stray cats whenever I travel, (or maybe they find me?). Brett was not amused. But this temple kitty was my favorite:)
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After the shrine, we trained across the city to Arashiyama to visit the MONKEY PARK! As fate would have it, we were rewarded by climbing the mountain to the top of the park with feeding hour for the monkeys! We didn’t plan it, but it was the best part of visiting the monkeys! They all flocked down the hill to where the food was being thrown, and they hung out with us for awhile! I then got to feed them some bananas myself:)

 

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A 20 minute walk from the Monkey Park across the river is the Bamboo Forrest. Simply stunning, but it was now about 11am and the crowds were in full swing. We had about one more tourist site in us for the day before we knew we would get tired of the crowds, and tired of moving around the city. So after the bamboo forrest, we headed to the Golden Temple. This was were the crowds were at their max, but luckily we just walked in, took our photo, and walked out, and then we headed back to the Gion district to relax and eat.

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And that was our Japan trip! We both could have easily and happily stayed MUCH longer. Japan was beautiful, clean, respectful, fascinating, tidy, polite, strange, delicious, and much much more. I’d highly recommend it to any traveler. We were there mid-November, and it was pretty cold, but no snow where we were. The food was amazing, and we were fairly adventurous, but nothing could beat some of the ramen and sushi we had! I’d encourage travelers to go down the small side streets, and not be afraid to seat yourself in some of the tiny bars and restaurants that don’t have English menus! Everyone is helpful, and the trains are extremely reliable. I’d say that it is also a very safe place to travel, either solo, or for females! If and WHEN we go back, we’d love to see more of the country side. Brett really wants to do a ski trip in Japan as well. One day!…

But up next, Singapore! Our friends Todd and Elena (and baby Bella) were stationed in Singapore with the navy. We had been celebrating Thanksgiving with them the last few years, and we didn’t want them to be lonely for Thanksgiving this year, so we came to them! While I don’t have any photos of our actual Thanksgiving celebration, I can tell you that we had a HUGE and delicious meal. The following days they toured us around their new city. Singapore is also extremely clean and tidy, but HOT. We took a boat tour around the bay, saw the famous Merlion, and also visited the gardens by the bay. We had such a great time visiting these three!!! We miss you!JapanSingaporeBlog-123JapanSingaporeBlog-124JapanSingaporeBlog-125JapanSingaporeBlog-126JapanSingaporeBlog-127JapanSingaporeBlog-128JapanSingaporeBlog-129JapanSingaporeBlog-130JapanSingaporeBlog-131JapanSingaporeBlog-132JapanSingaporeBlog-133JapanSingaporeBlog-134

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Jenna’s Ugly Sweater Birthday Party

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Jenna turns 12! Every year for her birthday, Jenna throws a party (an AWESOME party) and asks her guests to help her donate toys to charity for Toys for Tots. Jenna receives hundreds of toys, in which she humbly donates the following week, just in time for the holidays! This year’s birthday included carollers, a hot cocoa station, a large rocking horse ride, a two story inflatable slide, caricature and face paint artists, a cookie decorating station, and an ugly sweater making station! All of the guests also wore their ugly sweaters. The party ended with a snowman pinata, and all of her friends singing happy birthday to her as Jenna blew out her candles! Happy Birthday J! JennaGroff12BdayBlog-1JennaGroff12BdayBlog-4JennaGroff12BdayBlog-3JennaGroff12BdayBlog-5JennaGroff12BdayBlog-8JennaGroff12BdayBlog-6JennaGroff12BdayBlog-10JennaGroff12BdayBlog-11JennaGroff12BdayBlog-12JennaGroff12BdayBlog-14JennaGroff12BdayBlog-13JennaGroff12BdayBlog-15JennaGroff12BdayBlog-16JennaGroff12BdayBlog-17JennaGroff12BdayBlog-18JennaGroff12BdayBlog-19JennaGroff12BdayBlog-21JennaGroff12BdayBlog-20JennaGroff12BdayBlog-24JennaGroff12BdayBlog-25JennaGroff12BdayBlog-26JennaGroff12BdayBlog-28JennaGroff12BdayBlog-29JennaGroff12BdayBlog-30JennaGroff12BdayBlog-31JennaGroff12BdayBlog-33JennaGroff12BdayBlog-34JennaGroff12BdayBlog-36JennaGroff12BdayBlog-37JennaGroff12BdayBlog-38JennaGroff12BdayBlog-39JennaGroff12BdayBlog-40JennaGroff12BdayBlog-42JennaGroff12BdayBlog-43JennaGroff12BdayBlog-44JennaGroff12BdayBlog-45JennaGroff12BdayBlog-47JennaGroff12BdayBlog-48JennaGroff12BdayBlog-49JennaGroff12BdayBlog-50JennaGroff12BdayBlog-51JennaGroff12BdayBlog-52JennaGroff12BdayBlog-53JennaGroff12BdayBlog-57JennaGroff12BdayBlog-56JennaGroff12BdayBlog-58JennaGroff12BdayBlog-60JennaGroff12BdayBlog-59JennaGroff12BdayBlog-55JennaGroff12BdayBlog-61JennaGroff12BdayBlog-64JennaGroff12BdayBlog-66JennaGroff12BdayBlog-65JennaGroff12BdayBlog-67JennaGroff12BdayBlog-69JennaGroff12BdayBlog-70JennaGroff12BdayBlog-71JennaGroff12BdayBlog-73JennaGroff12BdayBlog-75JennaGroff12BdayBlog-76JennaGroff12BdayBlog-74JennaGroff12BdayBlog-77JennaGroff12BdayBlog-79JennaGroff12BdayBlog-80JennaGroff12BdayBlog-81JennaGroff12BdayBlog-82

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Colette and Brian’s Griffith Observatory Engagement

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Colette and Brian are getting married! I drove up to meet these two in Los Angeles recently, and was curious as to how the recent fires north of LA would effect our shoot! Luckily they were far enough away so that we could go through with the engagement shoot, but the distant smoke did make the sky turn to a magnificent palette of pinks and blues for us! We drove up the hill to the famous and stunning Griffith Observatory and walked around the grounds. We then goofed around down below on some of the trails that provided a beautiful look out to their city. We ended the day back on top of the roof of the observatory for a fire red sunset, and watched as the slowly started to light up in the night sky down below. I can’t wait for these two to get hitched down in San Diego next summer!!

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