Kwento, Thoughts, Travel

London, England – Streets and Monuments

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions

I like traveling.  I like the way it makes me feel like myself, but more and somehow better.
The alien milieu of a strange new land displaces me and forces me to enlarge my sense of things.  However, to be displaced in an environment whose context is so different from my own would be disorienting if there was no sameness to anchor me.  I need that anchor to help me understand stimuli I might otherwise find incomprehensible.  The effect of such a combination makes the ordinary beautiful again because situating what is ordinary outside the boundaries of what is familiar causes an expansion.  This expansion adds to my perception of what is ordinary and reveals it to be extraordinary after all.

Notes and Impressions

I suppose I’m not saying anything new.  These are observations that have been shared so often they’ve become cliche.  Just like the same touristy photos people always take.  It seems so lame and unremarkable then to share these because so many others have been there, done that.  But when you’re the person doing the showing off, it’s awesome and special because it’s yours -the photograph, the moment, the new perspective.

Here’s my perspective on London’s Hop on Hop off Bus Tour told in hasty tourist snapshots.  I also did some moleskin drawings to compensate for my lack of photography skills.  In an ideal world, I would have made a bajillion more drawings.  But since my ideal world is still shaping itself, I only had the energy to sketch out St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben/The Elizabeth Tower.

Moleskin Sketches 1

The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

Waiting for the right double decker bus.

London Bus StopIMG_3759IMG_5543The first stop was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Near the cathedral is a French Bakery and Patisserie franchise called Paul (I appreciate the thought they put into their location choice).

Moleskin Sketches - St. Paul'sIMG_5511IMG_5518I like double decker buses.  They’re a great way to see the city.  Not ideal for picture taking though because the bus is constantly moving but what can you do?
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IMG_5668IMG_5544Stopping by Buckingham Palace.
Fun Fact:
◊ If the Queen is in, the Royal Standard flies.  If she’s out, they bring out the Union Jack.  This tradition started after the death of Princess Diana.
Royal Standard

IMG_5726IMG_5720Going over and under the London Bridge.

IMG_5584IMG_5591IMG_5640Spending time at Parliament Square; where you can find the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Big Ben/The Elizabeth Tower, Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church, etc.
Fun Facts:
◊ It’s illegal to die in the houses of Parliament because people who die there are entitled to a state funeral -which would burden British tax payers.  If you look sickly, you’ll be escorted out of the premises posthaste!
◊ It’s not uncommon to find demonstrators rallying in Parliament Square.

IMG_5689 IMG_5678IMG_5661Moleskin Drawings Big BenIMG_5687Westminster Abbey was one of my favorite landmarks.  It’s popularly known as the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married and where important British peeps are buried, commemorated, and/or crowned.  No picture taking allowed though, which is a bummer because it’s ballin’ in there -with all those tombs and whatnot.
IMG_5682 IMG_5688IMG_5693IMG_5690 IMG_5702IMG_5718
I found the following images online. They’re of inside the abbey:

Abbey inside Alexander Creswell - Westminster Abbey
Next entry:  A more personal narrative of my experience in London.

Kwento, Travel

Minato, Tokyo


Minato was the first to greet us.  And the last to say goodbye.  He offered us lodging at The Grand Prince Hotel -which was built on a garden that formerly belonged to Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda (The “Sports Prince”).

IMG_7881.JPG IMG_7880.JPG IMG_7883.JPG

The street heading up to our hotel was lined with cherry blossom trees and greenery.  There was also a taxi stand where girls in top hats assisted commuters into taxis driven by suited up men (every taxi driver we saw in Japan wore a suit).  I didn’t get a photo of that specific area, but I did manage to get a shot of this off duty taxi man. Doesn’t he look swanky?

Taxi man

Over our stay, we got to know three different sides of Minato: Takanawa, Shiba, and (a little bit) of Shiodome.

Takanawa was the side of Minato that felt like home.  The part of him that made us breakfast every morning and tucked us in every night.  Who fed us the warmest and most interesting meals of the day.  Who always walked us to the train station and always welcomed us home with open arms.

_MG_4592the most amazing broth ever Tracy's Chicken Avocado sandwichchicken avocado sandwichSashimi!!!at the restaurantsignsBuying ticketsscreens

But it was his Shiba-koen side that intrigued me the most. It was the part of him that was inspirationally proud of his past but also contagiously excited about his future.  His stories were present in every street and every alleyway -similar to how his siblings’ stories bloomed out from their skin, but somehow entirely different.  In my eyes, Minato’s narrative was more traditional and more structured.  I liked that about him.  He was old fashioned, yet he still managed to embrace modernity and innovation in a way that made him intensely charming -almost dangerously so.

RoadsRoad SignsPhoto boothHunting for fudsShiodome

This charming man took us past the Sangedatsu Gate (The Gate of Three Liberations) to free us from Ton (Greed), Shin (Hatred), and Chi (Foolishness).  And let us marvel at the Zōjō-ji Temple before leading us off to one of his more recent masterpieces (1958 is recent in the life of a city): The Tokyo Tower.

Sagedatsu Gate Sangedatsu Gate Sangedatsu Gate (1605)Bodhistava Shangedatsu Gate ShrineZojo ji Temple againZojo ji Temple and the Tokyo Tower Festive peeps Zojo-ji Temple

On the way to the Tower, I saw these curious little statues and later found out they were of Jizō -the guardian of unborn children.  I think the tradition of honoring their memories in this way is beautiful.  Minato was silent as we passed.

Tracy with the Jizōanother row of Jizō

Jizō Jizō from behind

At Tokyo Tower there’s an observatory deck where you can see the cityscape. The architects also put glass sheets on the floor so Tower goers can look down and really feel how far off the ground they’ve come.  We went there in the morning but I suggest going when the sun is about to set.

View of Tokyo Tower Toyko Tower Tokyo Tower FishResting Look down Looking down The View The View 2 Walls of history Scale models The display of old school Japan

And, lastly, there was Shiodome.  The side I found quirky if only because I found a super cute fireman grate there.  It’s also where Minato keeps his Pokemon collection.  One of them at least, I imagine there are a bunch of Pokemon Centers in Tokyo.  I also imagine that Raven will regard it as his happy place when he’s older. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile so much.

Sio-siteFiremenThe Sio-Dome Pokemon Store CharizardBlastoise Plush Toys Regrouping

We left Minato and the rest of his family on a Monday morning.  It was hard to say goodbye but I know we’ll be back again soon.  Hopefully this August!

Genki de ne (Be well), Minato-senpai!
Arigatou gozaimasu (Thank you), Japan!

Dewa, mata chikai uchini (See you again)