Lyon & French Alps

 

Dan recently had the opportunity to join a weeklong project in Lyon, France.  Of course as it was a new city for us, I quickly wanted to join!  So I arrived on Friday at the end of the week for a night in Lyon then the weekend in the Alps.

After Dan finished up work on Friday, I met him in the city centre where we walked around exploring.  The city is really adorable – I couldn’t believe how many cafe’s, restaurants and bars there were! It’s a very small, but incredibly charming city built around the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers.  I wish we had more time there than just the one evening…

 

Lyon is known as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.  It is FILLED with Michelin starred restaurants and is home to some of the most infamous culinary institutes.  I’m a HUGE Anthony Bourdain fan (R.I.P.), and love to follow his recommendations as we travel around the world.  One of my favourite episodes of Parts Unknown was his Lyon trip.  He visited Paul Bocuse’s restaurant and was able to dine WITH Chef Paul himself!  Watching Anthony Bourdain’s excitement and respect for such a chef made me want to experience those feelings as well.  I had just been promoted at work, and Dan told me we were going to go out to dinner to celebrate that evening.  Never did I think we’d be able to get into Paul Bocuse – but somehow Dan managed to secure a booking!!!

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We indulged in the most memorable six course meal:

  • Amuse-bouche de l’Auberge
  • Duck foie gras terrine, ginger jelly, dried fruits chutney [Kirsten] & Traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish, Normande sauce [Dan]
  • Filet of beef Rossini, Périgueux sauce [Kirsten] & Fricassee of Bresse chicken in cream sauce, morel mushrooms [Dan]
  • Selection of fresh and matured cheeses from ‘La Mère Richard’
  • Delicacies & Temptations
  • Fantasies & Chocolates

Two things in particular stood out to me; first was the veal sweetbread that was on top of my beef filet – out of this world delicious! And secondly, was the dessert cart.  I wish I was able to take better photos of them (because there were FOUR – not just ONE dessert cart!) I had a hard time containing myself and not asking for a sampling of each of the desserts offered!  It was such a special evening and was by far the best meal of my life!


 

Part two of our trip kicked off early the next morning as we hired a car and drove off east towards the French Alps.  Our plan was to arrive late morning and spend the afternoon hiking.  However…the World Cup was on (and France was playing) and it was nearly 100 degrees out, so we decided to take it easy and just drive and stop in a few small villages along the way and then watch the match at a local pub.

It was such a beautiful drive climbing up and up through winding steep mountain roads, to where we stayed at a beautiful catered chalet.  The house was built into the rocks.  It was quite a striking mix between old/mountain rock and modern.  The area even had a local friendly donkey that greeted us 🙂

 

 

The next day we set off for a full day’s hike in the alps.  Dan chose a beautiful trail around one of the ski resorts with views of Mount Blanc.  The weather was absolutely perfect!  It was quite funny because it was about 70 degrees and sunny, but parts of our hike were still through the snow!

We love adventure trips, and this one in particular because it was such a contrasting trip – gourmet meals to trekking in the alps.  It was also really cool to see this area in the summer as this was a similar area we were in the winter for our ski trip!

Japan [+Singapore]

Dan had to go back to Tokyo for another long business trip.  Lucky for me, I was able to join him for the last half of the trip!  This was our third time in Tokyo.  I said it the last two times we were there, and I’ll say it again – I love Japan!  I was so happy to be back!

Dan’s time in Japan was primarily spent working.  And after only one week in Tokyo, he had a 2 day work training in Singapore.  He was able to fly to Singapore the weekend before the training began to get some sightseeing in.  Here’s a brief glimpse of his time in Singapore:

Marina Bay Sands

After a long [almost] four weeks apart, I was able to join Dan in Tokyo! I spent the first few days reacquainting myself with the city I love so much [and was quickly reminded of how HOT and HUMID it is there!] Dan made sure to welcome me to the city with a beautiful view of the sunset from Tokyo Tower on my first night in Tokyo.

We had already done a lot of exploring the easy to reach cities outside of Tokyo [Kyoto, Hakone, Yokohama…], and only had a few left on our list to check out.  We decided on Kamakura for our first day trip on Saturday.  It was a really easy one hour direct train ride from Tokyo Central Station.

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We wandered the little shopping streets on our way to the first temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  We grabbed a quick lunch then made our way over to the Kotoku-in (Great Buddha of Kamakura).  This thing was MASSIVE!  I knew from photos that it would be large, but I did not expect it to be THIS BIG!  It’s uber impressive, and is quite the sight.  I love that it is also a different kind of sight to see versus another temple.  The last real sight for us was the Hase-dera Temple.  It was beautiful, as it sat up on a cliff with beautiful views of the sea.  It also had an underground tunnel system that we were able to walk through [although, we still can’t figure out what it was used for!  Everything was only in Japanese!].

The final stop of the day was the beach!  As it was nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% humidity…we needed the ocean!  Although it was not a beautiful white beach with turquoise waters, it was perfect for a quick dip in the water before hopping back on the train to Tokyo.

When Sunday rolled around, I was still fighting jetlag and Dan was pretty tired from long hours at work.  We decided to sleep in late and relax before heading out to DisneySea for the afternoon/evening.  DisneySea has an awesome deal where you pay a much lower ticket price to visit the park anytime after 4:00 PM until closing.  I’ve been nudging Dan to take me to DisneySea the last two visits to Tokyo, and he finally gave in and we had the most amazing time.  DisneySea is gorgeous – it is set up like a sea version of Epcot.  We spent six glorious hours riding rides, stuffing our faces with overpriced park food and enjoying the shows.  Some of our favourites were the Toy Story ride and the light show they put on in the water at night.  Let me tell you – DisneySea was well worth the wait.  I loved every minute of it.  It was so much fun!  Lines weren’t very long, the park was SO clean [typical Japan!] and it is the only DisneySea park in the world!  I HIGHLY recommend going – just the water light show at night is worth seeing in itself!

While Dan was working the next week, I explored more of Tokyo.  I strolled around the parts of the city that were my favourites, as well as checking out a few new areas.  I also spent a decent amount of time relaxing in some of my favouite quiet parks found dotted throughout the city.  I love how quiet, clean and green Tokyo parks are.  It seemed I always found myself ending up at a park sometime throughout the day to either to some yoga or just catch up on some reading.

Hard to believe I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it’s definitely time I talk about the food.  It’s no secret, I’m OBSESSED with Japanese food.  Some people complain that after some time in Japan, they get sick of it…but I seriously think I could eat it all the time.  It’s incredible!  When I was on my own, I checked off the places that were my favourites from trips past.  Ramen still sits at the top of my list.  I love the variety that each shop offers [and there are SO many ramen shops, you can never get bored trying!].  It should also come as no surprise, that spicy ramen happens to be my favourite variety!

One of the most memorable dinners from the trip was with Dan’s work team when we went out and celebrated the finish of their project with a Kobe beef dinner.  The restaurant was Teppanyaki style, and it reminded me of Benihana.  Our chef prepared the courses on the stainless cooktop in front of us.  The Kobe beef was unreal.  Super buttery [and garlicky] and melt in your mouth delicious.

The best part about this trip to Japan was having Scott and Christine come visit for our last week!  Scott is just as big of a foodie as me, and has always wanted to visit Tokyo for the food and culture scene.  As they’re about to have their first baby (yay!), they figured this was the perfect time to visit and celebrate with a babymoon!  AND – they just moved to LA, so the flight to Tokyo is just about the same as a flight to London would be!

It was incredible having our brother and sister in Tokyo with us.  I played tour guide for them while Dan was at work during the day.  And we took them to our favourite restaurants in the evenings.

For the weekend, the four of us decided to take a day trip up to a countryside/mountain town called Nikko.  We took the train straight there, which only took about an hour.  It is such a quiet small town – it was a nice escape from the city! After dropping our stuff off at our hotel, we spent the afternoon checking out all of the temples and shrines.  All of them are located in the Nikko National Park, so it makes checking all of them out super easy and convenient as they’re all right next to each other!  The park is home to some really cool and unique things; including:  Japan’s most ornately decorated shrine the Toshogo Shrine and the famous Three Wise Monkey’s (Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil).

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That night, we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan.  It was quite the experience!

The next day, we took a bus over to the lake/mountain area to do some hiking and see some waterfalls.  It was so beautiful and the weather was perfect (ok – it was quite hot, but it was manageable!). After a full day of hiking, we headed back to Tokyo for two final nights together.

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We finished our time together with a trip to Tsukiji Market and two incredible meals and invaluable time together.  We miss Scott and Christine so much, and our time together is never long enough.  It was such a special treat to be able to experience Japan together.  Something we’ll cherish forever and ever….and it’ll be a great story for Baby Glaser!!! Her first trip to Japan 🙂

Glasers

Tokyo Adventure [東京の冒険] – Part 2

Two weeks in Tokyo was quite the experience.  Dan and I really are so fortunate to have been able to experience this.  This past week in the evenings after work we were able to check off some of the remaining sights and activities from our list.

We spent most of the day on Sunday wandering around the town and markets.  We had a few souvenir’s left to purchase, and accomplished most of our goals at the Nakamise Shopping Street, adjacent to the Senso-ji temple.

20160717_190308That evening, we headed over to the Kabukichō district for a very special evening at the Robot Restaurant!  We had heard from friends that had been to Tokyo before that we should check it out, and Anthony Bourdain recommended it – so we basically had to! What an experience this was.  It was incredible!  Robot Restaurant isn’t really a restaurant – it’s more just for drinks during an hour and a half entertainment show.  Everything you think of as being weird or wild about Japanese culture, was wrapped up into this one show. Amazing.  Lights, crazy high-pitched voices, anime, robots, dancing, weird outfits, techno…it was all there.  I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling because it was so unbelievable.  If you’re in Tokyo – YOU HAVE TO GO!  Seriously, one of the best choices we made.  100% only in Tokyo experience!!!!

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Monday was a Japanese Holiday [part of the Happy Monday scheme – it was Marine/Ocean day], so my office was closed.  I spent the day wandering around Ginza, which is the shopping district and is very similar to Regent Street/Bond street in London.  I also took this opportunity to embrace another Japanese cultural experience – a Japanese nail art manicure.  I’ve seen MANY women with crazy nail art while we’ve been here – and I figured while Dan was at work, this was the perfect time to try it.  And let me tell you, this was such an amazing experience.  Not surprising, but the nail salon was beautiful, and SO clean! And the nail artist’s are so incredibly kind and have such a great attention to detail.  I’ve never been treated better while having a manicure.  Because I didn’t speak any Japanese and they didn’t speak any English, I could only choose what I wanted from a book of designs.  And as soon as I opened it up, I got a little nervous because they were all very wild.  I flipped through the book and finally settled on the most subtle design I could find 🙂  An hour and a half later – I left with about 50 layers of gel polish on my fingers with some glitter, rhinestones, pearls and even some seashells 🙂  And I love it!  This was definitely another “when in Tokyo” moment!

Monday evening we went out for a sake tasting and dinner with Dan’s team.  We checked out an Indian restaurant which was super delicious.  KP’s (Dan’s colleague) family is Indian, so it was fun having him there to pick out all of the dishes for us to try.  Everything we had was so yummy.  Who knew we’d have such great Indian in Japan!?

Throughout the rest of the week, we indulged in Japanese cuisine.  See some of the pictures of the food and drinks we’ve had below: [and Dan slurping like a boss with some ramen!]

Our last night in Japan was spent with Dan’s work group celebrating our special time here.  Overall, Tokyo was such an amazing experience.   It taught me to embrace peace and quiet.  For such a large city, everything just flows so easily and overall is very peaceful.  Although busy, the streets are quiet and people walk orderly.  Same on the public transport.  The locals are so kind and always greet you with a smile.  I love London, don’t get me wrong…but London is tiring!  Everything is loud and you’re always running and are on the go.  Tokyo was a nice break from the mad dash.

Kanpai Japan!  You were a gem!