About Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaper and website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staff at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, More and Parents magazines, as well as for Learnvest, the leading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' Home Journal, the Huffington Post, AOL Travel and more.
Cheryl was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up moving around every few years as an Army brat. The urge to travel has been with her her whole life. While she calls New York City home, Cheryl makes it a priority to travel as much as possible throughout the year. Some of her favorite places include Iceland, the Great Barrier Beef, Cabo, Rome, Calabria and Munich, although she hopes to never stop exploring. Cheryl blogs about her travel adventures (and what's happening in and around New York City) at Weary Wanderer.
Latest Posts by Cheryl Lock
We recently moved from downtown Denver into our first home in Arvada near Standley Lake, which is about 15-20 minutes from downtown Denver. So far, we’re loving it in the burbs and having the lake so close by and the views are spectacular.
It doesn’t matter how many times we walk around this lake … it always stuns me with its beauty. Inside Denver, you can access some great nature as well. Last year, my sister got me a membership to the Denver Botanic Gardens, and recently, we were finally able to get out there for a visit, which was really quite lovely.
We headed out into beautiful Kyoto to explore the renowned Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I had been dying to do this ever since I started researching Kyoto about a month before our trip, and the experience was worth it — absolutely incredible.
After the bamboo, we headed back to the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), which both gorgeous and serene, with its manicured rock gardens, temples, streams and foliage. There’s also a tiny hill you can walk up and get a pretty nice view of the city skyline.
It doesn’t take very long to see the whole park (if you don’t want it to, or you could spend an hour or so meandering around), and afterwards there is a gorgeous little 1.7 mile walk called the Philosopher’s Walk nearby that I would suggest doing as well. The end of the walk will bring you pretty much right out to a bus stop that can bring you right back to the center of town.
The Silver Pavilion inside Ginkaku-ji
An artist making the most of Philosopher’s Walk …
Japan, you were everything I imagined you would be, and also so much more.
Attending a traditional tea service in Japan was high on my mom-in-law’s list of things to do, but after breakfast we started our day out with a visit to Fushimi Inari-Taisha, a sprawling Shinto shrine with thousands of vermillion torri (gates) lining paths that crisscross into a mountain. It was unbelievably gorgeous, and definitely a must-see if you’re in Kyoto …
^^^ These torri … so mesmerizing!
After spending an hour or so at the shrine, we hopped back on the subway and headed to the Kiyomizudera Temple area of Kyoto, which was this adorable, historical section of town, where we attended a traditional tea service — and learned how to make traditional Japanese tea! — at Camellia’s Japanese Tea Ceremony. Camellia was lovely and she explained to us the whole tradition behind the tea service in Japan and demonstrated herself first how to make the tea, before passing off the ingredients to us to make our own.
After the service — which lasts about an hour, depending on how many questions you ask (we asked a lot!) — we finished walking around the Kiyomizudera area and grabbed a quick bite to eat.
Chris’s fried octopus hushpuppies, which he says were delicious.
Pure bliss! (And yes, that stack of plates next to Chris was all ours … and we weren’t even close to being done yet … )
The restaurant, should you feel so inclined to try to find it ;)
And I will leave you with one final thought for this post, my friends, which is the below pic of me rubbing the head of a Buddha statue for good luck and prosperity.
Is there anything more calming than that?
On our first day touring Tokyo, we decided to start the day at the Senso-ji shrine, but even just getting to the shrine proved to be difficult for us, since we kept getting distracted by everything else we were passing along the way. Tokyo is a riot of colors, excitement and impeccably dressed men and women!
We explored the Akihabara area, a vicinity which is famous for its electronic shops where they also sell electronic toilet seats … how have I not talked about these yet!? The seats are actually heated, open and close on their own and flush on their own. Some have ocean sounds that come on when you sit … it’s like visiting a spa every time you pee!), and in recent years has become well-known for its collection of anime and manga paraphernalia, as well.
We also found ourselves meandering through the streets leading up to the Senso-ji temple, which was much more traditional Japan, as I had imagined it …
This was our first view coming up on the temple. You can just tell right away that it’s going to be pretty amazing, and the surrounding area — referred to as Nakamise-dori — has streets filled with shopping for anything your little heart might desire, from food and trinkets to clothing and so much more.
Senso-ji, in all her splendor.
Senso-ji is known to be Tokyo’s oldest temple, and its referred by to locals as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon. Even though the temple receives 30 million visitors every year, it is still an important center of worship. There’s a great history of the temple and surrounding area here.
100 yen (placed in an honour box) will get you an omikuji, or a fortune written on a small piece of paper. If your fortune is bad, tradition would have you tie the paper on a nearby string so the wind can disperse the bad luck. Above is the incense burner, which you’ll find in the temple forecourt. People come here to fan the smoke from the incense over themselves, believing it to have healing powers.
The area immediately surrounding the temple includes manicured gardens, Buddhist and other statues to pray at, and some other, smaller temple structures. The whole area is so alluring and you’ll feel like you never want to leave.
Of course leave you must, if you want to take in the rest of Tokyo! So after spending a couple hours at the temple and wandering around the surrounding streets, we decided to head off to check out the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo, with its Tokyo City View, Mori Art Museum and Mohri Garden. Unfortunately by the time we got there the weather had turned rainy and cloudy, so the Tokyo City View didn’t seem like such a smart idea, and the Mohri Garden — which I had been pretty excited about based on information I’d read in my guide book — turned out to be pretty lame, as well. (Maybe it’s better in the spring when everything is blooming? Probably, I assume.) There are a ton of shops in this area, though, and it’s definitely one of the more affluent, contemporary sections of Tokyo, so it’s worth checking out. So we decided to grab a coffee (hot chocolate for me!) and rest our legs, and to come back the next day when the weather promised to be better to do the city view and the art museum.
In the evening we had plans to meet up with a friend of my sister’s who just recently moved to Japan with her husband who is in the Navy. Our original plan to see another temple didn’t seem like such a good one anymore because of the weather, so she recommended checking out Robot Restaurant, a restaurant in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo that she admitted she had never been to before, but that everyone had been recommending. Not quite sure what to expect (Vicky said “it’s mostly about the entertainment, it’s not really a restaurant!”), we were game for everything, so we hopped online, bought our tickets (they’re a bit pricey at about $50 per ticket — with a discount! — so I would definitely do your research before buying them to make sure this is the type of entertainment you’d be into) and were off!
So let me tell you about Robot Restaurant — it is quite a spectacle! There were little kids in our audience, so I would have been interested to gauge their reaction afterwards, but the basic gist of it is that this is not a restaurant (they serve popcorn, beer and some other goodies for an additional fee), and it’s really just a bright, loud, crazy, kitschy show of shorts, put on by both elaborately dressed actors and, ahem, robots. I think there was a plot line (good vs. evil, big scary robot wants to destroy pretty, blossoming world, people who live in pretty world fight back and win? Maybe?), but really, it’s not about the plot line, either. It’s all about the theatrics, the costumes … and the robots, of course! It actually turned out to be a lot of fun, but it’s probably not for everyone, so like I said, I’d do a little research before buying those tickets!
If you do buy the tickets, though, here’s a bit of what you can expect …
We decided to head from Tokyo to Kyoto in style on the bullet train. We had booked our JR Pass before we left the states, but we decided to upgrade to first class. One word of advice here — even when you book first class tickets ahead of time, you still need to go into a Rail Pass station and book in tickets for your exact seat and train time. I’m not sure what would happen if you showed up to a train where you hadn’t booked ahead of time, but we avoided that pitfall by booking our trip to Kyoto from Tokyo, to Hiroshima from Kyoto and then back from Kyoto to Tokyo all in advance.
The ride was glorious, with a boat load of beautiful countryside to take in, and small towns along the way to peruse.
The 452 kilometer ride (aka 5 and a half hour ride by car) from Tokyo to Kyoto only took about 140 minutes on the bullet train, and was far more comfy than a vehicle. In Kyoto the train arrives into Kyoto Station, which is such an amazing place I’d recommend checking it out even if you’re not catching a train. There are tons of restaurants (good restaurants!), bakeries and shops — there’s a lot to do there.
We checked into New Miyako Hotel, which is very close to the station and super convenient for exhausted, weary travelers who just want to drop their bags off in their room and take a quick rest before heading back out. We first headed to the Gion District, which is Kyoto’s famous geisha district and is filled with shops and restaurants (and while we were unfortunately a tad early, I can tell you this area would be gorgeous with cherry blossoms probably right about now, too!). The Yasaka Shrine is also right next door to the Gion District, so you can easily knock both things off your list in one trip.
Entrance to the Yasaka Shrine. We thought the shrine closed to visitors at 5, and most of the stalls and things were closed, but you can still walk into the actual shrine area past 5, so seeing it at night (and then again later during the day) was special.
Since we were starving, we headed for sushi at a little place we happened upon in the Gion district. You can also get vegetarian noodles if you don’t eat meat or seafood.
Next up was Hiroshima and neighboring island Miyajima. I have to admit that I was hesitate to partake in the Hiroshima part of the trip. I knew it would be an emotional thing to see, and we only had a limited number of days in Kyoto and I just wasn’t sure how I felt about all of it, but after going, I’m so glad I did. Yes, the Hiroshima sites and museum are incredibly heartbreaking, but the area is so beautiful and there’s just so much history there, to go, you really feel like you’re a part of something, for better or for worse.
We caught the ferry from Hiroshima over to Miyajima Island first.
Chris & his father about to chow down on some fried oyster donuts.
The wild deer are indigenous to this island, and while they’re cute and friendly, they will try to eat any paper you have hanging around, if you let them!
In the distance, you’ll spot the Itsukushima Shrine on the island, which is an incredible site to see.
We also took the Miyajima cable car up into the mountains for the most incredible view of the area, including Hiroshima in the background. There’s also a beautiful walk that you can take back from the cable car area down into the village, which I would recommend. It’s a steep climb up, so we took the bus to the entrance of the cable car, but to walk down isn’t so bad, so that’s how I’d recommend doing it.
Back down on the island …
After Miyajima Island, it was on to Hiroshima, where our first stop was this structure, now known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. As one of the only standing reminders of the atomic bomb, you can obviously guess why it would have been a controversial decision to keep it standing all these years later, but after much back and forth, the building was finally designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site and today is protected.
The city as it stands today. Incredible. While it’s obviously been a while since the attack, it’s still pretty amazing to see how the city has built itself up around the ashes.
Welcome to Tokyo’ – we headed over extremely early to be there in time to watch the famous tuna auction.
The fish market itself is supposed to be the world’s biggest, moving about 1800 tons of seafood every single day. And the tuna auction — where prized maguro (bluefin tuna) gets auctioned off to the highest bidder — starts at 5 a.m. The line to register for the auction starts forming way before 5, though, and we were told to get there by 4 a.m. if we wanted to get in. Despite arriving at 4 am, we were already in the second of only two groups allowed in, and there were only a handful of people allowed in after us!
They usher you in and out pretty quickly — but some of the best chefs in Japan come here to purchase their tuna, and one tuna can go for up to $10,000 each — yup, they take it very seriously.
Our auctioneer …
After the auction, we walked around the fish market for a while and there were plenty of crazy sights.
Pssst. Be aware taking photos at the market — some of the vendors did not take too kindly to it :/ This is actually true in quite a few places around Japan. Try to pay attention to any signs that might be posted asking people to not take pics … I was burned a few times, and I hate thinking of myself as one of those kinds of tourists …
After the auction, we headed towards the Meiji-jingu Shrine, which happened to be in Yoyogi Koen park, a five to seven minute walk from our apartment. (Score!)
The Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the deified spirits of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It was completed in 1920 and destroyed during World War II, but it was rebuilt soon after. According to my guide book, the torii (or gates) at the entrance mark the beginning of the shrine’s sacred space.
Right after you pass through the torii you’ll find this water well. (Once we saw this one, we started spotting them all over Japan). Visitors are meant to spoon cupfuls of water into their left hand, then their right hand, then cup their hands and gather water in to put in their mouth and then spit into the well. Please don’t quote me on any of that, because it’s simply what another tourist told us we were meant to do. So we did it. I can only hope it was right!
These decorative saki barrels were all gifts to the shrine, and really beautiful.
After the shrine we meandered into lunch at a little noodle shop we found along the way [which, thankfully, catered to tourists and had an English menu and specific vegetarian options. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry ;)]. After lunch we made our way over to Shibuya Crossing, which is meant to be one of the busiest intersections in the world. All of Shibuya in general, actually, is awash with vibrant colors, large ads and hustling, bustling streets. Essentially it’s the Times Square of Tokyo … something definitely not to be missed.
After Shibuya (and some fabulous sunglass finds), it was a quick subway ride back over to Roppongi Hills and the Mohri Art Museum. Then of course, there’s the Tokyo City View and the views were absolutely stunning.
That helicopter in the right-hand corner of the picture provided a lot of entertainment for us as it hovered in the sky before landing quite close to the building we were in.
You can actually get out onto the roof for a view as well, which we didn’t know until after the sun had gone down — oh so worth it!
Back inside we tried getting into the art exhibit we wanted to see, only to find out we had purchased the wrong tickets. As luck would have it, the exhibit we wanted to see was closed already, but the exhibit we had bought tickets for was still open, so we took a quick walk through that one, instead.
It was right about halfway through this art exhibit that it hit me, friends — I was exhausted.
A blurry view of the snowy trees whizzing by on our way up to the mountains in December where we stayed at The Pines Condominiums in Keystone. The condo was splendid, with a fireplace, gorgeous mountain views from every window and a full kitchen with everything we needed to make a delicious holiday dinner.
Our dining room looking into what we came to affectionately refer to as our “Christmas nook”.
Spending a weekend in New Orleans was great starting with Buzz Nola bike tour that took us into some really gorgeous parts of the city that we hadn’t seen yet. We stopped at P.J’s for coffee first (because we saw locals drinking there so figured why not) and then met up with our tour, which covered:
- The French Quarter: Where we learned about the city’s founding in 1718, the architecture, Jackson Square and the history of the French Market.
- Esplanade Ave.: A historic oak-lined boulevard where the Creole elite live.
- Faubourg Treme: A centuries old neighborhood, home to artists, musicians and history makers.
- Louis Armstrong Park & Congo Square: The heart of New Orleans’ jazz tradition (and where the jazz festival was being held that we stopped by the day before).
- Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: One of the many above ground cemeteries in New Orleans, where we learned about the tradition of interment and New Orleans’ funeral traditions.
- The Lower Garden District: Where the original city of Lafayette, LA begins. Americans were the first to begin building their homes here when the they weren’t welcome in the areas where the French were already living.
- The Mansions of the Garden District: Gorgeous homes abound in this area, and many architectural trends influenced the whole neighborhood.
Here’s some of what we saw …
This is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which has a really interesting history that you can read on their site. We came back here later Sunday night to grab some drinks.
Look at this beautiful mansion in the Garden District part of our tour. We saw Sandra Bullock’s house, the house where Eli and Peyton Manning grew up, John Goodman’s house, and a whole bunch of others.
Lafayette’s Cemetery. It’s a somber experience to be taking a tour through a cemetery, but just look at these gorgeous structures. It’s really a nice way to be remembered.
This sign was across the street from our hotel, and it made me laugh when I first saw it…
Sazeracs at Dominica in the Roosevelt hotel for happy hour before heading out on the town.
Hurricane’s at Lafitte’s on Sunday night before catching an Uber to dinner.
A very scary creepy statue of Jesus that projects onto a church in the French Quarter at night.
Dinner Sunday night was at Baccanal Wine, which is totally off the beaten path, and totally worth it! The first part of the store is a wine and cheese shop, then you can go and sit in the backyard under the twinkle lights, listen to live jazz and order drinks and food from the little window over there to the left. It has a really laid back, low-key, homey type of feel — exactly what we were hoping for on our last night.
Monday was our last day in New Orleans, and we were lucky that we had most of the day to hang out so of course we went back to Cafe Du Monde for breakfast, and this time we actually sat in the cafe.
We also walked over to Canal Street and caught the Streetcar back to the Garden District, where we would be having lunch at Commander’s Palace.
Streetcars are cute, except for when you want to ride them. Well the truth is they’re pretty unreliable in terms of timing (ours showed up about 10 minutes late and took about 20 minutes longer than we thought to get us to our destination). If you aren’t strapped for time, though, it’s a pretty fun way to ride around the city at least once.