The summer months were pretty bad for mosquitoes, with a handful of bites every week from just walking around the city. I thought that was bad enough. But it’s now the end of October and I got two mosquito bites this last week. Who gets mosquito bites in October? Apparently me when I’m living in DC.
This one factor could even trump everything… In future posts, DC’s score may continue to get penalized because of these little buggers.
I’m back in California, where the weather is unexpectedly gloomier than the beautiful fall weather that I left in DC. But to get here, it was so easy. No transfers from one line to another, no transfer to an airport line, no need to leave an hour to get to the airport. I just hopped on the metro and it takes you right to National Airport. Dulles is another story and more complicated than NYC airports and Bay Area airports, but it was so easy to get to National.
When we moved from SF to NYC, I had a few posts on my thoughts about how the two stacked up against each other. Now that we’ve moved to DC, I figured it’s time to start those comparisons again.
I don’t think any city will have performers that match the ones in NYC. Like this guy who looked like Roger Federer, played electric violin, and danced like Gene Kelly AND Michael Jackson.
But since moving to DC, I have enjoyed the guys who are always drumming on plastic bins in Chinatown. Not a lot of variety, but I’m glad that I can count on them being there all the time. And I did run into two guys who were playing trombones while walking down the street. Sorry, there’s no photo.
The two guys playing trombones, even if I never see them again, bump DC considerably higher, but the Federer look-alike who played electric violin while dancing, plus all the other amazing musicians in NYC, can’t be beat.
I was also looking at an old post about cupcakes in DC. Since we’re living here now, I wanted to refresh my memory about what I have already learned about the dessert scene here. At the end of the post, I predicted that macarons would be the next “big thing.” And I think I have been proven correct.
Giant octupus grilled tepanyaki style. Before they cooked the octupus, they held up the giant octopus, still alive and squirming, for us to select a tentacle. I was definitely taken aback and not sure about whether we had made a good choice. But given language difficulties, it was too late to turn back. Not having much experience selecting giant octopus tentacles, we went with whatever they wanted to give us. It turned out to be quite delicious. And definitely fresh.
Tempura shrimp with lotus root. What are you imagining? Some shrimp fried in batter with some lotus root on the side? It was actually lotus root stuffed with shrimp and some sort of leaf. And that was then battered and fried. Yum.
Peach mochi. And because you can never have enough mochi, we had some cherry blossom and plum mochi.
We spent a few nights at places where dinner and breakfast are included. When I say dinner and breakfast, it’s not your typical continental breakfast or buffet. There are about 10 little dishes that come at a time. And each dish has multiple elaborate components with lots of decoration and things tied with bows.
The first place was a ryokan in Takayama, a quaint mountain town. The building was an old merchant’s home and our room had a little patio area overlooking the river. That’s where we had some tea while our dinner was being prepared. Dinner was a few waves of many beautiful dishes. And all the plates and bowls and cups were beautiful too. We were able to try regional specialties like Hida beef and this savory paste/jam-like dish that’s cooked on a leaf over a fire.
Wait a second. They’re eating beef? We decided that because Japan has a more thorough policy for oversight of their beef, we would eat beef when it’s some special dish.
We also stayed at a Buddhist temple in Koyasan, this mountain with lots of temples and an amazing ancient cemetery. There are hundreds of thousands of graves of old monks and samurai and shogun and regular folks, from the past thousand or so years. The vegetarian food was also amazing. Especially this particular tofu dish. Very soft with an unusual delicate texture.
We also immensely enjoyed our room that overlooked the mountains and trees. The bonus was that the temperatures were cool AND there were no mosquitos so we could leave the windows open.
We’ve been wondering why the trees here look so beautiful. It turns out that many of them are manicured. There was a little section on the hill outside our room that was maintained by a team of gardeners.
It’s like the whole country is working together to make sure Mark’s head is full of bumps and bruises. (see photo 1)
We’re waiting out the rain in the Nishiki food market in Kyoto. Sitting across the way from a pickle shop. (photo 2) We couldn’t go watch the cormorant fishing because of the swollen rivers rivers and heavy rains. And we had planned to walk around the Gion district but the huge downpour is putting that on hold. At least we have easy access to mochi and pickled vegetables and soy milk donuts. (photo 3) And I’m happy to report that we have found a lovely umbrella. It’s going to be hard to bring it on the rest of our travels. But it was so beautiful that we couldn’t leave it.
Omelette with rice and fried chicken (Japanese style)
Crepe with strawberries, ice cream, whipped cream. All that is standard. But then they also throw in a slice of cheesecake and some pie crust.
White peaches with anything. Like mochi dumplings with a hint of cinnamon.
Mochi wrapped in a pancake. Shaped like a fish.
Ice cream inside of a waffle-shaped cone. Mark especially loves these. They help him satisfy his daily ice cream quota. He’s had at least 3 so far. I say at least because he eats lots of things when I’m not around. So that I don’t get the idea that he eats a lot.
Doesn’t that name just seem to capture everything traditional and modern and efficient about Japan? (ryokan means inn) That’s where we’ve been staying in Kyoto. The rooms are small by American standards but I think of it as efficient. There are tatami mats in a raised platform with storage inside the platform (see photo, pardon the mess. Mark is rearranging his stuff). The bedding folds away. And there’s a shower pod and a toilet pod (see photos). The shower pod is actually one of the nicest showers that we’ve used. And it’s nice and compact.
To complete what sounds like a lodging rec, the price and location are great. And the staff us super nice. And they put together a nice info binder. One for each room! And there are 2 computers for free Internet and there’s wifi too.
There’s been about 5 straight days of rain. So we’ve been doing lots of umbrella watching. The umbrellas here are so beautiful. Such beautiful colors and patterns and shapes. I especially love the ones with extra spokes (like the ones that my sisters have). We’ll try to see if we can find more once we’re in Taiwan. There are lots here in Japan, but there’s no need to lug them around the country.
Sun’s out today, so maybe we can do some parasol watching.