Ah, Tokyo <3. Admittedly, it wasn’t at the top of my travel list, but all it took was one visit for me to absolutely fall in love with its energy, cuteness, order, and all-around awesomeness!! Tokyo has stolen my curious little heart, allowed for me to feel like a giant kid in a really cool (read: advanced) playground and just, honestly, live. I grew addicted to the little capsule machines, got into my element gaming at the Sega Arcade, and had some of the most fresh fish ever! Though we were there for just a few short days, I have gathered below what we did cover + absolutely loved the most.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Robata Sho Tokyo (for the love of authentic + all things grilled)

We stumbled upon this place (and what great luck!) because it was one of the highlights of our trip. Located under ground of a pretty empty Tokyo street, this izakaya (Japanese Gastropub) is where locals (and the tourists who can find it) come for some authentic dining. It was very much like “Cheers” where everyone feels so welcomed and like it’s home!

The restaurant is lively with people sitting near each other, the chef in the center grilling all of your orders, and laughs with clinks of beer and sake with the staff (if you ask) is frequent! Food notes: the sashimi platter was the freshest fish I’ve ever had; be sure to order their potato salad (thank me later) and order the whole fish for a super delicious, omega-3 filled delight! Prices are very fair and it’s served “tapas” style, so pair with your drink + share :).

Reservations HIGHLY recommended as there are only 42 seats (we were lucky that there happened to be a cancelation when we walked in), but make sure to make a rezy to make things way easier.

Genki Sushi (for the love of fresh, cheap sushi + tech)

Locals go crazy over this spot! This was our first self-service, tech-loving conveyer belt experience in Tokyo with some super fresh sushi for an amazing price! Enter into the store and they give you a seat number, you walk down the aisles to your seat where you’re greeted with your own touch-screen waiter. The sushi (and ramen or whatever else you’d like to order) will arrive right in front of you; with a tap of a green button on the screen, the serving platter will head back to the kitchen where the chef will prepare your next dish! Complimentary green tea is at your fingertips and, don’t say I didn’t warn you, ordering can get pretty addicting! But, for about $8 USD I ate like a queen and all of the interactiveness made me feel like a kid in a candy store!

Directions/Note: As of the publishing of this post, Genki Sushi is currently undergoing renovations, but you can check out their temporary spot (the one we went to!) at Uobei Dogenzeke (click here for the google map link). Tip: if going for dinner, get there between 5-6pm; after that, you will have a bit of a wait!

Kikanbo (for the love of ramen, juicy pork + testing your spice level)

Our friends Rachel + Nick recommended Kikanbo Ramen and what a treat this was! The experience starts outside, as you approach the ordering ‘vending machine’ of sorts and place your order (it’s where you also pay). You then take your ticket inside, sit down, and pass it to the chef who comes to confirm your order and ask you for your spice level. note: this place is known for their “devil spice” and my husband ordered “high” spice– it was love (and tears of heat) at first slurp (I ordered medium)! The décor, matched with the music of drums, helps set the tone for when your giant bowl of fresh cooked ramen arrives. It’s delicious. It’s super flavorful. And at around $10 for a bowl, you will certainly not leave hungry with the portion they give you!

tips: definitely use the little round container of spices found at your seat (next to the water). Add it to the ramen and make the experience EXTRA magical (they actually sell this stuff at the restaurant (so popular)) // there can be quite a line to stand on around 11:30am when they open; so we went for a later lunch (around 1:30pm) and there was no line! 🙂 // you may feel silly, but use the bibs they provide (!!) — those juicy slurps don’t just go anywhere ;).

Robot Restaurant ()

TONS of colorful lights, loud music and people controlling GIANT robots with remote controls; what can get more TOKYO than this?! It may seem super touristy (note: it is), but tourists and locals alike love this place for its super funky feeling. The show is separated into a few parts that includes a pre-show performance (hello men dressed in robot costumes on the sick guitars and drums!) and goes into some more amazing percussion music, a Power Rangers-like live performance, laser show, and a full-out dance performance on the floor with remote-controlled cars. As touristy as it may have seemed, we honestly had such a fun time!

note: we read reviews that the food here wasn’t exactly the tastiest, so we opted out of having dinner here, but did order a drink (though pricey) for the show because, well, why not! (I had bubble milk tea — alcoholic drinks available for purchase, too).

Tokyo Metro: as a foreigner, you are allowed to purchase (with proof of passport) an unlimited subway card (BUY IT AT THE AIRPORT NEAR THE METRO)– it gives you access to both the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines. I cannot stress enough how much this was useful because as you enter/leave stations/switch lines, you will have to enter your ticket into the machines, and if you don’t have the correct ticket, you’ll have to purchase new ones a few times; it can get pretty confusing, so eliminate it with an unlimited card! Available for 24/48/ or 72 hours, it’s honestly the easiest way to get around Tokyo! (Also, at first glance of the Tokyo Metro map, you may start to feel uneasy, but TRUST; after an hour or two, you’ll be a PRO! And it becomes to easy and FUN!)

pro tip: station names are great, but utilize the station numbers (ex: C11, T02, S01)– so much more easy! And, when you’re unsure which platform to board the train on, the platform walls will tell you the direction of the train by noting what the next number is! (ex: you are at C12 and you need to get to C8: the wall will say C12->C11 (which means it’s decreasing, so C8 is in this direction; board this platform) voilà! // Follow the lines and stand in line when waiting for train + when boarding (Japanese are super organized and it’s polite!!)

Rubbish Bins: you won’t really find any in Japan! So, if you make garbage, you’re supposed to take it with you and dispose of it at your home/hotel (and recycle!). While it’s a very conscious effort on reducing public waste, let me let you in on the-more-you-know: back in 1995 there was a sarin gas attack that left thousands injured (the gas capsules were hidden in the rubbish bins) and locals pleaded for rubbish bins to be removed for their safety. Since then, they’re pretty much been gone! But it’s so crazy to know that even with no rubbish bins around, the streets and metro are so clean!!!

Basic Japanese Language: we don’t speak Japanese, but these very basic phrases were always appreciated when used– and we got by just fine! (ps: don’t expect everyone to know English; it’s taught in school, but Japanese is their official language, afterall!)

Kon’nichiwa – Hello – pronounced CUN-KNEE-CHEW-AH!

Arigato – Thank You – pronounced AH-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE!

Arigato Sai Mas – Thank You Very Much – pronounced Ah-RI (roll that “R”!)-GAH-TOE-SIGH-MOSS

 

Body Language: a smile goes a long way and so does a bow. When greeting and thanking, always bow. When in doubt, smile and bow. // when handing anything over (money, a postcard you want to purchase, sushi bento box, etc.) always use two hands and give a little bow; handing things over with one hand is considered rude! Don’t be that person :). Impress them!!

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T.

The Wedding Cake House, ME

Yummy, yummy! If I could eat it, I definitely would (granted it would have to be lactose-free and maybe even gluten-free), but a girl can dream, right? The Wedding Cake House is said to be the most photographed home in the state of Maine and it is easy to see why: built in 1825 by a shipbuilder/sea captain who was inspired by the Gothic architecture he saw whilst in Milan, the home boasts beautiful details that seem like they came right out of an icing pouch!

After so many lobster rolls, we were looking for some ways to stay a little active to offset our vacation-mode lifestyle (read: indulge!). The Captain Lord Mansion, where we were staying, had bikes in their shed ready for its guests to use whenever they wanted (we love when places do that!). It was a pretty hot day, so we made sure to have some water with us as we made the bike ride up to the beautiful home.

kennebunk port maine the wedding cake house google itinerary
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the captain lord mansion maine itinerary blog

When we looked it up on our maps app, Google said that it would take about 20 minutes from our B&B to The Wedding Cake House via bicycle. Now, if we were super-duper hardcore bikers, it probably would have, but we’re not; we’re just tourists enjoying the scenes at a very easy pace :). So it actually took us about 40 minutes one-way. I didn’t mind, though, because it meant more scenic views, checking out the local homes, and more cardio!

kennebunkport maine the wedding cake house google itinerary
kennebunkport maine the wedding cake house google itinerary

As we pulled up in front of the home, we high-fived at getting there in one piece (I swear, one of us usually ends up crashing into something sometimes (haha)) and proceeded to appreciate the architecture. After a few photos and imagining what life would be like living here, we headed 40 minutes back into town for our well-deserved next stop: Ben & Jerry’s. Now, I must mention, there is a very cute ice cream parlor, Rococo, that is pretty popular in Kennebunkport with some pretty delicious artisanal treats, but since I was craving more of a creamy treat that was dairy-free vs. a sorbet of sorts, I opted to get my kicks out at Ben & Jerry’s! Whee!

kennebunkport maine itinerary google wedding cake house
kennebunkport maine itinerary google wedding cake house
kennebunkport maine itinerary google wedding cake house
kennebunkport maine itinerary google
kennebunkport maine itinerary google

xx,
signalorenii

PS: If you end up driving to The Wedding Cake House vs. biking, no worries, I pass no judgements ;).

PPS: This trip is great in fall, too! Just swap my shorts for some nice long jeans, a cool sweater and instead of heading back to Ben & Jerry’s, warm up with some hot apple cider (maybe spiked ;)) at H.B. Provisions or a cute café downtown! The foliage is an added bonus, too!

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M.

Making Colonial ‘Cool’ in Philadelphia: Our Weekend-Themed Itinerary

Who doesn’t love themes?! After tons of research (and to surprise my husband with a pretty unique birthday weekend), I came up with a little fun way to explore Philly and entitled the weekend: our “Colonial ‘Cool’ Weekend.” I know, you must be like “Loren, what does that even mean?” Basically, it’s all about letting the 18th century influence our present-day activities; think about what people back then would be doing/using/watching and find an equivalent to now! While cozying up to a fireplace is great, is there a fun way to experience a fire that outdoors? And with music?

Come, let me whisk you away to the itinerary!

Day One:

After driving in from NYC to Philly (an easy 2-hour car ride), we parked our car into a garage (using the SpotHero app, where we saved $$$ off our first booking and, well, let’s say this app gave us such a steal! Have you guys ever tried it? It was our first time!); it was seamless and we were off to our hotel– the Sofitel Philadelphia– in no time. Although the hotel offered valet parking, we really didn’t need the in-and-out privileges! Hey, save money where you can, right? 😉 The Sofitel Philadelphia is part of a French chain and is located in the city center— perfect if you’re going to be doing more of the history stuff around town (book using this referral code to get $25 back after your stay!)

Let there be light!
Create your own candle @ Wax + Wine

The founding fathers (before Franklin’s lightbulb) relied on candles for light, so why not make your own?! An alternative to the sip + paints we’ve been seeing around the country, Wax + Wine delivers a different (and pretty cool) experience to Philly: candle making! It’s a BYOB bar that’ll let you bring in your favorite bottle of vino (or champs) (and snacks!) and they’ll provide you with glasses and plates.

You then descend down to the “scent cellar” where you get to select your favorite scents (ex: lemongrass, rose, blood orange, coffee) and bring it up to create your own candle! They will help you through the whole process and you walk away with a one-of-a-kind! Perfect activity for a date or girl’s night out. Get creative: want a candle for meditating? For dancing? For when you’re taking a warm bath? Go wild!


Dine with the ghosts of our Founding Fathers @ City Tavern

So, while the ghosts are “rumored” to be there (I didn’t see any), there is no denying the fact that this tavern is pretty historic! It is the first tavern ever in the USA [read: old] and the one where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would come to discuss constitutional affairs and have their fill! It’s also the place our founding fathers celebrated the first ever “Fourth of July.”

The food at City Tavern is gourmet colonial, inspired by the same food eaten in the 18th century and recipes of that era that were the favorites of some of our past presidents! I actually ordered for a birthday cake to be made using Martha Washington’s Chocolate Mousse Cake recipe and, let me just say, de-li-cious!

Your host/ess and waiters are dressed in colonial garb, you’ll dine under candlelight, drink water from goblets and, after 5:30pm, find a live harpist sending melodies into the air, completing the dining experience.


philadelphia itinerary winter

Glide Over Ice + Chill by a Bonfire @ BlueCross RiverRink

They had ice skating back in the day, so why not enjoy some of that present day, too? From December to March, you get the chance to ice skate next to the Delaware River with the Ben Franklin Bridge lit up behind you, all in the middle of Philadelphia’s Blue Cross WinterFest! Sessions start on the hour (and if you have health insurance with any sort of a cross on it, skating is free! (I wish I knew that beforehand as you’ll have to show proof!)).

After your 1.5 hour skating sesh, head on into the food hall for some grub, play your luck at one of the arcade games in the arcade cabin, or head outside to sit next to a bonfire! They have make-your-own s’mores available, as well as hot chocolates/ice creams (and drinks for the adults at the ski-chalet cabins ;)). The WinterFest lasts until March, making it a fun evening activity during the winter!


Day Two:

Grab a Pourover @ La Colombe and brush up on your Science + Tech
@ Franklin Institute

After a wonderful night’s rest, head on over to Philly-born La Colombe for some pour over coffee and a baked good (word on the street is that their coffee is taking the nation by storm!). Have your drink to stay (the tables and coffee cups & saucers are so elegant (I mean, they are custom made in Italy ;)) or take it to go! A 15-minute walk will get your blood circulating as you make it to The Franklin Institute. “In Honor of Benjamin Franklin” stares at you as you walk up the steps into the museum, where you’ll actually be stared down by Ben himself as you make your way to the ticket desk.

Walk into a human heart, compete against your favorite athlete in a running challenge, catch what the 3D printers are printing, step into a giant steam engine locomotive or catch an IMAX movie, whatever you’re doing, it’ll be sure to be interactive and you’ll walk away learning something new!

PS: I’d give yourself three hours to see everything, not rushing.
PPS: We saw a Paleontologist take apart owl poo and rebuild a rodent’s body. yeah, cool!


candy store USA

Sugar-Coated Candies, Chocolates and all 18th Century– Oh My!
@ Shane Confectionery

Shane Confectionery is the oldest candy store in the USA and holds some of the yummiest chocolates and candy inside! One step in through the door you feel like you’re instantly transported back in time with the moldings/glass cases properly preserved and the shopkeepers dressed in colonial garb.

Head to the back of the candy shop where you’ll find hot chocolate, ice cream and milkshakes being made to order. The flavours on the menu are very unique and insanely delicious! We picked up a Jasmine petal and orange zest hot chocolate and all I can say is.. YUM! Our chocolate pellets were weighed, added into a beautiful copper pot and stirred with a wooden whisk! If you’re unsure about which drink to get (because Jefferson’s hot chocolate seemed like an amazing option, too) for $15 you can get a flight of three hot chocolates to try!


Havana, Oh Nana (ay)
@ Cuba Libre

Okay, so Cuba Libre isn’t exactly Colonial, but the interior is made to look like old Havana and, the way I look at it, Old Havana was founded before the 18th century… like Philly… sooo… there’s that :). Plus, I was craving some latin food ;).

Come with an empty stomach because the portions here are HUGE and, if coming on a weekend evening, be sure to make a reservation on OpenTable! I had the shrimp cilantro-lime with rice that was good, but I hear that their brunch pancakes with mango-cinnamon butter are amazing.

xx,

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