The Year That Was

It’s a shame that the internet is closed for the holidays and no one is around to read this, but perhaps those of you who are terminally boring like us and don’t have plans will glean some wisdom from it.  This blog is about our family and our travels, and I think it’s fair to say that 2010 was the most insane year for both (…so far).  Even 2009, the year that we became proud parents to a reflux baby who is philosophically opposed to sleep, was less insane than the up-down-all around marathon of 2010.  So while I have much to say about our last-minute trip to Maine for the holidays (Did I forget to mention that? To like, everyone? Including my grandparents who were, to say the least, utterly shocked to see us? I’m a stinker like that. Also, we’re still here and it is COLD) I’m going to do a roundup on the 10 things that made this year possible.

10. Smartwool

Even though my friend DP tagged a tweet of mine declaring my love of Smartwool as “stuff white people like,” I think I may have to move to Utah to polyamorously commit my love to both Tom and my socks.  They were nothing short of perfection in Japan and on this current trip I discovered that the shirts are even better.   As far as other travel products go, I have much to say on the topic of…let’s say “lady matters” while traveling, but I don’t want to gross out you dudes. Leave a comment if you’re interested in my thoughts on that.

9. Kukui nut oil

Petroleum free, can be used as a facial moisturizer (I wouldn’t lie to you–my skin is sensitive, small-pored, and bitchy and I use it regularly on my face), can be used on small babies, and great for after-sun care. I am completely uninterested in you guys suing me for following my dumbass advice, so while I don’t think there’s any concern for those with nut allergies I’m going to absolve myself of responsibility for your hives by saying to check with your doctor first.

8. Kayak, Priceline, and other fare aggregators; United Premier status and other travel benefit programs

Our most recent flight to Maine, booked in mid-December for a Christmas Eve flight and a NYE return, was stupid-cheap…er, relatively. It was still a good chunk of change, but far less than I had anticipated. Priceline got me a good deal on a rental car that I used for three weeks this summer. Starwood Platinum status got us three free nights in godawful expensive Tokyo plus a free dinner. United Premier status got us upgrades and all sorts of perks, plus a free rental car with all those miles. When people ask us how we can afford to travel, that’s how–we cheap out on super-budget travel when it’s our dime, and suck every bit of benefit from our programs (with points accumulated through Tom’s work travel) as we can to make sure we occasionally get a hotel where we don’t have to share a bathroom with the old French dude who likes to freeball.

7. Beco Baby Carrier

Worth its weight in gold at the airport, at temples with lots of stairs, at the farmer’s market, and everywhere else. Don’t balk at the price tag: good customer service and excellent quality ensures you’ll use this FOR YEARS.

6. Dropbox and Google Docs

Being in a billionty different places is fun, and so is having all my stuff in one spot. Also nice for all those mix playlists my musically-inclined friends like to make for me.

5. Quiet toys

The current favorites are an I-Spy bag from Etsy and the clip section of the Melissa and Doug basic skills board. Other improvised toys: the sarubobo keychain for our hotel in Takayama, a folding travel hairbrush, and the airline safety cards. If you’re traveling with a kid, don’t be like that asshole sitting next to us on the redeye from Osaka to Honolulu who plugged in a cartoon DVD for his three year old to watch…without headphones. DICK MOVE, GUY. Your travel toys need to strike that fine balance between keeping the child quiet and being quiet enough not to disturb anyone else. (If I see people rolling their eyes as we board in anticipation of Maggie behaving badly–she doesn’t–I also find it helpful to say very loudly “These are our new flight friends, Maggie, and we must be respectful of them and behave well!” She doesn’t understand me, obviously, but the point is made that I have the needs of others on my mind. If she acts like, y’know, a kid, I’ve bought us some goodwill from those who hate kids in flight on general principle.)

4.  My purple plastic…thingy

No, not like THAT. I have a purple plastic document holder from Target. It cost $2, has a Velcro flap so documents stay inside, and is waterproof except around the corners of the flap. It is my mainstay, my constant, my one consistent traveling companion. As we make reservations at home, get tickets, arrange Maggie’s travel docs (our letter of consent if I’m alone, her birth certificate), etc.–all the paper goes in the purple envelope and into our safe until the day of our flight. Organization is paramount for this kind of lifestyle, and that thingy is my security blanket.

3. Argentinian malbec

This one should require no explanation.

2. New friends…and old

I met Geraldine, who rules all within her sight, and through her Christine and Jason.  In Kyoto we met a musician named Chris who reminded us of Tom’s uncle and who burned Maggie a CD of his own folk music covers at the end of our conversation.  At three amazing weddings, I got to know a ton of awesome new people and reconnect with old friends, some of whom I’ve known since I was in diapers (so by my calculations…since last month?).  And of course, all of the friends and family that without whom, I would never ever have made it through our long spring and summer of separation.  They made it possible for Tom to take a great opportunity and still keep Maggie and me surrounded by love and support.

1. The Monkeys

Sure, they scratch and they may or may not fling poo, but they’re my creative muses, my hilarious travel buddies, and the loves of my life.  I mean, look at them!

Monkeys in Vancouver

Together and separately, in 2010 we saw:

Alice Springs, Australia
Wellington, New Zealand
Washington, DC
Northern Virginia
Eastern/central Maryland
Tampa/St. Petersburg
Portland, ME, southern Maine and central Maine
Seacoast New Hampshire
Boston/Cambridge
Portland, OR/Seattle/Vancouver
Vermont
Tokyo, Takayama, Kamikochi, Kyoto, Himeji, Kobe, Nara, Koyasan, and Osaka, Japan

Four countries, ten states. It was a very good year indeed.  And next year?  We’re moving to England.

BRING IT, 2011.

Poke is po-kay

So. The mouse.  It lives.  We seem to have achieved a mutually satisfactory arrangement with our rodent roommate; to wit, it comes in through the dryer vent when it rains and if it knows what’s good for it, it does it long after I’ve gone to sleep.  We’ve seen no evidence that our home is its permanent dwelling–no droppings, some granola stayed in the sticky trap for several days without results, etc.  So I’ve decided the best course of action is “Better living through denial” and pretending it’s not around.  That seems like the smartest option for my blood pressure and extended life expectancy.

Animal and insect visitors are just one of those things one has to deal with when living in Hawaii (that and the price of milk, holy CHRIST), but it’s really a pretty good tradeoff for living in a tropical paradise.  We do love it here.  So when Geraldine’s friends Jason and Christine said they were coming to Maui for a visit, I embarked on a relentless peer pressure campaign to get them to come visit us on O’ahu.  Normally there is a hesitancy connected with meeting “internet people” but I had already met Geraldine, enjoyed her company immensely, and figured if she liked these two they were probably good people.  I’m delighted to say she was correct because we insisted they come on an early flight and leave after 9pm, and that would have been a ridiculously long day to spend with people who were insufferable.

We liked them immediately, mostly because they were willing to strip down and jump off a big-ass rock.  Quite sensibly, Jason made Tom go first.  I would have been offended that he waiting to see if my husband would plummet to his death in Waimea Bay, but I knew our life insurance premiums have been paid and I am nothing if not practical.

It was a good time, full of manly blinding white flesh. (All photos are theirs and shamelessly stolen by me from Facebook.)

With the guests we’ve had in the last three years and our restless itchy feet, we feel we’ve perfected a circular island tour that hits a number of O’ahu’s highlights in a single day.  Maggie performed admirably, though she needed quite a bit of run-around time (which we build into our day).  I’m not saying Maggie can take credit for Jason and Christine’s future possible second child…but I might say they loved her and she loved them back.

Wouldn’t YOU love that face?  Blech.

Our tour, if run counter-clockwise, terminates at Kona Brewing Company.  We had drinks and lots of chatting and bonding.  I can’t speak for them but after completing this course of beverages, we were shooting the shit like old friends:

The one thing I might have done differently was dinner.  We made the mistake of introducing them to a Hawaiian sushi dish called “poke.”  Poke is, quite simply, the most delicious food ever: Maui onions and ahi tuna tossed with spicy chiles, sesames, scallions and occasionally a type of seaweed.  It is also nearly unheard of outside the islands; I’ve never encountered it in a mainland restaurant, nor did I see it in Japan. (I looked.) The tragic thing is that I gave them a little tasted, got Jason addicted–like, heroin addicted, needs a fix or will cut you–to poke, and then sent them back home where they promptly moved to Kansas and eliminated any chance they might have of recreating that sublime dish.  I apologize.  That was a dick move, albeit a very tasty one.

Anyway, O’ahu is often overlooked on the so-called Hawaiian dream vacation packages; many people prefer the wilds of the Big Island or the posh luxuries of Maui.  But I love this island and we really relished the chance to show it off to new people.  And Jason and Christine, well…they were exceptionally awesome, curious and literate and full of interesting questions and tidbits and a shared propensity to laugh inappropriately at the phrase “fish taco.”  We adored them.

So for the three or four of you reading out there, if you can shoot the bull about Irish history, tell hilariously dark stories about your extended family, and worship at the altar of good coffee, you’re welcome to come out and we’ll give you a hell of a tour*.

*Cooperative baby not guaranteed.

 

Right Round

Kyoto, to be sure, is chock-full of shrines. We visited oodles of them in the few days that we were there, and each was memorable in its own way. One shrine was particularly noteworthy but before I start today’s story, I need to come out with a little secret:

I’m afraid of the dark.

Not “Oh, the demon spawn of Pennywise The Clown and Dracula are legion and also lurking in the shadows, must not leave the house after 5pm without my garlic pants” scared. More like “I cannot see my feet, ergo I will trip and fall into Pennywise’s wig and die” scared.

Hmm. Perhaps reading IT left a bigger impression on me than I had realized.

While I’m an extremely jumpy person and an easy target for cruel lurky friends, the disorientation of darkness is vastly worse. I like to know where I am, where I’ve been, where I’m going, and if possible, what the other options look like.

So, back to Kyoto. On our second full day we visited the Kiyomizu-Dera, a lovely if somewhat commercial shrine overlooking the vast hillside. Because we are nothing if not devoted to the backpacker stereotype, all our itinerary notes for the day came straight from the copy of Lonely Planet: Discover Japan that has entertained Maggie for many weeks now, and thus we noted their entry for the Tainai-Meguri portion of the shrine:

“By entering the hall you are figuratively entering the womb of Daizuigu Bosatsu, a female Bodhisattva who has the power to grant any human wish.”

Well, hell, wish-granting for only 100 yen? Sign me up! We took turns waiting with the baby and I went first. I gave the nice lady my coin and walked in…and came to an abrupt halt as the lights immediately ended.

Entering the chamber, or symbolic womb, is dark and full of twists and turns which is totally unfair because it might have been ten years since human biology class, but I’m pretty sure exiting a real womb involves a straightaway. I put a hand up and felt fabric and a bit of resistance, so I waited until I realized that the resistance was not human but in fact a curtain over a wall. I was saddened to realize I was not behind a fellow resister, but held my breath and took a step out. It was okay! I did not die, there were no clowns in the darkness.

Moving down into the chamber took a really long time. At some point I put my left hand down by my side and realized there was a handy railing, so I ran my hand along that and leaned forward slightly so that my hand would lead.

The light of the chamber comes up rather abruptly, and it’s good form to wait until the person ahead of you has taken their turn. If you’re like me, you happen upon the chamber just as the last person has exited, and come face to face with a large, circular stone about the shape of a loaf of artisan bread in the center of a beam of light.

And it will be spinning.  True, it is not moving of its own accord, it’s just the lingering force of the spin by the person ahead of you.  But it is damn eerie.  As is the custom, I paused for a moment, put my hand on the stone, and gave it a clockwise spin as I made my wish.  And then I paused for a moment more to run my fingers along the stone and absorb some of the light before I made my way out again.  Call me a crazy grasping agnostic, but there was definitely energy there.  Maybe it was the projections of people making their way down to give the symbolic womb a twirl; maybe it was the Bodhisattva herself giving our wishes a little blast of cosmic energy.  Whatever it was, it was really cool, more than a little unsettling, and I came out feeling weirdly euphoric and gushing “Do it! Do it!” to Tom.

So what did I wish?  Sorry, I’m not going to tell you that.

But I will tell you that it came true. :)

The House Of Mouse

We’ll return to posting about Japan…eventually.  Right now I have to clear my mindwebs, which are like cobwebs without insect-eating arachnids patrolling the grounds.  Actually, that’s rather apt, because today’s entry deals with the home and the cleanliness thereof.  Let us begin.

In the beginning, there was a word, and that word was “Hoarders“. I can’t stop watching. We burned through the first season on Netflix Instant, stopping mid-episode to run into our bedrooms and clear the bookshelves and DVD towers of anything that had not been watched or read in the last year.  I scrubbed my bookshelves while Tom organized his trunk of traveling memorabilia into bags and began looking for the best online storage site to house his files as he begins the process of scanning his memories to PDF.  I ripped through this house like a woman possessed, working like Madame Dorothy Breininger herself was chasing me with a list of life-affirming goals and a flame thrower powered by righteousness and antiseptic spray.  How a person becomes a hoarder is fascinating to me, although I think the show is deeply flawed in its premise.  If losing a home, a marriage, a child, or having nearly-fossilized cats in your home cannot convince you that there is a problem, even the glorious beacon of tidy light that is Dorothy (or any of the other mental health and/or organization professionals whose names I don’t care enough about to remember; for me there is only Dorothy) probably isn’t enough to keep you from relapsing.

And with visions of dust-catching Dorothy dancing in your head, I shall bring you into the next part of the story.

Do you guys remember when I lost my mind a little bit over the bug issue?  Well, those damn freeloaders have mostly gone away, thanks to vigilance, a few baits set much higher up than they used to be, and liberal applications of tea tree oil.  I have no idea if the tea tree oil actually works, but I’m pleased with the absence of bugs in my home. Those bugs have no place in a residence devoid of clutter and freshly scented with lavender and baked cookies.

Well, as the guy once said “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There was a massive rainstorm the other day and minor flooding, which I paid no mind until I was sitting at my dining room table wrapping holiday gifts and sipping a festive Fezziwig Ale, basking in a glow of homey goodness and light. And then a little dash of black, just past the corner of my eye, bolted through the kitchen.  As my happy light snuffed just as surely as if a fat man had covered it with his ass cheeks, I forced myself to look in the direction of a kitchen.  And sure as rats fled the waters rushing the Titanic, so had this mouse sought higher ground in my apartment.

I’m proud of myself. I didn’t scream. I very calmly yet urgently alerted Tom to the situation and promptly renounced all forms of feminism, falling back on several generations of gender-specific absolutes to absolve me from any responsibility in the matter.  MY problem HAS a name, Betty Friedan, and its name is “THERE’S A GODDAMN MOUSE IN MY KITCHEN” and quite frankly, I would rather move than kill it myself, so I’m leaving it to the Y-chromosome carrying member of the house to dispatch the cheese-stealing bastard.

[Unrelated, or possibly very related: I had a guest post submission rejected recently on the grounds that this blog is not G nor PG rated. I cannot IMAGINE how the editor might have gotten that idea.]

I digress. There was a mouse in my house and while I find tiny seed-eating gray field mice like the one that crashed my friend Kelley’s outdoor wedding adorable, I harbor neither love nor shelter for its trash-consuming urban cousin.  Having dealt with rodent roommates before, Tom discussed my options:

  • Poison (rejected; weight of furniture and possibility of it dying where we could not dispose of the body, smells, also the baby)
  • Conventional mousetraps (rejected; Tom says they are only to be used to power model cars that he will one day build with Maggie, which I chose not to get into at the time but you bet I’ll be revisiting the mechanics of that little Goldbergian fantasy)
  • Sticky traps (hmm…)
  • No-kill traps (rejected; guys…I…yeah.  I’m not futzing around with a no-kill trap.  I’m sorry that I’m NOT sorry that I want a disease-carrying vermin of which we have a deplorable excess in the population dead.  As I’m sure Tyra tells her top model rejects privately when the cameras are off, they are not cute enough to live).

This left us with sticky traps, which I had never heard of.  In nearly a decade of urban dwelling this was my first mouse and I am not equipped to handle domestic crises well, so this sounded like a better option than burning the apartment building to rubble and living in the backseat of the Fit.  Tom explained how the mice get stuck to the traps (in retrospect, I’m a little embarrassed he had to explain that much) and then he would dispose of the mouse.

“Dispose how? You don’t just throw it away and let it starve to death in agony, do you?”  Hey, I may want it dead, but if at all possible it should be a quick one.

“Remember those big boots I got when I was at the Marine camp in Africa?”

“Yes…”

“Death by smoosh.”

“I see. Carry on!”

Tom promised he would get some sticky traps the next day, but we would just have to go to bed with the knowledge that Mickey’s urban meth addict cousin was chilling behind our dishwasher.  But my little mental gears started to slowly grind, and as the smoke accumulated in my brain I thought “What would Dorothy do?” She would improvise!  She would be resourceful!  She would not let her home fall prey to such an unworthy opponent!

Sticky traps, I thought to myself as I slowly worked my resolve and willpower back into an approximation of gender equity.  You’d just need a strong adhesive and a little incentive.  Surely I can come up with a plan that will resolve this matter before dawn!

Tom was gracious enough not to laugh at me as I lined the cookie sheet with sticky-side up duct tape and sprinkled his $7/box Kashi on top, and even called me cute, which is so much nicer than calling the mother of your child a fucking spaz.  He humored my whim and we went to bed, me taking half steps and shuffling in the hopes of catching it in the act again.

Y’all, it breaks my heart to tell you that there is one thing that duct tape cannot do: it cannot trap a determined mouse and render it immobile enough for stomping.  Surely this level of dismay is on par with a religious betrayal; for those of you who worship at silver-taped altars, perhaps it is. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the next morning revealed an absence of both mouse and Kashi in my homemade tape trap.

At this point, the sticky traps have now been out for a few days and the only thing it has caught is a gecko who became collateral damage in our attempt to get the damn mouse, so I can only assume that the bugs are going to return.  This is what happens when Man screws with the ecosystem.  I’ve had nightmares about mice crawling in my hair (oh please oh please LET THOSE BE NIGHTMARES AND NOT REAL REPRESSED MEMORIES) every night since our first discovery, but there is no evidence of other mousely activity in our home.  I’m just going to keep on whipping my head around and straining my neck every five seconds to see if I can get another sighting until Tom has me committed to either a psychiatrist’s or chiropractor’s care.

Saint Dorothy, who art in Tidy Heaven, hallowed be thy cleaning spray, please let this be over soon.

ETA: So immediately after I hit publish, Tom casually informed me that our little enemy (“Tom, should we name it?” “WHAT? NO.” “No, like a nemesis name!” “No.”) was darting across our kitchen.  From my birds-eye vantage point on top of the counter, I observed Tom’s efforts to drive it out from behind the refrigerator and asked a number of questions that I don’t *think* will result in our divorce, but may have definitely led to Tom’s IQ being lowered by virtue of proximity:

“What if it dies behind the refrigerator? What if it eats through the wires?” “It hasn’t yet; it probably won’t.”

“Can you smoke it out?” “…What?”

“How many sticky traps do we have left?” “Just one.” JUST ONE?! YOU ONLY BOUGHT ONE PACK?!” “I am confident we will resolve this in the next 48 hours.” “GODDAMMIT.”

“Tom…should I be live-blogging this?” It should be noted that his pause before asking “Is anyone we know still awake?” was accompanied by an expression best left to the imagination.

To be continued.

All That Glitters…

Thanks to the soaking we received in Kamikochi (and indeed, on nearly all the days prior), I was in a Mood on our last night in Takayama.  Maggie was being as good as could be, but one has to grade on a curve when dealing with a toddler.  We were tired and cranky.  So at 2am, when I was feeling the effects of my first infection in eighteen months of nursing and the left side of my torso felt like it had been dipped in chile oil and lit aflame, when my bedmate Maggie was digging her feet into my kidneys and fingers into my hair every few minutes and then when Tom began snoring…well, you’ll forgive me if my only thought between the sleepless hours of 2am-6am was “I WANT A DIVORCE FROM THIS WHOLE FAMILY.”  I needed a lot of vending machine coffee the next morning in order to put on a cheery face.

Fortunately, Kyoto is good for that.  We arrived early in the afternoon and the hotel let us check in early, so we got to rest a bit and regroup.  The city is insanely easy to navigate by bus, so we set out toward Ginkaku-ji and the Path of Philosophy.  As luck would have it, we got there just in time to take advantage of the light of those pre-sunset golden hours.

When faced with colors as gorgeous as those, a traveler would do well to say “Welp, I guess I better shut up and enjoy” and so I did.

It was all too easy to get caught up in the light of Kyoto.  Tom wanted to see a shrine (I can’t remember which one, there are seriously about 1600 of them in Kyoto) near the end of the Path of Philosophy so he suggested we pick up the pace.  We immediately had a good laugh over how screwed up it was to say something like that in a place called the Path of Freakin’* Philosophy.

*Emphasis mine.

We ended up missing the shrine he wanted to see because we stumbled on a smaller one that was overseen by a kindly grandfather type who hustled two of his grandkids (about 3 and 18 months, and their mother had a newborn, bless her heart) out to play with Maggie.  Maggie, antisocial little cuss that she is, took a while to warm up even when the little girl offered her a gift. The girl had better luck with Tom.

If you’re curious, the gift was a bolt she found on the ground.  Maggie did eventually warm up and in the spirit of intercultural sharing showed these polite, friendly Japanese children how American toddlers party: they beat up expensive stationary objects.

Partially shown: Tom rushing to break up the hooligans. Not shown: Me nearly fainting from mortification.

After their long playtime and spirited game of Whack-a-Prius, the temple we had originally wanted to see was closed.  That’s okay, because the next day we saw so many things to make up for it.

Like the Bamboo Forest:

And Maggie being generally delightful:

But you see that little thing in the background?  That gleaming thing?  That, friends, is Kinkaku-ji, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

That threw a whole bunch of sunshine onto our trip, let me tell you.

We saw so much beauty in Kyoto; I could post for days about what we were able to do and see.  But what I took away from our time there is that sometimes travel sucks. Sometimes you aren’t going to have the experience you wanted.  Sometimes it rains. Sometimes you have a medical malady that leaves you worrying you’ll have to pantomime “infected breast” to a Japanese doctor. You just never know. But keep going and push through; do whatever it takes to keep up a good attitude. Fake it ’til you make it, if you must.

But keep going forward…because you just may get to see the light.

Kamikochi

I don’t know what happened to the last two weeks except for Thanksgiving, my birthday, our anniversary, and a few colds. Many thanks to the two or three of you who are still hanging in there.

Today I am going to tell you about strollers, and why they are the most overrated baby item you will ever buy. Sure, they have their uses; since we are wimpy and frail, we often appreciate having one handy in case our backs just can’t manage another day hauling Maggie in a carrier. But in most any country that is not the United States or Canada, they aren’t really worth the trouble thanks to the lack of ramps and the excess of stairs.

Case in point: our friend recommended heading up into the Japanese Alps to visit Takayama and while we were at it, take a day trip to Kamikochi to see the glorious fall foliage. I was skeptical, having been raised in the heart of New England’s leaf-peeping web, but mostly game. And sure enough, I was knocked flat on my ass by the splendor of Japanese foliage.

 

Is that not stunning? Maggie was appropriately awed as well:

 

Shocked and awed, I say. Shocked and awed. But as we went through the loop, we saw some truly splendorous sights. And then, oh…and then…

…MONKEYS.

Our day could not have gotten any better. And it’s a good thing we thought that, because it did not. In fact, it got quite a bit worse.  The weather started like this:

Spectacular, no? Crisp day, perfect for a 5-mile walk through the woods with no way to get back to base except by hoofing it. Alas, about 2.5 miles in, and about as far away from base as we could be before turning back and completing the loop, things quickly degenerated into this:

That is Tom, carrying our daughter on his front and our stroller on his back, sacrificing any potential dryness of his own in trying to keep our miserable daughter from experiencing additional discomfort while I tried to keep our backpack and enormous DSLR camera dry. Thanks to his efforts, she was not the least bit damp when we returned. Tom and I, however, were utterly soaked through, mostly thanks to a little “Fuck you” windstorm and torrential downpour that topped the last half-mile of the hike.  Thus was the stroller just the additional bit of icing on the cake; a heavy load to carry when the going already kind of sucked.  We could have done the whole trip with her in the carrier or walking when it was sunny and left the stroller at home but as the saying goes, if you can’t be a good example you’ll just have to be a terrible warning.  So here’s your warning, folks: leave the stroller at home unless you are physically unable to cart your kid on your back.

A nice elderly couple in fully repellent rain gear offered to take this photo of us so you can appreciate the pathos of the situation:

Aren’t we cute?  This was right before we discovered Maggie’s pants were really too short and right after she threw that darling rainbow hat into a puddle.

Wet and cold, we slogged back to wait for the local bus to come around and take us back to Takayama. The base lodge was selling hot Japanese steamed buns (I cannot WAIT for the search terms that phrase is going to result in) for about 100Y each, and we packed our faces with those tasty hot morsels.  Everyone has the Top Meals Of Their Life, but I have to create a new subcategory: The Top Meals By Circumstance. There surely was nothing remarkable about the tuna sandwich I ate immediately after I gave birth except that I had just given birth in a liability-panicked hospital and as such hadn’t eaten anything in 13 hours.  Thus did the steamed pork-filled buns earn their way into the Number 2 spot on my Top Meals List: the buns that warmed our hands and thawed our frozen souls on the bus from Kamikochi to Takayama.

Was it worthwhile? The foliage was glorious, and everything dried reasonably well before we had to pack and leave for Kyoto the next day. And, of course, monkeys and steamed buns and a bit of blog content.  So overall, worth it.

But don’t bring a stroller.  I beg you.