Ryoanji Temple and Golden Pavilion of Kyoto

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

Zen garden of Ryoanji Temple

If you write “zen garden” to google, many of the images you will see is from Ryoanji Temple, where you will dream of the famous Zen Garden scene, sitting and watching the waves of stones in harmony with the huge ones, symbolizing the mountains and the contrast of life. This simple rectangular garden has no trees at all, but have 15 rocks and white gravel. The garden was created at around 1500, by a respected Zen monk.

However, at the touristy season of Sakura time, if you need to skip one temple, it should be this one. First, the “calm” zen garden is not calm at all, with loads of tourists, making noises and taking photos, secondly, the temple itself is not as big as some other ones. However, if you have time and would like to spent some of it here, you can enjoy a nice walk around the pond and relax watching the Sakura trees, sitting on the bench.

Some flowers from the garden

Some flowers from the garden

Enjoy the pond

Enjoy the pond

End of March is the best time to be there

End of March is the best time to be there

Another very typical scene of Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion.

The Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

A must see in Kyoto is the Rokuon-ji Temple, commonly known as the Golden Pavilion, which is a Budist hall containing relics of Budha. Just like Kyomizu Dera, I returned here last autumn and had chance to see this lovely place in two totally different season.

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

The Golden Pavilion in Autumn

Like many other temples in Japan, a pond in front of the Pavilion creates a lovely scenery of nature. The rocks in various places of the garden are donated by different lords. The pavilion is covered with gold foil. 3 different levels are designed in 3 different periods of styles. Together with many young girls, visiting the temple with their traditional costumes, you can be sure that you will have lovely photographs from your visit.

 

 

One meet, one chance

Sakura time is like a fairy tale in Japan

Sakura time is like a fairy tale in Japan

At one of our evenings we’ve spent in Kyoto, just like many other millions of tourists, we went to a traditional evening at Gion Corner, where they perform a tea ceremony, music, flower arrangement art, a comic play, Kyoto dance style and a puppet play. As soon as the show starts, the announcer asks the question starting with “Who would like to…” I recommend you to raise your hand without thinking (like me).

I was sitting at the very back raw of the show and raised my hand immediately (Yes, I was lucky to receive a hint in advance, just like you did now). So I was invited near the stage, to be served traditional tea, and since the tea ceremony takes quite a long time, together with the other shows going on the stage, I enjoyed my matcha cookies and tea with joy.

It is me on the right, waiting for my Japanese t

It is me on the right, waiting for my tea

All I had to do is to obey the rules, written on a peace of paper on the tea table, like how I should hold the tea cup, when I should start, what I should do while waiting, etc.

You can get more information about the show here.

A scene from the show

A scene from the show

So before finishing, let me explain the question in your mind. What does it have to do with “One meet, one chance”

For the person making a tea for you, it is very important to impress you, because, there might not be a second chance for her to serve tea. Therefore, you can be sure that Japanese tea is intended to be the best tea of the server.

Two seasons of Kyomizu Dera

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End March

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End October

Until last month, my only choice to go to Japan would be end March, however, in end October, I had chance to go to Japan once more, this time for business, but I did have chance to see some temples once more. Unfortunately, end October is just a few weeks early for Japan’s famous color change season, but anyway I did have wonderful time.

The photos above and below are all from Kyomizu Dera, at two different seasons.

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End March

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End October

Two tickets of Kyomizu Temple

Two tickets of Kyomizu Temple

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The change of season very much effect the details of Japanese lives. Especially the variations of “Art of Plates” at the restaurants were amazing, with flowery decorations in Spring, while there were autumn themed plates in end October.

Kyomizu Dera is one of the most famous temples of Kyoto, built on huge logs of wood without using any nail. Together with the forest around and the smoke of fumigants, it has a very mystic feeling. But the more attractive part of this temple is the road going to the temple, full of shops and on street eating facilities.

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Cherry Blossoms at Kyomizu Dera

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Down from the temple

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Autumn themed shops

Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island beach

Hilton Head Island beach

Hilton head island is an island at the very South part of South Carolina, connected to mainland by a nice road. People who have been to Mediterranean  for some sun and sea holidays, would not dare to come here for such a holiday, but in US, it seemed like it is a very popular island for family fun and golf lovers. For us, it was just the right place for our final night of mini road trip.

Bistro 17

Bistro 17

At the very center of the island, there is a very calm marina, with nice cafes and some shops. So our first stop was there at Bistro 17, to have lunch and to use Wi fi for a hotel. Yes we did have a nice lunch, but no there were no wi fi so we still did not have a place to stay.

Bistro 17 menu

Bistro 17 menu

Nice coctails

Nice cocktails

Inside of Bistro 17

Inside of Bistro 17

The slow motion of the staff reminded me the Greek islands. I suppose, islanders were the same all over the world. So we finished our lunch a bit late and looked for a welcome center, but no, there were no welcome center around here. Just than we saw the Tourism center and popped in. Unfortunately, they were not doing any reservations, but luckily they allowed us to use their wi fi, so that thanks to once again to booking.com, we made our reservation at Hilton Head Marriott Resort, a classical chain hotel, nothing special but comfortable.

It was already almost 5 o’clock, when we finally took our seats on the beach with our books. However, a staff came by just a few minutes later and told us that the chairs to be collected at 5 o’clock. For me the best time of the day to have sunbath is after 5. What a pity. Well, so we did a small walk on the beach and decided to relax ourselves by the pool, where I found a lovely hammock to finally read my book.

A walk by the beach

A walk by the beach

Another nice thing of the hotel was the nice lady at the concierge. She found us a lovely restaurant by the sea at the other side of the island and made reservation from a lovely table, just across the sunset.

Old Fort Pub

Old Fort Pub

Old Fort Pub is an island tradition since 1973. Very nice service and lovely food.

Boosted Beet Salad

Boosted Beet Salad

Grouper

Grouper

Once more my favorite, yes mussels and crabs

Once more my favorite, yes mussels and crabs

An wine of the evening

And wine of the evening, Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia, Hahn Estates.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to take walk again by the beach and we were so surprised to see so many people doing shell hunting at the low tides of the sea, with lights in their hands. Such a lovely view it was, like dozens of fireflies around. So we took our time, sitting on the sand and watching children cheering, when they find something interesting.

Next day, we did have a long way to drive back to Athens, more than 4 hours. So we just did a quick tour of the island next morning to some beach area and some beach shops.

Nice and calm, beach shopping

Nice and calm, beach shopping

 

Nice to watch the kids

Nice to watch the kids

We very much love to come back here for a longer time not for the sea but for golf. Who knows, maybe one day.

So this is the end of our 2 weeks US tour in and around Athens, Georgia. Our son loved to take the course at University of Georgia, so maybe one day there is possibility that he may want to come back here for the University. Of course I would prefer him to choose a more fancy city, but let’s do not think about it now, as we still have another 6 years to go.

Next: Don’t know, I remember, I did not finish my Japan trip, maybe I can go on with it, as once more it is time to make plans for Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season. What do you think?

 

 

A stop at Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston waterfront park

Charleston waterfront park

Our 3 days escape from Athens, Georgia started with Savannah that you can read from my previous post. It was a totally unplanned trip, so a decision was to be made: Further South or North? Well, just to add another state to our “List of states we have been” we decided to head North to South Carolina, and Charleston sounded just right.

It was just a 2 hours drive from Savannah, so we took our time to stop at Welcome Center of Charleston to find a nice hotel: Ansonborough Inn. A 3 star hotel, as local as a hotel can be, which was the best thing. Very welcoming wood construction details and historic touch at the very center of the old town.

Once more, thanks to Tripadvisor, we had our dinner at a very nice restaurant, Peninsula Grill.

Next day, we decided to take our time until noon so we drove around at Charleston with car, and decided to stop and walk a bit at Waterfront park.

Waterfront Park, pier

Waterfront Park, pier

A relaxing park with large tree shades and a very nice wood pier with calm swings.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park

After a couple of hours of walking and sitting lazyly at the swings of the pier, we took our car for our next stop, which later decided to be Hilton Head Island. Yes, in my next post.

 

Savannah in 24 hours

The Olde Pink House

The Olde Pink House

On our 3 days road trip from Athens to Georgia coast, our first stay was in Savannah. For people coming from so far away, Savannah is only famous with the film Forest Gump. However, there is so much more to see in and around Savannah. The town is very well planned to square grids, with tiny parks in the center of each squares. The architecture is more French influence than American, and also the food is more based on sea food.

As soon as we arrived in Savannah, we popped into the welcome center, to book a hotel and to learn things to do around. Unfortunately our mobile telephone package, did not include US 3G service, so we did need these traditional ways of finding our way, to be able to make the most out of our day. Thanks to USA’s “size does matter” approach to everything, unlike Europe, the welcome centers are huge, convenient and without any hassle or queues. So after a half an hour stop at Welcome Center, we made our reservation from Double Tree By Hilton, and planned our next day.

For dinner, we chose to go one of the top 10 Tripadvisor restaurant in  Savannah, The Olde Pink House, was absolutely a good choice and was just a 10 minutes walking distance from our hotel. We did not make any reservations, which I suppose was a mistake, so we only could find a small corner of a bar and ordered our meals, sitting on the stools. However, it did not take long, for the very welcoming staff, to arrange a table for us, upstairs, at the very best corner of the grand saloon. As always, we were lucky again. So we enjoyed our lovely dinner of lots of sea food and a fine wine.

The next day, we planned only a half day at Savannah, so we decided to get on one of the many old Savannah Tour buses, a kind of hop-on-hop-off bus, with open windows on all sides and a historic look. So we did have chance to understand some bit of history and lovely green streets and parks.

A walk around

A walk around

We got off the bus, at a nice street by the Savannah River, to explore some shops and enjoy the sun by walking. So did some shopping and have some lunch at Belford’s Savannah.

Belford's Savannah

Belford’s Savannah

The building and ambiance looked nice from outside, so we just popped in. Well, nothing much to write about, maybe because of time of the day, not much people around and the menu was quite ordinary I can say.

Crab cakes

Crab cakes

While you are in this area, I recommend to taste crab cake as much as you can. Every restaurant has it in their menu, and claim to be their signature dish. Some has so much fat in it, but some are really nice.

Next: Further north to Charleston.

A road trip from Athens to Savannah

Madison is worth to get off the main road

Madison is worth to get off the main road

On our 2 weeks stay at Athens last year, we did want to do a road trip to somewhere coastal.

Road trip with our Dodge Charger

Road trip with our Dodge Charger

So with some advice from the nice guy at Athens Tourism Information Office and a Dodge Charger we decided to head to Savannah, with a short stop at Madison. The rest we had not decided.

Madison is a very cute little old town with some 100 very well preserved and renovated old mansions. As soon as we arrived, we parked in front of Tourism Office and got a “best walking way” map and learned points to stop. We could not do all the walking as it was very hot at the beginning of July noon time, but we did a nice stop at Heritage Hall. We were welcomed by an old lady, who guided us trough the house passionately. I think we also made her day, coming from so far away, to a so little town, in the middle of nowhere. It was an interesting experience for us to be here, a town not touristic at all, so calm, so old and so peaceful.

The Heritage Hall

The Heritage Hall

After a quick lunch at a local restaurant we drove further east. Before arriving to Savannah, we did a one final stop at one of the exits on the highway, at Waffle House. Very American, very unhealthy, very tasty.

Waffle House, with a very American decoration

Waffle House, with a very American decoration

And very unhealthy

And very American unhealthy

As soon as we arrived to Savannah at late afternoon, we headed to the welcome center to get an advice of hotel. Unlike Europe, one very nice thing about US is Welcome Centers that are very active and have good information about the hotels, restaurants and things to do around. And again, unlike Europe, no hassle or long queues. So with a half an hour chat at welcome center, we reserved our hotel and planned our next day. Our hotel was Double Tree By Hilton and dinner was at the The Olde Pink House, which will be my next post.