November Japan trip report--part 3

Dec 4th, 2008, 09:02 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2007
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November Japan trip report--part 3

Before I begin the last part of my trip report, I wanted to do a brief unpaid advertisement to Theraflu (I am drinking one as I speak). This is an over the counter dissolvable cold/flu medication. We never travel anywhere without it (or travel sized kleenex packs in bulk) and we think it works! It staved off three colds between the two of us on this vacation and has done the same on numerous others.

We made one other day trip from Kyoto besides Nara, and besides it being one of the highlights of our trip to Japan, right up there with being graced with a sunny clear sight of Mt Fuji a whole afternoon and morning, it was in the top three museum experiences we have had anywhere ever. It is a hassle to get to the Miho museum about an 1- 1/2 hour outside of Kyoto, but more than worth the effort (was highly recommended by two friends whose judgment we really trust and also Rough Guide. Frommer's didn't mention it and Fodors and Lonely Planet gave it kind of an aside). It is an IM Pei museum finished in the 1990s carved literally out of a mountain, all but invisible on approach and is an almost magical combination of nature, art, endless play of light and shadow and one of the most beautiful without being dominating pieces of architecture I have ever seen. The museum dedicates one wing to "Japan the Beautiful" and includes a tea ceremony as an exhibit as well as scrolls, woodcuts and ceramics. The other wing has art from different parts of the world. Its small but outstanding exhibit from Egypt made me want to go there for the first time. Their cafe was excellent, we weren't able to try the restaurant because it was full, but they offered small Japanese light lunches outside which filled us up quite satisfactorily. Getting there we made a mistake. Because I was coming down with a cold, we decided to splurge on an $80 taxi. Unfortunately, we didn't agree on a price in advance (price had been quoted by the concierge at our hotel), the taxi driver stopped more than seven times to call for or look up directions, and the bill came to 12,500 yen! We returned via bus and two trains, easy, quite quick and very inexpensive. I could say more about our art ecstasy experience, but don't want to damn it with superlatives.

We arrived back at the Kyoto station and had an excellent dinner at the Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo on the 10th floor of Isetan department store at Kyoto station. My husband is from Italy and an excellent cook. We never eat out in Italian restaurants in the United States (but usually splurge at least once on a really nice restaurant when we are in Italy), but for a variety of reasons had two lunches and two dinners at the Kitchen Salvatore Cuomo while we were in Kyoto. We thought the quality was excellent and the prices very moderate (pasta/salad/dessert lunch for 1800 yen, antipasto, pasta or pizza, entree and dessert for 3800 yen dinner. Moderately priced wine as well.

We also bought a number of beautiful inexpensive (around 2000 yen) silk scarves which were designed to be some part of a kimono in the Isetan department store itself.

HT--yes, we hope there will be another trip, but are limited by dollars, yen and the need to visit family in Italy at least every other year, usually more often. I really want to go back though. And when we redo our bathroom we will look into Toto.

Shandy--we stayed in the modern 5th floor part of Iwaso. It was slightly too austere for our taste after the more elaborate ryokan in Koya-san, but it grew on us, was incredibly well designed with an alcove with huge windows on one end, main room, then another alcove with deep bathtub and separate shower on one side, toilet of Toto on the other.

That's it for tonight.
cmstraf is offline  
Dec 6th, 2008, 07:40 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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I love the restaurants in and around Kyoto station. So many choices to choose from. We stayed at the Granvia Hotel right in the station for 5 days once so got to see a lot of the place.

I do hope you make it back to Japan one day, there is so much more for you to see and experience when you get off that well beaten tourist path.

On another subject. We are in SFO often and will be there again soon. We really like authentic Italian food. What restaurants would you recommend in the Bay area?

Thanks again for the wonderful report!

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 8th, 2008, 10:04 PM
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Dear Hawaiian Traveler,

We don't eat out Italian food in the Bay Area, getting our fill of it at home. Although we have not been there for several years, we used to like Palio d"Asti in San Francisco for lunch and Tra Vigne in St Helena has good food in a wonderful setting. We think Olivetto's in the East Bay is good but overpriced.

I will check with our two friends in San Francisco whose taste we respect a lot.
cmstraf is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Hi again HT,

Here are some suggestions from my favorite San Francisco foodie. He agrees with Palio D'Asti for upscale in the financial district. We went there to celebrate Marco's green card and other special occasions and thought highly of it.

A great place for pizza in Glen Park neighborhood is Gialina Pizza. Jeff also likes Poesia in the Castro with a Calabrian chef, moderately priced with great homemade pasta and pretty good entrees. Much Italian spoken.

A16 in the Marina has a great reputation and is hard to get into (ie reservations in advance. Farina in the Mission is the same.

The North Beach restaurant in San Francisco is a venerable reliable restaurant, with homemade prosciutto and great sole.

Hope this helps.
cmstraf is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 10:57 AM
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Thanks for the list. We will try one this weekend as we will be in town for a few days.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 9th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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I'm happy that you checked out the Miho....very impressive, indeed. We spent the better part of a day there last year...the train (15 minutes) and then the bus for about 40 minutes, makes for a nice ride into the country. We found it comfortable, with easy connections.

Your report has been very nostalgic for us (ah, yes, Toto!) was my first visit to Kyoto in more than 60 was untouched during the war...can you imagine it with absolutely no tourists walking around ...only occupation troops?Also second visit to Tokyo since 1946, which had been nearly totally "incendiar-ized" when I last saw it from Tokyo harbor. The city is magnificent now, don't you think.

Here's a reminder of the beauty to be found there...

stu T.
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