Tōkyō-to

IMG_0946We recently returned from a wonderful two-week long vacation in Japan. Although we have taken a number of international trips, this was our first time visiting a country where the culture and language were unfamiliar to us. Fortunately, everyone that we interacted with was extremely accommodating, and we were able to get by just learning a few Japanese phrases. During our time in Tōkyō, we stayed at the Park Hotel Tokyo in the Shiodome Sio Site in Minato-ku. Above you can see the spectacular view from our room that welcomed us on our very first night.

IMG_6532IMG_0989Most of our trip was spent in the central parts of Tōkyō-to, and even though we were in the metropolis for many days, we still only explored a small amount of its numerous wards. There is much to discover in the area around Shinjuku Station, which has a number of interesting skyscrapers. Our favorite is the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.

IMG_1016A full size head of Godzilla stands over Toho Cinemas Shinjuku.

IMG_1535Even though we saw Shinjuku during daylight hours, we knew we had to go back at night to see it lit up. The multitude of lightboxes filling the streets would make Las Vegas jealous.

IMG_1523One of the best tucked away spots in the area is Omoide Yokocho, also known as Piss Alley. This tight, atmospheric alley is packed with tiny restaurants and great street food.

IMG_7383Throughout Tōkyō, we saw many ads for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics. We took a walk around Yoyogi National Gymnasium, which will be one of the venues, and was originally built for the 1964 summer games.

IMG_1035IMG_6573There are many buildings throughout Tōkyō that are quite distinctive, such as the Humax Pavillion and the Nakagin Capsule Tower.

IMG_1056Tsukiji Market, known for its tuna auctions and many seafood vendors, is one of many outdoor markets that we walked through during our trip.

IMG_6506IMG_1036There is certainly no shortage of massive shopping districts in Tōkyō, with Ginza being the most upscale.

IMG_1038Traditional structures, like the Kabuki-za are sprinkled throughout even the most modern districts.

IMG_1566The gardens of the Imperial Palace were closed on the day that we visited, but it is still a very pleasant walk around the palace’s moat.

IMG_1580IMG_1588We were in Japan during peak cherry blossom season, which was truly wonderful. Though most of our sakura viewing was done in Kyōtō, we did find great stretches to walk under cherry blossoms around the Imperial Palace.

IMG_1609The Sensō-ji Buddhist temple and the adjacent Asakusa Shinto shrine are part of a large cluster of sacred buildings with a surrounding market in the Asakusa district.

IMG_1047Tsukiji Hongan-ji is another Buddhist temple that was designed to look much more like something you would see in South Asia.

IMG_1620Beautiful houseboats line up at the docks on the Kanda River, waiting to take tourists on excursions.

IMG_1640IMG_1490There are many ‘cafés’ in Shibuya-ku where you can pay to sit with cute animals. We spent some time with some new kitty friends, and we even got to hold owls!

IMG_1549IMG_9281We took so many trains on this trip, which was very easy with our Japan Railways passes. Our most interesting train experience was certainly traveling at 270 km/h on the Shinkansen from Tōkyō Station to Kyōtō.

IMG_1648On our last day in Tōkyō we caught a glimpse of Mount Fuji from our hotel window bidding us farewell. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more photos from our adventures in the land of the rising sun.


Disneyland Details

We take many trips to Disney Parks, both domestic and abroad, and the work of Walt Disney Imagineering has had a tremendous influence on our sense of design. We will be traveling to Tokyo Disney Resort later this year, and here we thought that we would share some of our favorite things about Disneyland Park, as we eagerly await what the Imagineers have in store for us in Japan.

img_9682New Orleans Square is an environment that begs to be explored, rather than simply passed through. The streets take a winding path that set up a series of discoveries that are not evident from the waterfront.

img_9692The masts of that ship rising up from behind these buildings create the illusion of additional layers of depth. This implies the extension of the space beyond the visible structures, increasing the scope of the land.

img_9693The implication of a world just beyond what we can see is also present on the second floor balconies. The set dressing creates characters who live here, such as the artist who is painting this picture. The props combined with “off-screen” sound make New Orleans Square feel so alive.

img_9721Within the adobe archways of Rancho del Zocalo, we can rest our weary feet, shielded from the harsh sun of the American Southwest.

img_9774Should we venture beyond the safe confines of the hacienda to see what awaits in the town of Rainbow Ridge?

img_9769‘Character paint’ and ‘character plaster,’ seen here in Fantasy Faire, are great ways to communicate the idea of a lived in environment that has a sense of place.

img_9761This crumbling facade hints at a rich, storied past. Many people have inhabited this space before, working with different materials, speaking different languages, and facing a harsh environment. We don’t know for certain just how this building came to look this way, but our imaginations can provide the details.

img_9703The excellent forced perspective of the Indiana Jones Adventure is extremely convincing when partially obscured through the jungle.

img_9759Be careful not to look into the eyes of Mara, or else this small glimpse of daylight will be the last that you ever see, as you board your troop transport in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye.

img_9767No wonder Toad Hall needs so many fireplaces, being at the foot of that snowy mountain.

img_0446When we arrive at Main Street, U.S.A. we are immediately aware that we are at a time of transition where the horse and buggy exists side by side with the motorcar.

img_0455The gas lamps have begun to be replaced by the electric light, but the remnants of that bygone era still remain.

img_9775Every piece of set dressing that you see in the shops of Main Street, U.S.A. is giving an idea of what types of people own these shops and inhabit this land.

img_9744On a windy day, Mary Poppins is blown every which way on this weathervane atop Jolly Holiday Bakery Café.

img_9735What lies beyond the visible walls of Fantasyland? The wide open vistas of Storybook Land provide our imaginations with the necessary context to fill in those gaps.

img_9738These wonderfully composed, highly detailed landscapes are perhaps the most direct representation in all of Disneyland of the world in which the Disney animated classics take place.

img_9727Immediately upon entering the queue for Snow White’s Scary Adventures, the tone is set with a glimpse into the Evil Queen’s dungeon, and the dread that she will stop at nothing to afflict our heroine with the Sleeping Death.

img_9723From Frontierland a magic portal opens up, giving us a window into another exotic world. This is a special quality of Disneyland, which is different from the way that the much larger Magic Kingdom gradually transitions from one land to another.

img_9718Space Station 77 seems to float above the horizon, promoting an optimism about space travel, and promising adventure.

img_9715The hedges around it’s a small world make the structure feel light and airy, maintaining the scale that the interior of the attraction works in.

img_9706This boarded up tunnel is one of the last remnants of Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland, which was removed to build Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It is now a piece of real world park history that also functions as an in universe history for Frontierland.

img_9700This British (we still like to pretend it is Swiss) settlement may have temporarily tamed the jungle, but we know from the Jungle Cruise and Temple of the Forbidden Eye, that in Adventureland, nature will always win out over man.

img_9695While the Sailing Ship Columbia is in dry dock, her crew can find a hot meal and a warm bed at Fowler’s Inn. This sleepy area of the waterfront offers a contrast to the hustle and bustle of New Orleans Square.

img_9741The calm stillness of the Blue Bayou lulls us to sleep before we are whisked down a waterfall into a dreamy underworld of decaying pirate corpses.

These are only a few of the myriad ways that Disney Parks have created the perfect setting for our imaginations to run wild. Experiencing new parks is always a thrill, but Disneyland will always be our favorite. Over the past 60 years, it has developed a set of quirks that give it a unique charm that is hard to beat.


Brooklyn

img_0235After having visited Manhattan two years ago during the Christmas season, we decided that this year we would take a trip to Brooklyn. We have some friends who are living in the borough, and it’s one part of New York City that we had never explored before.

img_0229I had walked across the Brooklyn Bridge during school field trips, but James had never had the opportunity. We bundled up and braved the winds to cross over from Manhattan.

img_0230From the Brooklyn Bridge, we had a great view of James’ favorite bridge, the Manhattan Bridge.

img_0237This hilarious sign, which has not quite deterred lovers from vandalizing city property with their padlocks, was a warm welcome to the borough’s personality.

img_0243img_0245We spent the night at a hotel right across the street from Borough Hall (formerly the seat of government for the City of Brooklyn), which we had a great view of from our room window.

img_0274After crossing the bridge and settling into our hotel room we took to the streets for the day. Not far from our hotel was the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which gave us a chance to see other landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, locations that we would like to visit on later trips to New York.

img_0272img_0288The highlight of the trip was strolling past all of the 19th century brownstones that line the streets of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. It was very reminiscent of our recent trip to Boston, where we saw an abundance of row houses on Beacon Hill.

img_0279img_0280Many of the residences were tastefully decorated for the season.

img_0299img_0308img_0304Park Slope offered another pleasant residential neighborhood to walk through, right across from Prospect Park.

img_0295We also visited the Brooklyn Central Library, which is part of a completely separate library system serving only that borough, not affiliated with the New York Public Library.

img_0317We then headed towards Green-Wood Cemetery, which feels like a storybook setting. Many of the most famous (or infamous) New Yorkers have been buried here, such as “Boss” Tweed. Here is the gothic gate that serves as the northern entrance.

img_0324img_0328The cemetery is a vast collection of statues and mausoleums, in addition to the expected headstones. Meandering through the curved pathways is a very peaceful experience.

img_0331We had a wonderful stay in Brooklyn, and were so glad to finally explore the area. We will continue to travel to New York City when we can, revisiting the boroughs that we have seen, and exploring new ones as well.


Apple Picking

One of the things that amazed me about California when I first moved out here was the varied terrain. It really is true that you can find desert, ocean, and snowcapped mountain landscapes all within driving distance. Last week James and I took a drive up to Oak Glen, California to adventure around the lovely farms hugging the San Bernardino Mountains.

img_9970img_9965We went apple picking at Willowbrook Apple Farm, which was filled with Stayman Winesap apple trees that were over one hundred years old.

img_9966A lot of the smaller apples were within a hand’s reach…

img_9975…but a lot of the big red ones were very high on the trees.

img_9979After picking apples, we headed to the farm’s cider press station where you can fill a basket with apples prepped for cider. In order to get a good balance of sweet and tart, they had both Winesap and Fuji apples.

img_9980We were able to use the press ourselves, and fill up a container with deliciously fresh cider.

img_9968The day made for a perfect autumn outing, and a new tradition that we plan to repeat every year.

 


Boston

IMG_5417While visiting family in New England this past Independence Day weekend, we took a day trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail, and explore the city. Though we had both been there when we were younger, our experiences until now were very limited. This trip was our first opportunity to check off many Boston locations from our list, and we couldn’t have been more pleased with all that the city had to offer.

IMG_5407Since we typically fly into Boston when visiting the northeast, we usually only view the city from an airport terminal, but on this trip we finally got a view from the middle of Boston Common.

IMG_4885The gleaming gold dome of the Massachusetts State House sits just on the edge of the Common.

IMG_5436Not far from the current State House is the Old State House. This building housed the government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and was referred to by John Adams as the spot where Independence was born.

IMG_5460Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are two of the most recognizable landmarks in Boston.

IMG_5457The imposing brutalism of Boston City Hall is very much out of place in the heart of the city, but the raw concrete and adjacent brick desert create a fascinating interplay of shapes that has influenced James while developing science fiction projects.

IMG_5427The City Hall that was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is certainly a much more pleasing structure.

IMG_4924If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see a parade of ducklings while visiting the beautiful Public Garden.

IMG_5547IMG_4921_newStrolling the Federal style rowhouses of Beacon Hill is a great way to get out of the sun on a summer day, and it’s charming paths made this my favorite neighborhood in the city.

IMG_5495img_4956 (1)All the vibrancy of an immigrant community can be found in the narrow streets of the North End, a primarily Italian neighborhood.

IMG_5579Once we finished walking the entirety of the Freedom Trail we decided to continue exploring the city. Newbury Street is a wonderful place to shop, dine, or simply walk. I loved that the shops are housed in a variety of 19th century buildings, making it unique from other shopping centers I had ever visited.

IMG_5558IMG_4932While most of the historic sites are Georgian Colonial, the Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church stands out as perhaps the most beautiful. This church was not even on our list of locations to visit, but we were thrilled to run into it on our way to the library.

IMG_4953We have yet to see a game at Fenway, but we were able to take part in the atmosphere of Yawkey Way after a Red Sox win. This trip was one of many that we will take to Boston, and we look forward to having new experiences in the city, as well as revisiting our favorites.


Welcome to Glendale: The Jewel City

IMG_9429Now that we’ve been living in Glendale for a few months, we’ve had some time to explore the city. We visited frequently while living in Los Angeles, but there is a big difference between passing through and actively engaging with the environment. Here are a few of our favorite discoveries so far.

IMG_9516Grand Central Air Terminal was very important to the development of aviation not only in Glendale, but throughout the entire western United States. The Walt Disney Company now owns it, and they are doing a wonderful job restoring it to its former glory.

IMG_9520Another historic property that is currently undergoing restoration is the Glendale Masonic Temple. Watching historical preservation efforts unfold, as well as following the construction of new developments, makes us feel a closer connection to the neighborhood.

IMG_9400There’s probably no one who contributed more to the development of Glendale than Leslie Coombs Brand. His former mansion, El Miradero, can now be enjoyed by all residents as the Brand Library & Art Center.

IMG_9436This sleepy little Spanish Colonial Revival train station is the source of the roaring clamor that passes by our house throughout the night.

IMG_9440The Streamline Moderne Seeley’s Furniture building is one of the first buildings that motorists see as they drive into Glendale from Los Angeles onto the Brand Boulevard of Cars.

IMG_9451At night, Brand Blvd is illuminated by the neon of the Alex Theater.

IMG_9401The Americana at Brand may be a shopping mall, but the way that the space flows encourages more interaction with the streets of downtown Glendale, rather than shutting them out like a typical mall. This industrial elevator shaft seen here is the site’s most prominent feature.

IMG_9395In the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers turned the Verdugo Wash into a concrete flood control channel. They also built some beautiful truss bridges for the roadways that cross it.

IMG_9445Forest Lawn Memorial Park is no ordinary cemetery. Aside from the breathtaking views, it is also home to a number of quaint chapels sprinkled throughout the hillside.

IMG_9402We are so glad to call Glendale our home, and we look forward to watching many, many sunsets over the Verdugos in the coming decades.


Picnic at the La Brea Tar Pits

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Since our third date together at Barnsdall Park, we quickly realized how much we enjoy picnics. It’s so nice to pack a simple lunch and lounge in one of our favorite parks on lazy weekends.

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We’re lucky enough to have a great selection of parks in our neighborhood, and one of the most interesting has to be the La Brea Tar Pits. This little park is filled with shady trees, animal sculptures, and of course pools of bubbling tar – making it an incredibly unique and lovely park.

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The bubbling pits are behind fences, and as long as you avoid certain coned off areas, you’re not in any danger of getting your shoes stuck.

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Right next door to the tar pits is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Pavilion for Japanese Art is an architectural masterpiece that forms the perfect transition between the two properties, with its rough stone texture and tusk-like structures on the roof.

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For the picnic menu we tend to stick with the three main categories: sandwiches, a type of salad, and fruits. On occasion, we pack a few extra snacks if we have them at home, but following these categories makes the prepping process fairly quick and easy. Aside from the food itself, I always pack enough beverages to keep us hydrated, a picnic blanket, and of course a good book.

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Las Vegas

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For James’ 30th birthday, we decided to spend the weekend in Clark County, Nevada and explore the Las Vegas Strip. James had been there before as a teenager, but I had only driven past it, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Las Vegas was quite eager to welcome us to their city in this photo, even though they were about four miles premature. Most of the attractions that we visited, such as this sign are located in the unincorporated town of Paradise, NV.

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Mandalay Bay is the best example of one of the hotels that use real gold on their windows. I had only ever seen photos, so seeing them in person was quite interesting.

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We went to a Soviet themed lounge called Red Square inside of Mandalay Bay, and it was one of our favorite lounges on the strip.

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When James visited as a teenager, he stayed inside the pyramid of Luxor.

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10,000 paper cranes hang in the lobby of Aria, adding a bit of fun and color to the ultramodern interior.

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Many parts of the strip feel very cluttered and confined, but that is certainly not the case with the front of Bellagio.

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The interior of Bellagio is beautifully tiled and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to walk around. After visiting most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, I can confidently say Bellagio was my favorite one.

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We made sure to see a nighttime performance of the Fountains of Bellagio.

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We didn’t ride the gondolas at the Venetian, but they are such a great addition to see floating by as you are walking through the luxurious interior.

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Parasol Down, like the rest of the interior of Wynn is very whimsical.

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Vegas Vic still welcomes visitors to downtown Las Vegas, but he is barely visible under the visual cacophony of the “Freemont Street Experience.” I would have loved to look down Freemont Street and see the iconic neon signs unobstructed in front of the night sky, but that quintessential view of Las Vegas has been completely destroyed.

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The California Hotel and Casino lies just outside of Freemont Street, and has been spared from redevelopment.

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James’ favorite part of his birthday trip was our visit to the Neon Museum. Their boneyard has tons of old signs, including some of the most recognizable from the mid twentieth century.

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The Stardust sign was once the tallest on the strip.

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This text advertised the Lido de Paris at the Stardust.

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We’re so glad that these pieces of art can still be enjoyed by the public, and hopefully the museum will have the resources to restore more of them in the future.

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Before leaving the area, we visited the Hoover Dam, and walked halfway across so that we could stand in both Nevada and Arizona at once.

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It took five years after moving to California for me to visit Las Vegas, and I’m so glad that we were able to do it together and make new memories.


Industrial Providence

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Providence has an important industrial history that dates back to the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in America. Nineteenth century factories and warehouses can be seen all around where I grew up throughout the Blackstone River Valley. On each visit James and I make a point to photograph some of the architecture, for we never know how long each will be around. Centuries of exposure to the elements have made these structures into works of natural art, exhibiting rich textures that beckon you with generations of stories.

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The interplay of different materials such as brick, stone, wood, metal, and paint, combine to create such interesting forms

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Some of the factories incorporate Romanesque elements into their design, making for some very unique buildings.

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On a recent trip we wandered past a hauntingly beautiful demolition site.

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Many of the historic structures have been converted for other uses, such as these lofts. It’s wonderful to see them being given a new life instead of being destined for the wrecking ball.