Sunday, August 31, 2014

I GO: Tokyo Part 1 (All Things Traditional in Akasaka)

I am a large fan of the traditional Japanese design aesthetic. Be it a ryokan, Zen garden, tea ceremony, or ikebana arrangements, there's a paradoxical complexity in the simplicity of the design. Some ikebana arrangements might look like sparse, especially when contrasted with the seemingly prevailing "big is better" trend in flower arrangements, but it's because its beauty relies on precise specificity rather than distracting clutter. 

Based in the Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo, the Sogetsu Foundation is dedicated to the elegant art of ikebana. They teach a lot of classes, and on Mondays, they run an ikebana class for non-Japanese speakers. So, on our first day in Tokyo, L (being the good sport and curious soul he is) and I traipsed on over to try our hand at ikebana. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I GO: Tokyo Photoreel

There are so many places in the world I have yet to see, and only so much vacation time available, that I try to visit a new city every time I travel. But Tokyo is one of the cities for which I will, without hesitation, suspend this rule. Since I was young, I have held a indescribable fascination for Tokyo. It is such a maze- an endless kaleidoscope of winding streets, each more charming or bizarre, but always interesting, than the one before. It feels ever uncharted, in the way that promises each directionless stroll will yield a hundred thousand unassuming treasures. And it is intoxicating.

It also makes Tokyo a hard place to say you "know well".  Despite having visited Tokyo several times and for L, despite having lived in Japan for many years, neither of us would claim to intimately know Tokyo. So when L and I visited back in March, we decided to structure our trip a little differently. We decided to embrace being lost (in translation and directionally), to wander without worrying about arriving, and to explore both the pockets of Tokyo we were fondest of and least acquainted with.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I THINK: Icelandic Stories

When I first got back from Iceland and was discussing the trip with my friends, I found that the majority of our conversations centered around stories that did not belong to me. The stories I was most excited to pass on belonged to the Icelandic people- charming stories of mischievous elves, crafty trolls, and brutal old Viking lords. Everyone I ran into there seemed to have a yarn to spin, and so by the end of the trip, I had collected quite a little treasure trove of them. I've decided to share some of my favorites today with you!

Friday, June 20, 2014

I GO: Iceland Part 4 (Glacier Hiking)

Having already marveled at the sight of Jokulsarlon, I was excited to hear that the glacier we would be scrambling about would be the glacier that mothered Jokulsarlon: Breiomerkurjokull, one of the tongue-like protrusions of Vatnajokull, one of the largest glaciers in Europe. As a result of rising temperatures, Breiomerkurjokull is retreating, leaving in its wake depressions that are now filled by the waters of Jokulsarlon. The icebergs floating in the Jokulsarlon are themselves chunks that have splintered off from their mother glacier.

When A and I first decided to go to Iceland, the one thing I knew I wanted to do while I was there was go glacier hiking. If you're asking what glacier hiking is, it's exactly what its name makes it out to be: walking atop ancient glaciers, with crampons (metal spikes) attached to the bottom of one's shoes and an ice pick in one's hand to prevent an undesired slip'n'slide moment.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I GO: Iceland Part 3 (Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon)

After spending the day gallivanting under gargantuan waterfalls and horsing around with semi-wild Icelandic stallions, we were thoroughly ready to collapse into a hearty meal and soft bed before rising before the sun and heading off in search of ancient glaciers.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I GO: Iceland Part 2 (Ponies and Waterfalls)

On our second day in Iceland, A and I bid Reykjavic farewell and embarked on a two-day tour. Our ultimate destination was Jokulsarlon, a glacial lagoon, but because Iceland has like 4 hours of sunlight in the winter it wasn't practical for us to do a day trip all the way out there. So we decided to stretch our visit out, dropping by to visit two epic waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, along the way.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I GO: Iceland Part 1 (The Golden Circle)

Way back in January, my dear friend A and I ventured off to Reykjavik, Iceland for a couple of days in search of surreal scenery. If you've ever watched Thor, James Bond: Die Another Day, Game of Thrones, or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and wondered whether all those craggy mountains, mystical waterfalls, and glacial lagoons are real, the answer is yes. And they are all in Iceland.

The thing about Reykjavik is that its this amazingly hip (without being annoyingly hipster) gem of a city enveloped by a landscape so dramatic being there feels like being sucked into an apocalyptic painting. If you're not going to rent a car, no worries, there are a gajillion tour operators running tours around the area's highlights. Personally, I wanted to minimize the amount of time we spent holed up in a coach watching the sights slip by, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many activity-based tours there were. 

These pictures were from our last day in Iceland, when we toured the Golden Circle and Langjokull glacier. The Golden Circle is composed of three stops: Thingvellir National Park, a geothermally active area called Geysir that quite obviously is full of geysers, and the Gullfoss waterfall. Our tour guide/driver- dubbed Elsa because of the likeness of her billowing ice blonde locks to those of Queen Elsa's from Frozen- picked us up in a super jeep, a jeep so massive the wheels, when fully-inflated, reached my shoulders. She spent the majority of the drive telling us old Icelandic folk stories, of elves, giants, and infamous viking warriors. I was surprised by the tenacity of the bond between Icelandic culture and the physical landscape. The land is almost sacred, imbued with a gauzy aura of mysticism at once alarming given the times and spellbindingly charming.


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