Archive for Travel

Tokyo Tourist

Having just returned from my fifth trip to Tokyo, I think I’m finally comfortable offering some tips, tricks and a short-list of fun sights to see. This is by no means a comprehensive list. It’s just enough to facilitate your basic mobility needs and your curiosity. I’ll start with the airport.

Narita

Tokyo Travel StickerTerminal One at Narita International Airport is part airport, part train station, and part shopping mall. Your other international hubs have cute stores and all, but how many choices of kitch and foodstuffs and ramen shops can you find? Chances are you won’t find half as many as you do at Narita. The trick is that you have to hit both sides of T1 if you want to catch ‘em all. Unfortunately you’ll be locked into one or the other, depending on your airline. Worry not, wayward traveler, you win on either side.

Downtown

I’m still searching for the best way to get to downtown Tokyo from the airport. Right now I’m getting a full-fare ticket on the Narita Express (NEX) on the JR East railway. Unfortunately you have to pay cash, about 3,000 yen, if you want to use the automated machines. Your western credit cards won’t work in them. If all you’ve got is your Visa, you’ll have to wait in line and get it from an agent. If it’s your first time in JP, you might want to do that anyway. Some of the machine jibber jabber can be a bit confusing for a non-native, even when you set the language to English. Read more

Switzerland

Stepping off the plane, I couldn’t help but notice that Basel airport bears a striking similarity to many rural, American airports. There are few gates, limited services, and only the essential airport staff. This might not be your point of entry, but if it is know that you’re not actually in Switzerland just yet. You’re in France.

Basel airport, if you didn’t guess by the name, services the Swiss city of Basel primarily, but at some point the lords of the air decided that it should be located outside the bounds of Europe’s favorite neutral country.

Catching a cab might be difficult here, and there’s no train to the city to speak of. I found a taxi sign sitting atop a weathered Tesla S-series sedan. Sadly, no driver was in sight. That was okay, I had my Lyft app – but they don’t. It was another dead end. Thankfully Uber had penetrated the market, and while I’d prefer not to use their service due to the reported corporate culture, I was out of alternatives.

Switzerland and the EU

Switzerland flag flanked by bicyclesSwitzerland is the first European country I’ve visited that went mostly untouched by the second world war. I say mostly because there several Allied bombings of Switzerland. One notable incident hit Schaffhausen. Stories are mixed. At the time the Allies cited bad weather that threw the bombers off course and confused the navigators. Others say it became a target when it started producing arms for the Axis. It almost makes me want to put “neutral” in quotes, and there I just did.

In any case, those days are long in the past and we’re all good friends now. Existing treaties do not make the country part of the EU, but they do keep up with most of the laws. Read more

Scotland – 5 Things I learned

I recently visited my ancestral homeland on holiday. It was the second leg of our trip, which also included Paris. My wife and I had beautiful weather (for Scotland) and spent a lot of time on the busy streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh. We also took a bus tour of the highlands, Loch Ness, and Glencoe.

1. Scots don’t know how to spell McEachran.

Some do, but most don’t. It’s as rare a name there as it is here in the States. There’s at least one semi-famous soccer (football) player with the name, but he’s playing for an English team.

Josh McEachran

Josh McEachran in October 2010, receiving advice from former Chelsea assistant manager (and guy with enormous head) Ray Wilkins

2. A lot of Scotland’s locals prefer Jack Daniels.

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