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Tokyo, Canyoning in Minakami, and an Owl Cafe

17 Jul

We started our trip with a few days in Tokyo. I scheduled some early starts to take advantage of our jet lag because I remembered needing a few days to adjust in Seoul.

Our trip was at the start of Summer, but for the first few days the weather wasn’t too bad (and led to the erroneous belief that we were dealing pretty well with the heat/humidity).

Day 2: Tsukiji and Ginza

Our first morning we woke up bright and early for the Tsukiji Market. A little too early – we got there maybe 30-60 minutes before the outer market really opened so just kind of wandered around for a bit.

We had a delicious breakfast at Sushi Daiwa.
IMG_20180622_060417It’s apparently the second most popular sushi place in the market and I originally hadn’t planned on going because I didn’t want to wait in line, but we were able to walk straight in (FYI Sushi Dai, the most popular sushi place, already had what looked like a 2 hour wait).

This was the queue outside Sushi Daiwa by the time we were done:IMG_20180622_062135Afterwards we wandered around a bit more and bought a $5 giant oyster at Taito Fisheries. It took 3-4 bites to finish and was delicious.
MVIMG_20180622_071641 (1)Then we went to Ginza where we did some window (and actual) shopping. James bought two pairs of shoes from Onitsuka Tiger and we had omakase at Kyubey.
MVIMG_20180622_131941It was even better than Sushi Daiwa, but that makes sense given that it was twice the price!IMG_20180622_130535Sea urchin is so, so tasty.

We shopped some more afterwards. Probably the weirdest place we went to was Dover Street Market.
IMG_20180622_140956 It felt more like an art gallery than a clothing store.IMG_20180622_141103I’ll take two.

I can wear it while I watch the Gucci hat parade.
IMG_20180622_141041Afterwards we headed to Bar High Five where we drank delicious cocktails. I don’t have any photos of dinner so I think we decided we were still full from our giant breakfast and lunch, and just crashed at the hotel.

Day 3: Minakami Canyoning

The next morning we took a shinkansen to Minakami.
IMG_20180623_055856We went canyoning in the morning, which consisted of floating through creeks, ziplining, abseiling, and waterfall jumps.

Here I am leaping into the water in a quokka-esque fashion:
3DAFD80C00000578-0-image-m-20_1488092927987This is James going down a natural water slide. They let us go down this one a couple of times – once forwards and once backwards.
P6230097Backwards was scarier by far since I had no idea where I was going, and got super disoriented once I hit the water.

But the freakiest thing was getting dropped from this waterfall:
(We didn’t drop from that height – they lowered us about halfway so we didn’t bounce off the rocks)


After canyoning we had lunch and went white water rafting. The water wasn’t very high and occasionally James and one of the other guys had to get out and push us over the rocks. All credit to the company though, they made the photos look very dynamic!
Then we had showers, got changed, took the shinkansen back to Tokyo and had a delicious tonkatsu dinner.
Day 4: Sensoji and Akihabara

Sensoji is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tokyo so we went early to avoid the crowds (and the heat). IMG_20180624_073308It rained a little which cut through the humidity, and the weather was actually really comfortable for walking around. Asakusa has a ton of shrines and we found this bizarre one: MVIMG_20180624_082209We visited Tobifudoson, the shrine for flight safety (how niche!) and Imado, a cat shrine that claims to be the origin of the mani neko statue. We picked up some ema boards as souvenirs:
IMG_20180717_172547At Imado we also met a cat which seemed appropriate.MVIMG_20180624_091754James: I like that you can’t go near the shrine but the cat’s allowed to sit there and lick his butthole.

By this time the shops had started to open up so we walked back to the station and grabbed some tempura from a chain restaurant. It was delicious and ridiculously cheap – something like $12 for the two of us. IMG_20180624_101704Then for lunch dessert I had some gelato at Asakusa Suzukien which is famous for its intense matcha gelato. From a website discussing the store:

The matcha gelato has 7 degrees of richness. No. 7 is said to have the richest matcha flavor in the world. In the gelato industry, No. 5 is believed to be the richest that can be produced. Here at Suzukien, they exceed this limit to No. 7.

“No. 7?? Madness! Big Gelato said it couldn’t be done!”

On the bottom row you can see the progression in green intensity from 1 to 7.
IMG_20180624_105953I tried the No. 7 and the hojicha. No. 7 was tasty and indeed extremely matcha-y but I preferred the hojicha because I love hojicha. But it was definitely worth trying No. 7, if only for the ability to turn up our noses at all the other non-boundary-exceeding matcha ice cream stores.

I snapped a quick picture of the crowd at Kaminarimon Gate by the time we left – definitely better to go early!
IMG_20180624_094555My original plan had been to shop Kappabashi Kitchen Town but after some last minute research I found out about 30% of the stores were closed that day, so we decided to save it for next trip and opted for a rest at the hotel.

We got back to our hotel about 15 minutes before the Miyazaki Clock was set to go off. There were a whole bunch of mechanical vignettes that lasted about 10 minutes and it was really cool to watch.
IMG_20180624_115036We rested for a few hours, then headed off to Akihabara. I didn’t think I’d be that interested since neither of us are really into anime but we found a bunch of stuff to entertain us. =)

We spent some time marvelling at the weird shit like anime sex pillows (you can tell they’re sex pillows because of the hole), and also an hour or so browsing Japanese board games, but the real hero of the afternoon was the gachapon arcade. IMG_20180624_154353We were absolutely addicted to these things in Japan. They’re like those little toy gumball machines you loved as a kid, but the stuff inside is so much cooler.

Our favourite gachapon were the cat hats:IMG_20180624_153442Unfortunately we got the orange which was like, the lamest or second lamest one, depending on whether that peach has a leaf in the back. There were a ton of different cat hat series – fruits, vegetables, bunnies, teddies, etc. Also lollies:IMG_20180624_152139Every time we saw a gachapon in Japan we would check to see what wonderful capsules there were inside. Even on super hot days when we’d been walking for hours, we’d still cross the road for them. But anyway, here are some other awesome and weird gachapon we found in that store:

The Garbage Collection:
IMG_20180624_151924 Animals peeing at urinals:IMG_20180624_152128Spoon Hamster:
IMG_20180624_152451 Vomiting animals:IMG_20180624_152448Miniature Sniper:
IMG_20180624_152039The Statue of Liberty on her day off:
IMG_20180624_153923It was always so exciting opening up our capsules to see which one we got. =)

Then it was time for the owl cafe! James thought I had dressed up for the shrines but I had really dressed up for the owls. Here James and I are with Pot Sticker and Gorilla:
20180624_6D0A4880The cafe had a room full of owls chillaxing, with some of them off-limits because they had already been patted too much. You could hold two owls and James started with Pot Sticker:
20180624_6D0A4899Then moved to Spring Onion. He said at first Spring Onion was quite standoffish but then they got along. As proof he showed me these photos of them in tandem:MVIMG_20180624_184242
1x06_Visiting_Ours_(41) (1)
I hung out with Gorilla at the start. He started upright and majestic (and incredibly suspicious of me and the other birds):
IMG_20180624_181554Then partway through he kind of sighed and collapsed on my arm. There were two employees there and both of them came by at separate times and were like “wow, he must really like you!”20180624_6D0A4946 (1)(That’s me hunching over to be more like Gorilla – my posture isn’t quite that bad)

My second owl was grumpy little Okra.
MVIMG_20180624_184921He was so soft! We were only supposed to touch them very gently on the forehead but I would sneakily rub my cheek against him.

When the guy put Okra back on his perch he put him too close to another owl. Okra looked annoyed and took two very deliberate little steps away. Look at him glaring at poor Kuppi who did nothing wrong and was just trying to enjoy his break time. MVIMG_20180624_185227The staff took some really nice photos of us (which they sent to me digitally) and made one of the photos into a postcard. I also bought a souvenir feather of Okra to stick in my hat. =)

For dinner we went to Ippudo for ramen. It was delicious.
IMG_20180624_202716The next morning we packed our (slightly expanded) bags and headed to Kyoto!


Travelling to Tokyo

16 Jul

Last month James and I crossed off one of our bucket list items and travelled to Japan for two and a half weeks. We loved it. It was so hot and humid but we had the best trip and I totally won’t be able to do it justice in my blog.

But first off, I want to say that the new United Polaris lounge at SFO is amazing. It has a really nice cocktail bar and an area where you can get meals cooked to order.

We were there for breakfast I had a “deconstructed” bagel (the deconstruction seemed a bit unnecessary but I appreciate the attempt at artistry).
And James had a cheeseless omelette and a Bloody Mary.
IMG_20180620_093547Then we spent the time before our flight drinking cocktails and eating breakfast dessert. (Actually I was the only one who had breakfast dessert because James doesn’t believe in it – or lunch dessert for that matter).

When we boarded they let me sit in the cockpit!!
IMG_20180620_122117Don’t the controls look like they could be from the 1960s or something? It’s not even an old plane – one of the pilots told me that it’s less than a year old.

The pilots were super nice and funny. They immediately offered to take a photo, we chatted about Tokyo, they showed me what some of the controls did, and they moved the chair back and forth for me.

Me: Is it true that they don’t let you guys eat the same meal in case of food poisoning?
Pilot: They don’t even let us breathe the same air.

During the flight James and I both opted for the Japanese dinner and immediately regretted it because it was massive.
IMG_20180620_135720Way too big for a plane meal.
IMG_20180620_141459James (afterwards): Did you also think it was over and then get surprised by the second course?

Yes. Yes I very much did.

We landed at Narita in the late afternoon, grabbed our bags and took a train to Tokyo. After checking into our hotel we explored nearby Odaiba.

I don’t know why there’s a Statue of Liberty but I love it.
IMG_20180621_195735 And a Unicorn Gundam! IMG_20180621_202000At certain times there was a show where music would play and bits of the Gundam would light up and move. It was pretty cool. =)

We were both a little bit tired from our flight. James said he actually just wanted to stay in the hotel and veg but that seemed like a waste, so just wandering around Odaiba and admiring the lights was a nice, low-key way to end our first night in Tokyo.

Clusterfest Comedy Festival 2018

17 Jun

Time for Clusterfest again! Unlike last time though, they didn’t release the line-up in advance, so we made a leap of faith based on the strength of last year.

Ehhh …

The line-up wasn’t as good as last year and also they changed the seating so that VIP was way better than General Admission. Last year anyone could get to the seats at the main stage but this year they were only for VIP, resulting in this for Third Eye Blind on Friday:
IMG_20180601_183230 (1)(James and I were standing in the front row right behind the barriers).

We could see organisers with walkie-talkies (walkies-talkie?) trying to figure out how to fix the situation – because they wanted to let some regular people in to fill the seats and make it look less awful, but a VIP ticket guaranteed a seat, so they couldn’t let in too many non-VIPs.

Luckily James and I were part of the batch they let in!
IMG_20180601_215850Unluckily though, non VIPs didn’t have in/out privileges, so we made the decision to skip John Mulaney since we’d seen his show earlier this year, and stay for the Daily Show Correspondents set and Trevor Noah so we would have seats for The Lonely Island.

I heard John Mulaney was really good, but we were happy we got to see The Lonely Island because they were fantastic. =)

On Saturday we repeated our “get there earlier and camp Bill Graham Auditorium” strategy from last year to see “Drunk History and Friends” with Kyle Mooney, and a comedic set with Jim Jefferies. We had to leave to get tickets for Middleditch & Schwartz, which was an improv act by Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Rec).
IMG_20180617_093240The whole ticket situation was stupid. It was held in a tiny venue relative to the demand, so the line for tickets started two hours earlier instead of one hour earlier like all the other acts (which was confusing because there were two long lines at the ticket booth – one for the act beforehand and the other for Middleditch & Schwartz).

Then at the venue there were three lines – a line for VIPs with tickets, one for GA with tickets and a standby line for everyone without tickets. There were a lot of people in the wrong group, who were then really upset when they had to go to the back of the other line.
IMG_20180602_182214This photo doesn’t really convey how massive the line was, but the people on the right are in the ticket line and the people on the left are in the standby line. About half an hour before the show the standby line extended another hundred meters.

It was totally worth it though, because the show was hilarious. The absolute highlight of the festival for me. =)

After the show we went back into the auditorium to see a set with Michael Che, then explored some Daily Show exhibit of Trump’s tweets. (Oh yeah, and earlier when I was waiting for James to go to the bathroom, Jim Jefferies walked past me!)

But anyway, here is James sending out his own tweet:
IMG_20180602_214851When Australia sends its people, they’re not sending their best.
IMG_20180602_215218Afterwards we went outside to sit on the grass for Amy Schumer – neither of us find her very funny, so we were OK with missing the start of her set. And her set was awful – she pretty much just re-did her SNL monologue from a week ago. We were at a comedy festival – did she think the people there didn’t watch SNL? She also finished half an hour early, possibly because she was bombing so hard. So yeah, that was pretty shit.

On Sunday the festival cancelled the one thing I’d been looking forward to – the screening of Arrested Development with David Cross, Tony Hale (and, for some reason, also Kyle Mooney). =(
IMG_20180602_131814Instead we watched an interview with Jon Stewart, and a live read of Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Thomas, Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, David Cross, and Sasheer Zamata.
IMG_20180603_171134Then afterwards, a comedy set with David Cross (who was really, really unfunny).

In the evening we sat on the lawn to watch Jon Stewart’s set. It was OK but I think he is more clever/thoughtful than funny. A lot of people we talked to absolutely love him – hey, guy who told me to imagine my favourite comedian, then double it and double it again? YOU WERE SO INCORRECT.

Overall I think this year was very heavy on the political material, and not nearly as funny as last year. Last year the headliners were better and the undercard was heaps better – we laughed non-stop last year and this year there were multiple comedians I didn’t even crack a smile for, and (aside from Middleditch & Schwartz) even the better ones I just laughed once or twice.

James and I still had a good time, but agreed that we would wait for the line-up next year.

A Cocktail Making Class!

10 Jun

Last month James and I did a cocktail making class with some friends of ours. Here we are before the class, all chipper and eager to learn:

We did the Introduction to Mixology class here – it was a two hour class with maybe 10-15 participants. We learned about the history of cocktails, and how to balance sweet/bitter/sour in drinks (with little educational taste tests along the way).

About to learn about gimlets!
IMG_20180519_132214We also learned about all the different barware, and James was so inspired that he came home and ordered a Boston shaker, cocktail strainer, jigger, mixing glass, bar spoon and ice cube tray (apparently our tray doesn’t make the correct sized cubes).

Then at the end of the class everyone got to make their own cocktails. Here is James putting the finishing touches on his drink (a sazerac):
IMG_20180519_140040And me!Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20180519141420Looking back on that gif I’m so embarrassed by the large amount of booze that doesn’t make it into the drink. At the time I thought I’d done well.

Also that was not my biggest drink malfunction of the afternoon:
Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20180519141307I did better the second time, but apparently that attempt wasn’t caught on camera.

James and I thought the class would largely be theory based, and didn’t realise the … er, samples would be so generous. We didn’t have breakfast and, not going to lie, we got absolutely tanked.
IMG_20180519_141717James signed up for the more advanced course in August. It’s 6 hours long!! He asked a friend of his from NY if he wanted to do it with him and his friend was like “I’m offended you even had to ask”.

After the class we walked to Chinatown and had some cheap Chinese food, played board games, then napped drunkenly. It was a lovely afternoon. =)

Five Days in Boston!

23 May

James had to go to Boston for a work trip and we decided that I’d tag along and we’d make a mini trip of it. =)

We stayed at the Liberty Hotel, which is a former prison that housed, among others, Malcolm X. The hotel was gorgeous but we had a ton of problems with the a/c, the customer service was pretty ineffective, and overall I wouldn’t recommend staying there. At least the lobby was gorgeous:
Day 1

We arrived in the afternoon and went straight to Harpoon Brewery for a tour. Behold our incredibly stylish eye protection!
IMG_20180513_163424The tour was really fun and great value – it was only $5 and included an explanation of the beer-making process, a tour of the facilities, and about 10-15 minutes of unlimited beer/cider tasting. James and I were so full afterwards.

I don’t know why James is looking so sneaky in the tasting room:
IMG_20180513_165755 The beer on tap. Their apple cider was really good – even James liked it. IMG_20180513_171215
After the tour we split a giant pretzel (made with Harpoon IPA) which was delicious, and went on a Duck tour of Boston.

I think the Duck tour is good to do at the start of your trip because it’s a nice overview of Boston. Also when we got on the water James got to steer the Duck!
IMG_20180513_184303He got a congratulatory sticker afterwards. It’s hard to read in the picture but it says “I drove a Duck”
IMG_20180513_184644Two other people took a turn after him but they weren’t as good and the captain kept having to correct it when they oversteered. At the end of the tour the captain told James he’d done a good job and James was so very pleased.

Then we took an Uber to Somerville where we ate at Highland Kitchen and had drinks at backbar. Towards the end of the night when it slowed down we got to see the bartenders teaching the hostess how to make a couple of drinks and that was pretty fun and a nice way to end our first day in Boston. =)

Day 2

On our second day we walked the Freedom Trail. You can do an organised tour but we just followed the brick trail around the city and downloaded an app that explained the historical significance of all the different stops. It’s probably the number one tourist attraction you should do in Boston, and it’s completely free!

The Granary Burying Ground – we really liked how the building loomed over the cemetery:
IMG_20180514_095318We started around 9:30am, which was a bit early to get into the State House, but did time it pretty well for us to get to Neptune Oyster 20 minutes before it opened and before a huge line formed. It was a Monday morning and by the time they opened the line had extended to the end of the street (almost double the length in the picture, but the big truck blocked the rest of the line):
IMG_20180514_111410From my research it was almost universally agreed that Neptune Oyster has the best lobster rolls in Boston. We ordered fried clams and, of course, a lobster roll each: IMG_20180514_121036They were pretty good, but having tried a couple now (one in SF and one in Boston), I think I don’t really “get” lobster rolls. They’re OK but if this is the best one I now know I wouldn’t wait in line for one. I guess I’m just not that into lobster.

Unfortunately all the butter made James feel really sick and we walked pretty slowly for the next hour. We saw Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church, which is the “one if by land, two if by sea” church. IMG_20180516_120839By the time we got to the Bunker Hill Monument James was feeling a bit better. On the way I helped some lady with directions using Google Maps and while I did that, James took some selfies with this fish:
IMG_20180514_131740 There were two selfies, because the first one he had his tongue on the wrong side. I appreciate that he corrected it. IMG_20180514_131714I think James likes things with their tongues out because they remind him of Mouse:
IMG_20180501_143345Anyway, we headed to Bunker Hill Monument and got some (free) tickets to climb it:
IMG_20180514_135645There were 294 steps to the top and it’s definitely worth doing (unless you’re claustrophobic). The views were great.
IMG_20180514_140618We finished at the Charleston Naval Yard. The USS Constitution was closed but we got to see the USS Cassin Young, a submarine destroyer.
IMG_20180514_144742 James was fascinated by the missiles, and it was pretty cool getting to look around the (very cramped) ship. IMG_20180514_145938Then we went to the USS Constitution Museum which was kind of eh. If I’d known we were going to get held up at the hotel later I would have just skipped it.

When we went back to the Liberty we went to the front desk where they said they’d fixed the a/c issue and would call us in 10 minutes when we got back to the room to check. We fell asleep waiting for the call, only to be woken up by it 2 hours later when they finally remembered us. In that time it had gotten hot again because the fix had just been temporary, so they said they’d send someone up with a key to another room. We waited 45 minutes, called again, and they finally sent someone up. But that was a ton of time wasted, and we had to do the Skywalk Observatory at night instead of sunset like we’d hoped. =/ At least our second room had a nicer view.
IMG_20180517_200142I’d definitely recommend doing the Skywalk Observatory during the day. You can’t see the water at night and the audio guide kept referring to buildings by their colour, which obviously we couldn’t see. Also the lights inside the building reflected off the glass, making it kind of hard to see.

We had late dinner and drinks at Toro, which was really good (and still busy even at 10pm).

Day 3

This was one of James’ work days so I slept in, then did some shopping on Newbury street in the afternoon. Later I met up with James and his colleagues at Yvonne’s, where we had pre-game drinks.IMG_20180515_194445 My drink came with a giant marshmallow to toast! IMG_20180515_200136We had dinner at Fenway Park where I of course had a Fenway Frank.
IMG_20180515_211323 James got a pretzel, which he was very pleased about. IMG_20180515_222422Also, are you ready to see the most low-energy nachos – and yes, I’m comfortable saying this – in the history of the world? They are so terrible. You think you can imagine how shit they are, but you cannot.
IMG_20180515_213043My God.

The game started late because of the rain and we left before the end because it was obvious the A’s were going to win, and the others had work the next morning. On the way out we found a Kaye sign!
Day 4

James had work again so I went to the North End to compare cannolis from Mike’s and Modern. I have had like, two cannolis in my life, but decided I would give my opinion on the great Boston rivalry.

MikeMike’s had a ton of flavours like hazelnut, limoncello and amaretto (which is the one I got). I really liked the taste and the cannoli was absolutely massive.

After I finished that monster the last thing I wanted was more cannoli but nevertheless I persevered and went to Modern:Modern
Modern was smaller (like maybe 3/4 of the size) and I imagine more traditional, with no weird flavours on offer. I liked that they filled the cannoli to order rather than having them sitting out in the pastry case.

Overall Modern was probably the better cannoli – the shell was crisper and more delicate and the ricotta filling was very light. I also preferred the smaller size. But I really like amaretto so I liked the flavour of Mike’s cannoli more, even though I think it is the inferior cannoli.

After my cannoli comparison I met up with James and we headed to Google where James had to dial into a meeting.

One of the Google microkitchens was Cheers themed!
IMG_20180516_151300“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your LDAP”IMG_20180516_151227The buildings were quite nice and compact. We found some teacups and a (non-working photo booth):
IMG_20180516_153538While James had his meeting I went and explored MIT. It has a cool little museum that I wouldn’t go out of my way for, but is a nice way to pass 30-60 minutes. They had a bunch of robotics exhibits but this was by far my favourite thing:
IMG_20180516_164523“It will take 13.7 billion years (the approximate age of the universe) for the last gear to complete one rotation”. I spent a lot of time watching those gears.

Then we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit before our dinner at Giulia. I separated that dinner into its own post because this one was getting too long, but Giulia was phenomenal – James said the best meal he’s ever had and it was probably top three for me. 

Day 5

This was our last proper day in Boston. We started it at the Museum of Science and the hour we had to ourselves was really fun, but then a billion school groups descended on the museum and it was terrible.

I’m in space!
IMG_20180517_102033Here James is riding some sort of lever-operated wheelchair.
IMG_20180517_102940This exhibit used an Xbox Kinect to sense our movement and we could interact with the stuff on screen:Burst_Cover_GIF_Action_20180517103244The main reason we went to the Museum of Science was for the lightning show. I’ve never seen lightning up close before and it was really cool and worth braving the hordes of screaming school kids to see. I didn’t get any pictures of the lightning but here is the machine that created it:
IMG_20180517_105046Afterwards we went to Fenway Park to do a tour. The guide told us about the history of the stadium, and we got to see the original (very uncomfortable!) seats, the press area and sit in the Green Monster seats:
IMG_20180517_132115(I think our seats the other night were in the lower section in the centre-left of the photo)

During the tour our guide talked about Jackie Robinson and how he broke the colour barrier. We all nodded knowingly except James, who asked what the colour barrier was, and everyone seemed very shocked. Later:

Me: Are you embarrassed that you didn’t know about the colour barrier?
James: (disdainfully) No. They’re the ones who should be embarrassed they even had a colour barrier.

In the evening we had a lateish dinner at Aria Trattoria in the North End. It was pretty good – but the food and service were a couple of significant steps down from Giulia while the price was only a single step down. (Giulia has ruined pasta for me forever). Then we went and picked up some pastries from Mike’s to take back to the hotel to eat.

We got cocktails at the bar then headed to the catwalk to eat and drink. The lobster tail from Mike’s had come highly recommended and we were both insanely disappointed to discover that it’s just pastry-wrapped cream. Look how excited I was before I tasted it:
IMG_20180517_225038Afterwards we headed back to the hotel room to pack and grab a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport the next morning.

And that was our time in Boston. =) I think we packed a lot in considering James had to work a couple of those days. The old buildings in Boston are gorgeous and I like how walkable the city is. James had some productive meetings, we ate and drank a ton, and we learned a bit more about the American revolution. All in all a very satisfying trip!

The Pampered Googlehusband

13 Apr

So a couple of weeks ago there was a shooting at YouTube. Luckily James was evacuated really quickly. He said at the time he thought it was a fire drill and when he saw some people running he thought to himself “that’s pretty immature”. He only found out it was a shooting after he was evacuated – I think finding out he was safe before he knew he was in danger was pretty much the best situation possible (I guess aside from physically not being there that day)

When he went back to work a couple of days later, Google being Google, had brought in some therapy dogs. Apparently it was a big hall just full of dogs they could hang out with for a couple of hours.
IMG_20180406_153930James: There were a lot of dogs and people didn’t realise the nice corgi was at the back. But I got the inside info from Michael.

(Also isn’t that the sweetest mental image?? A hall full of dogs and this earnest little corgi at the back, too short to be seen).

James said there are lots of balloons as well. These ones were from Facebook:
IMG_20180406_121113Despite the FB and the Facebook-coloured balloons on the left, James didn’t realise who they were from. He thought the FB stood for “Feel Better”.

There was also this cool balloon unicorn:
IMG_20180413_083710Also one of James’ former colleagues designed this logo, which Google had printed onto t-shirts for the employees:
2018-04-13 (1)OMG OMG OMG. James just messaged me as I was writing this post and said there is a therapy pig at work today!!! He didn’t get to see it but this is a photo his coworker sent him:
1230209427592596360 (1)James said he saw his coworker in the hall and she said “look at this photo of Pickles the pig.” She also told him Pickles could play the piano but James was skeptical.

He said was too busy at the gym to go see Pickles. OMG James.

Greetings From Austin

15 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, James and I met up with Will and Brian in Austin, Texas. Everyone tells us how cool Austin is, so we figured we’d do a mini group holiday and check it out. =)


One of my favourite things about Austin was all the murals. This one was on the way to brunch:
IMG_20180302_114344We ate at Congress Cafe, which was recommended by one of James’ coworkers – the food was tasty and plentiful and it was $3 sangria day!

James took this selfie to send to Brian who wouldn’t arrive until later that evening:
IMG_20180302_123814Will was appalled at his facial expression and demanded James take another picture. I think the second one makes him look like a perky turtle!IMG_20180302_124236After brunch we went to Allen’s boots to look at boots and cowboy hats.
IMG_20180302_133524James looks like a cowboy and Will looks like a middle aged lady on her way to church.

We walked around and saw a bird holding a tortilla chip. Actually we saw multiple birds with multiple tortilla chips but this is the one I got a photo of: IMG_20180302_141049And some more murals:
IMG_20180302_142035Including the most famous Austin mural:
IMG_20180302_142641Inside the mural building was an art gallery where we met a dog called Hank Jnr Jnr Jnr. Every time someone opened the door he would waddle over to greet them. He was such a good boy: IMG_20180302_143145We then headed to the university district where we saw even more murals! I think this one is also quite famous because I saw it on a souvenir t-shirt:
IMG_20180302_155149 I really liked this one, which I think James took from the car: IMG_20180302_164852Then we had a nap before heading to the Broken Spoke and leaning how to two-step. Here are some of the men learning their moves:IMG_20180302_203501Afterwards we met up with Brian for a late dinner and drinks at Stubb’s BBQ (it was meh, but AWOLNATION was playing downstairs which was pretty cool), and people watched on 6th street.


Saturday morning we got up early to ride electric minibikes around Austin. It was with a company called Your Biker Gang and it was so much fun! We got super lucky and were the only ones on the tour – so we got a private tour for the cost of a regular one.

But first, a mural I saw on our walk over – look at the little animals!
IMG_20180303_082631Our guide was great and took a ton of photos for us. =) Here we are on a pedestrian/cyclist bridge: IMG_20180303_092205Facing the other way:
IMG_20180303_092106At the Willie Nelson statue downtown:
IMG_20180303_093504We also saw the Forever Bicycles sculpture by Ai Weiwei. Our guide said there used to be one in China as well but people kept stealing the bikes.IMG_20180303_094858
In Austin, all people try to do is climb it:IMG_20180303_095341 We stopped by another iconic Austin mural: IMG_20180303_101009After the “nice” photo was taken, the guys started trying to cover everyone’s faces. I emerged unscathed by taking advantage of my lower center of gravity.
IMG_20180303_101022 (1)I took this photo while James drove down Congress Ave towards the Capitol Building:
IMG_20180303_103343Seriously though, the bikes were really easy to ride. The fat tyres made them super stable and it was basically impossible to fall off.

We checked out the Rainey street bars, the Driskill Hotel and then headed to the Graffiti Park. Here is James staring in wonderment: IMG_20180303_105006Even the plants had graffiti on them! This blue dog was James’ favourite:
IMG_20180303_105140 Us at the top, with a great view of Austin:  IMG_20180303_105356So yeah, that was really fun. The minibikes were an unusual way to see all the major tourist attractions – we felt very smug when we passed a Segway tour. =P

Another mural from the walk back to our place:
IMG_20180303_113903We went to Coopers BBQ for lunch. Each table had a giant jar of pickled jalapenos that was incredibly spicy:
IMG_20180303_121023I feel really bad – I realised that I don’t have any photos of all the barbecue we ate that long weekend. And we ate a shit ton.

After lunch we picked up our rental car and drove to Hamilton pool IMG_20180303_151001James came prepared and brought his wetsuit.
IMG_20180303_151606Don’t be fooled by Will and Brian in their bathers – what you see in the above photo is as far as they went in the water.

The water was super cold, but James and I have been fortified by Australian oceans. And we didn’t drive all the way there to not swim.

My phone is waterproof so I was OK to bring it in the water!
Once it started raining we drove back. After some showers we walked to the Congress Avenue Bridge to check out the bats. Unfortunately the rain made them shy so all we saw was a handful before we had to leave for dinner.

Austin was quite pretty in the rain though. =)
IMG_20180303_190124The steakhouse was very good (though again, we ordered too much) and it was fun getting dressed up to go out.
IMG_20180303_201349After dinner we went to one shitty speakeasy, and after Will and Brian went to bed, James and I headed to a better speakeasy (located in a parking garage – I could see cars going up and down the ramps lol). We headed back around 2am.


How can you go to Austin without trying Franklin Barbecue?
IMG_20180304_114219Even though it was raining the line was still pretty long – apparently the wait is normally hours. I was talking to a friend in San Francisco who said that he waited three hours in line and then one of the employees came out and said there might not be any more barbecue left by the time they got to the front. =(

That didn’t happen to us, though. We had pre-ordered a couple of months ago, so got to skip the queue. IMG_20180304_115617Once again, no photos cos we took it back to our airbnb and plated it in an ugly way. But it was really good – not the best barbecue that Brian (who lives in Atlanta) has ever had, but by far the best that I’ve ever had. (The second barbecue that I’ve ever had was some of the leftover Franklin’s I had as a midnight snack and the third best was the rest of the Franklin’s I had for breakfast the next morning).

But anyway, after our lunch we headed to the Texas Capitol Building.
IMG_20180304_140729Google helpfully made this montage of Will trying to cover everyone’s faces with his coffee:


Inside the Capitol Building looking up:
IMG_20180304_143935-EFFECTS Inside the Capitol Building looking down: IMG_20180304_152527
I think this room was the House of Representatives:
IMG_20180304_145756 We were all supposed to make a face. Will and I look shocked, James looks like he smelled a fart, and Brian looks like a stern, pale ghost.

In the garden outside were a lot of statues, including this replica Statue of Liberty. We got a much better photo with it than we did the actual Statue of Liberty.IMG_20180304_160614Then it was time for Brian to go to the airport. =( Will, James and I headed to a bunch of breweries. This was the second one we went to, which was a combination brewery and pizzeria. Smart.
IMG_20180304_182529 They even had ciders for me: IMG_20180304_182605After our brewery run we went to the Midnight Cowboy speakeasy. Here is our bartender mixing our drinks at our table:
IMG_20180304_213537After a few drinks we headed to Rainey street. It was a drizzly Sunday night so it was nice and quiet. Here we are at a bar made out of shipping containers. IMG_20180304_232612And because I know you’re not sick of murals here’s one we saw on one of our walks that night. We actually saw this one in progress on Friday and Saturday, and finished on Sunday. =)

In the morning James and Will headed to brunch while I polished off the rest of our barbecue. We checked out of our airbnb and dropped our bags off at Google Austin.

Much like Austin it was small but cool and cute. The views were fantastic.
IMG_20180305_113500In the cafeteria there was a cool food truck that was half inside: IMG_20180305_112929And half outside:
IMG_20180305_113049A wall of cardboard VR viewers: IMG_20180305_113957I played pacman while the guys went to the bathroom:
IMG_20180305_114116This was the reception area. I liked the ceiling kayak decor and that hoopy chair James is sitting in. IMG_20180305_120027Unfortunately this wasn’t working while we were there. =(
IMG_20180305_115249The original plan was for Will and James to go to a museum while I went shopping but James decided he wanted to see Black Panther at Alamo Drafthouse (we have an Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco but I guess he wanted to go in its home city) so I went with him.

Hey, this looks familiar!
IMG_20180305_122746 Overall Austin was nicer than I thought it would be. I liked how compact it was and how many cool little bars and restaurants there were.

It was already getting a bit warm while we were there, so I can’t imagine how brutal the weather would be for half the year. It’s definitely a great place to visit though – I would totally go back and eat more barbecue.IMG_20180305_151646