Tag Archives: Google

The Big Europe Trip: Google Zurich

22 Aug

We’d planned our entire Europe trip around a week in Zurich because James had a bunch of meetings at the Google office.

As soon as we checked into our hotel we walked a couple of minutes to Google to do our laundry – it was a lifesaver being able to wash our clothes midway during the trip. While we were waiting we explored the campus.
IMG_20190505_164508There was a slide in the cafeteria.IMG_20190505_164706And a fireman’s pole in one of the lounges.
MVIMG_20190505_171216And a reminder that everyone in Switzerland speaks like, 5 languages.
MVIMG_20190505_162123
There were also work pods made out of old ski gondolas. I guess the one on the left was garden themed and the one on the right was fruit themed.MVIMG_20190505_165100Inclusive toilets! Mermaids, superheroes and aliens welcome.
IMG_20190505_162303More cool work pods and a very stylish alligator: MVIMG_20190505_171016One of the cafeterias:
MVIMG_20190505_190222There were also a ton of lounges. James said the pods and lounges aren’t really that heavily used in the offices he’s worked in, but the Zurich office was really overcrowded (until the new offices are finished I guess) so they were always packed.

I think this was called the Sky Lounge or something like that:
MVIMG_20190505_170036The James Bond lounge (don’t get too excited – the bottles were empty):MVIMG_20190505_191119Though it did have a secret door.
IMG_20190508_090548We didn’t find it ourselves – someone showed James later.

Me: Ooh, what was behind the secret door?
James: More lounge.

=/

There was also a Star Wars room:
MVIMG_20190505_191703And a Western themed one:
IMG_20190505_191355With swinging saloon doors. This lounge ain’t big enough for the two of us …IMG_20190505_191345I don’t remember the theme of this one, but it had a micro kitchen, slack line, climbing rope, basketball hoop and work pods. IMG_20190505_171543A Google office isn’t complete without the lego room and pool table. It’s hard to see but along the bottom of the display wall in the back there ws a trough spanning the length of the room with lego pieces you could use for your masterpiece.MVIMG_20190505_191926A water lounge – intriguing! And vacant!
IMG_20190505_165658 Ooooooh.IMG_20190505_165603Oh, this was really cool. You could order groceries by scanning the QR codes on the wall and get them sent to the office.
IMG_20190505_192440I think the shopping trolleys are normally filled with snacks and fruits. In the back right you can also see one of the many Movenpick ice cream fridges scattered around the office. I always like looking through the snacks because they seem like a window into the local culture – in the Zurich office the snacks seemed to mainly be chocolate (usually Swiss, but some American brands too) or healthy things like dried fruit and nuts.

Drawers full of chocolate:
IMG_20190505_170219Oh yeah, and the bread! James had been told by one of his colleagues that one of the most memorable things about the Zurich office was how much bread there was. She said there were always bread knives and random loaves of bread lying around which, even on the weekend, was true.

This is the picture James took to send her lol:
IMG_20190505_170115But yeah, Zurich was one of the nicer Google offices I’ve seen. I’m glad we visited it on a Sunday afternoon when nobody was there so we got to explore it properly. And how convenient that we were able to do our laundry at the same time. =)

The Big Europe Trip: London

11 Jun

A couple of months ago James had to be in Zurich for work, so we decided to add a couple of cities and make a vacation out of it.

It’s not an international trip if I don’t start it with the Paper Plane cocktail at the Polaris Lounge:
MVIMG_20190424_145120I had fish and chips for lunch and this lovely meringue for lunch-dessert:
IMG_20190424_153326Also I received three compliments on my new Globe-Trotter luggage before we even landed. =D

Day 1

We arrived around midday and got a fast pass through the arrivals hall at Heathrow which saved us a ton of time. We collected our checked luggage, purchased Oyster cards, then took the Piccadilly train to our AirBNB.

We wanted to make it a low-key day so we could recover from the flight but still tell ourselves we’d seen a bit of London, so we checked out the Google office. They were very into their post-it note art!
IMG_20190425_155854The elevators were cool – they had that fancy technology where you press the button for your floor and it assigns you an elevator.

In one of the microkitchens we discovered canned water. I don’t know why we found it so shocking but we did.
IMG_20190425_154201It’s weird, right??

The office was pretty small but there was a lot of construction nearby to build a larger campus – hopefully we get to see it next time we visit! It’s hard to tell, but the little floor level markers are Android figures.
IMG_20190425_145654Speaking of Android figures, here is a hint for what I bought as my London souvenir:IMG_20190425_151327On the walk back to the station there was this cool bird cage swing. =)
MVIMG_20190425_160819_1 We had an early dinner at an Indian restaurant, then headed to a couple of cocktail bars. IMG_20190425_192048_1The cocktails at Lounge Bohemia were very inventive and the presentation was fantastic, but taste-wise they ranged from average to awful. There’s just no way to make a red bull reduction taste good. We had a lot of fun though!

My tasting menu was “good morning” themed and contained six mini cocktails. I was already pretty excited that my first drink came in a bathtub and halfway through I found this little guy:
IMG_20190425_194837 This toothpaste one had rum and peas in it. It was kind of gross and I made James finish it.IMG_20190425_201545This is a photo of him resentfully drinking it:
IMG_20190425_201442The coffee cocktail was my favourite:
IMG_20190425_202305Feeling like we’d beaten jet lag, we took the bus back to our place for a well-earned sleep.

Day 2

We started the day off at the Tower of London. We went on the Beefeater Tour (definitely recommend! It’s free and really informative), looked at the Crown Jewels, and had a nice walk around. This is James standing where the tower moat used to be:
IMG_20190426_094706 Afterwards we walked across the Tower of London Bridge and took a bunch of photos. It was windy and my hair makes it look like I have a ton of eyeliner on.IMG_20190426_115044Then went to the Borough Market where James bought some scotch eggs for a morning snack. They were delicious, but right afterwards we had afternoon tea at Sketch, so the timing wasn’t ideal.

Sketch is famous for its gorgeous bathroom (scented with a billion Diptyque candles) and individual pod toilets:
IMG_20190426_132219 Also its beautiful pink room: IMG_20190426_140826The food was delicious (and AYCE – damn you scotch eggs) and we were massively stuffed at the end.

Afterwards James bought himself a souvenir – a hand carved umbrella from James Smith & Sons. They had cheaper umbrellas, but James argued (quite rightly) that the point of going to a store like that is to buy their custom-made ones.

The ones in this photo started at £250 depending on the wood and the shape of the handle.
IMG_20190426_174438But James fell in love with this super fancy option.
IMG_20190427_112719Hello Owl!

The store customized the umbrella’s height to him, which was pretty cool. Here he is getting fitted (behind him are the cheaper regular umbrellas)
IMG_20190426_173835We then went to the British Museum, which was amazing, and not too crowded on a Wednesday evening. We saw all the highlights, and I think James was quite pleased at being able to show Owl a bit of the world.

The Easter Island statue:
MVIMG_20190426_200229 Assyrian lion sculptures:IMG_20190426_202137And the Rosetta Stone (this one was just me – Owl saw it earlier with more people around):
MVIMG_20190426_202206Then we went to the Connaught Bar where we had fantastic cocktails (James thought they were the best of the trip) and bought a bottle of their house gin.

Day 3

In the morning we went to Westminster Abbey which was a lot more interesting than I expected. The highlight was definitely the Jubilee Galleries for an extra £5 – we got to see the Magna Carta, and had a killer view down the length of the chapel. No photos allowed though. =(

Afterwards James and I split up and he went to a gin class at the City of London Distillery where he learned about gin and distilled a bottle with his own custom mix of ingredients.
IMG_20190427_131928He got to name it and said he wished he’d called it Jamegin.IMG_20190427_135402They store the recipe on site, so if James ever runs out he can get them to make him another bottle. =)

While he was making (and drinking) booze, I went shopping and had some more Indian food for lunch.
IMG_20190427_131108Afterwards I went to the Burberry flagship store. I tried on almost every trench they had looking for the perfect one, and eventually found it in the Heritage Kensington in honey. I think the coat looks much nicer open rather than belted, and I love, love, love it.

31e83adca0a909c83ff20ac740520612e938d7f0

image from Burberry

Maybe I should rethink my usual method of shopping online because apparently I don’t know myself as well as I think I do – I surprised myself by preferring the double breasted trenches and more relaxed fits.

Anyway, giant, unwieldy Burberry shopping bag in hand, I met up with James again and we headed to the Royal Stables for some more sightseeing. We went later in the day (around 3:30/4pm) and we were practically alone as we looked at all the different royal carriages.
IMG_20190427_160129We also went to the Queen’s Gallery, which wasn’t quite as spectacular, though I did get to see Faberge eggs for the first time, which was pretty cool.

The highlight was definitely the Buckingham Palace state rooms. In Summer the rooms are open to the public but in Spring they only have small group tours on days when the Queen isn’t in residence. It’s more expensive, but it was amazing. 

James and I agreed it was one of the highlights of our trip to London, which was unexpected because we’re not normally interested in that kind of stuff. But the tour guide was really informative and a fantastic story teller (Her: If you’re looking around and wondering whether something is real gold, it is), and we got to see a bunch of priceless art and history in a really intimate, unhurried setting.

As usual, no photos allowed, so here’s one we took outside the palace afterwards.
IMG_20190427_200552
Then for dinner we went to Bob Bob Ricard. IMG_20190427_224849Don’t mind if we do!

Day 4

We were pretty knackered by day four, and had a bit of a sleep in before popping down the street to Blacklock Soho.
IMG_20190428_121320Where we had the world’s largest Sunday Roast.
IMG_20190428_123933The Yorkshire puddings were so big that they had multiple potatoes living in the craters. James liked the roast beef, pork and crackling but my favourite was the lamb. It was delicious and if I ate like that every Sunday I would be as fat as a yorkshire pudding.

Then we went to Jensen’s so James could try (and buy) some more gin. We also went to the Tate Modern where we saw – and failed to appreciate – a bunch of Rothkos. James discovered he likes Surrealism though, so there’s that.

The Tower of Babel at the Tate Modern:IMG_20190428_171115We had dinner at Padella, which I had been forewarned would be very busy. Also, when you see there is a queue outside the building, that is not a queue to get into the restaurant – that is a queue to leave your name/number to get a dining time. We got there 30 minutes after it opened and had an estimated eating slot at 6:30pm/7ish – perfect!

To kill time went for a bit of a wander around the waterfront.
IMG_20190428_182210 (1)You can see a little bit of my lovely new coat!

When we went back to Padella the pastas were beautiful. Really tasty and really affordably priced, even with wine.IMG_20190428_190720Afterwards we had cocktails at Lyaness which, in its former incantation was rated the best bar in the world, but eh. It was fine, but I can think of several bars that I think are superior. I did like this sign in the hotel lobby though:
MVIMG_20190428_195454(It turned out the sign changed automatically every 10 minutes or so. I sent James out to admire it and he came back confused because it just had some random quote about coffee).

I enjoyed our time in London – I think we packed a lot into three and a half days. =) The next morning we grabbed an Uber to the airport and got on a flight for the next leg of our trip – Switzerland!

First Trip of 2019: New York City!

4 Feb

I didn’t go at all to NYC last year so decided to join James for his first work trip of 2019. It’s the middle of winter here in the US – you can’t really tell in SF since it’s still hoodie weather, but we were definitely feeling it in NY!

Monday

It was a high of -9C when we arrived on Monday afternoon. While we waited for our Uber I saw a discarded bottle of water that had frozen solid.

This time we stayed at the Dream Downtown, which is normally James’ least preferred of the three hotels closest to Google because it’s attached to a nightclub and gets loud and crowded. It does, however, have an outdoor pool – which is just what you want when it’s below freezing.  IMG_20190121_160451I was pleased with the pictures my new Pixel took underwater!

The pool was heated to 26C so it was actually really nice. IMG_20190121_160345Getting out of the pool was a different matter though. When we walked to get our clothes it was so cold our wet feet kept freezing to the ground. We were too afraid to stand still in case we got stuck.

We had a fortifying shower then went to I Sodi for dinner (and on the walk there my damp hair got all hard and frozen). It’s a popular restaurant but we easily got a walk-in spot at the bar since it was so cold – I guess most people were staying home and getting dinner delivered.

Afterwards we went to a couple of bars (Employees Only and Little Branch), then headed back to our hotel to crash.

Tuesday

Thanks to the night before I craved greasy food all morning. I was also feeling very tired so spent pretty much the entire morning googling easily-accessible potsticker restaurants. I eventually settled on Halal Guys, since I remembered really loving it when James and I first visited NY.

I walked to the East Village location:IMG_20190122_123614It was OK but not as good as I remembered. =( I feel like I make a better version using the Serious Eats recipe.

For dinner we continued my comfort-food binge and went to Xi’an Famous Foods for hand-pulled noodles and had some pork dumplings at Vanessa’s.

Wednesday

I walked in a different direction this time and headed down Bleecker street. I had a toasted cheese sandwich at Murray’s Cheese, then went to the Dominique Ansel bakery where I had a cronut:IMG_20190123_131107It was almond and cherry flavoured and very good. I also got a Blizzard Bear because I thought it was adorable (though it was maybe 20% as good as the cronut). But look at it – so cute!
IMG_20190123_131037I removed the bear’s scarf and sent James a pic:Screenshot_20190129-100420 (1)Rude.

After some post-lunch window shopping I headed back to the hotel for a quick nap before meeting James for dinner. We went to Olmsted in Williamsburg with James’ colleague and his girlfriend. The food was delicious and dessert was adorable s’mores in the backyard of the restaurant.
IMG_20190123_211537Afterwards James’ colleague took us to his local bar, where we drank insanely cheap craft cocktails because he’s buddies with the bartender. The bartender was chatting with our group all night, doing shots with us, making random drinks for us to try … and the bill at the end of the night was $25 (not each – altogether). I told James afterwards that I have never felt like such a VIP.

Thursday

Once again it was difficult to wake up because we drank too much the night before. But we had to go to YouTube so dragged ourselves up at 9am.

The last time I visited New York James was still part of the Play organisation, so this was the first time I’d seen the YouTube office. Behold!MVIMG_20190124_095145We couldn’t go in because it was in use, but behind this wall there’s a fancy secret VIP room with nice booze and insanely expensive speakers.
MVIMG_20190124_100151Here I am looking tired and doing a voice recording for YouTube.IMG_20190124_115621 (1)And here is James editing file names so the sound editors could tell which file was which.
IMG_20190124_112408Then it was lunchtime! We had sushi and pasta, both of which were really good. The food in the New York office always seems better than the food in the Bay Area. James said the coffee is much better too.

The pasta was cooked on the spot for us, which was pretty cool. I had bolognese with capers, olives, onion and tomato, and parmesan sprinkled on top.
IMG_20190124_123203
Then I went back to the hotel for what was becoming my daily nap. When James got back we went out for dinner and drinks at The Office and The Aviary.

The drinks at The Office were better but the drinks at The Aviary were way more fun! We had two at The Office so were already feeling a bit tipsy by the time we headed to The Aviary.
IMG_20190124_200751(That’s right, busting out the Junya Watanabe top again. Once again it was a compliment magnet).

A ship in a bottle! Unfortunately the actual drink was poured into a glass. Note the atmospheric candle behind it.IMG_20190124_202357We also ordered this pork skin to eat. It’s not on the menu but The Aviary is pretty famous for it.

OooooOOoooooh!
MVIMG_20190124_203010It was delicious. So crispy and salty – like a prawn cracker but SO much better. At that point we’d had 4 or 5 drinks so that pork skin really hit the spot.

This is the pork skin about 20 minutes in. To be honest, if this was what they had given us to begin with I still wouldn’t have been disappointed.IMG_20190124_205508They gave us these classy little moist towelettes to clean our hands and James was so drunk he thought it was a tiny complimentary drink.
IMG_20190124_222355Also a group of three came over and said we looked adorable and gave us their leftover snacks – some olives and cheesy popcorn. It was very nice of them. =)

James’ cocktail marinating:
IMG_20190124_205753My cocktail smoking:
mvimg_20190124_210458_exported_stabilized_2902587954644618319At the end of the night (and by that I mean 9:30pm – which was doubly pathetic because it was only 6:30pm West Coast time!) we took an Uber back to the hotel where James was lured by a Halal truck and got some lamb and rice to eat in bed.MVIMG_20190124_230747

Friday

The original plan was to get spring onion pancakes for breakfast but James was feeling a bit ill (possibly from Halal cart) so we decided to go to Google instead.

Breakfast is thataway!IMG_20190125_094615No pics but I had eggs over medium, bacon, grilled tomato with mozzarella and some rocket (which Americans call arugula).

I always feel super bloated when I leave New York because of how much we gorge ourselves, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to going back and having some more pork skin. It was good to get home to lovely temperate San Francisco weather though. =)

Google Holiday Party 2018: Under the Big Top

13 Jan

Hello everyone! Wow it’s 2019 already – where does the time go? I’ve been meaning to blog but James and I both got sick late last year which sucked. =(

Anyway, the 2018 Google holiday party was circus themed and held at the De Young Museum. There was a weird entry process which involved showing ID and scanning individual QR codes. We thought the extra security was maybe because of the YouTube shooting.

There was a station with various fancy hot dogs:
IMG_20181201_194216(From recollection: regular, kim chi, chilli and reuben)

We got there right at the start and managed to knock out some activities that we knew would have long lines later. We did a tarot reading and also had caricatures drawn. You can tell from the progress picture that it’s not going to look anything like James haha.
MVIMG_20181201_201112The semi-outdoor area had fairy floss (two flavours! Pumpkin pie and I think either lychee or passionfruit), drinks, popcorn, a sushi stand and noodle stations. IMG_20181201_195857I went back for fairy floss like, 4 times.
IMG_20181201_200059That’s the Junya Watanabe top that I bought from Japan. People went nuts for it – I must have had 20 people come up to me and tell me they loved it. So that was nice. =)

This year they had a cool ball pit photo booth (with the camera overhead).
IMG_20181207_150737The museum opened the exhibit halls so we could just wander through without crowds.
IMG_20181201_211241We found my doppelganger in the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibit.
IMG_20181201_214912The food was pretty nicely spread out this year, so there weren’t any obvious bottlenecks. However, the big scandal was there was no decent booze this year. Normally they have cute little cocktails but not this year – just beer/wine and mocktails. =/ One of James’ coworkers told him about a rumour he’d heard that there was a proper bar in the observation room, so we headed up there only to be disappointed.

However, we did find a lady who wrote poetry on demand (the same lady who was at Googleween). I picked out a nice piece of paper and she asked what I wanted my poem to be about – I asked her to write about my top. I explained how I’d bought it in Japan on a whim, and how people had been coming up to me all night to compliment it.

Guys. The poem was perfect. IMG_20181201_210828James even calls it my Bowser top, so you can imagine how delighted I was.

Fortified with poetry but also deflated from lack of booze, we took the elevator back down, where I collected yet another compliment and we bumped into the colleague who had told us the drink rumour and James had to inform him the bar was a lie. (We checked in with a bunch of our friends who work in different parts of Google and only one of them had cocktails at his party, so maybe this is a new trend).

We took another photo at one of the photo booths, doing quick changes in between shots to try and display the food options.
IMG_20181207_150809James held the hot dog too close to the lens in the second photo, which I am still somewhat bitter about.

I like seeing James’ coworkers, eating and taking fun photos, but have to admit that Google parties are way less fun without cocktails. Am I spoiled? I’m probably a little bit spoiled. (Narrator: She was a lot spoiled).

Back to Tokyo and Up (Most of) Mount Fuji

19 Aug

Day 12: Japanese Whiskey and Tokyo

In the morning we took a train to Yamazaki to tour the Suntory whiskey distillery. We had to book quite far in advance but this tour was one of the few things in Japan that James really wanted to do.
IMG_20180702_093323Even a month in advance, only the morning slot was left, so 10am whiskey it was! We explored the museum while we waited for the tour to begin.
IMG_20180702_093613 There was information about the history of the company and also whiskeys in various states of aging:IMG_20180702_094242The distillery tour was in Japanese but they gave us headphones so we were able to follow along with the audio tour.

This room was very hot and yeasty. There was a reason that all the stills were different sizes but neither James nor I can remember why. Clearly we retained a lot of information from the tour.
IMG_20180702_101028 (1)This was the room where they aged the whiskey in barrels. I don’t like the taste of scotch but this room smelled wonderful – like we were in a forest.
MVIMG_20180702_102408The tour concluded with some whiskey tastings.
IMG_20180702_103822It was quite an elaborate set-up – there were snacks, overhead slides and a little reference guide. It also confirmed for me that I just don’t like whiskey and I gave half my tastings to James. (Then later one of the tour guides came around and was impressed that I’d managed to finish all of my whiskey and I awkwardly went along with it).

There was also a paid tasting room that had a much larger selection. It was packed – though I think we got unlucky because there was a big tour group there. This was the bar:IMG_20180702_120244And the menu:MVIMG_20180702_112716James tasted six (I think) whiskeys, including the super old/rare ones. He said they were very smooth but overall he prefers Scottish whiskey.

We also stopped by the gift shop but it was lame and had the same un-aged whiskeys you can find in the US or at any 7/11 in Japan. The tour and tasting room were really fun though and I’d definitely recommend them as a mini day-trip from Kyoto or Osaka.

Afterwards we took a train to Kyoto and then the Shinkansen back to Tokyo. We bought some food at the train station to eat on our trip.

This one was so pretty – like unwrapping a little present. =)
IMG_20180702_130552When we arrived in Tokyo we stashed our luggage in one of the station lockers and went to VR Zone in Shinjuku where we played VR Mario Kart.IMG_20180702_161347We could pick up bananas and shells with our hands and throw them at our opponents and the whole thing was really immersive. It had a big catch-up system so it didn’t feel like a lot of skill was necessarily involved but it was still fun.

We played 3 other games and they were various shades of OK – Mario Kart was the clear star. VR makes me a bit nauseous so I was quite happy to limit ourselves to 4.

We retrieved our luggage and checked into the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, where they had the cousin of Haku-chan (the sake-recommending robot) on staff:
MVIMG_20180710_183331For dinner we went to a place that is known for its deep-fried gyoza:
MVIMG_20180702_203018 And its katsu gyoza: MVIMG_20180702_202503They were tasty but the regular fried gyoza were the best. We both wished we’d just gotten one or two of the novelty kind and more of the fried gyoza.

Day 13: Google and Fuji

We took it easy this day because we had plans to climb Fuji overnight. We headed to Roppongi to check out the Google office since several friends who have worked there told us it has an amazing view. We were hoping to be able to see Fuji but unfortunately it wasn’t clear enough. =(

At one of the cafes I ordered a peach soda with basil and cider jelly (and my name in Japanese I think!)
IMG_20180703_092125I was intrigued by the Ramune soda bagel:MVIMG_20180703_094432But I should have gone with one of the croissants because the bagel was disgusting. I felt bad not finishing it but it was by far the worst thing I ate in Japan.

This was one of the microkitchens:
MVIMG_20180703_100422They had a lot of Japanese snacks, and we grabbed a couple of the onigiri for our Fuji hike.IMG_20180703_100550There were also these adorable lollies! MVIMG_20180703_101647James and the Oreo Android being dynamic together:
IMG_20180703_101606We did some light shopping, grabbed lunch, then had a fortifying afternoon nap at our hotel. The hotel was really conveniently located – a 5 minute walk from Shinjuku station and and also the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal to go to Mt Fuji.

We took the latest bus to the Mt Fuji Suburu Line 5th Station. There was only one store open at that time, so we bought some wooden walking sticks and started our hike a bit past 10pm.

Day 14: Fuji!

Hiking Mt Fuji overnight is called “bullet climbing” and generally not recommended. The way that most people climb Fuji is to start during the day, climb until they reach one of the mountain huts, stay there overnight, then climb again in the early morning to reach the summit by sunrise. Bullet climbing is starting in the evening and climbing throughout the night.

James and I opted to bullet climb because we really didn’t want to hike in the heat and also didn’t want to pay $70 each for a sleeping bag in a shared room at a mountain hut. It was fine. The only tricky part was the altitude, which affected James a lot more than it did me (which we expected, because he gets headaches on top of Mammoth at 11k feet).

But anyway, we were fairly well-prepared with warm layers, headlamps, and plenty of food and water. We hiked throughout the night, starting from 2800 meters (9186 feet) at the 5th Station.

We were really glad we brought our headlamps since it was dark on the trail.
MVIMG_20180703_222612You can see the shadow of James’ head on the sign post. Even before I remembered taking this photo I saw it and was like “hey, that shadow looks a lot like James’ head!”

There were several stations where we would briefly rest and get our walking sticks stamped (well, branded really). The early stamps cost 300 yen but prices went up the higher we climbed. Also some stations had multiple stamps so it ended up costing quite a bit!MVIMG_20180703_234154James and I agreed that the beginning of the hike was the hardest mentally because it was the longest stretch without a break. Later on it was steeper but there were more stations to stop at for breaks. Which was good because James had a headache and nausea from the altitude. He’s not a complainer so the fact that he even said anything meant it was pretty bad.

By the time we got to the 8th station area it was starting to get really windy, and any time we stopped walking we would instantly feel the cold. The wind forecast had been fine when we checked earlier that day, but we talked to a Canadian guy who was worried because he said the forecast was getting worse and worse.

We got to Goraikou (the final mountain hut) a bit before 3pm. It was really howling by this point and the ranger told everyone we were better off staying where we were for the sunrise because it was even windier and more overcast at the summit. We decided to take temporary shelter inside the mountain hut then continue to the top after sunrise.

Here we are inside the hut around 3:30am.IMG_20180704_034708Unfortunately the wind got even worse, and when we tried to go up the ranger said that they were no longer allowing people to summit because it was too dangerous (later we found out that Typhoon Prapiroon had just hit). IMG_20180704_041751 (1)I was so bummed. Climbing Fuji was the only reason we’d gone to Japan in the summer and we were so, so close! If we’d known that resting meant we couldn’t get to the summit we would have just kept going. When we got back to the 5th Station we talked to some people who had gotten to the summit and they said it was really awful. Apparently they couldn’t see anything and it was raining, cold, so windy that people were getting blown around, and everyone descended as quickly as they could after sunrise. But at least they got there!

And it’s not like our sunrise view was any better:
IMG_20180704_041806 We hung around for ages, hoping the wind would die down and the ranger would let us up. But no luck. =(

On the plus side, while we were waiting the clouds cleared and revealed this spectacular view: MVIMG_20180704_043433-PANO (1)Isn’t that cloud amazing?? I looked it up afterwards and it’s a lenticular cloud caused by some combination of the mountain, wind and air temperature. At the time I was so disappointed we hadn’t gotten to the summit that it didn’t register how fortunate we were to see that gorgeous view. I’m really glad we took photos!
IMG_20180704_050429Eventually we gave up and started the descent, and it was raining and windy pretty much the whole way down. A couple of times there’d be a huge gust of wind and we’d have to plant our walking sticks and hunker down so we didn’t get blown off the mountain.

We didn’t have waterproof layers on our bottom halves so got soaked (top halves were dry though!). Combined with the disappointment of not summiting, the descent and the long (damp) wait for the bus was a completely miserable experience.

We took the bus back and walked back to our hotel – thank goodness for that 5 minute commute because we were seriously gross. We showered and had a post-Fuji nap before grabbing some conveyor belt sushi for an early dinner.IMG_20180704_190050We were very pleased with the conveyor belt sushi. Obviously restaurant sushi was better, but this was cheap, decent, quick, and a fun novelty.

Then we went to a bar called Whales of August which made movie-inspired drinks, some which were kind of meh and some which were very creative.

Tangled:
MVIMG_20180704_195557 Totoro!MVIMG_20180704_201830Even the drinks with beautiful presentation weren’t great-tasting though. We’d pretty much exclusively been drinking at high-end cocktail bars in Japan and it was a stark contrast.

We did some shopping, then wandered over to check out the Shibuya crossing intersection. Honestly I don’t get why it’s a tourist attraction except maybe for people who’ve never been to a big city before. It’s a big, multi-directional crossing. Cool?

Since we were in the area we also stopped by the Hachiko statue:IMG_20180704_223334 (1)When we went back to our hotel I got all sad again about not summiting Fuji. It was the only reason we’d come during the summer (we both hate hot weather) and not getting to the top felt like a failure. Normally we would have tried again another trip but neither of us wanted to go to Japan in summer again.

We checked the forecast for our remaining days in Japan but the typhoon meant that it was raining and windy the whole time, and the only day it looked possible was our departure day – and that day was a tiny window sandwiched between two storms. So even if we changed our flights, if the first storm went longer than expected or the second storm arrived earlier, we’d be SOL again.

Plus it was the end of a long holiday with a lot of walking in very hot/humid weather so we were both tired, James already had a ton of people booking meetings with him as soon as he got back, we’d be sacrificing really great flatbed seats on our return trip with the possibility that we’d have to fly economy, and it would cost around 1k to rebook our flights/hotels/Fuji buses/the catsitter. James hated the hike since he’d had a headache and nausea for much of it (and had carried all our stuff because of my herniated disc) and pointed out that we had pretty much climbed Fuji, and the last few hundred meters didn’t make a difference except in my head.

Basically, there were a ton of practical/financial/logistical reasons I should have accepted that we weren’t going to summit Mt Fuji, and the only reason to try again was that I really, really wanted to.

You can see where this is all going. (Yes, I am aware that I’m incredibly spoiled)
IMG_20180704_043946See you soon, Fuji-san!

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:
IMG_20180513_151143
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!
IMG_20180515_235245
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.

Mike’s:
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.