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Friday, June 23, 2023

Meet at Paris

We celebrated my cousin’s birthday at Meet at Paris in Culver City. The above key chain is a souvenir my niece brought me from her trip to Paris a few weeks ago. I thought it would fit in with the theme of this post.

The patio is romantic at nighttime with fire pits separating the tables from each other. Not all tables have a fire pit next to them. It’s best to make a request when making a reservation. Since I had never been there, I did not know this, but we got lucky.

My cousin was babysitting for her son’s Terrier mix and asked if she could bring him. So, before making a reservation, I looked around for restaurants with patios that would allow dogs. Her son’s dog’s name is Ewok, named after a furry biped in Star Wars. He is a rescue dog and I remember when her son first got him, he was a nervous dog. I was at my cousin’s house for dinner one night, and he hid behind her, and would not allow anyone to pet him. If you talked to him, he would start shaking. I think he was probably abused by his prior owner. A year or so later, he became a completely different dog. He is happy, loves to sleep in, allows me to pet him and is comfortable with people. He even has his own Instagram page.
My cousin wanted to order escargot. I told her I don’t eat snails, but when she insisted on ordering something else, I told her I'll have a little bit. It was her birthday and I wanted her to enjoy it. I often stay away from things that are killed. Occasionally I have fish, but I try to limit it. It’s a personal choice and I don’t judge. Most of my family and friends eat everything. Anyway, my cousin and I got into a deep discussion and forgot to take photos of everything until it was too late. The above pix is escargot. I had one piece and thought it tasted too fishy. The sauce was good, though.
We always hang out at restaurants until they kick us out because we get into these talks, and sometimes they are great and sometimes not so great. She loves to argue and calls it a “discussion.” I don’t like to argue. So, before our talks start to get heated, I back off, let her talk, and just listen. I’m the same way with my brother when we discuss politics. We sometimes end up saying,
let’s just agree to disagree and move on. 

The steak and fries was for my cousin and I got the scallops. Both were good. Sorry, but I have no photo of the scallops which was supposed to come with risotto, but they were out. So, to make up for it, our friendly and nice server gave us the Crème Brulé for free.

My rating for this restaurant would be 4.5 out of five stars.


Saturday, June 17, 2023

Kyoto—time travel to the past (for old souls). Part II

Arrived at Arashiyama, west of Kyoto. They say that this area is touristy, but the scenery made it a well worth visit. If you want to avoid the crowds, kameyama-koen Park is in the area, and supposed to be prettier. Had I known, I would have skipped the temple visit and opted for the park instead.

Togetsu-kyo BridgeA long bridge that crosses the Katsura river. As I walked from the train station to here, I was pleasantly surprised to find the stunning views. My picture doesn’t do it justice.

Tenryu-ji TempleZen temple in Arashiyama.
The Sogenchi garden here is lovely, especially in fall and spring.
A painting of Bodhidharma –The legendary Buddhist monk who established the Zen branch of Buddhism.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Moving through here is mesmerizing. Even among tourists, there’s an earthy and solitude aura about this place as you stay in your own personal space while strolling and getting inspired.
Tea break with my tour guide
. Hojicha is a roasted green tea. It does not look green and has a pleasant mild flavor. I prefer the taste of this to the green tea we drink in the U.S. 

The tea ceremony. Even though the hostess was friendly and polite, I thought this was meh… There is no talking. You basically sit in a silent room where you can hear a pin drop. There are a series of rigid steps and rituals your host will go through and you have to watch her carefully because she will ask you to repeat what she did. I kind of zoned out at some point and failed my exam! I’m a fidgety person by nature and this did not work well for me. Couple of things: show up at least 15 min early. Don’t tip your hostess or she will be insulted. I would have to say if your time in Kyoto is limited, skip this. You will not be missing much.


I took a free public tour in the Gion district which happened to be one of the best tours I had. Gion is historic with a lot of character, narrow streets and old architecture. This is the area where Tessa meets up with her fellow activists to prepare for the Dolphin protest for the next day.

A Maiko, an apprentice Geiko (Geisha) in the picture moves about at a fast pace. They don’t like it when you run after them for a photo opportunity. I filmed this from far away.
Shinkyogoku shopping district, in case you need that kitschy souvenir. And then on to Osaka. Taking the train form Kyoto to Osaka was overwhelming. It was crowded. I was tired. People were walking back and forth quickly. I moved to the side, to get out of their way. Between the crowd, the Japanese signs, and feeling lost, I was starting to get an anxiety attack. But at the end, I figured my way around and was off to Osaka.


Some advice: Don’t get caught up in too many touristy things, and don’t try to see everything. There’s so much history and background information that you will not remember everything. My best times in Kyoto were spent walking around the river, the Gion district, and hanging around with the locals. There are simply too many temples in Japan and after awhile they all blend in together to a point where when you come home, and look at your photos, you forget what you did, and have to look things up. Pick a few things that are important to you, and enjoy the rest of your time checking out the local areas.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Stick Shift beats automatic any time of the day. 

So, I have owned a stick since I was a teenager. And I’m sorry, but if you love cars, there’s nothing and I mean nothing that hugs the road the way Stick Shifts do. It has an amazing control over the road, especially if you’re driving through curvy roads like Sunset Blvd, Coldwater Canyon, Mulholland, and the unknown paths provided by Waze and Google. And that zoom zoom sound when you accelerate and change gears is like music to the ears. It just gives you this feeling of freedom and speed which is hard to explain until you get to drive one. Of course, my family and friends think that I was a race car driver in my past life as they admonish me about my driving. 

With that said, most people living in L.A drive an automatic because out here, the traffic is awful which makes owning a Stick Shift a pain in the behind. I used to get a lot of speeding tickets, and did a lot of crazy stupid things. Nowadays, there is nowhere to speed to as I sit in a bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 405 parking lot. And maybe that’s a good thing. It pushes me to slow down, reflect, and drive wisely. But even so, I have always special ordered manual gearbox because I like it and because many dealers in L.A don’t have any in their stock. Of course, I always get that speech from salespeople, “You can get one with paddle shifter.” Contrary to what reviewers say, there is absolutely and resolutely no joy in paddle shifting. If you are a serious driver, you will never want a Paddle shifter, trust me. 

Unfortunately, I may have to sell my Stick Shift and buy a hum drum automatic. I have an injured left knee. It started two months ago and is not getting better. Not sure exactly how it happened, but it prevents me from going on long walks and doing things that I enjoy. Changing gears aggravates it even more, especially when nervous drivers love to brake every two seconds. I’m going to see a physical therapist next week. If that doesn’t work, I may need surgery. Hopefully, it won’t come down to that. I’ve always been a healthy person, but for the past several months, things have not been going all that well for me. I’m working on turning things around.