The Studio Ghibli Museum, a Magical Journey

First off, let us tell you that getting tickets to the Ghibli museum is hard, so when we snagged some for our visit in April 2017, we were over-the-moon excited! We have wanted to visit the Ghibli Museum in Japan since our first trip to Tokyo in 2014 and as we arrived at the front gate of the museum the wave of happiness washed over us. It was a long time coming and now we have arrived.

Let’s bring it back to the question of “how” to get a ticket for the Ghibli Museum. Tickets are by reservation only and must be purchased ahead of time. No tickets are sold at the museum in person. There are three main ways to get tickets ahead of time.  

1. Lawson’s official online ticket store (english version) – At 10am, Japan time, on the 10th of the month, tickets for the the following month go on sale (i.e. on March 10th, tickets go on sale for April 1st – April 30th). These tickets are limited in number and sell out very quickly. We made sure we were up and online to secure our tickets. There was a lot of frustration as the website could not handle the volume of people who were trying to attain tickets. However, after 20 stressful minutes, we finally secured our tickets. COST: 1,000 JPY each ($9 USD)

2. Sales by the JTB sales offices located overseas – A limited number of tickets go on sale through these locations at the first of every month for the following 4 months. (i.e. on January 1st, tickets go on sale for the entire months of January, February, March, and April). We never had luck with this because the tickets were always sold out due to the limited number available through JTB.

3. When in Japan only, you can buy them at the Lawson convenient stores through a machine. We tried this back in 2014 and it was funny trying to figure it out. When we did figure it out, we realized they were sold out. Our advise is to buy them WAY ahead of time using method 1 or 2.  

There is one strict rule you MUST know before entering the museum. The person who purchased the tickets is required to be present with a print out of the ticket and a passport proving your identity. It MUST be a passport, because they match up your passport number with the number you provided to them when purchasing the tickets.   

With our passports in hand and our print outs checked, we could start entering the museum. As we entered, we were greeted by the nicest people at the front counter. They gave us our official tickets, which were cuts of film strips from a Studio Ghibli film, and reminded us that no photos were allowed once inside the museum, however photos could be taken in outside areas. The reason no photos are allowed inside is because they believe that the museum should be about transporting you into the magical world of Ghibli without distractions to yourself and to others.

Following the rules, we packed up our cameras after a quick photos of our tickets and transported ourselves into the wonderful world of Ghibli. Good thing there was no time limit to our visit, because we would spend the next few hours taking our time to immerse ourselves in the experience.

Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

The first room on our tour was all about motion in films. The highlight in the room for us both was the live stop motion display where clay figured were posed on a wheel that spun very quickly while strobe lights flashed at a fast pace giving the figured that appearance of movement. Everything has already exceeded our wildest expectations.Stepping into the main atrium was magical. Everywhere you looked was made to put a smile on everyone’s face. From the stained-glass windows, donning characters from various Ghibli movies, to the bridge spanning across the second floor, the attention to detail was spectacular.

Included in the Ghibli museum ticket is admission to the museums animated short film. These shorts have been produced for and shown only at the museum. These films are rotated between throughout the year so there is always a good reason to come back and watch more. We were lucky enough to see “Water Spider Monmon.” We were oohing and aweing just like the all of the other kids and adults.

After the movie, we decided to head up to the rooftop to get whatever sunshine was left for the day since the rain was supposed to roll in soon. The way to the roof is via the third floor up an outdoor spiral staircase. The rooftop is one of the few places where photography is allowed and good thing because who wouldn’t want to take a photo with the Robot from “Castle in the Sky”.

After our fun on the roof we headed back to the second floor to continue looking through more of the most amazing permanent and special exhibitions. The special exhibition when we were there was “All Aboard! The Cat Bus to the Ghibli Forest.” It was incredible. We entered into the room and realized we were inside of the famous Cat Bus from “My Neighbor Totoro”. Other amazing features in the room was an eight-foot tall model of the mechanical castle from “Hal’s Movie Castle.” You could even peek right in the windows a see Calcifer burning in the chimney. 

From the second floor we made our way out to the Straw Hat Cafe for a snack. As with any museum, the prices were slightly higher than eating at a cafe elsewhere, but we couldn’t say no to a chance to get the full Ghibli experience. The “Porco Rosso” sign outside let us know the menu for the day, good thing there was an english menu inside. We each ordered a coffee and a shared a piece of cake. The late had a super adorable hat sprinkled on it in cocoa and the cake was topped with a Totoro flag, sheer perfection! 

Our final room in the museum was Miyazaki Hayao’s studio, he is the director of the Studio Ghibli films. Every surface of these few rooms were filled to the brim with sketches, painted layers of favorite characters, fully realized designs, and much, much more. We were kids in a candy store. Our appreciation for the magic that is created by Studio Ghibli has grown so much. It is absolutely amazing how kids and adults can be transported into wonderful stories that teach us about ourselves and the world around. 

Before leaving the museum, we made our way up to the gift shop on the third floor to look around. We ended up buying a few little things we had not seen for sale anywhere else to commemorate our journey into the magical world of Studio Ghibli. This is an experience we will cherish forever. 

We are two en route for more magical moments.

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Guide to Visiting the Pyramids of Giza

Today we were reflecting on our day spent at the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Some people would say that an entire day is entirely too long to spend seeing the pyramids, we beg to differ. Our approach was to take our time, explore every nook and cranny we could find, and soak it all in. Here is our guide on how to visit the Pyramids of Giza. 

Where to stay:

 View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016
View from our hotel room. Giza, Egypt 2016

The current climate of Egypt can be worrisome and because of this we recommend staying in a western owned hotel as close to the pyramids as possible. We stayed at the Le Méridien Pyramids which is a Starwood property so we knew we could rely on staying there. Most hotels near the pyramids will run you between $45-$75 USD/night. 

How to get there:

You can get to the pyramids by many forms of transportation. We recommend Uber. It’s the safest and easiest way to get there and will only cost you around 130 EGP ($7 USD) each way if you are staying in Cairo. The plus side is you do not have to deal with haggling a price with a taxi and then feeling pressured to tip or navigating the hectic public transit routes. However, if you are wanting to take the bus find the 355 or 357 route and if you are taking the Metro, Line 2 will take you to Giza and from there you would need to walk a few kilometers or hail a taxi. 

Cost to visit:

 Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016
Pyramids overlooking the city of Giza, Egypt 2016

The cost to visit is dependent on what you want to do. The general admission into the complex itself is 80 EGP (Egyptian pounds) per person, roughly $4.50 USD, a steal in our opinion.   You will also have to decide right then if you want to go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This will cost you 200 EGP per person ($11 USD). There are some other sites you can purchase tickets to get into at the ticket counter, however, they were not open to enter when we went. We did some asking around and it turns out their is nothing inside of them anyway. The only one worth going into is the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Getting around inside:

 Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016
Kevin navigating the Pyramid complex. Giza, Egypt 2016

Once inside be prepared to be harassed relentlessly by people claiming you have to show them your ticket (which you don’t), vendors trying to sell you post cards or souvenirs (which you don’t need), guides selling their services to take you around the complex (wikipedia knows more then them), and men on camels trying to sell you a camel, horse or buggy ride around the complex (maybe later). 

 Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016
Solace from the peddlers trying to sell us nonsense. Giza, Egypt 2016

After shaking off all of the people, we decided to first explore on our own by foot. We are both in good shape so taking on the task of walking the very large area of the pyramid complex was not intimidating. This also gave us the opportunity to get away from the crowds hitting the “hot spots” and the vendors that accompanied them.

 Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016
Horseback riding around the Pyramid of Giza complex, 2016

Other ways you can get around are by camel, horse, or carriage. At one point we ended up taking a ride on two Arabian horses for the experience. It was the best way to get back to the beginning of after we had walked across the entire complex. The cost for any of these forms of transportation should be 50 EGP ($2.75 USD) per person. Never more! The ride will usually include a stop at some photo destinations along the way. Of course we tipped the guide afterwards to thank him for a fun experience.  

 Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016
Hanging out at the Sphinx. Giza, Egypt 2016

5 Dos and 5 Don’ts:

It is easy to fall into the tourist trap so here are the dos and don’ts to follow when visiting. 

THE DOS:

  • DO bring food and water. The pyramids are in the desert which means you will dry out quickly. With all the people who will pester you through the day, none of them are food vendors so be sure to pack a lunch or bring snacks for when hunger hits and water for the thirst.
  • DO wear a hat or sunscreen. Unless you want to hang out in the shadows of the pyramids all day, you will encounter a lot of sun. SPF is your best friend for a long day at the pyramids.
  • DO go inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Climbing inside the inner chamber was a fun experience. This is the only time you may be at the pyramids so be sure to enjoy every moment.  
  • DO ride a camel, horse, or carriage. It seems touristy (and it is) however, the guide will take you out to the best photo spots and you will enjoy the wind blowing through your hair. 
  • DO take lots of photos! 
 Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Brad from inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu

THE DON’TS:

  • DON’T under any circumstance rush your visit. It’s easy to take a few pictures from the vantage points and say you have seen the pyramids, but truly experiencing them will be an everlasting memory to cherish.
  • DON’T climb on the pyramids. There are no climbing signs everywhere but people ignore that and crawl all over them. Respect this world wonder so they can be around another 4500 years.
  • DON’T let the harassers peddling stuff ruin your experience. As long as you do not say anything back to them and walk away, they will not bother you any longer. It felt like they had their own “turf” and once we got a certain distance they would stop following. The also are very intense near the entrance, as soon as you get away from that, they are fewer and farther between.
  • DON’T talk to anyone other than who you are traveling with. Usually you will be asked 1000 times “Where are you from?” The second you answer, they will continue to talk to you and give you advise, information and directions. They will expect a tip even after giving you information you did not want.
  • DON’T ride a camel, horse or carriage if it looks like the animals have been mistreated. We know it’s hard to tell sometimes, but when it is an obvious situation of mistreatment, find another person with a better treated animal. 
 Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016
Hieroglyphics from a tomb in the Pyramids complex. Giza, 2016

At the end of the day the most important thing to remember to to enjoy the moment. Let the fact that the pyramids you have seen on TV, watched in Movies, and read about in books are within arms reach.  

We let our time at the pyramids wash over us and soak into our memories forever. We hope that they will be here for our grandchildren to see and enjoy just as we have. 

We are two en route to soak in life’s most amazing moments

 

Biking Berlin: How to See Berlin in 6 hours!

We love Berlin! There is relaxed vibe that draws you in and keeps you wanting more. With such a relaxed vibe you could spend weeks taking your time to explore every nook and cranny of the city. However, when wanting to see the world in a year, spending weeks in one city is not an always option for us and usually not an options for others as well. To help see more of Berlin, a city filled with so much unique history, we decided to take a 6 hour bike tour through Fat Tire. We had never used Fat Tire Tours before and thought, “what the heck, let’s try it out!” We are glad we did. 

 Biking through a park on the way to the beer garden
Biking through a park on the way to the beer garden

We were able to see Most of Berlin’s highlights during this tour. You may be thinking, “6 hours of biking, that seems like a lot.” We thought the same before taking the tour, however, there were so many breaks when our guide gave us amazing information about the sites that we never felt tired. We even took an hour or so to relax at a German Beer Garden. Prost! If you only have a day or two in Berlin, this will be the best 6 hours you can spend. To maximize your Berlin experience, we suggest taking the 4pm evening tour. 

Here are some picture from our amazing 6 hour adventure around Berlin.

 Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower with observation deck)
Berliner Fernsehturm (TV tower with observation deck)
 Us at the Brandenbourg Gate
Us at the Brandenbourg Gate
 Our stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jew of Europe
Our stop at the Memorial to the Murdered Jew of Europe
 Learning about the Nazi book burning 
Learning about the Nazi book burning 
 Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie
 Victory Column 
Victory Column 
  Bundeskanzleramt (German Federal Chancellery) 
Bundeskanzleramt (German Federal Chancellery) 
 Taking time to relax and learn
Taking time to relax and learn
 The  Reichstag building
The Reichstag building
 Berliner Dom on Museum Island
Berliner Dom on Museum Island

We could not have asked for a better time biking around Berlin. We will for sure take more biking tours when we can. It is a great way to see the sights and learn more about the city we are exploring. 

We are two en route to bike more cities

 

 

Our Copenhagen Pride featured on Brazilian Blog!

We are so honored to share our experience at Copenhagen Pride with Brazil’s number one gay travel blog, Viaja Bi! Click here to read all about our fun time! 

Here is a link to the English google translated version for those of you, like us, who can’t speak Portuguese. 

 

How We Balance Down Time and Tourism

Have you ever felt more tired after a vacation? We sure have!

Being on the road we are constantly in new places with new sights to see and it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly go-go-going. We have found that it is important to balance the continual urge to see it all with the need for down time. Much like being at home, we sometimes need breaks during the day, relaxing evening, a good night sleep, and “weekends” to unwind from a week of doing.  

 Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016
Relaxing on the Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iclenad, 2016

We have learned how significant regular breaks during the day can be. Not only do we get to rest our feet, but we get to rest our minds. An easy way for us to do this is to find a café, have a cup of coffee, and people watch. Sitting in silence and letting our mind slow down gives us a second wind for more sight-seeing. 

 Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016
Coffee Date. Oslo, Norway, 2016

Every night cannot be a night on the town.  Sometimes the best remedy for a long day is a relaxing evening. Dive into a good book, relax in a park, binge watch a tv show, or even nodding off into an early sleep. 

 Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016
Kevin relaxing while listening to a good book. Ålä, Sweden, 2016

Another way we have learned to balance our downtime with our tourism is by allowing ourselves to not set wakeup alarms and simply sleeping in. Before traveling the world, we always heard how not getting enough sleep can effect many aspects of your life and it is very true. A good night’s sleep is essential for a good day of sight-seeing.

 Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016
Seeing the sights after a good night sleep. Iceland, 2016

Too many consecutive days of being on the go can lead to getting burnt out. After a few weeks of not having a day off from traveling and sight seeing it was time for us to take a weekend. Two consecutive days of hanging around with nothing planned was pure bliss. It reinvigorated us. From that point on we decided that allowing ourselves to have weekends was one of the most important ways of balancing downtime with our tourism. 

 Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark
Enjoying a weekend with nothing planned. Copenhagen, Denmark

We had to let go of being on a schedule to see everything, rather, experience the place we are visiting. A good way to do this is to balance being a tourist with simple being someone living on the move.     

We are two en route for balanced travel.

Stockholm’s Underground Art Scene

Stockholm claims the title “Capital of Scandinavia.”  It is the largest city with some of the most beautiful architecture and has an extensive collection of galleried art. However, did you know some of the most fascinating art can be found underground? You literally have to go under the city and into the subways to find it. 

On our first trip into the subway, when we arrived into Stockholm, we noticed something was different. The walls were alive with interest. From that moment, we decided to do a little research and found out that 90% of Stockholm’s subway stations host some of the coolest and most unique works of art. A few days into our stay we decided to hop from station to station to feast our eyes on more. Here are a few of our favorites. Enjoy!

 Stadion Station - Red Line
Stadion Station – Red Line
 Stadion Station - Red Line
Stadion Station – Red Line
 Hötorget Station - Green Line
Hötorget Station – Green Line
 T-Centralen Station - Blue Line
T-Centralen Station – Blue Line
 T-Centralen Station - Blue Line
T-Centralen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Stadshagen Station - Blue Line
Stadshagen Station – Blue Line
 Kungsträdgården Station - Blue Line
Kungsträdgården Station – Blue Line
 Kungsträdgården Station - Blue Line
Kungsträdgården Station – Blue Line

We are two en route to explore more underground art.