One Day in Volendam, the Netherlands

It’s no secret that Hubby and I love to travel. Delicious exotic foods and friendly new faces on a busy street or a calm beach, surrounded by sights, sounds, and smells that you simply can’t find at home, gorgeous architecture and nature, fascinating cultures and history—we just can’t get enough. Prior to the tragic global COVID outbreak, we had the privilege (and the paid leave accrued at work!) to take multiple trips per year—some to visit family, yes, but virtually annually we were also fortunate enough to take at least one out-of-state or international vacation, be it by plane, cruise ship, or car. I think that our record is seven trips in one year, including relaxing-albeit-brief weekend getaways with our dog.

If you’ve been following the Amarvelous Honeymoon blog, then you already know all about our epic six-week honeymoon around the world, during which we made unforgettable memories at some of the best experiences that England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan have to offer. If you haven’t read our award-winning 21-part series about Hubby’s and my honeymoon yet, then you can find the posts here.

So it’s no wonder that when it came time to celebrate our first-year wedding anniversary, we had to choose a trip almost as amazing as our honeymoon—and this time, we decided on Europe. Over the course of two weeks, we took an unbelievable road trip across four countries: Spain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The next few weeks of Amarvelous Honeymoon blog posts will commemorate the unbelievable time that we had on this particular trip, and this week we’ll be covering the charming and adorable harbor town of Volendam in Holland.

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Why Volendam

Admittedly, when I began research on the Netherlands to see where we would visit during our road trip, Volendam wasn’t on the list. Most posts I’d seen online suggested the more popular cities of Amsterdam, Delft, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam. However, my oldest and dearest friend happens to be from the Netherlands, so I picked her brain about the best places to see, activities to do, and food to eat, and she provided exceptional recommendations.

Volendam was a destination she knew well, as her aunt and uncle lived in the town, and her family had spent holidays there growing up. She coined it as her number-one recommendation for a city to visit other than Amsterdam. She noted that it is an adorable town, super close to Amsterdam, doesn’t require a lot of time to see, offers amazing seafood since it’s a fishing town, and though it’s gotten more touristy in the past few years, that hasn’t spoiled its charm.

Based on that assessment, I was in. Of course, we’d planned to also spend time in some of the more popular cities of the Netherlands, but if one of my best friends thought this small town was worthy of mentioning, then I was definitely going to find a day to fit it in.

The Best Time to Visit

Did you know… the Netherlands is world famous for its colorful tulip fields? Around two billion tulips are exported every year, making the Netherlands the world’s largest exporter of flowers. Tulip season is around April 10th to May 5th. The exact week depends on when the last frost of winter takes place, because this affects when the bulbs can be planted. However, if you visit the Netherlands around this window of time, you are bound to see tulips. It was a dream of mine to frolic through tulip fields (stay tuned for our next post haha), but it was pure luck that our wedding anniversary falls on this exact date range!

Photo Credit: Holland.com

How To Get There

Flying into the Netherlands is amazing. If you fly in during daylight, definitely snag the window seat because you’ll be in for a treat. There are green rectangles of farmland, water systems, wind turbines, and you’re in the Netherlands, so you’ll have the pleasure of flying over fields of colorful flowers. The bird’s-eye view of these strips of colors was really astonishing.

Volendam is only a 40-minute drive north of the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Hubby and I flew into Amsterdam and rented our car right from the airport. We immediately hit the road for Volendam. If by chance you wanted to visit Volendam and did not plan on renting a car, there are public transportation options that take about an hour and can bring you from either the airport to Volendam or Amsterdam to Volendam.

Photo Credit: Google Maps

It was a quick and scenic drive. Most of the view was greenery or water in the form of channels and canals. Along the way, we spotted tulip fields, several windmills, and local farms that produced cheese and wooden clogs. As we got closer to Volendam, there were more waterfront canal homes with small boats to get around instead of cars. Very neat way of life.

One thing I wish we would have considered was time of arrival in Volendam. We usually like to go with overnight flights, so you arrive in the correct time zone and aren’t jet lagged, and it also saves you on a hotel cost for that night. However, arriving in Amsterdam, we landed in the late afternoon. By the time we rented the car and drove to Volendam, it was starting to get dark out, and everything in this small town was closing.

Where to Stay

We booked the Art Hotel Spaander. It was right on the water, which allowed a view from our room. I figured if we were staying in a harbor town then we might as well stay along the water. In reality, it was super cold that April evening and way too chilly to spend time on our balcony anyway, but it was a nice view when we woke up in the morning.

The hotel itself was adorable. Super beach cottage vibes and loads of cool art hanging on the walls—hence the name Art Hotel Spaander. There was an indoor pool, but we didn’t take advantage of it as it was a chilly April in Europe, and we didn’t pack bathing suits. Upon arrival, we checked in and dropped off our bags upstairs. The room was great with a king size bed and balcony overlooking the water. Above the bed hung a print of two young Dutch children from the town. The bathroom was small but had all the essentials.

This hotel was right off the main road, called Haven, where there are plenty of restaurants and kiosks lining the seaside street literally steps outside the door of the hotel. It was excellent proximity to everything. Once we parked our car, we didn’t need it again until we left. The walk along this street was gorgeous. The architecture of the buildings and chimney-lined houses was beautiful. Then you turn around and you’re looking at a small marina with docked sailboats and the sea behind it. Just so picturesque.

Where and What to Eat

After checking out the room, we went to eat dinner in the downstairs pub. It was quiet as we were one of the only tables. The hubbs ordered a salmon dinner, and I ordered a grilled pork chop. The food was yummy. We were grateful we had arrived before the kitchen closed, because we’d have really been out of luck since everything closes early in this sleepy harbor town. We took a stroll down the street after dinner and confirmed that everything was indeed closed. But that walk helped us map out the area and get a look at the shops so we could plan our day out for tomorrow.

We had decided that since we’d only have half a day to explore the town, it would be nice to get as early of a start as possible. The next morning, we started our day by waking up super early to eat breakfast in the hotel restaurant right when they opened. The room was lovely and bright, with windows overlooking the sea. Breakfast was served buffet style and was quite a spread. They really had everything you could want. I highly recommend it. We love buffets as they are great bang for your buck and fill you up for a good portion of the day. We found some funny Dutch foods at breakfast, such as boxes of rainbow or chocolate sprinkles. Growing up, my Dutch friend would eat sprinkles and butter on bread (like a sandwich). I always thought it was just because she had a sweet tooth, but after being in the Netherlands, I see now that it’s simply an offering that many eat.

My friend had recommended that we could find the best gerookte paling (smoked eel) and kibbeling (fried cod) of our lives in this town. Eel (outside of a sushi restaurant) may sound a little strange, but it’s served on a soft roll and is amazing.

Photo Credit: Tripadvisor.com

You may hear people recommend Netherlands stroopwafel as a must-try desert. Do not be confused (like I initially was) by the Belgium-looking waffles. Although these were also tasty, they are NOT the Dutch syrupy treat my friend told us about. We learned later when we were at a farm that made fresh stroopwafels that we had had the wrong dish in Volendam. Real stroopwafel is more like a chewy wafer cookie made from two thin layers of dough pressed with a thin lining of filling in the middle. Most commonly, you will find a caramel or honey-like substance in the middle, but you can also find fancy stroopwafel with other filling flavors, or dipped in chocolate, or even with additional toppings. This is a MUST EAT in the Netherlands. We actually went to a grocery store and stocked up on a bunch of different flavors and brought them home for coworkers. This was way more affordable than the farms or boutique shops. Although those are super tasty treats for a single serving, it would be too expensive to buy them in bulk.

Regular Waffles – NOT STROOPWAFEL
Regular Waffles – NOT STROOPWAFEL
Photo Credit: discoverholland.com (Real Stroopwafel)

Attractions

Something I’d like to note separate from all of the attractions is that a bunch of the stores in Volendam have free or very cheap (a few Euros) experiences. For example, we saw how cheese and clogs are made, walked through a life-size diorama of a traditional Dutch home, and watched a video on the history of Volendam, all for either free or a couple Euros. Keep an eye out for signs that invite you upstairs or downstairs for an interactive experience. Very cool to find so many educational activities, and especially the free ones. Loved this part of Volendam.

Cheese Factory Volendam: This store had a bunch of tasty cheese!! My favorite part is that you can taste everything. There were tons of samples for us to try and find our favorite cheeses. There was a demonstration where you could watch how the cheese is made and how they wax the wheels. Very cool seeing behind the scenes.

Foto de Boer: This is a place where you can take cheesy (pun intended) pictures in traditional Volendam clothing. This activity is fun for the whole family. There are a couple of stores that offer these fun photos, so I’d suggest you swing by the few shops, see which clothing, props, or price you like best, and then go with that one. And Volendam is the perfect place to take these costumed photos, because many people consider the traditional Volendam dress the most iconic traditional Dutch outfit, as Volendam is the region of the Netherlands whose outfit became the most recognized internationally.

Photo Credit: Expedia.com

Museum Mondial: This museum features microminiature art made by Mykola Syadristy. The tiny objects of art are barely perceptible to the naked eye but discoverable under a microscope. The example below is a pyramid, palm tree and camels inside of a sewing needle hole. It’s incredible! I found this museum online and added it to our list of fun attractions, but because we didn’t have an itinerary for our day, and we were just strolling along the main street going into every shop, I thought I had seen everything and it wasn’t until we left that I remembered we didn’t go here. It’s actually on Havendijkje and not Haven, which is why we missed it. Literally steps away, and I just forgot.

Souvenir shopping: There is an abundance of souvenir shopping off Haven. We started our Netherlands trip in Volendam and were able to find affordable and unique souvenirs for most everyone back home. The best part was that we had a car, so we weren’t worried that we began our trip with this big haul of gifts. One of our best finds were these delft (blue and white pottery originating from the town of Delft Netherlands) house number tiles that we gifted to my in-laws, who ended up hanging them on their mailbox back home. We also found a bunch of small ceramic clogs that we gifted to all of our coworkers and even turned into a Christmas ornament for ourselves. I found a great pair of polarized sunglasses, and we also got socks, lighters, dish rags, and more. So many goodies can be found on this street.

Wooden Shoe Factory: This shop is a place where you can get sized and buy your own pair of wooden clogs in so many patterns and colors. Upstairs there is a video screen and some stumps where you can take a break, sit down, and watch a video on how these traditional wooden shoes are made.

If you have more than a day, then I would also suggest the following activities:

  • Bicycle rentals: This waterfront town is just beautiful. I would have loved to have rented bicycles and ridden around for a few hours to explore the area.
  • Volendam Museum: Just a few blocks inland from Haven sits the Volendam Museum with life size dioramas showcasing traditional clothing, artifacts, art, and lifestyle. It truly gives a good sense of the history of the city.
  • Rederji Volendam Marken Express Ferry: If you have a full day, or two days, then you can take a ride on the ferry that will bring you to a small island off the coast called Marken. People walk around in traditional garb there, and it’s a cool experience. We didn’t get to take part in this activity, as we only had half a day and filled it with the rest of what the waterfront town had to offer.

Departing

When leaving Volendam, we had more of an open schedule and it was only afternoon, so we decided to stop into some of the farms and shops we had passed along the way into town the day before. We first stopped into Alida Hoeve Cheese Farm and Wooden Shoe Factory. They had sheep outside that were friendly and came up close for photos. Inside they had loads of cheese samples. We tasted everything and bought some cheese which we snacked on in our next hotel. This is where we had learned what real stroopwafel was. They had stacks of twelve prepackaged stroopwafel and also samples to try. They also made wooden clogs here, but we had spotted another place along the highway that we planned to stop into next to check out the clogs.

After that farm, we stopped into Irene Hoeve Clogs and Cheese Shop. The painted rooftop advertisement had caught our eye on the way in yesterday, and it did not disappoint. We got a real education and in-person demo of someone making clogs. Super cool. I loved the fun photo opportunities as well. Nothing like sitting in a HUGE yellow clog.

All of the farms along the main roads that sell cheese and clogs have ample room for tour buses and do indeed get buses full of people. It can get crowded, so just keep that in mind if you’re on a tight schedule and don’t have time for cheese sampling or register lines.

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We had the most splendid time in Volendam. I am so glad we listened to my friend’s advice. We could have stayed in any town but driving just over a half hour to this cutie harbor town and spending half a day walking around exploring the culture was really a special memory and one of my favorite days of the trip. I’d highly recommend Volendam if you want something a little different out of your own Netherlands trip.

Stay tuned for our next Amarvelous Honeymoon post where we continue our time in the Netherlands and discuss the tulips! Hup Holland!

9 Days in Japan: Part 8 – Last Day in Tokyo

My husband and I got married and went on an incredible six-week honeymoon around the world to England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, a cruise through Asia, and Japan. I’ve shared our unforgettable journey through a series of 20 blog posts. Today marks post number 21, the final post in the series. It’s been surreal reliving the memories of the most epic trip of our lives and being able to share them with all of you. Thanks for going through the journey with us!

This was our final day in Japan, and although some of our other days included fully jam-packed itineraries, we only had a few items left to tick off of our must-see list. Today, we planned to experience those and then see where the rest of the day took us. We enjoyed yummy foods, Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market, Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple, Tokyo Japan Dome City, souvenir shopping, and traveling back home to America. Read on to complete our six-week around-the-world honeymoon journey ending with day nine of Japan: Tokyo!

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Day 9 in Japan

We began our day with the most Instagram-worthy breakfast spot: A Happy Pancake Ginza. I found this breakfast spot online, and when I saw the pictures I just knew that we had to have breakfast here one day. First off, I LOVE pancakes. I admittedly am not a pancake cook though, because they always burn and look misshapen. In our house, the Hubbs is on pancake duty.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, the elevator doors opened to a lobby full of people. So I guess everyone else had the same idea as me for a pancake breakfast that day haha! Actually, I had half expected this; I read reviews online about how the wait is long, but it’s so worth it. We weren’t looking forward to killing one of our last daylight hours sitting in a crowded lobby. Fortunately, the restaurant took our name and allowed us to leave and come back in an hour to be seated. This was perfect!

We did a quick google search of what was in the area and came across a Kit Kat Chocolatory and Café that was just a six-minute walk away. My husband explained to me that Kit Kat is the most popular chocolate brand in Japan. The name sounds very similar to “Kitto Katsu,” a Japanese phrase meaning “You will surely win.” Therefore, Kit Kat chocolate bars are often given as gifts particularly among students ahead of exams, or to someone who needs a boost of luck. Who knew?! I had been seeing Kit Kats all over Japan but hadn’t pieced together until this point that they were special.

Since we already had breakfast booked, we knew we didn’t want to dine in their café and spoil our appetites (although the pictures online looked heavenly and were nearly convincing). We figured this could be a fun souvenir opportunity, and we were right. The shop itself is on the small side, but they had all the essentials: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and a new glorious pink chocolate that they refer to as ruby. This was the first time both of us had ever even heard of ruby chocolate. How unique! The picture below explains some facts about this new species of cocoa. It’s a bit sweet and sour flavor characterized by its acidity. Super special. Since this was something we’d never seen before, we purchased several individually boxed sticks as souvenirs for friends and family back home. The shop was a bit pricey, but the packaging makes them more special than if you purchase at a grocery store. There are actually over 300 flavor combinations of Kit Kat in Japan. With its wide availability and flavor options, Kit Kats are a fantastic and affordable treat to bring home for family, friends, and coworkers.

After spending some time and money at Kit Kat, we headed back over to A Happy Pancake Ginza. We’d worked up an appetite! The restaurant was still very full with a wait in the lobby. Shortly after we arrived, we were escorted in, past the kitchen which was visible to the diners through windows in the center of the restaurant. It’s so cool that the kitchen is open and you can see the chefs at work. Each pancake is super fluffy at an inch thick and nearly perfectly round (without using a mold)! It’s a pancake dream come true. We were seated at a little two-top half booth table. Everything on the menu looked so great. We ended up picking the tiramisu pancakes for my Hubby which were ¥1,390 (JPY), or $13.28 (USD), and the berries and cream pancakes for me which were ¥1,300 (JPY), or $12.42 (USD).

Each plate arrives with three fluffy pancakes and loads of cream and toppings. The tiramisu dish even included a mini creamer pitcher filled with hot espresso that you pour over your pancakes as extra dipping sauce. Just wow. It was so filling, I couldn’t even finish my plate. If you love breakfast or pancakes, this place is for you. We’ve actually tried to replicate these pancakes back in the states and have not mastered anything quite so thick. I’ve even gifted the Hubbs a Christmas stocking-stuffer of Japanese tall silicone pancake molds. They honestly help your pancakes get thicker, but the batter is just off, so they aren’t the same. We’ll just have to visit Tokyo again to get our fill of fluffy tasty pancakes.

After we had full bellies, we headed over to the Tsukiji Nippon Fish Port Market, just an eight-minute walk away. If you love seafood and fish, I’d recommend you pass through here a little later for lunch so you can fully experience the dining aspect. Each kiosk had something a little more special than the next. They literally sold every type of seafood imaginable. Everything looked so fresh, like it was caught just the night before. There are proper indoor sit-down restaurants mixed between outdoor grill kiosks where you can grab seafood and eat while you walk, plus raw fish kiosks where you buy the fish and take it home to cook/prepare. We took so many cool pictures in this area and bought a few souvenirs of cute cartoony fish cookies for our coworkers. My favorites are below: flying fish, shark, humongous crabs, lobster, scallops, grilled squid, giant tuna head, and thick sliced nigiri. The streets are narrow, crowded, and smell of fish—it’s an awesome time!

One of the final attractions on our list was the Tokyo Tower, so we headed in that direction and stopped at the 600-year-old Zojoji Temple along the way, about a 36-minute walk. The temple is actually right next to Tokyo Tower, so from multiple vantage points on the property you can see both structures. Breathtaking mix of modern and ancient. We went indoors for a little prayer and then outside to walk through the gardens. A standout feature of this site is the garden for unborn children. The rows and rows of jizo statues represent the souls of children who died before birth (pregnancy loss, stillborn, or perinatal loss). The statues are believed to be protectors of children and unborn babies in traditional Japanese Buddhist teachings. Once a month, there is a ceremony for parents to use the statues as a way to say farewell and ease the child’s passage into the afterlife. Red garments are created and donated to dress the statues, and then gifts such as incense, flowers, and wind spinners are placed in remembrance. These babies never had the opportunity to experience this world, but their place of remembrance is colorful just as their life should have been. And though a somber place of prayer and loss, I found the garden to be beautiful and serene. As a newlywed, I said a little prayer for these babies to look over us in our future fertility.

Side note: In doing some additional post-trip research on Tokyo, I learned of the 200-year-old Suitengu Shrine, just an 11-minute drive from the Zojoji Temple. This shrine is also for babies and specifically devoted to conception and safe childbirth. This is a place for pregnant couples to visit after doctor’s appointments, new parents to bring their infants, and non-pregnant people to provide fertility well wishes. The statue of a dog and its pup on the grounds is a popular photo spot. Had we known this temple existed, we probably would have stopped here for a little prayer too.

Following the Zojoji Temple, we walked next door to the Tokyo Tower. One could call it the Eiffel Towel of Japan. There are two different levels you can gain access to with tickets: The Main Deck is ¥1,200 (JPY), or $11.47 (USD) per person and the Top Deck is ¥3,000 (JPY), or $28.67 (USD) per person. Advance sales are available at a discounted rate, and I do indeed recommend you purchase advance tickets. Unfortunately, at the time of our arrival, all tickets for that window of time were sold. We’d have had to wait around in the area for hours before the next available tickets would open. Since this was the last attraction on our list, and we’d already seen the rest of this area of town, we just took a selfie from below and didn’t actually go into the tower.

That was a huge bummer. After such an absolutely unforgettable six-week honeymoon around the world, we should have planned a more climactic ending for our final day. I know, tall order to fill to find something that would have felt like a proper ending of the trip… maybe we were always setting ourselves up for disappointment? How could it be that we would end our day not actually seeing our final attraction all because of poor planning and not booking the tickets in advance? I was really sad. We took out our phones to see if there was anything else to do in the area (just look at how serious my face is below while I’m searching haha). I had started to think that we’d just end up at our hotel room early for a good night’s sleep before the flight. When nearly all my hope was lost for a fun ending to the day, the Hubbs delivered and found something super fun for us to do!

Next stop was the Tokyo Japan Dome City. We took the train over, since this wasn’t exactly in close walking proximity. We’d passed the dome at other times on the trip but never got close enough to see all the attractions it had to offer. By the time we arrived, we were hungry for dinner. We found two of my American favorites: Shake Shack and Taco Bell! Just look at my face and how happy I was haha! What a 180 from the failed attempt of Tokyo Tower. We ended up grabbing a bite from Shake Shack, because it had literally been weeks since we’d had a proper burger. Shake Shack actually originated in Madison Square Park, New York City, so this was a taste of home that ended up turning into a sentimental dinner as we watched the digital picture wall show Shake Shack stores from around the world. When it finally displayed the New York location, I nearly cried. After our once-in-a-lifetime trip, it was time to return to reality. We were headed home—and, honestly, we were a little homesick.

We decided to ride the rollercoaster which winds through the footprint of the site, even going through the walls of the mall at one point. We absolutely love rollercoasters, so this was the perfect high-adrenaline thing to do to cap off the excitement of our epic trip, and it was honestly so fun.

After the coaster, we strolled through the mall. There was a lot to see inside, being multi-levels, and Hubby geeked out and found a store for Shonen Jump, the magazine brand that popularized the mega-hit animes Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Dragon Ball, Death Note, Yu-Gi-Oh, and so many more. If you’re an anime fan or know someone who is, then this is a great spot to stop for a little shopping. There were traditional souvenir shops where you could buy things like Japan-themed passport holders, and also some home goods shops with affordable but cute items for sale. We also found some quirky “Japanglish” souvenirs (we got a kick out of the hat in the pics below).

We didn’t end up buying anything though, so we crossed the street and found a store called Don Quijote which sold a wide assortment of goods at very reasonable prices, which was truly awesome! We bought bags of individually-wrapped bulk Kit Kats in unique flavors for both our offices, and we bought Sake bottles in nice boxes that we could gift our parents and siblings. The Hubbs even bought a cable for his headphones that had broken on the trip. They had everything! If I had one pro tip for souvenir shopping, it would be to shop where the locals shop. No one really wants a useless trinket that says “Tokyo” or “Japan” on it. But if you bring them a unique food or beverage to consume, or a practical houseware item, it’s something they can use and they will appreciate. Check out some of the silly goods we found (and did not buy haha).

After shopping, we made our way (via train) back to the hotel with goodies in tow. We had a long night of packing ahead. Luckily, we had accounted for the space we’d need, and it all fit fine. We got a little sleep, then headed to the airport super early for our flight back to America (get a load of my early morning grumpy airport mug below). We flew from Tokyo Japan to Beijing China to New York City, which took about 20 straight hours of travel. I definitely require a day of recovery after crossing the globe like this. The jet lag is serious.

Packing Pro Tips:

  • If you’re going on an extended trip, leave half of your suitcase empty. You’ll need that space to fill with goodies from your travels. It costs a fortune to ship items home or buy an additional luggage and pay for a second luggage on the plane. Especially for our multi flight trip – the latter was definitely not an option for us.
  • Wear your bulkiest or heaviest clothing and shoe items at the airport and onto the plane. Why use up that weight in your luggage when you can wear it? This will save you luggage space and weight for more souvenirs.
  • Always keep your heaviest items in your carryon so long as your airline isn’t weighing your carry on (which actually happened to us in China on this six-week trip).
  • Pockets! The only time your bags are weighed is at the ticket counter. On another trip, we had these crystal candleholders that weighted a ton, and we were already overweight. We ended up putting them in our jacket pocket while our bags were weighed, and then put them in our carryon once we passed through security.
  • Paper takes up a lot of space and weight while traveling. Just look at how much paper products we collected over 6 weeks!! Had we been overweight at the airport, this would have been the first stuff I would have dumped. We weren’t overweight, so I could keep it. Most of this was from our cruise (daily itineraries and origami), tickets we purchased, programs/brochures we collected from activities we did, and maps of cities. You don’t really NEED this stuff, and if you have to part with it, just take a picture of the papers (like we did for our rollercoaster tickets above), and then recycle the paper to save weight.

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So there you have it! This post completed our eight-part series in Japan and our six-week honeymoon around the world. Tokyo was fantastic. Even on a day like this, where we hardly had activities planned, we ended up having a killer time and stumbling upon unique attractions. Morals of the story are…

  • If you’re a type A person like myself, it’s ok to not have your day planned out in 15-minute increments (I’ll do a future blog post on my itineraries one day haha).
  • Do SOME research so you can ensure if it’s a timed entry or ticketed, that you can claim your spot. Also, there’s nothing worse than getting home and seeing a BuzzFeed article about the cool things to do in the city you visited, that you missed.
  • Go with the flow, and if something planned doesn’t work out, there is always going to be something else that’s fun to do. No need to ever go to bed early out of boredom when you’re in a new city.
  • Google Maps can literally save your days open itinerary. On this particular day, we didn’t plan the Kit Kat store, the temple, or the Tokyo Dome. All of that came from Google searching along the way.

Thanks again for joining me on this truly memorable 21-post journey. Now onto blogging about our next adventures! Stay tuned for future posts about our One Year Wedding Anniversary Trip to The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain!

9 Days in Japan: Part 7 – Tokyo Continued

My husband and I got married and went on an incredible six-week honeymoon around the world. All of the posts on England, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, a cruise through Asia, and Japan can be found on our Amarvelous Honeymoon page. The final country we visited on our trip was Japan, and we’re in the midst of an eight-part series highlighting this amazing country.

This was our penultimate day in Japan, and we had a jam-packed itinerary as we attempted to squeeze in our final Tokyo activities. Today, we planned to spend most of the day in the Shibuya neighborhood. We experienced ramen, conveyor-belt sushi, Starbucks with a view, multiple street performers, the incredible Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, the Meiji Jingu shrine, shopping at Takeshita Street, and the world’s busiest intersection. Read on to learn what makes Shibuya a necessary addition to your next Tokyo itinerary.

Day 8 in Japan

We were staying at the APA Hotel Iidabashi-Ekiminami in the Tokyo suburb of Chiyoda. The two previous days had been spent at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. I didn’t think we had such a late start, but we must have been exhausted and slept in a bit. Our first meal of the day was actually two bowls of ramen from a nearby restaurant that was already serving early lunch. The restaurant, which as of this writing has permanently closed, was called Tsujita Okunoin. It was a three-minute walk from our hotel and on the way to the train station. It was a long and narrow restaurant with an open kitchen against the long wall and a bar top with chairs along the kitchen. We found two chairs together and sat to dine. Our favorite ramen from Japan was actually in Osaka (at a restaurant called Ramen Makotoya Shinsaibashi, if you’re ever in Osaka). Although not as good as Makotoya’s, we found these bowls to be tasty and very filling to start our day off.

We decided to quickly begin our day in the Shinjuku neighborhood, which is a popular city district famed for its narrow, winding alleys and numerous snug taverns. We took the train six stops from Iidabashi Station to Shinjuku Station. It only costs ¥160 (JPY), or $1.52 (USD). After the train, we walked over to the Shinjuku Golden Gai. I would actually suggest you flip flop our itinerary and visit this area in the evening, as it was totally closed up and desolate when we were there. I bet it would be a cool nightlife area with bar hopping in the evenings. Wish we could have gone into a pub and enjoyed a beverage, but although it wasn’t too early for ramen, it was too early for drinks.

Along the walk from this neighborhood, we passed several different street activations and performers. There was a small children’s parade, a solo singer busking, a small trio of female singers on a mobile stage, and this random lottery activation where you are supposed to stick your hand inside a giant horse’s mouth and see if you won a prize (we didn’t win haha!). As a New Yorker, I found all these performances and activations to have the same lively vibe as when we walk through Times Square.

Next stop was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which was only a 19-minute walk from the previous neighborhood and led us into Shibuya neighborhood for the remainder of the day. The entrance fee was ¥500 (JPY), or $4.74 (USD). So far on the honeymoon, we’d seen some immaculate and very impressive gardens in Beijing China, but the roses and trees at this garden were really special. My favorite parts were the beautiful greenhouse with tropical plants and an indoor waterfall, a foot bridge over a koi pond shaded by a weeping willow tree (my favorite), a lush lawn for lounging surrounded by humongous shade trees including a blooming magnolia with flowers the size of my head, and a French-inspired formal rose garden. I think we spent the most time today in the rose garden. They probably had hundreds of varieties. I really enjoyed reading the name plaques for each one and took photos of the ones I found most beautiful. Hopefully one day I can find their seeds or saplings and plant them at my home. My absolute favorite flower was the hot pink Lavender Lassie Rose.

After the garden, we continued our walk to the Yoyogi Pony Park. This was totally spontaneous, but we saw it on the map and were intrigued, so we decided to walk over and check it out. It was only a 22-minute walk and not out of our way. Upon arrival, we learned that the rink and ponies were mostly for children to ride, not adults. They were attractive horses, and I did enjoy seeing them though. So if you too are a horse fan, then check it out. Otherwise, you can probably skip this unless you’re traveling with children.

We followed the ponies with a minute-long walk over to the Meiji Jingu shrine. We passed by the main sanctuary, torri-gate, and Ema (tablets conveying visitors’ gratitude and wished). As it’s a sacred place for prayer, we didn’t take too many pictures in this area.

Just a 10-minute walk up the road, we were at Takeshita Street, which is a road closed to vehicular traffic. It’s designed so the heavy flow of pedestrians can meander down the street and shop or dine in the colorful and trendy shops and restaurants. I thought the bright colors and kitschy characters on this street were adorable. Not to mention the great and unique shopping. I found a pair of fancy earrings for a pretty reasonable price. That was a score for Japan, as I found the pricing mostly similar to my hometown, New York City.