— Feathers and Wax

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Travel

Ok so technically I “hiked up” the mountain, there wasn’t any real climbing gear involved. But this is still a GIANT deal for non-outdoorsy me, so just let me have it.

After spending that rainy day in Shirakawago, the weather cleared up and we were able to embark on our roughly six-hour hike up and down Mount Yakedake in the Japanese Alps, which is technically also an active volcano. We got up very early in the morning, packed some snacks and water and took a bus ride to the foot of the mountain.

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There’s a kind of unique delight and appreciation for all kinds of animals in Japanese culture — but especially the cute ones. With that in mind it’s not all that surprising that in addition to the proliferation of cat, owl and  hedgehog cafes found throughout the country, there are also several locations in Japan that serve as refuges for specific breeds of animals. There is a bunny island, a cat island, a monkey park and even a fox village. Get thee to youtube to see videos of all these adorable wonders.

But perhaps most famous of all is the town of Nara, which is home to more than 1,200 sika deer that are technically wild animals, but are so used to humans that they walk right up to you. Especially if you buy the deer biscuits sold on practically every corner.

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The first leg of our trip to Japan was a few days spent in Kyoto, the former capital, and, as I would find out, the country’s most picturesque and charming city.  Here we visited a few ancient temples and the Nijo Castle, saw dozens of beautiful women in colorful yukatas and even spotted a handful of modern-day geishas.

We also took a quick day trip to the Yamazaki whiskey distillery, which Fred was quite excited about, and practically ate our weight in matcha ice cream, which I was quite excited about.

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We came back from our two-week trip to Japan on Sunday and have been slowly getting back into our normal routine so far this week. But I’m already experiencing Japan withdrawals, and have ended up spending my jetlagged early mornings searching for good Japanese restaurants in Houston.

As friends ask me what my favorite part of the trip was my thoughts keep going to our visit on a rainy day to the tiny village of Shirakawa-go, which felt like walking around in something from a mythical legend.

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We’re going to Japan for two full weeks next month! This will surely be my biggest travel adventure yet, and I’m so happy that it will be with Fred (yay!), my good friends Maki and Zach, and yet another great couple, Rick and Jessie.

I’m already heavily into preparation and packing list mode, but I’m so looking forward to this trip that I’m constantly looking up photos of the places we’re visiting to swoon over while I’m at work. Join me!

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Fred and I have gotten kind of addicted to taking small trips to celebrate our birthdays. This year we went to Marfa for his, and last year we went to New Orleans for mine.

So when Fred was able to get a few days off in June we went for it and booked flights to Nashville.

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My last day in Amsterdam was Easter Sunday, and while I wasn’t planning to hunt for eggs or attend mass, I still hoped to celebrate the holiday with a little bit of arts and culture.

Apparently, so was everyone else in Amsterdam. We arrived at the Van Gogh museum to see a line stretching for blocks, and a four-hour wait, according to a museum employee. Oof.

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On our second full day in Amsterdam the weather had turned quite a bit colder so we found ourselves regularly holing up in restaurants and cafes to drink Belgian beers and hot tea in between sightseeing and shopping.

The locals went about their business, bicycling through the chilly winds without a care, of course.

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As we planned our trip to Amsterdam, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was all the amazing apartments and houses that were available to rent in that city. As I said in my last post, I love the architecture in Amsterdam, and judging from the roundup on Airbnb, a lot of these homes are just as adorable on the inside as they are on the outside.

After all, the Jordaan neighborhood is considered rather hip, with lots of great design shops and cute cafes in walking distance, so the people who choose to live there certainly seem to know a thing or two about how to decorate a house.

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I’ve been back from Amsterdam for a week now. Editing the photos for this post brought it all back to me: the gently shimmering canal waters, the dozens of bikes riding down every cobblestone street, the proud houseboats in shades of navy blue and cream.

The architecture and the feel of this city is certainly what impressed itself upon me the most during this trip.

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