Afternoon in the Luxembourg Gardens
by Don Charles, Brooklyn, NY
Don's Dream Trip
Japan: From the ancient gardens of Kyoto to Tokyo's flashing lights and glass towers
This summer I've been between jobs, which has given me more time to spend in one of my favorite places: the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Something about the small Japanese garden there allows me to collect my scattered thoughts, and gives me the inspiration and energy to get back to life. My dream vacation would be to experience the real thing in Japan.
With my partner and best friend Derek, I'd explore the ancient gardens of Kyoto in search of harmony and peace. I imagine us walking along winding paths, across stone bridges and entering the famous Shinto Shrine where we'd participate in the observances of kito and shakyothe chanting and copying of Buddhist scriptures. Breathing pine-scented air and surrounded by tranquility, I imagine these gardens would gently force open the windows of my mind and allow a breeze to blow through.
But life is a study in contrasts and I imagine Japan is the best place to experience that fact. Our Japanese vacation wouldn't be complete without experiencing Tokyo. Blinking like a Blade Runner set come to life with its flashing lights and glass towers, this city has always beckoned me. Lost in Translation? Not a chance, as I'd hire a tour guide to help us navigate this maze of a city and share with us the rich history of this country. We'd stroll through the luxury shops of the Ginza and giggle at the creativity of the Harajuku kids in the Shibuya. We'd see a Butoh performance and sample fresh sushi in the Tsukiji market. Of course, we would visit in the spring during cherry blossom season. I can see us now walking on a carpet of pink and white petals. After 16 years together there's still so much world to see, so much world to experience.
Don's Travel Tips
• Let technology help you find the way. While traveling, use your GPS/smart phone for detailed maps and directions to specific locations, restaurants or points of interest. You can spare yourself the hassle of asking for directions and getting lost while in unfamiliar territory. It's helped me avoid many an argument and is a real time saver.
• Make friends with your cab driver. I've gotten some of the best recommendations on restaurants, beaches and nightclubs from cab drivers. Like well-informed concierges, they always seem to know the inside scoop.
• Learn a few key phrases in the language of the country you're planning to visit. It's more than a polite gesture. Making an effort to speak in your host's tongue communicates a genuine respect for the culture and language of the country you're visiting.