Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Monday, March 21, 2011

Celebrity Safari

When in Rome, take pictures of old buildings.
When in Cambodia take pictures of monks and temples.
When in Montana take pictures of mountains and
When in Los Angeles take pictures of celebrities.

After braving treacherous mountain passes, an epic rainstorm and flooded freeways, we finally cruised into Los Angeles last night and landed in Culver City, once the home of MGM studios where Andy's grandpa used to pass his days.

This morning dawned drier and we struck out to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, where we thought we might see J-Lo or Brittany, only to find the one on Sunset next to Mel's closed.

Then it was off to It's a Wrap, a huge Buffalo Exchange kind of store where clothes from movies and tv shows are given a second life in resale. Dylan and Ruby picked up shirts from The Suite Life on Deck, and How Do You Know? We also drove by Mood hoping to see Tim Gunn outside, but it sadly it had closed.

Wandered over to the Grammy Museum, which had a great cost to enjoyment ratio. Finally to end the day, the kids wanted to see Grauman's Chinese theatre where the stars leave footprints.

Andy wanted to look closer at the Egyptian Theatre across the street and not realizing there was a premiere for the movie Super, we thought all the paparazzi was waiting around to see us--not! But really, had no idea who was going to be there, and why, but we settled in since no one told us to leave, and hung out for an hour watching the paparazzi watch for someone picture-worthy.

Managed to see Rainn Wilson, Nathan Fillion, Ellen Page, Steven Tyler, Liv Tyler, and Sarah Silverman. If we were on an African photo safari this would have been the equivalent of capturing a pride of lions surrounded by a few elephants. Very exciting and you can bet Dylan was very satisfied with these outings on our Celebrity Safari day.

Yes, we were this close to Rainn Wilson!

Mindy Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapur on The Office

My feet are the same size as John Wayne's. I wear a kids size two!

Liv Tyler and her poppa, Steven.

Ellen Page. Short people are hard to get a picture of!

The cast of Super, Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, director James Gunn & Nathan Fillion

Nathan Fillion is giving Dylan the stink eye.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Not a Flake, just Flexible

After deciding to cancel our trip plans to Japan, we hit every website we knew looking for flights out of town. While I was on three different weather sites to find a place that wasn't raining, Andy was searching through Kayak, Trip Advisor, ITA and a number of other sites to find us cheap tickets. We even considered flying to Brussels and taking a Ryan Air flight to Spain, to no avail.

So Thursday night we gave up that hope and decided to hop in the car and drive south, way south. Called my brother and made plans to meet him at Disneyland (we do amusement parks very well together) and let Dylan indulge in her latest obsession, sighting celebrities. Not that she gets to see any in Portland. Apparently there is a business in LA where the paparazzi lets you follow them as they look for that elusive (or not) shot of Charlie Sheen drinking tiger's blood. Just like an African photo safari--why didn't I think of that?!.

Dylan has been begging for us to let her bring a friend on any trip so we called her best friend's parents on Friday morning wondering if we could take her kid with us and being fellow followers of the Temple of the Last Minute, said yes!

Not sure how the rest of the week is going to pan out after Disney. Depends on the weather and our moods. Stupid weather in LA looks rainy today, but it looks worse in San Francisco where we hoped to end our week. Yes, we are trying to escape the rain, but maybe in LA it's a different rain--a chubby rain*

*Free beer to whoever get's that reference!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

No Tokyo: The Anatomy of a Decision

A lost vacation is nothing like a lost home, business, or family member. We understand that and are grateful that our lives can go on “as usual” here in Portland. But sadly, we made the decision this morning to cancel our trip plans to Tokyo, and I thought it might be of interest to armchair and fellow travelers to know how we came about this decision.

As you may know, we’re not timid travelers. We’ve floated down a snake-infested river in Northern Thailand on a raft made with bike tires and ten sticks of bamboo, driven to Lhasa Tibet with a cab driver harboring a death wish, and have even zip lined through the forests of Bali. We also understand the nature of television and news reporting and realize that during a disaster the cameras focus on the devastation that makes good news; never mind that ten blocks away life is pretty normal, if not quiet. So we understand that while an earthquake and tsunami damaged many parts of Northern Japan, the damage where we were going to stay in Tokyo is fairly minimal and localized.

Our first call of order was to wait and see the scope of damage. We don’t have CNN and our local TV stations have had nothing on Japan after Thursday night, but we’ve been watching the NHK (Japanese television) feed online, as well as following the Times Asia, New York Times, and reading message boards on websites such as Thorn Three which Lonely Planet moderates. Our attempt was to get first-hand, on-the-ground reporting, from travelers, locals and expats.

We also talked to friends who have traveled extensively and even communicated with Edward Hasbrouck, author of The Practical Nomad to assess how a trip to Tokyo right now would play out. Hasbrouck has a travel philosophy that we respect as well as a blog that follows The Amazing Race, where we enjoy his post-show analysis. He encouraged us to be realistic about our concerns. We’ve also emailed a contact in Tokyo for his assessment. Having traveled to Tokyo before (2003 & 2005), we are familiar with the city and the scope of difficulty of getting transportation, food and power.

Frankly, the earthquake and aftershocks are the least of our worries. After living in Los Angeles and Portland, we are no strangers to earthquakes, and Tokyo is one of the safest places in the world to be when an earthquake strikes. By cancelling, we will probably lose the money we put down for the apartment, and the opportunity to witness incredible stories of a country going through this crisis, but still we hesitated to make a final call.

Here’s what helped make our decision:

1-The nuclear issues are unresolved and not only causing evacuations but rolling blackouts throughout Tokyo. From the probable radiation risks, to the very likely disruptions to trains, food delivery, and businesses in Tokyo, much will be closed and work will be cancelled for many citizens. Two hundred thousand residents, just an hour or so outside of greater Tokyo are evacuated and need somewhere to go, and the last thing Japan needs is the three of us dependent upon them for food, water and transportation.

2-US, British and French Governments are warning their citizens to stay away from or leave Tokyo. I tend to disregard US State department warnings since they err on the most conservative side, last much longer than the actual state of emergency, and have warned citizens away from some very wonderful parts of the world. But when the French and British are concerned, we’re duly warned.

3-This would not be the vacation we thought we’d have. While that’s usually not a bad thing—the joy of travel is discovering and having experiences that you don’t expect—going into it, we know that trips out to the Ghibli Museum, Tsukiji Fish Market, and a number of day trips we thought we might take just couldn’t happen. After visiting Paris last August, where most of the businesses we wanted to visit were shut down for holidays, and recalling how that affected our stay, we understand that for now, Tokyo is not going to be its usual self.

We love Japan, revel in Tokyo and our hearts break for the tragedy the Japanese people face. We are determined to visit again, and hopefully sooner than later. But in the interim, we’re going to have to figure out something else to do next week. While our hearts are in Japan, our bodies need to find some sunshine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Shaky grounds, shaky plans

Last night, around 9:45 pst, an 8.9 earthquake hit the northern part of Honsu, the largest and most populous island of Japan, and the home of Tokyo. We watched the news last night with horror and disbelief as a tsunami swept over the land with the understanding that the area was devastated.

In a week we are supposed to be in Tokyo, finally taking the long-postponed trip to one of our favorite cities. At this point we don't know if we are still going. We have the tickets and the hotel is paid for, but now we wait and assess the risks. Having traveled in areas around the world previously affected by disasters, human or man-made, we understand that while one area can be destroyed, other parts can be business as usual.

Time, distance and magnitude all play a part in whether an area is still dangerous. But, we'll be cautious and hopefully smart. We'll look to see how the infrastructure is faring, if there is sewage, water, and transportation still working. Of course if all flights are cancelled, we can't ignore that, but a lot can happen in a week.

In the meantime, our hearts go out to those in Japan and elsewhere affected by this quake. I don't know about you, but things like this make the world feel very small and fragile.