Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest ancient temple, dating back to 645 AD. It’s stunning, dramatic and a major attraction for international and Japanese tourists alike. The pedestrian-only lanes leading up to the temple are as packed as a sold out concert with hundreds of pop-up shops with the best gift/souvenir shopping in all of Tokyo. Inside the temple courtyard, you can get your “Omikuji” for a donation of 100¥ (equivalent of $1 USD), which literally translates to a “fortune-telling paper.” Sensō-ji is iconic and one of our favorite spots in Tokyo — well worth the cover photo of the Lonely Planet Tokyo Pocket book guide!
Pintxos! Pintxos! Pintxos! The Basque word for Spanish “tapas”, pintxos are the cultural heart of San Sebastian, Spain. They are also my current culinary obsession. Pintxos are small plates served in-between meals (or in bulk to substitute as a meal), all day everyday, usually for as cheap as 2€ – 5€ and typically enjoyed with a glass of wine for equally as cheap. Enjoying the daily pintxo with a local Spanish red wine was definitely the highlight of visiting San Sebastian.
Our next stop was San Sebastián, Spain, further along in the Basque Country. We had spare time before we bid farewell to my mom, so we decided to take the 7€ bus for a 5-night getaway in Spain. The city is famous for the calm turquoise waters of La Concha Bay, but thankfully there’s also the neighboring Zurriola Beach with surf for Shaun. A definite highlight of San Sebastián, or the Basque name Donostia, is the “Old Town” – Dozens of tiny cobblestone walkways squeezed between two iconic churches, packed full with standing-room only bars, tapas/pintxos restaurants, and unique shops with a gelateria on every corner.
The next surf contest on the schedule led us to Anglet/Biarritz on the southwest French Atlantic coast. Anglet is the smaller town neighboring the ritzy city of Biarritz, both with beautiful beaches and cheerful boardwalk promenades for eating, drinking and sunbathing. Our whole week here, the weather was staggering around 97°F / 36°C so we spent a LOT of time à la plage.