The Battle of Peleliu

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Island of Peleliu.

Today in the United States we honor our military veterans. But the truth is, I don’t need a special day to commemorate them because I think of them every single day. Whether it’s my brother who fought in the Middle East or my ancestors who fought in Europe, I think of their service every day.

Recently we made a special trip to Palau in honor of the 75th anniversary of the battles of Peleliu and Angaur. We were there in memory of a cherished family member who fought on both islands. The Americans assaulted these islands in the fall of 1944 in order to seize a Japanese airfield and thereby protect General Douglas MacArthur’s flank as he returned to the Philippines.

The battle between the Americans and the Japanese military forces occupying these islands saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific during World War II. After a battle that lasted over two months, the Japanese were defeated and Peleliu was occupied by the American military for a time. Palau ultimately became independent 25 years ago (1994).

For me, it was emotional to be on the island because it is obvious Palauans have not forgotten, nor will they ever forget, the sacrifices of the US military to free Palau.

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This is a picture of White Beach, Peleliu where the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division landed on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. The Marines suffered scores of casualties here and the beach is still littered with pieces of the American landing craft that were destroyed during the invasion.

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Scattered remnants of the war remain visible throughout Peleliu. This is a picture of the cave that served as the final command post for the Japanese commanders, Colonel Kunio Nakagawa and General Kenjiro Murai. Near the end of the battle, they committed suicide here. Today the Japanese travel here to pay tribute to them and the thousands of other lives lost on both sides during the battle.

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This is a Japanese tank destroyed early in the battle and now is part of the landscape.

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This is a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 81st Infantry “Wildcat” Division. All remains of American servicemen lost on Peleliu and Angaur have been brought home to the US or interned in US military cemeteries elsewhere (like in the Philippines).

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To the right, you’ll see a very special plaque recently placed near Orange Beach (another one of the landing beaches on Peleliu), which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the battle.

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For veterans and servicemen and women, from the bottom of my heart I say thank you for your service. Though my thanks could never ever be enough for what you have done (and continue to do) for our country.

Mariage Frères in Tokyo

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Mariage’s fabulous teaware. (If you look closely, you can spot Japan’s famous vending machines.)

I’m back from two weeks of traveling, (one week in Japan and the other week in Palau) though I’m still trying to play catch-up. It’s been harder than I anticipated to get back into the swing of things.

The blog might remain quiet for a while longer, but I did want to quickly share my wonderful afternoon tea experience at Mariage Frères in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood.

Mariage Frères (Mariage Brothers) is a French tea company, founded in 1854. It’s a luxury brand with locations in Paris, Berlin, London and Tokyo. They have over 500 tea blends!

We visited the Ginza location, which is Tokyo’s uber-chic shopping district, and sat down for their version of afternoon tea.

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The peaceful and beautiful Ginza restaurant.

The restaurant was peaceful and beautifully decorated. I loved the floor tiles and the wall art. I kept looking all around me because I didn’t want to miss any details.

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Time for tea!

I had a savory tea, while my husband opted for scones. It was divine.

I must admit, what I enjoyed the most about our experience (and generally dining in Japan), was the peacefulness of it. You can stay at your table for as long as you want. You don’t actually get the check until you ask for it. This really allowed us to sit and enjoy ourselves for a few hours without feeling as if we had to leave. It was a fabulous experience.

Do you have a favorite tea restaurant? (In England, my favorite place for tea is Fortnum and Mason.)

xoxo, Jane

 

Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry

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Someone (who shall remain unnamed) ceremoniously loaned me their copy of Dave Barry Does Japan and told me I had to read it. It’s my pet peeve when people give me their books and I was caught off guard. I responded with a lame, “oh, ok” and proceeded to read it because I wanted to finish and return the book ASAP.

Boy, am I glad I didn’t have the heart to say no to unnamed person because this book gave me a thousand laughs.

Dave Barry is a columnist and a humor writer. He was commissioned by Random House (in the 1990s) to travel to Japan for three weeks and then write about his summary of the Japanese culture.

Initially, I read this book at bedtime, but I laughed so much that it kept startling my poor husband awake. Needless to say, I had to switch to daytime reading.

It made me laugh because Dave writes about his experiences in such a way where he pokes fun at himself and the less desirable aspects of American culture (i.e. our bad cars, our bad manners, our lack of pride in our jobs, whereas the Japanese take pride in their work, make good cars and are polite to one another). I laughed at his attempts to figure out the Tokyo streets (impossible) and attempts to order food that looked somewhat familiar to him (never happened).

Though Dave makes a huge effort to learn the Japanese culture (he even meets with Japanese CEOs and government officials to truly understand) he admits that he hasn’t learned anything at all because it is simply impossible to learn and summarize any culture in just three weeks. I found this honest and respectful. He ends the book by poking fun at Americans just one last time; we could stand to learn from Japanese manners and politeness. (So perhaps he did indeed learn something about Japanese culture?)

If you’re looking for a book about Japanese culture and what to do on your next trip to Tokyo then this book is not for you. But if you’re looking for a book about an American lost and confused in Japan who is not scared to poke fun at himself, then I recommend it.

Am I glad I read this book? Yes, I really am.

Would I read another humor book? Probably not.

xoxo, Jane

Time-traveling, maybe. Let’s have a chat.

Do people ever ask you the question about the time-machine and which era you’d pick to time-travel through? Well, I used to say that I’d never actually want to travel back in time unless I was traveling back as a rich man. Life for women used to be awful and it sort of still is. (I mean, Exhibit A: the best women’s soccer team in the world gets paid pennies compared to the US men’s team and the men’s team is pretty atrocious. I can play better soccer than them, I’m sure.)

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I digress. What I’m trying to say is that personally I’d never want to travel back in time. Unless!!! I time-travel as an invincible, powerful, very fashionable and uber, uber rich woman riding this 1927 Harley!

What about you? Which era would you want to visit? And if you didn’t have a guarantee of returning (say, the time-machine you were gifted by Great Uncle Ludwig is only a one-way machine), would you still do it and which era?

Shakespeare & Sons Bookshop in Prague

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One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city (after getting over the jet leg and having a good cup of tea, that is) is go on the hunt for bookshops. And I did just that in Prague when I paid a visit to Shakespeare & Sons.

Shakespeare & Sons is a very charming bookshop in the Mala Strana district. It was an easy and scenic walk from the historic square.

The two floors with an abundant selection of books in English made my heart sing! I came out of the bookshop with two special books.

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Czech Fairtyales is beautifully illustrated and filled with stories that are just as beautiful to read. I think it’s a children’s book, but if you love reading fairy tales you’ll enjoy this book very much.

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I also found a rare copy of A Mountain of Gems – Fairy Tales of the Peoples of the Soviet Land on top of a stack of books in a corner. (This is why I love, love, love independent bookshops.)

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I’ve been enjoying reading the various fairy tales in this book. It’s a very touching read because children are children no matter where you go and no matter the politics.

So, what have you been reading? xoxo, Jane

 

Thornbury Castle

Last November my husband and I stayed at the beautiful Thornbury Castle in the town of Thornbury in England. I’ve visited countless castles over the years, but I’ve never spend the night in one. I’ve always, always wanted to stay at a castle and this trip was literally my dream come true.

Thornbury Castle isn’t really a castle, it’s a Tudor estate. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful and castle-ish.

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We stayed on this side of the hotel and the view was phenomenal. Like a dream.

Thornbury Castle was built by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, between 1508 and 1521. The Duke was going to use it as his base for courtly living and entertainment.* He also planned to build a garrison of at least 200 men, but this plan never came to fruition because when Henry VIII found out about the planned garrison (and how grandiose the castle was becoming), he became livid and jealous.**

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The croquet court.

The King was a paranoid man. He assumed that the Duke was building the garrison because he planned to take over the throne in an uprising. So Henry VIII did what he did best and had the poor Duke executed for treason.

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I love this room. We had drinks at this very spot every evening before we were escorted to our table in the dining room.

The estate (and all the Stafford estates around the country) became the property of the monarch. The King and his second queen, Anne Boleyn, even stayed at the castle for about ten days.

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Anne Boleyn stayed in the room. Today it’s the dining room. 

Eventually the castle fell into disrepair, but it was restored under the ownership of the Howard family. It stayed with the Howard family*** from the 1700s until the mid-19th century. Today it’s a luxury hotel steeped in history. And since I am a tea lover, I must add that the castle has a delicious and stately afternoon tea.

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I love narrow, spiral staircases. This one led to nowhere, much to my amusement and delight!

I am definitely staying at Thornbury Castle again. I’m toying with the idea of staying at the castle over Christmas. Wouldn’t that be romantic?

Thank you for reading. xoxo, Jane

*In other words, showing off his power and wealth.

**The “jealous” part is my own interpretation of events. 

***Catherine Howard came from this family. She was the fifth wife of Henry VIII.

A Sunday Photograph

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I’m trying to organize my photographs (it’s a daunting task and not going well) when I came across this picture in my Japan file from 2010. I took this photograph in Tokyo. Japan was one of the most wonderful countries I’ve ever visited and would love to go back. The people are so good and honorable and interesting and kind. The food was delicious. Zig-zagging through Tokyo was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. It’s so nice when pictures bring back good memories.

Happy Sunday!

On Feeling Stressed…

The moody, brooding Highlands. And an old croft.

Whenever I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and stare at my photographs of the Scottish Highlands.

If only I could transport myself to Scotland at the snap of my fingers.

If you have any tricks and tips on how to deal with stress better, do let me know. I need all the help I can get. 

xoxo, Jane

Trinket Tuesday: Balboa Park, San Diego, CA

Balboa Park from several years ago.
Another scene of lovely Balboa Park. Those trees!
A peek of the San Diego skyline from Balboa Park.

Trinket Tuesday is where I share some of the lovely things I discover during my travels, research or around town. All pictures are my own (unless I state otherwise). I hope you enjoy!

Arts and Culture 2017

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Last year I really wanted to make arts and culture a priority in my schedule. So I made a goal of doing something at least once a month and I kept a list of what I did. (I love list-making.) I know we’re well into 2018, but I just came across my list while organizing and the memories made me smile.

Here’s my list:

January: January was cold, dark and dreary, but I entertained myself by watching almost all of Rick Steves’ travel documentaries and day-dreaming of warmer weather.

February: My husband and I jetted off to Paris for a week so we took advantage of everything the City of Light had to offer.

March: Hillwood Mansion and Museum – Washington, D.C.

April: U. S. Army War College Library and Archives – Carlisle, PA

May: The Walters Art Museum – Baltimore, MD

June: Maryland Lavender Festival

July: National Museum of American History – Washington, D.C.

August: I watched several operas on YouTube

September: Visited Eastern Market – Washington, D.C.

October: National Gallery of Art and Hillwood Mansion and Museum – Washington, D.C.

November: November was busy and super fun! I went to the Library of Congress, Trabant Parade at the Spy Museum and visited various museums in London, UK. I also saw the The Mousetrap in London.

December: I explored the sights and sites of Israel and then paid another visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

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All in all, it was a productive and fulfilling year. I was really lucky that I visited Paris, London and the Holy Land within one year.

Do you keep lists too?

xoxo Jane