Ejo #80 – You Too Can Save Lives

This ejo is about a few people.  It’s about a wonderful young man called Daniel, and an extraordinary woman called Claudia.  And it’s about you.  Or, at least, it could be.

Let me tell you a story.  On Wednesday, 4th May 2016 Daniel and Claudia were playing a league soccer game in Los Angeles.  Whilst running around the field, Daniel 26, fell to the ground and didn’t get back up again.  He had suffered a full cardiac arrest, and his heart just stopped beating.  He was technically dead for three to four minutes.  Despite dying on the soccer pitch that Wednesday afternoon, Daniel cheated death and is (amazingly) alive today.  And the reason he’s alive is thanks to his team mate, Claudia.

A medical student, Claudia jumped into action, using cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to keep his heart beating and air circulating in his lungs for a full 20 minutes, until the ambulance arrived (why the ambulance took so long is another story, luckily).  When the paramedics finally did get there, they administered electric shocks to get his heart pumping on its own again and when he arrived at Emergency they immediately placed him into an ice bath for 24 hours, inducing hypothermia in order to prevent further neurological damage.  He was in a coma, and his family didn’t know if he was ever going to wake up.

Just to change the topic for a second, David and I are having our bathroom re-tiled.  It’s been quite the arduous process, but that’s fodder for a whole other ejo.  This morning one of the workers and I had a chat over coffee and he asked me why we don’t have any kids.  Unlike some women, I am never offended when someone asks me this, particularly because I live in a culture where having children is just expected.  I explained why David and I decided not to have kids, and the worker very sweetly said something along the lines of, “Oh, what a shame.  Having children gives you pure love.”  I wanted to tell him that I knew exactly what he meant.  But we’d finished our espressos, and he had tiles to grout.

So, how could I possibly know the love that children bring?  I don’t have any of my own and  I’m not even an auntie (not an actual one, anyway).  But I can categorically say that the compartment of my heart reserved for the love I would feel for my own children – that unconditional, overwhelming, I’d-do-anything-for-them kind of love – was unseamed about 18 years ago when I embarked on an adventure that changed me as a person.

In August 1998, I went to the US to work as an au pair for a year.  I was responsible for looking after two beautiful children – an eight year old boy and a five year old girl.  I was 27 years old and I’d been attentively listening to the tick of my biological clock becoming louder and louder.  I figured that looking after a couple of kids for a year would be good “practise” for when I actually became a mother myself.  Little did I realise that 12 months of being involved in these little people’s lives on an intimate, daily basis would not just be great practise for motherhood, it would actually end up usurping any desire to have offspring of my own.  Over the course of that year, those children became my kids.  No, not biologically.  And not legally.  But emotionally…. I might as well have given birth to them.  I wasn’t their mother – they already had an amazing one.  But they were still, somehow, my babies.  I’m not sure it makes sense, and it doesn’t really need to.  I never had children of my own for a myriad of reasons, but one of the major ones is that those two youngsters unlocked my heart and gave me the gift of pure and unconditional love.

That entire family is still in my life, 18 years later.  And those kids grew up and became my friends.  I went from dressing them for school and making them brush their teeth, to having dinner and cocktails with them, talking and laughing til the wee hours of the morning.  I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Which is why when his father emailed me to tell me that Daniel had suffered a heart attack I felt eviscerated.  Like someone had taken my guts and pulled them away from my body.  I felt something I’ve never experienced before.  A tangible, and physical, connection drawing me to another human being.  Pulling me towards Daniel.  I figured it was anxiety, as it was accompanied by an intense and pressing urge to be with him (which was, of course, understandable).  I tried to ignore it but it only got worse. I tried to reason with myself that I couldn’t do anything to help him, but that didn’t diminish the feeling.  When I did make the decision to go and be with him, the relief was enormous.  It was absolutely the right thing to do.  It was the only thing to do.  I was able to get seven days off work, though the 16 hour flights meant I could only spend five days in LA.  But it was better than nothing, and so I jumped on the next plane.

In the time it took me to get to LA, Daniel had progressed (slightly) from being in a coma to being in a minimally responsive state.  He was no longer vegetative and unresponsive.  He had moments of consciousness, though they were intermittent and inconsistent.  But he was awake.

When I arrived at the hospital he was asleep, engulfed by machines monitoring his vital signs.  A few hours later when he woke up he looked at me, his eyes widening in childlike recognition.  With a delighted smile he asked, “What are you doing here?” and my heart melted.  Tears welled up in my eyes, but I fought them back.  I longed to gather him in my arms and reassure him that everything was going to be OK, as I would have done when he was eight years old.  Instead, I told him I was just paying him a visit, as though it was the most natural thing in the world.  Over the next five days there were times when he showed improvement, but there were also days when I saw him get markedly worse.  On the most awful day, he never even woke up.  He just kept kicking his arms and legs uncontrollably.  My mind couldn’t help but go to very dark places.  Places in which he would never recover.  But then, the next day, he would be sitting up and chatting with the nurses.  It was a hellish rollercoaster and one that I would never wish on any parent.  The anguish I experienced was indescribable.  I can’t imagine the despair that his parents and sister must have felt.

Leaving him on my final day to go the airport was hard.  He was awake but not really aware that I was there, so saying goodbye was painful and felt incomplete.  But there was no longer any reason for me to be there.  He was going to make it.  His family was by his side and he was under the care of top medical professionals.  I cried into his sister’s shoulder, and she comforted me.  I found it hard to let her go.

Two months have passed since then and Daniel’s progress has been good.  He is walking, going to the bathroom and eating on his own.  His cognitive function has taken a beating, but he is in therapy and rehab to help him get better.

I keep wanting to say the word “miracle” to describe Dan’s experience.  But that’s definitely not the right word.  Daniel is alive, and recovering, solely because a girl called Claudia knew how to do CPR.  It’s as simple as that.  And really, this ejo is dedicated to her.  Because she saved Dan’s life.  And that is a monumental thing to have done.  Thank you, Claudia.

You don’t have to be a doctor in training to learn the techniques that saved Daniel’s life, and the lives of so many others.  All you have to do is enroll in a first aid course to learn how to do CPR.  That is all.  And to show my eternal gratitude to Claudia, someone I’ve never met and probably never will, I am pledging to sponsor anyone who wants to do a CPR course.  That’s my way of paying forward the gift that she gave me.  The gift of a world in which Daniel is still here.

Daniel

My two boys, in happier times.

So if you’ve ever thought about doing it, now’s the time.  Do a basic first aid course, email me a copy of the (dated) certificate and I’ll reimburse you the full cost of the course.  This pledge is good for perpetuity (or until I go broke, whichever comes first).  David and I are enrolling to do a course here in Dubai, and it’s my wish that as many people as possible learn how to do CPR.  Because we never know when a friend is going to drop dead in front of us.  And wouldn’t it be great to know how to bring them back to life?

Ejo #79 – Perspective: A Dubai Ramadan Story

Earlier this month my Spotify music account was hacked.  The offending asshole* changed the primary email and password of my account, locking me out of it (how rude!).  The team at Spotify were awesome and managed to give me back control of my music but the bastard had deleted all my playlists.  Now, it’s one thing to steal someone’s music.  But to delete my playlists was just a dirty thing to do and I was furious.  Especially because one of those playlists included more than seven hours of music for a very special party we’re having in Melbourne when we visit in September.  Shit just got personal.  And I was all set to write an entire ejo devoted to cussing this guy out, and giving him what for.

So, what happened?  Well, perspective, I guess.  As you know, it’s that Ramadan time of year. A time when Muslims around the world show their devotion to god by fasting – refraining from eating food and drinking water during daylight hours.  Doing this must be difficult at the best of times – but when you add abject poverty, housing that is unfit to live in, zero social standing and a lack of even the most basic of human rights to the mix, it becomes downright intolerable.

So, I had the choice of fretting over some random dick depriving me of my music for 24 hours, or I could get off my ass and organise an Iftar handout for a few men.  I chose the latter.  For the uninitiated, Iftar is the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast when the sun goes down.  It’s a big deal in Dubai, with every restaurant in the city offering huge buffet feasts for the privileged amongst us.  A recent article in a local newspaper highlighted the incalculable waste produced by these buffets.  The amount of food that gets thrown away is simply mindboggling.  Especially when you think about the masses of less fortunate, unseen people, hidden away in the industrial desert areas of the city.  The men who work exhausting hours, struggling to scrape together the equivalent of AUD290 a month (working six days a week, fourteen hours a day), most of which they send back home to their families.

I posted my intentions on Facebook and within a couple of days we had raised enough money to feed 470 men.  Four hundred and seventy men!!!!!!  I want to thank each and every person who donated money for this worthy cause.  Unfortunately, none of you could join us for the fun part of actually giving out the meals, so I thought that on this occasion I would put a face to your donations in the hope that it personalises your contribution.  Check out the photos below to find out who you bought a meal for.

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The guys at Two Seasons Restaurant who prepared the 470 meals with love and care – and even helped us load the boxes into the cars.

 

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Michelle H., your empathy directly impacted on this guy.

 

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Nicole C., thanks to your generosity, this guy had a nice Iftar meal to break his fast.  He was just one of many that you helped. 

 

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Mari S., this guy ate a delicious dinner because of your thoughtful donation.

 

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Simon K., this man was so grateful for the meal he received from you.

 

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Beth, Tim, Charley and Xavier – this is one of the guys you made very happy on Tuesday.

 

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Craig A., this dude said a heartfelt thank you to David – but it was meant for you. 

 

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Pieta S., this man’s smile and gratitude are thanks to you.

 

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Adrian R., this man got to eat well on Tuesday because of your contribution.

 

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Sam A., your compassion meant that this man had a tasty hot meal for Iftar.

 

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Melinda N., this guy was very shy when taking his meal, but also so very grateful – to you.

 

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Zimmy K., this man’s smile is one of so many – thanks to your incredibly generous donation.

 

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Guy S., you totally made this guy’s day!

 

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Matthew T., this man doesn’t know you but he directly experienced your kindness.

 

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Nancy L., this young man was surprised at the offer of free food, and so thankful for the meal you bought for him.

 

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Cindy C., your substantial donation made this man (and many others) very happy.

 

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Nic M., your deep generosity meant that this man didn’t have to worry about where his dinner was coming from on Tuesday.

 

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Svet M., we moved some money around and made sure that your donation was given to this man – and several others during the handout.

 

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Vicki D., the look on this man’s face is so heartwarming.  He is smiling because of you.

 

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Sam H., your substantial contribution gave joy to many men. This is one of them.

 

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Karien M., you are the reason this man is smiling.

 

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Yani, for me this guy says it all. He just couldn’t stop smiling while waiting in line for his meal – and then his smile got even bigger when David handed it to him. Your helping hand is the reason for his happiness.

For those of you who would like to contribute to our next handout, I’ve got a rippa idea!  I’m super keen to organise an ice-cream truck handout. Yes, of course it’s wonderful (truly wonderful) to do a food handout but how amazing would it be to gift ice-creams!!!  Think back to when you were a kid and you heard the ice-cream truck melody floating down the street on a hot summer evening, announcing the imminent arrival of  THE ICE-CREAM MAN!!!!  Don’t we all share the unadulterated joy associated with that?  Wouldn’t that be an incredible thing to give these men, whose lives are so bereft of the simple pleasures we take for granted.  So, I’m planning on doing this in a couple of months – around October.  I won’t announce it anywhere else except Facebook so if you are interested and aren’t my Facebook friend (boohoo for you) shoot me an email/message through the comments section of this post.

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Seriously, I love this guy!!!!

 

* OK, I can’t help myself.  The email address of the pond-scum who hacked my Spotify account is joesalisbury_13@outlook.com.  Feel free to bombard this mofo with spam, random subscriptions and stern emails about respecting other people’s privacy.

 

Ejo #78 – Drunk In….. Kyoto

00

They know what’s up.

Well, it’s official.  David and I have fallen madly and deeply in love with Japan.  Our most recent visit in April totally put a ring on it, and we’re already planning another trip early next year.  We experienced twelve days of incredible food, hospitality, sake and exploring the culturally rich and different cities of Tokyo and Kyoto.  Long time readers will recall that my very first foray into the Drunk In….. series started in Tokyo.   Even though we’ve discovered so much more in Tokyo since then, I decided to open up a whole new drunken city to you.  Sure, Kyoto is a little milder than Tokyo when it comes to debauched after-hours activities, but that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t have a wildly beating heart hidden beneath its reserved patina.  And luckily for you, we’ve done all the hard work to find a bunch of fun things to do when you’re drunk in Kyoto.

 

NOKISHITA EDIBLE GARDEN

Housed in a seriously tiny alcove in front of an office building, Nokishita Edible Garden was our first stop after arriving in town.  We took a stroll along the cherry blossom festooned river, goggling at all the gorgeous geisha clad women out and about.  And when we got there we enjoyed a very refreshing Hendricks gin and tonic for about AUD6.  In fact, we enjoyed two each.  There’s no seating (and barely enough room to stand) so this isn’t a place to linger, but it’s certainly a fun start to a night out.

INFO:

〒604-8022 Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市中京区Nakagyo Ward, Minamikurumayacho, 282
+81 7 5746 5675
0400-0000 (closed Mondays)

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

BAR ROCKING CHAIR

It’s a bar and it has rocking chairs.  It doesn’t have an English menu but it more than makes up for that with the amazing cocktails that come out when you say “osusume”* to the bartender.  We couldn’t stay long because we had a dinner reservation to get to.  And that’s probably a good thing as the cocktails we had were so delicious (and strong) we may have ended up spending the whole night there.  We each tried a couple of different whiskey cocktails, all of them made with seasonal, local fruit.

* “you decide

INFO:

〒600-8044 京都府京都市下京区御幸町通仏光寺下る橘町434−2
+81 7 5496 8679
1700-0200 (closed Tuesdays)

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

TORITO YAKITORI

There are two of these yakitori shops.  We’d been to the other one before so decided to give this one a try.  First off, let me tell you that it’s very difficult to find (hopefully my google map helps you).  We actually got dropped off by the taxi driver nearby and literally followed our noses to peek behind a curtain where we found the tell-tale woodpecker welcoming us in.  So, yakitori is basically grilled chicken, but let me assure you that there’s nothing basic about the flavours.  The skewers are roasted over special coals, as well as marinated in an assortment of spices and secret ingredients, to impart some pretty damn juicy flavour.  The coal is such an important part of yakitori that the origin and species of wood are usually considered as important as terroir is to wine.  We ate a lot of chicken, including wings, skin, meatballs, cartilage and thigh.  We also asked to try some of their raw chicken sashimi but they were sold out.  And yes, we were disappointed.  ;-)

INFO:

〒604-8144 Kyoto Prefecture, 京都市中京区Motohonenji cho, 683 烏丸 錦 東入 ル 烏丸 錦 ビル
+81 75 211 3750

CLICK FOR (APPROXIMATE) MAP

 

 

BAR CHEZ QUASIMODO

We visited this wonderful little hidden bar on our first trip to Kyoto and have been wanting to go back ever since.  The owner and bartender basically chucked in his corporate job and opened up a speakeasy in his garage, specialising in his two passions – whiskey and jazz.  The first time we visited, in 2013, I didn’t really truly appreciate either of these things.  In the three years since, I have developed a passion of my own for both so I totally loved this bar.  We spent far longer than we should have, just trying new whiskies (neat, of course) and listening to some amazing music and feeling like the cat that got the milk in terms of being the only non-Japanese in the bar for the whole night.  This one is a favourite.

INFO:

Takakura Dori, Nijo-agaru, Nakagyo-ku
+81 75 231 2488
Mon-Sat: 1800-0000

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

DRIP & DROP COFFEE

Every good drinking city needs a good coffee joint for those mornings after.  Before our trip I compiled a list of third wave coffee places to try (something I do before every holiday) but we just happened upon Drip & Drop by accident and then never ventured from it – the coffee was that good.

INFO:

604-8074 京都市中京区富小路通三条下ル朝倉町531
ピースホステル三条 B1F,  +81 75 231 7222

1100-2200

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

RAMEN SEN NO KAZE

So the sign outside this ramen place proudly claims that they are number one, not just in Kyoto but the world.  Bold.  The problem with making such claims is that there are just so many damn good ramen places in Kyoto (and even better ones in Tokyo, sorry RSNK).  But this one is definitely worth trying.  We arrived about 20 minutes before opening time to find ten people already queued up.  Unfortunately for us, this tiny little shop only has ten bar stools.  But fortunately for us, we were shown to a special little two seater table in the front window where we promptly ordered some beers (ain’t no better drink to have with ramen).  It was nice to have our own little table, but I must admit I’m a sucker for sitting at the bar where you can see all the action in the kitchen.  The ramen here is spicy and filling and absolutely delicious.  Perfect drinking food.

INFO:

らーめん千の風京都, 中京区中之町580, 京都市 京都府 604-8042
1200-2200 (closed Mondays)

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

GION KINANA ICE-CREAM

The specialty at this ice-cream store is soy bean ice-cream.  Doesn’t sound very nice, but oh my lord, it’s very nice indeed.  The shop serves other flavours too, including green tea, black sesame, black sugar syrup, mugwort and sweet red bean.  These are all very traditional Japanese flavours, but hey, you’re in Japan (and they’re all delicious).  But my favourite is the basic soy-bean flavour, known as kinako, which is also the only flavour they serve freshly made (as opposed to frozen).  The fresh stuff is called dekitate and it is TO DIE FOR.  It is the smoothest, creamiest ice-cream I’ve ever had and luckily for us they serve it at the counter for when their upstairs restaurant is full (I’m not sure why, but you aren’t allowed to take the ice-cream away, you must eat it all in the shop).  When we visited it was a weekend, and the place was absolutely jam-packed upstairs, and downstairs too, with people waiting for a table.  But we got to skip the line and eat our dekitate kinako at the bar while everyone else had to wait.  Suckers!!!  The next time we went (oh yes, we went again – and again) we made sure it was a weekday and we didn’t have to wait at all.  Yum, yum, yum!!!!

INFO:

Higashiyama-ku, Gion-machi Minami-gawa 570-119
+81 75 525 8300
1100-1830

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

NO NAME SMOOTHIE BAR

Sometimes the life of a Drunk In….. blogger isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  After lunch one day we went in search of a bar (any bar) to while away a few hours before dinner (OK, it actually is a pretty good life).  Sadly for us we just couldn’t find one.  Giving up, we decided to go home and chill out instead (where we knew that there was a bottle of whiskey with our names on it).  Walking home we happened upon a cute little house with pictures of drinks out the front.  Thinking that we had stumbled upon a bar after all, we got quite excited and prepared to enter.  But then I realised that the photos were of smoothies and fruity teas.  Deflated, we started walking away.  But then it hit us, why the hell not have a smoothie!!?  Why not indeed.  We knocked on the door and were greeted and welcomed (albeit with some surprise) into the home of a lovely little Japanese lady wearing a homely apron around her waist.  We took off our shoes and were led through her living room, which was set up as a juice bar, and into the tatami room beyond – the room reserved for esteemed guests!  Eeeek!!  We bowed as she retreated and sat down on our heels and just looked at each other and giggled.  Not a word had been exchanged between us and the lady and we were wondering what she thought we were doing there.  Not to worry, before long she reappeared with a menu (thank goodness it was one with photos) and we each selected a delicious looking drink which we could hear her whipping up with a blender in the other room.  It was kind of weird to be sitting in someone’s TV room with pictures of her kids on the mantle and completely unable to communicate.  But weird in a very fucking cool way.  I was really glad that we took a chance on that smoothie because not only was it delicious, it was an absolutely lovely experience.  And I think she thought so too.

CLICK FOR (APPROXIMATE) MAP

 

 

TEA CEREMONY EN

So, it’s not all about drinking and eating on our vacations.  We like to squeeze a little bit of culture in there from time to time and in Kyoto we did that with a private tea ceremony.  Now this experience was just awesome.  So much better and more fun than I’d expected (and definitely more than David expected).  It’s something I would recommend to everyone visiting Kyoto because it gives you an insight into a ritual that is fast disappearing.  The kids of today aren’t really interested in learning about it, so sadly, one day it might be lost for good.  I hope not because it’s something that is steeped in history and culture and ceremony and it’s a wonderful way to connect with people through structured conversation.  The 45 minute ceremony began with the host explaining the reason for the ritualistic aspects of the ceremony (including the utensils used) and then moved onto the four principles of every ceremony which are purity, respect, harmony and tranquility.  It’s super fascinating to discover that every single element of the ceremony, from the movements of the host, to the wood that is used to make the tea spoon represents something, means something.  In a world where meaning has been replaced by convenience, it was really nice to experience something meaningful.

INFO:

〒605-0063 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Matsubaracho, 272
+81 80 3782 2706

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

MAN SA GAMA (POTTERY EXPERIENCE)      

So it’s springtime in Kyoto.  Which means that there are shitloads of stunning cherry blossoms to be seen everywhere.  But nowhere are there more to be seen than on the 2km long Philosopher’s Path.  This is an absolutely stunning walk (and the thousands of other people who were there that day obviously agreed).  Yes, it is tourist-ridden.  But it’s a must-do in Kyoto.  Another must-do?  Making your own cup at Mansagama Pottery, a little shop about half way through the walk.  When we saw dozens of little cups and bowls lining the shelves inside the shop we asked if we could buy them and were told they weren’t for sale.  But!!!  But, we could make our own!!!!  How exciting.  The whole process from jumping with glee at the prospect of getting my “Ghost” on, to washing my hands at the end took only 20 minutes.  We had them shipped to Australia so I still haven’t seen them but I’m super excited to have my own little cup (with my name etched on the bottom in Kanji).

INFO:

606-8404 Kyoto, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Jodojishita Minamida-cho, 148
+81 75 751 8199
1100-1800 (irregular)

CLICK FOR MAP

 

 

NO NAME FRIED CHICKEN STAND

OK, so you’re thinking pottery, philosophy, blah blah blah.  Where’s all the drinking and eating?  Of course as we meandered down the Philosopher’s Path I was on the lookout for a little izakaya in which to quench our thirst – but to no avail.  Plenty of teahouses; not much in the way of sake houses.  But lo and behold, just when I was giving up all hope I looked across the canal to see a little handmade stand announcing that there was fried chicken and beer to be had.  I got mad excited, not so much for the beer or fried chicken but because this place was just fucking amazing.  A little lady had decided to set up shop on one of the most touristic routes in the country.  Brilliant!!!  She’d set up an esky with cold brews and she cooked the chicken fresh to order.  And it was delicious.  I just instantly fall in love with places like this.  I can’t guarantee that she’ll be there if you go visit, but if she is you must drop in.  Say hi from us.

CLICK FOR MAP OF PHILOSOPHER’S PATH – you’ll have to find the chicken stand yourself, but I’d say it’s about 3/4 of the way down if you’re heading south.

 

GYOZA CHAO CHAO

The final stop on our Drunk In….. tour of Kyoto was Gyoza Chao Chao.  We had been hankering for gyoza (fried Japanese dumplings) from Day One, but had yet to find some.  On our last night I took to the internet to find “best gyoza in Kyoto” – hey, when you’re desperate, you go there.  And Gyoza Chao Chao came up.  So off we went to wait in line for about an hour in the chilly evening air.  Luckily we’d already had a few drinks so we didn’t feel the cold, or the time, too acutely.  And before we knew it we were summoned into the shop where, upon entering, the entire room shouted and cheered us in, as though we were old friends they’d been waiting for, for hours.  There’s something to be said for such a warm welcome.  It set a friendly, relaxed and fun tone for the meal ahead.  And what a meal it was.  We ordered about five serves of gyoza and devoured them as if we hadn’t eaten food in over a week.  They were delicious.  So much so we decided to also try their steamed dumplings.  I ALWAYS put on weight when we go to Japan and this is the reason why, but it’s totally, totally worth it.

INFO:

餃々 三条木屋町店
中京区木屋町三条下ル石屋町117
+81 75 251 0056
M-F: 1700-late, S-S: 1400-late

CLICK FOR MAP