Some of this is old news, but there are a lot of things going on with Alaska Airlines. First thing, you may have heard that they’ve merged with Virgin America. Virgin America will be fully absorbed by Alaska Airlines by the end of 2019, including, hopefully, its quirky personality and mood lighting (in blue, not red). Although primarily a West Coast operation, the combined airlines are now the 5th largest carrier in the United States. They’re flying 1,200 flights a day to 118 destinations, and their combined global network reaches over 800 destinations worldwide.
The (Bank of America) Alaska Airlines VISA Signature Card has very recently shot up in value. It’s now one of THE cards to get for residents of Hawaii. The reason is because of the recent merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America in combination with the annual $121 companion fare ($99 + taxes and fees) when traveling with another passenger on a paid published coach airfare on the same itinerary, booked at the same time via the Alaska Airlines website. By contrast, the Hawaiian Airlines credit card gives just a $100 discount on a companion flight. Yes, you’ll be paying full freight on one fare, but the overall savings are substantial and the miles earned have a great deal of utility.
The (Bank of America) Alaska Airlines VISA Signature Card (link via USCreditCardGuide should offer $100 credit)
Another Travel Day. But there was still some things to see in Kyoto before we wrapped up. The Kyoto Imperial Palace, or Gosho, was the former residence of the Emperor of Japan. But the Imperial family hasn’t resided here since 1869, when the seat transferred to Tokyo. Access is limited by formal request, except for two times a year where the gates are opened to the public. And we happened to be there for one of those times.
The hotel had bikes for rent so we decided to impromptu change things up and ride around town. Kyoto is relatively flat and its streets are laid out in a grid formation, which makes it perfect for bicycling. See if your lodging has access to bicycles, or there are a number of options around town, as well. The Kyoto Cycling Tour Project is one option, and they provide rentals as well as guided tours. Things started off a little wobbly, but improved towards the end.
So, in order to maximize the intake of cultural sites, we arranged for a day-tour of Kyoto and Nara. If you’re ever in the area, we suggest you do the same. We arranged our tour via Japanican, a subsidiary of JTB. One can only do so many temples and shrines, but this tour gives a really nice overview, and makes accessing Nara easy. I should add, there is an important reason why you should see Nara along with Kyoto and Tokyo – by doing so, you’d be visiting the New Capital (Tokyo, 1869-present), the Old Capital (Kyoto, 784-1868), and the Ancient Capital (Nara, 710-784).
But, to begin, the Japanese breakfast of champions: 7-11 musubi and coffee.
Travel day! Kyoto bound via the Shinkansen (the only way to travel). I’ll cover how to travel via train, subway and Shinkansen in a later post, but it’s hard to overstate how simple, convenient and efficient mass transit is in Japan. For those that haven’t been, you’ll love it.
But first: laundry. And trying to figure out this combination washing machine/dryer at the hotel. It needs to be said, Japan does almost everything right, but our experiences with washing machines and dryers in Japan leave a lot to be desired.