Special experiences

By Bob Bagley
This item appears on page 49 of the June 2016 issue.

Embracing travel memories, two places stand out the most.

• During a trip that my wife and I took to Scandinavia about eight years ago, we rode the rails for 18 hours from Stockholm, Sweden, to Narvik, NORWAY. From there, we flew to Trondheim and eventually made our way to Myrdal Station by rail. From there, we rode the Flåm Cog Railway, which descends 2,840 feet to Flåm in 12 miles. This is one of the 10 steepest railways in the world.

We stayed at a pension in Flåm, where we were loaned bikes to ride. We had a romantic evening, going to sleep listening to little bells, and we awoke to bells ringing a lot. At breakfast, we learned that local shepherds put bells on newborn goats so they can track them. The goats were really jumping in the mornings!

Flåm is breathtakingly beautiful — a fairy-tale place! After having visited six continents and over 40 countries, it is one of two locations I would revisit in a heartbeat.

• My other favorite spot is the Tea House Assam,* which my wife and I visited in Kyoto, JAPAN, one afternoon about 10 years ago.

The tea ceremony, orchestrated to perfection, was an ethereal experience of the senses. The proprietor left no sense untouched, such were his efforts.

We were staying in Osaka and actually traveled back a second time to see if we were deluding ourselves with what we thought we had experienced. It was, indeed, for real!


Dallas, TX

*For the location of the teahouse, ITN turned to the Japan National Tourism Organization in Los Angeles (213/623-1952, us.jnto.go.jp) and was sent the following information from the Kyoto Convention & Visitors Bureau (http://kyoto.travel/en):

“The address of the Tea House Assam is Shishigatani Kamimiyanomaecho 53, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8447, Japan; phone 075 751 5539. To reach the teahouse from the Kyoto station, take the Kyoto City Bus No. 100 line, bound for Ginkakuji, for about 35 minutes and get off at the Miyanomae stop. The teahouse is a 2-minute walk from the stop.

“It would be best to assume that the owner speaks only Japanese. He is getting on in years and does not stick to a strict opening schedule, so, as of late, the shop tends to open at 1 p.m. and only for a short time.

“For more information, email the (above) Kyoto Prefecture visitors’ bureau at kanko@pref.kyoto.lg.jp. An email should receive a response in English.”