Kyoto Bamboo Forest

One atmospheric forest.

Kyoto – 2017

Kyoto Bamboo Forest

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Akihabara street

Advertisement signs overdose.

Tokyo – 2017

Akihabara street

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Banca de Pau – Lisbon, Portugal

In the very trendy neighbourhood of Principe Real, just north of Lisbon city centre, you will find Banca de Pau a Portuguese tapas restaurant. Multitasking as a deli, a wine shop and an eatery, the place only serves Portuguese products.

Banca de Pau in Lisbon

I can honestly say that it was one of the best meals we had during our stay in Lisbon. The products are excellent and all sourced locally. The staff is ADORABLE and speaks excellent English (and a bit of French!) and the prices are very reasonable.

Banca de Pau in Lisbon

Banca de Pau seems to have been recently renovated. The place feels modern and is very easy to navigate. At the table next to ours, there was a guest with visual impairment and they had no problem navigating the space. The staff was also extremely attentive to their specific needs. I thought I would mention it as I am conscious some people have to take those things into consideration when travelling! At Banca de Pau you will be well taken care of!

With a wine shop on site, you can choose a glass or pitcher of any of the bottles they sell. If you need a little bit of help make a decision, the staff will select three wines for you to taste. We both settled for red Portuguese wines, both excellent.

Wine at Banca de Pau in Lisbon

Now let’s talk about the food, I could just write that it was excellent and leave it there, but in case you need a few recommendations here is what we ordered and loved.

For starters, we ordered the tomato mousse and pistachios toats and the cheese and walnuts toasts. The tomato mousse toasts were to die for! The cheese toats were great too, but the tomato ones were just a level above. I wish we would have ordered another serving of these but we wanted to save our appetite for a few other things.

Tomato mousse and pistachios toats and cheese and walnuts toasts at Banca de Pau, Lisbon

For good measure after many Pastels de Nata during the day, we ordered some greens in the form of broad beans with strawberries and grilled smoked ham. These were tasty and naturally flavoured by the sweetness of the strawberries and the saltiness of the ham.

Broad beans with strawberries and grilled smoked ham at Banca de Pau in Lisbon

Of course, we couldn’t eat at a tapas restaurant without ordering the mixed charcuterie and cheese platter. It doesn’t look like much in the picture but the portion was generous and definitely enough for 2 people.

Mixed charcuterie and cheese platter at Banca de Pau in Lisbon

Finally, we ordered the pork sausages with pears and figs. The savoury sausages mixed with the sweetness of the pears and figs made for delicious flavours.

Pork sausages with pears and figs at Banca de Pau in Lisbon

We left full and very satisfied, and our bank account was very happy too! I couldn’t recommend Banca de Pau enough if you are visiting Lisbon, the wine, the food, the staff – you will have a lovely time!

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Osaka Castle

The bridge to grandeur.

Osaka – 2017

Osaka castle

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Deer greetings

Fun fact: deer all over Japan have learned to bend to greet humans! Unsettling at first it is a pretty genius idea they got to get more biscuits!

Nara – 2017

Deer greeting people in Nara Japan

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Koinobori

These fish lanterns are called Koinobori and are usually flown to celebrate Children’s Day during the Golden Week.

Hiroshima – 2017

Koinobori in Hiroshima

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Ueno street

It looks like a quiet little town street but this is in the middle of one of the biggest metropolises in the world.

Tokyo – 2017

Ueno street in Tokyo

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4 days in Istanbul

Where the West meets the East, the great city of Istanbul is an amazing destination. Some of you may immediately think that with the recent events it is not very safe to visit, but we visited in between two incidents and if it wasn’t for the news we would have never known that something was happening.

I can safely say that Istanbul was one of the most beautiful and pleasant cities I have ever visited. Turkish people are very friendly, the food is amazing and the sights are breathtakingly beautiful. So follow me for 4 days in what used to be known as Byzantium and Constantinople.

Day 1 – Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern

We started our trip in the most famous neighbourhood of Istanbul, Sultanahmet. This is where you will find the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and many more famous sights. We were lucky to have excellent weather, and after a quick breakfast on the go, we headed to Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia

I knew the history of Hagia Sophia, once a Christian Orthodox cathedral, it was turned into a mosque, and is now a museum. What I didn’t know, on the other hand, was how big and beautiful the place was.

Hagia Sophia

The ceilings are so high it is unbelievable.

Deësis mosaic in Hagia Sophia

This is also where you will find the very famous Deësis and Comnenus mosaics, some signs left from its cathedral days.

Comnenus mosaic in Hagia Sophia

Make sure to peek through the windows for the most beautiful views of Istanbul’s roofs.

Istanbul's roofs

After a Turkish tea break, we were off to the Blue Mosque. It is good to note that the visits are allowed between prayer time and if you are a woman you will need to cover your hair. I made sure to wear a scarf around my neck at all time when in Istanbul so I could easily cover my head if I needed to.

Wearing a head scarf in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The inside of the mosque is embellished with light features, stained glass and mosaics.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The building itself is breathtakingly beautiful and changes colours throughout the day, sometimes appearing blue, sometimes grey or even white!

The Blue Mosque in IstanbulThe Blue Mosque in Istanbul

We took a little bit of time to check out the Obelisk of Theodosius and the Serpent Column before grabbing lunch at one of the many restaurants around.

The Obelisk of Theodosius in IstanbulThe Serpent Column in Istanbul

In the afternoon, we first visited the Basilica Cistern, famous for featuring in a James Bond film (From Russia with love) and for its Medusa columns.

The Basilica Cistern in IstanbulMedusa column in the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

We then spent some time exploring the streets of Sultanahmet. Stopping for some baklava.

Baklava in Istanbul

We headed toward the Yeni Cami square where the beautiful ‘New’ mosque stands.

Yeni Cami mosque in Istanbul

Our last stop of the day was the Spice Bazaar, where we smelled and tasted a few things before buying some tea and some Turkish delights.

Spice Bazaar in IstanbulTurkish delight at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

Turkish food is delicious and there are a few dishes I listed in a previous post that you need to try while there!

Istanbul and the Bosphorus

We crossed the Bosphorus and enjoyed watching the fishermen keeping busy at sunset.

Fishermen in Istanbul

Day 2 – Galata Tower, Karakoy and afternoon tea at Pera Palace Hotel

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great on our second day but we didn’t get discouraged and headed out to explore Karakoy neighbourhood.

Karakoy Istanbul

Our first stop was at the Galata tower, a medieval building with amazing panoramic views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus.

Galata Tower in IstanbulView from Galata Tower in Istanbul

We enjoyed the views and headed back downstairs for a warming cup of tea. The weather wasn’t getting better we, therefore, decided to go explore Karakoy’s streets so it would be easy to shelter in a shop if needed.

Street art in Istanbul

Embarrassing fact: I didn’t know Istanbul had an old tramway system running in the pedestrian streets. I actually discovered it when I almost got hit by one!

Istanbul tramway

We got lost in the streets and ran into some of the famous Istanbul sights like the Kamondo steps and Taksim Square.

Kamondo steps in IstanbulTaksim Square in Istanbul

It eventually started raining so we decided to take shelter at the Pera Palace Hotel for some tea and cake.

Pera Palace Hotel cakes

The place is beautiful and famous for hosting the Orient Express passengers – including Agatha Christie – before or after their trip on the train.

Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul

Day 3 – Ortakoy and a cruise on the Bosphorus

We started the third day in the neighbourhood of Ortakoy, a beautiful traditional area with plenty of trendy restaurants and cafes.

Ortakoy in Istanbul

This is where we had the best Turkish breakfast of our trip!

After a very satisfying breakfast, we headed to Besiktas’ port to catch one of the Bosphorus boat tours. I cannot remember exactly which company we used, but they were very easy to find and we bought the tickets at one of the front desks at the port.

Ortakoy in Istanbul

We picked a hop-on-hop-off cruise which allowed us to stop and explore different neighbourhoods.

Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul

The boats are often enough that you won’t have to wait too long if the area you stop at is not very big.

Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul

We were lucky to have excellent weather on that day and the views were fantastic.

Bosphorus cruise in IstanbulBosphorus cruise in Istanbul

We first stopped at Emirgan, a small neighbourhood with a village vibe where we grabbed a coffee.

Emirgan in Istanbul

Back on the boat, we headed to Asia and stopped at Beylerbeyi for a quick bite on the go and nice views of the European side.

Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul

Our last stop was in Kadikoy, where we explored the small lively streets and grabbed yet another cup of Turkish tea (I did buy a couple of boxes to take back home as you can imagine).

Bosphorus cruise in IstanbulMarket in Kadikoy, Istanbul

We very much enjoyed Kadikoy with its lively market and plenty of bars and eateries. It seems like it would be a fun place to go out in the evening too.

Market in Kadikoy, Istanbul

Day 4 – Topkapi Palace Museum and the Grand Bazaar

Our final day was spent back in Europe. We spent the morning exploring Topkapi Palace.

Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The place is beautiful, the architecture is amazing and the gardens are a real pleasure to visit.

Topkapi Palace garden in Istanbul

I also recommend visiting the harem where you can learn a lot about it, which (spoiler alert) is nothing like what you may imagine it to be. It was a lot more civilised and a lot less glamorous than what books and movies may have depicted.

Harem in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The harem was actually where the family of the sultan lived. It was a private and quiet house tucked away from the crowds of the royal court.

After lunch, we headed to the very famous Grand Bazaar, our final stop. We kept it for last as we knew we would probably buy souvenirs there (we did).

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

The place is very impressive with endless covered alleyways. It is vast and it is very easy to get lost in it.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

It is also magical and feels like shopping in a giant Aladdin’s cave!

Istanbul Grand Bazaar

We absolutely loved our time in Istanbul and we will definitely be back, where Europe shakes hands with Asia.

Istanbul

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Hiroshima castle

Fun fact, most castles in Japan are made of wood and a lot of them have burned and been rebuilt multiple times over the centuries.

Hiroshima – 2017

Hiroshima Castle

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Sensō-ji gate

Grand entrance for great first impressions.

Tokyo – 2017

Sensō-ji gate

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