4 days in Kyoto

If Tokyo is the busy and trendy Japan destination, Kyoto is the beautiful more traditional one. Kyoto has countless shrines, Geishas walk in the street like you would walk to a grocery shop, ryokans are the recommended accommodations to stay at – this is where you will have a taste of the Japanese traditions.

We stayed in Kyoto for 4 days, but to be honest I wished we had a fifth day there as there were a few things we had no time to do. I guess that’s an excuse to go back, right?

Day 1 – Higashi Honganji, Kyoto Train Station & Fushimi

After dropping our bags at our hotel we headed to Higashi Honganji, a big shrine a stone’s throw away from Kyoto station. It is a complex made of multiple temples and very impressive.

Higashi Honganji

Higashi Honganji dragon fountain

Having worked up an appetite we headed to Kyoto’s train station on the lookout for a place to eat. You may think that eating in a train station is a little sad, but Kyoto’s station is an architectural wonder and absolutely worth getting lost into.

Kyoto train stationKyoto train station

Among the floors of shops and eateries you will find glimpse of the city and some magical architectural moments. And on the 11th floor, you will find an excellent tonkatsu at Katsukura.

Kyoto tower

After lunch, we hopped on the JR line to Fushimi. A few tips before we start the visit, when visiting Fushimi wear comfortable shoes that you can walk-in for a good few hours and have at least a bottle of water per person.

Fushimi

Fushimi is one of the most famous touristic sights in the world with its thousands torii gates lined along the mountain trail. Warning – the first kilometre is hell! You will be stuck in a crowd of tourists stopping every two meters to take a picture. After the first kilometre, people will start to head back, the trail will get less busy and you will finally have a quiet moment to embrace the beauty of the place.

Fushimi

Keep climbing (you have to walk that tonkatsu off, right?) to the quietest spot and unspoiled views of the valley.

Fushimi

Then turn around and head all the way back downhill to the station, there is no shortcut exit there. Take one last (sweaty) picture, and head back to your hotel for a shower.

FushimiFushimi

Freshened-up and starving we enjoyed a ‘burnt’ Ramen at Gogyo Ramen that evening.

Day 2 – The Bamboo Forest, Kinkaku-ji & Hirano Shrine

We started the second day at the famous Bamboo Forest. You must have seen this place all over Instagram, Pinterest and other social media. It looks beautifully serene on most pictures right? Well let me tell you, in real life, it is MUCH busier. No silence and bird chirping noises, camera noises and ‘say cheeeeese’ is what you will hear the most.

The Bamboo Forest

The Bamboo Forest is breathtakingly beautiful though, and once you adjust to the flow of people you will see through the chaos its true beauty.

The Bamboo Forest

Get lost in the small alleyways around the forest and explore some of the shrines surrounding the place before your next stop!

The Bamboo ForestThe Bamboo Forest

A train and a walk later, we arrived at Kinkaku-ji. Again, crazy busy, again ridiculously beautiful.

Kinkaku-ji

There you will find the most beautiful gold-plated shrine, in the middle of a wonderfully Japanese-looking pond.

Kinkaku-ji

The park is gorgeous and I really cannot emphasise enough on how beautiful the golden pavillion is.

Kinkaku-ji

On our way back to the station we swung by Hirano Shrine, a peaceful ‘everyday life’ shrine where we had a few last glimpses of the cherry blossom season (we missed it by only 10 days!).

Hirano ShrineHirano Shrine

Day 3 – Daimaru Kyoto, Nishiki Market, Pontocho & the Imperial Palace

Our third day in Kyoto was a rainy one. We started the day sheltered into the shops of Shijo Dori. A bit of shopping never hurt anyone!

Daimaru

If you are only going to enter one shop, make it Daimaru, their food court to be more precise. Daimaru is comparable to Selfridges or Le Bon Marche and the food hall is amazing!

Talking about food, after salivating in the alleys of Daimaru, we headed to Nishiki Market for our real lunch. Dedicate a good 90 minutes to two hours to the place as there is so much to see and to taste.

Nishiki Market

In need of a walk after so much food, we headed to the small streets of Pontocho in the hope of running into a geisha.

Pontocho

Geishas there weren’t, but charming little houses to take pictures of there were!

PontochoPontocho

The day was getting greyer and greyer but we still stuck to our plan and walked to the Imperial Palace park.

Imperial Palace parkImperial Palace park

After so much walking and in need of something warm and comforting to eat, we ended our day at What’s for some delicious beef.

Day 4 – Kiyomizu-dera, Sannen-zaka, Yasaka Shrine & Gion

Luckily our last day was sunny and warm again, the perfect weather to end our trip in Kyoto at one of its most famous sights Kiyomizu-dera.

Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera is easily recognisable from afar with its tall red pagoda.

Kiyomizu-dera pagoda

We explored the shrine before getting lost in the traditional streets of Sannen-zaka.

Sannen-zaka

Walking along the wooden houses was like a trip through time, and we FINALY found some geishas!

Geishas in Kyoto

Be aware that geishas are coy by nature and not easy to photograph. Respect it as you don’t want to come across as a rude tourist.

Sannen-zaka

We wandered in Maruyama park.

Kyoto's streetMaruyama park

Our last stop before lunch was Yasaka Shrine, a beautiful temple just off Gion’s streets.

Yasaka Shrine

After a quick lunch on the go, we got lost into the streets of Gion, a lively neighbourhood where you will find designers’ shops, traditional ryokans, and, again, some beautiful shrines.

GionGionGion

Where to stay?

We stayed in two different places during our time in Kyoto. We spent the first couple of nights in Sakura Terrace, a perfectly fine hotel a short walk away from the train station, great to hop on the JR line to Fushimi and the Bamboo Forest.

The following two nights we stayed in a traditional room at Matsubaya Ryokan, a great ryokan with an amazing traditional Japanese breakfast and where futons are lot comfier than what they look like.

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5 days in Tokyo

That is it! I am finally tackling all the Japan content I have! Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing my itineraries to help you plan your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun – starting with Tokyo!

As you can imagine, Tokyo is an amazing city, it is very old yet very modern, very calm yet very busy – it is a fascinating place! The itinerary below will take you to most of the main sights in Tokyo. The city is so vast that you could easily spend another five days exploring it, that is if you have a lot of time in Japan. If you are only there for a couple of weeks, five days is a good start for a first visit to Tokyo.

Day 1 – Arriving to Tokyo & Shinjuku

If coming from Europe, you will be landing in Tokyo around breakfast time. It will take you a good couple of hours to make it to Tokyo city-centre, time to grab your luggage, go through customs, taxi or train, etc. We were staying in Shinjuku where most of the big hotels are, so we decided to spend the afternoon there.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is one of the busiest neighbourhoods of Tokyo and a very convenient place to base yourself during your stay in Tokyo with multiple train and subway stations around. We stayed at the Hilton which was very nice, but a bit expensive.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is also the perfect place to have a first taste of Tokyo, it is overwhelmingly busy, but Japanese people are so quiet and respectful that it feels less busy than a London pub on a Friday night.

Shinjuku station platform

Day 2 – Meiji Jingu, Shibuya & Roppongi

The second day is a perfect mixture of modern and ancient Tokyo. First stop Meiji Jingu in the heart of Harajuku. A beautiful shrine hidden in the middle of a park, offering a little bit of peace and quiet away from the buzzing streets of Harajuku, which I could best described as the Shoreditch of Tokyo.

Meiju Jingu

After enjoying the tranquility of Meiju Jingu, we walked through Harajuku and headed toward Shibuya. Coming from that direction you will arrive straight to the famous Shibuya crossing, which, in real life, looks and feel smaller than what you may have seen in pictures or in movies. It is still busy though!

Shibuya Crossing

For the best views of the crossing head to Starbucks for a coffee and the best time-lapse spot.

Shibuya Crossing

Get lost in the back streets of Shibuya and make sure to grab lunch at Toritake.

Toritake

Full of yakitori, we then headed to Roppongi, another very trendy neighbourhood of Tokyo and a great place to do a spot of shopping. We haven’t been there at night but it is supposed to be a very lively place to go out.

Roppongi street

After walking all day, we ended the day back in Shinjuku with a delicious ramen at the very popular Ichiran.

Ichiran

Day 3 – Asakusa, Tokyo National Museum & Ueno

On the third day, we headed to an older part of Tokyo and started in Asakusa. Just outside of the station you will have a great view of the Skytree. We decide not to visit it though to have more time visiting Tokyo and less time waiting in a notoriously long queue.

Tokyo Skytree

Walk to the ancient Sensō-ji temple, you will walk through charming ancient streets to get there.

Asakusa

Embrace the atmosphere of the old shrine and bathe yourself in incense smoke for good health.

Sensō-jiSensō-ji

Head to Tokyo National Museum and grab lunch on your way there. You can easily find bento boxes and onigiri in supermarkets for a lunch on the go. We had our lunch in Ueno Onshi Park.

Ueno Onshi Park

The Tokyo National Museum is the perfect option if you only have time to visit one museum in Tokyo, or if you are not really into Museum. It gives an overview of Japanese history and culture, from clothing to housing.

Tokyo National MuseumTokyo National Museum

After a few hours wandering the corridors of the museum, we headed deep into Ueno and got lost in the little streets for an afternoon walk.

Ueno street

We ended the day, again in Shinjuku, and had one of the most amazing meals at Imahan.

Imahan

Day 4 – Tsukiji Fish Market, Hamarikyu Gardens, Ginza, Chiyoda & Ebisu

I talked about Tsukiji Fish Market into details in a previous post, and, because you can only visit the market the morning, it is a great place to start your day.

Tsukiji Fish Market

After a couple of hours among the fish and their fishmongers, we headed for a bit of fresher air and decided to visit Hamarikyu Gardens. This park is an oasis of tranquility in the middle of Tokyo.

Hamarikyu GardensHamarikyu Gardens

We grabbed lunch on our way to Ginza, an upmarket shopping district.

Ginza street

Not far from Ginza is Chiyoda where you will find the Imperial Palace. It is also supposed to be a fantastic spot to see the cherry blossom during the season.

Chiyoda

We ended the day in the very lively district of Ebisu where we had dinner and a cheeky beer at the Ebisu Beer Hall.

Day 5 – Akihabara & Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

On your last day, immerse yourself in the gamer and technology culture in Akihabara.

Akihabara

Get lost in the game centres or in a cat cafe (we did both!).

Akihabara games centreAkihabara cat cafe

Take some cheesy photo-booth pictures and embrace the weirdness of the place.

Akihabara Sega games centre

A highlight of our Tokyo visit was the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The place is breathtakingly beautiful and on a rainy day like we had, it had strong Lost in Translation vibes.

Shinjuku Gyoen National GardenShinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Talking about Lost in Translation, make sure to end your trip with a drink at the New York bar, at the top of the Park Hyatt, and made famous by Sophia Coppola’s movie. It offers the most incredible views of the city at dusk.

New York Bar view Tokyo

I hope you will enjoy Tokyo as much as we did! I just cannot wait to come back!

Take me there!

A day in Hakone – Japan

One of the most famous sights in Japan is Mount Fuji, the perfectly shaped volcano is on most postcards and a magical sight to see in person.

The tricky thing with Mount Fuji is that seeing it is very much weather dependent, indeed the volcano is famous to disappear behind a haze after midday or when temperatures rise making it difficult to see.

Mount Fuji from Shinkansen

I don’t consider myself particularly lucky, but I had the best luck seeing Mount Fuji during our two weeks there. Our first sight of it was on the Shinkansen on our way from Tokyo to Hiroshima. If the weather is good, keep your eyes peeled about 40 minutes out of Tokyo, the view is breathtaking.

Mount Fuji from Shinkansen

We didn’t have enough of Mount Fuji and decided to get a little bit closer. An obvious place to do so is Hakone. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. Famous for its hot springs, and its views across Lake Ashinoko of Mount Fuji. It is a very popular destinations among Japanese and international tourists, and only an hour out of Tokyo which makes it an accessible day trip if you want a break from the city.

Getting to Hakone is also incredibly easy. What I loved in Japan is that everything is so organised and logical that you just cannot get lost, even if you don’t understand a word of Japanese. We took the Shinkansen to Odawara Station, once there, we dropped our luggage in a locker, as we were coming from Kyoto and heading back to Tokyo on that same day. In the station you will quickly see signs for Hakone which will guide you to an office where you can get a map of the area as well as the pass for the train, shuttle and funicular to the National Park. It sounds like a lot of transport transfers but again, do not fear, it is very easy!

Train to Hakone view

We took the train from Odawara to Hakone Yumutu, there we transferred to the smaller train which took us up the mountains. Once in Gora, where the train line ends, we transferred to the funicular, which took us directly to the cable car station. Make sure to take a window seat on the right of the cable car for the best views of Mount Fuji.

Hakone cable car

We started climbing, it was very windy, which can be slightly intimidating if you don’t like heights. And suddenly, people started gasping, right there in front of us the Mount Fuji was standing. The views were very clear, but unfortunately my camera didn’t do it justice and it was much clearer and impressive in real life.

SONY DSCSONY DSC

The first stop once in the National Park is Owakudani. The views of Mount Fuji from there are fantastic and you will also see the sulphur fumes emerging from the ground. Only then did we really realised that we were visiting a volcanic area. Mount Fuji looks so peaceful that you can easily forget what it really is, also the last eruption was in 1707 so it is a pretty chill volcano.

Owakudani Sulphur fumes

From Owakudani we then took another cable car down to Lake Ashinoko. We took a lunch break there while waiting for the next ‘pirate’ boat to arrive. You read that right, for some reason the sightseeing boats taking you from Togendai to the other side of the lake look like huge pirate boats.

Owakudani cable car

Hakone Pirate BoatSONY DSC

You will still be able to see Mount Fuji during the cruise, making for great shots of the volcano and the lake.

Mount FujiTorii in Hakone

That is if, unlike us, the weather is not ‘too’ good, indeed the day we visited, it was so sunny that the sky turned white and Mount Fuji started to fade against it so my pictures really don’t do the place justice.

Mount Fuji

Once on the other side of the lake, we walked by the shore and explored Onshihakone Park.

Onshihakone Park

It was surprisingly quiet as it seemed most tourists don’t venture there. A great opportunity to enjoy the peace and tranquillity after a crowded boat ride.

Onshihakone ParkOnshihakone Park

We walked a little further down to explore the town.

HakoneHakone

We then caught the bus back to Odawara station. One good tip, the bus gets VERY busy at the Sightseeing Cruise bus stop, so try to catch it a stop ahead to make sure you can actually get on it!

Cherry blossom in Hakone

In no time we were back on the Shinkansen and off to Tokyo. One long but beautiful day trip!

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Tsukiji fish market – Tokyo, Japan

Today’s blog won’t be very pretty to look at, mostly if you are vegetarian! I am taking you to Tsukiji market, Tokyo’s fish market. This is one of the main sights to visit when in Japan. What I didn’t expect though is that it would look rather rough and like a slaughter house (well it is really). I guess when you think of Japan, you expect everything to be modern and super clean, Tsukiji market is at the other end of the scale, messy, busy and wonderfully authentic.

Tsukiji fish market Tokyo

A good tip before we start our visit, we read everywhere that we needed to be there super early to see the fish coming in , the tuna auctions, etc. However, it happens that the market was closed to tourists until 10/11am… Indeed, we were asked not to enter the main hall until then. So don’t sacrifice your hours of sleep, yes it will be less busy by the time you get in, but you will still see and experience the atmosphere.

Tsukiji fish market Tokyo

We arrived in the area early and once we realised that we wouldn’t be let in, we decided to walk and explore the streets around which are full of consumers markets (as opposed to Tsukiji main market which is mainly for businesses).

Tsukiji fish market TokyoTsukiji fish market TokyoTsukiji fish market Tokyo

Once a little tired of walking, we headed back to the main area where you can find plenty of sushi restaurants. Some are very popular, some only have set menu options, so we settled for Sushi Dokoro Yamazaki which offers a great ‘à la carte’ option. Unfortunately, I have a very severe allergy to raw salmon so I couldn’t risk to eat any sushi, so Andrew was the only one eating, and at 10 am he wasn’t feeling like eating an entire platter on his own. Sushi Dokoro Yamazaki was perfect for us as I could sip on a miso soup and some tea while Andrew was eating a small serving.

Sushi Dokoro YamazakiSushi Dokoro Yamazaki

Finally, it was time for us to enter the main hall. It is very easy to find your way in, follow the flow of tourists who are following a guard and you will get in. Note that people at the market are here to work, and they will very directly let you know if you are annoying them or on their way. I have never been honked at that much in my life! Should I be flattered?

Tsukiji fish market Tokyo

The scenes inside are very ‘real’ maybe a little too much for some. Sometime you forget that there was a very alive giant tuna behind that little California roll…

Tsukiji fish market TokyoTsukiji fish market Tokyo

Embrace the atmosphere, and accept it, don’t fight it. It is like looking at the food chain in the eyes.

Tsukiji fish market TokyoTsukiji fish market Tokyo

It is good sometime to just see the process behind some of our food, so that we are all a little bit more appreciative and mindful when eating.

Tsukiji fish market Tokyo

We came out smelling of fish, a little less hungry than usual and in need of a bit of fresh air, but overall very happy to have seen this side of Japan!

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The prettiest Cotswolds villages

The Cotswold is one of the prettiest areas of England I have ever been to. Rolling hills, green valleys, quaint villages, everywhere you look is out of a postcard.

Cotswolds countryside

We woke up bright and early to made the most of the 2 days we had in the region. On the first day, we visited Blockley, Kingham, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water. It seems like a lot but some villages are teeny tiny so you will only need an hour or so there. On the Sunday, we explored Painswick, Miserden and Bibury, before heading back to London.

Now to help you plan your trip to the Cotswolds, I listed all the villages below with a few recommendations here and there. Also keep scrolling if you like pictures of quaint houses and autumnal foliage. Bundle up and let’s go!

Topshop shearling coat and Marc Jacobs sunglasses
Topshop coat (similar) and Marc Jacobs sunglasses (similar)

Blockley

BlockleyBlockley was just waking up when we arrived on Saturday morning. It is a very small village so you won’t need long to explore it. Take a moment to appreciate the local architecture. All house are built with the local sand colour Cotswold stone.

Blockley

Walk to the top of the hill for glimpses of the countryside.

Blockley

There you will find picturesque church, and you will see that even cemeteries are pretty in the Cotswolds.

Blockley church

Kingham

Our next stop was another very small, yet very pretty, village. Kingham is on flat land, the exact opposite of Blockley.

Kingham

It is all in the details in Kingham, the front porches are all ridiculously quaint.

KinghamKingham

Walk around the main green and wander toward the church.

Kingham cemetery

And if you happen to be in Kingham at lunch time, make sure to try The Wild Rabbit, we didn’t eat there on this trip but I heard great things about it!

Kingham

Stow-on-the-Wold

For lunch we headed to Stow-on-the-Wold, a bigger town and the perfect spot if you are looking for a busier atmosphere and an opportunity to shop!

Stow-on-the-Wold

The place has a lot of local products shops and antics boutiques. Make sure to explore some to find little treasures or souvenir!

Stow-on-the-Wold Costwolds cheese shop

If you happen to be there around lunch time, make sure to grab a bite at The Hive, I cannot recommend it enough!

Stow-on-the-Wold

Explore the city centre, everything is so pretty you will feel like you are in a Jane Austen era movie.

Stow-on-the-Wold church

Finally make sure to pay attention when driving out of Stow-on-the-Wold, there are some amazing view points which worth stopping at for a picture our 20 (you should see my memory card).

Cotswolds countryside

Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter is famous for its network of small canals. The village’s streets follow the path of the water to create the most charming atmosphere.

Lower Slaughter

Walk along the canal and head to the old mill, there you will be able to make friend with the ducks and see the hikers splashing around in the water to wash their muddy boots.

Lower Slaughter Old Mill

We then headed to the church and happened to run into a bride and a groom, freshly married, who were taking their wedding pictures in the village. I have to say, with that weather and the golden Autumn colours, their pictures will be extremely Pinterest-able.

Lower Slaughter church

Bourton-on-the-Water

Bourton-on-the-water

Our last stop on Saturday was also the busiest place we visited. Bourton-on-the-Water is full of tourists so be warned.

Bourton-on-the-water

It is absolutely beautiful though so it still worth merging into the crowd to walk along the water.

Bourton-on-the-water

It is nicknamed the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ and rightly so. It’s all about crossing bridges, feeding the ducks and grabbing a sweet afternoon treat there!

Bourton-on-the-water

Painswick

On the Sunday, we started our day at Painswick. It is a very small village but it has a very noticeable cemetery (Again! I told you cemeteries worth a visit in the Cotswolds). The trees leading to the village’s church are all shaped like mushrooms. This makes for great pictures…

Painswick

…and ‘avant-garde’ head pieces (I am a very funny person indeed).

Painswick
Topshop coat (similar) and Gucci Disco bag

The village is also a hub for the serious hikers, so much so that you may struggle finding a free parking spot, even on Sundays.

Painswick

Miserden

Miserden was one of the prettiest, if not THE prettiest, villages we visited. Teeny tiny but really worth stopping by!

Miserden

The views of the valley are beautiful, mostly in the Autumn.

Miserden

The village is very peaceful, the locals friendly, the chickens walk freely in the streets, and honesty boxes are the common way to shop there. A little peace of heaven.

Jams Miserden

Also make sure to grab a little something at The Nursery on Miserden Estate, a nice spot for a cup of coffee and something sweet.

Miserden

Bibury

Our last stop was Bibury. This place is probably the closest I will ever get to feel like I am in the Lord of the Ring. Look at the houses! Hobbits could easily live there!

Bibury

The place is charming and therefore very popular with tourists.

BiburyBibury

It isn’t very big either, so once you are done walking around, head to The Swan for a warming drink or a Sunday roast (we went for the later).

The Swan BiburySunday roast The Swan Bibury

The Cotswolds are the perfect Autumnal destination, and it was the perfect weekend away with the great weather we had! We came home rested and with (maybe) a bit of a tan.

Weekend in the Cotswolds

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The Hive – Stow-on-the-Wold, Cotswolds

Today’s address is a real gem hidden in the middle of the British countryside!

A couple of weeks ago we headed to the Cotswolds for a weekend away from the big smoke. We were blessed with amazing autumnal weather and spent the Saturday and Sunday exploring the little Cotswolds villages.

On Saturday, we happened to be in Stow-on-the-Wold around lunch time. Our plan was to find a cosy pub to grab a bite, but it all changed when we walked passed The Hive.

From the outside it looks like a conventional little tea shop. We looked at the menu which seemed appetising and thought ‘why not?’.

The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

The big BIG highlight when eating at The Hive is the staff, ‘nice’ is an understatement. Everybody at The Hive is absolutely lovely! The waiters and the owners  are all very polite, very friendly and, most of all, super attentive – by the end of our lunch I wanted to hug them goodbye!

The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

Now let’s talk about the food, simple yet delicious is the best way I would describe it! The menu mainly offers simple lunch options like soup and sandwiches. The quantities are generous though and we left very full and in need of a digestive walk.

Andrew went for the egg and mayo sandwich. A generous melting filling sandwiched between two slices of ‘crispy on the outside and soft on the inside’ sourdough bread. What else can you ask for?

Egg and mayo sandwich The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

I picked the soup of the day which was sweet potato, coconut milk and spices.

Soup of the day The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

On the side, I had the option to choose either white sourdough bread, brown bread or a cheese scone. I went for the cheese scone, obviously!

Soup of the day The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

The soup was creamy and flavoursome, the cheese scone had the perfect consistency and cheesiness, and I was happy.

Cheese scone The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

With still a little bit of space for something sweet, we decided to share a huge slice of the lemon and pistachio cake. Pure sweetness bliss…

Lemon and pistachio cake The Hive Stow-on-the-Wold

So if you are wandering in the Cotswolds hills and looking for a place to have lunch, head to Stow-on-the-Wold!

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A weekend on the Jurassic Coast, England

The end of the Autumn is the perfect time to escape to the countryside for a weekend. I thought I would share with you this month a couple of ‘oh so British’ destinations to have a breath of fresh air. First stop the Jurassic Coast! Now grab a cuppa and a biscuit as this will be a long post!

Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast had been on my English destinations bucket list for a while! So a few months back we finally booked a trip to the coastline of Devon and Dorset over a bank holiday weekend.

We headed down on a Saturday morning, but as many people had decided to do the same we hit traffic shortly after exiting London. So we decided to swing by the New Forest for lunch instead of queuing on the motorway and snacking at a service station. We stopped at the The Oak Inn, a lovely pub in the middle of the forest.

After a nice little lunch we headed back on the road and down to the coastline, arriving in Sidmouth in the middle of the afternoon.

Sidmouth Cliff

During our stay on the Jurassic Coast we stayed at the Belmont hotel. It was nice but a little pricey, and very old school, so we opted out of the breakfast option and went to local cafes instead.

The Belmont Hotel SidmouthThe Belmont Hotel Sidmouth

The rest of our Saturday was spent exploring Sidmouth a small coastal town with very impressive cliffs views.

Sidmouth surfers

We walked along the seafront to see the surfers enjoying a few waves and the impressive cliffs surrounding the city.

Sidmouth beach

We then headed to the Connaught garden and enjoyed even more impressive views of the beach and Jacobs Ladder.

Jacobs Ladder Sidmouth

We ended the day at The Anchor Inn, a local pub in the centre of the town where we enjoyed a delicious lemon sole.

Anchor Inn SidmouthAnchor Inn Sidmouth

Having spent most of our day in the car, we woke up bright and early on the Sunday to make most of the day.

West Bay

First stop West Bay! If you are a Broadchurch fan you will recognise this village as it is the main set for the police drama.

West Bay

We walked up the west cliffs for the view.

West Bay

Strolled on the beach and took a moment to admire the east side cliffs.

West Bay

A very impressive landscape indeed.

West Bay

Our next stop was Golden Cap. Now if you like impressive views, you will be in for a treat!

Golden CapGolden Cap

A short hike away from the car park, Golden Cap is the highest point on the Jurassic Coast and the highest point on the whole southern coast of England.

Golden CapGolden Cap

Having worked an appetite we stopped in Charmouth for a late lunch at The Bank House Cafe. If you go there, try the crab sandwich, it is great!

The Bank House Cafe Charmouth

We then wandered on the beach, watching people ‘fossil hunting’ (yes, it’s a thing).

Charmouth BeachCharmouth BeachCharmouth Beach

Unfortunately it started raining at that point so we cut our afternoon exploration a little short and headed back to Sidmouth for a little rest, tea and some cake at the Clock Tower restaurant (the slices of cakes are ridiculously big!)

The rain eventually stopped so we headed to Lyme Regis for dinner.

Lyme Regis

We first took the time to explore the town. The little streets are very charming, and a stroll on the beach is a must to see the colourful beach cabins.

Lyme Regis beach

We ended the evening at The Pilot Boat, an old school pub. We both went for fish and chips because why not?

Pilot Boat Lyme Regis

We woke up on our final day to the thickest fog… Not great knowing that we were supposed to go to some of the most scenic spots on the Jurassic Coast on that day. Having no other choices, we packed our bags and headed back toward London via the coast.

Our first, very brief, stop was Chesil Beach. It looked great, but the fog was so thick that we only briefly stopped to attempt to take some pictures.

Chesil Beach

Not impressed by the weather, we headed to our very final stop before London, Durdle Door.

The fog was thick, the hiking path awfully muddy, and we almost decided not to stop, but being there we thought we had to at least give it a go.

Durdle Door

After 15 minutes walking in the mist, only hearing the voices of people rather than seeing them, we finally reached the edge of the cliff.

Durdle Door

If it had been sunny, we would have been welcomed by the most stunning view. But sunny it wasn’t and views there weren’t.

Stubborn as we are, we decided to take the stairs to the beach. That could have ended in a disaster as the steps were so muddy and slippery that we almost fell off a few times.

Eventually we got there, and FINALLY we could see it! The great Durdle Door!

Durdle Door

It is a very impressive sight and the main lesson learned on this trip is that you should never let the British weather discourage you!

Durdle Door

Muddy and wet, we started our journey bag toward the big smoke with a swing to a pub for a warming lunch.

We arrived home our lungs full of fresh air and our bags full of laundry.

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Osaka and Nara – highlights

Another Japan video is live!

After our 2 days in Hiroshima, or next stop was Osaka where we spent 2 days as well. There is not many things to do in Osaka, so a day to explore the city centre is enough. You will see in the video below that we spent the first day exploring Osaka Castle and Dontobori, the city centre where you will find the famous Ebisu Bridge and the Glico Man sign.

On the second day, we headed out of the city to Nara, a public park famous for it’s huge temples and its roaming deer. We spent the day exploring the grounds and making new furry friends.

I will go into more details on all our Japan itinerary in a series of posts coming soon, in the meantime if you want to see more of our Japan trip, have a look at my Kyoto video and the Hiroshima one. Next stop, Tokyo! Chances are this video will be at least an hour long as I have sooooo much to show you!

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Katsukura – Kyoto, Japan

One of the most impressive places to visit in Kyoto is the train station. You read that right, the actual train station.

It is very famous for its impressive architecture rising to 15 floors. The building is a futuristic take on architecture by Hiroshi Hara, where, spread other many levels, you will find shops, train’s platforms and many, many, many restaurants.

Kyoto train station

Our hotel wasn’t too far from the station, so on our first day, after dropping our bags, we headed there to see the view of Kyoto and grab a bite to eat before heading to Fushimi.

Kyoto view from train station

Once at the top of the station and after taking multiple pictures of the view we headed to the restaurant area where we found Katsukura.

As you would have guessed by its name, Katsukura serves tonkatsu – aka breaded and fried meat. It was also one of our favourite meal in Japan!

Katsukura queue

The queue at the front can be quite long as it is a fairly popular place, but it moves very fast. You won’t hang around too long in Katsukura, being in the train station the service is very fast so you don’t miss your train!

Katsukura restaurant

Once seated you have the choice between various meats or fish tonkatsu, I went for the crab meat cream croquette and fillet cutlet. All are served with shredded cabbage, a miso soup and rice.

Katsukura sauce

One particular thing about Katsukura is the sauce making process. They are very proud of their sauces and you will be given several options to choose from at the table. You will then be given some sesame to ground yourself and mix with the sauce to create your preferred texture. We loved that entertaining step, it made us feel like we totally knew what we were doing (we didn’t).

Katsukura sesameKatsukura sauce

Once the sauce was ready the meal was served. The pork was juicy, the crab meat croquettes were creamy; it was a very satisfying lunch. It is a great option for Westerners,  as it felt like a more conventional meal with the meat and side of vegetable and rice.

Katsukura tonkatsuKatsukura restaurant

The perfect meal before hiking uphill at Fushimi!

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Tsurugyu – Osaka, Japan

Spoiler alert! This was by far the best beef we had during our entire trip in Japan. Starting with a pretty major statement but I truly mean it! If you are going to only eat wagyu beef once, eat it at Tsurugyu!

Now let me introduce you to the place itself, Tsurugyu is a Kobe beef restaurant just outside Osaka city centre. From the street it doesn’t look like anything special, and the avenue it is on is actually dead quiet during the day which makes it a bit difficult to find at first.

Tsurugyu outside Osaka

Get inside and you are entering a dark and elegant little cocoon. The place feels special with all tables sheltered by curtains giving it a lot of privacy. George Clooney could be at the table next to you and you wouldn’t even know it.

Tsurugyu table inside

It is good to note that you will need a reservation to eat at Tsurugyu. It is a very popular place. Not speaking Japanese? Don’t worry, just swing by and ask if they can book a table for you. We went one morning there and asked if they had availability on the same evening, which luckily they did!

Our waiter deserves a special mention too. He was hilariously patronising but in the nicest possible way. He must have thought “Those Europeans have absolutely no clue what they are doing!” and spent most of the evening showing us how to eat each ingredient properly. We felt like primary school students but also learned a lot about Japanese table manners.

Now let’s talk about the best part – the food! I could literally just tell you that it was epic and leave it there with a few snaps, but it was such an excellent meal that it deserves a few more words before I leave you drooling at the pictures (well except if you are vegetarian, look away now).

Once sat at the table, the waiter got the grill ready while we were deciding which cut of beef to go for. We ordered two different types of beef, both not too fatty as I am more of a lean cut type of person.

Kobe beef Tsurugyu

With the meat, we ordered a side of kimchi, which I am completely obsessed about by the way, since I learned that it is good for your guts health.

Kimchi Tsurugyu

We also ordered the cold noodles as per our waiter recommendation. I would describe it as a very cold and very light ramen. Worth a try!

Cold noodles Tsurugyu

We then got busy cooking and grilling!

Tsurugyu table and grill

And following our teacher… I mean, our waiter’s instructions we dressed our plates as Japanese people would do. Meat at the bottom and the various sauces and salts at the top but never mixed together!

Kobe beef Tsurugyu

There is not much more I can say than: “YOU NEEEEEEEED TO GO EAT AT TSURUGYU!”

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