Costa Rica Series: Manuel Antonio

Now that I’m back home, Manuel Antonio is one of my top holiday memories. Costa Rica is well known for its lush greens, incredible wildlife, for the prettiest beaches and for the adventures it offers. Manuel Antonio is all that, a representation of all that Costa Rica has to offer, and of all its natural beauty.

manuel antonio beach

Beautiful beaches (inside and outside Manuel Antonio National Park) will lure you into relaxing afternoons. Squirrel monkeys will stare at your tasty breakfasts. Water activities, hikes, and just all round beauty are going to trick you into thinking that maybe life isn’t so bad after all… if only you could stay a little longer!

Have a look below at my faves:

 

ACCOMMODATION

Generally, I can’t afford the best hotels. I tried a few nicer places during the Costa Rica holiday – and Manuel Antonio is where I really treated myself. I could only really do so for one of the two nights I spent there, so I chose hotel Costa Verde for the incredible plane treehouse they offer. My only mistake was booking the incredible room for the first night rather than the second, which was a little anti-climatic.

 

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out of this world views from my plane #treehouse

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Still though, no regrets; this was probably the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at, and specifically my absolute favourite room. A quick extract from my travel diary: “cockpit cottage is PARADISE“. Built out of an actual plane, stuck up high in the trees, the cockpit cottage boasts a cute kitchenette right in the plane cockpit, a bathroom right in the rainforest, and the best views of Manuel Antonio you can hope for. If you go there, please say hi to the squirrel monkeys from me!

The restaurants at the hotel are all very good and open to anyone, not just the hotel guests. I would specifically reccommend Anaconda for its breakfast views and El Avion for a sunset meal.

 

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THINGS TO DO

Whatever you end up doing in Manuel Antonio, you’ll be surrounded by the most beautiful scenery.

Water Stuff

• sea kayaking. If you’ve read my Arenal post, you’ll know I skipped kayaking there… to do it here. And it was so much fun! The activity was organised by Tucanes Tours; the guide was good, the bay quiet, and even the group of people we ended up with not too bad. We ended on Biesanz Beach which was too pretty to be real.

• snorkelling. This was done as part of a combo tour with the sea kayaking, however I feel like both could have existed without the other. A cute octopus said hello to us (by hiding away, but that’s ok).

• rafting. I haven’t personally done any white water rafting in Manuel Antonio, due to limited time. But I was so close to booking it that I know it’s possible and it looks like lots of fun. Most hotels will be able to organise this for you.

• the beach. Enjoy the ocean! Just by walking down the beach, you’ll find so many people and tiny beach stands offering all sorts of activities – from the very typical surfing lessons to a lot of paragliding.

Other Stuff

• speaking of the beach… just go for a walk. The ingredients are a beautiful scenery, cheap cocktails, and a colourful sunset.

• walk the Manuel Antonio National Park. Among the many parks I visited in Costa Rica, this was the only one where I didn’t feel I needed a guide. Most animals can be spotted by a naked eye and nobody pointing, and the park is filled with information signs describing what’s around you. The trails are mostly flat, easy and accessible to even children or people with reduced mobility. If you can, plan to spend a while here, as the three beaches all require some photo time and a dip in the water! Also: bring a lock for your backpacks. You’ll know why when you see the usual suspects: monkeys and raccoons, going through your stuff with their cute tiny hands.

 

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Not Your Usual New York Read

new york
manhattan from the brooklyn bridge

This is not going to be the last five New York related travel blog post you’ve read: I’ll be honest. My New York experience had its ups, but also its downs.

On my first day, about a million things went wrong; every day afterwards, at least once a day I had a bad moment. To count: going round and round the airport on the wrong shuttle, missing brunch, missing the ferry, paying double price tickets, seeing a man with a gun… I could go on. I pretty much lived New York with a bad feeling, although I can’t put my hand on why. (That disappointing ice cream I had on day one is a possible reason.)

New York and I made up by the end of my visit; now that some time separates me from that rat running between my legs in Williamsburg, I can fully appreciate the experience. The Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, the top of the One World Observatory… New York truly is iconic and the views are spectacular.

new york from the top
new york from the top

Now, you can find New York advice pretty much anywhere… which is why I tried to go a little unexpected with my choices. Below are some of the best things I’ve done in New York.

 

NEW YORK TOP 3s

Top 3 Not Obvious Things to Do

The High Line: as much as it’s full of tourists (everywhere is), the High Line is probably the one bit of the city that made me feel less like one. It has everything: lush greens, up high views, street food stalls; all of this, on abandoned train tracks that run through the heart of Manhattan’s West Side.

Ellis Island: I hope you can visit more than one museum in New York. That said, if for some horrible case of destiny you can only do one, choose the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. At different times in history, every immigrant (most of them, okay) entering the United States had to go through Ellis Island; this place carries the souls of thousands of people, and tells the story. It’s a beautiful story, and it needs to be listened to.

• Washington Square Park: I love squirrels. They jump around and make me happy. I saw the cutest squirrel ever in Washington Square Park, so of course it was going to make my New York list. There’s a statue, there’s a fountain, there’s an arch: typical park. Except that, when you stand in the right place, the arch aligns perfectly with the Empire State Building.

welcome to new york
welcome to new york, it’s been waiting for you

 

Top 3 Not Obvious Places to Eat

Bubby’s: Best. Pancakes. Ever. Thick and fluffy – but with an option for classic; incredibly tasty and covered with however many yummy fruits you can ask for. The location I have been to is just at the bottom of the High Line, which means you can have an American breakfast and then go burn it off.

Jack’s Wife Freda: wins the award for My Favourite Meal in New York. All the classics, in a colourful twist! On top of everything looking and tasting great, the service was pleasant and everyone smiled, which is always nice to notice. If you are actually going to New York and not just reading this for fun or because you know me, I would absolutely recommend.

Trinity Place: Imagine a turn of the century Wall Street bank, and a huge walk-in vault (not actually easy to walk in, when locked). Now imagine a restaurant set in said vault… which makes good food. Boom: your imagination has created Trinity Place, or most likely Trinity Place was created for your dreams. Now go and enjoy.

🗽

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Tip of the day: BIG PORTIONS. All American restaurants have American portions, and they are BIG. You might think you won’t fill up when looking at the menu, but more times than not you will feel full half way through your meal. Don’t waste your money on too much food you won’t eat.

Costa Rica Series: Arenal

Arenal is the name of the most famous Costa Rican volcano. It is currently dormant (and has been since 2010); but it was dormant for hundreds of years before exploding in 1968, I wouldn’t trust it too much. It was so dormant that people in La Fortuna (at the bottom of the volcano) thought it was a hill. With its very volcano-y shape, and volcanos literally everywhere in Costa Rica, I have no idea how…

ACCOMMODATION

Of course, most (if not all) hotels in this area are deemed safe; La Fortuna, where most people find accommodation, is by the side of the mountain opposite to the lava flow. We actually chose to stay at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, which faces the other side of the volcano, and is bit higher up. It’s surrounded by rainforest and it’s the best place to be if you’re looking to stay deep into nature.

It has the absolutely best views of the volcano, the lake, and the wildlife – it used to be an observatory (surprise surprise). Even through the rain, we still managed to see lots.

They have a long list of room types and villas; as much as it is a little pricey, it has something for everyone. We stayed in the smallest room at La Casona, and had incredible views of the volcano from a huge window. The toilets, even where shared with a few others, were cleaned often enough to not gross me out. Out the front door, a beautiful sunset over Lake Arenal welcomed us on our first night. Even the hotel’s restaurant was good, which honestly doesn’t happen often.

arenal
sunset on lake arenal

ACTIVITIES

The Arenal area of Costa Rica is, yes, known for the volcano that names it, but also for the town of La Fortuna and the million activities you can choose to do from here.

Water Stuff

• white water rafting. I’ve organised mine through Desafio, who have been great. We did levels II to IV, and it was so much fun for everyone, including children and unexperienced people (me). I also managed to not fall into the water, which is quite a nice accomplishment.

• hot springs! Boom. We went to Ecotermales, which was great… until other tourists started arriving in large groups of screaming children and it got a little less relaxing. Looking at other places’ reviews, it does seem to be a common problem of all hot springs of the area, but I still think the experience was worth it.

• kayaking: I love kayaking (what I mean is – I’ve done it twice). I did my research and I know you can do river kayaking or kayak in Lake Arenal; I personally had to skip on it because I booked sea kayaking for a bit later on, but I’m sure it’s lots of fun!

rafting in arenal
rafting

Hiking Stuff

Hiking was in my plans until I did the above mentioned white water rafting, and found myself wanting to spend the following day CHILLING (capital letters not by mistake). There’s lots of hiking you can do around Arenal:

• most notably, Arenal National Park. Now, I discarded this option while planning as our accommodation was deep in nature, so we could

• explore hotel grounds. If you are staying at Arenal Observatory Lodge, there’s a free tour of the grounds every morning. There were about thirty people plus a few half people (children) when we went, and it ended up being messy. Maybe just pop along to ask your questions, but do explore: there is so much to see. I’m sure other similar type hotels offer the same.

• Arenal 1968: follow the lava trails! This is the one I would have chosen, but then I decided to get a wonderful massage. Anyway: it’s a little cheaper, and it sounds very interesting.

• La Fortuna Waterfall has a trail that gets to it, and it does look amazing in photo. Then again, we spent a full day exploring La Paz Waterfall Gardens just to get to the beautiful five waterfalls, so it felt a bit repetitive to us. I’m sure it wouldn’t be for anyone else.

Other Stuff

• Arenal has a couple hanging bridges trails. If you are going to Monteverde, then definitely do it there, as it is higher up and you might catch some cloud forest clouds. But if you are skipping Monteverde, I wouldn’t skip on the chance to have this experience. I’m majorly scared of heights, and I still enjoyed this a lot.

• zip-lining is an option, but I’m majorly scared of heights, so I can’t tell you much about it. I can do bridges but I can’t deal with hanging from a chord and hope not to die.

 

 

Personal touch: my sunglasses were lost during white water rafting (as in… super smart me left them in the changing rooms) and Desafio were nice enough to get the sunglasses back to their office in La Fortuna. Un-Fortuna-tely (I’m so sorry), I don’t drive, Arenal Observatory Lodge is quite far from town, and I only had one day left. I told all this to the guy working at the reception desk, looking for solutions/taxi prices. He got his dad to pick them up and bring them to the hotel. Clapping emoji to all of these lovely people.

Rome Tips (by an Italian)

All the roads lead to Rome, and so my travel blog is bound to do too. Rome is Rome, and there is nothing like it.

However long you spend here – two days, a week, a month – you will spend every single day walking. There is more to visit than you can think of; more than you’d think just the one city can even contain. Everywhere in Rome you go to, something is waiting to be seen.

A little disclaimer would be that I’m not, personally, the biggest fan of Rome. Tourists are everywhere, making it hard to walk. There is a crowd ruining every view. During my last trip, the nicest sights were hidden by people, even during low season. But it is always, always worth it! It’s an experience you’d regret skipping on.

The good thing about Rome is that, however many times you go, each and every visit will be like the first one. There is always something you haven’t seen before! (Unless, maybe, you are from Rome, or have lived in Rome for half of your life.)

I’ll do this one a bit differently: I won’t waste yours or my time telling you what to visit. The list is infinite, and I am absolutely positive that none of you will skip on the Colosseum or any of the classics. All I want to do today is give you some tips to make your experience as enjoyable as possible; so here we go:

splash #roma #fontanaditrevi #trevifountain

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Rome Tips

• If you’re walking from A to B, and find a church on the way… Go inside and brace for unexpected art. The chance you’ll find a hidden gem is high, tourist levels will be lower, and some places will even have a free audioguide!

• If you are going to the Vatican, and you are, book the tickets for the Museums and Sistine Chapel well early, so you get to skip the queue. In the same way, if you’re planning to go to St. Peter’s Basilica, and you are, start queuing early in the morning or late-ish, towards 4pm. Note that the Basilica closes at 5pm, but that you won’t need to spend too long inside (unless you are super-religious and are planning on a lot of praying).

• Speaking of queues, each and every single one you join will be full of “tour guides” ready to offer a private tour, often in combo with the chance to skip the queue. They’re not too expensive but, more often than not, scams. Do not trust them; if you are planning to take a tour, then plan it in advance, or ask your hotel receptionist to organise it for you.

• Don’t know where to stay? Colosseum and Vatican are over-rated areas, full of tourists, pricey and if you stay at one it will be a long walk to the other. On the other hand, Trastevere is full of Italians, a little cheaper and half-way between the places you want to walk to.

• Don’t know where to sleep? Because of the touristy crowds, most hotels are good and up to standard, which is good news. However, the prices can be quite high, so AirBnb is a good value-for-money option. Promise me that whatever you do, you’ll avoid the host PettinariRoma, as he’s the worst experience I’ve ever had with any accommodation; considering I’m a travel agent and deal with hotels all the time, that’s quite a good record to hold.

• You won’t need to take the subway or the bus, as you can easily sort out your day plans walking from A to B and then from B to C. Everything is close to somewhere else you want to see. But if you do end up taking public transport, in Rome like anywhere else, please don’t forget that tourist wallets are always more attractive than the locals’, and keep an eye on your stuff.

 

Rome Food

Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for…

Il Tonnarello: I had a really good experience here. The waiters were all exceptional and uber nice, and the food was good. We had pizza, but I’m going to judge the dishes I saw flying around because everything looked great and everyone looked happy. If it’s a sunny day, eat outside! The heaters will keep you warm, unless it’s snowing.

Giulio Passami l’Olio: the food is good, but you’ll mostly want to go here for the atmosphere. Small place crowded with tables, it will give you a good idea of what eating in Rome is for the Romans (not the ancient ones). We had to wait a while, on a very hungry night, looking at the place opposite the road – completely empty. We considered swapping to it out of hunger, but this was a friend’s recommendation (she knows the city); so we stayed, and it wast a good choice.

Taverna del Seminario: another friend’s recommendation, this time one who lives in Rome. It was in a good area, easy to get into; with a vast menu, quick service, and really good prices, it was another good find!

Buon appetito!

Costa Rica Series: Planning!

My Costa Rica trip is round the corner (less than a week!), so I want to share some tips to help you with yours. Some spoilers on my holiday are to follow, too!

 

FLIGHTS

Costa Rica has a dry season (November to April) and a wet season (May to October); they both have pros and cons. I am going during the dry season just because that’s when I ended up having time off; any should be good. When choosing (a rule for anything, really), avoid the busiest times: Christmas and New Year’s, Easter and kids’ holidays (unless, of course, you’re a teacher or travelling with kids). August and September are perfect if you’re chasing turtle nesting, which you can see in Tortuguero. Once you’ve decided when to go and how long for, you’re ready to have a look at some flights.

When you see something that sounds good… check again, on a different website; remember that most online-based companies don’t always show all of the costs upfront, so try to trust nobody until you click through a few pages and see the real total. I’ve always found that sta travel has the best priced flights, and occasionally you can find good deals with airlines direct.

 

ITINERARY

Of course, a tour is the best way to see a lot and experience different things all in one trip. Unfortunately, I sort of hate people, so that’s something I don’t think I’ll do anytime soon. However, tour companies are still my go-to to sort out an itinerary on my own. Their brochures and websites are gold for information. They will help you pick and choose your favourites; I usually cut bits from different companies and mix them to build up my own itinerary. Most of them will do at least one Costa Rica trip. I also research online, on other travel blogs or travel websites. Try to work out everything you want to do in sort of a circle fashion, to avoid long trips between destinations. As long as you can find buses or transfers between one and the other, you’ll be fine.

My Costa Rica Itinerary

We will first spend a couple of nights in a hotel on the outskirts of San José. Our flight will arrive in San José quite late, and we want one full day there to settle and start with calm.

After that, we are off to Tortuguero for a two nights / three days package, which includes transfers, accommodation and a couple of daily tours. I still don’t like people, but I can probably cope for a couple of days.

Follows Arenal, for a few days of volcanos, hot springs and white water rafting.

Hopefully we will have enough time to chill in the second half of the holiday, between Monteverde cloud forests and Manuel Antonio beaches. Even typing this is killing me, I can’t wait!

 

ACCOMMODATION

With flights and itinerary sorted, please do pick and book your rooms in advance. It can be fun to leave it to chance here and there, but I prefer only doing things last minute when I’m close to home. If I’m spending £600 or £700 on flights… Things might go wrong and I can’t afford to waste money. Do your research, get advice, see what’s in your budget and always, always use TripAdvisor. Treat it with caution, of course – some people have weird opinions – but take all the help you can get to find out exactly where you want to be.

The are two things you can do to make sure your reservation is safe. Going to a travel agent (if the hotel screws up, they will fix it for you) or booking directly with the hotel (if a room is booked at the same moment by two different people, they tend to value more who booked directly with them).

Important note: if you email hotels back and forth, to secure your booking they will need a form of payment or your credit card details. Most hotels in Costa Rica will email you a form to fill out and return. Be very careful, as if a business would do that in the UK it would be a breach of Data Protection Law. Of course the law is different in different places, but as long as you can, only use online secure forms to secure bookings.

 

BITS AND BOBS

• Decide how long to stay in each area by deciding what activities you want to do and what are the most important. Make lists, see which ones are longer, and that’s where you want to spend longer.

• Which activities you 100% don’t want to miss on? Book them in advance to avoid disappointment. For Costa Rica, I’ve found that Desafio is a really good company. A colleague who used to organise tours there suggested them, and so far they’ve been great, from quick email replies to solving problems.

• Book your transfers between places, especially where the journey is too long.

• Have fun!

Kyoto: Day Trip Planning

If you want to explore lots of Japan’s most known sights, Kyoto is great as a base. Nara, Arashiyama, Himeji. All of the following take between thirty minutes and a couple of hours to get to, all from Kyoto Station. They make for an awesome day trip!

Kyoto Day Trip #1: Nara

Nara is the mothership of all Kyoto day trips – the best way you could decide to employ your time, the most you’ll see, the one you should choose if you have only time for one trip. Lots of the city is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nara
warning: school kids might be annoying

What to do in Nara

Todaiji Temple: the whole temple is part of those “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara” that UNESCO holds dearly on its World Heritage Sites’ list. Its Daibutsuden is the biggest wooden building in the world (no smoking, please) and contains the biggest bronze Buddha in the world (not randomly, Daibutsuden means Great Buddha Hall).

Nara Park: cutest place I’ve ever been to. Mark my words, Nara Park and its deer will forever be in my heart. My heart… the same one that was bursting with joy every turn of a corner, every step up a small hill, every time one of the deer addressed me. They bow to you. I’m serious: they really do. I don’t really want to know why they came to have to learn how to bow, and I do know that it is just because they’re hungry and want your food, but… Ah! Make sure you have cash on you, because you won’t be able to stop buying crackers for them.

Mellow Café: if you have a chance, drop by for lunch; it is not the most Japanese of restaurants, but the food is really good and the service is outstanding. People are adorable and the atmosphere is really nice.

 

Kyoto Day Trip #2: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

This might work out a bit more as a half day trip, since it is so close to the city of Kyoto; and, to be honest, there’s not too much to do around. You can easily catch a train from Kyoto Station, and it should be twenty to thirty minutes. Your trip will literally be based on walking in a bamboo forest, up and down, taking pictures, trying not to stomp on other tourists, and enjoying the breeze that brushes through the bamboo. I promise you, it will be lots of fun!

arashiyama
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Kyoto Day Trip #3: Himeji Castle

Before my trip to Japan, Himeji Castle had been on my list for twelve years. I was thirteen went I went through my geography textbook, saw a photo and fell in love! Himeji is not far from Kyoto, so there you go with another short train ride. It is also not the biggest city, meaning you’ll be able to see the top views in less than a full day.

To be completely honest, there is not that much to do even there: the inside of the castle practically consists in going up seven floors and then back down… Nonetheless, the views of the city are incredible. And the views of the castle… I mean, look at that! If you really do feel like you need to do more, you can explore the grounds and the gardens as well.

 

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I hope you found enough options for an extra Kyoto day, I hope you have fun! As usual, for any questions, don’t forget to hit the comments and I’ll make sure I find you an answer. Happy travelling!

 

Read more about Kyoto here.

 

Venice (by an Italian)

Vantage point: I’m Italian, and I’m from the north of the country, which gave me many opportunities to catch a day train to Venice. I think I’ve been there at least five times, and I’m definitely at the point where I’ve lost count. I’ve been there with school, with family, with friends, with my boyfriend. I have seen the different aspects of what the city has to offer, but still… As my aunt always says, I would give everything to see Venice for the first time again.

The first time you see Venice will always be the best time. After that, your eyes change. It is always beautiful, of course it is, but you get a bit more used to it. When you already remember it, you think of it differently. But your first Venice, ah! Your first Venice is the most magical.

My advice is for everybody, returning Venice lovers or new eyes travellers, but it is specifically aimed at who is not too familiar with the city yet.

Venice streets
Venice streets

Accommodation in Venice

As a travel agent, people often ask me what is a good area to stay and explore Venice. I know it’s a difficult one, as with any internet search so many hotels come up in and around the city. As a general idea, I would say anywhere on the actual Venice island is your best bet – possibly close to either Santa Lucia Station or Piazza San Marco, but it doesn’t have to be.

Avoid Venezia Mestre, Lido di Venezia and any other city. They might be cheaper, but you’ll be spending what you save on expensive train or boat rides back to Venice island. I always check accommodation details on google maps to have a clear idea of where they are located, because many hotels will put down “Venice” as a general location to confuse you. Don’t trust them: check.

Venezia View
Venezia View

Tourist stuff the locals’ way

Enter San Marco (the big cathedral). There is going to be a queue, but you’ll do it anyway. If this is not your first Venice (as in, first time you visit), you’re allowed to skip it. But if it is, do go in and look around.

Now that you’re there, I know the cafés in Piazza San Marco look nice, with the view and all… But you’re not going to want to spend €10 on a coffee when you could walk ten minutes and live a better life. Also, the pigeons are going to do their business in and around you, and they don’t really inspire hunger.

If you’re a returning traveller, you might think you’re better than taking a photo at every corner. If you’re anything like me, you might even be annoyed at all of the selfie-taking tourists. Obviously, you do you and what you feel is right for you; but when I went to Venice last year with my boyfriend, he was having double the fun I was having because he was stopping everywhere and admiring everything. As I said, nothing will come close to your first Venice – but you can try and live like it did.

Okay, a gondola ride might look interesting, but… It’s quite common to pay as much as €80 per person. Soo… Not exactly good for everyone. If you want my opinion, a photo of a gondola looks much better than a photo taken from a (shaky) gondola… And a water taxi is much cheaper and gives you the experience of the water trip. Of course, it is your choice; but I do suggest booking in advance to save some bucks.

If you plan your trip for Winter or Spring, when it’s rainier, the water level can get quite high. This means you’ll have to walk on planks, and might not have access to all areas. Do not worry, as this doesn’t make Venice any less beautiful (in some cases, it’s even more picturesque); just don’t forget to pack some waterproof shoes!

I hope you enjoy your trip! Please hit the comments if you have any questions.

 

 

Kyoto

If you’re going to Japan, let Kyoto have enough time. Please. If you want the full Japanese experience, Kyoto is the city to focus on. If you have limited time and two cities are all you want to experience, give Tokyo 30% and Kyoto 70% of your time.

There is so much to do in Kyoto: you can get both the city experience and the traditional/historic experience. You turn the corner from a high building, and boom, find a temple, complete of its gardens. The amount of temples in Kyoto is incredible (and, I would say, close to infinite). I was there for quite a while, and I didn’t even come remotely close to scraping the surface. What follows is a brief list of my the spots I gave most of my time to, but please consider this is very limited.

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Things to do

Kiyomizu-dera: this means literally “pure water temple”. It has been part of UNESCO world heritage sites since 1994, and it is a giant. Built in wood and with more than a thousand years of history, it hosts a variety of what I like to call mini-temples (…and most people just call shrines).

My favourite mini-temple was the site of the Otowa waterfall: three tiny water streams, and you choose which one to drink from for good luck: will it be love, health or success that you go for?

Another mini-temple is the Jishu Shrine, aka the love temple. Opposite it, there are two stones, with 18 metres between them. They say that, if you can walk in a straight line between them, with your eyes closed, you’ll have great luck finding the love of your life… I mean, how cute is that?

You’ll enjoy Kiyomizudera, its shrines, its views. I would suggest making it a half day experience, so that you have enough time for everything.

kiyomizu-dera
if not for the temple, then for the views

Kinkakuji translates as the Golden Pavillion, and it is not a name given for fun. It is an actual gold building. It is so shiny and pretty that not even a hundred years after it came to life (don’t take me literally), they decided to copy the idea and make a Ginkakuji, Silver Pavillion, built on the opposite side of Kyoto. I’d say the original is more photogenic, worth the trip, and makes for a happy couple of hours.

kinkakuji
be wowed by kinkakuji

Ryoanji is a zen temple, complete of rock garden. It is absolutely interesting: from any side you look at it, one of the 15 rocks will be hidden to your eyes. How? I don’t know, but it is. Now, be prepared: people around you won’t care about the zen aspect. They will have loud ringtones, talk when they shouldn’t, and distract you from thinking about the meaning of life with their 200+ selfie per minute. So maybe don’t go there hoping to have some zen time, and just relax by exploring the grounds.

 

Food to eat

Ramen Sen No Kaze has the best ramen I’ve ever had, in Japan and in my entire life. Please go here. I don’t ask for many things, but I’m asking you to have the ramen experience in this place. They even have a vegetarian option, for those of you who might find it a bit hard to apply daily life to a trip.

Gion Sakai is a very good patisserie. I remember it as being something I had read of on TripAdvisor and then randomly found in the street; and I remember the service as being incredible: free tea, and they let you try some of the sweets! I bought some sort of chestnut treat here, and I forever carry the regret of not having bought more of it.

Jouvencelle is another patisserie, but this one is more of the seat & eat type, rather than a shop type (although I do believe they sell their products to take away). All I have to say about this is matcha chocolate fondue. Bye.

 

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Tokyo overview: food and activities

Tokyo is special.

It’s the biggest city in the world (Google, November 2017), and it’s a never-ending Pandora box. Every second spent in Tokyo, your eyes flip from thing to thing, and become impossible to control. Don’t worry – just let it happen and enjoy the ride. Get into a random cat café, spend way too long trying to find that tiny place that was on TripAdvisor, get lost. Fun fact: I got lost in Tokyo. Three different people noticed it. They spontaneously came up to me and actively tried to help me and get me somewhere I recognised, even though they didn’t speak a word of English. Japanese people are the best, they are kind and not in a superficial way. In my Western eyes, their selflessness is absolutely fascinating, and I hope you’ll experience it for yourselves.

I am writing this post in the hope you’ll find a little help and guidance, or at least I hope to give you something to do for half a Tokyo day. I’ll start with food and proceed with activities, because… Well, because food.

Places to eat

Café Tomorrow in Asakusa. This is the area where the Sensoji Temple is, so there is lots to explore; I went here for breakfast as I was staying quite close, but I think it’s open for lunch as well. Lovely atmosphere (apart from all the smoking, which they do everywhere in Japan), the food was good and the prices low.

Uobei is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant – which in Japan is much more popular than a chain fast food (although, technically, the food is still fast). Even though it’s a type, and there’s lots, I do suggest this one; because it’s an experience. It’s supposedly themed as the inside of a spaceship. You sit down, order your food on a computer screen, and in about 5 minutes it comes to you automatically. The sushi is really good, and the prices are very low (it’s a bit dangerous because you’re going to want to keep ordering!). They have a few branches, I’ve been to the one in Shibuya.

Green Tea Restaurant 1899. This restaurant specialises in matcha and green tea, but uses it for actual meals instead of just sweets and drinks. They have lunch deals that make it a little more affordable. It’s in Ochanomizu, which is an area full of restaurants. Just one or two subway stops from Akihabara, the electric town. I had a day pass for the subway, so I actually made my trip especially for this restaurant – it was worth it. We arrived a little later than the lunch menu times, but they still let us have that, which I think is super nice and good customer service.

Higashiya for Japanese sweets. It’s in the Ginza area, which is pretty much expensive headquarters, so the prices might be a bit high; but it’s also the best traditional place in Tokyo to have tea.

Omoide Yokocho (also known as “Piss Alley”) is in Shinjuku and is a really tiny road made of tiny bars. They won’t have much place to sit, but they are all very characteristic and it’s the best place to go find a drink.

I didn’t end up going to Edogin at Tsukij, but I have heard a lot of good things about it. Tsukiji is the fresh fish market in the middle of Tokyo (Ginza area). I think their set meal is under £10, and the proximity to the fish market clearly means top quality. Be ready for a queue if you try it!

Things to do

The Sensoji Temple and grounds, in Asakusa. I don’t have too much to say about this, as I firmly believe you have to actually explore it personally. But I do need to tell you that this is definitely my #1 Tokyo place; not a suggestion, not anything you can skip, you have to go, see, do!

My second favourite Tokyo experience has been going up the Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a skyscraper with two towers, each with its own observation deck; it’s 100% free (until you decide to splurge on souvenirs) and has absolutely incredible views. They say that on a nice day you can see Mt. Fuji, although I can’t confirm this one because it was rather cloudy when I went. It’s in Shinjuku, right in the skyscraper district.

tokyo from the top
Tokyo from the top

Close to Tokyo Station (20 min walk) you’ll find the Imperial Palace East Gardens, where you can get as close as you can to the Imperial Palace. I think the actual grounds are closed to the public. The gardens are really pretty, all year round. When I went, it was autumn colours; but it’s actually made to be good looking all the time. Apparently there’s a view point from which you can see Mt. Fuji, but again, I cannot tell if that’s true…

Un post condiviso da @kickingleaves in data:
Head to Shibuya for all the huge shopping places, the crossing and the Hachiko statue, which are all basically Tokyo’s essence.

I didn’t do this due to lack of time, but if sumo interests you at all, check out the Arashio Stable. You can watch the morning practice for free. The downside is that it’s a bit difficult to find and very specific about when/what/how to watch. Do click on the link to do some research on their website.

I spent three days in Tokyo. If you’re focusing on Tokyo only, you might need a little longer to do longer trips to the districts a bit further from the central areas. But if you are planning to see more of Japan, this is a very good time! You get to see most of the “important things”, and you leave time for everything else you might want to do.

Let me know thoughts and any questions, and please enjoy your time in Tokyo!

Welcome to my travel blog!

Hello, Stranger!

Welcome to my travel blog’s first post. How exciting.

…What to do, how to start: that is a guide I haven’t found anywhere.

It’s the most important post, because well – hello there! And at the same time it’s the least important, because it doesn’t have any advice or information or cool pictures. Or stuff. I don’t know what normal posts have.

Let me be honest: this is a tryout. I don’t know how to blog or travel blog, I don’t know what a focus keyword is, and I don’t know if this is going to be even vaguely interesting to you. As a result, this first post is going to turn out super messy… But hey, all I’m asking for is a chance.

So, what to do? What is this?

Let me tell you a little about myself. I’m 26, I’m a travel agent, and I love my trips more than anything. And I want to share all I can with you guys; I hope you’ll find something interesting to read. To say it in short, I’m technically a millennial, which unfortunately leads me to share stuff on the internet. I apologise.

You can read a little bit more if you click here.

Why am I here?

You might be interested in blogs. You might be interested in a travel agent’s advice. Or you might be lost. Either way, you’ll find something to read… about travel, of course, which would be the theme. I’ll start with some Japan information, and I’ll keep going from there.

Maybe go around, find something to click on, read a couple of posts; I really really hope something will catch your eye – food, activities, memories, photos. Anything. Most of all, enjoy!

If you want to read anything else about me, there’s a section you’ll find at the bottom of this page. Welcome to the blog! Maybe I didn’t do too badly after all?

 

…Actually, let me give you a cool picture.

Un post condiviso da @kickingleaves in data:

 Welcome to a beautiful Rome sunset! See you soon.