Sweet, sweet Shoalhaven

You know when you find that place, that place where time stops and preferably phone reception does too. The sort of place where you’re happy to lose track of time and where you left your shoes.

Where a walk along the beach can be the entire plan for the day, but there is still plenty of time for spontaneous decisions. It’s the sort of place where the simplest of things become magical; the sand feels softer, the waves clearer and the sun hitting your skin like a hug.

It’s the sort of place where as soon as you get there your body seems to switch. All you need is a weekend to feel completely refreshed. You find yourself retelling your stories and realising how little you actually did and how relaxed you were.

A place where you can find the most beautiful shells lining the waves as they lap up on the shore, and sting rays coasting the shallow bays. Where twisting your toes into the sand finds pipis, and throwing a line into the lake can provide dinner for six.

Everyone needs hidden secrets like this, so this one I’ll keep hidden. But jump in your car and head south to Shoalhaven and see what you can find.

E x

Dayyymn Amsterdam

I am just going to get it out of the way: I went to Amsterdam and didn’t get high. I must admit I had my hesitations before coming to this city due to the expectation that often accompanies it, but once again I was reminded of how the best thing that travel teaches you is to throw all preconceptions out the window.

I did get high on Amsterdam, though. How can you not? The energy is contagious. It’s uber-stylish sprinkled with a touch of grunge that just gives it character. And when you’re staying in the boutique district on Haarlemmerdijk, in a studio that looks like it’s from a page in a magazine I’d normally have to wipe my dribble off, how could I not fall in love.

He’d been to Amsterdam before with the boys, so instantly I knew I had to shake things up to make sure it was completely different to his last trip. I think the mere fact that it took us until the third night to visit the infamous Red Light District cleared that up though. And that we got up early each morning and went for brunch at places like TOKI and The Breakfast Club. Surprisingly though, the best coffee we found was from the cafe inside Urban Outfitters, served by a guy from Manchester that was up for a chat. Shame we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Apparently it’s still considered English?

Apart from the free walking tour we did on the first day to get the gist of the city, Amsterdam was the city we just lived in the most. We walked the boutiques for hours, got snacks from Stach to keep us going through the day, wandered from one side of town to the other to get lunch at the Foodhallen, dodged through the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum and their teems of tourists, and scoured vintage markets we found dotted around the city. All things I do in Sydney, but it just felt so much cooler over there.

With absolutely no itinerary, we just did exactly what we wanted to each day, even if that wasn’t a lot. Subsequently days rolled into one another and before long I felt like I lived there, or at least that I really wanted to. I’m pretty sure one afternoon was spent looking into both of our ancestry to see whether or not he’d have to pop a particular question for a visa. All I can say is: damn you, Brexit.

With this being my last blog of the trip, I’m going to cut to the chase and just give you the good stuff you actually want to read about. Without further ado, I present to you: Amsterdam.

Where to eat //
We had dinner on the first night at Pizzabakkers which was awesome, recommended by our host and just down the road from where we were staying. I had a margherita with burrata (because I promised myself a while back that if burrata is on the menu I have to order it) and because it was delicious. We sat near the kitchen and enjoyed the staff playfully switching their conversations between Dutch, English and Italian and felt very…inadequate. As the man at one of the markets told me “come on, even a three year old can speak Dutch!”

Another one down the road was Le Sud, a cheeseboards heaven, with the best falafel wraps I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. And trust me, it was pleasurable.

If you’re into burgers, you must try Cannibale Royale. Stacked burgers in a stacked restaurant, I’d recommend booking if you can. Oh, and the elderflower gin and tonic. Served in a glass a goldfish wouldn’t mind swimming around in. Yes, please.

To finish off we treated ourselves to a fancy night out at Bak. We got lost at first, but found it at the top floor of a massive and empty warehouse in a very quiet area of Amsterdam. The food was unreal – think hare-blood sauce and a dessert made from carrot. Worthy every and all the pennies it cost.

Where to look //
I’d honestly couldn’t recommend the area we stayed in more – Haarlemmerdijk, located in the Jordaan district. The street was lined with boutiques like Restored, Six and Sons, Store Without A Home, Sukha, and so many more I would have to rent six apartments to be able to fit all the things I could have bought. Plus the street was lined with vintage shops that sent me spiraling back to when I had time to thrift.

What else //
Yes, I feel like Amsterdam is the sort of place that will always have little hidden secrets waiting to be discovered. One of them for us was The Movies, also located on the same street (yes I know, it’s starting to sound like a plug now), which was the oldest cinema in Amsterdam, and where we escaped the drizzle on our last afternoon to see Bohemian Rhapsody.

To be completely honest, I couldn’t have planned our Amsterdam trip more perfectly than it happened. It’s just the beauty of travel. And I can’t wait to do it again.

Where would you recommend?

E x


Blown away by Bruges

Putting Bruges into words can only be described as writing something of a love letter. With it’s cobblestone roads, bridges dressed in vines, Gothic squares and high-pitched cottages, it was something of a fairytale. More than midway through our trip, having nothing to do other than wander the canals of Bruges, dodging the horse and carts as they trotted past sounded pretty damn good.

Tucked away just off the main square was our perfect little cottage, with stairs so steep that we left our bags in the kitchen before climbing two flights to bed. With a roaring fire and a list full of restaurants within a five minute walk from us, Bruges was a massage to our tired legs.

But also, Bruges means beer. And within ten minutes of being there, he’d pulled me into about seven beer shops and was already trying to convince me that I’d really like the fruit beer. It would be really nice, apparently. Just like cider. Well, it wasn’t. But I tried. A few times. I even went on a brewery tour of the De Halve Maan Brewery, the only brewery to remain in production Bruges, now run by the sixth generation of the family; the proud owners of a three kilometer underground pipe that sends beer flooding through the city to their bottling factory just out of town. Not a lie. But beer aside, the view from the top was sweet enough for me and saved us the 12euros each to climb the Belfry.

First things first though, lets talk food. Pieter, our host, had given us a list of things we had to try in Bruges which was long enough to take a normal person three months to get through but, yes, you guessed it, we managed it in three days. L’Estaminet just around the corner served the best lasagne diablo – the Dutch version with a little bit of spice. The best thing about it though was that there was not a word of English spoken on the tables around us so we knew we’d escaped the tourists. And trust me, there’s a few of them around. For good reason though. Many day trip from Brussels so it gets quieter at night.

Chocolate from Stef’s, recommended to be the most reasonable in town (the locals go out of Bruges to get the good stuff), and then again at The Chocolate Line – the Heston Blumenthal of chocolate shops with prices that would make a fat duck sing. Think of the novelty though.

Breakfast the next morning was a Sanseveria Bagelsalon, just around the corner. A place which I’d found in my research the weeks beforehand and had already picked my order back in Australia. Needless to say, it lived up to the suspense. Oh, and if you go, request their special grapefruit juice.

The coffee shop we’d looked up was closed for the days we were there, but glass-half-full, the owners were in Amsterdam (our next stop) and were sharing all their favourite cafes there on Instagram. Waiting til 11am, yes that’s when things start happening in Bruges, we got coffee at Vero which did the trick.

On the second night we walked for a whole ten minutes to get to the other side of town to Tom’s Diner, another recommended from our host, but apparently also by the rest of town as it was fully booked on a Wednesday night. Once being told no we decided we really wanted to go and our lovely host helped us book for the following night. Delicious tapas and wine. Great atmosphere and a locals only vibe, it was perfect. For the night before, we’d just wandered until our noses found a little restaurant on a corner serving the traditional Flemish stew and mussels we’d been told to try. Passing the memo on to you now. It’s finger, licking, good.

A few sleep ins, a stroll through the Christmas markets in the main square, some window-shopping and a sneak peek inside the incredible Sint-Salvatorskathedraal – you didn’t think we could get through Europe without visiting a least one chapel did you? Ahhh, Bruges…

Bruges was everything and not a lot all at the same time, exactly what we wanted it to be. It’s got to be one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been, and seeing the fairy lights reflecting in the still water of the canals as I walked hand in hand with him back to the warmth of our cottage is a moment I’ll keep locked up for a while. Oh, and the waffles lathered in nutella. I’ll dream of that too.

Bruges, you’ve taken my breath away. I thought only he could do that.

E x


A library of London

I don’t believe there is ever not a good time to travel, and leaving a Sydney summer for a European winter is no exception. Plus, for a girl who finds herself as entranced with fairy lights as I do, London leading into Christmas is a fairytale. Too busy staring up at the strings of lights floating above to navigate the streams of people falling out of buildings, cafes, and tube stations below. But ever so happy.

The first glimmer of the trip sparked from the idea to surprise his younger brother who had been living abroad for the year by turning up at the local derby at Wembley Stadium, creating a memory that floods warmth through your body – “no f#@king way” – and didn’t take much convincing from there.

So with four days in London, and an excited and unexpected tour guide, what do you do?

The first twenty-four hours were a whirlwind. Filled with surprises, station-hopping, and sub-par temperatures, we rode the high until we collapsed back in our perfectly positioned London pad. At 7.30pm – thank you, jetlag.  Wandering around Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland we wasted our first few pounds on carnival games we knew we couldn’t win, and warmed our weary fingers with Bailey’s hot chocolate and good old German beer. With Mariah already filling the air, it really was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and with his brother back by his side I could tell he already had all he wanted.

One of the things that excites me about travel is having an excuse to eat out for as many meals as you just can’t seem to justify back home. And when we eat, we do it well. Warned about the state of coffee in the UK, our first breakfast at The Modern Pantry was very well received. The savory waffles drizzled in maple syrup and pulled pork eggs benedict definitely didn’t disappoint either. And apparently, without realising, we’d brought a taste of home back to Henry. Coffee. We even stopped for a second cuppa at Prufrock on the walk home.

A stroll through the Camden Markets, where a bubble-machine from the circus shop almost had me in tears thinking it was snowing already, was followed by a proper stuffing at Southwark Tavern with a bunch of Breislin’s who we worked out, I hadn’t seen for almost ten years. Many jokes were made about putting the ‘convicts’ back in their cells (the tavern used to be a prison), and it just felt like home. Funny thing about family.

A walk along South Bank and across Millennium Bridge, we ended up watching the the setting sun trickle through the city’s shades of grey from the top story of a boutique shopping center across from St Paul’s. It pays to know people who know the city inside out. Looking at you, Viv.

Anyway, that’s enough words for now. But don’t worry, there are more to come. A whole load more. For now, have some pictures.

E x

Hack: what to pack

Have you ever arrived late at your hostel and had to creep into your dorm in the dark and wished you’d packed a torch? Or found yourself draping the clothes you’ve just washed in the sink over every dusty corner you can find in your hotel room and teared up over your washing line at home?

Every time I travel, I learn new hacks on things to pack to make my life easier on the road. But come the next trip, I never seem to remember them, so I thought it was about time I wrote them down.

The list doesn’t contain the essentials (ie. passport, duh), but possibly a few things to add to your letter to Santa.

1. Powercube

Say goodbye to scrambling around that dusty drawer of international adapters looking for enough plugs to charge all your devices. Forget organising a schedule stricter than school camp to make sure your phone, GoPro, laptop and camera are all fully charged for the next day. A powercube has four plugs and two USB ports in one nifty little device. Say hello to filling all your devices with power, in the time it takes you to shower. (That is not an ad, but it should be).

2. Pegless washing line

A lot of places in Europe won’t let you hang your washing out on your balcony, and there is nothing worse than losing your limited stock of underwear after it flies off the precarious perch you hung it over to dry. A pegless washing line not only looks cool, but ensures the delicates you quickly washed in the bathroom sink the night before are actually dry before you stuff them in your bag and hop on the train the next morning.

3. Flexlible travel lock

This is a tip I got before my first backpacking adventure around South East Asia. Locks become much more than just security on long-haul flights. Particularly when you’re backpacking, locks are your life. Passport, money, that scarf you really love. Lock ’em up. But what happens if your lock doesn’t fit into the latch that’s been dented and deformed from years of abuse. Get a flexy lock. With bendy arms, it’ll hug any catch. Nawwwww.

4. A shampoo bar

I’ve never actually used one before but I saw a video on Facebook recently (pretty much how I learn about everything these days), and it looks pretty cool. Save yourself the room big bottles take up and the risk of everything exploding over your limited wardrobe and grab yourself a shampoo bar. Just like soap, only shampoo. Plus, any excuse to head into Lush is one I’ll take.

5. Rechargeable phone case

Forget carrying around heavy power batteries and just slip your phone into a rechargeable phone case. Practical, powerful and yep, you guessed it, packed.

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So what do you never leave without?

E x

Stepping into Sri Lanka

It hit us like a tuk-tuk driving 100km per hour around a blind corner as we stepped through the doors of Colombo Airport. That smell. The one that took him straight back to the dusty streets of Kathmandu, and me to the back roads of Bangkok. Don’t get me wrong, though; we both love that smell. It was like a hit of adrenaline. We’re back.

With jetlag on our side, we woke early and headed to the beach outside our room at Rani Beach Resort, which had been veiled in darkness when we arrived the night before. Greeted with a game of beach cricket, wooden catamarans covered in colourful sails, and some “very good salesmen” trawling the beach, we already felt accomplished. And it wasn’t even 9am.

Buffet breakfast. Tick. First shower of the day. Tick. Ready for more action. Tick.

After meeting the guide for our World Expeditions tour that would start that afternoon, we headed off to the main fish markets via a tuk-tuk that was nicely haggled down in price by him. Thank god he’s here, I’m hopeless at that stuff.

We could smell it before we arrived. A stark contrast to the fish markets we’d visited in Tokyo; while store owners lined the road, spruiking their offerings, the beach was covered in meters of hessian topped with neatly arranged fish. I wondered how they stopped the birds from eating it until I saw a bird swoop down and score a small fish. The answer to my question: they don’t.

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After a friendly toothless man excitedly told me that I could watch the markets from my television, thanks to a visit from Rick Stein a few years back, we wandered through the fruit and vegetable markets. The only way to describe it was colourful, which coincidentally happens to be a pretty good summation of Sri Lanka overall so far.

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After meeting up with our group, which turned out to be just one other couple who’d traveled all the way from…Sydney, Australia, we headed to the Dutch Canal, spanning a whopping 240km for a boat ride with a bit of wildlife spotting. Monitor lizards, kingfishers, herons, owls and the occasional bit of rubbish. It was as if our guide had arranged a meeting place with each bird, as he was able to spot things our amateur eyes simply couldn’t.

The banks of the canal were littered with tin shacks sheltering small smiling children, next to large concrete complexes containing the very apparent disproportion of wealth. Breaking into more open water, we headed across the lagoon to the Muthurajawela Nature Reserve, a tropical wetland known to home crocodiles, sea eagles, monkeys, and all manner of birds. While we unfortunately (or fortunately?) didn’t see any crocodiles, we did manage to be boarded by some pirates who liked the look of our afternoon tea.

On the ride home across the lagoon, the wind whipping through my hair, I watched on as birds darted in and out of the sunset as if tiptoeing on time.

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Jumping back in the car the next morning, we headed off to the rural mountain town of Salgala, to the monastic complex housing nineteen Buddhist monks. Leaving the comfort of touristed Negombo, we finally got a glimpse of the real Sri Lanka, in all it’s nitty-gritty-ness. Streets littered with dogs, the brightest bunches of bananas hanging from the awnings of crumbling straw huts, colourful buses charging down thin streets, and fields of rice bordered by the tallest coconut trees. As the roads got bumpier, the excitement only grew.

Once we made it to the monastery, an eighty-eight year old gentleman, sari-wrapped and thong clad, with only a few teeth and not a word of English, led us around the complex and up through the forest. He explained to our guide, who translated, that there were eighteen caves in the forest that the monks reside in, but that they were originally built for the King when he fled to the mountains to avoid Indian invasions in the second century. The monks now use the caves for meditation, of which they perform from 1pm each day until the following sunrise. We walked barefoot and admired temples hidden in stone and stupas entangled in vines, but not so much as our utter admiration for the elderly gentleman who led us, using nothing but the end of an old broom as a walking stick to take him all the way up to the lookout at the top, which swept across from Colombo Harbour all the way out to Adam’s Peak and beyond. I was a sweaty mess by the top but I swear I still saw a spring in his step up there. Age is just a number, folks.

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That afternoon we headed to our hotel for the night: Elephant Bay Hotel in Pinnawala. Okay, picture this. With a grand colonial style entrance, we stepped over the sleeping guard dog and through the doors. The view directly across the lobby opened onto a magnificent river, dotted with rocks in a way that the water sparkled as it trickled over its obstacles. If you take a look over the balcony you notice a bright blue infinity pool, overlooking the gushing river. Now look a bit closer and you notice one, no two, no make that a herd of elephants bathing in the river.

The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was just across the road, and a few times a day they walk the elephants across the road, down the small side streets, and into the river for a release from the heat. They eat 300kg of foliage a day, and need 250 litres of water. Needless to say, we watched them all night: from our balcony, our bed, the pool and over the dinner table. That was until we met Malou, at the end of her four-month trip traveling solo from Holland, who showed an interest in our card game. As they say, the rest was history. Remember to come visit, Malou!

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I thought I’d wait a few more days before I wrote my first blog, considering I’m here for two weeks, but there has been too much excitement to write about.

I promise the next one will be shorter.

E x

 

Off to Osaka

It’s interesting how this trip has ended where my last trip to Japan began – Osaka, Tokyo’s odd little brother. Slightly grungier, slightly sleazier, love hotels dotted on every street corner and the first sighting of any litter scattered in the streets. I can’t remember what I found quite so magical about this city last time. Perhaps it was just that it was my first taste of the country? The first time is always special. We struggled to fill our three days here with activities that rivaled those of the previous cities. If anyone has any idea of what I missed out on, please fill me in. Or maybe don’t. #FOMO

We arrived in the middle of day, a short trip from Kyoto, and spent the afternoon walking the streets of Dotonburi, the district I remembered most clearly from my last trip as being the very essence of what you expect, and want, from Japan. Bright lights, bustling streets, loud noises. We couldn’t wait to come back at night.

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After extensive research the next morning, we made our way to the Osaka Castle, which looked pretty cool compared to what else was on offer. Tall, white and clear, the Castle shone against the beautiful blue sky we were greeted with. The detail used in the roofs of Japanese buildings continues to astonish me. And he seems to always love capturing beautiful photos of it too – every time I look over and see him leaning all the way back with his camera pointing straight up in the sky I know we’re all in for a treat. We went into the Castle Museum and to the viewpoint at the top, but to be completely honest it wasn’t really worth it. And yes I know how bad that sounds, but we’ve been spoiled.

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With afternoon plans to rent bikes and ride around Tennoji Park, the fact that it was the end of a full on trip hit us and instead all the energy we could muster was put towards an afternoon nap. A well deserved one though. Having tried puffer fish (or fugu) for lunch, a local delicacy that if not prepared perfectly becomes lethal, I was convinced that that nap was going to be my last and just let the ‘toxins’ take over.

Overjoyed to have woken up at the other end of it, we all celebrated by taking ourselves to Mizuno, a Michelin starred okonomiyaki restaurant. Huddled around our hotplate, we watched on as our chefs prepared the top three voted okonomiyaki that we had coincidentally ordered. No cameras allowed, but I assure you it was worth the wait.

Fried chicken and giant soft serves for dessert before an early night in, as we were headed for Hiroshima the next day.

A massive change of pace from the weird and wackiness of Japan, my second trip to Hiroshima still felt chilling. And that’s not just because it was the first time we’d been caught in the rain on this trip. Walking out of the station, it all came flowing back to me. Even the city bus we’d taken to get to the main historical sites came back to me. I don’t know whether studying Hiroshima quite extensively at school helped or not, in that I had some idea of what to expect, but I don’t really think anything can prepare you to see and feel what you do when you walk through the Hiroshima Peace Museum. Not even seeing and feeling it before.

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To lighten the mood, we made a hop skip and a jump over to the island of Miyajima. Last time I’d only stumbled upon this gem last minute, and so was very limited with my time to explore. Not this time. This time we had time to slurp up some lunch, buy more souvenirs, throw coins at the world’s largest rice spoon, pat the cutest Shiba, watch Miyajima’s famous maple biscuits be made and try some, pat some deer, pat some more deer, and of course visit Itsukushima Shrine – Miyajima’s floating torii. When I was here last, the tide was out and so it wasn’t really floating, but this time the water was lapping up at its base and it was clothed in a fine mist. It felt like exploring a new place.

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As our last night in Japan, we knew we had to take it out with a bang. While the party started in our apartment, it went next level with a run through Dotonburi to find an awesome looking ramen shop that was always busy, day and night. I wish I could tell you the name, but I was in no state to remember.

Luckily, considering our condition, we didn’t have to try to order with a person that night, and instead Japan had the answer with their vending machine ordering system. All we had to do was either press the ‘Noodles in Soup’ button, or the ‘Noodles in Soup with extra pork” button. Simple enough, right? I was pretty happy, Michelle was playing catch ups, and Ed couldn’t stop staring at the chef. All was well.

We bought soft serve for dessert, and Romy bought some fried chicken for a stray cat on the street, who promptly ran away before she could feed it. Yes, it was one of those nights. A quick stop off in a photo booth where we produced some truly terrifying images, before a 7Eleven fridge-to-fridge on our way to find a bar. This is where things got interesting. We’d seen a bar close to home that morning that was offering ¥200 drinks, but when we turned up turnt that night, not surprising at all by this point in the trip, we didn’t all fit in the bar. Wait just there, our host told us, as he went back inside to grab his flip phone and a suspicious unmarked bottle of coke. We then proceeded to follow him along the street to another bar that had already rejected us that night, so it was no surprise when they did so again. Never you mind, however, with a quick call on his flip phone, we were off again, this time down the street, over the river, around a corner, across some lights, up an escalator that wasn’t on, down a dark corridor and through a tiny door. With pages and pages of weird and wacky cocktails, all costing ¥200 each, we decided to order for each other. I got Dan ‘Old Pal’ because we were celebrating our one year Facebook friend anniversary that day, Brandon and Michelle both got Romy an ‘Angry Cat’ because…well, she loves cats. He got me ‘The One’ because he is adorable, and anyone who got Ed a drink got him one with milk because DEdward.

All in all, it was an awesome trip, and very different to my last time in Japan. But that’s good, that’s what I wanted. I learned a lot, I saw a lot, I ate a lot, I laughed, I cried, I shivered and I sweat. It was a good holiday, and not even having our flight cancelled a few hours before we were due to leave, having us wait around at the airport for hours hoping to get on the last flight of that night, running through the airport like a scene from Love Actually, and somehow magically scoring two seats next to each other with an extra seat to curl up on. That just doesn’t happen on normal holidays.

Bye for now, and thanks Japan fam.

E x

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A Night in Nagano

And we’ve found snow! And not just the pretty snowflake stuff that melts before it touches the ground, but the proper stuff. The kind of snow that piles up on the side of the road, that forms icicles as it falls, that dusts the trees with icing sugar, and that normally results in me falling over. The others weren’t quite as excited, having spent a week in Niseko and all, but I was so excited I couldn’t stop shaking. Maybe that had something to do with the -3 degree temperature, but who knows.

We spent one night in Nagano, in an awesome place called Worldtrek Guesthouse. It looked like a tree-house, with little hidden nooks and crannies hidden everywhere, and a wood fire burning inside. Our room was made up of little bunk-beds hidden behind walls and curtains, which was fun, and the fleeting privacy was well-welcomed after sharing what felt like one mattress between five of us for the previous four nights.

The reason we went to Nagano was to get to the snow monkeys, something that I’d really wanted to do on the last trip but not had time. And as is almost never the case, unbeknownst to us, we happened to stay there the one night of the year that Nagano celebrates a Light Festival at it’s Zenkō-ji Temple. Hundreds of handmade light boxes lined the street leading up to the temple that was lit up in an array of colours. What are the odds?

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But the real show happened the next morning when we rushed to the station to catch a bus to the Snow Monkey Park. Next was a half an hour walk through the snow-covered forest. I was busy focusing on not falling over, but couldn’t help but be taken away by the winter wonderland around me. Every surface was dusted in a thick blanket of fluffy white snow. I didn’t think it could get any prettier, until we reached the monkeys. Not quite pretty, more pretty ugly, but so darn cute. There were babies running around everywhere and we couldn’t believe how close to them you could actually get. Some were munching on snow, some were floating in their 42 degree hot pool, picking fleas from each others fur, or posing for pictures. It was almost alarming how human-like they were. I fell in love with one monkey I named George. He was sitting in the snow with his leg stretched out, and when he caught me smiling at him, he quickly tucked it in and had a look across his face like he’d been caught red-handed. Absolutely gorgeous. Or should I say Georgeous? *sigh*

I was worried it would be an overrated experience, and that we would trek all that way and just see a bunch of monkeys sitting in water from a distance, but I was absolutely wrong. It was worth every cent we spent on it and I could have stayed there for hours. It was one of the things I was so excited about doing this trip and I’m so glad I got the chance to come back and do it after my last holiday.

Soba for lunch and a snooze on the bus back.

Kyoto we’re coming for you.

E x

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Jetting off to Japan (again)

With Sydney cracking 47 degrees and more heatwaves looming, I made the impulsive decision (albeit six months prior) to jet off to Japan, and with it the depths of winter. Although I’ve been to Japan before, and am going to many of the same places, I’m excited to use this trip as a way of making or breaking my theory that it’s the people you’re with that make the trip, not necessarily where it is in the world that you are. This time the team is almost ten people strong, and by the time I arrived I was already a week behind. And you know what they say about playing catch-ups…

It’s an odd feeling to feel familiar in an foreign environment, but that’s exactly how I felt when I stepped out of the Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo and back into his arms again. We’ve all seen pictures of the famous Scramble Crossing and the bright lights of Tokyo, but it was more than that – I remembered the smell of the 7-Eleven’s on every corner, the rush of people on the streets, the vending machine restaurants, the tiny square cars, the lack of bins anywhere, and how much I absolutely loved this city.

First day back and I felt like I was in Melbourne more than in Tokyo. Lucky enough to have our own personal barista on hand, we could be sure that the city had been scoured and all the best coffee spots noted. Starting the day at About Life Coffee Brewers is not a bad way. So, you’re welcome.

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Once the crew was assembled, and matching outfits were planned for the following day as is apparently the fashion in Tokyo, we headed off for our first and arguably most important adventure. Not only does it sound like a level in Candy Crush, but Sunshine City is also the home to the Pokémon Mega Center. Within twenty minutes Romy had spent most of her remaining budget on Pokémon merch, he had bought more cards than he could hold, and Ed, Dan, John and Brandon were battling on the Pokémon arcade machines outside – both against each other and with the machine, I think.

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A quick refuel at our first lucky-dip restaurant – lucky-dip in that the menu had absolutely no English, and neither did the staff. But nonetheless always a fun experience, and there was even enough room for all of us which is about as rare as John’s shining legendary Pokémon card.

An afternoon challenge against time-restraints and the Japanese rail system, we made it to Studio Ghibli, which was like being transported into another world. The building itself reminded me of Gaudí, and seeing the work that goes into making the films, plus Romy’s intense obsession made me eager for some Netflix ‘n’ Ghibli when I get home. And to top it all off, we went to the coolest sushi train in the world: sushi served by robots. Need I say more?

We woke up the next morning to Roman’s birthday, *insert something about Taylor Swift and being 22*, and headed off to Yoyogi Park where we found out that most of Japan was celebrating too (for Japanese Federation Day or Roman’s birthday, you pick). Escaping the crowds we ducked into the Meiji Shrine, where he tried his hand at picking up a new bird and the rest of us swapped catching Pokémon for catching coy in the massive pond that surrounded the gardens.

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Opting out of the Hedgehog cafe, him and I opted in for the Ramen House with the line out the door and down the street, and were not left disappointed. Feeling full enough that I’d never need to eat again, walking the length of Takeshita Street in Harajuku proved otherwise. Filled with shops of everything you never knew you needed (or wanted) and more, it wasn’t long before my tummy was groaning more than Ed does about me stealing his personal time with him, but boy oh boy did we have something incredible planned for dinner. To celebrate the man of the moment, we headed to Han no Daidokoro Dogenzaka, a Japanese-BBQ where we were served wagyu beef in every way possible and even got to cook it ourselves, not that it really needed cooking. My favourite was the wagyu beef sashimi sushi. Yeah, you heard me right. After that is was a Vape and some VB’s for the birthday boy; the recipe for the very best night.

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And that was just two days. I have two more days to catch you up on but don’t have the time to write about them now. What did I tell you about playing catch-ups…it’s a dangerous game.

E x

P.s. All photos are taken by him because I’m too busy GoPro-ing