Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lifestyle // Cafe Bibliotec, Kyoto

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Cafe Bibliotec where the food is delicious, the interior design is beautiful, the menu is quirky and the staff are lovely. What more could you want?! Located near our hotel in Nijo, this fun cafe is highly recommended in the Lonely Planet Japan guide. Not really knowing exactly whereabouts it was positioned on the street we couldn't exactly miss it with these huge palm trees and mountains of bicycles. Inside was designed just as well with low beams, an entire wall made into a library, exposed brick work and miss matching chairs and tables. I had to have a nosy round whilst waiting for a table and couldn't help but dream of our future home looking something similar. 

The menu was a collection of illustrations and different coloured pages are roped together. The food is mainly Western with hints of Asian flare - like my fried salmon sandwich with Asian salad, mustard and Japanese mayo. Think warming soups, hearty breads and light salads. Just what you might need to take a break from Asian cuisine if you happen to be here for a long period of time like ourselves. 

Accompanying our delicious food we each opted for a milkshake, I went for a berry and vanilla mix, and Stew chose their banana and cinnamon. The shake was more ice-cream than milk making it pretty difficult to suck through a straw. However it did mean it made a yummy dessert!

Alongside the cafe is a little open doorway into a bakery, which I presume is part of the same name. In here there were pastries and breads galore! The best selection we've seen here in Japan so far. Unfortunately we were so full we couldn't squeeze anything else in but I regret not buying something to take back for dinner. 

Lonely Planet has proven a god send in recommending great eateries in areas of a city we're not familiar with. However we've also found that our hotel/hostel reception desk are more than happy to point you in the direction of their favourite restaurants. 

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Lifestyle // Elk

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If you've been to Japan you may have seen this quirky looking pancake shop called Elk. We seem to be finding one on almost every street. So after peering through the window on more than one occasion we decided to go for breakfast one rainy day in Kyoto. 

All of Elk's pancakes are made fresh so you can expect to wait 10-20 minutes for your order. There are lots of different toppings to choose from including sweet and savoury, your run of the mill and something a little different Japanese style. I of course opted for the craziest looking one on the menu. I put blogging before my belly, 'what would look good in a photo?'. As I have to confess it didn't taste very good. I can't even tell you exactly what as in it - it involved a stack of 2 pancakes, a layer of nuts, a layer of some kind of sugary jelly, whipped cream and then the purple stuff! I presume is was some kind of red bean mixture but it did say it included sweet potato?! 

Stew opted for the classic butter and maple syrup and went for a buffet style option where you pay 10,000 yen (around just £5) and get 3 pancakes but can top up with extras if you eat them all. So he then had a 4th with blueberry compote which was delicious! It did however come with a side of soup (pictured above), which was bacon, onion and soy bean flavoured... uhh?! It had us both left wondering 'what the?!', and more importantly 'whyyyy?!' 
But it actually tasted really good and way better than my option haha!!

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Lifestyle // Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan, Bamboo Grove
Bamboo grove

From Osaka we travelled to Kyoto, one of Japan's more traditional cities. Here you can find lots of old Japanese temples and shrines dating back to 800AD. Over the years many have been burned down due to lightning or have fallen due to earthquakes but all have been rebuilt over and over and are now kept in immaculate condition. 

Kyoto is also the home of the world famous bamboo grove pictured above. I'm sure you've seen photos of this before either on the internet or maybe on a TV documentary. You may have also seen Fushimi-Inari - the orange shrines pictured below. These large orange arches are placed side by side along a winding path that goes on for over 4km. It's breathtaking! Possibly the most visually awe-inspiring place we've been to so far.

Kyoto, Japan, sushi, Kyoto train station Kyoto, Japan, Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji Temple
Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kyoto is also the home of Kinkaku-Ji or the Golden Temple as it's more famously known. This beautiful building is covered in gold leaf and if you visit it whilst the sun is shining it's truly incredible. Just the reflection in the water is breathtaking enough. 

We also got into our Japanese cuisine whilst in Kyoto. We tried our first taste of authentic Japanese sushi which was delicious, and we tasted (me very carefully) Fugu, puffer fish. If you haven't heard of Fugu before it's a deadly fish, only a select number of companies have the skills/authority to prepare this fish and then sell it on to restaurants. 

Kyoto, Japan, Fugu, Puffer Fish Kyoto, Japan, Fushimi Inari Shrine

Kyoto, Japan, Toji Temple, Pagoda
Toji Temple

You will also find Japan's tallest Pagoda in Kyoto as well as many other slightly smaller ones. The temples themselves are of course stunning in architecture, however we found the immaculately manicured gardens our favourite! Each temple has beautiful grounds surrounding them with bright blue water, moss covered banks, stepping stone paths and patterned raked gravel. Each one is like a pathway into a secret garden. Photo's just don't do it justice!

Kyoto, Japan, French Bulldog for sale Kyoto, Japan, Geisha, Traditional kimono, Japanese kimono

Also in Kyoto I fell in love with a French Bulldog puppy, had photos taken with two very sweet ladies in traditional Japanese kimonos, and fed wild deer at Nara Park. We had 5 days here and it was the perfect amount of time to see and do enough to say we truly saw Kyoto. 

Next we move on to Kobe, Himeji and Hiroshima. But first you can expect to see a couple of foodie posts about the delicious eats we had here. 

Kyoto, Japan, Nara, Nara Park, Nara deer
Nara Park

Kyoto, Japan, Todai-ji
Todai-Ji, Nara

Kyoto, Japan, Shorenin Temple
Shorenin Temple

Kyoto, Japan, Shorenin Temple
Shorenin Temple

Kyoto, Japan, Kiyomizu Temple
Kiyomizu Temple

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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Lifestyle // Osaka, Japan

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Umeda Sky Building, Japan

The first instalment of our Asian travels. We landed in Osaka late last Friday after our plane was delayed. We then managed to get on the wrong train into the city from the airport. Not the best start but it all worked out in the end. For our first night we wandered around the streets near to where we were staying, grabbed some Ramen from a restaurant recommended from our receptionist and then got an early night ready for a full day of exploring.

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Umeda Sky Building, Japan

Our first attraction was the Umeda Sky Building - a fantastic piece of Japanese architecture. The rooftop 'garden' and escalators (yes that escalator pictured connects two towers) were put in place after the two buildings were built. They had to hoist the whole inner section up over 7 hours where it was then fixed in place at the top. Crazy! For just $3 you can go to the top and look out across the city and surrounding suburbs of Osaka. 

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Osaka Castle, Japan

We then caught a train to the Osaka Castle - a beautiful piece of Japanese history and architecture. Both the inside and outside of this castle were great to look at. After seeing so many films and photographs of sights like this it was amazing to see it in person. I know there are many more castles and temples similar to be looked at over the coming weeks too :)

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Osaka Castle, Japan Sweet Monday, Osaka, Japan

And now for a few fun photos of what caught our eye in Osaka. Firstly their vending machines are not only amazing for the unusual drink flavours but also because they do both hot and cold drinks. Yes that's right you can buy a hot can or bottle of coffee!! And there's at least one to three vending machines located on just about every street. I've never seen so many in my life!

Speaking of coffee... my first latte in Japan came with this lil guy on top...

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Japan Sweet Monday, Osaka, Dotonburi, Japan

Osaka really comes into it's own at nighttime in the suburb of Dotonburi. Here the streets are lit up like a mini Times Square with advertising and videos playing just about every where you look. Each shop or restaurant has some crazy piece of branding above it's doors too creating a mind boggling array of colour, light and sound. 

You could wander around the streets all night and still not see everything!

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Dotonburi, Japan Sweet Monday, Osaka, Dotonburi, Japan

Japan is also famous for its pinball arcade halls, known as Pachinko. We stepped inside one that was full and the noise alone from all the balls whizzing around was enough to have me mesmerised. 

From here we ended our evening with dinner at a Japanese eatery recommended by our super friendly hotel receptionist. We couldn't actually find it as it was pretty well hidden but a lovely group of teenage Japanese guys helped us by Googling the address and then walking us to the door to make sure we found it okay!! We've only been here for a few days but already Japanese people seem incredibly friendly. They really can't do enough for you. We also had another guy ask us if we needed help buying our tube tickets and a women helped me onto the train with my suitcase. So kind! 

Back to the food though and why we went to this particular restaurant was to try a Japanese dish called Okonomiyaki - kinda like a pancake/fritter. The chefs make it at the front of the restaurant in front of everyone and then the waitress serves it to you on a hot plate in front of you. So simple and so effective, the food can stay hot for ages whilst you're talking/dining with friends. And it makes it easy to share. 

Sweet Monday, Osaka, Dotonburi, Japan

So far we LOVE Japan. Can't wait to see what else is in store for us :)

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lifestyle // Airlie Beach & Whitsunday Island

Sweet Monday, Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia

Our next stop after Fraser Island was Airlie Beach. This was a mammoth 12 hour drive (including stops for food and the toilet). Luckily me and Stew could share the driving but it was still a very tiring day. Because my visa ran out on 10th January and we wanted to stay in Sydney for New Year we were on very tight schedule. Obviously this wasn't ideal and I wouldn't advise any of you to travel the east coast of Australia in just a week! But how many people can say they've seen the Sydney New Years Eve fireworks? No one I know anyway and it was definitely worth it :)

Sweet Monday, Airlie Beach, Whitsunday Island, The Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia

Anyway back to Airlie Beach. This is the closest resort to take a boat trip to the Whitsunday islands. Unfortunately the forecast for our visit was torrential rain and thunderstorms so we put off booking anything until the last minute. This meant that all the boat trips sold out as we forgot it's currently still school holidays in Australia. It was really gutting to know that we wouldn't get to visit Whitsunday Island or Whitehaven Beach, however we were determined to make the most of our time in Airlie Beach.

Our very lovely campsite receptionist equipped us with a map and lots of destinations to visit. First up we visited Shute Harbour and did a 2 hour trek up Mount Rooper which offered stunning views across the bay of the Whitsunday islands. This was fantastic! Although the walk said it was moderate and I would definitely say it was harder than that. Maybe it was because it was so humid but I don't think it gets much cooler in Queensland! We also saw a few creepy crawlies on the way including two spiders which we both screamed at and ran quickly away from haha!

Sweet Monday, Airlie Beach, Cedar Creek Falls, Queensland, Australia

After this we drove back to Airlie Beach and took a dip in the lagoon there. This was beautiful! Like a giant swimming pool with a beach and grass. Blissful! We then grabbed some lunch and embarked on another journey out towards Conway Beach where we stopped at Cedar Creek Falls. Here is a natural spring and huge waterfall that you can swim in and around. It was freezing when we first got in but so relaxing and beautiful when you get over that bit.

Sweet Monday, Airlie Beach, Cape Gloucester, Hideaway Bay, Queensland, Australia Sweet Monday, Airlie Beach, Cape Gloucester, Hideaway Bay, Queensland, Australia

After a quick shower and actually putting on some make up for the first time in days we headed to Cape Gloucester to watch the sun set and have dinner. Here we strolled along the beach at Hideaway Bay which was simply stunning. I felt like we were in the Caribbean with a long white sanded beach, still turquoise waters with a back drop of rainforest mountains. It's so remote here too that it meant we were almost the only ones on the beach. Having dinner with a view like that was magical!

Sweet Monday, Montes, Hideaway bay, Cape Gloucester, Queensland, Australia

Unfortunately not everything can go to plan when you travel and although we missed out on Whitehaven Beach I'm still so happy with our day of exploring and we figure we can always come back one day in the future :)

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