29th September 2014
Every year my mother and I travel to Japan, first she visits her friend who lives there and then we meet and see a new city. This year it was the beautiful Kyoto that was the focus for our annual mother/daughter trip, and I have to say, we could’t have picked a better place! Last year Tokyo captivated us with its intense energy and nightlife, but Kyoto was a whole different ball game, more subtle and relaxing than Tokyo, a lesson in zen and the art of imperfections – and a few bottles of wine!
Apparently the best time to visit Kyoto is during Cherry Blossom season (March/April/May) or during the Autumn when the leaves are a flaming red. We visited at neither of those times, instead went in August (i.e. high summer) which was still gorgeous. Although I expected to, I actually didn’t find it too hot to explore and enjoy ourselves, with the help of a shaved ice every now and then.
We stayed in a traditional Japanese house (via Airbnb) in the Nijo area, which was lovely because we got to experience a neighbourhood in a way you wouldn’t if you stayed in the main area in a hotel. This sort of accommodation does come with its own cons – locks that get stuck when you arrive, a loooooong list of instructions which makes you feel a little more like a prisoner than a guest – but overall I have to say it’s a great way to understand a place better. Although, TBH I was reminded how bad my posture is when forced to sit and eat on tatami mats with no couch in sight. However, if you are after a more atmospheric experience, I would recommend a traditional Ryokan, if I ever go back with my boyfriend that’s what we’ll do.
Walk the Philosopher’s Path: We did a walk around and along the Philospher’s path (Tetsugaku no michi), a path alongside a gorgeous canal in the Northern Higashiyama district, on the first day we arrived and visited all the different temples (including the Silver Pavillion) and surrounding gardens and shrines.
Visit the flea markets: We were lucky enough to time our visit when the biggest flea in Kyoto is held at Kitanpo Tenman-gu Shrine. You guys know how much I love a flea right!? The market is held on the 25th day of the month every month, and is well worth planning around with lots of gorgeous antiques, and piles and piles of kimonos at much better prices than in other places. 7:00-16:30.
Delve into Gion : Made famous by the book Memoirs of Geisha (although as many of your pointed out in this post that book is disputed as to how accurate the portrayal is ) this picture perfect area is a series of weeping willows, lanes and canals, with small doors leading into Kyseki restuarants and drinking house. A great place to spend sunset and watch the Geisha come out to play.
Visit Kibune & Kurama: This day trip was the highlight our visit to Kyoto, and I’ll definitely writing it up on its own, but for now know that taking a day out of the city to do this is well worth it. Your itinerary will include visiting an outdoor Onsen, hiking the gorgeous mountain paths from Kurama to Kibune and dining on the platforms over the water. A must!
See the temples: Kyoto is famous for its amazing temples, shrines and gardens including the Golden and Silver Pavillions and Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine (a must). If you feel like you just want to see a few, know that you’ll get a good glimpse of them along the philosophers path.
Bamboo Forest: An utterly breathtaking vista greets you at the Bamboo forest, and although you’ll spend hours trying to get a photo of it nothing will compare with what you take away in your head!
Visit an Onsen: Visiting a gorgeous Onsen is a great way to understand Japanese culture and what binds them together (i.e. a need for zen and relaxation as well as a deep respect for etiquette and rules).
Omen – This traditional noodle house located along the Philopspher’s Path (with another at the back of Gion) is the perfect way to end a day of wandering the gardens, temples and shrines. Order a tempura set and sit back and relax.
Okonomiyaki - We absolutely fell in love with this traditional, savoury Japanese pancake with a multitude of fillings that is cooked directly at your table. One place we visited and loved was Nishiki Warai, within the Nishiki Markets.
Kaiseki Ryori – This is a traditional Japanese multi-course dinner and is a must for at least one night you are in Kyoto. It’s not something you’ll forget easily, although they tend to be pricey. We visited Yoshikawa for the most memorable tempura experience, it was utterly amazing.
Wander the Nishiki food market: Check out this mile long enclosed food market in the Downtown area with more then 100 stalls for all the weird and wonderful delicacies that the region is known for.
Kazigen: A gorgeous tea room with delicious sweets in the Gion area, it was the perfect mid afternoon break.
The Cat Cafe: Ok so this was a random thing for us to do but we just had to visit a cat cafe – it was actually kinda creepy and more like a cat play school where you could stumble in and have a cup of tea.
Sangano-yu: A gorgeous cafe in an old bathhouse, we had a delightful iced chai here prior to going to the nearby Onsen.
Lunch on the water at Kibune (heaven much?)
Lanterns in Teramachi Arcade
The gardens of the Silver Pavillion
Our neighbourhood bakery in Nijo.
The Canals of Gion
Visiting the Gardens of Nanzenji Temple
Lunch at Omen
The Bamboo Forest
The Silver Pavillion Gardens
A simple travel outfit
The gardens behind Nanzenji
Wandering the streets of Gion and peering into people’s gardens. As you do.
Lunch in Kibune
Evenings in Gion
The flea markets stalls
Eating all the yummy Japanese sweets
The cafe Sangano-yu in the Arashiyama district set in an old bathhouse
Everything was so cute!
One of everything please, at the flea markets.
The shrine in Kurana (more on this soon)
The Philospher’s Path
Ahhhh serenity… Can’t help but get a district monkey magic vibe!
Shaved ice, every hour on the hour.
23rd September 2014
A little while ago I was lucky enough to travel around Thailand with Sara and Carmen, and we had an amazing time exploring Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui. Each of the places we visited had their own character and charm, but the area of Krabi surprised me completely – it was unspoilt in a way you rarely experience in Asia. Although you can’t really say it’s ‘completely undiscovered’ (and after seeing the end of The Beach that doesn’t upset me), compared to other offerings in Thailand it is relatively so. I admit that your first impression of the region isn’t that exciting – the town of Krabi itself is a jumble of bars, dusty streets and tour hawkers. But once you step away from the centre of town and begin to explore the outer reaches – including limestone karst peaks, waterfalls, crystal clear waters and isolated islands – it’s like stepping into another (Jurassic park inspired) world entirely.
When to go
The best time to go to Krabi is from November to April (much like Phuket) when the weather is a little more mild and dry than other times. We actually visited in July and found it fine, although the beaches were a bit rough, even though we were expecting it to be wet. Yes it rained a few times but more in the storm in the afternoon sense than in the bucketing all day sense.
To get there we drove from Phuket, which only took a few hours and cost about $50.00, well worth if it you want to see both Phuket and Krabi. If flying’s your jam, Krabi has an airport that’s super easy to fly in and out of, which we flew out of thanks to Flight Centre to Koh Samui.
After taking a little look around the town of Krabi itself, my advice would be to hop on a boat and head over to Railay Beach, a promontory with a beach on either side which is accessible only by boat due to the high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. West Railay is the more upmarket side and East Railay the cheap and cheerful side so there are a few hotels to suit all budgets there and honestly, it’s a little slice of heaven. To get there, you can catch a fishing boat from one of the piers, including Ao Nammao which is south of Krabi town. We stayed at Rayavadee and it was absolutely magical! If you want your pennies to stretch a bit further, this hotel and also this one were located right next to Rayavadee and on the nicest section of Railay Beach so I think they would be lovely too.
- Take a hike: I love nothing better than a bit of an explore when on holidays, and so when I read about the climb up from the beach to the top of one of the Limestone Peaks, with a view over the whole area and a gorgeous eerily quiet lagoon, I couldn’t stay away. Located along the cliff facing grove between the Rayavadee Pier and Phranany Cave Beach, the steep climb is a bit daunting at first, but well worth it for the views over the area. I would recommend sturdy shoes and a reasonable level of fitness.
- Sundowners at the Grotto: One of the best things about the Rayavadee the hotel is the grotto bar, a collection of romantic little candlelit tables set in amongst the stalactites of the limestone cliffs. Perfect for a quick sundowner regardless of where you’re staying in the area.
- Go climbing: Krabi has some of the best outdoor rock climbing in Thailand with climbs for all levels, and is definitely a destination for you if you’re into overhangs and vertical walls.
- Visit the islands: You could easily lose a few days visiting the islands around Krabi, book a spot on a long tail boat and head out to Chicken Island to see amazing limestone formations or the Hong Island if you are into wildlife and snorkelling. You can usually find a tour guide to take you at one of the tour shops, or book it through your hotel for a potentially more reliable tour.
There were so many naughty monkeys around, just don’t leave your breakfast unattended
A few little things from my suitcase…
Gorgeous caves around Railay Beach.
Nothing better than laying on the sand.
The view from the top of the climb
The cute little huts at Rayavadee
Best seat in the house!
The Grotto at Rayavadee
Dedicated to the ancient fertility goddess, people come to Princess Cave at the end of the beach to pray for fertility and prosperity, hence the hundreds of phallic shaped statues and offerings.
Breakfast at Rayavadee
Feeling great after our second climb to the top in two days.
There’s something just so mellowing about the coconut palms.
Early morning walks on the beach
All you need for a great holiday – my favourite shorts.
Instaheaven… sign me up.
17th September 2014
Last week’s trip to New York was pretty much a whirlwind of taxis, cold brew coffees, sweaty subway rides, lingering consultations with google maps and swapping shoes every hour. But I’m not complaining – New York is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world. Although, that’s true for so many people it’s become a cliche to even say it! What made this trip so much more special than previous ones is that my brother now lives there while he studies, and there was nothing better than hanging out in the East Village and seeing the city through the eyes of a local.
While I sort through the mountains of photos I took to go into a few posts (I now travel with not one but three cameras and my computer is about to self combust with all the files being uploaded) I thought I would share with you a few pictures taken while touring the city in the new Club Monaco collection, showing them my favourite spots and soaking up every minute of New York sunshine. To start with, the team showed me around their flagship store in the Flat Iron district, and although it’s not my usual MO to hang around in the one place for hours I honestly couldn’t help it, the store feels more like the lounge room you wish you had than a retail space, complete with Toby’s Estate coffee, a bookstore and florist, oh and full sized flowering trees, if you like that sorta thing. The perfect place to hang out if you find your New York broom closet apartment doesn’t quite tick all the boxes! Let’s just say the day started with a carrot cake donut (!) and only get better from there…
Wearing: pieces from the new Club Monaco AW14 Collection
I was very sad to miss the opening of the new London Club Monaco store in Sloane Square (but apparently actual work needs to get done and I can’t just flit around from city to city…), it looked like such a gorgeous event. I’ll definitely be checking it out on my next visit, if it’s anything like the Flat Iron store I’m in for a treat! There better be carrot cake donuts… You can have a look at some photos of the store here.
In collaboration with Club Monaco.