.: Exploring Kyoto – final round :.

Hard to believe after months I’ve finally managed to check all my photos from Japan. It was really good to revisit them, it made my wish to come back even stronger!

I only had the chance to visit Tokyo and Kyoto – which means a good excuse to be back and explore the mountains and other cities – but I have to say it was the best trip I’ve ever done. Not only because I loved all the places, but because it was a full journey: a journey on my mind discovering peace like never before, a journey through Japan’s amazing cuisine, and then all the history around it.

Food-wise we’ve discover not only their cuisine is amazing: not just sushi, but the ramen, yakitori, any rice dishes, all of it! Funnily enough the only thing I avoid is tempura which was introduced by the Portuguese (I avoid fried stuff) – but they also master anything else. I swear I had the best donuts in my life there! We found an amazing cafe at the Kyoto station where we would have a 2nd breakfast almost daily (we were still jet lagged, so we would wake up and have breakfast before 06a.m)

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(I found really amazing the contrast between the gigantic Kyoto station and the rest of the city! we’ve got lost a few times in there and I think there are around 3 shopping malls inside. Yap!)

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Even street food was also quite amazing

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I love gyoza!!!

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One of the most famous places in Kyoto is the Bamboo Grove, which is set in the pretty village of Arashiyama. Again totally recommended that you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds, plus the morning light really transforms this place

Even at the time we went, we’ve already struggled to get photos without any people on the frame.

Then we went back to central Kyoto to explore the neighbourhoods

And more temples in the afternoon. This was one of my favourite, especially closer to the end of the day, where it was really peaceful (Chion-in)

Next morning our mission was to visit the famous red doors (Fushimi Inari Taisha). Whereas we’ve managed to arrive before the crowds, it was actually raining cats & dogs

Here’s the funny bit. I thought these was just a long corridor, what I hadn’t realised was it’s a whole mountain to climb full of red doors!!! I didn’t made it to the top, as I was struggling with all the stairs (the perks of pregnancy I guess). It’s more than 1h up! Because it was raining so much, I was struggling to hold the umbrella and the camera at the same time!

It’s a place I have to go back too, because I felt I hadn’t explored enough of it. After that we went to another really famous place, the Golden Temple     (Kinkaku-ji)

Again it was still raining quite a lot, and this is where I’ve really struggled to make the most of my 28mm lens. Yap, because I gave him my zoom lens, I’ve spend all our journey using nothing else but the 28mm.

And back to Kyoto centre

I really miss it! This journey will always be special in our hearts, because it was my dream trip and because it was the last trip we’ve done together before baby arrives 🙂

.: Exploring Tokyo :.

Ah Japan, just the thought of it makes me teleport again in there 🙂 Before I start showing the pictures from Tokyo a few useful things to know.

Aiports
* Tokyo has 2 main airports, Haneda and Narita. Haneda is definitely the closest one and it’s really easy to reach the city centre. If you have a Japan Rail pass (which I recommend you that you d0), you can use the monorail and the trains without any extra cost.

We’ve ended up using both, as British airways landed in Haneda but our flight took off from Narita. Narita takes more than 1h to get there by train and it’s a lot more expensive too. Plus I found the airport really boring, almost no shops and restaurants available. If you have a choice, go via Haneda.

Transportation
Japan has a lot of private managed underground networks, but there’s also trains all around the city. Most of the time we’ve manage to use only the JR line which is included in the JR pass. The JR pass is the best way to travel around Japan. If you are only staying in one city it’s probably not worth it, but as soon as you want to visit a different city and use the shinkansen (bullet train) it will be worth it. The best is to pick your JR pass at the airport, but expect quite a big queue! Pretty much all tourists landing in Japan will be on the queue to get their pass as well. The price of the pass will depend on the number of the days you need it for.

Access to 3G / Wi-fi
What we normally do when we travel to a different place is to get a local sim card and use it for the 3G services. It’s a lot cheaper than rely on roaming. You can do this in most parts of the world, except in Japan. Only if you live in Japan you will be able to get a pay as you go card. You can check online as there are companies that allow you to buy one online if you are a foreigner, which is what we did. We choose to pick up our card in the post office of the Haneda airport. What we hadn’t considered is that there are several terminals in Haneda. We’ve landed at terminal 1 for international arrivals and the post office was terminal 2 (I think). Anyway it was well worth it. Can’t survive without google maps.

In most places you can get free wifi, but if you are on the move you might want to have 3G on your phone. It was really handy when in our flat in Kyoto we’ve ended up without any wifi!

I don’t need to cover food or safety. Food is internationally known and safety… well Japan is one of the safest places in the world!

Right, Tokyo. As soon as we’ve reached Tokyo we’ve headed for Shibuya where we had our AirBnB reservation.

Tip: AirBnB is not necessarily legal in Japan. It’s one of those grey areas where it’s not a crime, but it’s not necessarily legal either, so you need to be mindful when getting into your flat. Ensure you’re silent all the time and avoid unnecessary attention. You already look like a Gaijin (foreigner). I do however recommend AirBnB quite a lot, as it’s a lot cheaper than the hotels in Japan and you will be able to afford a better location

After we left our bags in the flat we’ve headed for a walk and food. Shibuya is one of the most famous areas within Tokyo, as you have the famous Shibuya crossing as well as lots of really nice restaurants

One of the most famous temples is also in this area: Meiji Jingu. It’s really easy to forget you are within Tokyo once you reach the garden area. So peaceful and beautiful, even with the number of tourists in the area as well

We were so tired that we’ve decided to head back to the flat and have a proper nap.

Next day we’ve started our day by heading to the famous Tokyo Fish Market. You can only visit the Fish Market in the original location until Nov 2016, after which the market will move to a different location. So timing wise we were really lucky to go this year. You can visit the auction that happens quite early in the morning, but only 60 people are allowed at a time (in total only 120 people can go in per day). For all other regular visits you can only go after 09a.m, which is what we did.

Before we’ve headed to the market, we went to the Startbucks at Shibuya which offers quite a nice view of the crossing

I took this photo with my phone rather than the camera

After the market and a quick lunch we’ve headed to the imperial gardens

That evening we’ve ended out going out with a friend of a friend that happens to work in Shibuya! This was quite a nice story actually, a friend of ours noticed that we were posting pictures of Japan, so he introduced us one of his good friends that was living in Japan. We’ve agreed to go out for dinner that evening. Meeting point? The Hachiko Statue which you might recognise from the movie (Hachi)

I’ve cried loads watching this movie!

For dinner we went to a Yakitori place, called  Jomon.

Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered chicken. The preparation of Yakitori involves skewering the meat with kushi, a type of skewer typically made of steel, bamboo, or similar materials. Afterwards, they are grilled over a charcoal fire.

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Really delicious food!

Next day time it was time to travel to Kyoto.

.: Japanese sweets in London :.

Apologies, I haven’t been blogging for a while but I have to admit I haven’t been feeling great this year. I haven’t really been out much not exploring around, but last weekend, with the festival of lights in town I had to go.

I’m familiar with the concept because we have it in Portugal as well, in the gorgeous town of Cascais called Lumina

So I was expecting really big things on the London version. I have to admit my expectations were too high. The light garden in Leicester Square was really nice, but I was expecting more. But the good thing was, in our mission to find one of the light spots, we’ve found a Japanese temptation in the heart of London: Minamoto Kitchoan

If you used to watch anime as a kid, you might recognise Doraemon Dorayaki’s

A Dorayaki is a sweet red bean pancake.

And this is the store’s speciality. I had to try the chocolate Moki

Minamoto Kitchoan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
So delicious! I’m sure I’ll be back more often, to prepare for my trip to Japan in April.

To keep in the mood just had Ramen for lunch and the other night I did a lovely salmon with udon noodles for dinner. It’s such a comfortable food!

Have a lovely weekend 🙂

 

.: Asian food weekend :.

I love asian food: chinese, japanese, thai, vietnamese you name it! The weekend started with the wish of trying street food after seeing this post from time out (London best street food).

We had agreed we would meet at South Bank on Friday, but I’ve ended up leaving at Bond Street, so we’ve met in Picadilly instead for some photos.

After a bit of walking (which felt like hours since it was packed everywhere) I had the sudden wish for a nice warm ramen. He agreed with me immediately so we’ve ended up visiting Taro

It was pretty packed and let’s just say the space wasn’t that big either. We’ve managed to squeeze in between tables. While we waited for our food I’ve ordered Asahi, which I love (well let’s just say we had a Japanese Karaoke party for our christmas dinner and I’ve managed to drink the most Asahi I’ve ever thought I would on the same night).

The menu was quite big, I would say too big. I prefer a small menu where the chef can focus on the quality, but also have to admit it’s quite common for asian places to offer a big range.

I’ve ordered gyosa while we waited for our meal, but they were a bit over-burn at the bottom. But all I was craving for was the ramen, which didn’t disappoint

Photo from Taro’s website

Really delicious and fresh. All I was craving for before coming back home

Taro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday went for a brunch in Marylebone and realised I hadn’t been in this part of the city for ages! The choice was Fromagerie. This time I had battery on my phone, but my friend doesn’t really feel comfortable with my taking photos of the food, so I didn’t. We’ve ended up chatting for most of the time so I didn’t even realise I’ve finished my food without a photo. Ups!

La Fromagerie, as the name suggests, is a french place, more exactly a french little grocery shop and yes they sell fromage, quite a lot of it. I didn’t explore the cheese section because it was too packed. Had 30m to appreciate the corridor and all the goodies while on the queue for brunch

La Fromagerie from official website

Tip: Don’t go there if you are in a hurry. As said, we’ve waited more than 30 and we only had 2 couples ahead of us. Also the food took forever to arrive to the table, but it was delicious when it did!

Tip2: Check the cakes available on the day, everything looked delicious! I didn’t had any space left for cake, but they felt tempting

Again, because it’s a grocery store, the space available is quite small, but it looks really cosy. We’ve managed to get a space in a corner so we felt quite relaxed.

We’ve ordered a latte and a capuccino and we couldn’t tell them apart. I went for the eggs Benedict, whereas my friend went for the french toast. 5 points for griffindor, the toast was the winner.

It looks something like this and it’s absolutely delicious, served with red fruits. so yum!

I’m glad we’ve decided to swap dishes and share half of each so I had the chance to try this.

La Fromagerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After that we’ve had a stop over a famous book shop. Yes I’m talking about Daunt Books. I love this amazing classical bookshops you can find in London 🙂 Daunt’s expertise is around travel books, both in terms of providing guides but also travel literature (one of my favourite genre) to get you inspired before you go.

Photo from my other half

Photos from my mobile phone:

I was wondering where the magic books would be 🙂

I’ve decided to buy something special for us, a book for my dream trip Japan

The bag is gorgeous as well

Next, while we were waiting for my friends, we’ve carried our walk down from new Bond Street, picadilly and then moving towards one of my favourite places in London: I Love Nata. We had been there already the previous weekend, but one can’t simply resist natas

I Love Nata Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
For dinner, we’ve ended up going to Holborn to a Vietnamese restaurant Viet Eat

Quite a small place but as it was away from the crowds it felt like the perfect choice. I went for the summer rolls and for a pho. The summer rolls were quit fresh.

Could eat summer rolls as a main, they are so delicious and fresh!

I’ve also enjoyed my pho noodles with prawns.

photo from Viet Eat facebook

It was fresh and ok. I had better before, but felt so light that it was indeed the best choice. I’ve tried a bit of the curry and it was pretty good. We didn’t had to wait long for the food either. Its conveniently quite close to the underground

Viet Eat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

And no, my asian weekend isn’t over. Today we’ve decided after breakfast to go for Star Wars, so after I’ve bought the tickets online we went to Westfield London. After the movie and while he was shopping my christmas present, I did a stop at itsu for a chicken rice.

itsu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
I don’t really mind asian food at all, in fact I love it!

What’s your favourite Asian dish? And where do you recommend to go for it?

.: Eat Tokyo – Japanese Notting Hill :.

Saturday was such a great day (and quite a productive one)

I woke up, prepared breakfast for both of us, did 1h work – as Friday I didn’t do anything of what I had planned to do. Then we decided to go for a lunch & walk in Notting Hill. Hard to believe he had never been in the Portobello road!!!

I had no idea where to go for lunch this time, so I’ve checked Zomato and found about Eat Tokyo. This is really easy to find, being a very short walk from the underground station.

Once we got in we were welcomed by friendly staff who took us to our table. It almost feel like a canteen with the wooden tables and chairs. It’s a place to sit down, relax and enjoy the food with no strings attached.
The menu was huge and it had loads of good options! We went for sushi to start with and I went for the Bento Box. I also had the japanese green tea – which is really fresh and delicious, all you would expect from a great green tea.

Japanese Green Tea

The service was pretty quick. Before I had time to think of anything else, the sushi arrived. Pretty delicious! Next time I’ll have more of these.

Here’s some sexy and yummy sushi

Then my Bento Box which was quite big as well. The teriaki salmon was pretty good. His main was also quite a big portion.

Teriyaki Salmon Box

We had loads of food and we’ve paid £33 pounds for the two of us. Really good value for money! Once I’m in the area I will be back.

Give it a go, I’m sure you won’t regret it! Thanks for this places where it’s all about honest good food and not about being fancy and pretentious!

  • Location: 4.5/5
  • Decor: 3.5/5
  • Service: 4/5
  • Food: 4/5
  • Value for money: 5/5

Good – Such a quick service
The best – Delicious sushi!
Could be better – Decor of the room – it felt too much like a canteen. It would be nice if it would resemble a bit more to a cosy japanese restaurant. But then again, this is not an important point

.: And the best ramen is…. Takumi Dusseldorf :.

Did you know that Dusseldorf has the biggest Japanese community outside Japan in the world? Lots of Japanese companies have placed european headquarters in Dusseldorf. Although I knew this, I never had the chance to really have a meal in dusseldorf in a japanese restaurant, so I couldn’t miss it this time. For more information click here.

After a quick research on the internet I found a Ramen restaurant called Takumi, and oh boy how rigth they were. You know a place is good when there is a queue full of locals. We didn’t had to wait long though, as the service was quick.

We were welcomed by a big gentle smile which warmed my heart, so I was more than excited for our food. The place is quite cosy, such as a real japanese place. In fact you forget easily that you are in germany.

The ramen was so delicious and so warm I could only smile really

This has to be the ultimate comfort food! Pretty healthy too

So I have been researching for the best Ramen spots in UK on Zomato. I’ve listed down 2 which were also recommended by dear Miho from Wander to Wonder

* Kanada Ya, Soho
* Shoryu Ramen, Soho