.: Exploring Kyoto :.

If there’s a city that’s now special in my heart, that’s definitely Kyoto. I loved Tokyo too, it’s so diverse, the amazing buildings, a city that doesn’t seem to sleep and yet you can find amazing quiet places. And the food…. ahhh all the food available. But Kyoto brought be down to tranquillity, exploring the temples and just walking around in the gardens. It was absolutely inspiring. Yes we were in areas that were crowded with tourists, but overall the feeling was peaceful. The jet lag was worth so we would wake up quite early in the mornings and avoid the crowds.

But first let me start with something interesting. On our last night in Tokyo I’ve accidentally discovered that another friend of mine was in Kyoto, next day would be her last night in Kyoto, whereas it would be our first night there. What a coincidence! So our first stop in Kyoto after checking in the house was to meet her for dinner

We went to this traditional sake house in Gion. There was a significant wait, but I dare to say it was worth it

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Really delicious food! It was also amazing to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 2 years!!! Next morning we were ready to start exploring around. We took a bus to an area which has a lot of temples to explore. There was almost no one outside and it felt so peaceful and quiet. On our way we’ve even seen the kids going to the school (exactly like in the anime movies, including the kids at the windows waving to their friends).

(Nazen-Ji temple). You can go upstairs on this one, and it’s worth it as the view is pretty good

(Tenjuan temple)

Konchi-in Temple

More than in Tokyo, you’ll see lots of tourists renting a kimono. They are so gorgeous after all! We were having fun trying to identify Japanese ladies (who can wear them with such a finesse and class!) from tourists.

Some Geishas seem to work as tour-guides as well.

Then we’ve reached one of the most touristic areas in Kyoto, the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. On the way there you’ll be crossing the old part of town. It’s such a pretty area!

Inspiring isn’t it? Have you been in Kyoto before?

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.: Zen Garden – Kyoto :.

You know those places that really become so special to you that it starts to become really easy to imagine you’re there again? Well, while exploring Kyoto I found one of those places, a beautiful Japanese Zen Garden. Just walking in the tatami felt so relaxing! The only thing that really spoiled the moment was this annoying kid running around all over the place and screaming a few times, but we’ve stayed long enough to be able to enjoy the place without him (I still can’t  believe the parents said nothing! In such a gorgeous quiet place, he was really disturbing everyone)

So welcome to Shorenin Temple

Just by looking at the pictures again I already feel so relaxed. This place is so beautiful!

We’ve spent a lot of time just sitting down and appreciating the beauty of the gardens (and also waiting for the annoying kid to go away)

Unlike many touristic attractions in Kyoto, this was actually pretty quiet, so we’ve managed to really enjoy it

Could explore these corridors for hours, just love them! And walking bare-feet on the wood or the tatami is soooo good!

So if I need to imagine a place my heart feels in peace, this is it! I have to go back to this place one day. Seriously!

Do you have a magical place where you really feel happy and relaxed?

.: Missing Alentejo :.

Last time I was in Portugal was back in March for his birthday. It felt so good to see family and friends and marvel myself in all the food (we have so many hidden treasures, you can check a few here).

But now that everyone is going on holidays, I’m really craving for a holiday in one of my favourite regions in the world: Alentejo. As I can’t fly for a few months still need to wait for February next year (oh I’m seriously counting down!!!). but no matter what need to do a little escape to explore Alentejo once more. (You can see my previous posts about Alentejo here)

Places to Stay

Ecork Hotel

As the name suggests, the inspiration for this place is an eco hotel where they try to use of the best products in the region: cork! I love cork! Would love to have one of these bags!

 

For more bag inspiration you can check Pelcor’s website here.

Back to the hotel, look at this amazing view?

You can see their special offers here.

Torre de Palma, Wine Hotel

As the name suggests, it’s an hotel centred around of the best things about Alentejo, the wine! They have their own vineyard

Love this minimalist space

Prices start at around £126 per night, but you can check the offers here and the wine experiences here.

L’and Vinyeards

Similar to the one above, with modern architecture. Love this place

If you can try to get one of the sky suites as you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing sky! Because of there are almost no cities in Alentejo, most of the places are small villages and small houses in open air field, you have the most amazing sky, full of stars!

For all the offers and experiences check here. Rooms start around £153.

Herdade do Amarelo

This place, is a gorgeous traditional place, perfect to disconnect from the world and just enjoy the estate itself.

What do do in Alentejo

  • Loads! Ensure you get at least a wine tasting experience, but you should be able to explore some of the vineyards as well!
  • Balloon ride – that’s right, Alentejo is so gorgeous that it’s worth to wake up early in the morning and see the sunrise
  • Eat – Most of the places above have their own restaurant and really good chefs, but any small restaurant will have their own wonders. The food in Alentejo is just superb!
  • Explore – It’s the perfect place to drive around the coast and explore the gorgeous coastal beach. It’s one of the most beautiful coasts in the world, I’m sure about that!

It’s quite easy to see why I miss Alentejo so badly right? So looking forward to be back!

.: What I’ve learnt with business travel :.

Ah, hard to believe it’s already August! It’s quite funny because being south portuguese it means I don’t like August. It’s the month of chaos, where anything takes 3 times longer and becomes more expensive as well. It’s the month where all expats come back to Portugal and they all decide to meet in South Portugal.

When this….

Becomes this

Once I’ve started working, I was the one always volunteering to stay in August and then wait for my September holidays. Although this year, I’m having holidays in August as well, but staying in London, so it’s ok 🙂

Speaking about work, that leads to how business travel changed the way I travel.

.: Before Business Travel :.

Before business travel, getting on a plane always meant holidays and excitement! I would prepare a big list of all the places I wanted to visit, spread out through the duration of my stay. The list would normally be long, I would print lots of information and try to tick most of what I could.

Packing would take longer and include stuff which I wouldn’t probably even use at all! But I was a FOMO (fear of missing out). I didn’t wanted to miss visiting that amazing place that everyone was talking about.

We would typically walk loads trying to see all the places I had decided I wanted to visit and the hotel would just be the place where I would leave my bags and have a few hours sleep, so I didn’t really paid attention to the hotel quality except that it had to be really well located and I can tell you I would do loads of investigation to get the best price / location I could manage.

.: While business travelling :.

At first it was all very exciting, going to fancy hotels, fancy restaurants with the colleagues, finding how to get into the office in a foreign location, but after 6 months in a row all I was craving was a night sleep in my bed!

I would start to pack at 23hish trying to avoid the thought that next Monday morning I would wake up at 04a.m again to go to the airport. Therefore I’ve become quite an efficient packer. The other thing I would do was to leave all my toiletries in the hotel, to reduce the weight and the reliance on small travel packages.

I would still order my cab for much earlier than I needed, simply because I’m crazy about punctuality and also I’ve become quite stressed with all the airport check-in process. I would always try to be in London Heathrow before 06a.m, so the queues would be a lot smaller and I could get myself in the lounge enjoying my breakfast and reading the newspaper. That attitude paid out a few times when I’ve got stuck in the M25 at 05h30 int he morning because it’s the M25! (For those who are not from London, this is the highway to hell, there’s always traffic, always!). I never lost a flight. Never! (Touch wood) Sometimes I would have time to do some shopping before going to the gate. And I would go to the gate quite early as well, because I wanted to make sure I would have space for my hand-luggage. When landing, I had to be as most efficient as I could in order not to miss the train to the office. So being in the front seats with space for my luggage was key. The last thing you wanted was to be seated in row nr 5 and have your bag in nr 30! I feel after all these years my bag is my confident, we went through a lot together hahahaha

Tip: If you are a business flyer, ensure you’re bag is not black like everyone else’s! My handbags have stupid colours so I can recognize it in less than 1 second!

I stop experimenting new hotels and try to stay in the same one, to have the feeling of getting back a familiar place. I took that so seriously I’ve become friends with all the hotel staff, from reception to the restaurant. It’s so nice to leave the office and arrive to the hotel and have a welcoming smile and be able to chit chat before going to the get changed in the room.

One thing I never gave up was to try different restaurants. I would avoid eating every night at the hotel and try to leave one or 2 nights to explore a new place. Obviously when I was to tired or still had to work after dinner, would come down the stairs and have my meal in the hotel restaurant. I find room service depressing. That would be last case scenario.

I’ve learnt how to have a meal alone at the restaurant and not feel awkward. Yes, table just for one. Would take my kindle with me and read while waiting for the meal.

Overall it was an amazing experience of meeting new people and making friends all over the world. In many ways I do miss it! (and I’m not even talking about the status at the hotels or the airlines)

.: Leisure travel now :.

Finally, after more than 5 years in a row I’ve stopped travelling weekly for work, which means I’ll gradually start to relax a bit more now, but there are a few things that definitely changed because of all those years of weekly travel

What changed

  • Hotels – I care loads about the hotel now, because it’s part of the journey as well. If I feel like staying in the hotel I want good amenities around, such as a pool or green space to have a walk around. And the bed comfort is key!
  • Stress at the airport – I still go nuts when going through security someone remembers they have a shampoo at the end of their bag. When I’m about to reach my turn I have everything on my hand ready to be dropped at the tray. Even while on holidays I stress with it! I will try to go through security as quickly as I can and then find a restaurant to sit down and have some food.
  • Packing – Still done last minute and still very efficient. I try to travel as light as I can and have space in the bag for shopping!!!
  • Planning – Except for deciding where to go and why I want to go there, I don’t plan. I like to follow the mood of the day. Obviously will visit the key attractions, but I let myself go with the flow. On the night I plan what we both feel like doing the next day and that might be subject to change if we find a place we really like and want to spend more time there or just doing nothing overall. I feel my holidays now are now way more relaxing.

What remained the same

  • Food! I still try to experiment different places and food still is one of the main reasons why I travel. I also try to find local places rather than just rely on the touristy ones
  • I still read a lot about travel, mostly blogs, but that’s to try to find the local places and the viewpoints of local people, rather than to add lots of places I want to visit to tick the box
  • Punctuality – Thanks Dad! But this is something that will never change. I hate being late. I always want to have contingency and avoid any unnecessary stress. Although I suspect that is just about to change with baby coming so soon!!! (I will let you know in a few months how my punctuality stands)
  • Photography – Is still an important part of my travels and we do it together. The only thing that changed is that I’ve replaced my heavy canon by a really light Sony and I just take 1 lens pretty much.
  • I still value exploring next to home, maybe even more since I’ve started to spend so long away from home.

Have you changed your travel personality as you’ve started to travel more? Any experiences you would like to share?

.: A thought on holidays :.

Now that everyone is going on holidays – with some of those travelling to my hometown in Algarve – and me in countdown for mine (and for all the sleep I’m expecting to have!!!), I just realised that I never had away holidays all my childhood. Yap, for real!

Why would we go on holidays if we were living where everyone else was coming for holidays? We would start going to the beach in April and carry on until October. Every weekend we would have a walk along the beach with my parents and we would also come sometimes after school. While we never went away for the holidays, we had quite a tradition at home, whereby each Sunday we would go out, somewhere. Either to explore the west cost (Costa Vincentina – this is surely one of the most beautiful coasts I know!), or we would go to the mountains and jump between the rocks in the small rivers. We also went to Spain a few times, so we were never bored at home!

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When it was crazy busy over summer in our hometown we would head to Lisbon and spend our August there with my great-grandfather and my uncle.

The first time ever we went away together I was already 25, and that’s when I’ve organised a long weekend away to celebrate my parents 25th Anniversary. Ever since we always try to do a long weekend away together per year.

Because we were always doing something on the weekends, I never realised that unlike our friends, we were not doing holidays away from home.

It’s all about the quality time we had together throughout every day of the year.

Maybe this is why I value so much exploring close to home as going away. There’s so much beauty around us that sometimes we don’t set ourselves to go and explore. I think this was such a valuable lesson from my parents that is something I’ll want to carry on for as long as I can.

Do you have any special memories of your holidays away with your family?

.: 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.

.: 2015 review (Yes another of those posts!) :.

I know and I apologise, it’s another my year review post. There are millions of them out there, mine is just another one. Yet, I couldn’t resist it. Sometimes it helps to look into the past to put things into perspective and in a way to celebrate all the little achievements.

All the posts I have been reading so far, make my life feel completely uninteresting and that I haven’t really done anything. Everyone went into amazing places and went to fancy restaurants. But, I can’t help feeling that I did the things I wanted to do and were relevant to me. If I could earn money without spending my days in the office (and carrying luggage every single week), probably I would. But then again probably I wouldn’t value every single moment as much as I do, because I don’t have that many of those.

What I’ve also realised was, while talking with friends and colleagues, it seems I’m quite determined to explore UK, whereas some of them, born in this green island haven’t seen half of it, which makes me thing that I’m not doing that bad.

This year my other half also started to do photography which meant we had a few weekends just exploring around and taking photos together. I would definitely say this was one of the milestones this year 🙂

For 2015 I had very few goals: work less, enjoy more and try to sleep in my bed most of the time. That was a fail I’m afraid. But still I have a sense of accomplishment, I’ve realised I can’t keep on waiting for the things I want, I need to cherish the moment and dare to do more and do different (e.g. went to a comic con dressed as a virgin guard from the Dictator). As for the sleep in my bed, there’s finally hope after 5 years away, at least in January will stay in London which I find hard to believe.

I’m still practising the being nice moto which I’ve started at the end of 2014, in fact I’m expanding it and ensuring I treat people with a smile (everyone by default) and I notice them. I left the hotel I’ve stayed for more than 1 and half years with a postcard signed by the staff that just made my day. I respect everyone, even more those that actually do a lot of hard-work, our society needs people willing to work rather than sit and wait for some magical benefits. I like to think everyone has a chance, one day you might be working at a small little store, the next day you might become the CEO of a successful startup. If you treat people nicely, good things will come to you as well. I’m keen to carry on doing exactly that. It’s so easy in the end!

Books read this year: 3 or 4 so massive failure

Places I’ve been in 2015

  • January: No travel, but most weekends I had something with friends, so it was quite good from a social point of view! Highlight of the month: Our first time attending a Cabaret (Thanks Zomato)
  • February: Drive for a weekend away in Lille. Even though it was raining most of the weekend, I just loved it!
  • March: Lisbon was his choice this month as it’s his birthday. He always wants to go back to Lisbon to see our friends back there. I have to say this was one of the best stays I’ve had in Lisbon and it was quite magical to watch the sunset in my sister’s zen place. Absolutely inspiring.
  • April: Easter break in Copenhagen – quite a relaxing weekend for the two of us. It was good to be away and break the routine and watch the sunset and take some nocturnal photos together, even if it too cold for that.
  • May: May was quite a month! We moved houses in just a weekend and we had an opening lunch the Monday just right after. Following weekend we went away to Cornwall just to enjoy and relax.
  • June: Had my parents over to visit my new place and took them to Sky Garden. I was pretty stressed out that day as I received a call from work and would have to cancel all my weekend. In the end I escaped and managed to enjoy the fact that they were around. Also had a lovely tea at the Maids of Honour (ahh so happy to live so close to Kew!)
  • July: We went to the Zomato party. We were feeling really shy because we didn’t knew anyone but in the end it was really good fun and something we wouldn’t normally do. Also we went to visit a Lavender field which was on my wishlist for ages.
  • August: The highlight of the month was finding a beach with fluffy sand here in UK. We felt like children running around. Had no idea how I missed fluffy sand on my feet (the perks of being a south portuguese). We also had a weekend away in Lake District, which I love and look forward to come back to.
  • September: Back to Portugal for the “summer low cost” holidays. I had the chance to take him to Porto and visit a good friend of hours. Was amazing to go back to the Port tasting. So good!
  • October: was excellent for street photography and it was the start of my Wed. Night out Club at work in Bristol. My liver wasn’t very happy even if I was!
  • November: It’s my month so I have the chance of selecting the place I want to visit this year. This year decided it was time to visit the big apple, because everyone else I know has been there and I was curious to be able to compare it against London. It was better than I expected! People were really nice and actually felt quite peaceful, especially walking around the Central Park (sorry Hyde Park, but this is far better)
  • December: We went for a weekend away in Snowdania – North Wales (his choice), although it was spot on the storm weekend, so we didn’t enjoy anything outdoors, but we’ve agreed to be back.

Looking forward to 2016, not because I expect it will be far better than this year, but because it’s my chance to do different and continuing doing all the things I’ve enjoyed this year 🙂

What was your best moment of 2015? Any special learning you would like to share?