6 UK day trips we’ve recently taken

6 UK day trips we’ve recently taken

Sunday is family day in our household, and we try to spend as many of them as possible going on a day trip.

As we moved to the UK last year, there are many places we have yet to explore. So we have heaps more adventures ahead of us.

But for now, here are 6 day trips we’ve taken so far. Each of them is easy to get to, have great town centres, and have attractions for all ages.

1 & 2 Salisbury and Bristol
Mel offered to babysit Ryan in August for an entire weekend. So Nick and I took an overnight trip to Salisbury and Bristol.

Our first stop was Salisbury, where we visited the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral. This Cathedral is one of the nicest I’ve seen. Its ceilings are crafted to precision, the windows are stencilled beautifully, and the outdoor garden is expansive. It also has one of only four original Magna Cartas that you can view at an interactive exhibition.

Salisbury Cathedral

After Salisbury Cathedral we visited the Old Sarum, the site of the earliest settlement in Salisbury. It was great to walk around and get a sense of the town’s origins.

To end this jam packed day, we had dinner at Baroushka, a Turkish and Lebanese restaurant. It was great to eat without Ryan trying to grab food out of my mouth.

The next day we explored Bristol by foot. Bristol was much larger than Nick and I expected, we both agreed that we could easily live there.

We walked around Millennium Square, which has many shops and restaurants dotted around its waterfront. We also visited Bristol Cathedral, and Clifton Suspension Bridge, the bridge had amazing views of the city.

Bristol Millenium Square Waterfront

3 Bath
In September we went to Bath. It was my second visit, but on my first I didn’t go to The Roman Baths so we made this our first stop.

I loved The Roman Baths, it was really interesting to read about each area’s history and construction, and surreal to think about the people that bathed here many, many moons ago.

Bath Roman Baths sculptures

We spent a couple of hours walking around the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House, and the Pump Room.

After all our walking we grabbed a burger at Smashburger. Ryan of course had his own, which he wouldn’t share with anyone.

4 Brighton
This was mine and Ryan’s second visit to Brighton, but Nick’s first.

We went to Brighton Pier, where Nick was just as impressed with its size and variety of rides and food as I was when I saw it for the first time.

Brighton Pier

We also visited the Royal Pavilion, which was built as a palace for King George IV. It’s interior is very oriental, and whilst the Palace is expansive, it doesn’t feel like it as you enter its many rooms.

Brighton The Royal Pavillion

There were many people eating a picnic out on the gardens, but we decided to eat at one of the many surrounding restaurants. We chose Wahaca as Mexican is one of my favourite cuisines. Ryan had the best looking nachos I’ve seen in a long time, and my burrito was amazing.

5 Winchester
In October we visited the medieval town of Winchester and checked out its Cathedral as well as Wolvesey Castle.

Winchester Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, but it doesn’t take very long to get around. It’s also walking distance to Wolvesey Castle, which we visited as well.

Winchester Cathedral

Wolvesey Castle was fantastic. It was great walking amongst its ruins and imagining the events that were once held there. Whilst we were walking around Ryan said his first word – oh no, when he dropped some food.

6 Warwick Castle
Another day, another castle, however, this time the castle wasn’t in ruins.

Warwick Castle

There’s so much to do at Warwick Castle, including Princess visits, dungeon tours, and amazing views of the Castle and its grounds from various towers.

Warwick Castle Tower views

We still need to visit so many areas, so if you have any day trip suggestions I’d love to hear about them. In particular, do you know of any beachside towns, or towns that are baby friendly?

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Stay, see, and eat in Salt Lake City

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake Cityå

In April Ryan, Nick, and I went to New York, Washington and Salt Lake City.

I’d never thought about visiting Salt Lake City before, so I was intrigued when Nick suggested we add it onto our US itinerary.

I’m glad we added it, as it was unlike any other US city I’ve been to. It was spacious, quiet, and had enough to keep us entertained for the week we were there.

So, here are my recommendations on where to stay, what to see, and where to eat in Salt Lake City.

Where to stay

Hyatt Place Downtown/The Gateway

This hotel was fantastic. We were lucky enough to stay in one of the high floor rooms, which was like an apartment. There was a bedroom with its own bathroom, living area, and kitchen. At the time of this trip Ryan was two months into eating solids, so the buffet breakfasts were prefect. The hotel is walking distance to public transport, restaurants, downtown, and The Gateway and City Creek shopping centres.

What to see

Shopping – The Gateway

The Gateway is a less than 5 minute walk from Hyatt Place. I love shopping centres that are laid out in a way where I can systematically visit all the shops, and I couldn’t do that here. The layout was weird, plus it is predominantly outdoor, so on the days it was raining Ryan and I had to seek shelter in Barnes and Noble until the rain stopped.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City The Gateway Shopping Center

The Gateway doesn’t have the range of shops that City Creek has, but it has a lot of entertainment options including a Megaplex, Planetarium and even a Day Spa.

Shopping – City Creek Center

City Creek Center is about a 15 minute walk from Hyatt Place. It’s a large undercover shopping centre, which has over 100 stores and even a creek running through it (hence the name).

Stores and restaurants include Anthropologie, Apple, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co, West Elm, Sephora, and H&M. There’s even a food court with a children’s play area.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City City Creek Center play area

What I loved the most about City Creek was its layout. It was so easy to visit all the stores. It’s split into two buildings, which are divided by a pedestrian bridge. Plus, all the food is in one area so you have a lot to choose from when hunger strikes.

Attraction – Temple Square

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City Temple Square exterior

This is Utah’s most popular tourist destination, and I can see why. The Temple and its grounds are stunning.

You can spend a good couple of hours here admiring the Temple’s architecture and perfectly sculptured gardens. You can also learn about the Temple’s construction at the visitor’s centre, and stroll around the Assembly Hall and Tabernacle.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City Temple Square garden surrounds

Temple Square is located in downtown, so once you’ve finished here you can spend the rest of the day shopping or eating to your heart’s content.

As a tip, make sure you drive past this attraction at night, it’s all lit up and looks gorgeous.

Attraction – Gigal Sculptural Garden

Nick is not a shopper, so trying to find something we both like to do when we travel can be challenging.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City Gigal Sculptural Garden

I stumbled across this little gem when I was trying to find something Nick and Ryan friendly. It’s a free to enter garden located on a street in amongst houses. If you blink you’ll miss it.

The garden has 12 sculptures including a birdhouse, cave, eagles, and even a sphinx.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City Gigal Sculptural Garden The Sphinx

Each sculpture has a quote, poem, or other type of description written to provoke further thought. To find out more about this garden please visit here.

Attraction – Park City

Park City’s website describes this attraction as “one of the premier skiing destinations in the world”.

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City Park City

This is the first place we visited when we arrived. It was off peak ski season, so many of the shops and restaurants on the main street were closed.

However, it was still worth visiting as there were a couple of places open, and the view of the mountains was fantastic.

Where to eat

Eva’s Bakery

Eva’s Bakery was one of the few shops open on the Sunday we were walking through the city centre.

From the entrance it looks like this is just a small bakery selling a handful of cakes and loaves of breads, but just past the counter there is a large seating area where table service is provided.

We came here for lunch. I had the tuna melt and Nick had the steak sandwich. Both were filling enough to keep us going until dinner.

Squatters

Nick has been to Salt Lake City a few times, and each time he always eats at Squatters.

I loved it here, it had a great vibe. On the night we ate here there were work parties happening, families were eating at the tables, and people were drinking at the bar whilst watching sport.

The menu is extensive covering nachos, pizza, spring rolls, sandwiches, burgers – the list goes on. Nick always orders buffalo wings when we’re in the States so he had this here too. For mains Nick had Jambalaya and I had a burger. The food was fantastic, as was the service.

I highly recommend this place.

The Bridge Café and Grill

Whilst in Park City we ate at The Bridge Café and Grill, another place with a great menu. I had fish tacos because they came with chips and I normally do whatever I can to eat chips! The tacos were amazing! Nick had the Carioca (pork, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and chimichurri sauce in a baguette). I also recommend this place!

Where to stay, visit and eat in Salt Lake City City Bridge Cafe and Grill

I would definitely go back to Salt Lake City. In fact, whenever I think about this trip Salt Lake City is normally the part that I think about the most. Maybe because we were there the longest, or maybe because it wasn’t overcrowded and everything was easy to get to.

Do you have any other great Salt Lake City gems that I can visit if I go back?

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A fond farewell to Windsor

A fond farewell to Windsor

After seven months Nick and I decided to move from Windsor, which was our first UK home after moving from Australia in March.

What made Windsor our first choice of location was simple; its bustling town centre was walking distance from our new home. Ryan was only seven months old when we moved, so my number one must have for our new home’s location was to have entertainment options that we could easily access.

So in honour of our departure from Windsor, I thought it only appropriate that I give it a proper send off, by talking about some of the gems that kept Ryan and I sane during our first foray into living abroad.

What to see

Windsor Castle
You can’t go to Windsor and not visit this magnificent Castle. It’s definitely the largest Castle I’ve ever seen. Everyday my sister and I would look for The Royal Standard flag, which signifies that the Queen is in the Castle. On our last day in Windsor the Queen was in, it was very exciting. Within the Castle walls lie The State Apartments and St George’s Chapel, which on their own are worth the admission. They’re stunning, spacious, and photo worthy.

A fond farewell to Windsor Windsor Castle

The Long Walk
Nick, Ryan, and I were walking here when I decided that Windsor was for me. It’s a 4.26km walk from the Castle to the 1829 Copper Horse statue of King George III, which you can see in the distance from the start of The Long Walk.

A fond farewell to Windsor the Copper Horse Statue

It takes about 45 minutes to reach the statue, where you’ll also walk straight past deer – it’s incredible. Just as incredible is the view of the Castle from the first section of The Long Walk.

A fond farewell to Windsor The Long Walk

Changing of the Guards
Keeping in line with Castle attractions, the Changing of the Guards is well worth viewing; this is something that Ryan loved. The Guards march up the High Street led by a Regimental Band, which adds a special touch to the ceremony. It only takes about five minutes and happens most days at 11am.

A fond farewell to Windsor The Changing of the Guards

Playgrounds
Now that playgrounds have become a thing in my life, I’m always looking for ones that are friendly for a crawling baby. One such park is located on Bachelors Acre. It has a playground with a soft surface, water fountains, a sculpture called The Windsor Lady, which is of the Queen surrounded by six dogs. Oh and there’s a café, where you can get a delicious soft serve.

A fond farewell to Windsor The Windsor Lady

Eton
Although not technically Windsor, it’s immediately next door and can be reached by walking over the Windsor Bridge near The Thames, where the Swans peacefully swim.

A fond farewell to Windsor the Windsor Bridge

Take a stroll up the High Street and you will come across Eton College, which of course is made famous by the attendance of Princes William and Harry. One of my favourite things to do was spot the students wearing their uniform of a black tailcoat, waistcoat and collar. This year on November 16th Eton will be turning on their Christmas lights, which will be a great night out for the whole family.

A fond farewell to Windsor view of Windsor from Eton

The Savill Garden
This garden has something for everyone. There’s a playground with a sandpit for the kids, food for sustenance, beautiful gifts for yourself or someone else, and spots to take a picnic.

Where to shop

Windsor Royal Shopping Centre
Windsor has an array of retail outlets, many of which are located in Windsor Royal Shopping Centre. This Centre has kept many of its original Victorian Station features including the Jubilee Arch, cobbled stones, and even Queen Victoria’s waiting room. Stores include Bobbi Brown, Crabtree and Evelyn, Pandora, and French Connection. Food options include Bella Italia, Bills, All Bar One, Café Rouge and many others.

Windsor Yards (formally King Edward Court Shopping Centre)
Immediately next to Windsor Royal Shopping Centre is Windsor Yards, I was here daily. Here you’ll find Daniel – an upmarket department store, Zara, H&M, Top Shop, Next, New Look, Costa, Nero, Pret A Manger, Waitrose, Paperchase, Smiggle, Lakeland, Swarovski and many more.

Where to eat

Meimo
This is one of Nick’s favourites and it’s where he took me for my birthday. Here you’ll find Moroccan and Mediterranean food from meat dishes, tagines, cous cous and burgers.

Marmara
Also serving Mediterranean but with a Turkish twist is Marmara. I went here with a friend and loved it. I had the Chicken Shish, which was so good. They also have Boreks, Köfte, Meze Platters and heaps of dips, all food that I love.

The King and Castle
For a hearty pub meal head to The King and Castle. I’ve eaten here a few times and taken both my family and Nick’s family here when they’ve visited. The burgers and meat platter are so tasty.

Sebastian’s Italian
Windsor has a lot of Italian restaurants; one of my favourites is Sebastians. I had delicious seafood marinara here.

So there’s my Windsor loves. I was extremely lucky to be part of such a close knit and collaborative community. I’ll miss Windsor for sure, but will always make time to come back.

If you have any Windsor news, must see’s, must eats or anything Windsor related please add them to the comments. Any excuse to go back is a good one for me.

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Out and about in Washington

Love from Lisa Out and About In Washington Washington Monument

After New York Nick, Ryan and I headed to Washington.

Apart from the Washington Monument and The White House I didn’t know what else there was to do there. However, it turns out that there’s heaps to do, and a lot of it centres around the National Mall.

Where to stay
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Capitol Hill, which is within walking distance to the National Mall at 550 C Street S.W.

It’s also walking distance to a small shopping centre, train station and the city centre, so it’s location was perfect.

Things to see
I was super impressed with the scale of the National Mall, and didn’t know that it contained so many monuments, museums and art galleries.

Ryan and I walked the 3.5kms from Capitol Hill to Lincoln Memorial, which is the entire length of the Mall. It was so hot that I actually got sunburnt!

Love from Lisa Out and About In Washington Capitol Hill

Love from Lisa Out and About In Washington Lincoln Memorial

I had no idea what to expect when I visited the National Mall, but it was a fantastic way to spend the day. There’s so much to see and do that you definitely need more than one day to do it all. I will definitely go back if I ever have the chance.

Love from Lisa Out and About In Washington Washington Monument from afar

Georgetown is another fantastic area with shop lined streets, food outlets, and a small waterfront. I had the most delicious cupcake at Baked and Wired. I went for the vanilla cupcake with chocolate satin frosting it was so delicious!

Love from Lisa Out and About In Washington Baked and Wired Cupcake

Places to eat
We struggled with dinner whilst in Washington as the Holiday Inn wasn’t near anything decent, and trying to find restaurants that delivered wasn’t easy. This means that we ate a lot of Asian, which is never a bad thing.

I would definitely go back to Washington and visit some of the museums, which looked amazing from the outside.

For more travel posts please click here.

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Out and about in New York

Love from Lisa Out and About in New York Skyscrapers

I love New York, I’ve been there a few times and it’s always different.

The reason for this visit was to reunite with Nick. Prior to this visit he’s been away from Ryan for 5 weeks, which is way too long in baby development world.

New York with an infant means less shopping, but better opportunities to explore places by foot that I normally wouldn’t. So seeing New York in a quieter more peaceful way was really nice.

Where to stay
We stayed at the Andaz Hotel at 5th Avenue at 41st Street. It’s a gorgeous boutique hotel. Our room had a massive shower with three different head types! It was centrally located near Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Times Square, and Grand Central Station.

Things to see
Unlike previous visits, this time I got to really explore Central Park, which I’ve always admired but haven’t actually ever walked around for a decent amount of time.

It’s very easy to get lost in the quietness and serenity of this park, which is surrounded by busy streets and skyscrapers.

There’s plenty of parks within the park, a baseball field, old buildings, gorgeous squirrels, bridges, and plenty of food stops.

Love from Lisa Out and About in New York Central Park Squirrel

Love from Lisa Out and About in New York Central Park Story Bridge

Times Square at Broadway and Seventh Avenue is what I am pretty sure is synonymous with New York. It’s packed with tourists, cars, lights, and is a shopper’s paradise. This time around we just walked the entire strip to get to Central Park. Doing it this way was really nice as there was no pressure to push our way through lines of people to reach a particular destination.

Love from Lisa Out and About in New York Times Square

Places to eat
The Shop at Andaz Hotel is fantastic! I’ve yet to find a place in Windsor that has a breakfast anywhere as good as Melbourne. I finally found one at The Shop. I had the eggs, meat, hash browns and roasted tomato – so good!

For more travel posts please click here.

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Japan fun facts

The Creative Canvass Japan fun facts

Traveling is one of my greatest loves, and last year I finally went to Japan, which has been on my travel bucket list FOREVER!

Here’s some cool things I discovered whilst I was there:

Hotels and bullet trains

  • Check in times are strictly adhered to. If check in’s at 2pm and you arrive even just 10 minutes before, you still must wait
  • The Mizoni Shinkansen from Fukuoka to Hiroshima went at a speed of 300km/hr!

Language barriers

  • If you place a food order in English, it will get repeated back to you in Japanese
  • The best way to order is to point at what you want on the menu, then hold up the number of fingers that you’d like to order the meal in. I called this my point and pray system
  • My point and pray system didn’t always work. I was eating what I thought was a plum bun, only to discover that it was actually a red bean bun! It was still delicious though
  • Even though their English isn’t strong, the Japanese try really hard to understand you. I had people trying to help me at train stations when I was lost

It’s clean everywhere, all the time!

  • Everything is so clean – it’s great
  • I even saw train station employees vacuuming concrete station stairs

Everything’s hidden

  • If you’re looking for something in particular you’ll never find it. The best thing to do is put your map away and just explore
  • Many shops were hidden in what appeared to be commercial buildings. So if you see an escalator jump on and see where it leads. I found many shops, great restaurants, and department store food basements this way

Bowing

  • Bus station employees bow to the bus on its approach, and when it leaves
  • The number and how high or low you bow depends on relationships. For example, you bow at a higher height with friends, compared to colleagues or managers

Food

  • Everything’s so small
  • Kit Kats are packaged to look big, but once opened contain four fun size packs
  • Soft drink cans and cigarettes are also very small
  • If ordering soy milk some places give you a soy card, which you hand over when you pick your coffee up

Shopping

  • If there’s curtains in front of a store and they’re closed, it means the store’s closed
  • I never saw any seats or bins. I was told all bins were removed post 9/11

Shrine cleansing ritual

  • All shrines have a purification tori gate, which once passed through signifies that you have stepped into the domain of the deity, and that you have purified your emotional state
  • Bow before entering the tori gate and walk to the side when passing through, as the centre is where the deity passes through
  • Just before the shrine you’ll see a water pavilion station, which is for body and mind purification. Here is where you wash away heart and physical impurities
  • Here’s what to do when you reach these:
    • Scoop water into the ladle with your right hand, pour some water over your left hand
    • Place the ladle in your left hand, pour some water over your right hand
    • Pour some water into your left hand and rinse your mouth, don’t touch the ladle to your mouth
    • Rinse your mouth and spit the water to the outside of the station
    • Use the remaining water to rinse the ladle off
  • You only scoop water into the ladle once, at the first step of the process

I absolutely loved Japan and highly recommend you go. I wish I was there right now!

If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:

A tour of Fukuoka Japan

A tour of Hiroshima Japan

A tour of Kobe Japan

A tour of Osaka Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Tokyo Japan

Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.

(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why the image in this post is labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)

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A tour of Tokyo Japan

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for ages because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, crazy products like fans on hats, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see that – thankfully.

On our two and a half week trip Nick and I visited Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

After our tour of Kyoto we visited Tokyo.

Tokyo is Japan’s capital, has a population of 13.3 million, and is filled to the brim with shops, food, parks, and different areas to explore.

Here’s the low down on our Tokyo visit:

Food

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

There’s a massive variety of food in Tokyo. Here’s just a few of the restaurants we tried.

Baru and Gohan – Italian

Located in Akihabara, this restaurant has some really moorish dried spaghetti crisps that you eat whilst waiting for your meal.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

I had salad and lamb chops. The salad was served on ice, and the lamb chops were forgotten about so I had to order them twice. However, it was worth the wait as everything was delicious. They also had an automatic beer pouring machine here, which was really cool.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

El Caliente – Mexican

Located in Shinagawa Station, this Mexican restaurant has tasty food, and the staff yell Hola as you enter. If you’re looking for Mexican that tastes exactly as it does when you cook it at home, and you also want an entertaining experience, then definitely come here.

There are plenty of other restaurants surrounding this one, so if you discover that you’re not in the mood for Mexican after all then you can easily go somewhere else.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Tiger Dumpling Hall – Asian

Located near Sensoji Temple, this restaurant was Nick’s and my favourite.

The service was quick, the food was delicious, and the options were huge.

There were dumplings, gyoza, ramen, chicken, pork, beef, rice and heaps more. I highly, highly recommend this restaurant.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Shopping

Akihabara

Akihabara is an electronic fanatic’s dream location. Filled with electronic stores, electric billboards, Sega stores, and hobby stores, it’s an interesting place to check out.

It’s really cool, and even if you’re not into electronics at all like me, it’s still fun to take a look around and soak up the atmosphere.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Ginza

Ginza is Japan’s most famous upmarket shopping area. It’s saturated with department stores, high end retailers, and art galleries. On the weekends many of the roads are closed off to cater for the large crowds. If you’re serious about your shopping, then this is the place to be.

This is the only place in Japan where I saw seats for people to sit in

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Harajuku

Harajuku is where Japan’s teenagers dress all crazy. However, I was disappointed as the main street of Harajuku – Takeshita Dori and the surrounding Omotesando were not as crazy as I expected.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

In fact, I only saw one guy dressed up as a bandaged warrior, and a few girls dressed in weird dresses and colourful wigs (I was told this is the normal way for the girls to dress on the weekends).

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Despite not seeing many dressed up teenagers, it’s still worth checking out as there’s heaps of shops with all sorts of crazy items from hair accessories, fancy dresses, yummy crepes, one of a kind souvenirs, and tiny dog clothes.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Shibuya

Shibuya is home to the scramble crossing – the crossing you see on TV, and the attraction that I identified Tokyo with. This crossing, whilst impressive, was not as large, or as busy as I thought it would be.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Apart from the scramble crossing, Shibuya is a mecca of shopping, entertainment, and food options, and is frequented mostly by Japan’s teenagers. It has a lot of mainstream brands including Uniqlo, H&M, and Zara.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

I recommend you do some research before coming here to make sure it has what you’re looking for. There were so many times I thought I was in a shopping centre, but it just turned out that I was in a section of the train station.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is another massive shopping, entertainment, and business district easily accessible from Shinjuku Station, which is the world’s busiest train station handling over two million passengers a day.

Here you’ll find anything that you need from knick knacks, clothing, shoes, and everything in between. Allow yourself at least half a day to attack this area.

Attractions

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Although this is one of Japan’s most popular shrines, I found it to be the quickest to get around. It has one main building and is surrounding by a large forest. If you’re looking for some quiet time definitely visit. However, if you’re short for time and still want to see a temple then I suggest you visit Sensoji Temple instead, which is covered below.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Mt Fuji

I feel like going to Japan and not seeing Mt Fuji is like having sushi without soy sauce. It just shouldn’t happen.

Mt Fuji is Japan’s national monument, it’s their sacred mountain, and when translated loosely means wealthy warrior.

When driving towards Mt Fuji there’s a portion of road called Melody Road. There are grooves in the road which when driven over at a speed of 50km+ produce the melody of Mt Fuji’s theme song, which everyone learns in school.

Nick and I were extremely fortunate that the weather was perfect the day we visited. We had clear views as far as the eye could see.

When visiting make sure you stop at the Fuji Visitor Centre, as here you’ll get some incredible views looking up the mountain.

After the Visitor Centre go to the 5th station where you can visit some fantastic souvenir shops, get some food, and of course enjoy the views of Mt Fuji 2,300 meters above sea level.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Robot Evening Cabaret Show

Located in Shinjuku is this over the top, glitzy, you have to see it to believe it, robot show. Here robots and dancing girls come together in a series of scenes covering horses, cows vs. dragons, wrestling robots, and dance acts.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

It’s hilarious, and one of the reasons I visited Japan was to see these crazy things. I don’t recommend that you eat here though as the food is very average.

Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon Temple)

This Buddhist temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple and was one of my favourites.

It has a main gate, main hall, five story pagoda, shrine, and 200 metre shopping street called Nakamise, which has over 88 licensed traders selling bags, souvenirs, traditional clothing, and food.

If you only see one temple in Tokyo I recommend this one.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is situated amongst Shinjuku’s shopping district. It costs $2 to enter and you can view its English, French and Japanese gardens.

The English garden has gorgeous picnic areas. The French garden has sycamore trees and roses, whilst the Japanese garden has bridges, streams, a tea house, and pavilion.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

Make sure you also check out the green house.

Yokohama

If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Shinjuku and Shibuya then Yokohama is the perfect place to visit. It has a very spacious, river side feel to it.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

There are also a lot of high rise apartments, wide roads, and eateries in the area as well as Cosmo Park which has games, rides, and what was stated as the world’s largest Ferris wheel. There is also one of the world’s largest Chinatowns here.

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

The Creative Canvass A tour of Tokyo Japan

There is so much to do in Tokyo, but I hope this post provides you with a good starting point.

If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:

A tour of Fukuoka Japan

A tour of Hiroshima Japan

A tour of Kobe Japan

A tour of Osaka Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Japan Fun Facts

Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.

(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)

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A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for ages because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, crazy products like fans on hats, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see that – thankfully.

On our two and a half week Japan trip Nick and I visited Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

After our tour of Osaka we visited Kyoto.

Kyoto has a population of 1.4 million and is Japan’s seventh largest city. It’s also full to the brim with temples and shrines, of which there are approximately 2,000.

My first impressions of Kyoto compared to Osaka was that everyone operated at a much slower pace, and there were more tourists.

Kyoto also had a very traditional feel to it. Many women and teenage girls were dressed in Kimonos, which I was told is a very social thing to do.

Here’s a rundown of our Kyoto trip:

Accommodation

ANA Crowne Plaza

This hotel is located across the road from Nijo Castle, and is near a train station.

There were a few restaurants inside this hotel which came in handy the first night we were there, as it was pouring outside and we didn’t want to venture out.

Food

Daimaru Depachicka Food Hall

OH MY GOD!! I should just leave this as the description, but I will go into some detail as this food hall deserves it.

I have never ever encountered anything like this place, and it wasn’t even a planned part of our trip.

Our first day in Kyoto was a washout, so to escape the wet we decided to check out some undercover shops and really just stumbled in here. And stumbled throughout as well.

In fact, the best way to find a lot of cool things in Japan is to just go up escalators!

This food hall was huge! I didn’t know where to look. It was super overwhelming and really, really cool.

There was everything from raw food, groceries, baked goodies, wine, cheese, snacks, meat, sushi, fried food, salads – everything!

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Something I noticed about Japan wherever we went was a lack of chairs, and this place was no different. This meant that Nick and I very sneakily had to eat our lunch outside, which I never saw anyone else doing. We ended up getting some salad and gyoza (which was cold but we thought was hot) and grabbed a drink from the nearby vending machine.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

When we were done we crossed the road and came across Nishiki Market.

Nishiki Market

Another world of food and wonder awaited us here. This market is located on a narrow five block long undercover street and has everything from seafood, fruit, vegetables, cookware, desserts, pickled food, sushi, and much more. Definitely worth the visit.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Pontocho District

Situated near Gion is a long alley with everything from finger food to traditional Japanese and foreign cuisine.

We ended up at Platero, a Spanish inspired restaurant where we had a delicious Chorizo Paella.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Shopping

Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades

Once you reach the end of Nishiki Market you come to these undercover shopping arcades, which run parallel to each other, and sell everything from clothes, souvenirs, food, and knick knacks.

There is even a temple within it all.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Shijo Street

Parallel to Teramachi is Shijo Street. Here you’ll find departments stores including Tokyu Hands and Daimaru, international brands including Louis Vuitton, Zara, H&M, Uniqlo and smaller independent retailers.

This is a great street if you really want to get some shopping done.

JR Kyoto Station

Like all major train stations in Japan this station has a fantastic range of shops

Surrounding this station is Kyoto’s second largest shopping area, which includes Porta underground shopping centre, Aeon shopping mall, and large electrical retailers.

Attractions

Tofukuji Temple

Tofukuji Temple is famous for its Zen Garden, which was designed by a French man. Every morning the Monks from the working Monastery create the swirls in the garden as they get damaged by the wind each day.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Each section of the garden has a meaning, like the boxed garden shown below, which represents the grid construction of Kyoto.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

If you are looking for some serenity then definitely make sure you visit here.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

This Shinto Shrine is best known for the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. It’s a large Shrine with thousands of Torii Gates, more than I saw anywhere else in Japan.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

The Torii Gates are donated by individuals and businesses whose details and date of donation are written on each gate. A small gate is approximately 400,000 Yen, with larger gates costing over 1,000,000 Yen.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Gion District

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Famous for Geisha spotting, you have to be at the right place at the right time to see a Geisha, and sadly we didn’t.

What we did see, which was just as amusing, were tourists peering into every taxi that went past trying to see a Geisha, that was an attraction in its own.

Whether you see a Geisha or not this area is not to miss. It’s home to many traditional restaurants and tea houses that haven’t changed much over the years.

The streets are adorable and packed with small wooden buildings and paved walkways.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Although we didn’t see a real life Geisha, we did see a model dressed up as one holding an umbrella and Asahi Beer in front of a bridge, which was an advertisement being shot right in front of us.

This is a really gorgeous area and makes you feel like you’re in old style Japan.

Nijo Castle

A tour of Kyoto Japan

I found this castle very underwhelming. After entering the front gate you go into Ninomaru Palace. Here you learn about the history of the six rooms, which are covered in over 800 tatami mats and some are elaborately decorated in gold leaf.

You can also view Ninomaru Garden, which is a great example of a traditional Japanese garden.

Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)

This was beautiful. You should definitely add this to your Kyoto attraction list.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

To cater for the many tourists that visit this attraction, there are many food and souvenir vendors, and vending machines with ice cream in cones and bags and even Fuji Film.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Imperial Palace

This was my least favourite Kyoto attraction.

You can only visit here with a tour group and the staff are very strict. One lady on our tour went to the toilet and the Police demanded our tour guide go get her straight back.

You cannot go into the Palace so all you can see is the outside and the surrounding gardens.

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

Overall, Kyoto was a terrific mix of modern vs. traditional and there was a lot to see and eat. I’d love to go back and check it out a bit more sometime soon.

If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:

A tour of Fukuoka Japan

A tour of Hiroshima Japan

A tour of Kobe Japan

A tour of Osaka Japan

A tour of Tokyo Japan

Japan Fun Facts

Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.

(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)

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A tour of Osaka Japan

The Creative Canvass A tour of Osaka Japan

Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.

I’ve wanted to go to Japan for ages because of all the crazy stories I’ve heard. Like vending machines that stock everything from drinks to underpants, crazy products like fans on hats, and even something I’d heard about rats on sticks for street food… Let’s just say I didn’t see that, thankfully.

On our two and a half week Japan trip we visited Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

After our tour of Kobe we visited Osaka.

Osaka has a population of 2.5 million people, and is Japan’s third largest city. I found Osaka to be very fashion forward, which makes sense are there are large shopping centres everywhere in close proximity to each other.

Here’s a rundown of my Osaka trip:

Accommodation

Crowne Plaza Ana Osaka

This hotel was my favourite. It’s located inside a shopping centre BONUS, and each morning and night the staff delivered some delicacies to your room. I highly recommend this hotel.

Food

Dotonbori

Situated along a canal is this gorgeous area full of neon lights, billboards, restaurants, and shopping areas.

I highly recommend you come here for dinner, but be open minded. There are few English translations on the menus, and when there were I saw food options including third stomach, tongue with salt, heart sashimi, and even high quality diaphragm – because I definitely wouldn’t dare order a low quality one.

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Namba neon lights

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Namba canal

Bay Area

Apart from Universal Studios, this area has a wide variety of restaurants consisting of traditional to chain, including TGI Fridays.

Try to get here before 7pm; otherwise you’ll have to push your way through all the people who have spent the day at Universal Studios.

Shopping

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan shopping

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan shopping

Apart from Tokyo, Osaka was the only city I visited that had multiple shopping centres located closely together.

Osaka Station

There are heaps of shopping options here from large shopping centres, to smaller shops along the surrounding roads.

Two shopping centres to check out here are the North Gate Building and the South Gate Building, which both host a number of department stores, cinemas, sports clubs, and gardens.

Nanba

As well as the variety of food choices Nanba is a terrific place to shop, but allow yourself the better part of a day to do this.

A great place to start is Namba Parks, which houses 120 retailers from local to international brands, a cinema, amphitheatre, and a roof top garden.

Shinbashi

Keep walking around the centre of Nanba and you will find yourself in another huge shopping area called Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade. This arcade is an undercover area with food, stalls, clothes, and accessories.

Attractions

Umeda Sky Building

I came here to see the Floating Garden. However, there isn’t actually a garden here. There is an open air observation deck, which is 173 metres above ground level. The highlight here was my Halloween ice cream.

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observation Deck

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observation Deck

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observation Deck

Nara afternoon tour

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Nara day tour

The following attractions were covered in this tour:

Todaiji Temple and Deer Park

Todaiji Temple is one of Japan’s most famous Temples. It sits on expansive grounds housing historic structures, many, many deer that roam around freely, and for me the best part – a giant bronze Buddha.

I’ve mentioned before that I love giant Buddha and this one was terrific.

The Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, housing Japan’s largest Buddha. Make sure you visit this attraction, you will not regret it.

Also, don’t be scared of the deer that come from the surrounding 1,250 acre park.

There are actually over 1,000 tame deer that roam this attraction looking for those who purchased deer food at the gate.

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Todaiji Temple and Deer Park

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Todaiji Temple and Deer Park

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Todaiji Temple and Deer Park

Kasuga Shrine

This Shrine has approximately 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns. It’s a beautiful Shrine where you can leisurely stroll around and take in the garden views.

To learn about shrine rituals, click here.

The Creative Canvass Osaka Japan Kasuga Shrine

That’s all I had time to do in Osaka, but if given the chance again I’d love to revisit.

If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:

A tour of Fukuoka

A tour of Hiroshima

A tour of Kobe

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Tokyo Japan

Japan Fun Facts

Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest page.

(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why some of the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)

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A tour of Kobe Japan

A-tour-of-Kobe

Japan has been on my travel bucket list for a long time, and in October 2014 I finally went.

On the two and a half week trip Nick and I visited Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

After Hiroshima we visited Kobe, which turned out to be my favourite city.

Kobe (pronounced Ko-bay) is the sixth largest city in Japan, it was warm, attractions were aplenty, and the people were, of course, friendly.

Kobe is located on the harbour, and in 1995 was hit by an earthquake which killed 5,000+ people and destroyed tens of thousands of buildings. However, looking at the city today you’d never know as it’s been entirely rebuilt.

Here are some recommendations that I have for Kobe if you’re ever fortunate enough to visit:

Accommodation

We stayed at Hotel La Suite Harborland, which was walking distance to everything covered below. This hotel is absolutely gorgeous. The suites are huge, they have large bathrooms with a spa facing a TV, and the view from the balcony is of the Harborland.

A tour of Kobe La Suite Harborland Hotel

A tour of Kobe Harborland

A tour of Kobe La Suite Harborland Hotel spa

Food

Kobe has something to suit everyone’s tastes with a wide variety of local and international cuisines.

Mosaic – Harborland

As well as shopping, Mosaic has a lot of food options from simple to more elaborate. There’s Indian, Italian, French and much more.

A tour of Kobe Harborland ferris wheel

Sandaya Steakhouse – Mosaic

Kobe is known for Kobe beef, there was no way I was going to go to Kobe and not try some.

We decided to try Kobe beef at Sandaya Steakhouse in Mosaic as they offered a five course meal, which cost $175 for two people including drinks.

This place was amazing, our five courses, all in typical small sizes. but so delicious were:

Meat antipasto

The Creative Canvass a tour of Kobe

Salad

A tour of Kobe Sandaya Steakhouse second couse salad

Tomato and vegetable soup

A tour of Kobe Sandaya Steakhouse third couse tomato and vegetable soup

Kobe beef with rice, potatoes, onion and cabbage, which you cooked on a hot plate to your liking

A tour of Kobe Sandaya Steakhouse fourth couse Kobe Beef

Chocolate brownie, with ice cream and a mandarin segment

A tour of Kobe Sandaya Steakhouse fifth couse dessert

If you are after good quality Kobe beef then definitely come here, you will not regret it. The service was amazing, there was a lady playing the piano to create a relaxed vibe, and each course was given to you in the right amount of time.

Shopping

The Harborland is the reason why this city was my favourite. It’s tranquil, beautiful, has heaps of restaurants, great shopping, interesting attractions, and is walking distance to practically everything.

Umie

A newbie to the Kobe shopping scene opening in 2013, it has approximately 225 shops that are a mix of fashion, lifestyle goods, services and restaurants. International stores include H&M, Old Navy, Gap, The Body Shop, Zara, Uniqlo, Sega, Godiva, Subway, Baskin and Robbins, Starbucks, and Tony Roma’s. This is a great place to shop and eat.

Sannomiya Town Centre

Sannomiya Town Centre consists of streets with covered and non-covered shops, cafés, and restaurants. You could spend an entire day just walking around and taking it all in.

This is the area where I noticed cakes and parfaits! There were cakes, parfaits, waffles and pancakes everywhere – perfect for a sweet tooth like me.

A tour of Kobe Motomachi

A tour of Kobe Motomachi undercover

A tour of Kobe Sannomiyacho

There is also a Chinatown in this area – Nankinmachi packed with shops, restaurants and food stands selling everything from steam buns, ramen, rice, fried goodness, drinks, and other Chinese meals.

A tour of Kobe Chinatown

A tour of Kobe Motomachi surrounding streets

A tour of Kobe Chinatown food stalls

A tour of Kobe Chinatown dumpling

Attractions

Kobe has a wide variety of things to do, some of which are:

Meriken Park

Situated in Harborland this park has relaxation areas, art installations, and fountains. Attractions here include Kawasaki Good Times World, Kobe Maritime Museum, and Kobe Port Tower.

A tour of Kobe Meriken Park sculpture

A tour of Kobe Meriken Park

Kawasaki Good Times World

I wasn’t interested in visiting here, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t realise that Kawasaki developed so many different types of products.

There were trains, aircraft, tunnel borers, jet skis, ships, and motorbikes on display, some of which you could enter.

Kobe Maritime Museum

Located in the same building as Kawasaki Good Times World, here you learn about Kobe’s shipping history, and the role the Port plays.

If you’re short on time you can miss this attraction and head for the Port Tower.

Kobe Port Tower

You can’t miss this red kaleidoscope structure that lights up Harborland at night.

When you buy your Kawasaki Good Times Museum ticket you have the option of paying a little more to include this attraction as well, or you can buy a ticket at the Tower.

We visited the 360° observation deck during the day; however I think night would have been better.

Again, if you’re short on time skip this and visit the Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway instead, as the view from there is just as good.

Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway

Located away from Harborland is Japan’s largest herb garden with approximately 75,000 herbs and 200 types of flowers. There’s 14 different areas you can explore and learn about the herbs and flowers. There’s also a glasshouse with gorgeous sculptures, sitting areas, and plants.

It costs $14 for a return ropeway cable ticket, which includes entry into the gardens. On the ropeway you have great views of the sea, land, city, and Nunobiki No Taki Waterfall.

This is a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway gondola

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse view

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse exit

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway inside glasshouse

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse garden

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse garden frame

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway glasshouse sculpture

A tour of Kobe Nunobiki Herb Garden and Ropeway view

Kitano

Located close to Nunobiki Herb Gardens and Ropeway is the quaint area of Kitano, an old foreign residential area with small boutiques, food stalls, and the Kitano Tenman Shrine.

It doesn’t take long to have a look around. It’s quite a nice area to sit in and take some time out.

A tour of Kobe Kitano tram

A tour of Kobe Kitano

A tour of Kobe Kitano Tenman Shrine entry

A tour of Kobe Kitano Tenman Shrine

A tour of Kobe Kitano Tenman Shrine lanterns

A tour of Kobe Kitano Tenman Shrine (d) edited

I hope this encourages you to add Kobe onto your list of cities to visit if you’re ever in Japan.

It’s a city you won’t regret spending some time in.

If you’d like to see my other Japan posts, here’s the links:

A tour of Fukuoka Japan

A tour of Hiroshima Japan

A tour of Osaka Japan

A tour of Kyoto Japan

A tour of Tokyo Japan

Japan Fun Facts

Please also feel free to visit my Japan Pinterest board.

(This blog’s previous name was The Creative Canvass, hence why some of the images in this post are labelled www.thecreativecanvass.com)

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