In Portugal: Lisbon

I have come to realise that I am not a massive fan of cities, I prefer places with lots of nature. I arrived in Lisbon and although it still has the elements I don’t like, it has a beauty that is so unique. Looking back at my photos there is so much this city has to offer, I only saw a small amount but it’s beautiful.

Comércio Plaza

My hotel was close to Comércio Plaza, this open square flanked by yellow buildings that were once the parliament buildings but now is surrounded by restaurants and bars. It’s the prime meeting place for the locals and a great place for tourists to take pictures and do a walking tour. It’s also on the river so it’s a great spot to sit down and take in the sun or have a snack.

Santa Justa Lift

I do things so you don’t have to! Going up in the lift is a waste of time, don’t bother. The queues start really early so if you want to go up in the lift, be there when it opens. The queue organiser doesn’t speak english so if he points randomly and you don’t understand, its fine, tetchy old women will sass you so you don’t skip the line *eyeroll* You can walk up to a viewing platform from the back of the lift and then pay the extra €1.50 to go up to the top. Going on the lift is a waste of time.

Time Out Market

Time Out Market is a perfect use of space and I think every city needs one. One side is a fresh food market and the other side is lots of different food kiosks. There is lots of different options but I knew I wanted croquettes and Pastéis de Nata. You could probably come here everyday of your holiday and still not eat everything. I really recommend Manteigaria custard tarts. There is a battle of the best tart between Balem and Manteigaria and I think Manteigaria is my favourite.

Castelo de São Jorge

The way up to George’s Castle is beautiful, small streets, lots of beautiful doors and tiles. A photographers dream! Entry into the castle is €8.50 but get all the information you need before you go in because there isn’t any signage inside.

I really liked this site, it’s fun to walk the walls and sit underneath the trees. The views from the top are beautiful, you can see lots of Lisbon attractions from up here and the expanse of the city.

Belém

Belem was a quick trip for the tower and the custard tarts. Pastéis de Belém is chaotic! I decided to get them to go so I queued for a short time and paid for my custard tarts and you stand with a crowd and the servers will just swipe your receipt and plonk your bags on the counter. I then sat looking at the tower and ate a custard tart. It was lovely!

Where I Stayed

TURIM Terreiro do Paço Hotel

This hotel is lovely, it’s comfortable, it’s clean and everything you need in a hotel. I didn’t opt for breakfast but I have one complaint. The tv is in a frame in the wall which means the speakers are incased and the sound is muffled so if your neighbour is watching TV they will have it up really loud and will be reverberating into your room. So be warned!PhoebeGill171005995

I really enjoyed my stay in Lisbon but to be honest I preferred Sintra. Check out my post on Sintra here. 

Happy travels!

In Riga: The Waterfront

Any city by the water is usually somewhere I like to be. There is something great about sitting by the waters edge watching the swell. Riga’s waterfront is a nice open space with some great spots along the way. PhoebeGill170318290.jpgFirst things first, take a walk down the River Daugava. The promenade feels like a new addition to the waterfront compared historic old town and the more unmanicured look throughout the city. Along this walk you get a view of the National Library, this modern, 13 story institution opened in 2014 and is incredibly important to Riga. Along with modern buildings you get to see the trains pass on the railway. I don’t know what it is with rail systems but they are quite calming to me. I can imagine this promenade in Summer is a great place to take a picnic and soak up the sun.PhoebeGill170317135If you are an avid reader, you will know I love viewpoints and will actively climb the hundereds of steps and peer over he nauseatingly high rail to look at the small passers by. If you want a view of the city and the river you have to go to the Institute of Science, its €5 entry and you get a stunning panoramic view of Riga. You get a great view of Old Town and the entire river.  PhoebeGill170318284You can see all the main sites of The city, Riga castle, St Peters Church, Riga cathedral, central market and TV Tornis. The radio and television tower is the highest building in the Baltics. It too has a viewpoint so you can see Riga from a different perspective. PhoebeGill170318256Along the waterfront is the big Central Market. It is the biggest indoor market in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I love wandering around food markets, it gives you a great idea of the food culture of a country. Not only that but at the back of the tunnels is your classic marketing of second hand goods and clothing, it really is the place to go to wander around and spot some real tat! PhoebeGill170318266In each tunnel there is a different food group, the first is all smoked and fresh fish. If you don’t have sea legs the smell will be a bit overwhelming. I used to get brought to markets all the time so you get used to the smell. The second is all fresh fruit and vegetables. Everything looks amazing in this section, so much colour and variety! Potatoes and apples were in abundance.  The last tunnel is bread and meat. Their favourite it seems would be rye bread, my father loves rye bread so I imagined him being very happy with the cuts of pork with a good bit of fat and the dark bread.  PhoebeGill170317081It’s definitely somewhere you have to go when you go to Riga. It really great to see the sellers have pride in their stalls and all the different elements of food. If I was staying longer or had an AirBnB I would definitely stock up on fresh food! PhoebeGill170317076Riga was a really nice break away, I found it’s sad and traumatic history is still reflected in the cold aspects of the city, people aren’t overly friendly, there isn’t much modern builds and although I had some odd experiences with some people during my short time in the capital I would recommend Riga to anyone.

Happy Travels!

 

In Tokyo: Where Did I Go?

Going from Kyoto to Tokyo was a bit of a shock to the system. I got into Shinjuku station at rush hour, trying to navigate to my hotel after a long day of travel I was ready to check into my hotel and relax. I only had three days to explore which I have just decided is never enough time in Japan, I don’t think a lifetime is enough. I still dream of CoCo Curry. There is so much left to see but it’s a start. Here is what i did in my three days in Tokyo!

Shinjuku

This is the area I stayed in, it’s a really busy, bright area, the Shinjuku station is huge and has so many exits so it’s a little hectic at first but once you get the hang of it you’ll be flying along. PhoebeGill1610272875-1.jpg

Kichijoji

I watch Simon and Martina, they have great taste in food so definitely check out their blog and YouTube because they will give you loads of inspiration on where to eat in Japan. Satou was somewhere I had to go. It is steak house restaurant but there will be a queue down the street for an amazing pork cutlet that is freshly made in front of you. So join the line, the wait will be worth it, you can pick up a whole bag of incredibly delicious crispy pork spheres! PhoebeGill1610272870.jpg

So it’s no secret that I love Studio Ghibli. There are some of my favourite films and in my top three companies in the world. As a teenager the Studio Ghibli Museum seemed like a far off dream but I am a goal oriented gal so I got there. It was a great experience check out my guide to the Ghibli Museum here. PhoebeGill1610272841.jpg

Harajuku

So you have to visit Takeshita Street when you go to Harajuku but to be honest, if you don’t want a crepe or clothes than this might not be the street for you. Now the area behind Takeshita is the main shopping area if you want the big brands. It’s a lot prettier and feels a lot more interesting than the one street. PhoebeGill161029039.jpg

Yogogi Park is a big park in the middle of Tokyo and I definitely wanted to have a walk through. I took the entrance just behind Harajuku station. It is really beautiful and has so many beautiful Torii and shrines. Most special of all is that I got to see some wedding moments. I saw the photographs of a bride and groom. I saw the procession that happens after the ceremony. It was absolutely beautiful and one of my favourite moments in Tokyo.PhoebeGill161029042.jpg

Shibuya

So I was going to explore Shibuya but I got anxiety and decided I would sit with a crappy coffee from Starbucks and watch people on the crossing. You have to see it. PhoebeGill161028026-1

Nakano

I wanted to find gatchapon in Nakano but nothing was open in the shopping arcade but I did get to explore all the shop fronts with lots of figures.

Tiato

So I had to do some shopping for my family. Japanese knives are some of the most beautiful kitchen utensils in the world. The process of it all is so interesting and intricate. Kamata Knife Shop was where I was asked to go. Tiato is the cooking district, if you want any sort of cooking/kitchen thing than go to this area and you will get everything you’ll ever need. PhoebeGill1610292966-1.jpg

Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro is big, tall, bright and has lots of streets. I got lost walking around and around until I found what I was looking for, Sunshine City. The Pokemon Centre is upstairs in the shopping mall and it took me far too long to find but I got there. My 7 year old self was extremely pleased with how much stuff you could buy. Of course I went a bit nuts but would love more original 150 merch.PhoebeGill1610282896.jpg

I don’t think I could talk about Tokyo without mentioning CoCo Curry. Oh my god it is delicious. I recommend the beef based sauce and beef cutlet. There are loads of extra toppings that you could add but as I have no Japanese I just went bog standard. It was amazing. I wish I had a CoCo Curry around me at all times. It’s not elegant or intricate but it is damn tasty! PhoebeGill1610242700.jpg

There are so many things I didn’t do this time around but fret not because I have a funny feeling I will be back soon enough. Till next time Tokyo!

Happy Travels!

In Kyoto: The Bamboo Forest

The bamboo forest in Kyoto was a place I had wanted to go for so many years. A short distance into the Arashiyama area, take a turn up a small unassuming road and there it is, the bamboo forest. A beautiful area, cool in climate with tall shoots. With my slight detour I arrived a little too late to avoid the crowds so getting shots was a little tricky. PhoebeGill161026037What I was surprised by is that it’s one single path with a dead end. I had visions of a walk though a forest and you’d come out on the other side of the area, kind of thing but it’s not. It’s just a walkway and then you turn around and go back. Now by all means it’s still beautiful.PhoebeGill161026047I think it should definitely be on the list but the Inari Shrine site was even better than I had expected and I though the bamboo forest was going to be a similar experience but maybe there is a difference if you are first on site. So my number one tip is get up early! PhoebeGill161026050Although it wasn’t what I expected, I will definitely be back again, it’s really a must see.

Happy Travels!

In Kyoto: Shopping Arcades and Markets

I didn’t do too much research into the city of Kyoto before I left so I decided to walk and explore. I saw an opening with shops and went in and what I found was magic! One thing I loved about Japan was the fashion, people dress incredibly well, they have great neutral clothes with great fabric and cuts and I wanted everything if I could actually fit/afford them. (Japanese clothes run small for obvious reasons)

Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Shopping Arcades

There are two covered shopping arcades that run parallel to each other and they have restaurants, shops with clothes, art, furniture, everything you need to window shop and buy everything you need or want. The area also looks great! There are really beautiful shop fronts and little details that looks beautiful.phoebegill161025069phoebegill161025079phoebegill161025086

Nishiki Market

This narrow food market is incredible, there isn’t any room to move around, there are so many things to look at, smell and all of it looks so fresh! For any foodie, you have to have a look. Even me, the girl who grabs a handful of nuts once in a while when travelling, thought everything looked amazing!phoebegill161025093phoebegill161025094phoebegill161025099

I have been looking into more of the city and I’ve found even more places to see so I will just have to wait till next year to see them.

Happy Travels!

 

In Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine

The Fushimi Inari Shrine. An incredible place that I had wanted to see for many years and I must say it didn’t disappoint. Sitting at the bottom of the Inari mountain starts the two hour meandering path up the mountain to the main shrine 233 meters above sea level. Inari is seen as the patron of business so the gates are donated by businesses for good luck an fortune in its endeavours. It is said that there are over 5,000 torii (gates) along the path which is incredible. As you walk it you don’t even realise how many there are. I did the entire trail and I thought there were hundreds not thousands! These are just some of 40,000 gates all over japan.phoebegill161024008Although it’s not a particularly strenuous climb the heat makes it more difficult and in Summer months it gets unbearably hot in Japan. In October it was about 24 degrees, which for an Irish girl was hot enough! Bring  water as at the top of the mountain I found that I had none left but there are vending machines at the main shrine so you wont shrivel from dehydration. phoebegill161024144Foxes are seen to be the messengers of the shrine so there are fox statues dotted around the sites. I really feel like this place was a good fit for me because not only are there foxes, my favourite little woodland creature, Inari is the god of rice and I love rice a lot, as in I’d like it for every meal. In all seriousness, this area is beautiful and peaceful, even with the mass of people, it was just so incredible that the first thing I do in Japan is seeing this fantastic site. phoebegill161024192It doesn’t have closing times and is free to explore. Go early and enjoy this incredible place. I noticed on the way down to the exit there were a lot more people so if you want a selfie with a free path you aren’t going to get it at lunch time. Also as the walk takes 2-3 hours in total go early to make the most of your day!