5 Things I Hate About Japan

I love Japan, I am planning to spend a lot of days in Japan but there are some things I really dislike, somethings I just can’t get behind. So be aware, be prepared, these small insignificant things might just grind your gears too. To show how small these things are I will interpolate with photos of the wonderful country that I am complaining about.

PhoebeGill-180404-010.jpgBead Pillows

There is nothing like coming home from a long day of exploring, sight seeing, eating and general frivolity and diving into bed. You want your head to hit the pillow and fall fast asleep however, you nuzzle and hug your pillow only to find a load of beans on one side! Hard plastic, crunchy and uncomfortable these spherical devils are there for comfort but it’s anything but! I’m sorry Japan but I’m going to need my synthetic, fluffy, cloud like  pillows!

PhoebeGill-180403-298.jpgToilet Paper

Japan is a country where their toilets sing and dance for you. There are so many buttons it’s like a cockpit of a airplane and yet you have 1 ply toilet paper. Now I know why this is a thing but to have such a comfortable experience only to be faced with 1 ply is a rough time. Pun very much intended!

PhoebeGill161026137.jpgTiny Towels

Maybe this is just me but I like to wrap myself up in a big fluffy towel and watch a YouTube video or have a nap. It’s post shower chill time. However  Japan has tiny body towels! Tiny! You jump out of the shower and that cool air hits you, you just want to snuggle into a big fluffy towel and you are wrapping a thin short piece of fabric around yourself. Maybe it’s a tactic to get ready really fast after your morning shower and get to work!

PhoebeGill-180415-171.jpgYour suitcase will be a burden

Japan is a land of convenience, I have never seen such innovative and logical systems in place. However, if you are travelling with a suitcase…sometimes it is not convenient at all. I found that there is not a great amount of space for bags on Shinkansens and busses. On Dublin bus, for example, there is a space for wheelchair users and prams so you can stand with your bags. Not in Japan, you have to awkwardly stand and hope that you aren’t in the way, which you always are, so you have very grumpy old men hitting you as you are trying to figure out how to get to your hotel (I still think about this incident).

PhoebeGill-180414-002Plastic Packaging

Japan what will we do with you? I have never seen such over use of plastic packaging in my life! A sealed tin of biscuits catches your eye, you think, fabulous, you open the tin to find each biscuit individually wrapped, making this tin that you can reuse, completely pointless as there is so much plastic to contend with. You get free plastic bags wherever you go. It’s a free for all. So bring one of the thousand tote bags you have and refuse a plastic bag in shops. Makes you feel slightly less guilty!

Really it’s nothing to write home about and differences are wonderful but sometimes the things your used to, your creature comforts make a big difference when you travel. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t like something, it’s a privilege to travel but it’s also your right to whinge.

Happy Travels!

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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 Portugal: Exploring Sintra

I found out about Sintra watching a YouTube video and instantly put it on the list. That very long, detailed list. I had wanted to go to Lisbon for such a long time and since Sintra is close to Lisbon, I decided to book my ticket.

I arrived in Lisbon and got straight on a train to Sintra, the 40 minute journey is easy and relaxing. There are only a few stops till you pull into Sintra station, a small building opposite cafes, shops and tourist information points. 

Going right out of the station brings you to the less touristy part of Sintra, with restaurants and supermarkets but turn left and you get to all the sights, beautiful parks, colourful buildings and small streets. 

First on my agenda was to wonder around and figure out what to do for the next two days. The town is built on the bottom of a hill, so if you want to walk to all the sights prepare for the steep hills, if you don’t want to walk, outside of the train station there are buses to all the local sights. I went to Sintra in October and the queues for the busses were still very long. Be warned you will have little old women elbowing you to get on the bus. PhoebeGill171002564.jpg

Best things I did in Sintra

Quinta da Regaleira

This gothic palace and grounds is an amazing way to spend a morning. I walked to the park from my hotel, it’s an easy walk and a little uphill walk. The entrance fee is €6 which gives you access to the palace, the chapel, the sunken tower and secret tunnels. PhoebeGill171003745There are so many beautiful elements to this park, that you should explore for yourself, I would get up early, go straight to the tower and enjoy a quiet moment before the crowds roll in. The palace is like an IKEA type system of a walk through, whenever people get into this system it’s like no one can over take or you are just rude but if you are like me and get antsy when you are in a small space with lots of people, do it, there are many beautiful spots in the palace but it gets really busy! I would bring a snack and have a little picnic in one of the many beautiful spots in the grounds. PhoebeGill171003660

Park and National Palace of Pena

This palace is huge and beautiful, I recommend getting the 343 bus to this location because it is a very long way, up many small roads. The bus costs €5 euro round trip and entrance into the Palace and Park is €11.50.PhoebeGill171003866The walk up to the entrance of the palace is also uphill, are you seeing a pattern with Sintra? It is one big hill. If you are travelling with older people there is a little bus that brings you up and down the hill to the palace, for a small fee but again there will be queues. The palace is again, a walkthrough, IKEA type style so be aware that there is lots of people at all times. I don’t think this place would ever be quiet. The queuing and the hills are worth it, there are so many beautiful views, colours, and tiles that would make anyone want to take a million photos.

Walking around Sintra town

There are lots of things to see when walking around the town, from bars and cafes, palaces and the most beautiful buildings. There is so much colour nature all over the town. PhoebeGill171002605Some of my favourite places are the walk to the town from the station, pretty tiles, beautiful parks, views over the town, street sellers. It is the perfect balance of tourism ad natural. The little streets behind the palace square, lemon trees and pink flowers, small bars and restaurants. Eating Pastel de Nata from the cafe, sitting on the terrace watching the sun go down. PhoebeGill171002611Going to Sintra first was a great decision, it eases you in to the beauty of Portugal with the volume of tourists. It has to be on your list!

Where I stayed

Hotel Nova Sintra

This hotel is a 4 minute uphill walk from the train station. After you walk up the stairs you arrive at a beautiful terrace looking out over the main hill of Sintra. PhoebeGill171002614I got a room right next to reception downstairs and it was beautiful, airy and comfortable. There is no lift and a lot of steps but it’s a very comfortable hotel. Breakfast is a simple but tasty affair. I really enjoyed my stay. PhoebeGill171001013To me Sintra is a must, go, walk, explore, have angry older women get livid at queues, walk up a lot of hills and have fun! Next on the adventure is Lisbon.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Southern Region

The South will always be popular whatever time you go and there is a good reason why. I have been in January and in September and each time it has been beautiful. I wanted to get a different angle on some old spots and finally get to some places that I have wanted to go for long time.

Svínafellsjökull Glacier

PhoebeGill170417102I love this glacier, you can walk alongside it, take a seat and listen to the creaking ice. I had to fly the drone above the fissures and try and get closer to the source of the glacier, it is miles away so that didn’t happen but it’s stunning none the less. PhoebeGill170417187

Diamond Beach

I have taken pictures of this beach from the ground but from above it is one of the most beautiful sights. I think this is one of my favourite shots from my trip. PhoebeGill170422028

Jökulsárlón

Again I have taken many shots from the edge of the glacier but from above it is incredible. You can see the seals, huge icebergs and all the seagulls swooping below. I could honestly fly the drone over this area all day if I had enough batteries! PhoebeGill170422152

Fjaðrárgljúfur

This river canyon is a great site to visit, you can walk up to the top of the canyon and get great views of the river and the surrounding area. It gets very popular for a spot that doesn’t have great signage. PhoebeGill1704221131.jpg

Dyrhólaey

PhoebeGill170423017I have seen a lot of people sitting on the edge of this cliff however knowing my luck I’d fall off and be lost forever so I just flew the drone and sat in the sun. This was the first day where I didn’t need loads of layers and gloves, it was perfect. PhoebeGill1704231924

Gljúfrabúi

PhoebeGill170423159One of my last stops was back to the not so hidden waterfall. Unlike before, this time I was going in and I am very happy I did.There is something so wonderful about getting so close to a waterfall, blinded by the rushing water, getting soaked. Not staying too long because your cameras are going to get waterlogged. Can you tell I was happy? PhoebeGill170422001Iceland is somewhere you can go time and time again and you will find incredible things to do. I might not be back for a while but till next time Ísland.

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Eastern Region

The East is a stunning part of the country that I didn’t get to explore fully. In April a lot of the north eastern roads are closed and impassable. A lot of my trip was dodging storms and high winds so my eastern adventure started with a small town of 1000 people. I hope these next few images inspire a trip of your own.

Reyðarfjörður

This was the start of a stunning drive around some of the most beautiful fjords. It is all amazing and the only bad thing is that there aren’t enough places to stop and take it in. PhoebeGill170421072-Pano.jpgI did the drive from Reyðarfjörður to Höfn in a day but there are so many more coast roads and smaller roads that you could explore for days in warmer months or if you are an expert in driving in snow. PhoebeGill170421097Around every corner was beautiful and serene, you just want to stop and take it all in. Towering snow capped mountains and the sun dancing on top of the water would be the most peaceful setting if it wasn’t for the strong winds that chill you to your core and does nothing for your hair. PhoebeGill170421960The East, like the Westfjords will be a place I have to return to, in Summer when prices go up but becomes far more accessible.  I know there is so much more to this area but it’s beauty will be forever something that I remember. Never boring, always beautiful. PhoebeGill1704221053.jpgIt’s also the first time I saw reindeer just hanging out at the side of the road. Not as amazing as when I saw moose for the first time but still such cute animals. They are skittish so I couldn’t get amazing shots but it’s always fun to sit and watch them.

The east is somewhere that deserves your time. Don’t just stop at Höfn, keep going, drive and enjoy. PhoebeGill170421132

Happy Travels!

In Iceland: Western Region

The Western Region is just above Reykjavik and below the Westfjords. Snæfellsnes peninsula is the main point of interest with some amazing places to visit. I love it, I keep finding myself gravitating to the same places over and over again because they are just stunning.

Hraunfossar

This was my first stop on the drive around the Western region. This beautiful waterfall is powerful and peaceful however, it is quite popular with tour busses and you might find that you’re in the midst of a big group of tourists.

Driving around the Snæfellsnes peninsula should be on your list of things to do if you are going to Iceland for a week. The south is amazing but there is something about this area that is so gorgeous, if you aren’t into staying in Reykjavik longer than a day then try get here.

Búðakirkja

PhoebeGill170418165With the infamous black church, a small but picturesque sight. Stunning mountains, lava fields and look out points, there is so many things you can see and do. Driving around and exploring you can get the most amazing images.

Vatnshellir Cave

I am very annoyed that I didn’t visit this site, I love caves, they are dark and cool in temperature and bats live there. I just love them. I have no idea if it is good but for more information you can find it here. 

PhoebeGill170419247

Arnarstapi

This small fishing village on the south of the peninsula is absolutely beautiful and is so photogenic it’s crazy. With a stunning coastal walk, amazing rock formations and strong waves, this place is a must see.

 

Where to Stay?

The small yet lovely town of Grundarfjörður on the north side of the peninsula. I stayed in the Old Postoffice Gusthouse, a wonderful place to stay for a night before you set off on another adventure. The rooms are very comfortable with a clean shared bathroom. I think I paid €79 for a single room but got upgraded as it was quiet in the guesthouse and got an amazing view of Kirkjufell! If you want to know more about the mountain find it here.nvjh.jpg

Happy Travels!