Tag Archives: lonely planet

Oh Vienna – Day 2: Coffins and Art

So begins the first of the two full days that we have in Vienna. Being a city of coffee culture it is very important to find a good place for breakfast. Thanks to a bit of googling I found a place near St Stephen’s Cathedral called Haas & Haas.

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This is one of those places that was built for the long brunch. The sheer variety of breakfast items (from dim sum to a full English) was astonishing. Seeing as we are in the German speaking world there was no way I could say no to Weisswurst, a pretzel and Bavarian sweet mustard. I also had a lovely pot of rooiboss tea flavoured with cacao nibs and coconut. Truly this is the breakfast of champions.

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Of course the logical first place to visit after such a breakfast was the imperial crypt. Looking at it from the outside this is a very unassuming church, but this does not reflect what you find in the basement.

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Coffins. Rooms filled with the coffins of members of the Habsburg royal line. I have never seen anything quite like this. True, there were some coffins on the simpler side but, then there would be one covered in bronzed skulls, veiled women and maybe an angel or two.

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Nothing could compare to the massive coffin (if you can call it that) of Maria Theresa. This was bigger than a car and had many details including large weeping women and engravings of buildings. Every coffin afterwards just paled in comparison.

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You had a special room for Kaiser Franz Joseph, Sisi and Rudolf, but those coffins were still a plainer affair than Maria Theresa’s.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 65/100img_4470Sight: MuseumsQuartier
Location: Vienna, Austria
Position: #338

We walked from the imperial crypts to the MuseumsQuartier and…honestly I don’t have much to say about this place. Maybe it was the wrong time of year to visit? But after coming from the crypt and walking passed some amazing buildings via the Maria-Theresien-Platz; well it was an extreme let down to be honest.

How is this the only thing from Vienna on the Lonely Planet travel list? This has really given me some doubts about the rest of the list.

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After this disappointment we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Art History Museum (pictured is the Museum of Natural History, but apart from a few sculptures these are pretty much identical).

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Inside this building was a melange of marblework. The hallways were just an astonishing mixture of colour and polish, which just goes to show that some of these baroque are just as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

img_4482The first rooms we went through were paintings from the Flemish, Dutch and Germanic schools. In it we found the twin painting of the Tower of Babel scene we saw in Rotterdam. Strange, yet lovely way for these two rather different cities to be linked.

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Amongst the other paintings we saw were some rather weird looking Jesuses (so many great painters just cannot depict babies well), a strange depiction of groping and a very famous painting of a young Catherine of Aragon.

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We roamed around the other painting gallery for a while before heading for the antiquities. In the Roman section I was very much taken by the weird room where they had arranged a lot of statue heads/busts so they were all facing one direction. It was a very strange thing to walk in on.

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It was getting towards 4:30 when we left and we need drinks and snacks. Thanks to the Christmas markets you are kinda spoilt for choice at the moment. Personally I felt the flavoured pretzels calling my name and went for a pizza pretzel.

We headed back to the hotel room via a bunch of smaller Christmas markets and Julius Meinl (where I found a few food items that we will be saving for the day we leave).

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Dinner was our attempt at finding something Austrian to eat, and I found a place on Annagasse that did the trick. Pancake soup to start, Wiener schnitzel for main and a cheese strudel for pudding. I walked out of that restaurant a very happy man for I had eaten schnitzel in its spiritual home of Vienna.

We went for a final turn around the main Christmas market at the Rathausplatz before turning in for the night. We managed to be there until it closed…

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…but not before we got ourselves a langos. Think of it as a Hungarian treat where you deep fry a disk of dough and then brush it with garlic butter. Seriously, I love how much this city and their Christmas markets speak to my Germanic roots.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully some gröstl.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 4: Belém

After the incredible wetness of yesterday’s trip to Sintra today’s sunny weather with a cool breeze was a welcome antidote. As I write this up it is currently raining outside and I just about hear it over the Jenny Hval album playing on my iPod.

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As with the previous two days, this day had a focus on a particular are of Greater Lisbon. Today’s focus was on Belém. How did we get there? Why, by an iconic yellow Lisbon tram of course.

To say it was packed would be an understatement (it was on par with Japanese subways), but I had the best seat in the house: right behind the driver. It was so interesting to see the driver at work by using the handles to modify the speed. Also it was just fun to watch him gesturing annoyedly at everyone that crossed the tram’s path.

An interesting tidbit that I learnt about this particular tram route (Route 15) is that this route between Rossio and Belém has been in operation for over 140 years. It’s just that it was previously run by horse-drawn coaches.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 64/100Sight: Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #372

The tram stopped right next to our major destination of the day: the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. I could see it coming over the horizon whilst we were in the tram, but in person the façade is something else. For one thing it is absolutely massive. Also, the level of detail on everything is extremely intricate.

Considering all the Manueline architecture we saw on display in Sintra I honestly thought I had seen Portuguese architecture at some of its most sumptuous. Until I stepped into the cloisters of the monastery that is.

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Perfect sunshine is what you need to enjoy this courtyard and that is what we got. Honestly, I could have just stayed in this courtyard for an inordinate amount of time checking in on all the different flourishes and decorations. But we continued our tour around which meant visits to the chapter house, the refectory and of course the church next door.img_4165

The church and the monastery together was enough to take my breath away. With columns that, in places, looked like they were made of snaking stone vines this church just felt like it had grown from the Earth. Whilst not the largest church I have ever been in this just felt cavernous. It also, however, felt like it had not been finished. There were empty recesses where one would have expected there to be statues and/or paintings. So I wonder what happened there.

In order to keep the theme going, out next stop was the Belém Tower. This is one of those structures that has had many uses over the year from political prison to customs house to lighthouse. Considering the prominence and the placement of the tower all these uses seem to make a modicum of sense.

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During our visit to the Belém Tower the top two floors were under reconstruction, which was a shame, but we still found our share of joy in the remaining 3-4 floors on offer. You pretty much go inside for the views looking out as, honestly, there isn’t too much to see on the inside. Still, entrance was free thanks to the Lisboa Card so why not go inside.

It was easily time to grab something to eat so we took a walk along the waterfront to our lunch destination. This is a place that I had specifically researched so that I could cross a rather odd mollusc off the list.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Goose-Necked Barnacles

Yes, we had goose-necked barnacles (percebes in Portuguese) as part of our lunch. This restaurant was the only place where I could find them talking about selling it in 100g increments. Considering these are over £45 a kilo you can see why I would only want a small amount.

Seeing them there was rather intimidating as I had no idea how to eat them. I ended up watching a brief YouTube tutorial on my phone to make sure we got our money’s worth. Essentially you need to grab them by the beaky end, twist and then pull lightly to reveal the tender edible insides.

Tastewise they share a similarity to the sweetness of lobster meat but with a higher level of salt as you would expect in shellfish. It sucks that these are probably amongst the nicest shellfish that I have ever eaten since it is unlikely that I’ll have this opportunity again.

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Obviously we needed more food so we each had a prego steak roll. If Nandos is anything to go by, then we most definitely had a very Portuguese lunch. A very delicious (and once again, reasonable) one it was too.

Since it was free we decided to nip into the National Archaeological Museum. Good thing it was free as it was pretty nondescript to be honest. For a country that launched many an exhibition to Brazil and parts of Africa I am surprised there wasn’t more here. There must be a bigger collection somewhere else one would hope.

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For the rest of the afternoon we did a bit of final exploring and shopping before heading back to the room to freshen up for dinner. Sadly the church we intended to see was closed for choir practice, but we got to exploring the Barrio Alto and I met the best rooster in the world. What more can I say.

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For our final dinner we went to a real mom and pop place as recommended on TripAdvisor. For whatever reason I decided to not heed the surprise of the guy when I said I would be ordering cod cheeks – I understood this when the food arrived. As nice as the meat was, there was not a lot of it and I had to carve it off of this boiled fish head that had been cut in half. Young me would have seen the teeth and panicked, I just got annoyed that they got in my way of cod flesh.

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Food item: Abacaxi Pineapple

An unexpected thing we saw on menu was abacaxi pineapple, but there it was in the fruit section. They used the term ananas on the same menu which gave the tip that this was the right pineapple. And it was! Slightly sweeter than a regular pineapple (just not the explosion of flavour that was the Azores pineapple) this made for a refreshing end to the meal. Only it wasn’t the end of the meal.

Here’s the thing. Portuguese cheeses are 2-3 times the price in the UK so I would be a fool to not try and cross as many of these off the list whilst I was here. With this I have crossed off all them from the list. So, mission complete.

img_4221Food items: Azeitão and Serra da Estrela
Progress: 589/751

We started off with the Azeitão which was soft and gooey middle. It had a medium nose with some acidity and a slightly salty edge on first taste. Then the tanginess hits you right in the face. This is not on the same level as the Boulette D’Avesnes, and I guess it’s more like Taleggio. Maybe a really strong Camembert but not as creamy or straw-like. Acid notes with a creamy finish. The rind is edible and, somehow, manages to calm it down.

Then there was the Serra de Estrela, which is referred to as the king of Portuguese cheeses. In terms of texture this is like eating a cheese moose or cheese foam. You can cut the top off and scrape out the insides with a cracker. It’s truly something to behold.

The taste starts off mild and after a few bites acidity hits. Nowhere near as strong as the Azeitão though, but it comes with an aftertaste that is almost like hay or whatever those sheep were eating. It is the ultimate cheese of the Portuguese countryside.

Now I am at the end of my time here there are so many takeaway messages from these days spent in Lisbon.

1) This place is a treasure trove of food items. Seriously, when I consider the number of days that I have been here and the number of food items I have had – there is a huge concentration here.

2) Portuguese cuisine is very much it’s own thing. I came in with the wrong thought that it was just a variation on Spanish. So not true.

3) Aside from the men who kept trying to sell me hash on the street, Portuguese people seem to be hospitable.

4) The metro stations are designed to make you are hungry as friggin’ possible. All day today I could smell popcorn on the metro. It was baked goods a few days ago. So, do they rotate the smells to stop you getting used to it?

The biggest take home message of them all is, obviously, how lovely it is in Lisbon. A return trip is likely to happen – mainly so I can try to experience Sintra on a clear day. In terms of other possible trips to Portugal, I would very much like to give Porto a go, so any suggestions welcome.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 3: Sintra

I know that going anywhere in Europe in November comes with a risk of rain, but looking at the weather broadcast the night before we came to Lisbon gave us a false sense of optimism. But still, we didn’t quite expect the weather we got today.

Anyway let’s backtrack to the beginning.

I have a lot of respect for the public transport. We did not have to wait long for anything today. The longest was a 5 minute wait and the train was already sat there waiting.

Sintra is about a 40 minute train journey from where we were staying in Rossio (and the journey was free thanks to the Lisboa cards that we bought). When in Sintra we bought the 5€ tourist bus round ticket as recommended… and as I would also recommend.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 63/100Sight: Sintra
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #142

The whole day was spent seeing the sights of Sintra so it is a bit difficult to know when to say this was ticked off.

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We started out in the historical town centre of Sintra with a visit to the National Palace. The most distinctive things about this palace are the two conical chimneys. They look so out of place, and yet they really make the palace special.

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Speaking of special, this royal palace was amazing on the inside. So many rooms that are impeccably decorated in many different ways. Most have rather obvious names, such as the pictured Swan Room, and feature beautifully painted ceilings, ornate tiling or both. It was a real eye opener to see some of these beautiful designs and continue my learning of the Moorish influence of this area of Europe.

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As we are on the topic of Morrish, the second of the three main stops on the tourist bus route. On a clear day the views from the top of the highest tower must be exceptional. On this day, it was breathtaking (and wet) to see the clouds physically roll in over the walls. There was something very Skyrim, Hound of the Baskervilles and Game of Thrones about the sheer amount of cloud that was swamping the castle.

The walk from the bus stop to the castle did not give us any warning about how wet and cloudy it was about to become. In fact, it was clear enough for us to be able to appreciate the sheer scope of the second outer set of walls. It was one when we started going up a tower and commencing a wall walk that it became clear just how wet the rest of the day was going to be.img_4099
Looking back on the day – the ruins of the Moorish Castle really was the highlight of the  day in Sintra. I actually cannot think of the last time I saw such a large set of ruins from the Middle Ages.

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A fairly short walk away from the castle was the final stop of the route – the Pena Palace. Now, I would not be surprised if Disney took a cue from here when designing some of their parks. As a palace it was designed for fun (having converted an old monastery) and the bright colour scheme on the outside really does agree with this.

As with the National Palace, the insides are beautifully decorated. However, the decorations here are a lot less subtle and there are more (smaller) rooms. Some of them have beautiful trompe-lœil painted walls whilst others feature tiles. You can also see many specially designed chandeliers and light fixtures including a rather beautiful glass chandelier meant to resemble a morning glory.

I have no doubt that we would have been able to appreciate the Pena Palace more of it was not for the near constant rain. For example, walking around the walls should give wonderful views rather than the sea of clouds. Still, it didn’t deter us from looking around some of the grounds, but first we had to eat some of the Sintra cheese tarts that we bought in the town centre.

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We made for the so-called Valley of Lakes which is at one of the lowest points of the Pena Park. These specially designed lakes looked extra otherworldly in the mist (Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ came to mind… but only after we skipped down a slope singing a song from The Wizard of Oz).

A number of the lakes feature ornate duckhouses. These might have made me jealous of ducks and their wonderful digs. But that my problem apparently.

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Flashforward a few hours and we are back in Lisbon having dinner. For the first time ever I actually decided to have octopus for dinner. Sure, it looked like it was going to reach up and grab me, but the results were rather delicious with lime juice and fried potatoes. I can only imagine my reaction to this when I was in Portugal 16 years ago. The word ‘mortified’ comes to mind.img_4140
Since it was still early there was a chance to wander around the nearby shopping streets to get some souvenir and gift shopping done. We might have spent a bit too much on this, but with Christmas lights starting to go up in Lisbon how could we not?

One more full day here. I really have fallen for this city. Aside from the many times I have been offered drugs, the people are just so friendly and helpful. Here’s to the final day as I scarf pastries down my trap.

A Canção de Lisboa – Day 2: Alfama and the Oceanarium

Never let it be said that we don’t pack things into a day on holiday. So many things done today that it really feels like a day of two (rather different) halves.

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We started out by heading for one of the three Lonely Planet Travellist places that I am hoping to hit up on this trip. Our walk took us first to Lisbon Cathedral, whose presence was absolutely massive amongst the surrounding smaller houses.

Inside it is a bit barer than some of the other cathedrals I have been to recently, but there are still some really impressive architectural aspects. To get into the main cathedral is free, but if you want to venture around the cloisters and treasury there is a 4€ fee.

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Well worth it just to know that the money is going towards the upkeep of the cathedral and the archaeological excavation currently happening on the centre of the cloisters. Already they have been able to find old Roman and Islamic remains. Who knows what else they’ll find.

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The treasury is worth it just to be able to get the view from above the cathedral. Never have I ever been so close to a stained glass window that I could make out such a wealth of detail. It made me wish I knew more about the saints and their symbols to better identify them. Hey ho.img_3989
We went across the road to the Church of St Anthony. I think this is the first time that I have been to a church build on the birthplace of a Saint. As you can probably guess, that meant this church had its fair share of pilgrims making their way to the crypt to say their prayers before buying things from the gift shop.

As for us we were able to enjoy the opulent decorations on display in the main church. Gold, gold, gold as far as the eye could see. Also the desiccated corpse of a young Saint Justina. The second time, after Catania, where I have seen a dead body on display in a church.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 62/100img_3994Sight: Lisbon’s Alfama
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Position: #336

So here we are in the first of the Lonely Planet Travelist areas in Lisbon. Alfalfa is an area of Lisbon characterized by winding streets, colourful buildings, lots of little shops and quite a few churches.

It’s hard to just to talk about an area like its a landmark, but it was just such a pleasure to walk through its streets and take in the surrounding as we went higher and higher.

At the top of the hill, and I think technically out of the Alfama, is the Castelo de São Jorge. At the top of one of the towers is, as we overheard from a guided tour, the highest point in Lisbon.

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This is another one of the places where you could just spend a wealth of time taking in the views. We did take our sweet time in the castle grounds just looking at as many different views of Lisbon as we could find.

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The castle itself was large and impressive. Just reading up on the age of some parts of this castle (we’re talking 12th century here, with the hill having been occupied since 4th century BC) just makes you feel humble. That is until you find yourself hugging walls as you clamber down steep stairs whilst singing the New Girl theme song.

This was the end of the first half of the day. The middle was characterised by getting annoyed at the Lisbon bus system after buses just didn’t arrive when they were meant to (as in we waited for 40 minutes and the bus that was meant to run ‘every 15 minutes’ just didn’t materialise… we later found out that the road was closed for works some 100 metres away) so let’s skip on through.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Dieimg_4015Food item: Sweet Marjoram

Lunch was at about 2pm in the cafe attached to the Lisbon Oceanarium. It was here that I somehow managed to tick off a food item since they used sweet marjoram in one of their sandwiches. It just goes to prove that you never really know when you are going to come across one of these. Maybe Lisbon is just a treasure trove of these.

A quick lunch later and we were in the Oceanarium, which is apparently the largest indoors aquarium in Europe. It was also magnificent.

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The whole thing is centred around one large ocean tank that contains my new best friend: a sunfish that I have called Derp. There are other things in there like devil rays, groupers, sharks and guitarfish; but Derp is truly the magnetic presence of the tank. Okay maybe not, just watching the fish was enough, but actually seeing a sunfish in the flesh was something truly special.

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There are a lot of other exhibits in the aquarium including penguins, puffins, otters, jellyfish and a whole wealth of other creatures. Seriously, this is an impressive aquarium to visit and (thanks to it being a Thursday in the off season) it was actually rather quiet. It meant that we could just take our time and take pictures of our favourite fish.

We wandered through the Parque de Nações before taking the metro back home. This park, which was the location of the 1998 World Expo feels so wonderfully modern. So many interesting looking buildings and sites that kinda reminded me of Odaiba.

Dinner was further proof of the wealth of 1001 foods available in Lisbon. It was not a place that I would have normally gone in, but TripAdvisor and a pre-visit glance at the menu persuaded me that it would be worth the visit.

img_4047Food item: Suckling Pig

To help me with the ticking off (as well as ensuring he got a good meal) hub went for the sucking pig. It was a mountain of pork like I had not expected for 11€. In the UK you would probably have to pay 2-3 times that.

Now, on one level I disagree with the concept of sucking pig wholeheartedly, but my god was this good. So very tender they it just collapsed off of the bone. Also, as pork goes, it was a sweet meat. This is a good thing.

img_4048Food item: Black Scabbard Fish

So, the waiter tried to warn me off this. Like he actually told me what this fish looked like and that it basically wasn’t a normal fish. I got a “don’t complain if you don’t like it”

I did not complain. I adored this. It was some of the best fish I have ever had and I can’t think of what I’d compare it too. Perhaps eel would be closest, just not as oily. It was very close textured and slightly salty.

I would have this again. And might do if we find it in another place. Or just visit this place again. Usually a no no for me on holiday, but there are a lot of other things I want from this menu.

img_4049Food item: Guarana
Progress: 585/751

This was not the end of the food items today. Oh no. We actually managed to pick up some Brazilian guarana soda on the way home! I hadn’t really thought about it , but it makes sense that you could get some Brazilian things here. It tastes like a refreshing tropical berry that’s like a nicer version of Red Bull. That’s about it, I have no other touchstones for this..

So that’s today. This may be one of the longest blog posts I have written for a good while. Time for bed so I can be up early tomorrow for our trip to Sintra!

Going Dutch – Amsterdam

I am conflicted about the city of Amsterdam. There are times when I look at it and think that there are some very pretty parts and there are other times where it makes me feel so annoyed and anxious that I end up turning to my husband and say “this is a garbage city”.

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The last time I was here I was disappointed since this is one of “those” cities that people visit for a long weekend and it left I me a bit cold (literally, it was soon after New Years and I was bloody freezing).

This time… well it felt like the city remembered me and was just being mean. Lots of paths blocked because of tram works and garbage trucks, plenty of irate truckers and the occasional waft of cannabis.

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Maybe I was especially marry because I was hungry and hadn’t had breakfast yet. So we went to the Dutch version of Gregg’s (maybe just a bit more upmarket as my husband asserted when I voiced this in public) where I was reminded once again how the Dutch do sandwiches better.

The first port of call was the Anne Frank Huis. Or it would have been if we had looked up beforehand to see that you had to reserve a place online if you wanted to get in before 3:30.

Right so we walked off vowing to be back and made the 30 minute trek to the Museumplein so we could visit the Van Gogh Museum… where we were presented with a similar problem. Luckily, we could actually book ticket for this and just present it on our phones (top tip there).

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Whilst we waited for our slot in the Van Gogh Museum at 1 o’clock we decided to have a bit of a de-stress with some waffles. I cannot tell you how needed these waffles were and they did they job expertly.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 60/100Sight: Van Gogh Museum
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Position: #190

Finally we were able to get in somewhere! It’s interesting that this museum was included as part of the Lonely Planet travel list since it’s one of only three museums on the list devoted to a single artist (the other being the Teatre-Museu Dalí and Picasso Museum in Spain).

They were pretty vigilant here about no pictures being taken. I can understand why considering how people tend to take the piss when it comes to flash photography even if it has been expressly forbidden.

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The great thing about having so many works of one artist in one place is that it really gives you a greater understanding. For example, I had no idea that Van Gogh enjoyed Japanese art and did some paintings in a Japanese style. I was also unaware that he was only active for 10 years.

So yes, I went into the museum thinking that he was a bit overrated and I came out thinking that yes, someone as famous as him will always be overrated, but he was such a talent. I also understood, for the first time, why people regard his painting of Sunflowers so highly – it truly did light up the room.

After spending a good while at the Van Gogh museum we left to make our way back to the Anne Frank Huis…

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…but not before we had had a snack from Febo and their, almost magical, hot snack vending machines. How something like this hasn’t taken off in the UK I will never understand. If we had a chain of stores in London where I could get a hot snack from an automatiek machine for £1.50-£2 I would be there with bells on.

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On our way to the Anne Frank Huis I was finally able to let go of some of that anxiety/annoyance that had taken over me earlier in the morning. There are parts of Amsterdam that are legitimately beautiful. It just happens that these are not on the main routes (where the trams were being dug up and where garbage were making their rounds in the morning).

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 61/100Sight: Anne Frank Huis
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Position: #59

We needed that hot snack because a two hour queue at the Anne Frank Huis awaited us. Like with the Van Gogh museum they were very hot about no pictures being taken of the inside. What I can say, is that I am so glad that I chose to read the diary of Anne Frank before visiting this museum – it really gave me a sense of context as we walked through the annex.

When I was reading the book it made it easier to think of her and her family as fictional characters, but there was none of that here. The reality of the living conditions and what happened to them after they were discovered was just laid bare. Yes, in some ways this was rather harrowing, but it is hard not to leave there feeling humbled.

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Since it was 6:30 as we exited the Anne Frank house we also left hungry, so we made for an Indonesian restaurant called Aneka Rasa that we enjoyed the last time we were in Amsterdam nearly 3 years ago. Being November, the Christmas lights were up all over the city and, like a sucker, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of magic from them.

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Of course a visit to an Indonesian restaurant meant another rijsttafel. This one was better than the one we’d had earlier in the week – less options for the main, but it came with cake and ice cream at the end. I know that hub was very happy with the cake on offer.

So yes. Amsterdam, we may not have gotten off to the best start. Maybe we just need to be a bit nicer to each other, like we were towards the end of the day if we are going to make this thing work. Although you may need to talk to some of your cyclists. Too many of them are arseholes. Until next time, we’ll always have Jacques Brel.

Going Dutch – Kinderdijk

The reason that we picked Rotterdam as the base of operations for this part of our trip was its proximity to one of the Lonely Planet places of interest. Possibly the most Dutch thing I could ever do whilst in the Netherlands: visit the windmill complex at Kinderdijk.

Since we are here in November we are WAY off season. This means that there are fewer boat trips to the Kinderdijk from Rotterdam. Especially in the morning. So we grabbed a sandwich (I have been asked by the hub to point out that the Dutch are very good at making sandwiches) and made our way to the Kinderdijk by metro and the hourly bus.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 59/100Sight: Kinderdijk Windmills
Location: Kinderdijk, The Netherlands
Position: #445

I don’t know how my husband expected me to react to first seeing all the windmills at the Kinderdijk. I don’t think it was the somewhat excited child that I ended up being. I think I explained it by saying that this was the closest I would ever be to being in a Dutch fairytale. Weird eh?

When I say windmill complex, I mean there were an awful lot of windmills everywhere you look. Almost like that episode of Pushing Daisies where they visit the windmill park – just nowhere near as colourful. Still, we were able to actually go inside these ones – so I now have an even greater appreciation for my flat.

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The thing is, the weather today was the sort of weather you would expect in the Netherlands on a day in November. Patchy rain, a bit overcast and a chill in the air. Somehow, this felt like the perfect way to experience the waterways of the Kinderdijk. Also, it made for perfect weather for the all the ducks, geese and herons.

Since we were not here in the main tourist season the windmills were pretty much all at a standstill except for one (the oldest one where you could watch the mechanisms via a live camera feed) that was free to move if the wind blew. Luckily for us, the wind did a few times and we were able to see it spin. It was quieter than I expected. Not at all like the Windy Miller’s windmill in Camberwick Green.

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We walked for a long time along the canals and got to some windmills where people lived (one person even had some sheep) before making our way back to Rotterdam via a ferry and a water taxi. I know that hub really wanted to do this boat trip and I was more than happy to oblige… that is until the gentle rocking of the boat caused me to fall asleep. Fun while it lasted!

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Of course, seeing how we were gallivanting around windmills for most of the early afternoon, we forgot lunch again. A kroket and some chips with peanut sauce (seriously. people of the UK, we need to get peanut sauce right and I don’t mean that bland satay crap. We need proper peanut/satay sauce) soon put an end to those hunger pains.

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The rest of the day? A bit of a mix. We rode the tram to see the Euromast (an observation tower), but didn’t go up as 10€ each felt a bit steep. Then there was some shopping for Christmas presents, souvenirs and another visit to the Markthal where I found some cheese for the food list (to be consumed on a future date).

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Fast forward to dinner and we gravitated towards one of the highest rated restaurants in Rotterdam (at least according to TripAdvisor). It was a Vietnamese restaurant called Little V and, honestly, it was one of the best meals I have had in the last few years. Walking through the restaurant just left me feeling transported to a place that was not a cool evening in Rotterdam.

So tomorrow then. We’re going to be paying a visit to Amsterdam to take in some of the famous sites that we didn’t have time for the last time we were there. Should be fun!

The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Šiauliai

According to the Lonely Planet list there are two main sights to see in Lithuania. This is in comparison to neighbouring countries Latvia and Belarus, which have nothing in the book. Honestly, it is thanks to this book that I chose to go to Lithuania instead of fellow Baltic nation Estonia.

Today I chose to visit the first of these, which is 10km of the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai. Being based in Vilnius this means a literal cross country trip of over 200km. Whilst I know the bus would have been cheaper, there is something to be said for a country where return tickets for a 2½ hour trip are 18€. Putting that in perspective, in order to make a similar length trip from London to Cardiff for work can cost well over £150 depending on the time of day. Have I said how much I am loving the prices in this country?

I am aware that being based in Vilnius Old Town can give you a blinkered idea of what the average Lithuanian lives in. If every city was like Vilnius Old Town we would be living in a Disney movie sans dead parents (unless you’re Princess Aurora or Rapunzel, because why not).IMG_1483
Over the course of the train trip I was amazed at just how green Lithuania is. I mean sure there is the occasional lumber yard or factory as you get closer to the cities, but most of the trip is made up of farmland, forests or meadows. In many ways it makes this train trip very much like travelling through England. I guess I was expecting some example of harsh Soviet architecture as that is what movies from the 1980s thought us.

Now, if you are going to Šiauliai in order to visit the Hill of Crosses and you do NOT go with a guided group you pretty much have to fend for yourself. There are no real indications at the train station about where you need to go and, since the buses are hourly, you probably want to find the bus station sharpish.

We ended up stalking a few tourists as they walked on a dirt track on the side of a major road in order to make our way to the bus station. We probably could have used GPS to find our way… but that kept telling us to cross at weird junction points.

Actually, short note about Lithuanians that I have noticed: they are good and courteous drivers. Most of the crossings I have observed in Vilnius and Šiauliai are without lights and at no point have we had any people drive through it whilst we are standing there. In fact, some of the time they have seen us starting to meander in that direction and they start slowing down just in case. Italian and Egyptian drivers – please can you take note of this.

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78 cents later and we were at the bus stop for the Hill of Crosses. It’s a 2km walk from the bus stop and you have to back on yourself to find the turning point. It’s a lovely walk that just goes to show how much in the middle of nowhere this place actually is. The first sign that you are almost there is that rather than just a panorama of green there is a mass of brown and orange that is sparkling and shimmering in the distance.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 55/100
Sight: Hill of Crosses
Location: Jurgaičiai, Lithuania
Position: #387

The Hill of Crosses is one of those places that just feels distinctly Lithuanian. It’s the ultimate symbol of their humanity and their resilience despite constantly being destroyed or taken over. The hill (according to a nearby plaque) currently has over 200,000 crosses planted in it. Many of them are the small wooden ones that you can buy on your way in, but so many of them are completely unique.

Thanks to the Soviet Union’s move to destroy this most of the older crosses are no longer present. In fact, with the exception of one that could possibly have been from 1945 the vast majority are from the last 20 years. The newest I saw was only 10 days old – I may have shed a tear over that as the cross’s design looked like it could have been for a young child.

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Now I am not religious, but I could not help but feel moved by this site. To find the adjectives for it is difficult. I keep wanting to use phrases such as “bonkers, but beautiful” which don’t probably illustrate the sheer amount of respect I had for this place. It’s like a symbol for all the good there is in humanity.

Whilst this is a predominantly catholic site there were crosses from Protestants and Russian Orthodox faiths as well one or two Stars of David from Jewish citizens of Lithuania. People have travelled from all over Europe to leave crosses here, as have Christians from Korea, Canada, China and the USA.

With all this traveling and awe inspiration we both completely forgot about lunch. It also helps that we’re both in the throes of trying to lose weight and so were able to last most of the day on breakfast alone. By 4 I was a bit peckish so we went into the Rimi hypermarket attached to the bus terminal.

I swear that I have yet to visit a super/hypermarket in another country and think it is worse than the UK. In the deli section of a UK supermarket you probably get three types of ham and you have examples of this from more than one company. In Rimi they actually give space to a counter filled with cooked Silesian sausages, pork knuckle and a whole manner of deliciousness. The bread looks and smells amazing, also the sheer variety available puts British supermarkets to shame.

I know it is weird, but as a foodie I just have to see  the places abroad where people buy their food. It works against me as the sights and smells just depress me further when I have to turn off holiday mode and return to the UK. If a place like Rimi opened up in my home town there would be no question of where I did my grocery shopping, so long Tesco, bye bye Morrison’s, up yours Asda. Alas and alack.

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By the time we were back in Vilnius it was just after 8 and dinner was very much required. Since we were tired and feeling a bit lazy we went around the corner to the restaurant we visited on the first night. Instead of yet another Zeppelin I ordered what I thought would be pancakes wrapped around meat, but they turned out to be potato pancakes, which means this is the third night ins row with essentially the same meal.

We also ordered something that we thought would be breaded and deep fried spicey cheese… but it turned out to be this large lump of curd cheese with a thick layer of pepper on it. I felt so bad and embarrassed at neither of us liking it that I may have cut off half a chunk, wrapped it in tissue and stuffed it in my pocket. Now I have moist cheese pockets and my jacket has to dry out. If you saw the waiter you’d know why I did it. He’s basically the sweet shopkeeper from Frozen brought to life!

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At least mum’s meal of grandmother style mushroom soup in a bread bowl came out looking good.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books
IMG_3377Food item: Honey Cake

Speaking of good. We shared an order of honey cake for dessert (lovely Frozen waiter guy had to halved and served on two plates for us) and I was surprised at how nice it was. Honestly I was something a bit more saturated with honey or cloyingly sweet like baklava, but this was the right amount of density. They also chose to pair it with a strawberry coulis and that is a choice I am very happy with.

Progress: 901/933

Off to Trakai tomorrow. Halfway through this trip to Lithuania already. How has this happened!?

Lost in Japan: Day 14 – Mt Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

Another trip out from Tokyo today. The aim: to get a good view of Mount Fuji. I had already managed to get an amazing view of Mount Fuji on the plane between Tokyo and Hiroshima.

We had hoped that by booking seats especially on the left hand side of the Kyoto-Tokyo trip we would get a more ground level view. However a large amount of cloud and fog prevented this from happening.

So, even more pressure on this trip to get a good view

First things first though, breakfast. Our last ekiben of the honeymoon! It was probably my favourite too, which is lucky since I only picked this box because it looked pretty. Maybe I should learn to make my own bento boxes for work… I’d just need to invest in a rice cooker.

Our destination for views of Mount Fuji was Kawaguchiko, one of the five lakes of Mount Fuji.

It was a 2 hour trip out from Shinjuku. The second leg of which we got onto an adorable train with lots of Mount Fuji cartoons on the side.

The limited express trip to Kawaguchiko was gorgeous. We were always surrounded by tree-covered mountains, all of which were in the process of changing to their autumn colours.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 54/100

Sight: Mount Fuji
Location: Japan
Position: #459

It wasn’t too long until we started getting flashes of Mount Fuji. Due to the distance to the mountain (and because it is a trickster) it did not always stay in view for too long. Dashing behind mountains or suddenly appearing on the other side of the train.

By the time we got to two stops enforce ours, we were able to take or first decent photo without it disappearing.

From Kawaguchiko station, it was very easy to point out.

After buying some acerola soda from a very cheap local supermarket playing a muzak version of Enya’s Orinoco Flow (muzak always seems to be playing in convenience stores, I have probably heard the same muzak rendition of a-ha’s Take On Me 3-4 times now) we headed for the lake itself.

Due to high winds the local cable car was out of commission, which is a real shame as it would have afforded us some great views. Still we began to walk around the lake, taking in the technicolor mountains.

Mount Fuji fully emerged from behind the nearest mountain about 5-10 minutes into our walk. Honestly, we just couldn’t stop taking pictures. Just having, right there in front of us, something so iconic… well it was just extraordinary. We must have spent the next hour and a bit taking picture after picture after picture.

I also took a picture of a Mount Fuji manhole cover. Why not right?

Later into our walk we arrived in a park where it was suggested that an ideal visit is August because of all the lavender being in bloom. Me, I just go nuts when I see all the ginkgo trees in the park turning gold. Hubby thought I was about to burst into song, that’s apparently how stupid I was being about these beautiful golden trees.

We meandered our way back to the station, via a souvenir shop so hubby could pick up some treats for his office and so I could get another keychain.

Since we missed the connection on the way back (and we skipped lunch again) we got some ramen at Otsuki station. Arrived in less than 5 minutes and it tasted better than most of the ramen you get in the UK. I despair for how I am going to feel about ‘Japanese food’ back in London.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Food items: Geoduck and Salmon sashimi

On the way to getting the delicious chicken a few days ago we passed a sushi place that did geoduck. Since I have been having some trouble with food items in the least few days we decided to go there.

It was a lovely place and they sat us right at the counter, mainly because the other seats would require us to take our boots off, but it worked out better this way. When we got the menu, however, there was no geoduck. So hubby, who is as much into this food list as I am, asked about the geoduck.

Keep in mind now, we are in Japan asking for geoduck and pronouncing it in the correct way (ie gooey duck). We must have had 3 waitresses and 2 sushi chefs over at us with them all staring at us and trying to work out what us stupid westerners were on about. One of them kept saying how this is a sushi place, so it was all fish and no duck with me assuring her that it was a shellfish.

So I wrote it down and hubby took one of the waitresses down to show her the menu (since it also had the kanji on it) with the hope that this would clear things up. Whilst he was away, one of the chefs looked it up on the web, bent down behind the counter and produced the clam end of a geoduck going with a big smile on his face saying “ah you mean this!”

I bet that after we left we are going to turn into a story about weird westerners who wanted to eat a phallic looking clam. What was it like? Nice enough. I mean I preferred it to the abalone, but it wasn’t really all that. Of course after all the fuss we made I couldn’t be honest. I played up about how good the geoduck was, and the head chef eventually stopped watching us eat (I think he was mildly curious about if he would have to swoop in and give us a fork).

Progress: 771/933

Tomorrow is the last day here in Japan. After so long planning it I can not believe that it is almost already over.

Lost In Japan: Day 11 – Tsukiji to Akihabara via Odaiba

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

Our first full day exploring Japan and the first half hour is spent getting lost in Shinjuku station. For the busiest station in the world (3 million+ use it every day) it is a labyrinth. The trouble being that you have multiple companies operating multiple lines and not all of Shinjuku station actually links up underground. If, like us, you are not entirely sure which entrance to use for a particular line it can be a nightmare.

We eventually find the right part of the station and make it to our first destination just before 10.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 52/100Sight: Tsukiji Market
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Position: #141

It’s a Saturday at the biggest wholesale market in the world. Even though all the bluefin tuna auctions have finished hours ago and a number of fish have already been shipped out, it is still a hub of activity.

When you arrive to Tsukiji Market the first section you come across will either be the fruit and vegetable markets or the many restaurants (mostly sushi) that surround the main market. In order to see any fish you need to follow your nose and delve deeper so you get closer to the port itself.

It means having to duck and weave around pick up trucks and motorised trolleys, but it’s worth it when you make it inside.

Never have I ever seen so many varieties of fish and shellfish in one place before. I may have seen whale meat, but I am not so sure.

Being a follower of the 1001 Foods book, I was spotting a lot of list food including red snapper, razor clams and geoducks (pictured). So many cases of the “if only” and “what ifs” were going through my mind.

After being nearly run over for the seventh time we made an exit from the market, passing a lot of buckets containing fish remnants. This is truly not a place to go if you are squeamish about dead fish.

Breakfast was, of course, sushi! Places right next to the market fill up obscenely fast, but don’t worry there will be another bunch around the next corner. Most of these are small, so you are able to sit at the counter and watch the chef expertly slice and dice you fish.

The sushi we had will probably forever remain the freshest that I have ever had. The maki rolls (not pictured) and the tuna were exceptional.

The next place we went to, Odaiba, was a choice of the husband. I think the main reason he wanted to go was so he could ride the futuristic looking Yurikamome Line there and back.

Compared to the crowds and the closely packed tall buildings of Shunjuku, Odaiba present a very very different side of Toyko. Everything is a lot more spread out and, in the case of the Dream Bridge leading to Ariake, quiet.

Of course there are a lot of big malls on this island. Having been in Japan for nearly two weeks I continue to be amazed by the number of huge department stores and malls they have. During our time in Odaiba we went to two of them. The second one, Palette Town, was not particularly interesting other than the large Ferris wheel they had.

More interesting was Decks. In here there are major attractions such as Madame Tussaud’s, a Lego Discovery Centre and a Sega Joypolis (which we did not go to since we will be going to a different one later). However I was more interested in…

The Takoyaki (fried octopus ball) Museum! Which isn’t an actual museum, more a place to take cute pictures, buy Takoyaki based souvenirs and to eat a variety of Takoyaki.

List item: Play on a pinball machine
Status: Completed

One of the cooler features of Decks is how a lot of it is set up like the souvenir stalls you would find by the sea. They also had areas filled with games such as whack-a-mole and a number of old pinball machines. How could we not give the Super Mario Pinball machine a whirl? Hubby even turned out to be pretty good at it!

By the time we left Odaiba and got to Akihibara it was getting close to 3:30 and, once again, we forgot to have lunch. So we got ourselves a snack:

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksFood item: Acai

Yes, I know. Burger King again. But these acai drinks aren’t exactly something you would find in the UK! Also, it made me notice that a lot of Japanese people seem to eat alone in these kind of establishments, which is rather different to the UK.

Now, if there is one word to describe Akihibara that word would be “chaos”. It is, frankly, a nuts place filled with shops selling any sort of technology you can think of.

 One of the places we went to, Yodobashi, had seven huge floors filled to the brim with pieces of tech whether it be rice cookers, player pianos, earphones or self-righting scooters. Then there was the glorious toy department!

It was the beginning of us walking around a lot of stores looking at games from any console you could think of, whilst trying to avoid the more adult games on offer (I have seen too many cartoon vulvas for one day/the rest of my life).

The last store we hit up was a quite well-known one called Super Potato. Since hubby bought me a Sega Mega Drive for my birthday (which was so sweet of him since he had to reveal to me via photos on his phone) I was on the look out for a Japanese game to go play on it.

However, we were not the only people on the look out there. There was a camera crew for a local Tokyo TV station who asked if they could interview us on camera about why we came to Akihibara. We never did see the broadcast, so I wonder if they used it at all. Still, if they did, how cool is it to say I might have been on Japanese TV.

By the time we were done in Akihibara (side note: there were so many girls in costume advertising maid cafes… all the affected higher voices got a bit disturbing) it was getting really late. So it was a trip to dump stuff at the hotel and go for dinner.


Food item: Akita Hinai-jidori Chicken

After the weirdness at the restaurant yesterday I was on a bunch of websites looking for another, hopefully more friendly, place that did this chicken. Would you know it, there was one right here in Shinjuku.

The restaurant was pretty well hidden. It didn’t help that I knew it by the romaji name instead of the characters. We were the only ones in there and the staff looked very relieved to have customers between us we ordered the 6 piece set with two extra skewers with vegetables since hubby doesn’t really like chicken.

Would you know, that this was probably the best chicken I have ever had. There was no seasoning on it apart from a bit of salt. It was just so juicy and full of flavour. Hell, even hubby really liked it! Now, one of the ways you can have this chicken is as sashimi (ie raw), but the English menu didn’t offer this.

I think that having the set of skewers actually worked out better though as I was able to sample 5 different parts. As well as the more usual breast and thigh meat here was also skin, liver and (I think) tail. The breast and tail having the best meat of the 5. How can I go back to normal chicken now!

Progress: 768/933

So, to round up the day, it was back to the hotel with today’s weird snack food. Avocado cheese crackers… I mean why not I suppose?

Lost In Japan: Day 10 – Nikko

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

This was the day that our trusty JR Rail Pass ran out. It’s been a good friend over the last week and has given an extraordinary peace of mind when it comes to Japanese train travel. Definitely a must when we return.

So, since today is our last day we used it to venture 2 hours north of Tokyo into Nikko. It meant a Shinkansen both ways and meant that we have added two more Shinkansen route names to our talley (Nasuno on the way in and Yamabiko on the way back).

We were not about to make the same “forgetting to eat” mistake that we made on our Himeji day. So whilst hubby grabbed something that looked like a hockey puck made of rice I grabbed… yakisoba in a hog dog bun. Before you judge me, I only went for this because I saw people go nuts for it in an episode of the World God Only Knows anime.

We arrived to Nikko at around 11:30 and despite it being so close to midday the surrounding mountains were nearly all shrouded in fog.

So there I am in a t-shirt surrounded by people in jackets and gloves. In the hours before we leave Nikko it starts to get so cold that you can see your breath. My cheeks started to feel rather numb by the end of the day. In fact, they weren’t exactly full of feeling by the time we reached the Shinkyo Bridge around midday. Good thing I’m a Brit is all I can say.

The World Heritage area of Nikko is only a 30-ish minute walk from the JR station. Here there are four main temples/shrines to visit (we missed out on the Futurasan Shrine) with quite a bit of renovation activity taking place.

The first temple you come to is the Rinnoji Temple. It has been undergoing some form of restorative work since 2007 and it is not due to finish until late 2019.

Because of this it was not allowed for any pictures to be taken within the area. It did, however, afford us the opportunity to take a far closer look at some of the statues which would otherwise be behind temple regalia.

The two main statues that stood out included a large golden wood statue of a many armed Buddha figure and a series of smaller statues that represented the different signs of the Chinese zodiac. Of the series the one representing the Rooster was particularly impressive since it was the only black one and had a backdrop of rising flames.

Uniquely, this ‘work in progress’ allowed us to see what they were doing to restore the temple. Think of it as a giant 3D jigsaw where they had perfectly catalogued and piled the pieces for later construction. It was fascinating.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 51/100Sight: Tōshō-gū Shrine
Location: Nikko, Japan
Position: #374

And now the reason we came to Nikko – the Toshu-gu Shrine, the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu. I did little to no research about it other than where to find it, and was probably all the better for doing so.

It was all go at the shrine. School parties, a bonsai exhibition and, yes, even a wedding was happening. Added to that, there was some extensive restoration being done to one of the big gates. So, I am not entirely sure that we saw Toshu-Gu at its very best.

Still, there was plenty to admire including extensive and elaborate carvings, a huge pagoda whose top is equal in height to Tokyo SkyTree (due to the mountains elevation) and many other beautiful buildings that required the removal of shoes. But hey, I had on sensible socks today!

It also had a massive great staircase leading to the inner shrine where he is actually buried. I swear, I have seen so many more stairs on this holiday than I normally do in 6 months.

Our final religious visit of the day was the Taiyuin Temple. Interestingly its the same as the Toshu-gu Shrine, just on smaller scale. This made the appearance of near identical drum and bell towers make a lot of sense.

My favourite part of this temple had to be the four guardian statues based on Indian deities. The white one looked particularly ferocious.

Now, but the time we were done with all the temples it was approaching two. It meant that it was a bit late for us to be going to the nearby lake and sample some of the autumn leaves. So we pondered a plan over some food in a local restaurant/gift shop. After wrestling with the Nikko free wi-fi and giggling over the dysfunctional waiting staff (it appeared to be a large family) we decided to walk around a bit.

Luckily enough, there was a well signposted circular walking route in Nikko so we just followed that for the 4km it had left. In doing so we got to some really breathtaking views of the mountains, forest and river.It also lead us through the Kanmangafuchi Abyss (abyss being a synonym for gorge) where we passed a whole lot of statues wearing red hats and bibs. I later found out that some of these hats and bibs are left by parents who have lost their children and want to make sure they are safe in the next world. Seeing new every red hat in this long line really tugged at my heart.

So, a Shinkansen ride later we were back in Tokyo. It was my hope that this would be the day that I get to tick off the Akita Hinai Jidori Chicken item off of my food list. There was a place that offered this on the second floor of Tokyo Station. However, the moment we walked in everyone looked at us very confused and a cook came from behind the counter, crossed his arms saying “No” whilst quickly ushering us out. All I wanted was a piece of chicken.

Feeling hungry and dejected we went down the floors looking for food. That’s when I found…

Character Alley! I never realised this existed, but on B1F of Tokyo Station there are 10-15 stores each dedicated to either a studio (e.g. Ghibli, Jump) or to a particular franchise (e.g. Pokemon, Nijntje, Rilakkuma). When I saw the Ghibli store there was no longer any dejection, only the yearning for ALL THE THINGS!

So whilst hubby busied himself buying a location-specific Pikachu plush wearing a train driver uniform, I wandering around the Ghibli store mesmerised by all the merchandise. Should I get the gorgeous statue of the Baron from a Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns? The My Neighbour Totoro toilet seat cover? A Porco Rosso mug? Choices!

After making a purchase we became more in need of food. Hubby had been groaking at my Katsu Curry so I agreed to have it again when we came across San Marco. Where the chicken place kinda shattered my faith in Tokyo Station restaurants this rebuilt it completely. Who cares if I had two Katsu curries in one day! This was delicious and it looked so gorgeous with the fried vegetables acting like rice jewels!

Full and happy it was time to head back to base camp where it is now time for me to snuggle up with my new Totoro friend and rest up for tomorrow’s next adventure.