Zakynthos, Greece

One of our favourite trips of all time was about two years ago when we spend a long weekend in  Santorini, Greece.   When we sat down  this spring to decide where we should visit for a long relaxing weekend, we both quickly agreed on going back to a Greek island.  We settled on Zakynthos as it was super easy to reach and offered some great resorts.

This will quite possibly be my shortest blog post, as we pretty much spent 90% of the time lying by our resort’s infinity pool overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea.  The remainder of our time we spent on our motorcycle winding through the olive tree farms to see the dramatic coastline or out to eat the most incredible Greek food.

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How we spent our whole first day 🙂

For our first night on the island, Dan found the most amazing Greek restaurant for dinner, Bassia.  We actually ended up loving it so much, we went a total of 3 times throughout our week there!

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The next  morning we drove across the island over to Porto Limnionas, a sheltered cove for swimming.  The 1.5 hour drive was so beautiful, passing through olive farms, vineyards and tiny little towns.  When we arrived to our lunch destination, we were greeted with the cutest little restaurant set high above the cove overlooking the most crystal clear turquoise waters!  After a quick bite, we climbed down the steps to the water where we went swimming and explored the caves.  I couldn’t believe how clear the water was – you could see the sandy bottom the whole time and the water was at least 30 feet deep!

That night’s dinner treated us to one of the best views on the island. Lofos Pizzaria is set up in the hills, overlooking the middle valley of the island.  It is quite the trek to get to on a motorcycle…lots of hairpin turns and a steep climb!  But after a somewhat eventful trip there, we made it in one piece and enjoyed some Greek pizza and a perfect sunset!

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The next day, we did nothing but move from the pool to the beach 🙂 It was perfection!

IMG_3918In the evening, we rode over to another incredible Greek restaurant.  The entire “dining room” is set outside, underneath a canopy of greenery and fairy lights.  It’s magical!

For our last excursion, we drove across the island and to the north to see the Island’s most famous sight – Shipwreck Beach!

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From there, we explored another beach, Xigia Beach.  This area is incredibly unique, as the water has a layer of collagen on the top!  The natural springs flow sulphur and collagen, making the water feel silky and smooth against your skin (although quite stinky too!).

 

For our last night, we went back to our favourite restaurant where the staff treated us to a “going away” meal which included 5 courses of their best Greek dishes.  It was an unforgettable meal, and we made some great friends that we hope we can go back and visit some day.

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We were really lucky to have a late evening flight back to London and were able to spend the WHOLE day pool and seaside again.  It was the perfect trip.  We were able to actually relax, read (and finish!) books and soak up the Greek sun.  I cannot recommend this place enough, particularly our hotel.  It was a 10/10.

Venice, Italy

Last week I was SUPER lucky to have one of my friends come visit us in London.  Courtney and I went to university together and met each other on the women’s hockey team.  We instantly became friends and she’s been by my side ever since.  She even stood up next to me on our wedding day as one of my bridesmaids.  Just before we moved to London, she started dating her boyfriend, Dan.  As we were leaving, I never had the chance to meet him – so when they arrived in London it was our first chance to meet.  And it was hard to believe by the end of the week we had just met – we loved Dan – I mean it doesn’t hurt that his name is also Dan ;)! The four of us had such a wonderful time together.

They arrived Saturday morning and without skipping a beat, we took off for a quick tour of some of the London sights.  We started with a walk through Hyde Park to see Kensington Palace.  After a quick pub lunch nearby, we made our way up to Notting Hill to stroll through Portobello Market.  It’s so easy to forget about these incredible streets and markets when we’re busy living our fast paced London life, so it’s extra special to go back and visit these places with friends and see the excitement on their faces when seeing it for the first time.

That evening we met up with the Ives and Phelps for a night of darts.  Flight Club is easily one of our favourite group hang out spots.  The atmosphere is so much fun!  After a few hours of hitting the bullseye, we made our way over to a speakeasy for some cocktails and live music.  Again, I just love having our US friends in town to visit.  Dan and I love London so much, and it’s so amazing to show our friends the city we’ve made our home.

 

Sunday was a full day of sightseeing.  We started with brunch at Dishoom before making our way across the city.

 

On Monday,  Dan  and I had to go to work for the week while Courtney and Dan made their way over to Paris then Munich.  Courtney’s brother and family live in the Munich area so they were able to spend some quality family time!

Friday night we all met back up in Venice! We had the cutest Airbnb! It had a fab terrace where we enjoyed many, many pizza’s and vino!  We were so lucky to have stumbled upon an uhh-mazing pizza shop just near our apartment on the first night.  We ended up visiting them every day (I think maybe even twice in one day?).

All day Saturday was spent sight seeing.  We quickly checked off all of the main tourist sites in the area.  These areas were SO busy with people, so we wanted to make sure we saw them and then were able to spend the rest of our time enjoying the quieter spots of Venice.

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Saturday evening was probably the best part of our trip.  Our apartment’s concierge service connected us with a local boat owner/guide (Marco) for a sunset cruise around the islands and canals.   Marco was incredible!  The five of us quickly became friends as we cruised around enjoying local prosecco and snacks.  The gondola’s on the main canals in Venice are SO expensive and touristy.  Again, it was nice being able to enjoy the quieter side of Venice and he even took us out to Burano which is one of the most colourful islands in the area!  The three hours with Marco flew by, and we all struggled to say goodbye and not book him again for the next evening!  I would HIGHLY recommend going with Boat Skipper Marco if you’re planning a visit to Venice in the future!

Sunday was spent meandering around and enjoying all of the hidden gems Venice has to offer.  All of the bridges, canals, boats, cute buildings make it so easy to just walk for hours.  And not to mention all of the homemade pasta shops and gelaterias! I also can’t believe I’ve made it this far without mentioning Bellini’s!  Venice is the home to the Bellini!  Prosecco and fresh peach juice – how can  you go wrong?  We made many pit stops along the way to enjoy fresh Bellini’s and spritz’ throughout the weekend!

 

 

 

We flew back to London early Monday morning for one last day of exploring and spending time together.  After a bike ride through the city, we ended up at Louis Vuitton where Courtney and I decided to celebrate our friendship with matching handbags 🙂  We had so much fun picking them out then flaunting them around the streets.

 

On our last evening together, we went to one of our favourite food markets, Mercato Metropolitano, for dinner before capping our trip off with drinks at the top of the Shard.  We had such a great time with Courtney and Dan!  The hardest thing about living abroad is not being close to friends and family.  And it’s even harder to say goodbye after such a special week together.  But…we’re already trying to plan our next trip together!

 

Birthday Trip to Morocco

I’ve officially joined the dirty thirty club!  And what a welcome I received! I started celebrating on Wednesday with my work colleagues and the party didn’t stop until the following Tuesday when we flew  back to London!  Friday evening I was welcomed with a surprise visit from the Phelps and Ives at our flat with a cake, sparklers and bubbly.  I’m so lucky to have such great (and thoughtful!) friends in London!  I was so surprised!  It as the PERFECT way to kick off my 30th birthday celebration!

 

The party kicked back off around 4am on Saturday morning when we had to meet the Ives on a bus to the airport for a super early morning flight 🙂  We flew into Marrakesh, Morocco for a weekend of birthday shenanigans and exploring.  After quickly checking into our riad* (which was ADORABLE!), we headed off to check out the city of Marrakesh and get lost in the souks! *A riad is a traditional Moroccan house that is situated around a courtyard, that typically contains a pool or fountain.  Many have now been converted into boutique hotels.

We spent the entire day wandering through the market stalls and bartering for Moroccan goods.  I loved all of the foreign sights, sounds and smells that the area had to offer.  It’s so fun for me to experience a culture that is so far from what my day-to-day is.  I love to fully submerse myself into it.

That evening we had a lovely dinner at a restaurant the Riad recommended.  After feasting on various Moroccan tajines (a stew that is cooked for long hours in a clay pot, typically with meat, vegetables and sometimes dried fruits such as dates or apricots). Dan let the staff know it was my birthday…and the party started!  A group of about 10 staff brought out a beautiful dessert, firecracker candles and a beautiful serenade of a Moroccan rendition of Happy Birthday!

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The next morning we were met by our driver, Aziz, who would transport us for the next 3 days through the mountains, countryside and desert.  Our first day on the road was primarily spent winding through the Atlas Mountains.  We made various pit stops along the way to soak in the views.  It was quite surreal seeing snow tipped mountains just above the yellow/orange sand desert.  Our favourite pit stop along the way was a craft market where we spent hours searching for the perfect Moroccan rug to bring back as a souvenir.  I fell in love with the bartering and feel very proud with the deal I managed to negotiate for our stunning area rug!

After a total of 6 hours of driving, we arrived at the Dades Gorges where we stayed the night.  The area is jaw-dropping as there are small villages and winding roads carved in and around a large gorge that is formed from the Dades River.  Our hotel was no exception, as it was literally carved out of the earth with the Dades River flowing in front.  We loved the hotel, especially the staff.  We quickly became friends with the staff and spent the early evening hanging out sharing stories about our lives and learning about their traditional Berber lifestyle.  That evening we had a fantastic meal followed by another birthday party.  The Moroccan’s love a birthday party – and this one again did not disappoint! Our driver, Aziz, (and the rug guys from earlier in the day!) ended up getting me a birthday cake and surprised me!  The rest of the evening was spent enjoying Berber music and dancing with our new friends.

 

Sunday morning we met Aziz early for another long day of driving.  We drove another 6 odd hours with many stops for beautiful photos of the dramatic scenery along the way.  We even managed to find a roadside stand selling traditional Berber clothing where we couldn’t resist the photo op of playing dress up!

After what seemed like forever, we finally made it to what I was looking forward to the whole time…the Merzouga Sahara Dunes.  Some of the largest, most dramatic dunes in the Sahara!  From every direction your eye could see were the most gorgeous orange velvety smooth dunes.  It was almost as if they were large orange sand waves frozen in place.  We hopped on our camels to make a 1.5 hour trek out further into the Sahara where we would camp for the night.  The trek was incredible – slightly uncomfortable, but hard to think about your discomfort when the scenery is once-in-a-lifetime beautiful!

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That evening we had another traditional tajine dinner in the communal berber tent after watching the sunset over the dunes.  We enjoyed some entertainment before hitting our beds early as we had an early start the next day…

…at 4:30 am!!!  We woke and hopped on our camels again for the 1.5 hour trek back.  It’s hard to describe how beautiful the trek in the dark was.  I’ve never seen the sky so on fire with stars.  You could see the creamy milky way weaving through millions and millions of bright stars.  It was unbelievable.  And after about an hour of trekking in the dark, the sun started to peek up from the horizon and we witnessed the most beautiful sunrise as we arrived back to our vehicle.  The rest of the trip was spent in the vehicle making our way back to Marrakesh to make our flight home back to London. It was such a lovely way to celebrate entering into a new decade of life!

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Seoul, South Korea 서울

 

Once again, we’ve been on the move!  This time Dan had to go to Seoul, South Korea for a 2.5 week work project.  The first weekend he was in Seoul landed on the Easter holiday, and I had Friday and Monday off work so decided to join him for a long weekend.  It was quite a long flight (11 hours!), but being able to experience a new country with Dan was 100% worth it for the quick trip!

With the time difference, I landed in Seoul early Friday morning.  Dan had to work the day, so after he greeted me and had a quick lunch with me, I was off on my own to explore.  I spent the afternoon wandering around Myeong-Dong which is a popular shopping area.  The streets were filled with beauty shops, clothing stores and street food vendors.  I couldn’t believe how many beauty shops there were!  Skin care is taken so seriously there, you can’t go more than 5 steps without another shop selling their famous sheet masks.  I had heard a lot about them, and was quite sceptical at first…but after purchasing a handful and testing one at our hotel…I understand the hype!  I’m addicted and loved stocking up on different versions I would find throughout the remainder of my trip.

Dan met up with me for a Korean BBQ dinner.  I forgot how much I love Asian restaurant culture.  Everything is so organised, efficient and just DELICIOUS!  After dinner we went over to Seoul Tower to catch some of the night views over the city.

On Saturday, Dan had to work until mid-afternoon so I set out to do some sight seeing on my own in the morning.  I first visited the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple.  It had the coolest outdoor area surrounding the temple.  Thousands of colourful lanterns we strung in the sky creating the most beautiful rainbow canopy! I loved watching the locals come and go and perform their traditions/rituals.  It is especially cool to see the differences between all of the Asian cultures and religions from all of our travels.

From there I wandered over to Gwanhun-dong to check out some more shopping and culture.  There was an incredible shopping centre (Insadong ssamjigil) which was filled with local artist shops and retailers.  I even stumbled up on a poop themed cafe’ – I swear, some of things you find in Asia…you can’t even imagine!

After meeting up with Dan, we went to explore the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  The palace is the largest and most grand of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Our timing was perfect as when we walked up the changing of the guards ceremony was just starting.  It was really cool to watch.

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I quickly noticed that many of the visitors (and locals) at the palace were dressed in traditional Korean clothing.  It didn’t take me long to decide that this was the perfect opportunity to play dress up and engage in this fantastic tradition and rent a Hanbok for the day! I felt like such a princess.  I LOVED exploring and spending the afternoon in this stunning gown!  I couldn’t stop twirling around and of course I was wearing a huge grin the entire time.  Let’s be real though…the palace was lovely…but this dress…took the crown!

 

That evening after reluctantly returning my Hanbok…we made our way over to Hongdae Street.  This area is known for it’s urban culture, art and street performers.  The entire street is shut down and flooded with food stalls, retail shops, art stands and…screaming KPop fans for the street performers that are set up about every 20 meters.  It was bizarre.  Literally every 20 meters down the street was a mini stage or sectioned off area with a street dancer/singer/artist.  Each one had it’s own HUGE loyal crowd.  It was so much fun walking the street and seeing performer after performer and enjoying some tremendous street food!  We ended the evening with some delicious Korean fried chicken (the real KFC!).

On my last full day in the city, we visited the Changdeokgung Palace, which is another of the Five Grand Palaces within Korea.  We didn’t find this to be too dissimilar from Gyeongbokgung Palace, so our visit was short and sweet!  From there we quickly explored Bukchon Hanok Village then took a long walk along the Cheonggyecheon to get to our lunch spot.  The Cheonggyecheon is a 10k long urban park/stream that cuts through the middle of Seoul.  It has a big beautiful walking path on both sides – hard to believe that it used to be a big concrete expressway!

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Lunch was incredible!  It was another version of Korean BBQ – however this time no one spoke any English so we had no idea what we were really doing or eating!  We love the traditional style restaurants where you sit on the ground and wear an apron and cook your own meal!  This meal was probably my favourite of the trip!

 

From there, we had one last area I had to check out before leaving – Gangnam!

 

That evening we went out for a last bowl of Bibimbap (YUM!) and I stocked up on some last minute sheet masks.

 

The next morning I flew back 11 hours to London and went to work the following day!  It was a whirlwind trip for me, but I’m SO glad I did it.  Dan stayed on for another 2 weeks before coming back for my birthday (and birthday trip!) then ended up going back to finish the project for another 10 days!

 

Lisbon, Portugal

If you follow us regularly, you’ll probably notice both Dan and I have been travelling a lot for work.  Our last weekend trip was stapled onto a work trip Dan had in Oslo, Norway  and this time it was my turn to travel for work and have Dan come visit me on the weekend!  I’m working on some really cool projects across Europe right now, and lucky for me, two of them are in Portugal.  After a few days in Lisbon and Porto for work, Dan joined me Friday evening for a weekend of exploring.

For some reason (which were both still not entirely sure why) we did a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city. We rarely do this, but it ended up working out great as it got us quickly to some of the main sites…although in retrospect, we only used the bus about 2, maybe 3 times 😉

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First stop:  Belém Towera stunning tower structure that from afar looks like it is floating off of the Lisbon shoreline.

After snapping a few photos and walking along the shore, we walked over to Pasteis de Belem, the world famous bakery known for its Pastéis de Nata (custard tarts)!  We were warned that the queue would be quite long, but it would be worth the wait.  Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes before we had the most delicious, warm custard tarts in our possession!  Unlike a lot of places that are very hyped up about being “the best”, this place totally lived up to the hype – they were outstanding!  Totally worth it if you’re in the area!

A quick Uber away (not the bus :)) was the, also very famous, TimeOut market, where we enjoyed some delicious lunch.

We spent the remainder of the day wandering around various neighborhoods, while gawking at all of the gorgeous architecture and TILES. I fell in love with the tiles.  I took close to 100 photos of buildings and tiles.  We even ended up visiting a tile shop to purchase some to bring home with us!

That evening we had a really good Portuguese dinner at a really cool, funky restaurant and topped off the night with some incredible wine at what is now possibly my favourite wine bar ever.  The entire building was covered in beautiful green glass wine bottles and their service and selection was FAB!

On Sunday we did a bit more exploring, but mostly just enjoyed relaxing and walking in the sunshine.  We had the most perfect weather while in Lisbon, about 65-70 degrees and sunny the entire time.  We loved the food, the wine, the culture, and just about everything!

It was a lovely, relaxing weekend. I’m so grateful that I am able to work on a project in this incredible country!

Japan [+Singapore]

Dan had to go back to Tokyo for another long business trip.  Lucky for me, I was able to join him for the last half of the trip!  This was our third time in Tokyo.  I said it the last two times we were there, and I’ll say it again – I love Japan!  I was so happy to be back!

Dan’s time in Japan was primarily spent working.  And after only one week in Tokyo, he had a 2 day work training in Singapore.  He was able to fly to Singapore the weekend before the training began to get some sightseeing in.  Here’s a brief glimpse of his time in Singapore:

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After a long [almost] four weeks apart, I was able to join Dan in Tokyo! I spent the first few days reacquainting myself with the city I love so much [and was quickly reminded of how HOT and HUMID it is there!] Dan made sure to welcome me to the city with a beautiful view of the sunset from Tokyo Tower on my first night in Tokyo.

We had already done a lot of exploring the easy to reach cities outside of Tokyo [Kyoto, Hakone, Yokohama…], and only had a few left on our list to check out.  We decided on Kamakura for our first day trip on Saturday.  It was a really easy one hour direct train ride from Tokyo Central Station.

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We wandered the little shopping streets on our way to the first temple, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  We grabbed a quick lunch then made our way over to the Kotoku-in (Great Buddha of Kamakura).  This thing was MASSIVE!  I knew from photos that it would be large, but I did not expect it to be THIS BIG!  It’s uber impressive, and is quite the sight.  I love that it is also a different kind of sight to see versus another temple.  The last real sight for us was the Hase-dera Temple.  It was beautiful, as it sat up on a cliff with beautiful views of the sea.  It also had an underground tunnel system that we were able to walk through [although, we still can’t figure out what it was used for!  Everything was only in Japanese!].

The final stop of the day was the beach!  As it was nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% humidity…we needed the ocean!  Although it was not a beautiful white beach with turquoise waters, it was perfect for a quick dip in the water before hopping back on the train to Tokyo.

When Sunday rolled around, I was still fighting jetlag and Dan was pretty tired from long hours at work.  We decided to sleep in late and relax before heading out to DisneySea for the afternoon/evening.  DisneySea has an awesome deal where you pay a much lower ticket price to visit the park anytime after 4:00 PM until closing.  I’ve been nudging Dan to take me to DisneySea the last two visits to Tokyo, and he finally gave in and we had the most amazing time.  DisneySea is gorgeous – it is set up like a sea version of Epcot.  We spent six glorious hours riding rides, stuffing our faces with overpriced park food and enjoying the shows.  Some of our favourites were the Toy Story ride and the light show they put on in the water at night.  Let me tell you – DisneySea was well worth the wait.  I loved every minute of it.  It was so much fun!  Lines weren’t very long, the park was SO clean [typical Japan!] and it is the only DisneySea park in the world!  I HIGHLY recommend going – just the water light show at night is worth seeing in itself!

While Dan was working the next week, I explored more of Tokyo.  I strolled around the parts of the city that were my favourites, as well as checking out a few new areas.  I also spent a decent amount of time relaxing in some of my favouite quiet parks found dotted throughout the city.  I love how quiet, clean and green Tokyo parks are.  It seemed I always found myself ending up at a park sometime throughout the day to either to some yoga or just catch up on some reading.

Hard to believe I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it’s definitely time I talk about the food.  It’s no secret, I’m OBSESSED with Japanese food.  Some people complain that after some time in Japan, they get sick of it…but I seriously think I could eat it all the time.  It’s incredible!  When I was on my own, I checked off the places that were my favourites from trips past.  Ramen still sits at the top of my list.  I love the variety that each shop offers [and there are SO many ramen shops, you can never get bored trying!].  It should also come as no surprise, that spicy ramen happens to be my favourite variety!

One of the most memorable dinners from the trip was with Dan’s work team when we went out and celebrated the finish of their project with a Kobe beef dinner.  The restaurant was Teppanyaki style, and it reminded me of Benihana.  Our chef prepared the courses on the stainless cooktop in front of us.  The Kobe beef was unreal.  Super buttery [and garlicky] and melt in your mouth delicious.

The best part about this trip to Japan was having Scott and Christine come visit for our last week!  Scott is just as big of a foodie as me, and has always wanted to visit Tokyo for the food and culture scene.  As they’re about to have their first baby (yay!), they figured this was the perfect time to visit and celebrate with a babymoon!  AND – they just moved to LA, so the flight to Tokyo is just about the same as a flight to London would be!

It was incredible having our brother and sister in Tokyo with us.  I played tour guide for them while Dan was at work during the day.  And we took them to our favourite restaurants in the evenings.

For the weekend, the four of us decided to take a day trip up to a countryside/mountain town called Nikko.  We took the train straight there, which only took about an hour.  It is such a quiet small town – it was a nice escape from the city! After dropping our stuff off at our hotel, we spent the afternoon checking out all of the temples and shrines.  All of them are located in the Nikko National Park, so it makes checking all of them out super easy and convenient as they’re all right next to each other!  The park is home to some really cool and unique things; including:  Japan’s most ornately decorated shrine the Toshogo Shrine and the famous Three Wise Monkey’s (Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil).

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That night, we stayed in a traditional Japanese Ryokan.  It was quite the experience!

The next day, we took a bus over to the lake/mountain area to do some hiking and see some waterfalls.  It was so beautiful and the weather was perfect (ok – it was quite hot, but it was manageable!). After a full day of hiking, we headed back to Tokyo for two final nights together.

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We finished our time together with a trip to Tsukiji Market and two incredible meals and invaluable time together.  We miss Scott and Christine so much, and our time together is never long enough.  It was such a special treat to be able to experience Japan together.  Something we’ll cherish forever and ever….and it’ll be a great story for Baby Glaser!!! Her first trip to Japan 🙂

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24 hours in Madrid, Spain

When we spot a cheap flight, we take it!  Even if it only means we get 24 hours in the destination.  So just a few weeks ago, we spotted a cheap deal to Madrid.  We flew out late Saturday morning and flew back Sunday evening – leaving us with just over 24 hours to explore the city!  Turns out – 24 hours was just the right amount of time to eat and drink our way through the city!

Our journey started, with no surprise, a delay in leaving London.  It wasn’t too bad, but it cut our afternoon time in Madrid a little shorter.  After arriving in Madrid mid-afternoon on Saturday, we quickly dropped our stuff off in the hotel and set off for a late lunch.  We walked over to Plaza Mayor – one of the main squares in the city – to find a bite.  After taking a lap around the square, we found a line of people out a little shop in the corner so we decided to check it out.  Turns out it was “La Campana” a famous little shop for calamari sandwiches!  Dan got the traditional fried calamari sandwich while I opted for the chorizo sandwich.  Both were really good – and we were both shocked they were only €2.70 a piece!

Second stop –> churros and hot chocolate!!! We went to the famous Chocolateria San Gines.  They’ve  been serving  chocolate con churros since 1894!  When we arrived, we couldn’t believe how long the line out the door was!  It was well worth the wait – as we indulged in a massive plate of churros and two large cups of hot chocolate and cappuccinos!  Perfect afternoon snack to prepare us for our Spanish siesta! 🙂

After a bit more wandering we headed back to our hotel to “do as the Spanish do” and take a little siesta.  Work’s been stressful on both of us lately, so it was nice to just relax and take a nap!  We were on the top floor of our hotel, so we were also able to enjoy a beautiful sunset from our room.

After our siesta, we were feeling fresh and relaxed.  It was time to head out for a Spanish date night.  We went back into the town centre to a place called “Tabalo Flamenco Villa Rosa” for a traditional flamenco show!  We went into this with very few expectations – literally not knowing a thing about flamenco.  You guys – this was INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously one of the coolest experiences.  Unfortunately, you can’t take videos in there, so I don’t have any from our show.  The only way to fully appreciate how incredible it is – is to go see it for yourself!

The drama! The passion! The art! The music! The dance! It’s all amazing.  Dan and I were seated front and center (literally our table was pushed up against the front and center of the stage) so we were able to experience everything close up.  The show started with the dancers (3), singer (1) and guitarist (1) sitting in a line on the stage.  They played and sung a song with only the guitar, their feet and hands making the music.  That alone was unbelievably good! The guitarist was so talented!  And the singer was hilarious – a weird mix of singing/shouting/I have no idea what some of the noises were!

Each dancer performed a solo flamenco dance.  The first dancer was so intense.  We felt like he was truly in a trance during his performance – so weird, but so good!  We felt like he was in heartache and was trying to express how much pain he was in.  The second dancer was full of passion.  Her dance felt like a love story as she twirled and stomped across the stage.  The third dancer was the most light-hearted.  His dance felt very prideful; almost like he was a peacock flaring his feathers!

Dan and I kept looking over at each other throughout the performances with huge smiles on our faces.  It was a one of a kind experience, and something I am so grateful to experience with him.

After the show, it was about 9:30, which is standard dinner time for the Spanish.  So we headed over into Plaza Santa Anna to have some tapas and cocktails.  We shared a sampler platter and each had a mojito before calling it a night!

On Sunday, we had until the early afternoon to explore (and eat/drink) a bit more before heading back home to London.  We started the day off with a walk to the Royal Palace and breakfast at the Cafe de Oriente, which had views of the palace and the palace gardens.

We quickly finished up our time in Madrid walking the rest of the streets and popping into a few shops before one last meal.  We were able to enjoy the beautiful sun and sit out in another courtyard enjoying tapas, beer and sangria!  Somehow, we also managed to sneak in another siesta before checking out of our hotel and going back to the airport 🙂  I think I could get used to having a siesta everyday!

24 hours in Madrid was just right for us.  It was the perfect quick getaway from London.  We were able to go back to London feeling relaxed and well fed!

Now Dan is entering his busy season with work.  He’ll be working a lot of long hours and some weekends.  This makes travelling a bit more difficult, so we don’t have anything booked right now. We’re trying to fit in a ski trip in the alps!  TBD!

 

 

 

Tokyo Adventure [東京の冒険] – Part 1

Kon’nichiwa!

Never in a million years did I think I would be writing about a trip to Tokyo.  Asia travel has NEVER crossed my mind.  But here we are!  Dan was assigned a Japanese client and was sent over to Tokyo.  He actually left the day we landed back in London from Michigan!  Talk about world traveler 🙂  He’s been over here for 3 weeks and now I am over here able to join him!  I’m so fortunate to work for a company that allows me to work at any of our offices throughout the world.  I will be working for 2 weeks from our Tokyo office, then Dan and I are going to take a week to explore Beijing, China and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

While Dan was over here, he had to go to Bangkok, Thailand for a week of training for work.  Here are a few photos from his time in Bangkok:

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I’ve only been in Tokyo for almost a week now and I love it.  It has such an amazing energy.  And everything is so efficient!  There is no tolerance for crime, trains are never late, the people are super polite.  The office culture was also very easy to fit into. There’s so much beauty and appreciation of details.  Even the noise that the subway makes when you arrive at a stop is beautiful!  The phrase “God is in the details” is found everywhere!  [Don’t worry friends + family, as great as it is, we won’t be moving here!!]

I arrived early Sunday morning, and Dan was ready to play tour guide for me!  It was really nice that he has been here for a few weeks already, so he could easily show me the best places around town.   We kicked off the exploring by walking around the Imperial Palace Gardens.  It is a beautiful sanctuary in the middle of the city where the emperor of Japan resides.  Unfortunately, you have to apply to be able to visit the actual palace, but it is free to walk around the gardens and grounds. The grounds were filled with beautiful bamboo patches, Japanese flowers and ponds. Such a beautiful way to start my tour of the city.

We then headed over to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market.  It is the biggest wholesale fish/seafood market in the world.  The big auction doesn’t take place on Sundays, so we just wandered around the stalls and had sushi for lunch.  Oh my goodness – you guys – the sushi here is OUT OF THIS WORLD!  I had pretty high expectations for it, and it blew these expectations out of the water.  Dan is getting really good at what to order, and he ordered 3 different grades of tuna sashimi which was really fun to try.  It’s crazy how different each one is, and how decadent the highest grade is.  Literally just pure butter! Yum!  We’re going to try and make it back to the market for the actual auction at some point during our stay.

After lunch, we took the metro over to the Shibuya area in Tokyo.  We walked around the Meiji Jinju gardens and visited the Meiji Shrine.  It was so fun to walk around this beautiful park.  One thing that has really surprised me with Tokyo so far is how lush and green it is.  It has a very tropical feel, especially since it is so hot and humid all of the time!  This park was really dense and it really felt like we were walking through the rainforest to get to the temple.20160710_135733

A short walk away was Takeshita Street, wow was this crazy.  I don’t think I was quite prepared for how busy this street actually was.  The street is filled with people!  Lots of shops (themed) and “cutesy” girls dressed up in costume.  Very interesting spot – really cool to see though.

Can you see us on the screen? :)

Can you see us on the screen? 🙂

From Takeshita Street, we walked over to Shibuya Crossing.  It is a crazy scramble crossing that reminds me of Oxford Circus on steroids.  It is considered the busiest crossing in the world!  It is estimated that about 2 million people a day cross here!  Talk about overwhelming!!!

After that, I was completely exhausted.  Having just flown 13 hours and been awake for about 30 hours, I needed a nap!  We headed back to the hotel and took a quick nap before meeting up with Dan’s coworkers for dinner.  We went to a fun restaurant under the train tracks.  We had pork heart, beef heart, beef tongue, pork cutlets, fried avocado and pork dumplings.  The hearts weren’t my favourite, the flavour was good, but they were a bit too chewy for my liking. It was fun trying new things, and I can’t wait to continue trying foreign foods.

On Monday I went into the Tokyo JLL office.  Everyone has been very friendly and welcoming.  There are only a handful of English speakers, but they’re all very polite. Lots of  bowing and smiles!  The rest of the week was work for both Dan and I.  He is over here on a busy season, so he’s been working really long hours. We have been able to spend dinner together almost every night, trying something new and adventurous.

Dan’s team finished up their audit on Friday, so we went out with the whole team on Thursday night to celebrate at a Japanese rock bar, Bauhouse. It was so much fun – and the band is amazing!  They’re even coming to London in a few months and we’ve made plans to go see them when they are in town!

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On Friday, we decided to continue the celebration and hit a bucket list item for both me and Dan…try REAL Kobe beef!  We went to a restaurant called 511.  There are 5 levels of Kobe with 5 being the highest – hence, we had the highest grade!  And within the 5 levels, there are 12 levels further of quality with 12 being the highest.  The said they rarely get 512.  But 511 was high enough quality for us 🙂  It was an 8 course meal, with every course featuring a different part of the cow (minus the dessert).  Everything was fantastic.  This was one of the best meals we’ve ever had and will always remember this.

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Overall, my first week in Tokyo was amazing.  This city has so much to offer and I can’t wait to continue exploring.

Kanpai!