Since starting this blog I haven’t really told you guys what’s going on in my life and where it’s about to take me. As most of you probably know this blog is a new project… More
North Tokyo is a more mature part of the city, where you can find temples, shrines, gardens, shopping strips, museums and residential neighbourhoods. There was something more authentic about this part of the city. It a great place to stroll and observe and find traditional artisan stores.
We didn’t see many sites in North Tokyo, but we did spend a few hour exploring Asakusa district and Sensoji Temple. From there we walked all the way to the Skytree Sumida City district. The views in the low city are quite spectacular and shouldn’t be missed.
Although Toyko is a modern metropolis, Japanese traditions and culture are still evident throughout the city. Some of the sites in Central Tokyo where this is apparent are the famous Tsukiji Fish Market and the Tokyo Imperial Palace. To see the high of Japanese modernity you can also find that not far away in the Ginza, Chiyoda City and Akihabara.
Central Tokyo was one of the few places I felt like I had plenty of room to move. While the population is hard at work you can wonder between skyscrapers or beautiful gardens and experience the contrast between old and new in this amazing city.
Recently we visited a restaurant I haven’t been to in a long time. The Spaghetti House Trattoria is a family-run Italian restaurant in Southbank. They were previously situated in West End, which is where we used to frequently visit them.
They offer a great selection of Italian fare, including bread, small share plates, pizza, pasta and main dishes. The dishes are a collection of regional favourites prepared very traditionally. Over the years we have tried many of their dishes and they never disappoint in taste and quality.
Over the past couple of years, they moved from Westend to Southbank on Little Stanley Street. The new location does feel a bit more formal than the previous one and is styled like a modern trattoria. From the polished floors, beautiful rustic table settings, lighting and gold framed mirrors, everything is perfectly elegant, yet cozy.
On the day we visited we were all really hungry and were craving pasta. We all ordered the thicker kinds of pasta with simple sauces. I had the Pappardelle Boscaiola, which had pancetta, porcini mushrooms and olives in a fresh tomato sauce. The fresh pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the sauce had a full depth of flavour. My companions had Pappardelle Carbonara and Fettuccini Ragu alla Bolognese. They were also very happy with their dishes. We all ordered the larger size plate, which were generous and very filling. If we ordered more food, I’m sure a small portion would have sufficed.
The next stop on our trip was Tokyo, Japan’s capital and the most popular metropolis in the world. There is just so much to see within this massive city and outsides its borders. It’s one of the most modern cities that I’ve ever seen, yet you can also find pockets of old world Japanese culture. Tokyo was definitely not as clean as previous Japanese cities, but we found it easy to navigate and were spoilt for choice for where to shop and dine.
We allocated two and a half days to explore the city and one day for DisneySea. The following posts on Tokyo are not in order, but have been split up into west, central and north Tokyo. We stayed in Shinjuku, which is on the west side, so I thought I’d start there. The highlights were the nightlife of Kabukichō, the crazy Robot Cabaret, colourful Harajuku and busy Shibuya. The west side was definitely the crazy, eccentric Tokyo that I imagined. We were lucky to just stumble unexpectedly to these sites. They probably aren’t for everyone, but I’m so happy we got to experience the quirky side of the city.
I was so inspired by my recent visit to Nodo, I decided to create my own baked donuts. Mine aren’t gluten-free however, they are vegan, soy-free and nut-free. They are also made from mostly spelt and with fresh pumpkin, so they nutritious and easier to digest. Coconut sugar also works beautifully in them, so they are just sweet enough. I hope you like them!
On our first visit to Kyoto we only saw the central district. So on day 8, our friends took us back to Kyoto to see the some of the sites in the south and the east. It was also our last day with the rest of the wedding party before we diverted to Tokyo. On this day we first visited the shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha in the south. In the afternoon we visited the Higashiyama District and the Gion District in the east. It was here that the I got to experience becoming a geisha and enjoy a Buddhist afternoon tea. This was probably my favourite day of our wedding party tour.
Happy Mothers Day to all the mums out there. This year is my third mothers day. I can’t believe I’ve already had three. Time has gone so fast. This year I got my first present from my daughter. A plant and painted card with a picture of her and a lovely message that she made a Kindy. It was the sweetest thing ever. This year Marco and I decided to have a nice lunch without our toddler. She spent some time with her nonna and we had a relaxing lunch at Jamie’s Italian.
We have been to Jamie’s Italian a few times since it opened. I know it gets mixed reviews, but we have had good experiences every time. The food is always fresh with quality ingredients and cooked well. What I love about this place is that its real food, cooked from scratch. We have only been to the Brisbane location, but you can find the franchised restaurants in most capital cities in Australia and more across the world.
The Brisbane location just off the street level but actually has a second level of seating under the ground. The top level features the entrance bar and a beautiful marble bar with hanging Parma hams, garlic and chillis, where the antipastos are prepared. The lower level also houses the kitchen, so it’s also nice to sit in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen atmosphere. The rest of the decor is very industrial, yet homely. The walls feature exposed concrete and recycled wooden panels and the floors are polished wood. The tables are mostly wooden, with leather booths or red metal seat. The ambience of the restaurant really makes you feel like your in an Italian trattoria.
I have noticed the menu has changed over time to keep up with the current trends. However, the heart of Italy still shines through with their handmade pasta, classic antipasti and some traditional secondi dishes.
I can’t believe I only just found out about this great little cafe in Newstead. I had actually seen Nodo donuts at Pando Cafe in Brisbane city, but I never stopped to try them. I have been a bit out of the loop since my daughter was born in 2015, which is probably why I never knew Nodo opened their own location in October that year. Then a friend who recently returned to Brisbane told me about this cafe with amazing gluten free donuts. After seeing his Instagram I knew I had to try this place.
Nodo cafe has two locations, in Newstead and the CBD. Although they are known for their amazing gluten-free baked donuts, they also make a variety of other gluten-free baked goods, brunch and lunch dishes and drinks using wholesome ingredients.
I visited the Newstead location, which is quite contemporary and minimalistic in style, yet very inviting. The corner location is flooded with natural light from large windows and features pale timber furnishings and polished concrete flooring and counter. The indoor plants also give the space a fresh and welcoming vibe. Patrons can choose to sit outside, or inside along the windows or upstairs.
The front counter features all the beautiful freshly baked donuts, as well as other baked goods, raw treats and cold-pressed bottled juices. Their menu features a selection of gluten free breakfast and lunch dishes, both savoury and sweet. There are burgers, salads, smoothie bowls and eggs, all featuring super healthy ingredients. The drinks include coffees made from their own house blend, specialised coffee drinks, teas and a variety of super natural shakes. They don’t just cater this menu for gluten-free, but also dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan and carnivores. So there is something for everyone.
Winter seems to have come early in Brisbane. So it’s time for winter casseroles to warm these bones. I love topping casseroles with creamy mashed potatoes or sliced potato. It just gives a casserole another yummy layer and a bit more heartiness. I prefer to use Dutch cream potatoes, as they mash well and soften well when cooked. These two casseroles are easy to put together but need a bit more time to prepare the ingredients before baking.
Recently we took a short trip to the Sunshine coast to have some family time together. Unfortunately, the weather was dreadful so we didn’t get much beach time. We still made the most of it, exploring rock pools and collecting shells when it wasn’t raining.
The second day we were forced to go home because of storms, but we wanted to have breakfast before we left. Marco found this hidden gem in Mooloolaba.
The Velo Project is a cafe housed in a garage amongst suburban homes. They are all about high quality, sustainable food, sourced from local farmers and producers.
The decor was very quirky and vintage, yet homely. The furnishings and accessories are secondhand and the front counter looks to be made from repurposed materials. On the tables, there were old fashioned games to play while you wait for your food. The menus were old books with the selection of dishes stuck inside.
We didn’t just come here for the decor though, we came for the coffee and the food. The menu offers fresh baked good, smoothies, a variety of eggs dishes, salads, heavier dishes with meat and buckwheat crepes with different toppings. There are options and modifications for gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian and vegan dishes. So if you a person with dietary requirements, you have more than one option to choose from.
For drinks, Marco ordered a cappuccino and I ordered the chai latte made with cane sugar, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, star anise, and tapioca. The coffee was spot on and my chai latte nicely spiced was exactly what I needed on a cold rainy day.
For breakfast, Marco ordered the Bacon & Egg Turkish which had free-range ‘sunvalley’ bacon, fried eggs, rocket & housemade tomato chutney. It looked really nice and he enjoyed it. I decided to get something to share with O, so I got the Buckwheat crepes with roasted spiced pumpkin, grilled zucchini, red onion, goats cheese, toasted seeds & basil oil. The crepe itself was really nice and fluffy and didn’t have a bitter taste from the buckwheat. The toppings, although a little tricky to eat, were all really fresh and the flavours worked well together.
We all left very satisfied and will have to visit The Velo Project next time we’re back up north.
Nara is home to some of the oldest and largest temples and shrines in Japan. It is thought to be the birthplace of Japanese culture. It’s also home to around 1200 roaming deer, which have become symbolic to the city as a national treasure.
Nara is less an hours travel from both Osaka and Kyoto. We visited Nara on day 7 of our trip. We roamed the city centre, walk from Kōfuku-ji temple through Nara Park to Tōdai-Jian temple, and explore Kasuga-Taisha shrine inside the Manyo Botanical Gardens. We ended out day back in Osaka at a 100 yen sushi train.
Kyoto is known for being the former capital city of Japan and its numerous shrines and temples. It is only about an hours train ride from Osaka, so it’s a convenient day trip if you’re staying there. There is so much to see and do in this region. We visited over two days, but still only saw a fraction of the sites. On day 6 we visited central Kyoto. The sites we visited were Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nijō Castle, Nishiki Market, and Pontocho.
Continue reading “Central Kyoto: palaces, markets and shabu-shabu”