Milano: amazing food and beautiful architecture

In my last post, you saw some a few of my favourite places in Milano. However, there is so much more to this city. I spent a semester studying at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me on my favourite eats and places to visit.

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Milano: a home away from home

Next stop on our trip was Italy. We stayed in Milano for a few nights so we could spend time with family and visit some nearby cities before heading up north to Luino. Milano has a special place in my heart, as I spent a semester living here when I was in my third year of Italian studies a few years back. When I wasn’t studying, I was walking, eating and shopping my way through the city or travelling to nearby cities. I’ve already seen all the sites, so I wanted to spend a day just enjoying my favourite places and doing a bit of shopping.

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Bordeaux: the sweet life

The second stop on our trip was Bordeaux, in the south of France. This port city is the known for its wine production and is the largest urban World Heritage site, with half of the city Unesco-listed. This exciting city is bustling with patisseries, restaurants, local and artisan food markets and super-food food trucks, making it a foodie’s mecca.

This was my first time travelling independently outside of Paris, so I was really excited to see something else in this beautiful country. I have a couple of friends, former Parisians, who have been live in Bordeaux for the past couple of years. They hosted our short stay and showed us a few of their favourite places.

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Disneyland Paris in Pictures

Disneyland Park Paris is a replica of my favourite park, Magic Kingdom (Florida). The land themes are nearly the same and few of the rides have also been replicated. However, there are some big differences. The castle in the centre of the park is Sleeping Beauty’s castle, there are also many unique rides, amazing walk through exhibits and the restaurants are all unique.

I really enjoyed this park. I love Disney princesses and Disney movie themed rides and exhibits. I also really love the parades, shows and fireworks show that feature my favourite classic characters. Being that this park is in France, you may be wondering will anyone speak English. Well yes, the staff in the restaurants, shops, rides etc all speak English. The attractions and entertainment are primarily in French but they do include English, so it is easier to follow.

My favourite attractions in this park were It’s a small world, Big Thunder Mountain, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. It was my first time experiencing all of these attractions, but I really felt like they were worth the wait. Octavia’s favourite attraction was strangely the La Taniere du Dragon. I also really loved the Disney Illuminations show. I went alone since it started at 11pm, but it was definitely worth the hour I sat in the crowd and the walk back.

After visiting Florida parks I did have a few disappointments with this park. Firstly the restaurants and fast food were nowhere near as good. The restaurants were beautifully themed but nothing blew me away in terms of flavours and uniqueness. On the bright side, it was less completive to get a booking. Also, the app does not allow you to book your fast passes. It’s really just a map with wait times that wasn’t always reliable. There were not many rides that had fast passes, so the wait times were really long and you have to take a fast pass ticket from outside the ride so you could not choose the best time available. Despite this, I did get to go on nearly every ride available in a day and a half. I didn’t bother with character meets since they were ridiculously long. Since I stayed in a Disney hotel this time I also had extra magic in the morning, which was only for a few rides but still worth going before the crowds arrived even to line up for rides. Another plus was the Baby Switch, which we utilised for rides that Octavia couldn’t go on.

Probably my biggest disappointment with Disney Paris is that people are allowed to smoke in the park. Although it’s only permitted in smoking areas it does not stop people smoking in lines for rides and even in crowds where children were watching shows. Even in the evening show, it was advised over the loud speaker in five languages not to smoke. Yet I had two ladies behind me smoking and they were seated next to a toddler.

We visited four restaurants at this park, which included Walt’s – an American Restaurant, Silver Spur Steakhouse, Market House Deli and Agrabah Cafe. I wasn’t blown away by Walt’s or Market House Deli. I had a delicious pork chop at Silver Spur but the highlight was definitely Agrabah Cafe. This buffet had many great Moroccan and Middle Eastern savoury and sweet options. My only regret is that I wasn’t famished when I visited. It was also the only place my toddler liked the food. Everywhere else she was offered baby food or ate part of my meal, both of which she didn’t like. Unfortunately, Blue Lagoon and Victoria’s Home-style Restaurant were closed the days we visited.

So here is my day at Disneyland Paris in pictures. If you are planning a visit or want to know more about the attractions see my Guide to Disneyland Paris. I have also written a Guide to Walt Disney Studio Park Paris and recently wrote a post on Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures.

 

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Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures

I’m back from my month long holiday in Europe and I have so much to share with you all. Our first stop was Disney Paris. This was our first visit and a great year visit, being that it is the 25th Anniversary.

We arrived quite early in Paris, but we didn’t get to our hotel until 9:30. Since we arrived after the parks opened we decided to start with the smaller of the two parks, Walt Disney Studios Park. I thought it would be more low key and we could do everything in that day.

I really didn’t love this park and it was probably my least favourite of all the parks I’ve visited. It is such a mishmash of themes. There are limited choices of restaurants and not many fast passes available for the attractions. This means long lines and large wait times. I guess I feel a bit negative towards this park since our experience on the first day was great. We first got Fastpasses for Ratatouille: The Adventure ride, which was quite late in the afternoon. We then decided to line up since the wait was 30 minutes, which wasn’t so bad. However, the ride broke down and when we were nearly at the end of the line. It was not known when the ride would start so we had to leave after wasting 45 minutes there. After that, we were faced with over an hour wait times and not a lot that we could do with a toddler.We did later revisit Ratatouille which was really great. It did malfunction while we were on it though for a few minutes but it wasn’t a big deal.

We did end up seeing the Mickey and the Magician Live Show and Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular. I loved the Mickey show, the other show was a bit boring for me. We missed Disney Junior when the Moteurs show ran late. So after that, we decided to walk over to Disneyland Paris to get to know the park. Surprisingly at the time in the afternoon, there was plenty to do with minimal wait times, which was not the case Walt Disney Studios.

We did end up revisiting this park to see Disney Junior Live on Stage! and did nearly all the other attractions. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to go on Crush’s Coaster Roller coaster and Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic Tour. The wait time for Crush was 70 minutes just for Single Rider so with a toddler it was impossible. If I didn’t have a daughter I may have just waited. Unfortunately, because there are not a lot of fast passes it is difficult to avoid lines with long wait times. I did enjoy the park better the second time we visited. I guess after visiting Florida parks I had some higher expectations. I do still recommend you check it out if you visit though.

We dined at the two most highly recommended eatery and restaurant. For lunch, we went to Cafe des Cascadeurs for burgers in a 50’s style diner. It was nice but not great. It was quick though. For dinner, we went to Bistrot Chez Remy. The decor is quite amazing, the food was not though. It was nice but not mind blowing. The ratatouille itself was really delicious though.

Disney Village is an area with restaurants and shopping with free admission for public and is located just outside the parks. We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants. I did notice that Annette’s Diner was always really busy. I did visit all the shops though. There were not really large Disney stores. I much preferred the shopping in Disneyland Park for the variety of merchandise and clothing.

This was our first time staying in a Disney hotel. We stayed Disney’s Newport Bay Club and I’m really happy we did. We had the breakfast buffet included in our meal plan which was quite nice. The room was simple but comfortable. The good service, proximity to the parks and extra magic time (morning) really made it worth it though. I don’t think I would visit a Disney park again without staying in one of their hotels.

So here is our experience at Walt Disney Studio Park in pictures. I also included some photos of Disney Village and Disney’s Newport Bay Club. I have also written up a Guide for Walt Disney Studio Park and Guide to Disneyland Paris. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on Disneyland Paris in Pictures.

 

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Life update

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 I started after concluding Live Blissful that I started back in September 2012. I had a really long break from blogging after I had my daughter. I just really didn’t have the time or energy to put up quality content. Additionally, I was unsure where my plant-based journey would take me.

As I stand at the moment I am not 100% plant-based. I really struggled with this during my pregnancy and since then. I have accepted that I will probably never be 100%, but that’s ok. Different phrases in my life will call for different foods to nourish my body and my growing child. Does that mean I will not continue to cook and seek plant-based food? no. I actually prefer to eat like this. However, I also love to try new things and eat traditional foods when I travel. My biggest priority is to eat the clean, mostly organic and unprocessed foods. This means that majority of our families diet is vegan and vegetarian. I never came to this diet for ethical reasons, but I do believe eating minimal amounts of animal-based foods for better health and for the environment. Eating dairy-free is still a priority for me. I was able to eat small amounts while pregnant and through breastfeeding, but now as my child is feeding less I am getting side effects. For me just tasting someone else’s food can bring on blemishes and flu-like symptoms. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, I would have never known how bad cows milk can be for our health had I not found out about my intolerance. As for the recipes, I will be sharing, I will probably stick to vegetarian since that’s what I like to cook.

Other big news is that I’m going to Europe tomorrow for a month. We are travelling to France, Italy, Serbia, Sweden and Belgium. Although we will be staying with family and friends throughout our trip, we will be making a special trip to Disney Paris. I can’t wait to share our adventure with you when we get back!

Hiroshima: tragedy, rebirth and great food

Hiroshima was the last stop on our Japan trip. It is the largest city in the Chugoku Region on the western front of the Honshu Island. It is largely known for the Atomic bomb that was dropped on it during WW2. Despite this, the city has been rebuilt into a modern city, whilst paying homage to its rich history and is home to million inhabitants.

Hiroshima was one of the highlights of our trip. We visited nearly all the top attractions in a day, without rushing and had some great meals along the way. The sites that we saw included Shukkeien GardenHiroshima CastleHiroshima Peace Memorial ParkHiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Downtown Hiroshima.

 

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North Tokyo: low city and skytree views

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.

 

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Central Tokyo: fish market, modernity and old world beauty

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.

We did not visit Central Tokyo in this order, but this section of the city could be done in one day. With the except of Ginza, these are all must do stops when visiting this city.

 

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Western Toyko: Red lights, Robots and Harajuku girls

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.

 

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South and East Kyoto: torri gates, temples and geisha dress-up

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.

 

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The Velo Project

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.

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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.

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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.