Travel Diary: Transylvania, Romania

 
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At the beginning of March, we took a very short but sweet trip to Transylvania, Romania. We didn't know what to expect from our first trip to the home of Dracula, but we have to admit, it excelled our expectations. 

From Berlin you can fly to Cluj, a University city complete with historical buildings and a bustling nightlife. We spent only a day here but it was enough to get a sense of the place and appreciate Romanian city life. We stopped for a coffee in a very hipster style coffee shop, Meron where we enjoyed some fancy pour-over and aero-press coffees. 

We were able to enjoy the nightlife without feeling like the oldest in the bar (it is a student town after all), favourite spot of the night was certainly Booha. Although the London Bar opposite looked to be the most popular amongst the locals. 

Most of the trip was spent in and around the town ( it was huge) of Sibiu, which with it's historical centre is a very charming town. From the clock tower in the centre you can have a 360 view of the entire town with the breathtaking Carpathian mountains in the distance. It is easy to feel that you are in a fairytale in Sibiu, he streets are narrow and the buildings have a very nice charm. It was also fairly easy to get into the countryside within an hour we were able to drive up to the cable car station of Balea Lake. Where in the winter they build an Ice Hotel where one can sleep overnight for a mere €150/night. I tried the beds, they weren't as comfy as I'd like. The snow had covered the lake and it was hard to tell where the land ended and the sky began at times.  

After eating our weight in fried romanian goodness for four days it was time to say ciao to Transylvania. Just a mini trip this time but we will be sure to go back. Soon.

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xoXo

B&W Photos: Pentax K1000, all others iPhone 6/iPhone 7

 

Analogue Love: Yashica

 
Analogue Love Yashica

When I was in the States a couple of years ago I picked up this little 35mm Yashica on a trip to Goodwill or was it Savers...where ever it was they are both filled with so many things I wanted. Thrifting is SO much better in America. Anyway, this modern film camera was a dollar fifty so I said to myself, why not! It unlike the rest of my analogues as it has an automatic progressing system. A basic point and shoot if there ever was one. I've not used it as much as the others but it has produced some interesting pics and may get another outing soon. I used the standard black & white 400 speed Lomography film, my go to place for film (the HK store is round the corner from my house). With some dodgy batteries and film in, I took the Yashica out on an expedition in and around the city. I wasn't so used to the way this camera functions and I was having trouble even taking photos (the dodgy batteries). Once I got used to the system it was easier to handle (slightly embarrassed at the lack of ability here). Unsure of what would be developed from the roll I am pleasantly surprised by some of the results, check them out below:

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Analogue Love Yashica 3

The above shots were taken on the way and on Cheung Chau. A great little fishing village, 30 or so minutes from Hong Kong Island.

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Back alleys are always a great insight on how a city lives, hanging laundry is a permanent feature of older Hong Kong buildings. 

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The contrast between the cobbled streets and the high rises never ceases to amaze me. For how much longer we will have the older I am not sure. Think it might be time to dust off the ol' Yashica and capture some more moments.

It's almost the weekend!

vx

All photos by me. 

Travel Diary: Tokyo

 

I love Japan. Like really LOVE Japan. I knew that this trip to Tokyo would be amazing but it excelled every one of my expectations. Even with the bad weather. Japan, you stole my heart.

This trip to Japan was during our Easter holidays, a total of 12 days in Japan split between Tokyo and Kyoto - will update you in this very soon. We had planned this trip mostly to see the cherry blossom (as did thousands of others) but also because neither of us had spent any time in Tokyo and what better time to go.

We arrived in Tokyo very early Friday morning, but even then I could tell it was amazing. Even the taxi driver was excited - think he thought he was in a race his driving was so speedy. As it was high season we opted for an airbnb which was located in the Roppongi district. Known for its restaurants and bars we were lucky to discover that our place was still within walking distance to the main area but far enough away not to feel like we lived there. Although our apartment was small it was adequate and had everything we needed. I'd heard that accommodation in Tokyo was small for the price so it came as no real surprise. 

We spent the next day wandering, we had picked up a free copy of TimeOut which was useful in someways but the free maps they have for each district are quite good and can be helpful when the GPS isn't behaving. Getting around Tokyo is fairly easy by the trains with most journeys costing between 150-180yen. We spent the morning walking around the Imperial Palace, (secretly hoping to see Murakami) the cherry blossom here was super pretty. When the wind blew it was like being inside a snow globe. My favourite spot we went to the first day was the 300 Bar, where everything on the menu was 300yen and you stood at high tables. It was a super hip and relaxed vibe with cool patrons and staff mixed with salary men. 

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On the Saturday were to join some of the boy's friends for Hanami - tradition of gathering at the park under the cherry blossom for a picnic, party, fiesta. We were to meet at Yoyogi Park near Harajuku. It is one of Tokyo's largest parks and yet it was filled with people all out to celebrate the season. Fast food vendors lined the entranceways selling everything from chocolate covered bananas on sticks to grilled octopus balls. Fast food is better in Japan. Once we located our party we settled down on the tarp and enjoyed the music from the surrounding groups. Some on guitar, some through speakers. Such a great way to spend spring afternoons. Saturday night saw us at Baseball. 'Let's Go Giants!' It was pretty hard not to get into the spirit of the game, especially when both the home and away crowd were so passionate. There was also beers, burgers and brass bands. What's not to love! 

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The rest of the weekend was spent eating our way round the various districts, soufflé pancakes, ramen, Katsudon (so very delicious), DIY okonomiyaki, sushi we pretty much ate it all. The highlight of our Monday came from the fabulous and shiny Robot Restaurant. More just a show that a restaurant but it was so amazing I ain't going to argue. Seated in rows facing one another crowd is in awe of the spectacle of robot wonder before them. The story lines are a little strange but visually its worth it. You even get a lightstick to participate in for the final number. Sadly you had to hand it back. (reluctantly) If ever in Tokyo head to the Robot Restaurant in Shibuya it won't let you down. Check out TimeOut magazine and maps for discount on your tickets and recommend to book in advance - it really is that popular.

Tokyo Fish Market

With an afternoon flight to Kyoto the next day we thought we'd get an early night so we could head to the Tsukiji fish market early in the morning. And it was totally worth it. The fish was being brought in and displayed for sale in the many vendors within the market. Every kind you could imagine. And at the very back the prized tuna auction was taking place - which it seems we were not allowed to see. Ushered out by an official looking gentleman with a clipboard and a not before 9am sign. With our sneaking through fish moments over we headed to the area of restaurants to get some breakfast. And I am not joking when I say it was THE best sashimi i've ever had. Teamed with hot green tea ( it was chilly and rainy), perfect way to start the day.

We were able to spend the last couple of days of our Japan trip back in Tokyo.  When I told friends that I was planning on going to Disneyland, they were like 'REALLY?!'. They didn't understand the love I have for Disney. And I am not ashamed to say it, especially now that I have been to them all. (well almost, I wasn't allowed to spend another day at Tokyo DisneySea). Everything about Tokyo Disneyland was I had expected - Good Times were had. And how to finish the night after an epic Disney day?  A 3hr Karaoke session ofcourse, first song was ofcourse 'Let it go'. For this final leg of our stay we stayed at another airBnB in Shinjuku. This one was great, the space was a cute apartment with everything you could need and the host was super helpful and even had someone drive us to the station as it was pouring with rain. I would highly recommend his place. I only wish we had stayed there longer (didn't actually want to leave).  After reading something about this bar in a magazine the boy suggested we visit Kodoji in the Golden Gai. Similar to the hutongs in Beijing, the Golden Gai is a maze of mini bars (I believe I said it was AWESOME out loud about 10 times) with many up steep stairs. The Photographer's Bar as its known hosts exhibitions of local and international photographers. Once located (it took a couple of circuits) we headed up the stairs and pushed opened the door. We were immediately inside the bar. With only 2 spare seats (there was a total of around 8) we squeezed our way in and told the cutest little old lady our order. The walls and the ceiling were covered in images, with stacks of books on photography it obvious to see how it got its name. It's the perfect haven from the crazy streets of Shinjuku and if you have a love for photography you will most likely find someone in there to discuss it with.

I can't stress enough how amazing Japan is, the people, the food, everything! Possibly one the best trips I have taken in a long time. I can't wait to go back. Stay tuned for the Kyoto instalment of this trip.

 

ありがとう Tokyo 

 

xo

All photos taken by me. 

Black & White : Pentax K1000, All others with iPhone 5.

 

 

 

Travel Diary: Kyoto, Japan

 

This post will be as short and sweet as the trip itself but I had to share some pics and amazing vintage stores. A week after my beautiful Bali trip ended I headed to Kyoto for the weekend, complete opposites in more than one way. We landed in Osaka to find a light dusting of snow on the ground. Needless to say I was panicking - snow does not make for good marathon running weather ( the reason I was there). Trying to keep my cool we boarded the train that takes you to Kyoto Station and from here we took their version of the underground to our accommodation. We were staying down the smallest street in the cutest traditional Japanese style home that we found on airbnb. The marathon was on the Sunday so we had the whole day Saturday to explore the city while I still had power in my legs.

Despite the rain we managed to see quite a lot and enjoy some yummy eats. I absolutely loved Kyoto, there were sightings of Geishas, the smallest Scottish bar ran by a whiskey loving Japanese man and vintage stores galore. Not to mention the food. Food was good.

I managed to hit three vintage stores, I wanted pretty much everything especially the homewares but had to refrain due to lack of luggage (and cash, haha). There was Chicago which was the first one I came across down Teramachi. They had everything from dresses to denims and some pretty Kimonos. Next we wandered (read: I dragged the boy) into Roger's, this was where I fell in love with glassware, beer signage, round suitcases...I could go on. They also had a lot of clothing and shoes for both girls and boys. Finally, using some of the free wifi (we were the awkward looking tourists, hovering around) we managed to get the location of Hanjiro a vintage store I read about online. A few minutes later (thank you google maps) we arrived at the coolest vintage shop I've ever been to.

Bath tubs filled with fish, old stained glass windows and chandelier heaven, it took me awhile to focus on the clothing. I didn't leave this store empty handed, I picked up an old navajo style blanket and this beautiful red scarf. I love it, i've worn it multiple times since (actually wearing it as I type).

For antique homewares there was blue Parrot which had two stores at either end of Marutamachi Street. Worth checking out for sure.

Onto Race Day where I took to the roads of Kyoto to run 26.2 miles. I was incredibly nervous and wasn't sure if I was going to manage it. I wanted to finish in under 5 hours (due to lack of training), my target time was 4.30.

With the help of the amazing crowd (I love Japanese people, this became my mantra as I was running round) and an eclectic playlist (90s music never sounded so good) I managed to meet my target. It was as mentally gruelling as it was physically, but I did it and I am proud. I told myself I would never do it again, but then I entered the NYC Marathon draw. And I was accepted. I am a glutton for punishment.

I heart you Kyoto, take me back.   xoxo

All photos taken with my iPhone with exception of me running - courtesy of Kyoto Marathon.