Thursday, January 11, 2018

120 hours in Buenos Aires

Hola Buenos Aires. First trip of the year, and a very colourful way to kick off 2018.
Here’s a photo diary of some of my favourite moments from the trip. 

This blog has been sponsored by Flight Centre & Air New Zealand, however all thoughts and words are my own.

La Boca
Quite possibly the most colourful neighbourhood I've ever visited! La Boca is one of the original migrant neighbourhoods you can find in Buenos Aires. It's full of life and colour by daylight, where you can find amazing food and perhaps see a few tango dances. It's has quickly become a tourist hot spot because of all the brightly coloured walls, history and culture.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid Book Store
Another one of 'the best in the world' spots. The El Ateneo Book Store has been labeled one of the best book stores in the world for it's beautiful interior, and I doubt you'll disagree. The layout is incredible, and I found myself looking up most of the time instead of looking at the book selection. My excuse is that I can't read Spanish. Hehe!

The Argentine Experience
For tourists looking to meet other travellers from all over the globe, this would be the perfect experience for you. We had the pleasure of spending a night at The Argentine Experience where you get to learn a few phrases and bits of Argentinean culture from the local bartenders & waitstaff ,who also teach you some damn good cocktail recipes, followed by a really good Argentinean meal. We also learned to make empanadas! It's a night of laughs all round, and definitely worth it if you're looking for some good banter with world travellers.

Club de Pescadores
Just a pretty spot we stopped by during our day tour. How cute is this fisherman's club!

Recoleta Cemetery
The Recoleta Cemetery has some of the most famous people in Argentina's history over the past 200 years on it's grounds. The cemetery is stunning, and pretty much every grave is very OTT and grand. One of the most notable figures you'll find here is Eva Peron, arguably Argentina's most loved woman in their history. Her story is incredible, and I was so glad to learn about it during our trip. We learned that hers is the only grave in the cemetery which you'll find with fresh flowers every day of the year.

Graffiti Tour: La Boca 
We did a Graffiti tour of La Boca & the surrounding neighbourhoods. It was incredible to learn about the stories behind some of these artworks, and I would highly recommend this if you ever make it to Buenos Aires. We also learned that people can do whatever the hell they want to their walls here!

Frida Kahlo in Palermo
Palermo had to be one of my favourite neighbourhoods, and when I do return to Buenos Aires I would definitely stay here! Below is a beautiful Frida Kahlo mural you can find in Palermo. Isn't it just perfect?

La Panera Rosa
Of course, a spot for the sweet tooth. And it's pink, too!

For your chance to win a trip and become Flight Centre’s Travel Correspondent in Buenos Aires, following in my footsteps, see the link below for more information. 

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Tokyo by Night

Hey everyone & welcome to the New Year. Here is a super fat post about some things we did in Tokyo by night that I've been dying to share with you in more detail. Let me know if you'd like to see more like these in the comments & what your favourite spot is!

Tokyo Station & Marunochi lights:
The first time I came to Tokyo I did visit Tokyo Station, but never had the chance to appreciate it’s architecture, and brickwork lit up at night. Tokyo Station has just recently finished all it’s renovations, and we were there for the first night of completion. 

Here’s some facts that might interest you about the station that I didn’t know prior to our tour:
  • Tokyo Station is the same length as Tokyo Tower 
  • The central door of the station is exclusive to the imperial family
  • Tokyo Station is the largest in Tokyo with 2.5million people using it per day. However, Shinjuku Station is the busiest in Tokyo with 3.7million users each day. 
  • If you have a chance to visit the area you’ll notice that the surrounding buildings are unique in their architecture. These buildings kept the original architectural design in the first few floors, but have adopted a more modern design for the high rise section. Almost every building here is like this and it’s so interesting once pointed out! Buildings like this include the Marunochi building & Central Post Office. 
Just around the corner from the station, during this time of year you’ll find one of the most expensive shopping districts with stores like Dior and Cartier. During the day it’s a major designer shopping district, but by night you’ll find one of the most beautifully lit scenes in all of Tokyo. It’s so casual too, which I love. Locals scurry from work to home, whilst tourists like myself come here to stare at the lights in awe. Tokyo has some of the best Christmas lights I’ve ever seen (I was in New York for last Christmas) so let me tell you, they do it even better here — as you’ll be seeing more below! 

Symphony Boat Cruise

For lovers everywhere! The symphony boat cruise was a very unique experience that we had the pleasure of doing in Tokyo this visit. Everyone was coupled up as we took a romantic boat ride around Tokyo’s harbour. The route takes the form of a heart shape which is super cheesy, but I love it! When we arrived on board, we were treated to live music by a pianist, who played Christmas songs while we took our seats. Once we left the harbour we had a three course meal, which was Italian cuisine. 

A lot of people come here on birthdays and special occasions as there were about seven people in the restaurant who we sung Happy Birthday to. After your meal, you can head up stairs to hope to catch the fireworks from Disney Land Tokyo in the distance. Be warned, it’s really cold up in the open, so make sure you bring a coat.

I feel like this experience is great for those looking to do something different in Tokyo, perhaps once you’ve seen and explored the busy sights, this is the next thing to do if you have a spare evening and want to relax on the water. Most of the guests on board were Japanese locals, with a few groups of staff having their Christmas parties. All in all, it was a great way to spend one of our Tokyo nights. 

Tokyo Tower:
I’ve been to Tokyo Tower once before and have also been able to see it from various hotel rooms during my time in Tokyo. What I love about it is how they theme the observation deck to the seasons. The first time I visited was in April 2017, and because it was Sakura season, the deck had an amazing 3D Cherry Blossom roof display & floral projections all over the floor. This time around, for Christmas, the deck has a winter theme, with a blue snowflake projection on loop in the main deck. Unfortunately, the upper deck is currently closed due to maintenance, but should be open by my next visit, and I can’t wait to see what they have on display next time. I’ve only visited Tokyo Tower by night, but I feel like that’s the best time to do so. Perhaps my next visit will be during the day. 

Ebisu Alley:
Ebisu Alley is full of restaurants, visited mostly by locals, and the tourists who are there are the ones who know what’s up. We were pretty early so we didn’t see the alley in it’s peak time, unfortunately. We were told that by 8pm it gets really packed in there. From the food we ate, and the vibe of the place, we could already tell it would be a popular spot. Because it’s an alley & the vendors are able to share the facilities, the prices are very reasonable, which also makes it an attractive spot to visit by nightfall. We visited this spot at 5.30pm, so fairly early as we were heading to Kaguwa shortly after to catch a show. 

We enjoyed some appetisers and beer including: 
  • Sapporo beer
  • Nikome, which consists of chicken liver, chicken meat & broth
  • Yakitori, my favourite which is meat skewers; pork tongue, beef with ginger, pork cooked several ways & chicken 

Kaguwa Bar:
One of the most unexpected surprises on our trip was Kaguwa Bar! ‘Kaguwa’ means aroma, or smell of Japan, and is a new age, non traditional show you can find in the Roppongi area. I really don’t want to spoil too much, but if you have time in Tokyo, I highly recommend this experience. Without giving away everything, it’s basically a drag show that puts a comedic spin on some of Japan’s traditional tales. For those who thought Robot Restaurant was a bit too childish, but still enjoyed the novelty element, this is for you! You have to be over 18 to go, so it’s not for families. There is a chance to buy food and drinks as well so you won’t go hungry & can get a table or sit by the bar style seating. It’s fairly intimate with about 80 person capacity (that’s a guess), and is great to go see with a group of friends. Don’t forget to bring tips as well for your favourite performers! 

Bar Densui Roppongi:
For lovers of sake! Or for those willing to try, like me! Bar Densui is a new and modern sake bar in Roppongi. Why I say modern is because the workers here are young brewers, making it not your traditional sake bar. Nonetheless, here you’ll find locals smashing some sake over hours of very loud chit chat. To accompany your sake experience, you can order lots of different dishes, but you may need a local to help you out. Alternatively you can try your luck & point at random things on the menu. We had a starter set with a unique mix of flavours and small Japanese style dishes. Some locals next to ordered the most amazing smelling dish with truffle in it. I know I’ll be back next time to try that! 

We tried three levels of sake, and if you’re interested to know what they were, here are the details.
Weakest sake: Tosa Shiragiku; meaning Tosa’s white chrysanthemum
Medium sake: Koku Ryu; meaning black dragon 
Strong sake: Biden; meaning beautiful rice field

I’m not big on sake, or alcohol for that matter, but I’m always keen to try things like this! Like most of the other experiences on this list, these were spots where you’d mostly find locals, which in my opinion is always the best place to be. 

Baccarat Chandelier in Ebisu:
If you feel like hanging around Ebisu, you can head over to the Ebisu Garden Place. Here you’ll find the Baccarat chandelier, and more festive Christmas lights as well! The Baccarat Eternal Lights display features a Baccarat chandelier that is 5m tall and 3m wide, which makes it one of the tallest in the world. 

Shibuya Blue Cave:
We spent a day in the Shibuya area only to make sure we stayed around the area until 5pm for the famous blue light display. We arrived at 4.50pm & it was so amazing to be there as the trees turned to blue light in front of us. Hearing several hundred people gasp in unison was so much fun to be a part of! They decided to recreate this display because it was such a hit last year. It runs from the 22nd of November to the 31st of December. The lights are on from 5pm to 10pm.

Caretta Lights in Shiodome:
At Shiodome, there is the coolest Beauty & The Beast themed light show, featuring the iconic rose at the centre of the display. It’s perfect for kids and families (and me) as it tells the tale of Beauty and the Beast through these incredible lights and music from the film, with a Christmas theme of course! It's on until the 14th of February so head on over if you find yourself in Tokyo soon! The show starts at 5pm and happens approximately every 20 mins until 11pm. We arrived right on the dot at 5pm and it was packed! The key is to head to the side gate to line up to make sure you can take a photo with the rose!

Shinjuku Station:
If you’re looking for more lights to see at this time of year, well they are almost everywhere you look in Tokyo. One of my favourite random finds was this pink display right outside Shinjuku Station. Would love to know if you’ve found any that you love in Tokyo at this time of year!

 And if you made it to the end, congrats! Hope you enjoyed this, even though it's a little late. I'll be sharing a Tokyo by Day (from December) very very soon!