Destination: Japan, Food

I want to share few restaurant places and areas to visit when you might get hungry in Osaka/Kyoto! I do not fancy myself so much Japanese food and that is why we did not eat so much in any fancy restaurants/cafeterias but here is now few places I remember.

St-Marc Cafe Choco Cro in Osaka - great place to rest your feet while exploring the city or to start day with nice cup of coffee and croissant - or like I did with deeelicious pancakes!

Pablo in Osaka: Great cheese cake to taste! You can go eat in the restaurant or to have a take out - we enjoyed the cheese cake in Minoo park with the view of the beautiful waterfall! The price rate is bit over normal but you can order a small piece of cake or share a dish with a friends.

Yoshinoya in Kyoto - Great spot for fast lunch but still more local than McDonalds right ;)? We had a lunch at this Japanese fast food chain and if you do not need gourmet food, this is the place! Also the price for dishes was like 400-600 yen! And their green tea which came with the food, delicious!

Yodobashi in Osaka or Kyoto - This is super huge (something like 8-10 floors) mall which is great experience to walk through itself. In the one of the upper floors is totally for restaurants and this is a great place to go if you still do not know what you would like to eat and would like to compare different menus under the same roof. Price rate for dishes depends totally on the restaurants but I would say that cheapest dish is for 700 yen and most expensive...well I did not look for those back then haha.

Shinsekai in Osaka - The place full of restaurants! Only negative factor is that every restaurant has exactly same menu and when I am not huge fan of Japanese food so it was bit difficult for me to find place where to eat! The menu consists mostly of fried meat & vegetables and price range is not high!

The good thing in Japan is that they tend to have these visual menus in the window's of the restaurants with identical plastic copies of the dishes. This enables you to get a better picture what are restaurants serving and what are you ordering. Many of the restaurants had also images of the meals in the paper menu when entering in.

Plus! You can even find the stores which makes these plastic dishes in Osaka and buy a magnet or key chain of some food as a souvenirl

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Destination: Japan, Travel

Almost in the heart of Osaka city you can find this incredible beautiful white castle with small details of golden statues and figures. The story of this building has started in 1583 and since that time it has seen a lot by surviving only the main tower of the castle and surrounding city. You can also enter with a fee inside the castle but it is totally renovated with modern style so if you seek more history I believe you will not find it from there - only the great view of Osaka!

The castle area is surrounded by huge stone walls, gates, turrets and moats and huge garden of cherry trees. In July, sadly the cherry flowers are not blossoming but the garden was still beautiful, especially if you realized to find the corner areas and not just walk by the main path.

The only problem for me during this day was (like most of the days in Japan) the heat! While visiting Osaka Castle there is not much shadows to hide to and that is why it is important to have umbrella, hat or cap and water bottle(s) while visiting the place with clear blue sky and shiny day! At least I had water but long pants and black clothes were not the best option for that day and place...I suffered a lot.

Sayonara, Karoliina

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Travel, Destination: Japan

Back to few, and really really delayed, posts of Japan again! I have noticed it is more and more difficult to edit the pictures and create the text what longer the time has passed from the trip itself.

One of the you have to see -places while visiting Kyoto is Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Monkey Park!

Arashiyama area is incredible beautiful while arriving there. No specific reasons to point out but the feeling and balance of the place was something ... beautiful if you can say so? The area is divided in two by a wide river where flows boats (you can attend to those rides!) and the mountain is hiding under bright green trees giving the impression of a high green wall which reaches the sky.

We did not eat in the area but did try the famous and aesthetically beautiful caféteria called Arabica (%) (caféteria can also be find in Kyoto). The ice latte was great add to gain energy and ease the feeling of high temperature.

In the Internet, it is highly recommended to visit the bamboo forest during super early hours to avoid the crowds but I can ensure that it is as amazing to walk through with other tourists - for sure it is less magical and more difficult to take breathtaking and fairytale-liked pictures but in my opinion you can still enjoy it fully if you wake up at 10 am and not 5 am. The walk through the bamboo groves does not take so long time and that's why we walked the route back and forth and then continued to Monkey Park.

The monkey park is located in the top of the mountain in Arashiyama, in the other side of the river than bamboo forest. To get to the park you have to do a sweaty hike (well at least it was it for me with +35 degrees). The walk up there took something like 30 minutes with stops. The entry fee was 550 yen which was paid before hiking up. You also got a voucher which told how to act among monkeys and a handhold paper fan which was in high use for me while hiking (and sweating) top of the mountain.

The experience in the monkey park itself was nice; you can walk among them (but be aware all the time - they are still wild animals!) and go inside a small house where from you can buy fruit snacks to feed them through the barriers. Up from the mountain is also beautiful view of the city.

With over a hundred wild monkeys running wild free among yourself, it is a cool experience in my opinion but of course it is totally up to yourself is it worth of 550 yen. But, if you are visiting Arashiyama during summer months, you can be as lucky as us in July and witness also two dozens baby monkeys!

A good reminder to behave well among the monkeys is the situation which I saw aside while our visit: one younger girl (for sure also more children) was kind of too positively aggressive and close for one monkey and for revenge it peed on her from the tree...exactly. Good to end the selling speech of Arashiyama here, haha!

I have to also recommend that if you want to send some unique and beautiful postcards from Japan, buy those from the older local man who is selling his own painted pictures as postcards in the path of the bamboo forest. A postcard costs only 100 yen and by that you will also support a small entrepreneur and artist who is the sweetest ever! He had also a world map where he marked where from his customers are coming from - so cute!

IMPORTANT TIP: If it is sunny and hot day without any clouds in the sky so take an umbrella or hat/cap with you, Arashiyama is really open place despite of all the trees and the heat feels really strong (expect in the shadows of bamboo groves). And, waterbottles!

Check the website called Inside Kyoto to see how to get easily to Arashiyama (we used the 30 min bus ride and it was handy and easy) and what other places you can visit in Arashiyama area because there is also several temples, bike-renting et cetera!

Sayonara, Karoliina

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Travel, Travel: what to see, Destination: Estonia

I have been longing to visit Tallinn so long and now during last summer I took it as real business to get there. Of course, things are just not so easy so the weekend trip got postponed to Fall!

I did not get taken so much pictures nor got to enjoy fully the tourist walking because the wind was horrible, literally. I had also a bad flu going on for few days which gave me also 39 degrees fever during the night on the cruise. 

Also, I though to be smart when choosing to wear a hat to keep me warm while walking in the windy weather but I forgot the fact that a little bit too big hat and the hard wind are not best combination...That's why pictures were really difficult to take when other hand was all the time holding the hat on my head (see also the two pictures were I am appearing...surprise surprise - holding the hat).

I do not have so much to say what to do and what to see in Tallinn because my exploring was kind of non-motivated thanks to the circumstances. I still want to list below my favourite places of visitation but I also highly recommend to check in TripAdvisor to see more possible activities and places to visit!

Even though I spent the whole day (booked a weekend vacation of one night on the cruise and the second night in a hotel in Tallinn) in Tallinn, I think these places can be also easily squeezed to see during 5 hours visitation which is also one alternative while planning a trip to Tallinn from Finland (Helsinki) with a cruise. 

Attractions free of charge

Old Town of Tallinn

Town Hall Square 

Maiden's Tower

Observation spot "Patkuli"

The City Wall

Toompea Hill

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Kiek in de Kök

Oleviste Church

Observation spot "Kohtuotsa"

Paksu Margareta

The gates to Old Town

Also, if you want to do some shopping I recommend to visit Viru-mall and next to it has been expanded another mall with H&M etc. In Viru-mall is also a museum of KGB but somehow I totally forgot till late night. Also if you really like to expierence more down to earth local shopping you should visit Merekeskus and Sadamarket which are near by the port.

++ If I could choose, I think the most ideal visitation time for Tallinn would be Summer time because Old Town has so beautiful and colorful buildings with several nice local cafeterias and restaurants with a terrace or patio. I can ensure that idyllic and romantic vibe of the area is as its best during the hot and sunny days. Or at least I think I would get most out of the visitation during this seasonal time! 

If there is missing some good attraction spot so name it!

AND if you know some good locations, attractions or activities which are possible only during some specific time of the year in Tallinn, share it with others so we can all be again bit smarter during the next vacation :)!


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Destination: Japan, Travel: what to see

This days main attractions were Golden Temple (Kinkankuji) and Ryoanji Temple which are both world famous attractions. For the Golden Temple you needed to pay 500 yen entry price (if I remember correctly) and the area inside had a very specific one-optional route pass the temple and through the garden area which kind of made the experience bit less magical while being so tourist oriented attraction. The most time taking with the visitation is the photo taking -spot which is right in the beginning of the route. Rest of walking takes maybe max 15-20 minutes if you do not make many huge stops in the garden.

Ryoanji Temple (fee was also 500 yen) was one of my other ultimate favorites in Kyoto with Ryozen Kannon. When you first time hear that it is a rock garden you might end up thinking something as why would I want to see that but I recommend that you will ditch that thought and go to explore the place because it will surprise you most likely - like it did to me. Maybe my experience got also more unforgettable because of heavy rain (not many people maybe say this so much hah). But for real -while sitting down towards to the rock garden, only thing which was breaking the silence was  the rain drops coming down to the small stones in the sides of the garden area (see the left corner in the second last photo). It is sad how I can not describe it so much because it was all about the experience but I believe that you believe it was beautiful and speechless moment. That is why you should maybe visit this place during a rainy day. Plus you can also walk inside of the temple and around it without rain bothering you. Only minus is that the area has a beautiful garden as well and there is no protection from rain but the route was easy and did not even get muddy during the rain so if you are not made from the sugar, I believe you will survive!

This garden is surrounding a lake which is known as home for some rear goose species, which we got to see as well! Sadly I just did not get any good picture of those because they were just too far and too white for my camera hah! There is also a small cute island in the middle of lake which has a small shrine and two small toriis!

I also think the small things makes the most; like in several other temples, you needed to take your shoes off also in Ryoanji Temple. It feels so nice to walk with bare foot on the old wooden floor - makes the experience more special and magical and peaceful! The same habit was also in Higashi Hongan-ji Temple and Nishi Hongan-ji Temple in Kyoto by creating same kind of feeling!

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Destination: Japan, Travel: what to see

This day included a lot walking (19 kilometers) and several beautiful attractions; Ryozen Kannon, Chion-in Temple and Heian Shrine. We also walked to Ginkankuji Temple (Silver temple).

Chion-in Temple was sadly totally under construction so there was nothing else to see expect this huge, literally the biggest gate I have ever seen which can be seen in the third picture (wooden one) and the big stairs which were exhausting to walk up in the heat of over 30+ degrees. 

Heian Shrine was beautiful experience as well. Before arriving to the shrine there was also the biggest torii I have ever seen.

My personal favourite was for sure Ryozen Kannon which is 80 feet high buddha monument as a tribute to 48 000 unknown soldiers who fought in Japanese territory during the second world war.

Ginkankuji Temple cost 500 yen inside while Ryozen Kannon was modest 300. While entering to the Ryozen Kannon, visitors get an incense to put in front of the statue. It is also good to know that you can concretely enter inside to the statue where is located every horoscopes (years) own god for whom you can make a pray to. 

Ryozen Kannon is incrible place to visit and it is good to knowledge its existence because you might not stumble on it easily; despite the statue is huge it is quite well hidden. A lot of information in the area is only in Japanese so if you are really interested in for knowing what all the memorial place includes, I would recommend to stay forehand what all you can find, for example from TripAdvisor.

The second picture is showing "The Golden Ball" (unfortunately do not remember the real name) which you are supposed to go around three times with your right hand to get your own wish come true. You can find this ball on the left side of the statue. 

I truly, fully recommend to visit all these places but especially Ryozen Kannon because it is probably less known but still has the strongest atmosphere around; peace, harmony and tranquil are many of other feelings you can sense! Plus, it is so beautiful!

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Destination: Japan, Travel: what to see

The third day of our stay in Kyoto we went to see the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is one of the most famous attractions in whole Japan because of its thousands of toriis (gates) all the way up to Mountain Inari. These toriis are also called as Senbon Torii which means thousand gates.

According to the story, Fushimi Inari Shrine was founded when the god Inari was enshrined on the mountain in the year of 711. Every shrine tend also to have own spiritwhich for Fushimi Inari Shrine are "Kitsune" - foxes. These foxes are seen as messengers of gods which is also seen how the foxes are presented in the statues in the area of this shrine.

The experience of spending the day by walking through the thousands toriis to the top of the mountain with its 233 meters high was unbelievable amazing. Though the weather for the day was extremely heavy (especially for Finnish the subtropical weather is not common with sweaty and moisture air at the same time). This forced me to have several small pauses while walking up. Also, the height and depth of the stairs was bit more than natural step is so it was more physical than usually. This is way I truly recommend to have comfortable clothes and shoes on! Also having a bottle of water is a wise choice!

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Destination: Japan, Travel: accommodation & flights, Travel

We arrived to Kansai Airport in 9 am local time and after filling in several papers and showed passports few times we took a straight bus to Kyoto with 20+ euros. I do not know accurately how long the ride took because I slept the whole way hah.

From Kyoto station, where the bus took us, we walked 3 km to our hostel called Guesthouse Trip Sound which is located near by Yasaka Shrine. The hostel itself was small but comfortable and handy for its location; next to big attractions, not too far away from the city center and several bus lines passing all the time. The expectations for the hostel were not high with the price we paid but only lack with the stay was that there was really few bathrooms and showers. Luckily for us the hostel was pretty empty during weekdays so we did not need to wait a lot for getting in either ones.

I recommend to check usual hostels.com, booking.com, hostelword.com etc. to find a good deal for place to stay! Our problem was that we reserved only five days before arrival so there was not options a lot but after a good looking we found this place with really low price!

During our first day we walked little bit around next to hostel but the feeling of jet lag, being awake without proper sleep and really different weather (it is so moisture air) I felt horrible so I went to sleep over the day.

The second day went better; we were strolling around the city center and seeing few temples in the center area. My favourites were Higashi Hongan-ji Temple, Nishi Hongan-ji Temple and small but extremely beautiful Rokkaido Temple. We walked also through the main shopping streets which have roofs (this became handy later when it started pouring water) and Nishiki Market which is a famous food street of Kyoto.

Sayonara, Karoliina

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Destination: Japan

I have just returned home from my spontaneous vacation from Japan! Very incredible!

I knew about the possibility to travel there along my sister but I kept the idea pretty absurd because I had not really thought or dreamed of this destination so much as some other places. In fact, I always imagined my first vacation outside of Europe would be under the palm trees hah. But I truly believe that spontaneous trips are the ones which creates the best memories so I did not see it as a negative factor that I have not been longing for this trip months or years. I knew I would love it, have fun and enjoy it as much as it's possible and it was enough reason to me.

With my sister we planned to visit two bigger cities in Kansai area; Osaka and Kyoto during our visit of 2,5 weeks in Japan. The main reason for these cities were the good priced tickets from Finnish airline Finnair. Flights were straight from Helsinki (HEL) to Osaka (KIX) with time of 9+ hours. Despite I was little bit nervous how I manage so long flight (before this my longest flight had been 4,5 h) but all that worrying was for nothing in fact. We got blankets, pillow, headphones and access to movies, tv-series etc. and enough food to survive and sitting such a long time did not kill my butt hah.

Only lack I had was that next to me was sitting two under 5 years old children and when I wanted to watch movies I needed to skip 4/5 of options because those were not suitable for children hah. Then again, on our return flight we got economy comfort seats so no complains!

I will write several posts about all attractions I visited during my visit of these two cities. Unlikely I write separate post of every single day but let see how it turns out; main thing still is to tell about the attractions!

Sayonara, Karoliina

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Destination: Spain, Travel: what to see

Barcelona is such a city which gives so much to see and explore. My visit took three days and even though the days started early and ended late I am sure I still missed some attractions. This is why I do not dare to mention what you definitely have to see in Barcelona when I do not even myself know all the possible options. That still did not prevent me sharing my own personal favorites with few separate posts which I have done here, here and here.

To make it simple for you I write here below the names of places which I visited or tried to visited so you can also google them and check if they are something you want to see with your own eyes! I definitely recommend to see these places but if you have a shorter visit in Barcelona I would suggest to think your own interest while choosing the places to visit!

Parc de la Ciutadella

Plaça de l'Ictineo & Port Vell

Palau de la Música

La Sagrada Familia

Cathedral of Barcelona

Park Güell

Casa Milà

Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona

Casa Batlló

Tibidabo

Las Arenas

Magic Fountain of Montuï

Gothic Quarter & Carrer del Bisbe

Museum of Picasso

Gaudí has also made several other famous buildings than in the list above so if you are interested in architecture so I recommend to check those too. I do not have own experience of the beaches in Barcelona because my vacation was purely a city trip because of other destinations in Spain were more concentrated on chilling under the sun. 

Hopefully this post helps you little bit while considering Barcelona as a destination or already planning the trip there! I liked the place myself so I definitely recommend the city but be aware of the high prices in case you want to enter in attractions!

If you have visited or even live in Barcelona and know some great place to see which is not in my list, share your knowledge for others by commenting in this post! 

Until the next time

Adiós, Karoliina

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