Snapshots from Kyoto, August 2019




Japan is very high up on my Explore the world bucket list. We spent one week in Kyoto in mid August. This wasn’t my first time in this fascinating country and hopefully it won’t be the last. Already dreaming of the next Japan adventure  either during the hanami or autumn colors.

When I travel, I just love to watch and observe people, details, city life, ways of interaction and how people are dressed. I’ll share some observations and notes on Kyoto. My selected edition of Kyoto tips will come out in the next post. All the pictures in this post are taken with my phone: snapshots from our explorations around Kyoto.

Kyoto is atmospheric, historic, traditional and pleasant, a big city with the vibes and special cosy mood of a small city. Kyoto is filled with gardens, temples, shrines and teahouses. Many of the streets in the centre are rather narrow and peaceful so biking and walking are very noteworthy options. And for daytrips for example to the Kinkaku-ji Golden pavilion you can take the bus: the bus network is comprehensive. When you do take the bus: step in from the middle door and pay the fare (with the exact amount of coins) when you leave the bus.



The soundscape of Kyoto was unique: The impressive sound of whistling bamboo trees at the Arashiyama bamboo grove. The croaking concert of frogs by the Kamo river in the dark and soft late summer evening of the subtropics. The loud chirring of cicadas. And the characteristic clatter of wooden sandals as a couple dressed in kimonos walked up the stone steps at the Fushimi Inari mountain.

August in Kyoto is h o t. About 35–37 degrees Celsius during the day. Not too hot but sweat running down your back and I wish we had one of those mini fans (with small ears as decorations (!) hot. Many of the locals were equipped for the day with a sweat towel around their necks. Many were also wearing these long separate sleeves (some had lace decorations in them) to protect themselves against the sun. I also learned that you can buy a cooling ice mask which will provide some chilling relief for your face. Restaurants and shops had excellent air conditioning and there’s a vending machine selling water, refreshments, ice coffee and matcha tea on almost every street corner, so you won’t get dehydrated, or decaffeinated.



What else did I want to tell you? The historic and busy Nishiki Market is a good place to enjoy a tasty snack, perhaps some grilled seafood (kaisanbutsu in Japanese), a piece of juicy tofu or maybe a cooling matcha ice cream, which tasted a lot like cold spinach soup and strangely enough was pretty addictive. There are plenty of kimono rental shops around the city so if you desire, you can get dressed up and have a photoshoot in one of the historical quarters. And, at the Inari mountain there was a sign that boars roam in the area, but luckily, we encountered none. But, we did see many lively monkeys at the Iwatayama Monkey Park, where they ran, played and climbed the trees at the top of the mountain.



Hiking under the Andalusian Sun: A Day Trek in Sierra Nevada

Sweat is the gift from the body to the soul.

I really agree with that line, by the Finnish writer Kari Hotakainen. Add gorgeous scenery, fresh and crisp mountain air, a great adventure buddy (aka my husband), new trails waiting to be explored and the possibility of spotting baby alpine goats and you get to the very core of the allure of hiking.

There are different kinds of hikes: those which offer visual treats and spectacles on almost every step you take (thinking about Matterhorn last summer). And then there are hikes which add up to be rewarding but maybe don’t scenery-wise offer such landscape fireworks from the start as you were set out for.

So, we went trekking to the Sierra Nevada National Park in Southern Spain, in Andalucía. We we’re staying at Almuñécar, a nice small city by the sea at the Costa Tropical. The previous evening before the hiking day we browsed the hike suggestions at treksierranevada.com and decided to go for the route Canal de la Espartera. We were drawn by the length of the walk (14 km, suitable for us for an enjoyable day trip), the profile of the trek (moderately challenging) and the lush vegetation, crashing waterfalls and wide variety of scenery depicted in the hike description.

The starting point of the hike is near Fuente del Hervidero, a traditional country-style restaurant, which can be accessed from the town of La Zubia. We travelled there with our rental car and left the car to the parking field near the restaurant.

Indeed, the hike was varied, gratifying and good, as an entity. The first bit (the first two hours) of the actual hike was made up of a wide gravel track and rather desert-like views: the land was dry and dusty and the Andalusian sun was keeping us nice and warm (or hot – not too hot, but definitely hot enough). A baby alpine ibex peaked timidly from behind the bushes and dashed quickly out of sight.


Then, at about halfway of the trek the scenery started to become lusher with green hills, coniferous trees, long grass, butterflies swirling around us and pretty yellow flowers. The mountain stream burbled in the background.

The route was marked with wooden signposts with a yellow and white stripe. The posts occurred often enough, but a kilometre indicator on each of them would have made the poles even more helpful.


A few notes about the hike and tips for your trek:

If you want peace and quiet, this is your trek! We encountered maybe three people there during the entire hiking day. Don’t start your hike too late, so that you’ll find your way back in daylight (we started around 2 pm and finished at 8 o’clock and the sun began to set after 9 pm).

Snacks! The key to happiness. There are no mountain huts on this route (selling abundant pieces of apple strudel like in the alpine huts in Switzerland, says she wistfully), so pack a big water bottle and snacks that will keep you energized along the way. Granola, bananas, chocolate (won’t deny it, the hike menu might have included some pringles as well). Also, remember a hat and sunscreen.

The attractions of Granada and the spectacular palace of Alhambra are close by (around 25 minutes by car), so after the sweaty fun and some refrehing up you can enjoy some cultural delights.

Enjoy your trek!

New York State of Mind: My 5 NYC Tips

New York, New York: you are epic, thrilling, bustling, inspiring and exhausting. NY definitely is an iconic city and when you’re there it feels like you’re part of a bigger scene so very familiar from countless movies, series, novels and songs. In SATC NYC was  like the fifth major character in the series.

I want to share my best NY tips with you. Obviously, the list is not all-encompassing, but I hope that it can help you spice & shape your NYC experience with a few selected and tested gems.


Stay overnight in Jersey City


Definitely. Jersey City feels like an up and coming area with good vibes. With the price that we got a tiny (yet stylish) room in Midtown Manhattan, we got a beautiful spacious loft apartment in Jersey City. Jersey pampered us for example with a wide wooden pier which was perfect for sunny morning runs, a cute little coffee wagon where we got our post-run cappuccinos and almond croissants, a top-notch view to Southern Manhattan, a fast and affordable path train connection to Manhattan (20 minutes and $ 2,70), a farmers market and chilled vibes. When there, try also the Hudson Hall Smokehouse and beerhall (on 364 Marin Blvd): a tasty experience wrapped in yummy barbeque sauce and friendly and easy-going service.

Midtown Manhattan is busy and hectic and a good place to stay if you’ll for example take the train from the Penn Station the next morning (we went to Boston), but I really preferred to stay the other nights on the side of Jersey.


Feast in the Katz Delicatessen


Want to have the best pastrami sandwich of your life? The Katz Deli enjoys a legendary reputation and it was here where the famous scene in When Harry met Sally rom com was filmed. I’ll have what she’s having, indeed and yes please. There’s a sign hanging from the ceiling indicating where Meg Ryan’s character sat, pinpointing the exact seat for movie fans and tourists.

We shared the juicy Katz’s Pastrami Hot Sandwich and Katz’s Cheesesteak (the menu promised that this plentiful treat would make Rocky leave Philadelphia): both were purely delicious, tender and filling. The atmosphere in this Jewish-style deli is fast-paced, characteristic and interesting. You can opt for either the self-service way or the full-service seating: we did the latter and it worked well. The price was reasonable ($ 80 for two) considering it is New York and the sandwiches are shockingly yummy.

Address: 205 East Houston Street, corner of Ludlow St


Walk the High Line


High Line: calling it a green oasis might be a bit too much but it’s a verdant park-like public space built on an elevated freight rail line, located at the Meatpacking District in West Chelsea. On sunny days it is really popular. High Line is a nice green walk amid the bustling city. Before or after the day stroll you can visit the Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave) and for example enjoy Japanese inspired tacos for lunch.

See a Broadway show. See Chicago.

If you only have the chance, do this. A great place to get tickets up to 50 % off (to same-day performances) are the TKTS discount booths. We prefer the one on South Sea Seaport (located in the corner of Front and John Streets): there were no queues and we got tickets half price to Chicago of that same evening. There are two other booths as well, one on Times Square and the third at Lincoln Center.

And Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre (291 West 49th Street): it was mesmerizing, radiant and super skilled. The intermission drink from the theatre bar was way overpriced as you can expect but they served the sparkling wine in a big plastic mug with a straw so that you could keep sipping it during the second act. As a side note on how people in the audience is dressed: five years ago, in our first Broadway show I was slightly surprised how casually some people were dressed to the occasion. I remember seeing a bunch of shorts and t-shirts. But hey, then again, the main thing is the spectacular show.

Cross the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset


Cross the bridge to the side of Brooklyn, where you can admire the gleaming Manhattan skyline. Epic views are guaranteed. If you’re an early bird, go for the sunrise experience. We couldn’t help but wonder what it is like to live right next to the bridge where millions of people have a direct view to your living room, bedroom and life. Megacity life indeed.


What else, what else? Here are a few quick notes:

Visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave). Afterwards you can enjoy a nice late lunch or light dinner at the atmospheric French bistro Demarchelier (50 East 86th Street).

Remember to apply for your ESTA before travelling to the States.

New York was way more expensive than five years ago. Back then we actually managed go under our NY travel budget (!) Many things can of course be affordable or free, but be prepared for high prices in food, accommodation, experiences and shopping of course.

And last, enjoy and take in the NYC magic with all your senses!