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!

Treats of Tel Aviv




The number of super fit and beautiful people running past us on the bustling beach promenade was incredible. And not only at noon or at 3 o’ clock pm but also as we were returning from dinner at eleven o’ clock in the evening. Saying that Tel Aviv is a sporty city is an apt description. Also, you’ll have no trouble finding an outdoor gym as there are numerous of them sprinkled along the beach strip. And if you take a look towards the sea, past the teens playing beach volley (in December!), you’ll see a class of young surf school participants practising the basics of surfing in the water.

Though not everyone was doing the muscle work themselves: I’ve never seen that many electric scooters anywhere else. But still, Tel Aviv exercises around the clock and the atmosphere does wonders to spark one’s exercising motivation.


We spent our Christmas holiday this year in Tel Aviv. Strong recommendations to the city, I really liked it. 19 degrees Celsius during the day, a long beach promenade along the Mediterranean coastline, the sunrays caressing our cheeks, the savory treats of the Middle East cuisine, the busy Carmel market with its rich sweet pastries, the laid-back atmosphere and the gorgeous sunsets with twenty shades of orange: everything really that I had wished from our compact Xmas holiday.

Every city has its own sounds and the soundscape of TLV includes the rhythmic hits echoing from the Matkot beach padel game, the calls to worship from the mosques, the sounds of traffic, the rhythms coming from the lively beach bars and restaurants and the unique Hebrew language.



It is impossible to talk about Tel Aviv without writing about the food and the culinary joys. Try the full-bodied hummus, the luscious falafels, the fresh white fish, the delicious olives and the Flam Blanc white wine. We had a tasty Christmas Eve dinner at Beit Kandinof in Jaffa (Rehov Hatzorfim 14): it is an atmospheric and relaxed place and an art space with a lively bustle, good vibes, cocktails with local spice and such good food. I recommend that you also visit the bohemian district of Neve Tzedek and there the restaurant Dallal (Rehov Shabazi 10): it is romantic, cosy, beautifully lit with light twines and their kitchen combines Middle Eastern and European flavours. One treat that we’ll need to try on our next visit is shakshuka, the superstar of the Israeli breakfast: North-African styled poaches eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.


One thing I want to mention is that I felt very safe during our whole trip. There are tensions in Israel, but you can’t sense or see them in Tel Aviv. Though it was a bit strange to see a handgun tucked in the belt of a man fishing next to us in his civilian clothes. Not necessarily threatening but strange. In the airport it’s good to reserve some extra time for the security checks.

What else what else? Tel Aviv is a city with 15 kilometres of shimmering coastline. It is a culinary hotspot, bustling and vibrant. The White City area with its Bauhaus architecture is worth a visit and near it are many alluring boutiques. The price level in TLV is high, but luckily gazing at the stunning sunset and its mind-blowing tones by the beach is completely free.