the land of the swiss

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So if I lived in Switzerland I would definitely be a landscape photographer. It is just beautiful! And the light there is so different to Italy. It has this sort of soft blue tint. Though that might be the time of year.

We visited my aunt and uncle, who live outside of Zurich, a few weeks back for a long weekend. It was a great break and Switzerland is gob-smackingly beautiful but I have to say if I didn’t have family there it would be an incredibly expensive destination to visit. Going from €1 coffees to €5-6 coffees can make you gag! But I would love to go back and explore some of their ‘brauken haus’ (I have no idea how you spell that) which are second hand and vintage stores which just litter the countryside. In one we were able to pick up an unused Alessi moka pot for €20 when it is normally priced about €200. My kind of bargain huntin!

japan | hiroshima

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Hiroshima was a strange sort of experience in that it is a city which has carried on with life. It is hard to think that a city which was practically destroyed 70 years ago would still be here and life carried on. I think it is a symbol of the resilience of the human spirit to overcome horrors many of us could only imagine.

We only spent a day in the city but I am glad we did. I feel I would have missed out on a very eye opening experience if I hadn’t. The museum dedicated to the impact of the A-bomb and a continued wish for peace was really interesting as well as quite harrowing.

p.s. the building in the second picture was under where the bomb exploded. Approximately 5 buildings remained standing after the A-bomb went off for a radius of (If I remember) 10 kilometres. So everything in the city centre is new. The islands in the river have been dedicated to a peace memorial park which is quite lovely to stroll around.

packing light – part ii

packing light

I shared my experience of packing with just hand luggage at the beginning of the year but since then I have travelled with just hand luggage to Japan (2 weeks), Crete (10 days), Switzerland (5 days) and a few one or two night trips. I feel like one of my magical skills is now packing a cabin bag for a trip. I even do it in a very short period of time now rather than spending a week putting things aside! I did do one trip to London with a bigger bag so I could bring stuff back and regretted it the whole time I was there!

So, I still do the Konmari packing method (doesn’t it look beautiful!). If I am taking some shirts I would normally hang, I fold and lay them flat on top. On top there is then also space for toiletries, plugs etc.

Having minimised my wardrobe has made packing easier too. I have a limited colour palette (although my summer wardrobe has some extra colour and pattern pieces) which means that mostly everything goes together. I would say you never need more than two pairs of shoes (okay three at a push) and once you have decided what you are taking, get rid of 2-3 pieces. I promise you won’t end up wearing it all! After Japan I realised that I still didn’t wear everything I packed and reduced even more for our next trip (although sitting on a beach for 10 days doesn’t require that much clothing anyway). I suppose the lesson is that you just need to be aware what you are doing. If you are staying with family for five days you don’t need to take an evening dress but probably packing some good pjs which you are happy to walk around the house in is a good idea.

My breakthrough toiletry piece that I discovered (particularly for flying) is shampoo bars. I picked up a honey shampoo bar from lush which has lasted really well. Along with that is using a normal soap bar for washing too. I don’t know about you but I am so used to using a shower gel that the idea of taking soap on holiday didn’t occur to me for a while!

Also, I did cave and bought a small camera (the FujiFilm x100t) before heading to Japan. I absolutely love it and all the photos since the summer that I have shared on here are I have used that. Carrying a lighter camera around makes such a difference! I used to get so grumpy lugging my big camera around by the end of day and would leave my camera at home some days because of the weight. There are limitations on capturing things (some bits are just too far away with a 35 mm lens) but it is great for city travels especially. If you aren’t big on photography just take your phone. They are so good these days and unless you planning on blowing up a massive picture for your wall they will do just fine for sharing on Instagram and Facebook.

Let me know if you have any other tips, there is always room for improvement!

japan | a few more things in kyoto

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Just a few more things you should do while in Kyoto (although I certainly didn’t get to do it al):

  • Sit on the river for a while. It is a bit different to other big city rivers in that (at least the bit we were sitting on) wasn’t really made a big thing of. There are some old, stilted restaurants along one bit but we just sat outside and enjoyed the peace.
  • If it is raining head to the National Museum of Modern Art. It was interesting to see some Modern Japanese art particularly in its home country.
  • If you head to the Museum there is a great little coffee shop called Noma across the canal (last two photos). They make delicious scones with a Japanese twist and some gorgeous iced-tea. There is also a little shop next door which has a collection of vintage and designer items. We couldn’t help but buy a little glass house when we went back for a second visit (because the shop was closed the first time around).
  • We didn’t eat out too much when in Kyoto but there was a vegetarian macrobiotic restaurant, called Choice, basically opposite the Airbnb we stayed in. It was a little pricey but the food was really good.

japan | the bamboo forest

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I loved the bamboo forest. It was about 40 minutes on a bus from where we were staying. I loved traveling on the bus. I saw school kids get on and off, an elderly lawn bowling group get on and off and a buddhist monk with rope shoes get on and off. Tim napped.

We got a little lost finding the bamboo forest but eventually a monk showed us the way! We were there early so the tourists hadn’t arrived. Just a few school groups (who seemed to be going on tours with taxi drivers).

Just so you know:

  • You can’t walk amongst the bamboo. I thought you would be able to but you can’t. I suppose if thousands of people were wondering through it would get rather damaged.
  • Growing bamboo has the most beautiful green tone. It is so calming. And it grows super tall.
  • Lotus flowers are pretty awesome.
  • The gardeners in these beautiful old gardeners have shoes that are made from some sort neoprene fabric and have individual toes.
  • Sometimes buddhist nuns take pictures with phone cameras (I kind of imagine she was taking a selfie).
  • Staring at a pond for a while can make you feel very zen (the garden is in a temple that is next to the bamboo forest).
  • The little town that the bamboo forest is in is pretty cute but you might want to get the bus back before all the tourists really arrive.

japan | kyoto i

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Firstly, I would go back to Kyoto anytime. It is just one of those towns that have some personality. The kind of place which would be your instant best friend, know all the great spots to go in town and will keep all your secrets.

We stayed in the eastern bit of Kyoto right near the Gion area. On our first full day there we woke up early-ish and headed to what was local, which happened to be one of the biggest temples Chion-In Temple which is next to Maruyama Park.

When we arrived there weren’t many people around and I really enjoyed the experience of wandering around and seeing these holy places in calm being used as they were meant to. We seemed to follow these ladies on their own path through the complex (it takes up a lot of space) and I enjoyed seeing how people interacted with the space.

We then wandered into the park, tried some bamboo ash ice-cream and waited for these children sitting near us to be eaten by the crows. Luckily it didn’t happen. At least while we were there.

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After the calm of the park and Buddhist temple we walked into the Shinto temple next door. The contrast is beautiful. From calm, natural colours, lots of raw wood we moved into this riot of colour, bells been rung, hands been clapped, bright orange paint, shops selling dreams and wishes at the front and tourists dressed in traditional Japanese attire. I love how these two polarities live together in Japan. This yin and yang of colour and nature, quiet and music, austerity and shopping. It is amazing to think that these two different practises live side by side within the Japanese culture. It is a nice metaphor that suggests we don’t have to fit into a tightly defined box, don’t you think?