Travel

Joy in Disneyland, Tokyo

Earlier this year, during a 12-day holiday in Japan, I was lucky enough to visit both Disney themeparks in Tokyo – Disneyland and DisneySea. Thinking back on those days brings me such joy as the “Happiest place on earth” certainly exceeded all my expectations. Both adults and children alike had smiles on their faces as they ran to queue up for certain attractions, eat at themed restaurants and shop at some of the cutest boutiques in the world. From the moment I stepped foot inside Tokyo’s wonderland of Disney magic, I knew I would have the time of my life.

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One of the first sights I saw was this cute Disney Resort Line monorail taking visitors from Disneyland to DisneySea and all around. Inside the carriages it’s really cute too, with Mickey Mouse shaped views and handles to hold on to!

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This is the very beautiful Disneyland Hotel for those lucky enough to stay overnight at Disneyland! Even their rooms have been designed with certain Disney characters in mind and the hotel is lavish from top to bottom.

There were many shops selling everything from plush toys to confectionery, and stationery to cosmetics. Everything had the irresistible Disney feel to it and it certainly was hard to resist the urge to buy most of the things on sale! Bring a bigger suitcase with you if you can!

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I absolutely loved the different areas of the Park. There’s Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland. Each in its own is an unforgettable experience!

The Mark Twain Riverboat cruise was one of my favourite experiences because it transported me back to my memories of summer in the US last year in the charming city of Wilmington, NC.

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Seeing the majestic Disney castle with your very eyes is absolutely incredible. So much planning and designing went into each and every element of both Disney Parks, and the attention to detail is just phenomenal.

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When I was there it was all setup for Easter and checking their website today it looks like they’ve decorated for Halloween!

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Honestly the whole experience was amazing and I highly recommend visiting magical Disneyland Tokyo for yourself. In a future post, I’ll make sure to cover the equally impressive DisneySea Park!

London, Travel

Dear UK

With everything happening in Britain right now with the “Brexit” and the fragile social, political and economic situation in the UK, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life there. I lived in Watford, Hertfordshire for 23 months in my early twenties and practically regard the UK as my second home.

In this post I urge you to leave all your troubles behind, pour yourself a cup of tea (or as we say in Australia a “cuppa”) and let me introduce you to a few of my favourite places and memories in my beloved UK.

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Bath and I crossed paths at the very beginning of my time in the UK after I found a travel brochure offering tours to every imaginable tourist attraction in the country. Naturally I was drawn to Stonehenge, one of the seven wonders of the world, and thankfully Bath and Salisbury were included on the tour. There’s a certain charm and beauty to this UNESCO World Heritage Site that photography alone cannot convey. You have to actually walk the streets lined with 18th-century Georgian architecture to truly understand Bath. My top recommendations for architecture lovers are the unmissable Crescent and Circus – residences arranged in a grand semi-circle and circular layout that will leave you breathless.

The main attraction in Bath is the stunning natural hot spring bathhouse of the original Roman Baths, where steam rises from the sage-green pool of water before your very eyes. Bath is a bustling yet peaceful town that can easily be explored on foot and at times you will even feel like you’ve walked straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Let’s just say, one visit to beautiful Bath was not enough for me.


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I was picking up a Gumtree purchase for my shop in this quaint town of Surrey, known as Shere. This picture-perfect place left a great impression on me and the surrounding countryside views were some of the best I had seen in the UK. Luckily, I can re-live my time in Shere by watching Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006). Among other places, they filmed at “The White Horse” pub where there’s a framed photo proudly displaying the fact.

You can read my previous blog post about Shere here.


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Oh London, how I miss you! I must admit that I get really emotional looking at these photos taken 3-5 years ago. Even though the sights and sounds of London town are behind me I still feel largely connected to the British capital. I have such fond memories of beautiful sights around Notting Hill and Hampstead Heath, as well as the areas around Kensington and Westminster.


Almost every Sunday I would walk around Hyde Park and marvel at the friendly squirrels. It was the only day that my shop was closed so I put my best walking shoes on and wandered street after street of each borough I was attracted to. I loved feeling like a tourist while taking photographs of locals on their Sundays.


NightOxfordStXmasMarketXmasMarket (2)My favourite time of year to be a tourist in the UK was definitely at Christmas time. Oxford Street comes alive with street decorations and lights while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland of market stalls, rides, food and attractions (like ice-skating) really puts everyone into the festive mood.


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My favourite thing to do in London was attend all the glamorous movie premieres held in Leicester Square. I was so excited to come within touching distance of Ben Affleck (Argo Premiere) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger Premiere) and the cast of my favourite Les Miserables (2012). London is an amazing place for film buffs.


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I remember spending hours and hours in Harrods whenever I had nowhere to rush to. The food hall is an absolute masterpiece and the lavish interiors and luxurious products really impressed me each time. If only I had a larger wallet!

You can read about my time in Harrods here.


Snow

Anyone that’s ever been lucky enough to wake up to powder white snow covering everything from tree branches to rooftops knows how magical it can feel. While snow never lasted too long in Watford, it was epic fun while it was there and certainly different to the sort of winters I’m used to here in Melbourne.


Sunsets

Gazing out the window to this view every summer’s evening was a definite treat! Sunsets in Watford were absolutely breathtaking. More about that here.


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Watford is where I spent 6 days of my week for 11 months straight when I ran my shop. It’s a place where the English countryside provides a peaceful escape yet there’s enough buzz in town to get you excited about the shopping and nightlife. Locals are friendly and everyone gets along, Watford still feels like home to me to some extent.


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The thing I miss the most about life in the UK is my little stationery and gift shop on Chalk Hill. I feel truly blessed to have had this opportunity to be part of the Watford small business group with such welcoming surrounding businesses around me.


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Who doesn’t love a hearty traditional English pub meal? It’s always great value.


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Last but certainly not least, it was hard to watch the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations in front of this gem of a palace. Every time I stood at the gates of Buckingham Palace, I felt like I was a true Londoner. And boy did it feel great!


Hope you’ve enjoyed my top memories of life in the UK.

Latest News, Travel

My Japanese Adventure

It has long been a dream of mine to visit the “Land of the Rising Sun”. I remember always being fascinated about Japanese minimalism in relation to architecture whilst studying interior design at university. I always found Japan to be a great source of inspiration and have always been interested in their way of life and their unique culture. I have always wanted to enter a Japanese shop where everything is cute and character-driven.

A couple of months ago, right at the beginning of their cherry blossom season, I finally made it to this intriguing and fascinating island known as Japan. It was an eye-opening experience from start to finish and was the first time I ever holidayed in Asia. My sister and I spent 12 days travelling in Japan, starting in Tokyo and visiting Osaka and Kyoto.

For this post I simply want to showcase my photos to you because there are so many websites and books in the marketplace where you can gain information, make itineraries, and map out your day from morning till night (admittedly as a person who loves to plan everything out, I used a very helpful little app called Tripomatic to help me bring all my research together into one helpful daily organiser!). Of course I recommend that you do your research, by all means, but I also learned that it’s alright to simply have no plan for the day and see where life takes you. I wish we had more time to explore these three beautiful cities without time limits and without maps and itineraries as this would allow us to relax more and truly feel what it’s like to be in Japan. On my next trip there that’s what I plan to do for sure but understandably for the first trip somewhere I always seem to want to pack in as much to see and do as I possibly can!

Japan is a country which leaves visitors with their own distinct impressions, as long as you’re open to the possibility of discovering, learning and experiencing life from outside your comfort zone. Yes, there were lots of people everywhere and at times we did find ourselves on packed train carriages, feeling a little bit out of place, but even then I was eager to turn unfamiliar corners and see what’s out there. Japan really pushed my sense of adventure to the max and even though I couldn’t speak the language, its beautiful people always made me feel at ease. This trip was one of those “pinch me, am I really here?” moments and I cannot recommend Japan enough for anyone who is interested in history, architecture and religion. If you’re fortunate enough not to have any time constraints in Japan, then you’re probably the luckiest person in the world because there’s so much to see and so many places with the wow factor that will definitely leave you feeling speechless.

 

Christmas, Travel

Melbourne at Christmas Time

For many people it’s extremely unusual to think about celebrating Christmas in the summer but for us Aussies, it’s what we do best. The streets of Melbourne are currently decorated in the traditional colours of Christmas and unlike our US/European friends, we can roam the streets in our T-shirts, indulge in ice-cream and go for a swim at the beach. While I prefer the traditional Christmas of snowy streets and warm homes filled with the scent of mulled wine and cinnamon, and the option of buying gifts at hearty Christmas markets, in many ways we are truly blessed to have our end of year holidays during the summer and a great atmosphere of Christmas cheer on the streets.

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Travel

The City of Angels

Freeways of LA

For the majority of August, I’ve been away travelling; letting myself get lost in adventures and exploring the most beautiful surroundings this world has to offer. Up until now my travel posts mostly revolved around Europe or Australia, but now I’m so lucky to add another continent to that list. I made it all the way to America, and boy did I have fun!

After 14 hours on a direct flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles, there was nothing more beautiful than seeing palm trees and the coastline just as we started to land. I knew from the moment we disembarked that we had left the winter weather behind us, as a warm breeze and the sun’s rays welcomed us to summer at last. I’d never been to the US before and it was also my very first time travelling with my DSLR, which I was super impressed with.

Hollywood Sign

Los Angeles was absolutely gorgeous! I was so excited to photograph perfect looking streets lined with palm trees, the most amazing mountains and intertwining freeways in the distance. The City of Angels had it all; the excitement of Hollywood Boulevard with its Walk of Fame, glimpses of old Hollywood glamour through the windows of historic restaurants on Santa Monica Boulevard, and the sight of the Hollywood sign when you least expected it. Just a short distance away were its stunning beaches where you felt like you just walked onto the set of Baywatch. 

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For me, there were two highlights from my time in California. One was taking a tour out to San Diego and visiting the amazing zoo they have. Catching a view of pandas and flamingoes was extraordinary and made the long bus ride totally worthwhile. Ever since I drew my first Mishka Collection greeting card, I knew that it’d be great to see a real panda someday. The two sleepy pandas that day mostly sat with their backs to the people the whole time, but thankfully one of them moved and I managed to get a brilliant snap of it!

Universal NYC

The second highlight was going to all the various film related sights in and around Burbank. I am such a movie-fan and find it so interesting to visit sets, movie premieres and film studios. Warner Bros. Studios and Universal Studios were both incredible! With each of them they take you on a narrated tour around the working studios and show you where certain movies from the past and present were filmed. At Warner Bros. I got to hold a real Oscar, sit on the actual couch from the hit series Friends and see the current set from 2 Broke Girls. There was also an exhibition about Batman and Harry Potter, which were awesome. Universal Studios was my favourite place in L.A and apart from seeing Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, walking through a real-life Springfield and exploring a mini version of Paris, London and NYC, I also got to be in the background of Extra! and see Mario Lopez filming!

All in all, California and its people were so warm and beautiful and their lifestyle makes me want to pack up my bags and return for a second visit! Admittedly, getting around the city without a car is extremely difficult, but thankfully their Metro system was quick and efficient albeit not as widespread as it needs to be. People recommended riding on the Uber network, but fortunately for us we had our lovely relatives there to show us around. Los Angeles, with its glitzy Rodeo Drive and ultra-cool destinations for culture such as The Getty Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, will always hold a special place in my heart.

Travel

Journey from Holland to Belgium

Here we are at the last post in my series of European cities I visited solo during my student exchange days. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about my time of great independence and highly adventurous spirit immensely. Today, I’m taking you back to February 2009, when I was travelling into The Hague from Amsterdam and then continuing my trip across the border into Belgium.

Walking to ScheveningenWhen I arrived by train into The Hague, this small Dutch city was just waking up. I asked for directions to find my hostel in the seaside resort of Scheveningen and decided to walk there. The streets were so empty and it was really cold, but there was something so appealing to me about walking in an unknown city I’d never been to before. I didn’t even have a map so I just observed how the tram carried on in the distance and followed its lead. The reason I decided to go the The Hague was because I had been deprived of seeing the beach for a long few months living in landlocked Germany. There were plenty of lakes and rivers around me but for any true blue Australian, nothing beats the beach.

I checked into my hostel and what do you know, an Australian expat was working there! He helped me find my room and offered lots of helpful advice, one of which was how to ride their trams so I wouldn’t have to walk back and forth between Scheveningen and The Hague! Within a few minutes I rushed to the beach down the road and it was such a great feeling to hear the waves crashing in and smell the salty air. I didn’t take my shoes off because it was freezing cold, but the sand was fine and soft as it passed through my fingers. I spent only one night in that cosy hostel by the sea and only half a day exploring the sights of The Hague, but that was more than enough time to get a feel for beautiful, serene Holland.


Grand-PlaceThe next morning I journeyed into Brussels by train. This capital of Belgium immediately captivated me with its charming streets, picturesque squares and quirky shops. Brussels is a bilingual city where both Dutch and French are spoken and street names appear in both languages. Without any trouble I located my hotel and stepped out to explore. My first stop was the main square, known as Grand Place, where I started to feel like I stepped into a fairytale. Each building facade was so beautifully decorated with gold trimmings and embellishments that it made me so happy just to stand in the centre of the square and admire all four sides of the buildings surrounding me. The shopping arcades nearby all had a distinct European flavour, and the chocolate shops dotted all around the city were just heavenly. I took the 2-day Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour around all the major attractions in the city, making it super simple to explore and very convenient for a young tourist who didn’t do her research on public transport options in the city!

Manneken PisOne of the other main tourist attractions in Brussels is the “Manneken Pis” otherwise known as the pissing boy! All the tourists and I were armed with our cameras, which were directed at this tiny sculpture in the corner of a road intersection. It’s just so funny to think about it. He was actually being undressed from a Valentine’s Day costume when I was there!

All in all, I spent five days exploring three different European gems (Amsterdam blog post here), each with their own languages, architecture and traditions. Even though it was a short trip in duration, it was a rich and eventful journey I will never forget because it convinced me that a young and inexperienced solo traveller can do anything she sets her mind to, especially when she’s miles from home.

Travel

In Love With Amsterdam

AmsterdamAfter completing the study semester at the FH Mainz back in February 2009, the 19-year-old traveller in me was finally free to explore Europe at my own leisure. Assessments and tests that had weighed me down for the past 5 months were now behind me and I was finally able to sightsee, discover and satisfy my wanderlust with a greater peace of mind. My final journey before returning home to Melbourne took me to three cities in the span of 5 days! I was so eager to mark more countries off my list that I travelled to both The Netherlands and Belgium that winter.

Amsterdam was my first stop after a train ride in from Germany. I booked myself a very cheap hostel not far from the city centre. After a short tram trip, I dragged my suitcase up a flight of very steep stairs in an old hostel building that was strongly infused with the smell of cannabis. Wherever I have lived thereafter, I could so easily distinguish this smell from the first instance, like an airport sniffer dog! Needless to say, my accommodation wasn’t anything fancy but at least there was a roof over my head. I was only in town for one night and almost immediately after checking-in, I was out of there to explore Amsterdam in all its glory.

Architectural Styles

Everywhere I looked there were bikes and cyclists! Amsterdam was cold and at one point there was even some snow falling, but I just simply wandered the streets crossing endless bridges over the Amstel River and gazing up at the beautiful architectural style that is synonymous with Dutch living. The local people spoke English so well that I found it so easy to ask for directions and order food. Having had to remind myself that I was in a foreign country, I felt so comfortable as an international tourist in this clean, vibrant city.

As the night fell and it got dark by around 5pm, Amsterdam became a magical place with illuminated bridges and lane-ways. During my short stay in the capital of The Netherlands, I didn’t get to enter the famous Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s famous paintings, nor did I visit the Van Gogh Museum or Anne Frank’s House, but I did tick off trying Dutch pancakes, buying cute clogs to take home as a memento and weaving in and among the millions of cyclists that call Amsterdam home.

Dam Square

Travel

French Riviera (Part 1)

Two years ago I was very fortunate to travel to the beautiful south of France and spend ten of the most memorable days enjoying the hot summer along the Mediterranean Sea. Dad, my sister and I flew into Nice Airport from London Luton, a journey that took only a few hours. We were all extremely excited to finally be in the French Riviera; the sort of place where dreams come true, where famous movie stars once lived, where artists like Picasso and Matisse painted their masterpieces and a place we’ve grown to love wholeheartedly from the moment we got off the plane.

My dad’s friend and his family were also on vacation in Nice at that time and he was kind enough to give us a lift to our place of accommodation, a studio apartment in one of the most beautiful places I have ever called home – Villefranche-sur-Mer. Our journey on the road passed the infamous Negresco Hotel to our left and the most incredibly clear, sparkling, turquoise waters of the cote d’azur to our right. We were in heaven. Dad’s friend had such a sense of humour that we were laughing uncontrollably in the car and this made the trip that much more enjoyable.

When we got slightly lost and didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the apartment we were staying at, we parked the car along the road, everybody exited the vehicle and we were all left speechless by the view before us. What a welcome!

Villefranche at first sight

It became difficult not to fall head over heels in love with Villefranche immediately. In the distance we could see yellow and terracotta-coloured buildings with light blue shutters in the windows, white yachts docked on the harbour and an amazing array of hills in the background. It was like something straight out of a painting and quite frankly it felt just as surreal. It was one of those “pinch me, are we really here” moments.

Eventually we located our apartment, turned the key and we were home. Feeling slightly exhausted but so thrilled at the same time we became acquainted with our new living arrangements. The space was a large rectangular room that was cleverly divided into two levels at the far end, where my sister and I had single beds on the second floor mezzanine, while dad had his own room below. The common living room had a dining table, sofa and TV, while the small bathroom and even smaller kitchen led off from there. The space was cosy and the view from the only window in the apartment immediately reminded me of the beautiful Portofino (Italy) that I visited one month earlier. There was something about those terracotta colours and shutters that felt so Italian to me! With the only breeze and ventilation coming from the large window all the way at the other end of the apartment, it was difficult to fall asleep at night and in the morning the bells from the nearby Chapel of St Pierre would ring at 7am! We didn’t mind though, we survived without air-conditioning and without knowing any French.

Villefranche Our Street

In the mornings we would wake up and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea before it got too hot. I remember it perfectly! We would pack some fruits in our picnic basket and take our beach umbrella to sit in the shade on the soft small pebbles that were plentiful near the water and all around. I loved Nice of course too, for its cosmopolitan and lively vibe on the streets, its incredible food market and all the connections to art, history and film culture that it possesses. From Nice we ventured to lots of other beautiful towns, which I’ll share with you in Part 2.

Our faces still light up whenever we think of the incredible places we’ve seen, the lovely locals we met, the food we ate, the memories we’ve shared and the moments that took our breath away. The French Riviera is a must-visit destination and even after you’ve gone there once, it will draw you in again and again.

 

Life, Melbourne

Life & Photography

Life’s been crazy busy this past month, I can’t believe we’re already in June! Thankfully the Melbourne winter hasn’t been too cold and even though there have been lots of rainy days we’ve also had a lot of really warm sunshine come through.

I recently attended a spectacular theatre show of Don Quixote performed by The Imperial Russian Ballet Company. It was absolutely wonderful with the highest quality of ballet we’ve all come to expect of Russian dancers. Their precision and energy was so beautiful to watch, as was their ability to light up the stage with their expressive faces and graceful movement. 10/10!

Don Quixote

Then there were the beautiful sunsets! It was actually on the night of the performance that I walked to St. Kilda beach and saw the calmest water, smooth as silk and completely still in the distance. All the people there were silent, not a single voice came to mind and there we all were admiring that beautiful and serene moment when the sun crossed over the horizon. I loved the spiritual feeling within my soul that evening.

Calmest Sunset

On other days there were picnics in the backyard alongside my gorgeous black cat, who was uncharacteristically thirsty and drank straight from the tap! Then the arrival of some wonderful snail mail from new international pen-pals, days spent wrapping our Mishka Collection greeting cards/sending promo postcards, more visits to the beach, dinners with friends at funky restaurants, rediscovering local parks and the beauty in nature, and not to mention dreaming of my dream home!

Life is going at full speed and I feel like I’m barely keeping up! I’m still reminiscing about my European travel adventures, my beautiful shop and the simple days of life in Watford, but I’m grateful for all the memories created in Australia so far as well. Enjoy your week!

 

Australia, Melbourne, Travel

Last Sunday…

was a beautiful day in Melbourne. We spent it in South Melbourne, a funky part of the city filled with quirky gift shops, busy cafés, interesting people and cool vibes. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The day started off with us shopping on Clarendon Street, spending a while at one of my favourite stationery shops called Paperpoint and having lunch at a place called Grill’d. Their burgers are to die for. After some retail therapy, my sisters and I drove to the beach and were surprised to find the luxurious cruise ship Queen Mary II docked there. It was majestic and striking from a distance. We soaked our feet in the warm sparkling water of Port Phillip Bay, let the sand go between our toes, turned our backs to the waves and bid farewell to a memorable and very hot Australian summer.