Mexico City is a place whose history is rooted within the heart and soul of the people who live there. Despite being a short flight away from most major US and Canadian cities, it feels like travelling across the ocean. With a vibrant art scene and a foodie culture that rivals the best in the world, Mexico City has quickly become one of the most sought after travel destinations. Set between tall mountains and volcanoes, you are nestled into this little valley where the weather is almost always warm, but not too hot and a sweet escape from those bitter cold winter days we're more than experiencing where in the north of the country.
Shopping in Mexico City was one of my favourite activities when I visited this city! I found so many incredible things; textiles, interior decor items, sugar skulls, vintage clothing and more! I loved bartering in the markets and scouring the antique stores for lost treasures. Souvenir shopping in Mexico City is so affordable that you’ll want to get something for everyone so I’ve complied a list of my ‘must-buy’ and places places to shop for your friends and family, and most of all - for yourself!
Xochimilco is the Venice of Mexico. It’s an enormous network of canals which spread across this southern district of Mexico City. There are over 170 km of canals which spread out in all different directions. Before the Spanish arrived in Mexico City, the indigenous people of Mexico had created an incredible network of canals which they used as both a means of transport and as a way to ensure there was a constant supply of water throughout the country. Xochimilco means “Floating Gardens" and stands today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it preserves ancient Aztecs technology.
We just returned from our trip to Mexico City and let me just say upfront, this was one of my favourite places I've ever visited. The city wove a spell around me, unlike anything I've ever experienced before. Mexico City is on the top of almost all the 'Best Places to Visit in 2019' lists and we wanted to get out there to see it for ourselves! There was SO much I learned after spending a week in Mexico's capital and I wanted to share with you the most helpful tips I learned so you can plan your trip to visit this incredible place ASAP!
Blocks away from Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in Tokyo, you'll find Nakano. Nakano feels like the amalgamation of everything we dream about Japan being. You can find some of the best ramen shops, grandmothers dumplings, bustling Japanese shopping centers and the best in Japanese pop culture. And the best part about Nakano is that it's a low-rise neighbourhood, meaning that unlike Shinjuku with it's towering neon skyscrapers, this feels more like a quiet suburban community.
The first morning in Kyoto we decided to venture outside the city and visit one of Kyoto's most popular sights: the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Heralded as being one of the "most beautiful groves on earth" and designated a "National Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty" by Japan, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a place unlike anywhere else. It's a place where you can escape yourself, as long as you manage to escape the throngs of tourists as well.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do a bunch of psychedelic drugs in the year 2200? Well, wonder no more because the Robot Restauranthere in Tokyo is here to show you! The "restaurant" isn't really a restaurant at all. What it is, is a futuristic, energetic, vibrant, exciting, surprising and overall insane display modern, Japanese cabaret.
The Keukenhof is known as the "Garden of Europe", and if you've ever had the chance to walk through their green fields, you will truly understand why. For two months every year, from March to mid-May, millions of rainbow coloured flowers (4.5 million to be exact) bloom over the 32 hectares of gardens inside the Keukenhof. They create what can only be described as a blanket of fantastical aromas and ethereal colours which cover the Dutch countryside.
Inside the bamboo forest, you'll come across Tenryuji temple. The temple grounds are known as being one of the most beautiful in Japan and their famous garden, and its zen-like atmosphere was just the thing we were looking for as an to escape from the throngs of people who were started to filter into the bamboo grove.
Near the Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama, you'll come across the entrance to the Ōkōchi Sansō Villa Gardens. After traipsing through the groves and narrowly escaping peak tourist hour, we were in need of a break from the selfie sticks and loud tour groups. Before entering we poked ours heads in the front gate. From there, it looked like there wasn't a soul inside. Immediately as we passed through the gate and started to walk up the hill, the noise from the tourists below disappeared. We could hear our footsteps on the stones below and the sound of the wind in the trees. It wasn't until the very end of the tour that we ran into another person. It was the perfect escape from the crowds below and more beautiful that we could have imagined.
Barcelona is one of the most artful and vibrant cities I've ever visited. Every corner you turn feels like stepping into a colourful daydream. And it's no coincidence that this picturesque city cultivated so many different world-famous artists and artistic movements. Getting to explore the museums and art galleries of Barcelona is something I feel that everyone should do when travelling to this city. It's a world-class place when it comes to these institutions and there is truly something for everyone!
One of the most iconic images of Japan has to be the bright, vermillion coloured torii gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. Many people come to Fushimi Inari Taisha not knowing the scope of it. They see the images online and think it's just a few small alleyways - this is far from the whole picture. The main shrine sits at the base of the Inari mountains, but a path of thousands of torii gates behind the building leads visitors up 233 meters above sea level to visit 4 kilometres of sub-shrines finally ending at the magnificent mountain top shrine.
In my ‘11 Things to Know Before Travelling to Japan’, I tackled how the country has an amazing public transport system, that gourmet-level meals are available at convenience stores, and that their toilets are indeed as amazing as you think. What I didn’t tell you about Japan is how important the cherry blossoms are to the nation’s culture.
Many people underestimate how much there is to do while visiting Arashiyama. We were lucky enough to book off an entire day here to explore, but I think if we could have done it all over again, we would have booked a hotel to extend our time there ever more. One of the attractions that often gets overlooked is the Iwatayama Monkey Park. Many people are dissuaded when they see it's a 30-minute + hike, uphill, to where you'll see the monkeys. They either can't spare the time or can't spare the energy. But let me tell you right now - it's worth it...well worth it.
Arashiyama Village is more than the Bamboo Grove and monkey forest which surround it. Taking a walk down the busy streets and quiet laneways of the small town is an excellent way to experience Japanese culinary treats, see traditional Japanese architecture and explore some lovely shops selling souvenirs and hand made crafts.
The Philosopher's Path (or Tetsugaku-no-Michi as it is known in Japan) is one of the greatest exploratory walks you can experience in Kyoto. The Path is located in the northern area of Higashiyama at the base of Kyoto's East Mountain. It is a place to wander, to find yourself, to embrace peace and quiet and to see what makes Kyoto so unique as a city. The path follows the Lake Biwa Canal for around 29 kilometres at the base of the mountain. The trail is lined with cherry trees on either side. During the cherry blossom season, this is one of the most popular spots to come and view the spectacle.
Golden Lane is one of Prague's most picturesque streets. Located inside Prague Castle, this fairytale like laneway of pastel coloured homes was built in the castle's fortifications at the end of the 16th century. To access the Golden Lane, you need to purchase a ticket for Prague Castle. Almost every different circuit ticket includes the Golden Lane and for a good reason, since no visit to Prague castle is complete without visiting Golden Lane.
One of Prague’s most visited sites is the Old Town Square, in the centre of town. In this one square, you’ll find some of Bohemia’s most famous buildings. There is something here for art lovers, historians and foodies alike. The plaza is over 1.7 hectares large with a sprawling history detailing Prague's gruesome and glorious past. Rotating minstrels still entertain on-lookers, and the square often continues to serve as a place of political protest for locals to give voice to their concerns. Standing in the centre of the square, make a 360° spin to get your bearings and decide on which buildings you might want to take a closer look at or even head inside.
From the minute you step into the bright, shiny, neat and tidy, perfect curated aisles of the huge warehouse that is the Pinball Hall of Fame, if you're anything like me and have a soft spot in your heart for nostalgia, you'll have found your nerdy heaven.
If you're looking for a peaceful day trip from Tokyo, Enoshima is the ticket. This tiny little island off the coast is one of the most serene and beautiful places I had the chance to visit on my last trip to Japan. It was so perfect and quaint it felt like a cartoon seaside village from a Miyazaki film. Hiking up and down the island you'll be able to see stunning shrines, perfectly manicured parks, a secret garden, and if you're VERY VERY lucky, a wonderful view of Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is known as the shy mountain so don't expect to see anything but feel lucky if you do. The island itself is inaccessible to vehicles, making it an incredibly quiet location, and walking up the hills, sometimes the only sounds which can be heard the birds and wind through the trees.
While in California, we took a brief tour of LA's historic downtown district. We were in town to see July Talk and decided to take the opportunity of being in downtown LA to see all the wonderful architecture that far too often, gets overlooked by beachy keen tourists.