Exploring the Gardens at Aston Norwood

So I mentioned in my weekend recap post that we had high tea at Aston Norwood. The food itself was okay, but we were blown away by the gardens! I was so excited to see all the cherry blossoms! A lot of the other trees were also starting to bloom, so we’re thinking of returning in around a month to see how it looks then. We’re sure it’ll be even more stunning.

We wandered around for a whole hour just drinking it all in. I took so many pictures, and the best I could narrow it down to share was 20. It’s just all so beautiful!

We went down every path, even the one that went uphill. After a while I realized I was getting winded a bit (hello baby), but we were near the top so I persevered. I think if we come back next month, I won’t be able to go up that path. The views were worth it though!

I love that I got my cherry blossom fill in the end.We may have missed it in Japan, but it’s in full swing in this garden at home!

I love looking back at all of these photos, it’s making me more excited to visit even more gardens. Even just doing general exploring as the warmer weather kicks in.

Have you guys visited any gardens lately?

Angela.

Wanderlusting – Beaches

Wanderlusting – Beaches

I really enjoyed doing the Wanderlusting post last week, so I thought I would keep going with it. The sun has been coming out a little more these past few weeks, and it’s a reminder of the warmer seasons being not too far away. So my theme for this week’s photos is all about beaches!

Starting with the beaches from my own little country of New Zealand. Since we’re an island, we have a lot of beaches. Here are some of my favourite ones I’ve been to.

Rarangi Beach, Blenheim

I’ve talked about this beach quite a few times on here. We used to go to it quite a bit growing up, so I have a lot of photos of this beach. This is my favourite one though. There’s a staircase area leading up and you get an amazing view of the beach.

Golden Bay, Nelson

We’ve only been here once that I can recall. It was very pretty and the sand was very golden.

Cape Palliser Beach, Wellington

The main appeal of this beach was to go see the lighthouse. But the whole coastal drive there was just surreal.

Oriental Beach, Wellington

This is the most popular beach in my hometown. Especially in summer, it gets packed. Lots of cute cafes, restaurants, shops, walkways, and all that. It’s definitely a beautiful area, it’s well-kept and things are always happening there. I frequented other, smaller beaches growing up. But when we lived in town, I did love coming down here and going for walks.

Makara Beach, Wellington

Rory was the one who first took me here a few years back. It’s a gorgeous little spot which has a walking track up the hill. It takes around an hour, and the views are worth it.

Little Oneroa Beach, Waiheke Island

Waiheke Island in general is beautiful. We went there for my sister’s wedding last October. The only beach Rory and I spent much time at was the Little Oneroa beach. It was scenic and really nice.

Now we head out to other ones from around the world.

La Playa Roja (Red Beach), Peru

We didn’t spend too much time at this beach. It was when we were in Paracas and part of a tour. It was incredible to see a beach with such red sand!

Taveuni Resort Beach, Fiji

Fiji is known to have some amazing beaches. For our honeymoon, we were at a resort in Taveuni. I spent more time at the infinity pool, but the beach was also just 2 minutes away so we had to spend some time there. White sands, clear water, and lots of fish to stalk and watch as you snorkel.

Bondi Beach, Australia

So I talked about this last week in my Wanderlusting post, but since this post is about beaches, I had to bring it back. Just look at it! It’s stunning!!

All these beach photos are definitely getting me excited for summer! What beaches have you been to?

Angela.

Wanderlusting – Natural Wonders

Wanderlusting – Natural Wonders

Hey all. This is kind of a random post, but I wanted to make a post sharing some favourite travel photos. I’ve extensively shared about all my lucky travels I’ve been on, but it never feels enough. So this post will be a collection of the amazing snaps I’ve taken while travelling. Hopefully they’ll help with your own sense of wanderlust.

To start off, I want to share the most incredible places I’ve seen. Bonus points if it involved hiking, cause that always makes the sight so much more worth it!

Machu Picchu, Peru

Still the most incredible place I’ve ever seen. I think this is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and it definitely deserves it. It was built during the Inca Empire back in 1450 AD and made up of over 100 buildings, ranging from houses and baths to temples. We spent hours walking around there. We took the Salkantay trek up there, so it really felt like we earned our trip there!

Colca Canyon, Peru

We didn’t hike this one, instead we woke up at 3am and took a guided tour there. The canyon is considered one of the world’s deepest. It really is huge. It is also a natural habitat for the giant Andean condor (a scary bird). The canyon is made up of valleys, remote villages and a river. It’s also a very popular tourist destination for trekking and rafting. The views were definitely awe-inspiring.

Bondi Beach, Australia

I can see why this is one of the world’s famous beaches. I get it. It’s beautiful. White sand, endless blue, lots of shops and pavilions. The Bondi to Coogee coastal walk is also gorgeous. It takes a couple of hours, and you see so much natural beauty! Seeing Bondi was definitely a highlight during our holiday in Sydney a few years back.

Three Sisters, Australia

We were told to go see the Three Sisters at Blue Mountains by numerous people when we talked about going to Sydney. The Three Sisters is this unusual rock formation up in the Blue Mountains. There’s a lot of mystery and legend surrounding them. To get to Blue Mountains, we went as part of a day tour. It was really nice, we also got to see a Wildlife Park that day.

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

One of the Great Walks of our country, and also used in Lord of the Rings. It took around 5 hours for us to complete it from one end to the other. The scenery changes so much along the way, from swamps and hills, to mountains and sweeping lands, to eerily green lakes. I can see why so many people come to complete this walk!

That’s all for this wanderlusting post. I plan to make this recurring, and give each one a different theme of photos. We can’t go travelling anytime soon, so this feels like a nice way for me to relive some of the places I’ve been lucky to travel to before.

Where’s the most incredible place you’ve visited?

Angela.

Instagram in Winter

So I used to share my top photos from Instagram at the end of each month. However since a few months back, I haven’t been as active on Instagram. Since then, I kind of stopped the series. I still like the series though, so I thought I’d bring it back seasonally. I only really go on Instagram a few times a week instead of everyday, and I post even less. Life gets busy sometimes though you know.

Anyway, here’s my top photos from the past few months.

Hanging out at Ghibli Museum

ghibli museum 02

I shared a lot of Japan photos on Instagram over the past few months. Obviously, Japan was amazing and we saw so much amazing stuff. One of the highlights was definitely stopping by Ghibli museum. Totoro even greeted us at the front.

Looking Down on Tokyo

skytree 05

Seeing Tokyo from 350 floors up was insane. The city is huge and stretches on forever. It was awesome being able to be that high up and just look all around at the city.

Hot Balloon Cross Stitch

hot balloon cross stitch

 

I bought this little kit around at the beginning of the year and never started it until June. It has reminded me of how much I love doing cross stitch, and since this one I’ve started working on another one.

Sakura Sunrise Canvas Painting

bedroom decor

Rory and I have talked about hanging something above the bed for a while. Rory found this on Amazon, we ordered it, and there we go. It’s really pretty, and kinda fits the Japan theme.

Warmer Days

warmer days

This was taken back in March, when the weather was still really warm. I miss being able to wear dresses and not having to wrap up so much. That being said, the weather has slowly been getting nicer here, and the sun is staying out later.

I haven’t been as active on Instagram lately. There just hasn’t been much photos I want to share since Japan. Maybe as the weather gets nicer and we head out more, I might go on it more. Who knows?

What have you guys been posting on Instagram lately?

Angela.

DIY Travel Wall – Updates and Plans

I shared a post last year about my travel wall that I made. I’ve since added a few updates which I wanted to share.

Since adding the scratch off map I’ve liked having it as a focal point. I have been considering about changing it to a pin or cork board map though. As I’ve seen a few in stores that I like.

travel wall update 01

I still have the places I’ve visited all around the map. I’ve since added our recent trip to Japan. So now the countries I’ve visited include Australia, Fiji, Tahiti, Peru and Japan.

travel wall update 02

I also wanted to add the postcards and letters that some of my blogging friends have sent me. I’m considering adding the Christmas cards as well, but I also want to save them for Christmas decor later in the year.

travel wall update 03

I’ve been trying to think of how else I can extend my travel wall. It’s definitely expanded more than I what I originally thought. So I wanted to pick all of your lovely brains a little. Any ideas on how else I could add onto my travel wall? Do you have a similar display in your own home?

Angela.

Five Favourite Outfits from Japan

Bet you thought I was done with my Japan posts lol. I’ve decided to have my last one be about some of my favourite photos and outfits from our trip. I brought a big bunch of clothes and put together a combination of comfy outfits that were perfect since we were always out and about everyday.

Stripes and Shorts

meguro river 03

meguro river 06

meguro river 05

On this particular day it was really hot. I’m talking 28 degrees. Heat that I’m not used to and spent a lot of time complaining about on our downtime. This definitely called for a summery outfit. I did bring my floral dress I love, but it has a habit of blowing up even in the smallest breezes, and I didn’t want to risk that. A red and white stripy shirt, denim shorts, black sneakers and a ponytail seemed like a good choice. Perfect for walking around all day. The red also went nicely with flowers that popped up on our walk to Meguro River.

Grey Days and Black Overalls

shinjuku garden 06

shinjuku garden 09

While we had some scorcher days in Japan, we also had mild ones. One Sunday, it was overcast all day and the occasional showers would come. However, it was still like 22 degrees, so it just made the day mild and pleasant. This was one of the few times I could wear my long black overalls, so I took the opportunity. Underneath, I wore my grey Superdry shirt, and paired them all with my trusty sneakers. I got a lot of use out of those sneakers in Japan. This outfit ended up being perfect for our trip to the garden. My overalls have a million pockets, so all the pamphlets, paper and rubbish I accumulated could just sit in my pockets.

Exploring in a Blue Jumpsuit

arashiyama bamboo grove 02

arashiyama 01

I bought this jumpsuit impulsively a few days before the Japan trip. I figured it’d come in handy for warmer days, and it did. It had been dreary colder days in Tokyo at the beginning of our trip, but once we went to Kyoto, the weather did a 180 and we were thrown in 30 degrees weather. The jumpsuit is made out of really breathable material so I was very comfy and not stuffy. The top dips a bit lower than I’m comforatble with so I threw my stripy shirt on underneath. I really like how this outfit came together. It was comfortable for the super hot day, and still pleasant as it cooled down into the evening.

Blue All Over

wizarding world 02

As you can see, it was another crazy hot day here. I originally wasn’t going to wear my blue cardi, but I always like to err on the side of caution. My overpacking habits are hard to override. In the end though, it all worked out. I did notice that all my clothes I chose were blue. Most of my closet is blue actually. It’s just a nice colour. Anyway, I was very comfy and not too hot during our day at Universal Studios. I do wish I had something yellow though since I am a proud Hufflepuff member, but I don’t actually think I own anything yellow.

Rainy Days and Combat Boots

ghibli museum 02

As mentioned earlier, our first few days in Tokyo were rainy and a bit cold. The lowest temperature we had was around 13, which isn’t that bad when you’re used to New Zealand weather. This was the only day we had to bring rainjackets and big boots as it did rain decently. The weather didn’t dampen our moods at all though, but I’m still glad I did decide to bring these items in the end otherwise I would have been very cold.

There you have it. Some of my favourite outfits from our trip to Japan! We did end up having a whole range of weather on some days, but most were quite warm. Something we got used to, before flying back to New Zealand and landing in winter. I miss those 28 degree days now that we’re stuck in everlasting wind and rain!

Angela.

 

Japan Wrap Up

I’ve been spending the last two weeks talking about our Japan trip and I’ve been loving writing these posts! It’s been such a nice way of reliving our recent trip. To end all of this, I wanted to share some food photos we took and just share some general thoughts.

food 01
Noodles and tempura – our first lunch in Tokyo

Arriving late afternoon at Narita airport in Tokyo was pretty overwhelming. We had just finished a 10 hour flight so we were already feeling weird, and now we were miles away from home in a different culture where everyone spoke a different language. I’m really glad that my friend Chris met us at the airport. She got us onto the subway and to our hotel that first night. If she wasn’t there, Rory and I both agree that we weren’t really sure how we would have gotten to our hotel at all.

food 02
Milk pudding from 7/11, I loved it so much!

Something that I still can’t get over is the sheer amount of people around when we were just wandering around, especially in Tokyo. 13 million people in that one city. In Wellington, we only have around 200,000 people. In New Zealand, all together it’s 5 million, we’re pretty small. So being surrounded by so many people was overwhelming.

food 03
Sea Urchin (did not taste good) and Salmon Eggs Sushi (fishy but good!)

It never felt crazy though. Everything is pretty structured and ordered. At the stations, there is marks on the ground to tell you where to stand as you wait to get on the train, as well as markings for people getting off the train. Everyone waits for everyone to get off, before getting on. The only time it felt a bit much was when we travelled in rush hour. People would pack themselves into trains as tight as possible. We got smooshed in once and didn’t really care for it. So after that, we decided to just wait for the next train. Which came in 2 minutes and was much emptier. I do love their public transportation system, it’s so organized and so many trains come every few minutes!

food 04
Typical Fast Food – rice with chicken, green onions and egg – so good!

Another thing that I get asked about is the language barrier. Rory and I don’t speak Japanese. We did learn a little before we went, but once you’re over there, you realize that you know nothing. The thing that worked in our favour is that Japan is quite tourist friendly for English visitors. In all the major cities, like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka (which we visited), the signs will have both Japanese and English on them. On the trains, the automated voice would say something in Japanese, and then in English. Also, just the amount of signs in general was so helpful. Sometimes we would have to change trains, and that meant leaving the station and going to another one. This was made fairly easy by the sheer amount of signs pointing us in the right direction!

food 05
Ice cream from a vending machine

In the hotels, workers typically could speak in both English and Japanese. Some people we spoke to on the street or in shops could also speak a decent bit of English. I’ve since learnt that they learn English in grade and high school. So the base knowledge of the language is pretty well known. This came in handy when we wanted to ask for help. There was a few occasions though (like in a cafe) where no one could understand each other but we got by just using gestures. So all in all, the language barrier didn’t really stop us from much.

food 06
So much food for our lunch on the Mt Fuji and Hakone Tour

We did use some Japanese though, as we wanted to make an effort. Here are some of the phrases that came in handy. “Ohaio” (which means good morning), “Konichiwa” (hello), “Arigato” (thank you), “Arigato gozaimas” (Thank you very much), “Sumimasen” (Sorry/Excuse me), “Wakarimasen” (I don’t understand), “Hai” (yes), “Ie” (no). Finally when you wanted to turn a word into a question, you would add “Des ka” to the end. So if we were wanting to make sure that the train went to Shibuya, we’d ask someone “Sumimasen. Shibuya des ka?” while pointing to the train. The person would normally say yes or no, and that helped a lot.

food 07
Banana, caramel, and vanilla ice cream in a crepe

Another interesting thing about our time in Japan is that everyone uses cash. No one really used cards except for the hotels we stayed at. It’s expected that you have bills and coins on you. Chris told us about that and I’m glad she did, because she was right. From shops, to food, everyone just dealt with cash. The money itself was confusing for us. There’s so many coins! The smallest bill is 1000, and that’s easy enough since the number is on it. The coins break down in to 500 yen (silver coin with 500 on it), 100 yen (silver coin with 100 on it), 50 yen (bronze coin with a hole in the middle with 50 on it), 10 yen (silver coin with 10 on it), 5 yen (bronze coin with a hole in the middle), and 1 yen (silver coin with 1 on it). The 1 yen coins tend to build up over a while, same with 5 and 10, so I kept trying to get rid of them but then they’d come back. We were also quite slow at differentiating the coins from each other, that sometimes I just gave a handful to the person and they were way faster at pulling out the correct amount.

 

food 08
One of the limited edition coke bottles in Tokyo

So yeah, it wasn’t really that much of a culture shock or anything in Japan. We were definitely a bit lost the first 48 hours there, but we were lucky to have a friend there who eased us into it. By the time we were left on our own for the final week of our trip, we managed really well. Again though, Tokyo is very friendly to tourists. If you’re holding off on visiting Japan because of the language barrier, don’t. You’ll be fine. Do make a little effort to learn some of those key Japanese phrases though, it makes things a bit easier. Plus, they did seem to appreciate our attempts at Japanese. Although our accents were so bad, most people would smile and respond to us in English cause we’re obviously tourists!

We only saw a tiny bit of Japan and if I’m being honest, I’m dying to go back and see some more of it! It’s definitely a bucket-list worthy place to visit!

Angela.

Japan Adventures – Shinjuku Gyo-en and Meguro River

There were two places in particular that made me want to live in Tokyo so that I could always enjoy that peaceful and beautiful walk. The Shinjuku National Garden and Meguro River.

Shinjuku Gyo-en National Garden

This was another aspect of our trip that I was really excited for. I would have loved to come when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, but unfortunately we missed it. The part was still stunningly beautiful though. You had to pay 200 yen to get in, but that’s small change. It’s definitely worth it. We picked up a map and it was huge! We basically picked a direction and started walking.

shinjuku garden 01

The park has many areas to walk and explore, but the main appeal are the three landscape gardens. Each one is inspired by a different place. One is the traditional Japanese garden, one is French inspired, and the third is English. My favourite was the Japanese garden. It was so serene and peaceful. Filled with pavilions, bridges, lakes and koi. Seeing the buildings peek out from behind the trees was a surreal reminder that we were still in the middle of a busy urban city.

shinjuku garden 04

We ended up wandering around for literally hours.

shinjuku garden 06

You did end up forgetting after a while that you were still in town. There were heaps of people around, but everyone was spread out. The lawns were quite packed with people having picnics and basically just enjoying the day.

We often stopped to take photos of everything. Both Rory and I took turns with the camera. It was an amazing way to spend half the day. If you’re ever in Tokyo, you have to make sure you stop by here. Be prepared to spend hours walking around!

Meguro River

Another spot that I wanted to see in all it’s cherry blossom glory but you can’t have everything in life. Meguro River is another place where you can spend hours walking. We didn’t spend too long though as we’re not used to 28 degree weather (82 degrees for my American friends), and I thought I was melting. It didn’t take away too much from us enjoying the scenery though.

meguro river 01

I did ask Rory to take quite a few photos of me at the river, as there were so many photo op spots. My lovely husband was happy to snap away, despite us both melting in the heat.

We walked up and down the sidewalk a few times, making sure to take lots of break in the shady spots of the trees. Lots of people walking and on bikes passed us by too. This is clearly quite a popular spot.

Finally, just before we decided to head back. I spotted some pink hedge flowers giving off sakura vibes. So of course, we had to snap one more picture. This has since become my Instagram profile pic.

meguro river 06

Both of these places were definitely some of my favourite places in Tokyo! They were on my radar before even going to Japan and while I’m a little sad I missed out on the cherry blossoms, they were still incredibly beautiful spots!

Previous Japan Posts:

I’m aware that my blog has been taken over by Japan posts, but I have so much I wanted to share! I’m almost at the end now, but writing these has been such a fun way of reliving our holiday!

Angela.

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Japan Adventures – Akihabara, Shibuya and Shinjuku

I’ve talked about a lot of our trip now, but there’s still a little bit more to go! Tokyo is where we spent the bulk of our time in Japan. We spent a bit more time in some districts more than others, so I wanted to talk a bit more about them.

Akihabara

We visited here on our first full day in Tokyo. It’s known as the ‘otaku’ capital of Tokyo, or as Chris calls it – ‘nerd central’. It’s full of electronic stores, manga and anime stores, arcades and all sorts of ‘nerdy’ things. Also, maid cafes, which we didn’t actually go into, but we did come across lots of ladies dressed as maids on the street. We also came across lots of other themed cafes in general.

akihabara 01

We were keen to check out some of these arcades as they were huge buildings up to 7 floors! A few of the floors were just prize games, you know, those claw things that are clearly rigged. Then there was music/rhythm games, which I got pretty addicted to. I’ve always loved those! There was also general action games, dance games, photo booths, and all sorts of things. We just killed time there. But there were people there who were insanely good at the games! I sometimes just stopped to stare cause it was impressive. They also had huge electronic stores, again stacked 7 or 8 floors high.

Basically, we spent a lot of money in this area. Rory and I both love collectables, so we stacked up a lot while in Akihabara.

Shibuya

This is known as pretty much the busiest part of Tokyo. It has the famous pedestrian crossing, which at it’s peak has around 3000 crossing at any one time. We went twice here. The first time was at peak hours, and we got swept up in the waves of people crossing.

Some people (possibly tourists) would stop at the edge with their cameras to take a video of the crossing and they were pretty much in the way, it was annoying. So when we returned a few days later, I ran off into a neighbouring building so I could take my photos and not be in the way. Close to the crossing is the Shibuya train station, which also has a statue dedicated to Hachiko.

hachiko statue

Everytime we were in Shibuya, there was a crowd gathered around the ever faithful Hachiko. We knew we had to stop by though, because Hachiko is the best dog. Shibuya is packed with stores, sights and so many people. We had lunch one day in a cafe that was in the middle of a bookstore.

shibuya cafe

Shinjuku

In our last days in Tokyo, we stayed in Shinjuku. It’s another busy district in Tokyo, but a little less hectic than Shibuya. I loved walking around Shinjuku while exploring nearby gardens, parks, and just looking around at all the noise and colour around us. One of the strangest things we saw in Tokyo was in Shinjuku. We got tickets to go to Robot Restaurant.

robot restaurant 01

It’s a show filled with robots, monsters, lights, dancers and noise. We had fun watching it, but I don’t really know why it’s called a restaurant. They do sell snacks and drinks, but we ate beforehand. It was definitely a fun way to kill some time and get completely dazzled by lights and sounds though!

Shinjuku was very handy to be in since it was quite central. We were able to walk to the station in a few minutes, and from there we could get pretty much anywhere in Tokyo. If we ever had the chance to go back to Japan and stay there for a longer amount of time, I would definitely want to stay in Shinjuku again.

Previous Japan Posts:

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about visiting the Shinjuku National Garden and Meguro River.

Angela.

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