Monthly Archives: July 2015

One Night At The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, Tokyo

30th July 2015

Guys, I have sooooo many Japan stories to tell! I must let loose on the world the delicious food I had, the sights I visited, my public transport experiences and all the places I rested my head on a pillow at. Let’s kick off with Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, a boutique hotel located on the main and most vivid street of Asakusa – this place is the traditional temple town of Tokyo (now that’s aliteration!). Well, to be fair, it’s also got its fair share of modernity, but the temples are the main draw and there’s still festivals that take place in and around the shrines through the year.

We stayed here for one night. The Gate Hotel is designed to be looked at, no, I mean stared at, especially the reception on the top floor, which I’ll let the picture do the talking, as I can’t find a good enough adjective!

Aside from the room being a nice place to relax after our long journey (I can’t sleep on planes sadly, so I needed a bit of time to relax), there was lots of space for our three suitcases, and more importantly….the Tokyo Sky Tree and the Senso-Ji wasn’t too bad of a view.

The bed was my favourite though, it was just a shame our schedule was so full, the bed would have been a good tourist site to visit. Wi-Fi was good too and didn’t explode with three people uploading photos, checking Facebook and generally FOMO-ing.

Now, let’s talk about the toilet! Yes, I know that’s a weird way to start a sentence, but this thing had a control panel you probably need to go to university to understand completely. Thankfully no one in our party managed to crash or break it!  The shower was pretty much all you need after two long flights. (Well, except Ryan Gosling … )

The terrace was where we spent an evening drinking, and it might have been the cocktails, but I was definitely bowled over looking across the sea of neon lights that is Tokyo.

Breakfast was a fusion type thing – West meets East and all that. Because our itinerary was so packed we didn’t managed to grab any other meals at the hotel but if breakfast is something to go by, we missed out.

Location, location, location is a mantra to live by right? Well, this place was a quick walk from Asakusa Station (which is served by three metro lines) and near to 6th century AD Senso-Ji Temple – one of the city’s oldest religious sites, Otori-jinja Shrine where you can pray to one of the lucky seven gods of fortune and touch the shrine’s famous mask., and the Nakamise Dori shopping street where everything from clogs (Dutch connection!) to dolls, hairbrushes and local sweets are on sale.

So this is one Gate I’m gonna leave open … I shall return.

Tea Time

26th July 2015

Peckham Pelican

As I was sitting down on this rainy Sunday, sipping on my cup of Was Here tea, scrolling through photos on my phone and reminding myself of those that didn’t quite make it to the blog … and so, a new post was born … I present to you the ‘out-takes’ of the past few weeks:

London tipsFor a decent mouthful of okonomiyaki in London, or if you like what you see on the photo, then head to Abeno (the Great Newport St. branch). You might have to wait during rush hours, and it can be a squeeze it and a tad costly, but the taste and variety of ingredients is worth it.

London TipsI did the Quirky London Tour and filled my brain with a ton of fun facts about Soho and its surrounds. Do you notice anything unusual about the car? You might read more about it sometime this week.

You know when you see a cool graffiti and try to take a snap and this happens?

Vegan interior.

London TipsI recently switched employment and with a new job comes a new location and new spots to make your favourite. I now realise how spoiled I was in Brick Lane. This place in Angel is the first gem I’ve discovered and it’ll soon be featuring in an upcoming Awesome Things I’ve Seen & Done.

My top pick for Mexican food in Brixton. I often see Mexicans at Jalisco and guess that means they are truly authentic…or they just have their family over all the time because they give them free food!

Peckham PelicanSome more food at the Peckham Pelican. On top of the top grub, the Earl Grey gin & tonic is to die for and I wish it was acceptable (health and socially) to have one everyday.

Some weekends I like go explore a museum. Royal Academy currently has some interesting exhibitions going on, but these stairs are all you need to know about.

But I prefer the The ‘Steel Clouds’ sculptures in the courtyard. They go well with the sky, well a blue sky at least…

Sundays are for farmer markets to stock up on fruit and veggies! 14 year old me is laughing at me now, but one of my favourite things to do is discover the finest vegetables, cheeses, organic breads, cakes and other fresh products (14 year old Tea says ‘yuck! and ‘loser!”)

What have YOU been up to this weekend?

Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do In Edinburgh

23rd July 2015

Edinburgh, the biggest city north of the wall…no silly not the Game of Thrones wall, but Hadrian’s Wall! With history adorning its every stone, beautiful architecture, and stunning views, it is a place that is definitely not to be missed. With that in mind, here are things you should do and see if you stray north of the border.

YES
See the Scott Monument. This example of Victorian gothic architecture is an ode to Sir Walter Scott and his poetry and it actually looks good in both photo and in person. Climb to the top for a birds-eye view of the city to die for (but don’t jump).

It’s hot, it’s cool, it’s a calorie bomb: hot Chocolate Float at Mary’s Milk Bar. It’s absolutely divine and quite possibly my favourite thing I drank there – sorry whisky – maybe you can impress me next time.

Can’t get enough art? Then a visit to the National Galleries will definitely quench your thirst. Aside from a gift shop, they also have works from all best buddies from Da Vinci and Botticelli to Picasso, and if that wasn’t good enough, then entry is free.

Muggle up and take a trip around the so-called ‘birthplace of Harry Potter.’ Wander the streets that may or may have not inspired JK Rowling for Hogsmeade or sip a coffee at the Elephant House, the cafe where she wrote the first book. Sadly there’s no butterbeer as far as I could make out.

Put on your walking boots and climb Calton Hill. Your thighs might complain, but there’s a reason this place gets plastered over postcards selling the city and maybe you can try and beat them with a award winning photo of yourself and a random tourist you grabbed.

NO
Everyone’s heard or seen Edinburgh Castle. It sits like a lonely ex-boyfriend stalker above the Scottish capital, looking down wishing it was part of the fun again. But seriously, the fortress once served to defend the nation and it has its own crown jewels – take that Tower of London! However…even these jewels weren’t worth the £16.

Don’t go in the middle of a festival season if you don’t plan to attend one. I booked my trip to Scotland in the middle of Fringe Festival (without realising), which meant that it was really busy, hotels were extra expensive and booked out almost everywhere – don’t follow in my footsteps!

MAYBE
Stand on top of Arthur’s Seat. No, it’s not a giant toilet seat, but a hill on which you can stand. Now, I know that doesn’t sound super exciting, and it’s a bit of a trek, but you eyes will thank you for the views.

Wander into Saint Giles Cathedral. Named after the patron Saint of Beggars and Cripples, the cathedral was important according to some history books. If you love stain glass (who doesnt right!) then this is for you, and if not, it’s a maybe.

Call my maybe…? I mean tell me your Edinburgh yes/no/maybes?

25 Facts about the Sistine Chapel

22nd July 2015

Chapelle_sixtine_plafond

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites. Set within the Vatican City and Museums, the Sistine Chapel welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s (the painter, not the Ninja Turtle that is) masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry. Bad news for everyone who is addicted to their cameras … they are banned, so you’ll really have to enjoy the experience and in case you run into someone here are 25 fascinating facts you can brag about.

1. The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the chapel’s construction on the foundations of the original Capella Magna in 1477.

2. It was Pope Sixtus IV who invested money into building the chapel and some draw similarities between its new layout and that of the Temple of Solomon described in the Old Testament.

3. Before work started on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, it had been decorated with a fresco of a blue night sky with golden stars, painted by the Umbrian artist Piero Matteo d’Amelia (poor Piero)

4. When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he actually wasn’t very pleased, as his main artistic profession was to sculpt (we all know the Statue of David).

5. Michelangelo hated painting the ceiling so much that in 1509 he even wrote a poem lamenting to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia how he’d “grown a goiter from this torture”, due to the physical strain of the work.

6. Although many believe Michelangelo painted the ceiling lying on his back, he actually constructed his own scaffolding, so that he could paint standing up for more precision and control.

7. The whole area of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel measures about 1/6 of a football field (that’s around 12,000 square feet)

8. Don’t be fooled into thinking the only works of art on show in the Sistine Chapel are those by Michelangelo. You can also see frescoes and works by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and Sandro Botticelli.

9. It took Michelangelo four years to finish the fresco and he left God until last … obviously wanting to have refined his technique enough to depict him perfectly.

10. The God Michelangelo painted as an older man with flowing grey hair inspired centuries of Christian paintings to come, later turned it into the archetypal representation of all Godly figures around the world.

11. The Last Judgement wasn’t actually painted in the same time as the great ceiling fresco. In fact Michelangelo returned twenty-two years later to begin his masterpiece on the wall above the altar.

12. It’s hard to believe that Michelangelo completed the entire ceiling without being able to review his piece as a whole, since the scaffolding remained in place right until the very end. This means that the first time Michelangelo saw his work, was the time it was unveiled!

13. Although the ceiling and frescoes are near-perfect, there is one tiny part of the sky in the panel depicting Noah’s escape which is missing. This is because of an explosion at a gunpowder depot in 1797 that caused the plaster to fall off.

14. There have been many analyses of The Last Judgement and the allegories and representations within the paintings. Some believe The Creation of Adam draws many parallels to the anatomy of the human brain due to the way it has been painted with the stem, frontal lobe and artery (which makes sense given Michelangelo’s expertise in human anatomy.)

15. Other interpretations include Saint Bartholomew holding the skin of a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself…

16. Among the things that couldn’t be misinterpreted were the nudes painted in the frescoes. In 1564, the Council of Trent deemed the images inappropriate and Daniele da Volterra was ordered to cover them up by painting fig leaves, clothing and other items to hide their indecency.

17. But, some of the drapes were removed to reveal the original painting during the big restoration efforts of the 1980s-1990s.

18. Another recurring motif is the acorns which populate the frescoes. This is a nod by Michelangelo to the patronage of Pope Sixtus IV, whose family name was Rovere – meaning oak, in Italian.

19. The Sistine Chapel is now a historic building of such acclaim that over five million people come to visit a year …  that’s equal to the population of Norway!

20. It’s not only visitors who pay homage to the Sistine Chapel. It’s also the Pope’s private chapel (perks of the job!), guaranteeing a few extra visits.

21. Come election time for a new Pope, the College of Cardinals meets at the Sistine Chapel – as they have done since 1492 – to submit their votes under oath.

22. The process is so intense that there’s even a room nicknamed the Room of Tears to represent the emotion the lucky chosen candidate will feel after winning the election.

23. It’s not just photos that are banned during visiting times to protect the colours from fading. During election time the College of Cardinals also has to be scanned for bugs before entering.

24. If you have exposed shoulders or are wearing items of clothing that ends above the knee, you will be refused entry or asked to cover up within the Sistine Chapel. So make sure to dress appropriately.

25. The most dangerous thing about tourists visiting the Sistine Chapel is the damage not visible to the naked eye. The sweat, carbon dioxide and skin flakes of the five thousand visitors a day pose a threat to the restoration of the masterpiece.

The Sistine Chapel will forever be one of Rome’s most popular places to visit thanks to the sheer scale of the masterpiece and the feat of exceptional artistry. Thanks to its location within Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel will remain protected and upheld by Papal traditions and forever considered one of the most important religious destinations in the world.

9 Fictional Places I Would Love To Visit

16th July 2015

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“Going to watch movies all evening because days like today I need to escape reality” … Is what my MSN status might have been about ten years ago. But even though MSN is long dead *RIP*, I still love being dragged to a new adventure in a fictional country or kingdom far far away! Here are a few of those magical places I would love to visit.

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Does anyone know the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka? Because I’d really love to get a friendly rate and access to the all hidden secrets! But then again… if it’s in the East Europe it should be affordable. And can I have Mendl’s Pastry from room service?

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Waffles at JJ Diner, drinks at Tom’s Bistro, leaving flowers at the L’ll Sebastian Memorial, a walk in the park and maybe an organised tour through City Hall. Come to think of it, I think Pawnee, Indiana needs it’s own wanderlist post…

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Have a burger at Bob’s Burger and spend a weekend at their Bed & Breakfast. Let’s hope Blue Is The Warmest Cheese Burger or Kales From The Crypt Burger are on the menu for my stay, and of course an extra side of antics!

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In the latest Avengers epic, the superheroes more or less obliterated the fictional country of Sokovia and it hurt because reminds me so much of my home country Bosnia, plus before it got HULK SMASHED and god knows what else thrown at it, it looked like a great place to explore – especially starting with the castle.

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Crowded and expensive theme parks aren’t for me but I would make an exception for Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna from the Jurassic Park series. I mean … Hello! Dinosaurs? And Jeff Goldblum. I’d listen to his lectures on game theory all day…
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Yeah, so seaside Piers are not usually the coolest place to be seen, but send me back to the 2000s, West Coast, sunshine, and Orange Country. If they let me into the Bait Shop, I’d never leave…

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Have a drink at the Mos Eisley Cantina for a quick break on my intergalactic quest … preferably with Han Solo and Chewbacca by my side. How many drinks before I can get Solo to dance with me and forget all about that Princess Leia and her silly hair?

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Drive through Twin Peaks and chow down on a cherry pie and a damn fine cup of coffee at Double R Diner, and just as I take my first bite, getting sucked into the Laura Palmer mystery. Why not?

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Coffee and cake at Luke’s Diner? And then attending whatever Stars Hollow has going on? I would love the 24 Hour Dance marathon, but I would probably give up after a few hours and go back to Luke’s for a burger and a drink from Taylor’s Olde Fashion Soda Shoppe.Then head to my bed at the Dragonfly Inn. Were you a Jess, Dean or Logan girl?

Which fictional place would like to be transported to?