Travel

Kyoto Travel Guide

Happy Friday! I’m sharing part 2 of my Japan guide… and highlighting our next stop which was Kyoto! After 4 days in Tokyo, we hopped on the bullet train and rode it 2 hours to Kyoto.  Kyoto was like nowhere I’d ever been… it felt so old world and traditional…it was truly a magical place.  There were parts of Kyoto that felt like a normal bustling city, and then you’d wander down an alley or stumble upon a side street and be transported back in time. My favorite street in Kyoto was in the Gion District along the Shirakawa Canal.We spent a lot of time there – having dinner at Nobu’s restaurant and enjoying that ginormous shaved matcha ice at the cutest tea house, Pass the Baton, that you saw in my Vlog and Instastories!  It was the most peaceful, romantic street and the perfect place to catch women dressed as geisha. My favorite experience in Kyoto – was by far the Bamboo Garden.We hopped in a cab from our hotel (which I’ll share more about in a bit…) and got dropped off at the Arashiyama District which is home to the iconic Bamboo Garden and several temples, shops and restaurants.  We were able to admire the gorgeous bamboo trees and stumbled upon a small temple to enjoy tea at and walk the grounds of.  Now back to our hotel situation…we booked our Kyoto hotel quite last minute and sadly most places were sold out. So FYI if you want to go to Kyoto, book your accommodations far in advance.We ended up booking a modern-ish hotel in the heart of Kyoto that we knew was overpriced but that looked decent and got ok reviews on Trip Advisor, but OMG it ended up being terrible.  We could hear the cross walk go off from our window every 4 minutes (torture LOL!), the elevator beeped constantly, the breakfast/restaurant was just plain YUCK, and the concierge wasn’t helpful at all.  The hotel was was walking distance to Shirakawa/Nishiki Market and plenty of train stations, but I would never recommend anyone to stay at it. Here’s what I would have done differently now that I know Kyoto:I would have absolutely stayed a bit outside Kyoto at a traditional Ryokan.  This is an authentic Japanese style inn and is so much more charming.  My friend Merritt is in Kyoto right now, and I’ve been loving her Instastories.  The place she’s staying at; Gion Hatanaka, looks darling – so I’m including it here in case you want to book it!  I’m looking forward to going back to Kyoto in the future and having my trip a bit more planned out so that I can see even more temples/parks (there are SO many to see) and experiencing a traditional Ryokan! Kyoto Travel Guide:Things you must do in Kyoto, Japan: Shirakawa GionThis was my favorite neighborhood in Kyoto and I made sure to walk along the Shirakawa Canal everyday.  It’s stunning at night and during the day – and is home to darling shops and restaurants, like Pass the Baton tea house, Itoh (Nobu’s restaurant), and more. See a Geisha showOur concierge told us you could not buy Geisha show tickets online (at least for the one we wanted to go to in the Gion District) so we tried to arrive about 30 minutes early for the 6PM show.  Sadly it was already sold out by then, and the next night we went – the line was around the corner and that was when we were an hour and a half early!  SO, if you want to see a geisha show it seems as though you have to be prepared to wait quite a bit, or try to book through a service.  I was definitely bummed we weren’t able to see one and it’s at the top of my list next time I’m in Kyoto! Nishiki MarketThis is a huge market/shopping area in Kyoto.  The main street strip is full of food vendors so go hungry!  You can try everything from ramen to sushi, to chicken skewers and mochi.  Wander down the side streets and you’ll find a handful of cute boutiques. Arashiyama Bamboo GardenTake a cab or the train just about 30 minutes away to the stunning Arashiyama District.  This area is breathtaking and you’ll be able to wander through the bamboo garden and several temples.  It’s a great spot to spend at least half the day at. Fushimi Inari ShrineThis is one of the most iconic shrines in Kyoto with a path of over 5,000 bright orange gates.  We took the train here, and had fun trying all of the desserts and coffee from the vendors that were just off the train stop.  We walked through the orange gates (great picture opp hehe!) and had tea overlooking a pretty park. Tea at Pass the BatonI’m including this here again (I mentioned it in #1), because it was such a memorable experience for me!  Cross a tiny bridge over a canal into the most darling tea house in Kyoto.  Enjoy mochi desserts, green tea, shaved matcha ice, and the stunning ambiance/view from inside.  It was my favorite place to take a mini break at after wandering through Kyoto. RamenI think I ate ramen every single day on my Japan trip for lunch.  We loved a place called Kyoto Gogyo which was right in the Nishiki Market.  It was a bit touristy, but the location, service, and absolutely delicious ramen hit the spot!  The ramen in Kyoto Station is also top notch! Kinkaku-ji aka the Golden TempleThis is one of the most popular buildings in Japan.  It is a zen Buddhist temple covered in gold leaf surrounded by a sprawling garden. Bullet TrainRiding the bullet train was such a neat experience!  Derek and I had always wanted to do this. We were pleasantly surprised at how clean, organized and seamless it was.  We enjoyed my favorite Japanese cookies and crackers on the way there ;) Philosopher’s WalkStroll along this tree lined walkway which is about a mile long and beautiful during any season – especially cherry blossom season.
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Tokyo Travel Guide

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit Japan – and particularly Tokyo.  For those of you who don’t know – I’m half Japanese!  I grew up in Arizona, but have always felt a super strong connection to my Japanese side and loved watching my grandmother make sushi and rice balls in her kitchen as a kid.  Being in Tokyo was almost an out of body experience – everything was so unique, different, eye catching…special.  I kept saying “wow wow wow” at every corner, at every meal, at every little detail. The one thing I will say before visiting is that, despite having Japanese heritage and having traveled quite a bit to foreign countries, I was actually intimidated to visit Japan!  I was worried because I didn’t speak the language and am directionally challenged so thought I’d get lost and feel a bit frazzled while I was there!  I was very pleasantly surprised that everything was a lot more peaceful and easy than I originally thought.  The Japanese are so polite, quiet, and friendly which makes you feel very calm walking around the city – there really isn’t a sense of “chaos” that I envisioned despite the millions of people living in Tokyo. The one thing I will say, is that just “popping into a restaurant” or stumbling upon on a cool park/museum/sight isn’t quite like it would be in cities such as NYC, Paris, or London…things are a bit more spread out in Tokyo and there are just SO many spots to see/try so you should absolutely have a general game plan/itinerary of places organized by neighborhood each day.  Here are the places we LOVED on our trip!  PS I’m almost done adding the TOKYO + KYOTO section to my Travel App which will have even more details!  Oh, and PPS if you missed my Japan Vlog you can watch it here! Tokyo Travel GuideAdd these to your Tokyo itinerary: Park Hyatt TokyoWe stayed at the beautiful Park Hyatt Tokyo located in the Shinjuku District.  This was where the movie Lost in Translation was filmed!  The service was impeccable, the breakfast every morning was delicious, and their iconic New York Bar and Grill restaurant is a MUST whether you’re staying there or not.  Listen to live music and sip champagne on the 52nd floor overlooking the city. Shinjuku-Gyoen GardenWe just barely missed cherry blossom season as it came so early this year – but this gorgeous garden had some of the last vibrant cherry blossom trees to admire.  It also had a beautiful lake and was just really peaceful to wander around. Shibuya CrossingYou can’t go to Tokyo without crossing the world’s largest intersection!  What an experience!!!!!  Apparently there are a ton of great bars and restaurants in Shibuya – but we opted to hang in Harajuku mostly which I’ll talk about next… Harajuku DistrictIf you head to the train station on a Sunday after lunch you may be lucky enough to spot the colorful Harajuku girls!  This area has fabulous shopping and loads of yummy restaurants!  We walked from Shibuya Crossing to Harajuku – so easy and pleasant. Ometasando HillsLocated right next to Harajuku – this was my favorite neighborhood.  It felt like Nolita or a little bit of Le Marais in Paris… such darling flower shops, boutiques, some of the best restaurants!  We had lunch at the yummiest place called SEIKOUAN. ShimokitazawaWander around this cool neighborhood for vintage stores, coffee shops, pubs and a more downtown/grunge feel.  It’s dubbed as the Williamsburg of Tokyo which is spot on. Yoyogi Park + Meiji ShrineWalk to the Yoyogi Park where you’ll find the stunning Meiji Shrine.  Write down 5 wishes or prayers and have them transcribed onto beautiful wooden plaques…you may have seen me do this in my Japan vlog.  Truly a special moment. Tsukiji Fish MarketWake up SUPER early to explore the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market (some recommend getting a guide!) and enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast while you’re there. Ginza DistrictDo some damage shopping around the Ginza District. It’s home to all of the best designer shops and just a really chic neighborhood to stroll around!  Head to the top of Barney’s New York which has several amazing restaurants… we enjoyed a traditional teppanyaki meal at KAIKA which was expensive, but SO worth it for the private ambiance, presentation and food quality. Eat Ramen at Tokyo Station The train stations oddly have the best ramen!!!  That’s what everyone told us and it was true!  The train stations are very clean there and I highly recommend getting a J ticket and taking it to explore different neighborhoods.
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Japan Travel Vlog!

Happy Monday! I’m so excited to share my vlog from Japan! This was my very first travel vlog – and I have got to say it definitely won’t be my last – it is SO fun to make these!  I used a little Sony camera and edited it in iMovie.  I’d say the hardest part about vlogging is editing…it took me a while to get used to that ;)  I’ll be sharing my full Japan itinerary/guide on Wednesday so be on the look out.  I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think about this Japan Travel Vlog in the comments below! For more travel, download my travel app.
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Best Coffee Shops in LA

Happy Monday!  I’m feeling more settled than ever here in LA.  It’s been over a year since I moved from NYC to LA!  My house is almost done being decorated, I’ve got my go-to restaurants, salons, and shops, and I’m a regular at a handful of local coffee shops.  I’ve done my fair share of exploring and been super impressed with the cafe/coffee shop scene here so I wanted to share my favorite coffee shops! Best Coffee Shops in LAGreat White VeniceThis Aussie cafe just opened a few months ago down the street from my house.  You can see the Venice sign perfectly from the cafe, and it’s one block from the beach!  The decor is dreamy – all white with rattan light fixtures, and the food is equally as dreamy with the best smoothie bowls, avocado toast, matchas and lattes in town.   The Butcher’s DaughterThis was one of my favorite spots in NYC and I am SO happy they have one a few blocks from my house in Venice.  This darling restaurant is situated right on Abbot Kinney and the decor is to die for.  They make a mean latte and one of the best avocado toasts and kale salads around. Menotti’sThis is another coffee shop in Venice that happens to be started by a super cool NYC Brooklyn guy.  It’s small and intimate – right off the boardwalk, with a super cool downtown vibe.  With a brick exterior and french cafe bistro tables inside, grab one of their yummy drinks and people watch your heart out! TomsNot many people know this, but if you head into the Tom’s shoe store on Abbot Kinney there’s a coffee shop inside!  They make the best coffee I’ve ever had in my entire life – no joke.  My boyfriend got me hooked and we go several mornings a week (and I used to not even drink coffee!!!)  The vanilla coriander latte has been written up in several magazines and it’s as good as it’s hyped up to be – and their chai is also insaneeeee. Alfred TeaYou can’t go to LA without getting a coffee or boba tea from Alfred off Melrose in West Hollywood!  Iconic and probably one of the most instagram worthy places in LA :) VerveThis West Hollywood spot is spacious and ideal for people watching.  It’s actually funny what a scene it turns into in the middle of the afternoon!  You’ll see actors and models pop in and out of here, or writers and directors holed up in the corner reading.  It’s right next to Gracias Madre and a ton of other great shops so it’s a perfect spot to hit up in the morning before you go out and explore. La ColombeThis spot is in Silver Lake (and is where these photos were shot.)  They have a location in NYC as well and make the best oat milk latte.  Yes oat milk!  It’s creamier than almond milk and I can’t resist getting one overtime I’m there. IntelligentsiaThere are 2 locations in LA; one in Venice right on Abbot Kinney and one in Silver Lake.  I prefer the Silver Lake location – it’s got a gorgeous outdoor seating area and equally gorgeous people always flock to it.  Seriously, you’ll walk by at any given time of the day and a group of dreamy men on motorcycles wearing leather jackets just happen to be hanging outside.  This is THE spot haha! Plant Food and WineThis is another inconspicuous coffee spot that’s actually an incredible vegan restaurant by my friend Matthew Kenney.  You’d never know it from the outside – but if you go in the back of the restaurant a spacious light filled garden awaits you.  Their coffee is so pure, so fresh, and 100% organic – my dad who is quite the coffee connoisseur was completely blown away. Bluestone LaneYAY!!!!  My favorite NYC Aussie coffee spot that I went to ALL the time in the West Village has finally opened several locations in LA.  I’ve only been to their Hollywood location on La Brea, but they also have one in Studio City and are opening ones in Santa Monica, Venice, and downtown very soon!  Order their green smoothie bowl, avocado toast, and a latte for breakfast! SaveSave SaveSave
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