What Did We Do in Osaka, Japan?

Osaka is the last stop in Japan. The intention was to have it be relaxing – which it was but it was also pretty “action packed”. And I use that term loosely because “action packed” means something totally different when you’re in your thirties. This leg of the trip consisted of lots of food, claw games, and sightseeing.

Shrine in Osaka, Japan

A trip to Osaka would not be complete without a visit to Osaka Castle. As we headed up towards the castle, it looked almost ominous due to the rainy clouds that were hovering over us. I have to admit, I was a bit angry that we got rained on but not long after I nearly bit off the Mr’s head, the clouds parted ways and the skies started to light up again.

Osaka Castle in Osaka, Japan

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Right outside the castle walls were these beautiful cherry blossom trees that rested next to some very steep steps. While there was a long line to take photos (gotta get that ‘gram photo), we managed to get our pics and scurry out to get some more yummy eats outside the castle.

Osaka_Castle03

Because we needed to stuff our faces some more, we went to explore Dontonburi and I was amazed at how underrated this place is! I just LOVED IT! As soon as you set foot in the general vicinity, you can smell the food that were sizzling on the outdoor grills. And I can’t leave out all the arcades. THE ARCADES! There were probably nearly 10 on each block – ok, exaggerating, but it surely felt that way. I’m ashamed to admit how much we spent but it was all in good fun (for me – frustration for him).

Dontonburi in Osaka, Japan

Before concluding our trip in Japan, of course we had to find the perfect location to see some more cherry blossoms and The Mr. did not disappoint with this one.

Osaka_CherryBlossomViewing

Oh! And don’t forget to watch the vlog!

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Enchanted in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan is one of those undeniably idyllic cities in the world. Swarming with tourists, maybe, but utter perfection nevertheless. I may also base this on the fact that the cherry blossoms were in bloom which only enchanted me more. Sakura petals were softly fluttering in the wind before they free fall into the canals below – I mean, COME ON!

After we checked into our not-so-impressive AirBnb, we decided that we would spend as little time there as possible and headed out straight away. We took the rail and walked over to the Pontocho area. The narrow alleyways of Pontocho was a great way to spend hours getting blissfully lost.

Pontocho Kyoto, Japan
Pontocho in Kyoto, Japan

Just one block to the west, was Kiya-Machi Dori, a street along canals that were illuminated by LED restaurant signs luring hungry tourists inside to have a taste of their culinary offerings. Tourists (including myself) crowded each of the bridges that arch over the canal to get the perfect IG shot of the cherry blossoms.

Kyoto_Canal

We capped off the night at a second floor bar called L’EscaMoteur Bar (138-9 Saitocho, Shimogyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu, Japan). Many reviews dub it as “gimmicky” and that may be true, but we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The cocktails were both unique and delectable. Fair warning though, it’s a TINY space so it was pretty crowded – they had to turn away many guests while we we there so having a Plan B in place before your visit may be a good idea.

Kyoto_L'EscaMoteur Bar

At the break of dawn, we headed out to do even more touristy things. First stop, Fushimi Inari-taisha.

Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, Japan

We planned to arrive early in hopes to take photos of the empty gates. While we did arrive relatively early, everyone had the same plan as we did. Thankfully, most people were respectful of each other as we each tried to capture the perfect shot.

Our next stop – the bamboo forest. Before we actually arrived, we found ourselves a little turned around – which ended up giving me some pretty cool pictures. Nevertheless, we made it! Of course it was filled with people who also wanted to take a leisurely IG inspired stroll in the forest but that didn’t take away from it’s beauty.

Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan

As we were heading back we noticed people lining up to get into some garden so we figured we would follow the crowds to see what it was all about. We paid a 500 yen entry fee and were immediately immersed in a winding pathway of blooms.

Kyoto_Garden

The next morning, we woke up early so we could check out the Nishiki Fish Market. While the market wasn’t as extensive as the one in Tokyo (at least it didn’t seem like it), we enjoyed how easy it was to find ready to eat seafood skewers at every turn.

Nishiki Fish Market in Kyoto, Japan

After we stuffed our faces, we headed to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). Let me tell you, that place is NUTS. From the lines to get into the garden, to the lines to take photos of the pavilion, to the lines to walk through the garden was exhausting and infuriating at some points. Despite my complaints about the crowds, the Golden Pavilion did not disappoint. It’s a sight to be seen.

Kyoto_GoldenPavilion

During our stay in Kyoto, we met up with my cousin’s friends from NorCal. Fun and friendly, we were able to enjoy some delicious food, refreshing drinks, and great casual conversation at Maruyama Park. Most known as the go-to spot for cherry blossom viewing parties, the park remained busy despite the rain.

Maruyama Park in Kyoto, Japan

That concludes the cliff notes version of our trip to Kyoto, Japan. But before I conclude this blog, I’m going to include a few more photos of the cherry blossoms (because why not?) and the vlog in case you want to see what I wrote about in vlog form 🙂

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto, Japan

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for our Osaka adventures!
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A look back at 2015: Part III

2015review

Hey guys! Welcome to the third and final installment of our trip down memory lane! I am in awe of the memories we created together in one short year!

2016 already has a lot in store for us – in which I will elaborate once the details are finalized, so be sure to stay tuned!!

Let’s continue where we left off, shall we?

Florida

At the end of July, The Mr gave me an EPIC surprise. He knew I was starting to get really homesick so he told me that we will be joining the rest of the family in Florida in just 4 weeks!

I can’t even put into words how joyful it was to see Ittybot interacting with the rest of the family. I was worried that he would be attached to mommy, but nope, he peaced out as soon as he could!

Leiden

I have to admit coming back to Holland was really tough for me. But this little face makes he so happy – as long as we are together, we can get through it!

Amsterdam

Wandering around Amsterdam on a crisp, fall afternoon.

BelgiumFam

In November, we traveled back to Belgium to celebrate my beautiful aunt’s birthday.

Bruges

We have always talked about going to Bruges and we finally made it! Unfortunately, it rained the entire time but that didn’t put a damper Ittybot’s mood!

iceland

Some people would call us crazy for traveling to Iceland in December. Well, yeah we are. Iceland was bitter cold and it was FREAKING FANTASTIC! I’ve said this time and time again, the pictures of Iceland just don’t do it justice!

Minnesota

Iceland was a quick stopover before heading to Minnesota to see the family. I chose a picture of us gathered in the kitchen because that’s what we love doing most – eating. We will find any and every excuse to eat, eat, eat!!

And that brings us to today…we leave for Madrid early tomorrow morning for New Years with The Mr’s side of the family. Squeezing in one last trip before 2016 and it should be a great one!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2015 and lots of luck for 2016! Lots of love from the bots!

Joop Joooooop

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A look back at 2015: Part II

2015review

Lets pick up right where we left off on the last blog!

LisseNL
Lisse, Netherlands

After we recovered from our jetlag, we set out to see if there were any tulips left in the gardens nearby. We only found one garden that was packed of tulips but even the sparse gardens still looked incredible.

Marrakech

In June, we set out on a 2 week trip to celebrate my 30th birthday. First up, Marrakech.

Milan.jpgA quick pit stop in Milan, Italy.

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Lake Garda, Italy

Head stand on top of a mountain? Check.

Venice

Venice, Italy – Seriously, the city looks like it does in the postcards…

Eze

Eze, France

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Monaco

Nice

My loves above Nice, France. Love!

Cannes

Cannes, France

LeidenNL

The sunsets behind our apartment during the summers are incredible!

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Cherish moments, not things. These boys give me a wealth of memorable memories. I’m thankful for them each and every day….

Wow, this is much longer than anticipated…instead of inundating you with even more pictures, I will do a 3rd post…stay tuned for a third and final post!

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A look back at 2015: Part I

 

2015review

The year is quickly coming to a close, seriously, where did time go?! As of late, my Facebook timeline has been flooded with year in reviews. So I suppose it’s about that time of the year where we take a look back at what happened in our lives over the past 12 months…

LeidenNLJan2015
Leiden, Netherlands

It just so happened that the weather gods were smiling upon us and gave us a beautiful day in January. On nice days, we like to go to La Place near the market for lunch. You get a beautiful birds eye view of the charming city from 4 stories above.

alicante
Alicante, Spain

Before Ittybot turned two, we wanted to jet set to one more country before he would cost an entire plane ticket. We decided to venture to Alicante, Spain to visit The Mr’s side of the family.

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Altea, Spain

The family took us to a nearby town called, “Altea”. Altea is a cute and quaint little town along the coast with whitewashed buildings throughout. We weren’t there for long but we loved shopping the charming boutiques and the bakeries were delicious!

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On February 22nd, our little bot officially entered the terrible twos.

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March, 2015 marked 10 years for Tim & Noot!

Ghent
Ghent, Belgium

Before Tim & Noot’s anniversary dinner, we explored Ghent for a few hours.

KeukenhofApril

Keukenhof_Flowers

Early April, we paid a visit to the Keukenhof gardens. We had to go a little earlier this year because we had an unexpected trip to China coming up!

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Shanghai, China
YuYuanShanghai
Yu Yuan Garden

The Mr was summoned to do some work in China and we HAD to tag along. It was an opportunity of a lifetime!

Sanya
Sanya, China

The next stop on his work trip was Sanya, China. One of the guys had a great hook-up on a yacht so we all took a break for an afternoon – baller style.

TianTanBuddha
Tian Tan Buddha AKA Big Buddha

HongKong

Hongkong002

We decided to hop over to Hong Kong after his business trip. Because I mean, WHY NOT?!

Stay tuned for part II!

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Traveling to Dubai with a baby or toddler!

Dubai with a toddler

Dubai may not be the first destination that comes to mind for a family vacation. Especially when you’re traveling with a 1 year old! But we like to be adventurous so we took our Ittybot to Dubai and the Maldives in one trip!

Surprisingly, Dubai is probably one of the most baby friendly cities we have visited! There was so much to do and so much to see for the entire family that our 5 days there seemed way too short. You can get the full Dubai low-down here.

So lets get onto the real reason you’re here. I will break down the main things moms look for in a vacation destination.

Stroller friendly – Everything is so far apart that you basically cab everywhere (or you can do the big bus tour like we did) but once you are at your destination, it is fairly stroller friendly. There are usually large crowds of people that you would have to maneuver through but that’s a small problem.

Restaurants – The city itself has a heavy western influence so you will find lots of restaurants that you would find in the US. So of course, they were all pretty child friendly. From nice comfortable child seats, to child friendly menus, and those amazing cups with lids to prevent your little one from spilling all over the place. It’s the little things 🙂

Diaper changing stations – This is probably my favorite part of Dubai. Seems silly but when you live in Europe and have to change your baby in a tiny, dirty stall or even in their stroller, a formal changing room is the ultimate luxury. The larger malls have changing rooms that is like a retreat for mothers and their little ones. It’s sprayed with the most amazing light scented perfumes, there are toys for them to play with, the works.

At the very minimum, most of the places you would visit have a changing table for you. Except maybe the beach but that’s a given!

Activities – We used our Hyatt points and stayed at the amazing Grand Hyatt Dubai. The service and the pools were amazing. We almost didn’t want to leave the hotel at all. The staff was amazing with Ittybot. He was given lots of attention and treats – which was probably his favorite part.

There were plenty of activities in Dubai for the little ones. There is even an aquarium within the mall! Finding activities for your family won’t be a problem. Your problem will be narrowing it down to a few!

We highly recommend doing a trip to the desert. We did a low-key jeep drive to the desert with little bits of crazy driving through the dunes which Ittybot loved. He also loved the show that the staff put on which included lots of music and performances. Definitely a treat for the entire family!

FunTours trip to the Desert in Dubai!
FunTours trip to the Desert in Dubai!

Transportation – This is probably my only gripe with Dubai. Carseats aren’t required in Dubai! Much like Thailand, kids are free to roam about the car as they please. There are however, pink taxis that will bring a carseat at your request (but those require a lot of planning ahead and it’s not always available). We did the big bus tour most of the time but the few times we needed to take a cab Ittybot had to sit in between us buckled in SNUG. We only did this for very short rides but it was nerve wracking every single time.

I hope this was useful for those planning a trip to Dubai OR for those considering a trip. It was such an amazing trip and we are so excited to show Ittybot the pictures and footage from the trip. Hopefully, it will inspire him to go back on his own one day!

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Vloggin’!: Keukenhof 2015

On Easter, we had to venture out to Keukenhof a little bit early due to our upcoming trip to China. Last year, we waited too long because of guests. One of these years we will get it just right!

As suspected, some of the flowers were pre-bloomed but there we still saw more flowers than the previous year. Nevertheless, it was gorgeous in some areas!