Through my eyes: Takeshita Street, Harajuku, Japan – the early morning streets before the mayhem begins…

Harajuku. It’s often referred to as Japan’s kawaii (cute) centre, shopping heaven, alternative fashion mecca, and home to some of the most deliciously extravagant crepes in the world. And the gateway to Harajuku is Takeshita Street, the narrow half kilometre street stretching out from Harajuku train station towards the rest of the area.

We visited Harajuku on a rainy morning , around 9am; unbeknownst to us, nothing actually opens until around 11am. We decided to have breakfast at Dominique Ansel to kill a bit of time waiting for the mayhem to kick in, but enjoyed a pretty quiet walk down Takeshita Street to get there.

It’s fun and exciting and crazy and chaotic late afternoon, but walking the street with no one around bar a few delivery people, the store roller doors still down and the sky looking like it was still only just waking up itself was an incredible experience in a completely different way…

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And for later in the day?

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Shop here: Kiddy Land & Character Street, Tokyo, Japan

I’m writing this at the end of my work day (working from home) and am surrounded by cute Japanese cartoon paraphernalia which now adorns my home office/book nook – socks, tea cup, pens, the works; I figured now would be the perfect time to write this post! If you saw my Instagram account last week, you may have noticed this post, featuring (some of) my new Gudetama paraphernalia . I’m not much into the typical pink sparkly cutesy crap so often associated with Japan, so he’s the perfect cutey-pie cartoon for me – he’s a fat, lazy, grumpy egg. My spirit animal.

But there is a LOT more to Japan’s kawaii cartoon scene than just Gudetama (although how you could possibly go past a lazy egg that uses a piece of bacon as a blanket, I do not know), and they take it seriously. And it’s infectious – even I got totally into it, even though I really didn’t recognise many of them other than other than Hello Kitty, Kirby and Miffy. And the best places to shop for your cartoony goods? Kiddy Land and Character Street!

 

Kiddy Land
6-1-9 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
http://www.kiddyland.co.jp/en/

This place is not a store. This is a palace of cartoon. And that photo above is just the start of the line to get in. It’s several levels of everything from Gudetama and Hello Kitty to Pokemon and Miffy. There’s an entire level dedicated to Snoopy, and there are even Star Wars light up lightsaber chop sticks. AMAZING!

The prices are surprisingly not horrendous, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, you’ve got no chance!

 

Character Street
Basement of JR Tokyo Station near Yaesu exit

So, the basement of Tokyo Station is like a small city in itself – not only is it home to Ramen Street, it’s also home to Character Street, over 20 stores, each dedicated to different characters from various Japanese TV networks.

90s children like myself should particularly love the Tamagotchi, Miffy and Pokemon stuff. And also, more Gudetama!!!

 

Are you ready to get your shop on yet?!

Shop here: Itoya, Tokyo, Japan (stationery)

Itoya
2-7-15 Ginza Chuo-ku, Tokyo
http://www.ito-ya.co.jp

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My time in Tokyo is sadly coming to an end – after I hit the post button on this one, I’ll be making my way to Narita airport to fly back to Melbourne. That sucks; I’ve really had a great time here. But before I go, I’ll sneak in one more quick post, a place I visited a few days ago that was basically heaven for someone like me. Itoya – stationery emporium of epic proportions…

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And by epic proportions, I’m not exaggerating; check out the store guide below and count the number of floors that house all of the goodies at Itoya:

I think “kid in a candy store” would most accurately sum up my experience – I’m not sure how much the elegant and serious Ginza crowd appreciated my slightly over enthusiastic approach to paper goods, but I was too happy to care! The store was gorgeous, modern, cleanly designed and immaculately kept. Each level had its own thing going on, like level 4: MEETING, home to an ungodly amount of notebooks and diaries, as well as a counter where you could customise your own…

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Level 5: TRAVEL, was filled with the most gorgeous and luxurious travel accessories, from designer passport holders and carry on bags to travel guides and books. I found myself particularly mesmerized with the stand below, one of several containing every imagineable pack of binder sheets which you could use to compile your very own completely custom travel journal/planner/what-have-you..

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Level 6: HOME,  everything from pillows to calendars to candle holders and for rugs. Major home decor jealousy.

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I did my best to contain myself, walking away with only a diary and a notebook – it’s not cheap, but it is absolute quality, and the options are almost endless! SO worth a visit!!!

And on that note, I’m heading back home to start writing all about this adventure and to start planning the next one 🙂

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a weekend in Beechworth part 1 (where to stay, eat & shop)

It’s a bit of a catch-22 when you finally realise that you’ve found what you want to do with your life, but it’s not something you can do so easily; I know I want to travel, but I can’t exactly drop what I’m doing and pack my bags and live on the road indefinitely. That costs money, and I need to work to earn enough of it to hit the road again! That said, just because I can’t give my passport a workout every month, doesn’t mean I can’t still explore and take adventures and appreciate what I’ve got in my own backyard; I am SO lucky to live in Melbourne, where , within a few hours, I can be at the beach, on snowy mountains, or in beautiful forests. Victoria is an incredible unique place, where we literally have it all – we just need to get in the car and actually look for it!

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So, over the next few months, I’m going to start to practice what I preach, and cultivate a little more adventure at home as well as abroad – why the hell not?! I’m going to start taking more mini-breaks, more weekends or even just days away, more road trips and local adventures, because “adventure” shouldn’t just be reserved for “vacations.” Living authentically, for me, means have adventures every day, and that’s something I can control.  And on that note, without further ado, let me take you to stop #1: Beechworth 🙂

Distance from Melbourne CBD:
It’ll only take around 3 hours to drive to Beechworth from the CBD – depending on which direction you’re coming from, just get yourself onto the Hume Freeway, and keep going until you hit Beechworth! It’s a really, really easy drive!

 

Stay here:
Beechworth on Bridge

38 Bridge Rd, Beechworth
http://www.beechworthonbridge.com.au/

I came across Beechworth on Bridge through a quick Trip Advisor search for accommodation in Beechworth. Being that the race was on, a lot of accommodation was booked early, and this was one that looked nice, but was still reasonably priced. We had two nights accommodation (Saturday and Sunday) for only $250, and it was a hundred times nicer that I could have possibly expected! Brenda runs a tight ship, and is one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting on my travels 🙂 She welcomed us with a big smile and open arms, and made us feel right at home from the moment we walked through the front door. She gave us menus for breakfast (complimentary and home cooked), invited us to help ourselves to the enormous DVD collection should we need a relaxing evening in instead of heading out, and was happy to help us with anything else we may have needed. She walked us over to our gorgeously appointed room, and it honestly felt just like home (only, a little bit nicer!) – it was the perfect place to spend the weekend!

Features:
* In-ground, solar heated pool
* Rooms have new HD/LCD tvs
* New super quiet Fujitsu AC Split Systems
* Kitchenette with fridge, toaster, microwave, crockery and cutlery
* Tea, coffee, fresh milk and bikkies
* Expresso Coffee Machines
* Electric Blankets and cosy doonas
* Triple sheeted beds to ensure maximum cleanliness with NO recycled bedcovers
* Hair dryers, irons, ironing boards and fresh towels and high quality toiletries
* Beautiful gardens with BBQs on site

Inclusions:
* Complimentary breakfast which you can choose from the a-la-carte menu
* Free WiFi
* Complimentary DVD hire
* Free car parking
* Guest laundry is available at no additional cost

Oh, and Brenda makes some AMAZING pancakes!!! Highly recommend these!

 

Eat here:

Bridge Road Brewers
Old Coach House 50 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://bridgeroadbrewers.com.au/

Visit for: the beer (apparently) and the pizza. They cater really well for gluten free (gluten free pizza bases, which are actually really good, as well as GF beer and cider), and be sure to check out the specials board, which is where we found the pork knuckle – absolutely phenomenally good!! Really friendly service, gorgeous set up, just be sure to make a reservation because they get super busy!

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Moments & Memories Tea Room
34 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.moments-memories-tearoom.com.au/

Visit for: The devonshire tea with an insane amount of teas to choose from to go with it. Yes, it’s pink and frilly and girly and just SO pink. Not at all my style, but don’t be fooled; the service is as sweet and sassy as you’ll find in town, and the scones are good enough to brave the bright pink interior for! With around 60 different teas to choose from (and yes, you can take them home with you if you like them enough!), it’s a little tough to select just the one to go with your scones (again, gluten free particularly well catered for with a gluten free Devonshire Tea option also on offer, which I also sampled, and can very much vouch for!), but I ended up going with the Devonshire Cream tea – top choice, and I bought a bag to take home with me! You can also find a gorgeous selection of award winning jams and preserves, tea cups and saucers, cook books and other little tea-related trinkets that are waiting to be taken home, too. Perfect way to spend a winter afternoon 🙂

 

Beechworth Bakery
27 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthbakery.com.au/

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Visit for: A sausage roll and a pie – I like the steak pie and husband like the chicken and leek, but let’s be honest – they’re all good!! The sweets are also amazing, with the beesting being (a sweet, “melt-in-your-mouth” dough bun filled with apricot jam and creamy custard, and topped with toffeed almonds – delicious!) their most popular export, and for good reason! I’m also a huge fan of the flourless orange almond cake, and the snickerdoodles (custard filled pastry tart, topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries) – and don’t forget a bottomless cup of tea to go with these treats! This bakery is the original and the best; we used to travel to Bright most years to spend the Easter holidays when we were kids, and I have the best memories of stopping in here for lunch at the bakery on the way to Bright! While they’ve now expanded to locations in Albury, Bendigo, Healesville, Ballarat & Echuca, this one is the original, and still the best 🙂 Don’t be put off by the long lines – they move pretty fast.

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The Beechworth Sweet Co.
7 Camp St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthsweetco.com.au/

IMG_7114Visit for: the home made fudge and other home made chocolate and lollies. They’re all delicious – it’s kind of impossible to choose, but the salted caramel fudge is a good place to start! This is another place I have very fond childhood memories of, with many holidays spent eating my weight in musks and chocolate drops from this place 🙂 Their hand made fudge is pretty popular, and they have heaps of amazing flavours to choose from, as well as some pretty delicious peanut brittle. They’ve also got fantastic individual chocolates like the ones below – a little more pricey, but worth it for a special treat!

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Shop here:

Beechworth Honey
31 Ford St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.beechworthhoney.com.au/

No doubt you’ve seen this stuff sold in your local supermarket – where better to buy it from that straight from the source?! If you like your honey, this is a must-visit shop in Beechworth, where you can stock up on all things honey; from hand creams and soaps, to honey mead and multiple ranges of honey (everything from the classic original stuff to some fancier orange blossom or creamy honey, fig and ginger), it’s all there.

 

 

Quercus Community Bookshop
Cnr Ford & Church Sts, Beechworth, Victoria

A little heaven of used books, with some very friendly and knowledgeable service to boot 🙂 This is the place to go if you want to browse and/or talk books, with a massive range with new arrivals popping in all the time. If there’s something you’re after and can’t find, just ask – help is at hand and ready to go! With prices starting at only $1.00, you’re bound to walk away with at least a few books.

 

 

Beechworth Antiques
17 Loch St, Beechworth, Victoria
http://www.indigoshire.vic.gov.au/Services/Business_Directory/Beechworth_Antiques

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There are a few little antique shops in town, but this one was particularly beautiful – heads up though, they are genuine antiques and as such, the prices are more for serious shoppers and collectors. There are a few cheaper treasures in there, though, and definitely well worth a look around.

 

 

So, there’s part 1 of my guide to a weekend Beechworth visit, hope you’re enjoying your virtual break so far and have maybe seen something to motivate you to email Brenda and book a room for a weekend away of your own! I’ll be back later in the week with part 2 (what to see and do while you’re there), so I hope you’ll be back for that 🙂 In the mean time, back to reality and back to work for me this morning, already looking forward to the next adventure!

Shop: Brooklyn Flea + Eat: Smorgasburg (Ramen Burger, Mighty Quinn’s BBQ & Dough), New York, USA

So, while we’re visiting New York, we have to actually get out of Manhattan to do two of my favourite things – market trawling and eating! And believe me when I tell you there is absolutely no better place to do both of these things than at Smorgasburg + Brooklyn Flea Market!

 

Brooklyn Indoor Winter Flea Market + Smorgasburg
1000 Dean St (between Classon & Franklin), Brooklyn
http://brooklynflea.com/
http://www.smorgasburg.com/

Ok, so let’s go with the shopping component first – the flea market part. You can read more on the website above, but basically what they’re all about:

Founded in April 2008, Brooklyn Flea has grown into one of New York City’s top attractions, operating flea markets every weekend of the year that feature hundreds of top vendors of furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers, plus delicious fresh food.

If that doesn’t get you excited to visit, then we’re just not on the same page! Basically, it’s a giant market with both shopping and eating to be done, which is the best of all worlds in my books. In the warmer months, the market is held outdoors, but we visited in the depths of winter which meant that instead of calling it off, they thankfully just move indoors until the snow lets up! As you can see below, it’s in a gorgeously big warehouse-style space, with both antiques/vintage and new handcrafted wares. It’s pure heaven for someone like me, with fantastic bargains to be found if you’re happy to meander around the place for a while and dig around. And don’t think the winter cold stop the crowds migrating across the river for this; by 11:30am, the place was packed, so get in early!

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After a bit of shopping, we were getting hungry, and made our way to the other part of the party; Smorgasburg. Think indoor food hall with a few different stalls to choose from, obligatory long lines of hipsters clambering for delicious food (and yes, we shamelessly joined in!). And you know what? Totally justified – the food here is great, the atmosphere is fantastic, it’s seriously just so much fun! As for what we ate, it was hard to narrow it down, but we went with….

 

The Original Ramen Burger
http://ramenburger.com/

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I don’t care what anyone says – believe the hype. This was amazing. Golden fried noodle buns, juicy beef patty, just enough spring onion and sauce to give it a little kick, it was everything that was promised and more. I want another.

 

Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com/

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This is serious BBQ. Holy wow. They take good quality meat and treat it simply and respectfully, bringing together traditions and methods from Texas and the Carolinas to create some absolutely mind blowingly good product by barbecuing it the old school way – low and slow. We ordered a serve of brisket (above, centre), burnt ends (top left) and pulled pork (top right). The pork just fell apart as we ate it, and the brisket – I mean, you can see the perfectly rendered fat in that picture, it literally melted in your mouth! And those burnt ends were something else… Oh my GOD I would eat tray after tray of those and never get sick of them!!

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Dough
http://www.doughbrooklyn.com/

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Naturally, you gotta finish on dessert. And everyone raves about Dough. There were SO many incredible looking donuts to choose from but it was the dulce de leche covered in toasted almonds that caught my eye. The dough was somehow both dense AND light at the same time, the glaze was delicious, and plenty of toasted almonds – a truly perfect donut specimen in every way. One of my biggest regrets in New York was not going back for a second one.

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Frenchmen Art Market, New Orleans

Frenchmen Art Market
619 Frenchmen St, New Orleans
http://frenchmenartmarket.com/

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It’s not an enormous market. It’s not world renown. It’s not packed to the proverbial rafters every Saturday morning. But it is an absolute must visit in New Orleans.

The Frenchmen Art Market lives, funnily enough, on Frenchmen Street. It’s only about a 10 minute walk from the heart of the French Quarter, and it opens nights only – Thursday nights through to Mondays, from around 7pm. It is truly an artist’s market, with everything sold there coming from the talented creative local community, and the added bonus of being located in amongst some of the best live music venues any city has to offer.

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Get out of the French Quarter’s main hub for the night, take in a jazz set (d.b.a. and Blue Nile are both great!), and then head over to the Frenchmen Art Market to buy a one of a kind piece to remember your trip by 🙂

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Shop here: Memorabilia on Smith Street, Melbourne

Memorabilia on Smith
269 Smith St, Fitzroy
http://www.memorabiliaonsmith.com.au/

Friday! WOO! Made it through another work week! I’m feeling a trip to Fitzroy/Collingwood this weekend, hopefully… I like to go there every few weeks, not to do anything in particular, just to be in the area and enjoy the sights and people and shops, like this one…

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There are so many second hand/pre-loved/vintage stores in Fitzroy, so it really takes a lot for one to actually stand out. This is one of those stores. Literally overflowing with fascinating trinkets from yesteryear (I’m talking spilling out onto the footpath out the front and piled high in the store creating walk-ways so narrow I’m too scared to breath on my way through), this is chaos at its most fascinating and I LOVE it!

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While AFL (Australian Rules Football) memorabilia tends to dominate the stock, there is so much more you’ll notice once you start digging around. The hardest thing is to stop looking at it as one giant mess (which it totally is, and I say that with love because it’s a fantastic mess), and try to narrow your attention on one item at a time. You truly have no idea how difficult this is until you’ve visited.

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What initially looks to be a display case of dirty old plastic reveals, upon closer inspection, 90s Pez dispensers, action figures that every child either had or begged their parents for, and vintage yoyos with old Coca Cola logos. The shelf that looks like a dusty old medicine cabinet reveals perfectly kept glass bottles and vials, old Arnott’s biscuit tins, gum ball machines and a giant old-fashioned Streets ice cream cone sign hovering above your head. It’s a beautiful, nostalgic wonderland…

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