Kyoto in one word: FOOD. There is no other city in the world that has more Michelin stars, and if you don't care about that stuff, practically every corner you turn, there is one incredible (and most likely, charmingly tiny and intimate) restaurant after another. The aim was to try a variety of places and food during our stay and here were some of the delicious results.
As mentioned in the previous post, Kyoto was my most anticipated stop, and the area in Kyoto I was most excited to stay in was Gion, where you could feel and see parts of old Kyoto (and have a genuine geisha spotting). In Gion, we had an incredible, spacious 2 bedroom apartment right in the heart of the Gion district that was walking distance to bus stops, train stops, prime shopping and restaurants, and most of the iconic temples and shrines.
The images of Japan that I've always had in my head are the same reasons why it consistently made it to the top of my list of places to visit (again, why it took this long to finally make it to Japan is also still a mystery to me!), and these said images, ones of old thatched roof homes, pretty cherry blossoms along the riverside and zen gardens, can be found in Kyoto, the stop where we spent most of our time at and one that I was looking most forward to. There are so many recs to share but below are a few of the places I visited via photos I snapped during my time in this very magical place.
Y'all know there's nothing I love more than a fun roadtrip/soothing weekend getaway from the city. Tokyoites are so lucky to be less than 2 hours away from the beautiful Mt Fuji and onsen region of Hakone - surrounded by glistening waters, majestic mountains and the freshest seafood, I admit, the hype was real, I truly did not want to leave... ever.
The main reason for the Osaka stop was... FOODFOODFOOD. The popular opinion I got was that I wouldn't need more than a day to tackle all the local eats. So, mix in a little wander around a charming neighborhood not too frequented by tourists and a dip into an onsen with food stops for the best okonomiyaki, takoyaki, wagyu and kobe beef, and you've got a pretty darn delicious 24-hr blitz through Osaka.
Like the food in Tokyo, there are endless options of where to stay to sleep/shower/rest/repeat. Since our trip started and ended with a few days in Tokyo, we got to try out a variety of areas in the city (Shibuya, Roppongi, and Marunouchi) that was close to the sites we wanted to visit and the restaurants we wanted to eat at, and hands down, my favorite was our lovely stay at Candeo Roppongi.
Leading up to our trip to Japan, I was flooded with recommendations, tips and stories on conquering the overwhelming but magical city of Tokyo... the word, "overwhelming," came up a bunch in describing the crowds (they're everywhere!) and sheer volume of incredible, mind-blowing restaurants (they're A LOT!). Before I travel, I always start with researching things I want to eat and where I want to eat it (for Japan, I referred to recs by friends who live there, favorite chefs of mine who travel there often, the Michelin and Bib Gourmand guides, and articles by Time Out Tokyo, Roads & Kingdoms, and The Japan Times), and I save them in my maps app, so I can just pull it up when I'm in the area and see what's delicious that's close by to the site (or store :) I'm at.
My Japan trip started (with 3 days) and ended (with 2 days) in the magnificent, turn your senses upside down, city of Tokyo. It was our first time in Tokyo so we had a lovely mix of checking out charming neighbourhoods, must-see tourist sites, out of this world eats, and local farmers and antique markets.
I've been a huge fan of Banana ever since they launched in 2015 (h/t all the fellow AZNs doing all the cool things!) and Nasty Gal let me interview the ladies behind Banana, Vicki Ho and Kathleen Tso, for their Risky Biz section, where we got to chat about real-life banana struggles, running an independent magazine, and being asked the dreaded (and oh so annoying), “So where are you from? No, where are you reeeeeallly from?” Check out our interview here.
Exquisite River is an immersive dinner experience created by old pals of mine, Zoe Komarin and Yonatan Rosen, that joins Zoe's heartwarming and innovative food with Yonatan's charming storytelling and customized art and design. To capture Exquisite River's magical reimagining of a passover seder (the evening's theme) for Zoe and Yonatan, my friend Erik and I came with nothing but our personal cameras (and a huge appetite!) in hand. If you're going to be in New York, Berlin, or Los Angeles in the next few weeks and would like to experience the coming together of incredible food, storytelling, and memory (I mean, who doesn't?!), check out ExquisiteRiver.com for dates and info on securing tickets. In the meantime, enjoy this little taste of the Exquisite River magic:
I recently had a major jerk chicken/shrimp/nacho feast at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica with rapper-singer, Lizzo to talk about her love of food, including her one-time dream of being a restaurant reviewer, and upcoming performance at the first ever EEEEEATSCON food festival by The Infatuation in Los Angeles, May 20th. Check out my interview and photos with Lizzo over at Nasty Gal!
When I travel, I love to sneak in moments to capture portraits and candids of local women, and during my last pilgrimage to Spain, Flare gave me the opportunity to take it one step further and delve into the health and beauty practices of Andalucían women. Here's the feature where I learn that for the women of Andalucía, beauty runs deeper than a secret anti-wrinkle cream but the innate attitude and charm of "duende." But, what's duende??
The Kit published my Asian hair journey today – it was a really fun, and surprisingly, self-reflective piece to write. What started off as a chance to get a really expensive cut for free (HOLLAAA) and achieve the coveted, "I woke up like this," effortless wave, turned into me getting down to why I had the wave obsession in the first place... READ ON BELOW.
I met some incredible women in Hawaii who, to put it simply, get shit done, all the while being generously kind and absolutely inspiring. In Kona, where there is so much history to learn, things to discover, and activities to partake in, there was no shortage of said badass ladies. As action filled as Kona was, it was the women of the trip who really touched my heart and left me with the warmest sense of ohana (I told you, Hawaii has turned me into a total sap!).
There's nothing I love more than road tripping around a beautiful island - with stunning views of the land + water and all the delicious food stops along the drive, it's the best way to get up close and local. On Hawaii Island, we got to cover the top 180 of the island going north-west from Hilo to Kona.
I always had a feeling that Hawaii would be a magical place, which is a big reason why I've always wanted to visit, and there really is no better way to get a sense of what that magic is all about than a trek through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Words cannot express the out of worldness that is hiking through, and on top of, a continuously erupting volcano. We started at 2:30pm, continued through sunset to pitch darkness (except for the glow coming from Kīlauea's active lava flow), while going through six different climates (rain, sun, dry, humid, cold, you name it, we felt it), which changes the color of the hardened lava from bronze to silver in a second. 12.4 miles later and it still feels unreal.
Being able to fly direct to Hilo from LAX (via United) made it an ideal first stop on my road trip across Hawaii Island. The main draw to Hilo, of course, is its close proximity to the out of this world experience that is hiking the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is currently oozing the fiery 61G lava flow.