hokkaido . japan

hokkaido . japan


… It’s that time of year again! When the world turns bitter cold and snowy white, the only thing you want to do is curl up in a blanket and stay inside … OR DO YOU? …


We’re going to embrace Mother Nature and seize the wondrous season that’s upon us!

It may be cold, it may be wet, but there is heaps of fun and hardcore thrills in winter adventures!

a.k.a. SNOWBOARDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Mark and I have been all across some of the most desirable snowboarding destinations in North America such as Whistler, Lake Louise, Lake Tahoe, Mt. Saint Anne, Breckenridge, and Vail.

However amazing they are, we decided to go for a more “exotic” snowboarding experience … overseas … in Japan …

Anyone who has ever been to Japan can attest, it’s addictive! Although we’d been to Japan many times, this trip was going to be different … It’s going to be adrenaline pumping!

We’ll stay in Tokyo DISNEYLAND, catch up with our local friends in TOKYO, experience the Snow Festival in SOPPORO, hit the slopes in HOKKAIDO, then fly over to SOUTH KOREA and explore it for a week!

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Of all the remarkable rides we’ve had thus far, HOKKAIDO was hands down the most unforgettable!

It was beyond the top tier accommodations and service, far more than the challenging hills and jaw-dropping scenery. It was an adventure through and through – from getting there and back, from the fusion of local Japanese culture with an influx of visitors from Australia & New Zealand, to the exotic array of local cuisine!


It is snowboarding AND traveling all-rolled-into-one! A perfect package!

For instance …

. . . Where can you grab a bowl of piping hot ramen at the top of a 1000m hill after a long morning of riding? . . .

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. . .Where can you enjoy fresh sushi and a green tea latte after a blissful afternoon of riding in the outback? . . .

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. . . Or find unique treats to keep you fueled? . . .

hokkaido . japan


A defining point of our trip was when we reached the back side of the mountains. Today, it was snowing so much, that EVERYTHING was completely COVERED. All you could see in front of you is WHITE. We could hardly see 10 feet ahead of us!

But we managed to reach the top of the peak for the prohibited back country. There were warning signs everywhere!

Signs on what to do in case of avalanches! With illustrations!

Signs that read: “enter at your own risk”.

Signs with a checklist to prepare IF you decide to “enter at your own risk”.

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We looked down … And saw nothing but sheer whiteness. Not a single person or tree or building in sight. We could hardly even see where the ground and the sky separated! A pure blank white hole!

ME: Do we have a mobile?
MARK: Nope.

ME: Do we have a map?
MARK: Nope.

ME: Can we see where we are going?
MARK: Nope.

MARK: … Okay!!!

And just like that, we took a leap of faith, literally, and plunged downhill in full speed into an abyss of stark whiteness, with only the confidence that if anything happened, we trusted ourselves enough to survive whatever was about to happen next! We were going in BLIND!


Snowboarding is thrilling, but snowboarding BLIND in a restricted unmonitored area is purely INSANE!!!

AND????? …

Did we get lost?

But of course! For about an hour and a half…

We just followed our instincts.

The only way you can go is down!

And once you get to the bottom, there will be roads …

And hopefully, and eventually, people …

And somehow, we didn’t get hurt …

And, somehow, we found our way back …

And, THEN, we went back up and did it AGAIN!!!

This time, from the OPPOSITE side of the mountain! Because what fun is there in going down on a route that you’ve already taken and know where it leads? … where is the adventure in that?!?!

… Try something that completely SCARES you – for it will leave you feeling more ALIVE! …

hokkaido . japan

PRAGUE : romantic, musical, magical

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Happy 2014! … It’s a brand smacking new year! And what better way to start than with a bang, by leaping into it full-on with an exciting trip to PRAGUE!

What shall we see?
What will we do?
What should we eat?

Beats us!  this was one of those trips deliberately left “unplanned” …   I just LOVE surprises and being surprised! So to keep things thrilling, we decided to let the city do just that – let Prague SURPRISE us!

When we arrived, we dropped everything and headed to The Old Town. “WOW!” Was all I could think when we stepped into this historical district!

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To be in Prague in the New Year, is like standing in the midst of a Holiday Fairytale! The Old Town square was scattered with historical monuments and important ancient architecture, yet this week, particularly, it felt … MAGICAL!

The square was abuzz with The Holiday Market. You could see the bright red rooftops of the festively decorated stalls popping up in the skyline throughout  the square.

There were stall upon stall of various vendors of artisan crafts to peak your curiosity.  Meanwhile, the air was filled with delicious aromas from local snacks and cuisine.

Everywhere around you were bright holiday lights twinkling and shiny tinsel weaving from every-which-way!

And in the centre of it all, the most massive Christmas Tree I have ever seen, towering over all the hustle and bustle! Happy New Year, indeed!

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The first thing I noticed about Prague is that there was music … everywhere!

On almost every street corner, I would be captivated by a live musical performance or serenaded by some angelic voice as I passed by! It was enchanting!

I often found myself with the urge to break into song or shake my booty! (Truthfully,  a couple of times – I did!)

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That said,  we decided to be spontaneous and catch an Opera! We had no clue that there were only a few performances a week, and tonight was the only night we could catch one!

The show was in an hour … so we rushed over to The State Opera House to see if we could buy tickets at the door.

The place was jam-packed when we arrived! Nervously, and fingers crossed, we waited in the long queue … and happily managed to get very decent seats! Score for us!

With LE BOHEME tickets in hand, we went straight in to get our seats. As soon as we stepped inside the opera house, our mouths dropped! We were completely taken aback! It was breathtaking! The towering ceilings and massive chandeliers, the divine details and lavish decorative accents! Oh my!

Even if opera is not your thing, it is completely worth it to buy the cheapest seats just to see the interior!

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Well, at least according to U CITY GUIDES.

The interior is Art Deco, and once inside, you feel like you’ve been transported back in time to the early 19th Century.

We liked it so much here, we came here EVERY SINGLE DAY, just to enjoy a traditional authentic Czech meal.

Equally important, this is where I discovered THE MOST DELICIOUS hot chocolate! With Gingerbread crumbles, whipped cream, AND a chocolate swirl on top! (Bonus : they also offer take-away drinks!)

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Here is another one of those places you must see! … Strahov Monastery & Library …

Once you see this place for yourself, you cannot deny why it is on the list by FLAVORWIRE!

Note that you cannot walk through the library itself, and that it only takes a few minutes to admire. But it is worth it to visit at the end of the Prague Castle tour!

TIP: : Lighting is very poor – bring your best camera and a tripod! Wish we did!

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There are several bridges in Prague, but no other will leave such an impression as this one.

This bridge really connects the love of art and architecture and engineering design!

From the titanic tower that you enter to the romantic sculptures displayed all throughout the bridge, combined with the live musical performances and local artwork displays everywhere, this bridge was no ordinary bridge.

We were not simply just crossing to get to the other side; this was a heartfelt and alluring experience!

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Here’s another fun cultural idea! Catch a whimsical show that is characteristically “Czech” by attending a Puppetry Show!

The art of marionette and puppetry in Czech goes back to the 18th Century.

More specifically, watch one at the National Marionette Theatre, introducing “tall puppets”, hand crafted from wood or made of plaster.

The show performance of the night was Don Giovanni. An Italian opera to the music of Mozart!

This show is entertaining for adults but can be quickly boring for children as the child sitting next to me (around 10 years old) was growing insanely bored and impatient by the minute!

Unfortunately no photos are permitted at the show, so this is just a sneak peak at what you might see!

Just kidding, that was me just “puppet-pretending” at one of Prague’s best puppet shops; Obchod loutkami (The Puppet Shop).  We came here to buy ourselves a puppet! And, of course, pose like one!  In case you were wondering, YES!, I did get strange glances for passerbys! Hahaha …

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As an architect enthusiast, I also have a “Frank Gehry Bucket List”! And this building, which was a scenic 1 hour walk away from The Old Town, was designed by Vlado Milunc and the very renowned Canadian architect himself, Frank Gehry!

This curvaceous modern glass building looks imposing and rare as it sits near the serene Vlatava River amidst historical surroundings! Definitely worth the stroll and an admirable glance!

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There are few European cities that are beautiful after you step outside the City Centre! Prague is one of those cities made for pounding the pavement, or in this case, cobblestones!

It is such a vision and joy to simply walk around because the city planning and architecture is continuously stunning and endlessly picturesque throughout!

The more we explored this city, the more beauty we discovered.

The longer we stayed, the more we loved it!

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Prague is simply stunning during the day, but wait until you see it at night!

It might possibly be MORE charming and MORE romantic when the sun sets!

I just didn’t want to go to sleep in this city!

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With all the enchanting elements of this city; the music, the puppets, the bridges, the history, the architecture, the scenery, you will discover yourself falling in love with this city that oozes romance!

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… STAY TUNED … more adventures and travel to come! … until then, live and love with all your heart! …

THE ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP – 3 Countries in 2 weeks

MAP - ITINERARY - Scotland:Ireland:Wales


Pardon me for awhile as we make our way across the UNITED KINGDOM by car! …




St. Andrew’s




Inverness & Loch Ness








Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (The Longest Named Place!)

… Until we meet again, HAPPY SUMMER EVERYONE! … Make it Memorable! …

BRATISLAVA : a quirky capital



Bratislava in a day! And that is all you really need!

A 15 minute walk from my hotel and I land at the entrance of The Old Town. It is marked by St. Michael’s Gate, towering over the main street, you can’t miss it!

Here, immediately attached to the tower, if you look UP and to the RIGHT, house #15, you will find “The Narrowest House” to your right. It is indeed very narrow … only 130 cm wide!



As soon as you enter the tower, standing underneath the entrance you will see a polished brass plate. Apparently there are over 100 of these around the city. Explanation, anyone ???

When you cross through the tower and step into The Old Town, immediately to the right of the entrance is Bastova street, an all cobbled stone narrow street with warm honey coloured alleyway. It is old but beautiful.


There are two streets worth mentioning for dining and cafe hopping! The Korzo area (made up of two streets called Michalska and Sedlarska), and my personal favourite streets, Venturska and Panska.

These streets will lead you to The Main Square. For architecture and history buffs, Hlvan Namestie is the social hub of the Old Town, with several important buildings virtually steps from each other: the town hall, the monestary, the primatial palace, to name a few.


Walk all the way to the end of the street and you will discover Hviezdoslavovo Namestie, a lush tree-lined promenade with park benches, craft stalls, and elegant statues scattered along the walk ways.

Walk further past the promenade and you will find yourself on the riverfront overlooking the expansive Danube River. Walk along the tree-lined path WESTWARD, and you will see the beautiful blushed Bratislava Castle.



Bratislava has countless little wonderfully weird things that makes it memorable! You will definitely find a lot of quirky things here that tourists flock to see… Here are the top three …

The statue of a man holding out his top hat. This statue was made to commemorate a local man who use to walk around Bratislava handing ladies flowers and humming songs. Find him on Sedlarska Street. And be prepared to wait in line to pose with him!


Only in Bratislava will you be so thrilled to see a man’s head peaking out of a hole! There is even a road sign made for him to get your attention! Also found just steps away from The Man with the Top Hat statue, on Sedlarska Street.


Ever get a spooky feeling somebody is watching you? Here – there’s a statue peeping our of the wall above your head! Said to made to mock a man who once lived here that locals believed spied on people from a peephole on his door! Eek! Look out for him creeping around Panska Street.



And a few hours later, I am done! … Literally! I started at around 9:00am and finished by 1:00pm. And I take a LOT of photos. So if you are interested in only a walking tour and not planning to go inside any venues, you could see all the important sites within a few hours! It’s THAT small!


My self-guided tour left me famished, so I looked for some traditional local Slovakian cuisines.

Kapustnica – thick tomato soup base made with thinly shredded cabbage and sausage with fried bacon bits sprinkled on top.

Bryndzové halušky (potato dumplings with sheep’s-milk cheese).

Makovník – a nutty cake roll made with poppy seed. This I wanted to try but sadly didn’t find it.

So for dessert, I found a cozy cafe called SCHLOSS that overlooks my favourite two streets (at the corner of Venturska and Panska). I stayed here awhile people watching and postcard writing …

Bratislava is quaint and pretty and it’s definitely got that cafe / patio vibe! Perfect for a summer day trip getaway!




In Slovakia, they learn English in school but very few people I encountered can speak it. Even in the Old Town at the restaurants. Even at my hotel! I was surprised for such a touristy destination! So be prepared with your handy mini translator phrase book or app! Luckily most have English menus – with photos – though you may have to ask for one.


Transportation is delightfully reasonable! A return train ticket to Vienna and back (1 hour duration) is €13.

Taxis are extremely cheap here! From the main train station to the airport it is only €7.50. And I had the concierge call a taxi for me at the hotel – so it might be even cheaper if you hail it on the streets in the city centre.


Bratislava is definitely worth a day here from England! That is all you need: One Day. What’s more? Bratislava is practically on the border of 3 other countries that surround it! Austria, Czech Republic, and Hungary, Meaning? Loads of day trip options from here!

If I could do it differently, I would have done just that!


VIENNA : romantic solo getaway

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I had a moment! Just a sudden URGE to fly some place NEW! And to fly somewhere NOW! …

So I booked a last minute flight to SLOVAKIA! And since AUSTRIA was across the river, why not go there too???

So I packed my bags and reserved a hotel closest to the main train station and away I flew!

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Ryanair has amazing cheap deals all the time. Dependent on when and where, of course. A return ticket from London to Bratislava was £68 including taxes and fees!

So here I am! … My base is Bratislava but I spent the day in Vienna…

It was easy breezy to get from Bratislava to Vienna. The main train station in Bratislava (Hl. Station) is only a 1 hour ride to the main train station in Vienna (Wien Hauptbanhhof). And only 13€ for a return ticket!

Once in Vienna, 90% of all the main attractions are around KARLSPLATZ metro station. From Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna’s main train station) to KARLSPLATZ was only 2 stops (approx. 4 mins) and 2€ for a single trip.

Then EVERYTHING was a pleasurable walking distance!

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I walked about the city centre for a good 6 hours straight.

I was on a mission to see as much of Vienna as possible.

So I walked, power walked, all throughout the town …

With so much to see and do, these are my favourite moments.
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The Cathedral that draws crowds from near and far!
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The swanky streets of Graben.
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Completely inspired at The Museum Quarter

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Stunning architecture everywhere!


Exhausted, I finally allowed myself a late afternoon break at CENTRAL CAFE, a long established Viennese restaurant specializing in local desserts & coffee.

My pleasure of choice was a smooth creamy latte and a custard layered flaky pastry … and everything was delish! Excellent service and a fine time, even for a single diner!

After my afternoon snack, I spent an hour walking around the bustling “GRABEN” area, searching for post cards and the post office for stamps to mail. It wasn’t easy, but if you need a mailbox, look out for the bright canary yellow boxes!

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Picturesque, perfect pairing of old & new, bustling and lively, remarkable architecture, monumental palaces, contemporary culture, artsy, horse-drawn carriage rides, Mozart, Beethoven, Sigmund Freud, free & open air art, cycling fever, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, a city I dream of living …

90% of all the main attractions are at “Karlsplatz” metro station
you will need more than 1 day
a long 3-day weekend might be ideal
a cheap 1 hour train ride to Bratislava, Slovakia

And now I am back in my hotel room in SLOVAKIA! … Tomorrow … I explore BRATISLAVA!


5 DAYS IN POLAND : DAY 5 – hidden gems, secret passageways & the search for street art

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It’s our last day in Poland and it’s one of those places where there is just too many things to see and do … The pressure is ON to squeeze in as much as possible until the last possible minute!

We started the morning off with what WE dubbed as “The Bakery Street”. It was easy to decide which one to try as there was a HUGE lineup at only one of the cafe bakeries!

We ordered 1 chocolate croissant, 1 peszki (donut) stuffed with marmalade, one peszki (donut) with alcoholic eggnog, a pork snitzel sandwich on paprika bun with sauerkraut, and two large lattes.

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First victims … the pezki …
I was astonished that these little donuts were semi-sweet and spongy-soft just like Krispy Creme, only BETTER as it was not at all “oily”. Luckily I got TWO!!!

Next victim …. the chocolate chip croissant … still warm from the oven! One bite of the crispy, flaky yet spongy soft pastry and the the chocolate that was inside was oozing out! We inhaled it so quickly that IMMEDIATELY after it disappeared in my hands, I “commanded” Mark to go straight back inside the cafe, wait AGAIN in the super long lineup, just to order two more!!!

What a great husband! Feeling embarrassed to be seen AGAIN, he did it anyways! WHAT A KEEPER!

Now fueled with a sugar high, we headed out to hunt for Street Art!

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Sugar-rushed and utterly excited, with the trusty FREE MAP provided by the FREE WALKING TOUR, we set out to pinpointed each special spot with Street Art.

There were at least 20 graffiti destinations on the map, many lurking in secret passageways, others hidden behind garage doors, and many tucked away far beyond where tourists might wander. After much effort, we found only a handful. They were graphic and indeed works of art!


Here are our favourites!

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The street art search eventually lead us back to The Main Square, where there was a special performance happening! The 26th annual Street Art Festival!

The main square was jam packed. As everyone’s gaze was focused straight up above their heads, acrobatic performers danced their way through the skyline while Spanish opera was being sung live! A mesmerizing performance!

After the show, we completely exhausted and could walk no more!

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We wanted one last memorable meal but it was too painful to walk around to search! Luckily, on the way back to the hotel we found a “MILK BAR”, a polish cafeteria style cafe serving cheap traditional Polish cuisine! This particular one appeared much poshier than the other “basic” ones we’ve seen. Perfecto! We decided to end out trip with PIEROGI!!!

Two dishes of pierogi! Both “Russian Style”, one dish steamed, the other fried. This time we added “Maggie” soy sauce. Delish! This was truly the perfect finale!

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Enjoying our last meal, we reminisced …


In just 5 short days, this is what we did:

* pierogi hopping

* street art hunting

* the ghettos

* wandered through bohemian districts

* visited castles and caves

* discovered food bliss

* revisted tales from Schindler days

* visited famous historical spots

* listened to fascinating and horrific real-life stories of the life and times of Poland

* and were completely enchanted by the endless picturesque scenery! …

… Mark and I both agreed this was one of the best trips we’ve had! A destination definitely worth a return visit! …

5 DAYS IN POLAND : DAY 4 – (PART 2) – The Sinister Side of Krakow

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We’re getting addicted to these FREE WALKING TOURS! And what do you know? We’re a little attached to JACEK, now, too! As we have him as our tour guide yet AGAIN!

This tour was the Krakow Macabre Tour; where we will follow him around town to hear scary stories of torture techniques, serial killers, and ghastly ghosts!

As we move around to important landmarks, we discover that there is more than meets the eye! …

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We learn a lot more about Polish culture through these scary stories and find answers to some of these intriguing questions …

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How were people tortured? How were lovers tortured?

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Who is the Dracula of Krakow? How was he discovered? Was he ever found?

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Who was chosen to be the executioner, and why?

How did this affect his life and his family’s life?

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How and why is this a “trap for life”?

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What’s so scary about this building? Do you really want to know?

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Why is this church haunted? Is it still haunted?

Do you dare come here to find out?


The stories were definitely interesting, rather than “scary”.

This is a new tour for the company, so it is still in it’s experimental stage. My suggestions to them would be to “the right mood”. Perhaps take us into dark alleyways and caves and dungeons. Or meet at 9:00pm when it’s much darker.

Aside from being under-horrified, we enjoyed the story telling and discovered little corners of the city we would not have visited had we not joined this tour.

Above all, it was educational and we got a taste of the Polish ghost stories that you would only get locally.

Hence, if you are expecting to leave screaming with fear, reset your expectations. Only expect to learn something new or learn something interesting about the culture.

… It’s our LAST day tomorrow in Krakow. So sad, indeed! So, how will we make the most of it? How will we make it fun and exciting and memorable? … Stay tuned! …