All posts filed under: Must Do’s

A Gastronomic Weekend in Lyon, France

On my quick trip to France, I was enticed to come to Lyon by its gastronomic reputation even among my non-foodie friends. The best way to explore this charming city is with a local guide, and I just happen to have one in the family. My cousin, NT, planned our never-ending walk around town to explore Lyon in 1.5 days, which turned out to be much-needed exercise from all the delicious food that we ate. In this post, I will share our walking and eating tour of this charming and unassuming city. Day 1: Dinner at Restaurant M After arriving from Aix-en-Provence in the late afternoon, I only had enough time for dinner. NT introduced me to her favorite low-key restaurant in Lyon, Restaurant M. This is a contemporary French restaurant helmed by Julien Gautier, from Léon de Lyon – a 2 Michelin star restaurant. With a Michelin pedigree, the price was shockingly cheap. The menu is only 39 euros for entrée, plat and dessert. The atmosphere is of your neighborhood bistro and the restaurant …

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 2)

Waking up to birds chirping in the garden from my Japanese futon somehow felt surreal. This was a strong contrast from the night before, where I slept in a small modern hotel room in the center of Tokyo. As I watched the sun streams in through the paper windows, a sense of serenity enveloped me. It was mostly due to the time difference that I was awake this early to enjoy this moment. It was joyful to listen and observe nature doing its morning song and dance. I could’ve stayed in bed much longer but another day of exploring the Gifu region beckoned me to get up and start my day. I still had 30 minutes before breakfast, so my sister and I took advantage of the quiet morning and rode our bikes around the village. As it was very early, and no one was out and about yet, we had the roads to ourselves to leisurely admire the mountain scenery around us. There was a sense of freedom and playfulness that we don’t often …

Journey to the Bucolic Japanese Alps – Shirakawa-go and the Gifu Prefecture (Part 1)

Over the past year, I have been lusting for Ogimachi Village in Shirakawa-go, a Unesco village nestled in the Japanese Alps and where time has seemingly left the region untouched. This mountainous area is known for its historic A-frame houses, also known as gassho-zukuri, which were made with a traditional building method without utilizing any nails. These gassho houses have withstood the test of time and continue to attract new generations of admirers. The next destination of our trip was a visit to the Gifu region where these houses are located today. Our trip started early in the morning with the high-speed train ride from Tokyo to Toyama, where we then picked up the rental car for a 1-hour drive to Shirakawa-go. Once we entered the picturesque village and checked into Shiroyamakan Inn that was established in 1884, we knew we were in for a special visit. The inn keeper’s daughter, Nana, greeted us and took us to our room where we were served tea and snacks. We were also given 3 bikes to use while …

Best Souvenirs in Tokyo for Foodies and Chefs

Buying quality souvenirs can be a hit or miss experience. Tokyo has an amazing assortment of interesting trinkets to buy for loved ones. If you are sick of T-shirts and generic tchotchkes, I would recommend the following stores where I buy my souvenirs. A. Kappabashi-dori – For chefs and home cooking fanatics Kappabashi-dori is a 800-metre-long street lined with more than 170 shops that sell anything and everything cookware related. The shops here cater to both professional cooks and home chefs alike. Kama-asa Shoten – Japanese knives This  family-run business opened in 1908 and specializes in Japanese knives, or wabōcho, handmade by craftsmen in Japan. The business is currently run by Daisuke Kumazawa, who is the 4th generation proprietor. This is one of the most popular shops on the street. There are also very knowledgeable English-speaking staff who help you select the best knife for your cooking requirements. The best part is that they’ll engrave your name in Japanese onto each knife making it a special memento for you or for gifts. I did have to …

A Short Visit to Tokyo

Tokyo is a dizzying hub of sights and sounds and was also the first destination on this 2.5 week trip to Japan for my mom’s special birthday. While I have been exploring this city over the past 10 years, it was her first time in Tokyo,  I created this truncated itinerary to give her the best flavors of Tokyo in a relatively short duration and I’m excited to share it with you. Day 1: Arrival into Narita Terminal 2 and the Shibuya Scramble We arrived on Japan Airline at Narita Terminal 2 in the early afternoon and proceeded to procure a pocket Wifi. This was very important as we needed the data service for navigation throughout the country. I went to the J Wifi and JAL ABC counters located on the first floor and Softbank Global Rental and XCom Global counters located in the basement level near the train platform to search for the best data plan. (see Terminal 2 map) After getting my exercise running around the terminal, I concluded that J Wifi had …

Explore Marrakesh (Morocco) Like in Insider

Marrakesh, with its kaleidoscope architecture and chaotic souks, can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. I had an opportunity to visit Marrakesh for four days with my friends who have been there numerous times and had local recommendations from their friend, Zach Idrissi, the owner of Amani Hotel. Having local guidance to ease me into this overstimulating experience was a welcome blessing since I was flying solo for most of my stay in the city. I also lucked out by going around Ramadan as everything was calmer and more laid back. The markets and attractions will close a bit earlier around 5pm, but the aggressive behavior in the souks will generally be less prevalent. This makes for an overall pleasant and safe experience for solo travelers. Where to eat: Have an afternoon tea break on the terrace of La Mamounia and take a stroll in their manicured garden. You should check the availability for non-hotel guests as the hotel started to restrict non-hotel guests to certain hours for tea. Have dinner at Le Tanjia where there …

Essential Travel Tips for Marrakesh and Morocco

Traveling to Morocco for the first time can be intimidating and overwhelming for many travelers, even for the experienced folks. The mélange of sights, sounds, and cultural differences in this vibrant city can trip many up. These are tips that can help make your arrival smoother and less stressful. 1- Book a transfer from Marrakesh Airport to your hotel. Taxis in Marrakesh have a well-deserved awful reputation for ripping off tourists and also refusing to turn on their meters. After a long flight, the last thing you want to do is haggle for a reasonable fare. I highly recommend Marrakesh Airport Transfer. I booked online two days before my arrival with flight information. My driver was waiting for me after I exited baggage claim with my name on an easily identifiable sign and escorted me to a clean air-conditioned car. The cost was approximately $12 for a 15-minute ride to the Sofitel in the city center for one person. Prices will change depending on the number of people and the destination. I checked with my local …