A Day in Maremma, Italy

When we first started researching spots to stay for a month in Europe, easy seaside access was at the top of our list. Lindsay, Chris, Kai and I were all beach people, and we wanted to be by the sea. However, once we started looking, we found that many seaside accommodations were small and cramped, in shared apartment buildings or residential areas. We found ourselves more drawn to the open space that the sprawling countryside could offer – an attribute that was especially important given the pandemic. So once we booked our Tuscan villa, I started looking into beaches that were accessible from our home base. Turns out, there are a plethora of beaches IN Tuscany, which is typically only known for its lush rolling hills, endless vineyards, and delectable wine. But surprise (!!!) there are stunning beaches and islands to be found in Tuscany as well! And so we made a point of dipping our toes in the sea as much as possible, often driving to the coast to enjoy all aspects of Tuscan living.Our first trip to the sea was a day spent in Maremma, where we hiked, ate, and swam to our heart’s content – and fell completely in love with the Tuscan seaside.Maremma is a large area that runs along the coast in southern Tuscany. We’d heard about the region, as we’d sampled several distinctive wines that were produced in the area, and we were delighted to find that Maremma boasted of white sandy beaches and beautiful nature reserves as well.

The nature reserve park in Maremma is vast and is protected, so make sure to stop at the visitor’s center before venturing in to pick up entrance tickets and get information on the park. You can find directions, hours, and information on entrance fees here. After driving an hour and a half from our countryside villa to the sea, we were thankful to find a visitor’s center where we could go to the bathroom and buy water before setting out on our hike!
As we drove to the park, we looked at potential trailheads. We wanted to have enough time for lunch after our hike, and with over 10,000 hectares reserve, some of the park’s hikes could easily take up to 10 hours! In the end, we found one that had a good amount of elevation, promised sea views, and was around three hours in totaal. Our crew set off into the hot morning sun (my husband without a shirt as he forgot it in the car – ha!) The views along the way were spectacular – one of the things I love the most about Italy is how the mountains meet the sea, and this hike allowed us to take it alllllll in.The hike was exhilarating, and the views were the best part of the day – that is until we got to the bottom of the mountain and went in search of lunch!Gli Attortellati is a farm-to-table eatery located right next to the national park. Following our hike, we high-tailed it over to the restaurant, starving, and hoping to dive into huge, glorious bowls of pasta ASAP!I had read about the restaurant in a guide book a few weeks prior, and knew it was quite popular, so thankfully we had made a reservation in advance. This was a smart idea, as our lunch was starting later than usual (thanks to our long morning hike!) so the restaurant knew we were coming and held a spot for us, despite almost missing the lunch window.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, the food at Gli Attortellati is a set-menu, served family style. So reserving a table in advance not only ensures you a spot, but helps the kitchen staff know how much to prep on any given day. Which holy cow – let me tell you – is a LOT.

When we first sat down, we were famished, so we dove head first into table bread, cheese, and small, homemade jars of jam and butter. We then gorged our way through several starters, consisting of salads, charcuterie, cheese, and fritters . . . only to then be presented with the most beautiful pasta and garden zucchini dish. At that point, we definitely started hitting a food-wall. The breezy ambiance on the patio was divine, the food was delectable and prepared with so much soul, and the wine was flowing. But our downfall was trying to cram what should have been a lazy, three hour lunch into a mere 60 minutes. By the time this divine, homemade ragou ravioli arrived at our table, we were all groaning. Because we knew it would be the best damn thing we had ever tasted, and we knew we would have to eat it all!But the fun didn’t stop there – we were then served the most adorable homemade tartlets, alongside coffee, tea, and an assortment of digestifs.  It could have been the numerous glasses of wine.  . . or the delectable homemade fare, the chintzy decor, breezy terrace, or simply the awesome company – but somewhere along the line this spot stole the superlative for best meal of the trip!
Afterwards, we swung by inside to pay and to check out the gift shop, which had a lot of homemade jams, sauces, and condiments. I eagerly purchased a spicy tomato paste – that Kai and I actually just cracked open last week . . . and now love spooning a big heap into our pasta creations! As our final business of the day, we found a spot at the sea and sat in the sun to digest and relax. It was my absolute favorite kind of day – filled with stellar company, amazing food, a healthy dose of activity, wine, beach time, and adventure!I am feeling so wistful for summer 2020, and hope 2021 brings just as many new adventures!!

xo Ali

A Dreamy Italian Kitchen

While we were looking for a place to stay in Italy, there were a few considerations that ultimately guided our choice of accommodation. Firstly, we needed two bedrooms and two bathrooms as there would be four of staying together for a month. Roommates!! Secondly, we wanted a lot of outdoor space – a pool, gardens, a terrace, a BBQ, and easy access to plentiful nature. We went on the trip to be remote and live off of the grid for a while, so we wanted to reap the benefits of country living! Different nooks to read in or work in around the house were a plus. Wifi was a must. And finally (and for me, most importantly!) we wanted a space with a large, fully equipped kitchen, so we could make all of our Italian cooking dreams come true!

In the end, we booked this space, which was even more magical than I could have envisioned. And it had just the kitchen we were hoping to find! We spent many nights here, sipping velvety sweet wine as we chopped vegetables and rolled pasta side by side. While the destinations we drive or fly to are often very photo-worthy, it’s these slow, home-spun evenings I will remember for the rest of my life. And what better to accompany the memories than a few vivid photographs? :) On this particular evening, I brought my camera into the kitchen, clicking our adventures while simultaneously cooking dinner (and did I mention drinking wine?!)

Lindsay made the most beautiful tomato salad, I was on vegetable grilling duty, Chris rolled out our fresh pasta, and Kai made a creamy red pasta sauce.Teamwork always makes dinner taste better!As does a delicious bottle of chianti ;)While on the trip, we did a lot of cooking from my favorite Italian cookbook, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Is this cookbook any good, you ask?

Whelp, I packed one measly suitcase for our entire month-long Italian adventure, and this cookbook took up a good portion of said suitcase. I’m the girl who typically needs to bring at least ten pairs of sneakers, sandals, and flip flops on a week-long trip, so this packing-sacrifice alone should give you a good indication of the book’s quality! It’s a keeper for sure!At the villa, we found a bomb Rowenta grill, similar to a George Foreman, which helped us sizzle some perfectly charred vegetables each and every night! Peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onions – if it was in season in the grocery store, we grilled it, smothered it with olive oil, and mashed it onto crusty bread with garlic. Double droll!!

And guess what we bought when we got back to Amsterdam?! ;) At home, Kai and I have a pasta machine for our Italian cooking antics. In Italy, we had no such luxury. But we did have a *massive* rolling pin and a six-foot Dutchman, which turned out to be a winning combo! Chris rolled, Kai cut, and Lindsay made the most adorable little pasta nests. Even uncooked, we knew our pasta bounty would be delectable.With our sauce cooked, our vegetables rearing to go, and our pasta adorably nested, it was time to boil our carbs!Kai did the honors of very carefully plopping our pasta strands into a hot pot of water.

With the table set, our wine glasses re-filled, and the pasta finally ready to go, we sat down for one of our many family dinners at our old Tuscan villa.Can you believe we cooked the below meal from scratch? Somehow Italian food always tastes better in Italy!

xo Ali

Pici Pasta in Siena, Italy

After a very chilled week of villa time in Tuscany, our friends Lindsay and Chris arrived in Italy!! Coming to Italy was a collective brain child amongst Kai, Chris, Lindsay, and myself – we all wanted a break from city life, and thought it would be fun to get a country house together where we could all work for a few weeks and equally enjoy some vacation time. Well, fast forward a bit and here we are, loving Tuscany in all its glory! Kai and I arrived a bit sooner, and had some time to ourselves at the villa before Chris and Lindsay finally joined us in Italy on the second week of June.On their first weekend in town, the weather was a bit questionable, so we decided to have a city day and head into Siena, the closest city, for lunch.Chris picked our lunch spot, Osteria La Sosta di Violante, and it did not disappoint. We shared some eggplant parmesan tartlets to start, which were divine. We then moved on to the pasta portion of the meal (as you do in Italy) where I had a stunning heap of pici pasta with wild boar sauce. Pici is one of Siena’s proudest contributions to the pasta-sphere. It is long, like spaghetti, but where as spaghetti is thin, pici is doughy and thick, like a delectable cloud. It is best enjoyed fresh, and my personal favorite is when paired with wild boar ragu – another one of the region’s specialties. I have had TUBS of pici on this trip, and will return to the region again and again in the future solely for this local delicacy! After our lunch, we hit the town for some exploring. I picked up a badminton set and we got some cutting boards for the villa (how can you live with only ONE cutting board?!) and we strolled around a bit before getting some gelato.I was actually in Siena last September for Chris and Lindsay’s wedding (a very late blog post I will get to in the coming months!) so this is my second time posing in this spot, six months apart, equally content with my love and a stomach full of pasta!

Although I will say, due to COVID this time around the crowds were considerably less.

We got our gelato from La Vecchia Latteria (or ‘The Old Dairy’ in English) which cracked me up, because Chris also picked and navigated us to this spot, and it was the same one we had gotten an ice cream at six months prior!!However, last time around I recall not being too impressed . . . so I am glad we went again because . . . BEST GELATO EVER! In Italy, I always get two scoops – one pistachio, which is my comparative benchmark for how good the gelato shop is, and one flavor (in this instance it was Nutella swirl!) that is a bit more adventurous to tingle the taste buds! 
Once we all had our ice creams, we walked over to the nearby square and stuck in. We finished the day with a stop at the butcher . . . followed by our first BBQ of the summer season! Can’t wait to share more Italian adventures :D
xo Ali

Pool Days, Tuscany

The first few days Kai and I were in Italy, we had some work to wrap up, so weekday-life was relatively unexciting. Our day would start with a long sunrise walk, followed by some muesli and tea for breakfast. Our mornings were filled with work, followed by a quick al fresco lunch, and some more calls in the afternoon, before we *finally* slowly made our way down to the pool for the hottest hour of the day, between 5-6pm. Our villa has a pool that overlooks the nearby town, San Gusme, and it’s a dream to lounge by in the shade with an Aperol Spritz (or white wine or mojito – we’re not picky around here), cooling off and maybe going for a quick dip, before heading back up to the house and cooking a slow meal for dinner once it’s a bit cooler in the evening. It’s a simple life, but wow – it’s also a wonderful one.

xo Ali

A Sunday Hike, Tuscany

On our first weekend in Italy, Kai and I hunkered down and hung out at the villa. Well, I call it a villa, but it’s really an old stone farmhouse located amongst 1,000 hectars of vineyards and groves of olive trees. It’s a lush, green, hilly sight to behold, immersed so much wild and beauty.And while walking the dirt roads around our June-home has been part of our daily morning routine, on our first weekend in Tuscany we decided to take advantage of the elevation and go on a *real* hike, something we are often starved of in the flat Netherlands.When deciding where to hike, Kai used our new favorite app, Komoot, to find the best hiking trails in the region. We found an intermediate hike that was located near our villa (erm, farm house), and we hopped in the car for a quick 10 minute drive before parking at a trail head and setting off down a remote and beautiful path.We walked through hay fields, past a home of honeybees, up rocky terrain, and back down again through thick black fields of grain.At one point we passed another group of Italians on the same hike, and the two men in their group had their hair slicked back with gel, they were wearing white pants, and both had beautiful leather bags. Kai and I started cracking up – we clearly didn’t fit the bill of two Italians on a Sunday hike!After our hike, we had some snacks and wine in the sun at the villa.


Even after almost three weeks, I still can’t get over how lush and serene this space is. Breathing in fresh country air, watching the flowers bloom, enjoying a breeze ruffling the garden leaves – simple pleasures are abundant in the countryside, and I am already so grateful we’ve had so much time in nature and serenity.xo Ali

Gelato and Groceries in San Gimignano

You know, I’ve always laughed at people who travel to another country, only to stay at a resort that caters to all of their local traditions and comforts. Despite being planted in a different culture, they still want to eat the same meal for breakfast, speak in their native tongue, and participate in activities that are intentionally geared towards their cultural interests. What is the point of traveling if you don’t sample the regional flavors, try to speak the native language, or get swept up in the excitement of local activities?!Whelp, now Kai and I are the resort people – because despite being in the Italian countryside for a month, we could not go without our beloved food staples and found ourselves driving an hour’s distance to visit our preferred German grocery store and stock up on our favorite brands for our month in Italy.Truthfully, I feel a bit of shame, but also SO much elation to be able to bulk buy my favorite snacks (apple chips?! hemp seeds?! matcha?!) and breakfast muesli. I guess it’s one thing to be in Italy for a week and live off of espresso and croissants for breakfast. But if I’m going to be here for a month, I need some hearty greek yogurt and a whole grain fruit and nut cereal to see me through, you know?!That said, I’m not one to say no to a foamy cappuccino and a stunning Tuscan view when the opportunity presents itself ;)Anyways, our quest to stockpile groceries took us north to San Gimignano. And while we didn’t want to get all handsy with the locals (due to our recent travels) we did go for a long walk in the sun, picked up a socially distant ice cream, read in the square, and had a coffee before going to the grocery store and filling up our trunk with enough snacks and muesli to last us for four weeks.
A visit to San Gimignano had been on my Tuscan bucket list for a while, but as it’s quite far north compared to where we normally venture in Tuscany, we hadn’t made it to the towering ancient city yetTwo of our friends, Chris and Lindsay, will be joining us in Italy this weekend, and since they’ve already been to San Gimignano, we decided it was a good stop over to do alongside our grocery run so we could check out the town while it was still just Kai and me. And although I’ve never been to San Gimignano, I have to say, the city felt eerily empty. The shops were open but desolate, the squares were vacant, and the terraces were seated at less than half capacity – mainly by locals smoking cigarettes and drinking an espresso in the sun.As much as I would have loved to pop into some of the cute gift shops, I wanted to reduce my footprint, and we mainly stuck to the public areas where we roamed and chilled when our legs got tired. We both brought along our books, so we stopped to read in the sun on a few occasions and otherwise just enjoyed taking in the views.San Gimignano is known for having some of the tallest medieval architecture in Tuscany, with numerous flying towers perched on a high hill. The town is encircled by 13th-century walls, and has a charming historic piazza that is still lined with medieval houses today. We didn’t have much we wanted to do in San Gimignano other than grab an ice cream at Gelateria Dondoli, who are said to make the best ice cream in the world. They’re the reigning gelato champion, and have some crazy-inventive flavors, but I went for the typical pistachio . . . and can attest that it was one of the best ice creams of my life!A dose of COVID travel reality? The city streets were empty, and restaurant and shop owners were practically *begging* us to spend our money at their establishments, beaconing to from shopfronts and terraces as we strolled past. Masks were mandatory, hand sanitizer was required at every door, menus were digital and looked at on our phones, and we stayed 1.5 meters away from everyone. At one point, we were quite hungry, so we stopped at a small terrace and ordered a few appetizers to share. Before serving us, the waiter asked that we write down our names and numbers on a piece of paper, so they could call us if an outbreak occurred at the restaurant. At every turn, we were confronted with a new COVID reality. And honestly, it really put a damper on our sunny mindset. It was nice to escape the country side for a bit, but we honestly feel the safest at our villa in the middle of no where, and wont be doing much else for the next week.That said, we definitely picked up enough provisions (in the form of wine, prosciutto, and cookies!) to last!La Buca di Montauto was one of the few shops we did pop in, to stock up on charcuterie made with their wild boar. We purchased three different cuts and €15 was enough to get us numerous meals worth of charcuterie!And finally, the purpose of our trip . . .  we also left with a trusty grocery haul, featuring all of our favorite staples from home :)Which to be fair, made a pretty damn delicious Italian dinner on our first night in town. Ciao friends, already looking forward to our next catch up!

xo Ali

Welcome to Tuscany

Hello beautiful people!Doesn’t the world feel crazy right now? There is a pandemic sweeping the globe, the economy is tanking, black people are having their throats crushed by police officers, and riots are breaking out in major cities everywhere. I feel like I can no longer can trust the ground beneath my feet. We want to hug, but we cannot. We want to live in a world with equality and peace, and yet we find ourselves fighting for basic human rights. It’s a scary time with lots of unrest, and I hope we will all come out stronger, more compassionate, and more understanding on the other side. This hardship must be justified and we have the power to make a change.
With that said, Kai and I decided that it was time to escape. Escape the stress, leave the city, find some space, and get some fresh air – a privilege we often don’t even consider but are ultimately incredibly thankful for. And so as travel restrictions began to ease across Europe, we decided to be early adopters and travel to Italy. We rented an old farm house in Tuscany for the month of June and arrived here early on Saturday morning. Our new home is set amongst vineyards and rollings hills, with a huge yard, dreamy gardens, a fully equip kitchen, and an incredible amount of space and tranquility.Travel restrictions in Italy were lifted for European residents on the 3rd of June, and we felt that if we were going to leave Amsterdam, it was best to do so early, while the airports were still relatively quiet – before the masses once again took to the skies.

I still can’t believe this is my home for a month! It was strange traveling here. The airports were very quiet. We had our temperature checked three times. We had to fill out extra medical and arrival forms. We were asked to use hand sanitizer at multiple points before and after we boarded the plane. There were no drinks or snacks served on the flight. Passengers were seated 1.5 meters apart, occupying every other row. We wore face masks the entire time, and followed rules around how far apart to queue while in line for security, ticket checks, and boarding. We felt as safe as we could possibly be, given the fact that we’re living in the midst of a pandemic. We felt no more exposed to risk than we would be on a run to the pharmacy or grocery store, where we often find ourselves shoulder to shoulder in a tight enclosed space with others. The biggest risk we face is not travel or the airport – it is contact with others. Last week, many lock down measures in Amsterdam were lifted, and we found ourselves feeling cramped and quite frankly, once again a bit unsafe. It’s as if the sun coming out and terraces re-opening signaled that the pandemic is over – which is definitely not the case. People are becoming less vigilant, masks are not worn, and the sidewalks are crowded. So we decided to leave the city and plunk ourselves in a remote spot where we could enjoy nature and the company of ourselves.This move will give us more space and an opportunity too de-stress, and we are now completely isolated in the countryside.I’m going to be honest – this pandemic has really made me reevaluate where we live and why . . . which is something I will elaborate on more another time. But let’s just say that I am a country gal at heart who ultimately loves many things about city living. However, in this time of uncertainty I was having a very strong urge to return to my country roots. My instinct was screaming for fresh air and endless skies. I have quite a few health problems that are beginning to flare up again, and we are really hoping this change will put them to rest without medical intervention.So hopefully this next month in Italy will be a chance to destress, relax, read books, chill by the pool, BBQ, drink wine, play games, go on long walks, eat fresh pasta, and enjoy mother nature. These first photos are from our arrival and our initial stroll though the neighborhood.Over the next few weeks, I will try to post more regularly. I want to share the simple pleasures that now occupy our days, even if they are small and insignificant. So prepare for an onslaught of garden and pasta photos, and I will be sharing more soon.

xo Ali

 

 

 

 

Last Day in Tokyo

We spent our last two nights in Tokyo at Nine Hours Akasaka. While the capsule hotel we stayed at in Kyoto was much more high end and premium, we wanted to enjoy a true capsule hotel sleeping experience before we left Japan! I actually felt really cozy and snug sleeping in the capsule – probably from so many summers nights spent at my grandparents in Maine, comfortably bundled in a top or bottom bunk for the evening. And despite the small space, we had no trouble finding a spot to arrange our suitcases for one final pack before our return flights the following morning.In total, we spent four nights at a minimal loft in Shinjuku, an evening at a spacious capsule hotel in Kyoto, a night at a traditional Ryokan in Kyoto, and then we finished the trip at Nine Hours Akasaka in Tokyo. We had a vast variety of sleeping and hotel experiences, and it was so cool to get a taste for the different neighborhoods and accommodation styles in Japan! I would definitely recommend this hotel hop :) That said, all of the moving was made fairly simple by the fact that I am a light packer and only brought a small carry on suitcase and my purse. I knew we would be on and off of trains, walking around the city, and hopping from accommodation to accommodation, so I packed accordingly! And funny enough, not once did I think, Ohh I wish I had brought that! So maybe there is some merit to being a light packer more often ;)

After a good night’s sleep in our pods, we hit the town for one last day of adventures!We started out at Turret Coffee, where we were served the most divine red bean latte. The stop left me kicking myself for not discovering the cafe on day one!We then walked over to the nearby Tsukiji Market to take in all of the sights and smells of Japanese market life.Apparently, since our visit the geography of the market has changed a bit. As we experienced it, the Tsukiji Market was the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. And in-line with the sheer scale of Tokyo, it was also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. However, in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, the Tsukiji Market was relocated, as it occupied prime real estate in the heart of Tokyo.Today, if you want to experience the Tsukiji Market, you can find it relocated about 1.5 miles away at the Toyosu Market. As we experienced the Tsukiji Market as it was before it moved, that’s what I’ll be referring to in this post!Like literally *everything* in Japan, operation of the Tsukiji Market is a smooth and beautiful process.The market opens at 3am as fresh seafood products arrive by air, land, and sea from all over the world. Tons of seafood are unloaded and unpacked, and then the wholesale auctioneers estimate the value and prepare the products for their sale. Only licensed buyers are allowed to bid – these include intermediate wholesalers, restaurants, and large retailers.Once everything is set up, the buyers are allowed to inspect the products and can strategize on what items they would like to bid on that day. The auctions kick off just after 5am, and the licensed bidders begin their quest to obtain the best and freshest seafood. The auctions end around 10am at which point the remaining fish and seafood is made available for purchase for the local market shops and stalls. So if you time your visit right, you can still enjoy some of the day’s fresh catch from the very stalls you will roam through at the market!I was able to try to most delectable sashimi skewer at the market – and although I do not know when or where the fish was caught or who prepared it, it was still one of the most delectable morsels of fish I have ever tasted!In addition to the seafood, there were so many other sensational tastes and smells at the market.
Fresh teas, pickled onions, colorful candies, pink confections, berries – if you craved it, it could probably be found at the Tsukiji MarketWe even found some unexpected souvenirs – how cute are these sushi erasers?!Following the latte and sashimi skewer, Amie and I decided to indulge in one final Japanese ice cream. I got strawberry vanilla swirl and Amie got a delicious purple sweet potato ice cream!Or slick ice, as the sign called it! After our wander through the market, we walked over to Itoya, Japan’s oldest and probably most impressive stationary store.The store was four or five stories tall, and we spent at least an hour in the shop, wandering through every floor, picking out the cutest stickers and stationary for our friends back home! This is the perfect spot to pick up original and adorable Japanese gifts! Our next stop was the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize tickets needed to be purchased in advance, so we walked around the palace gardens but were unable to go inside for a tour. It was a bummer, but we had so many fun things we wanted to cram in on our last day, we weren’t deterred what-so-ever. We had a quick coffee pit stop, where I was wow’d by the most dreamy peach and wooden bathroom.That I was also somewhat color coordinated with! Next, we headed back to Minato to meet up with CC, one of my colleagues from Sid Lee back in the day!! I was trying to think if I had ever featured her on the blog, and then remembered this gem! :D It’s an oldie but a goodie!! I am also sure she pops up in some of my San Tropez posts (part 1, part 2, and three here!) as well. Ohh nostalgia for the Sid Lee days!

Together we hit up a local grocery store to buy some cool Japanese cooking products that Amie and I could take home, and CC very sweetly surprised me with a bunch of her favorite local things from the store! I still have a huge tin of broth paste that she bought be and it’s absolutely divine! I also loaded up on green tea Kit Kats and strawberry Pocky, which are two of my very cliche favorite Japanese treats. Afterwards, we went on a walk together, where we saw the grand opening of the biggest Starbucks in the world!! The line was so long that visitors were asked to take a number and return within a certain time frame where their number would be admitted. So unfortunately no iced mocha lattes for us! But who wants Starbucks when you could get a local red bean latte?!On our final evening, Amie and I freshened up back at our hotel and then rode the metro over to Akihabara, famously known as Tokyo’s Arcade District. Akihabara is INSANE and what I had equated in my mind as to quintessential Tokyo – everywhere you look there are electronic stores, manga posters, arcades, anime, costume shops, maid cafes, and some of the biggest, brightest, and most modern sky scrapers you have ever seen. Amie still wanted to get a few final gifts for friends back home, so we popped into department stores and beauty shops to check out cute Japanese makeup products. We also went into some crazy book shops, hobby stores, and gaming hubs.Literally this neighborhood was INSANITY and ENDLESS and we walked around for an hour or two feeling completely overwhelmed, before popping into a random chain restaurant for dinner. We both ordered breaded pork meals, which came with salads, soup, rice, omelette, sauce, and a thousand small dishes that we had now grown accustomed to after 10 days in Japan!

The pork was served rare in the middle, and we were given a small open flame grill to finish cooking our meat on.Honestly it was a super fun concept and the food was fantastic, despite being a spot we had just randomly stumbled into!We finished the evening with a walk back to the metro, taking in the craziness of Tokyo one last time.We past the cutest Cat Cafe where a perfect white feline cleaned her paw daintly in the window. The lighting was perfect and Amie and I had a chuckle over how desensitized we had become to these kind of sights. Cat Cafe? Nothing out of the ordinary here!We’d honestly had a big long list of fun spots we could check out on our final night in town, but we headed back to our hotel’s neighborhood rather early, having spent our last yen and wanting to be prepared for our flights the next day. Ohh how thirty-travel differs from twenty-travel!!And wow, I think that sums up the insanity of our Japan adventure!!

Honestly, I’d gone to Tokyo in search of a city adventure, wanting to feel lost, uncomfortable and able to experience a slew of new things. And we got just that!! From the cherry blossoms to the red bean lattes, Japan was such a delight, and I honestly can’t wait to return again with Kai (and maybe our future family!!) again in a few years!

xo Ali

Team Lab Borderless, Tokyo

On our second to last day in Japan, Amie and I caught an early train from Kyoto back to to Tokyo, checked into our final hotel of the trip (which I’ll tell you more about in my next post!), had a quick lunch, and then hopped on the metro towards Team Lab Borderless.We had been told that this digital art museum was a once in a lifetime experience, and had booked entrance tickets months in advance. Our tickets were good for the whole day, but we wound up arriving about three hours before closing time, which was a blessing – as we missed the nightmarish queues that are raged about online – but it also meant that we only had a few hours to explore the museum. Turns out this was an activity that easily could have captivated our attention for a full 12 hours, so our stunted visit was not well planned! The museum is comprised of several rooms, each with a different visual theme and experience. Some have graphic projections that respond to your movement and body heat, others are 3D and have interactive elements such as large foam sculptures and playground slides.Some rooms glitter in an endless sea of prisms (wait for this one!!), while others require you to climb out onto a suspended net and lay in the air, totally immersed in a glowing world around you (below). We wandered from room to room, engulfed in a fantasy, clinging onto the excited and surreal delight that comes from being completely consumed by a dream. This art piece was insane, with rabid rabbits morphing into some kind of pre-historic clan, marching in a swirl of color and chanting.We took photos, and had lots of time with our screens off, simply exploring. We touched, listened, and felt our way through the interactive experiences, different senses piqued in each room.We stayed until the museum closed, at which point in time we lamented having not arrived five hours earlier!!Because the last room we fund was by far our favorite, and we could have spent all day there.If the graphic exhibitions in this museum were all a dream, these are what I would want mine to look like.I’m just going to throw a quick – sorry not sorry – out there because yes I took a million photos, but OMG this room was amazing.Please may I live here?


After ending on such a high note, we definitely weren’t ready for the day’s fun to end, so we said, ‘Why not?!’ and bought tickets to ride the giant Ferris wheel outside the museum. We were treated to some spectacular views of the city, and although it was our second to last night in town, we only then realize HOW massive Tokyo truly was. We could have stayed in the city for another month and still would not have been able to explore every neighborhood! After our ferris wheel ride, we debated going to Joypolis, a massive indoor arcade across the street from Team Lab. But when we got there, it seemed complete dead (which surprised us on a Friday night!) so we said ‘no thank you’ to the pricy entry fee and got some pastel-colored steamed dumplings, meatballs, and beer at a nearby restaurant instead, before heading back to our hotel for the evening.

One more day of Tokyo adventures to come!

xo Ali

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