A Love Affair with Italian Leather Shoes | Style

italian leather shoesA Love Affair with Italian Leather Shoes | Sandals by Lorena Paggi*

My press trip to Italy last October was something I will never forget. Discovering Fermo and the amazing artisan shoemakers of the region was enlightening. Since my visit I’ve definitely gained a new found love for Italian leather shoes, and a variety of new designers.

Italian Leather Shoes: Lorena Paggi SS16

One of the designers I visited during my trip to Italy was Lorena Paggi. Producing Italian leather shoes, bags and accessories, I fell in love with a pair of their brogues, and that was that. The brand had certainly left an impression on me. So when their Spring/Summer 2016 collection popped up on my Facebook feed I immediately clicked through. Dusky pinks, chunky heels and minimalist looks to name a few. These are stylish sandals with a difference.

Where to find them…

This is the question I asked myself…Lorena Paggi…and every social network possible, after I saw these sandals. The dirty pink shade was so perfect, and so perfectly on trend. The style is very me – minimalist, comfortable, high quality and stylish. You couldn’t ask for better. Lorena Paggi luckily saw my pleas on social media, as I desperately tried to find out where I could buy their new sandals. I can’t wait to wear these in Barcelona at the end of the month. And hopefully in London, but I don’t want to jinx this gorgeous weather just yet.

Unfortunately Lorena Paggi shoes are not available in the UK…yet! However if you happen to be in Italy or Eastern Europe/Russia, you will definitely be in luck. Keep an eye on their InstagramFacebook and Twitter accounts for more info.

Read more: Italy Travel Diaries

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Discovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

osaka travelDiscovering Japan | Osaka Travel Diary

This year’s Japan trip included a few days in the land of takoyaki, comedians and awesome old ladies. Yes, Osaka was new ground for me. I’d visited the city ever so briefly 5 or so years ago, but had never fully discovered the city. I was eager to see if the people were as friendly as my friends claimed, and whether the food really was some of the best in Japan.

Osaka Travel: Where to Visit

I already had a few ideas of where I wanted to visit whilst we were in Osaka, but we also made some time to catch-up with friends. As someone who only experienced Osaka properly (and trust me, we went for it) this year, I feel like I can give you a few hints and tips on where to visit, and what to do:

  • Wander Around Osaka Castle – I’m not saying you should go inside and do the whole tourist thing. No. Check it out from the gardens (it’s beautiful), then spend your time eating ice cream – try matcha or kinako – and people watching. If you’re lucky you’ll catch the groups who hang out with their pets – on a good day this may include dogs in costumes, birds of prey and owls. Yep.
  • Go See The Running Man – Glico’s running man sign is a famous tourist spot for the Japanese when visiting Osaka. Situated in Dotonbori, the running man has been towering over Ebisubashi (ebisu bridge) since the 1930s. It’s a popular spot to take photos – whilst impersonating the sign – and there’s plenty of cool shops and food stalls to check out nearby.
  • Try Some Takoyaki at Wanaka – Takoyaki (battered balls filled with octopus) is the dish of Osaka. You’ll find this popular dish all across Japan, but it originally comes from Osaka. Wanaka is one of the best in Osaka with a variety of flavours, and prices ranging from £2-£4. Try the Ooiri Set for a taster.
  • Visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – This walk around aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and includes a large variety of sea animals. The venue is laid out with 18 areas that represent various countries and regions across the world, with the corresponding sea life.
  • See Osaka from the Sky – Umeda Sky building may look like a rather impressive office tower, but it’s actually full of restaurants, arcades and a viewing platform. The view from the top is impressive, especially at night.

So there you have it, my Osaka Travel Diary. Feel free to leave your tips for others, and let me know your favourite things to do in Osaka.
See more posts: Japan Travel Diary

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Kyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

kyoto shrines and templesKyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

Before our trip to Japan we decided to purchase the JR Pass, so that we could travel around the country a little. Kyoto was definitely on our list of places to visit again, as on our first visit we hadn’t been able to appreciate the city as much as we would have liked to. Naturally I made a mental note of all the shrines and temples I wanted to visit, because when you’re in Kyoto that’s what you do…

What makes Kyoto Shrines and Temples special?

Kyoto’s shrines and temples are pretty special to me. There is a certain air of tranquility and calm surrounding Kyoto, and I think this even translates through to their tourist locations. There is so much beauty to take in around this region, and I don’t think I will ever bore of it.

Which Kyoto Shrines and Temples should you visit?

Check out some of my picks, several of which feature in the photos in this post:

  • Fushimi Inari – You may recognise this famous shrines red gates from movies such as Memoirs of a Geisha. Climb to the top of the mountain, and brag about it after.
  • Kiyomizu-dera – Featuring the famous ‘floating platform’ and a waterfall that supposedly grants wishes.
  • Kinkaku0ji/Rokuon-ji – The ‘Golden Pavilion’ is known worldwide for it’s beautiful golden exterior. Check out the amazing reflection in the nearby lake, and stroll through the garden.
  • Ryoan-ji – A must-see for any zen garden fans!
  • Saiho-ji – This is actually on my list of temples to visit. This natural beauty has a difficult entry procedure, but it sure looks like it’s worth it!

This is just a small list of temples and shrines to visit in Kyoto. However I would also recommend just wandering around Kyoto, because you will come across tons of smaller shrines/temples that are just as wonderful.

Check out the rest of my Japan Travel Diaries here.

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Floresta Doughnuts | Japan Travel Diary

floresta doughnutsFloresta Doughnuts | Stores across Japan | Website

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Cute, colourful doughnuts shaped like animals. This delightful doughnut store has been open since 2002. Ever since the first store opened in Nara, this company has stood out from other famous outlets. Say hello to Floresta Nature Doughnuts.

What makes Floresta Doughnuts so natural?

Floresta means forest in Portuguese. This natural theme flows through to their handmade (in-store) doughnuts, which are made with organic ingredients, and little to no additives. The store also tries to keep waste to a minimum, making sure their impact on the environment is as small as possible. In fact the company are so transparent about these things, that you can find the basic ingredients list for their doughnuts on their website. No preservatives are used, so every doughnut is made fresh, daily. The company – which was started by a husband and wife – strives to bring healthier, tasty options to people. A guilt-free doughnut, that you can feel comfortable giving to your children…or for yourself.

But how do they taste?

Very good indeed. You might think that being “natural” and aiming for a healthier doughnut would take away the indulgence. Nope! These are just as delicious as any other doughnut you’ll try, maybe even more so. Floresta still fry their doughnuts, but they don’t taste heavy or greasy. The doughnut itself is relatively light, and the glazes (I tried matcha, of course) make for a subtle sweet contrast.

Which doughnut should you go for?

I would suggest trying a couple – one of their classic ‘nature’ doughnuts, and one of their ‘animal doughnuts’. The nature doughnuts are plain, whereas the animal ones come with a glaze (and sometimes nuts). Prices start at 130円 (around £0.83). The doughnuts may be cheap, but the taste isn’t.

Floresta make their doughnuts fresh, on a daily basis. As they don’t use preservatives, they prefer to make small batches, so make sure you get to a store relatively early. You wouldn’t want to miss out! I would suggest stopping by one of their cafes and relaxing with a coffee. It’s the perfect spot to while away the time.

You can find out more about Floresta Doughnuts here (non-Japanese speakers can use the Google translate version).

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24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

24 hours in tokyo24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, the frequently asked question “What do I do with 24 hours in Tokyo?”. Ok let’s be realistic, unless you’re on a stopover, you’re unlikely to only have one day in this exciting city. However, it can be difficult to decide where to visit, what to eat etc. So when faced with the task I like to think of all the places I would visit if I only had a short period of time in a city.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Harajuku

As cliche as it is, it wouldn’t be worth stopping by Harajuku without a walk down Takeshita Dori (take the metro exit of the same name). Grab some cute stationary from Daiso, pick up some vintage designer goods in the back streets, try one of the famous crepes for breakfast, and just generally basque in the atmosphere. It’s fun and it’s fast.

For those who prefer something more chilled, Meiji Jingu is just behind the Omotesando Exit of Harajuku station. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is well worth a visit. Located in a small woodland, it’s hard to tell whether you’re still in bustling Tokyo or not. If you hang around for a while, you may even see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place.

From Harajuku you can walk/hop on a train to…

24 Hours in Tokyo: Shibuya

Famous for it’s giant crossing, you really should try and get to high ground just to witness it. Even if that means stopping by Starbucks for one of their limited edition Japanese drinks. Afterwards, head to 109 for some retail therapy before checking out “Basketball St” and one of the various arcades. You must do purikura (Japanese photo booth)!

Stop by Nabe-zo for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu (hotpot with thinly sliced meat). I’d suggest the sukiyaki and collagen soups. The staff here are helpful, and the meat is in abundance, so don’t be shy about asking for more. They’ll even replace your soups…if you can manage to finish them that is.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Asakusa

Asakusa is a haven for traditional Japan. Head through the large red gates of Senso-ji, and walk amongst the market stalls. Buy some Amazake (a sweet alcoholic drink made from rice), a side of Senbei (traditional rice crackers), and maybe a mask of your favourite childhood character. The souvenirs here are great for taking home to family. The shrine itself is beautiful, and the grounds ditto. Take your time here and find your inner Buddhist.

If you’re a stationary fan, make time to visit Kakimori for handmade, Japanese stationary. Afterwards, take a walk down Kappabashi-dori, a street famous for kitchenware and plastic food models. Pick up a bacon bookmark, or a pancake keychain etc.

Finally, go for dinner at Sometaro. This Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) restaurant has been around since the 1930s, and it hasn’t changed much since. The friendly staff speak English, and can offer an English menu also. They’ll even show you how to prepare this must-try dish yourself. Truth be told all of the fillings here are delicious, but pork and seafood are great go-tos.

Of course there’s plenty more to do in Tokyo! Keep an eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.
I’d also suggest checking out Alice’s Tokyo Travel Guides and Park and Cube’s 3 Days in Tokyo.

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Coffee Valley | Tokyo Travel Diary

Coffee ValleyCoffee Valley | 2-26-3 Minami-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, 03-6907-1173 | Website | Nearest Station: Ikebukuro

This is a bittersweet post to write, as I sit here sipping coffee in my London apartment. Only a couple of weeks ago I was walking around the backstreets of sunny Ikebukuro, searching for this elusive spot. I actually discovered Coffee Valley whilst reading an old issue of Vikka magazine. The feature was pretty tiny, but the emphasis on good coffee and natural food caught my eye. It may sound silly but this little cafe was on my list of must-visit spots whilst we were in Tokyo.

How is the coffee and food?

We arrived late afternoon to find a queue of around 10 people. As a Londoner, this is nothing for me. People seemed curious about us. Maybe because this well-loved spot isn’t exactly on the tourist map. I don’t know. Either way we happily waited with everyone; which consisted of mainly dates and friends. After around 15 minutes we were directed into the cafe. We were spoken to in fluid Japanese, and told to find a table (spread out over 2 floors) before ordering at the counter on the ground floor. The menu here is small, just a coffee list and the daily sandwich, French toast and cake. Don’t worry though if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s all pretty straight forward, the food is displayed on the counter – so you can easily point – and the staff are very friendly.

We ordered two of “today’s sandwich” whilst I had a flat white, and Ben a drip coffee.  Our egg sandwiches were seasoned well with pepper and small bits of vegetables, which created a nice blend of textures. The sandwiches also came with a side of various pickled vegetables to continue the theme – my favourite! The bread was fresh and soft, and the filling was very tasty. I really appreciated the use of natural, wholesome ingredients. The best way to describe the food here is: simple flavours, done well.

As for the coffee, well it was great! Just as good as my favourites in London. They used freshly roasted beans, with a couple of options of origin. I tried some of Ben’s drip coffee, which was smooth and full-flavoured. If I hadn’t been after a slightly milkier alternative, I would have easily chosen the drip.

Final thoughts on Coffee Valley…

For me, Japanese cafes are in a league of their own. Coffee Valley is no different here. Not only is their branding on-point, but their ideology is too. For me food and coffee should be simple at heart, and transparent. By that I mean the use of fresh ingredients which you can trace back to their source. Again, this is something independent cafes in Japan do well. I hope I’m not coming across as pretentious, but at the end of the day Coffee Valley offers up great food, and even better coffee. So if you find yourself in Tokyo, looking for a chilled cafe, make sure you pop by.

You can find out more about Coffee Valley here (non-Japanese speakers can this Google translate version).

Coffee Valley Coffee Valley Coffee Valley Coffee Valley Coffee Valley

An Old Friend | Tokyo Travel Diary

tokyo travelReunited with an Old Friend | Tokyo Travel Diary

Returning to Japan has been a wonderful start to 2016. Travel has become such an integral part of my life in recent years. Discovering new places is great, but returning to old favourites is just as lovely. I guess Japan is pretty special to me, as I lived and studied there. It’s fair to say that I left a little part of me in Tokyo. So I was eager to see if I could rediscover it several years later.

Tokyo is a wondrous city. Old and new meet, and they compliment each other perfectly. Tradition is a big part of Japanese culture, and so it’s only natural that you can find shrines of various shapes, sizes and colours across the capital. You’ll often find these shrines nestled between skyscrapers, round the corner from a shopping district, or down the back alley of a residential area.

But it’s not only shrines. Even in the middle of Shinjuku you will find people taking a minute out of their hectic lives to snap a photo of the illusive sakura (cherry blossom). This event only happens once a year, and the bloom lasts for only a few days, with the national news covering the spectacle for weeks beforehand. Many Japanese people believe that the sakura are also an analogy of life – it is beautiful, but fleeting, and should be appreciated as such. This is probably one of the reasons why Hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) is so popular – it’s literally been held for centuries.

Tradition and history are very much ingrained into everyday life in Japan. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Even so, this harmony of history and modern day society, works so well together. And it has always been my favourite thing about the real city that never sleeps.

Tokyo Travel Diaries and more

I’ll be posting some city and travel guides to Japan, including Tokyo (Harajuku, Shibuya…), Kyoto and Osaka. So make sure you keep your eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.

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