Friday, August 17, 2018

Umeda Sky BUilding, Osaka City

Going to Umeda Sky Tower observatory is quite confusing though locating the actual building is pretty easy since it is near Osaka and Umeda Stations.

On our last day in Osaka, we raced to Umeda Tower and waited for it to open.

Upon locating the actual towers, we proceeded to third floor by elevator then walk across to the opposite building then take another elevator up to 39th floor where you we purchased the entrance ticket.

Once you have paid 1500 Yen entrance fee you need to take a sky tube escalator to reach the observatory. On your way to the top, the geometric pattern of the escalator is simply impressive.

sky tube escalator

love locks

couple's chair

To be honest, the view from the top is not that stunning compared with other towers I have visited but offers the best view of Osaka City.

Surprisingly, they allow love locks in one part of the deck; it even has a couple’s chair, lol.

Since we were early birds, we had great opportunity to enjoy the view and the entire observatory. It was a perfect time for selfies.

On our way down, we used another sky tube escalator and bought souvenirs at the shop. There is also a café/restaurant just below the observatory.

Arguably, I don’t think you need to prioritize this place over other historical places in Osaka; we just came here to spend our remaining free time before checking out from our hotel. However, if you have spare time to spend then it’s worth visiting this place.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Heian Shrine - Kyoto, Japan

From Kyoto Imperial Palace we walked back to Imadegawa Station then travelled to Karasuma Oike Station. We transferred to Tozai Line and get off at Higashiyama Station. Heian Shrine is around 10 minute walk from this station.

Approaching the shrine, you’ll immediately notice "The Main Gate" or Otenmon. Our kids raced to the gate, too excited to have some selfies.

Otenmon: The Main Gate

The hundred year old place boasts of massive wooden structures colored with vibrant red and orange and wide courtyard at the center with several Kimono wearing ladies strolling around. There were visitors at that time so enjoyed unli-selfies, lol.

Having just visited Kyoto Imperial Palace and enjoyed its lovely gardens and pond, the whole family opted not to enter the garden beside Heian Shrine anymore due to 600 Yen admission fee. If it was "Sakura" (Cherry Blossom) time then we would definitely enter the place.

The whole family enjoyed the long walk inside the area since the chilly air was pleasant especially for us who are living in tropical country.

It was past noon when we left the place. Sadly, we left through Otenmon again on our way back to Higashiyama Station thus we weren't able to see the huge Torii Gate at the back.

Famished, we tried to search for a place to eat. However, those near the shrine were “too local” for our kids’ taste to we opted to trek back to the station since we remembered passing on some restaurants on our way to the shrine.

We were lucky to find a “TripAdvisor” recommended restaurant ou our way back to Higashiyama Station. It has English Menu and family room enough for five of us; the warm tea was perfect for the chilly atmosphere. The place offers superb and delicious local dishes on a typical Japanese setup; low table and floor sitting. We were all excited to have some selfies since that was the first time we have eaten in typical Japanese way.

So when you visit Heian Shrine, I recommend this restaurant if you want to experience Japanese way of eating.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Spotted - Paellas in Madrid City, Spain

I spotted this Paella billboard in one of the restaurants in Madrid, Spain.

Being a colony of Spain for more than 300 years, Filipinos have been exposed to Spanish cuisine since time immemorial but I doubt whether typical Filipinos are aware that there are many kinds of Paellas. As for me, I know only Chicken and Seafoods Paella.

Surprisingly, many restaurants we have visited in Madrid offer Paellas only during weekends; we didn't have any slightest idea why is that so. Fortunately, on our way back to our hotel at Plaza Sta. Ana we found one restaurant that offers Paella every day.

If you can easily find Paellas in Madrid, it is the opposite in Barcelona or perhaps we didn't know where to search. Our local hotel staff told us that they eat Paella for lunch but seldom during dinner since it is too heavy for their tummy.

Long story short we're able to have a taste of authentic Spanish Paella. Not once but thrice, lol.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Kyoto Imperial Palace, Japan

We left our hotel in Osaka at 7:30 am and proceeded to Umeda Station. We found Rapid Express Train at second floor platform 2. Don't take the Semi-Exp on platform 3; it will take more time to reach Kawaramachi Station.

From here we boarded the Hankyu Line to Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto. The trip lasted for around 45 minutes. At Karasuma Station we transfered to Karasuma Line and disembarked at Imadegawa Station. The chilly weather was perfect since we have to walk for 10 minutes from the station up to the palace.

The entire trip was pretty easy and convenient since we're able to use our ICOCA card for Hankyu line; fare was 800 Yen each.

Upon arriving at the palace, it seemed we were transported to the past. The palace is enclosed with long walls with several huge gates. And as expected, the gardens inside the palace are truly amazing and indescribable.

After security check we were asked to wear a lanyard while inside the compound. We explored the place on our own though we noticed some guided and group tours.

Be aware though that you cannot enter any wooden structures or buildings. Nevertheless, the old and massive wooden structures were a sight to behold for any foreigners.

The ground is mostly covered with gravel so avoid any fancy footwear. Since there were less crowds during our visit, we had good opportunity for selfies while having a peaceful stroll.

We stayed and enjoyed the place for a couple of hours.

Admission is free.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hostal Alexis - Madrid, Spain

The hostel is 2 blocks away from Anton Martin Metro Station; it is beside Plaza Sta. Ana.

It occupies the 4th floor of an old building with a tiny old school elevator, the one you manually open and close the metal door. Be aware though that there is no huge outdoor sign or mark stating Hostal Alexis. Fortunately, we found a small Hostal Alexis marking at the entrance wall of the building.

Upon check-in you'll be given an electronic card as access to the small reception area and to your room while PIN number code for the main door at the ground floor. Like any other small hostels in Europe, there is no reception staff during night time; the staff usually reports at 8 am. Thus on our second day we heard an early guest knocking at the reception door.

The wife and I love this towel arrangement. In fact, we didn't touch it until our evening bath time.

Flat screen location is not ideal

Spacious T&B

Inside the spacious room is an electronic safe, flat screen - without English Channel, electric kettle for tea/coffee and basic toiletries. The wifi signal is strong inside the room. There is also a small fridge with complimentary 2 bottle of water upon arrival; sadly, they don't replenish the bottled water.

We met their two male housekeeping staff who are "kabayans" or fellow Filipinos. Had a small chat with them whenever we see them working.

The hostel has no dining facilities but since it is beside a plaza, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars around. Don't leave the place without indulging on different types of authentic Spanish Paella; there is one Paella restaurant nearby.

A few blocks away is the center of Madrid City, Plaza del Sol. We walk to and fro this plaza daily. Nearby are small shops, Chinese Dimsum eatery and lots of pizza and sandwich counters.

On our last day, the reception staff assisted us in booking an airport transfer. Surprisingly, we got a lady Uber driver.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Mingling with deers at Nara Park, Japan

As a golden boy, I could never have imagine that I would be able to physically mingle with deer. I am not talking about some caged deer, the one you normally see in zoos.

I am talking about actual patting, feeding and teasing these adorable creatures. What made the experience memorable, the family enjoyed this momentous event with me.
That's me

The wife enjoys feeding the deer

Deer are spread out in the park

More than a thousand of freely roaming deer around the place waiting to be fed is the main attraction in Nara Park. I asked my daughter to buy some crackers and divided these among us so all of us can experience feeding the deer. You can buy these crackers for 150 Yen at some vendors in the area.

Himuro Jinja Shrine

We came here from Kyoto by Keihan Line. The park is around 20-minute walk from Nara Station. A temple and shrine is located within the vicinity but the main attractions are the sweet and gentle deer.

Give me crackers please...

It can smell the crackers

Be aware though that sometimes these guys can detect the crackers even if it inside your pocket. They'd follow and coerced you to give them your crackers. A few of them have learned the arts of hypnotism by looking directly at your eyes as if forcing you to bring out the crackers, lol.

I heard that when you bow in front of these animals they'd imitate you. Tried doing that but got some inquisitive looks from these animals. The only time I've seen them bow was when some crackers fell on the ground.

Fortunately, the weather on first week of January was ideal in visiting this place just don't expect to see any cherry blossom. Chilly but dry so it won't be arduous to explore the area while enjoying the company of these tamed animals.

I highly recommend visiting this place when you are in Kyoto especially if you have kids with you. Trust me, they will love the experience.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Diecast Corner - Macchinine, a diecast model cars collectors' haven in Madrid, Spain

As diecast model cars and toy collector, wherever I go I always search for shops that sell diecast cars or toys that are not being sold in Philippines or considered as rare. Even during layover in airports, I spend my spare time searching for that special toy/car.

While having a noontime break in our hotel in Madrid, Spain during our recent holiday, the wife mentioned that there is a famous diecast cars shop nearby; it was a 20 minute walk actually. Surprisingly, the wife who prefers Metro and Trams while visiting touristy places in Europe suddenly finds strength to accompany me in searching that shop. By the way, I have the best wife in the galaxy, lol.

We hurriedly trekked to locate Macchinine.

From afar you can easily distinguish the shop due to a large tin toy car in front of it.

Upon entering the place I knew right there and then that I would be needing the support of my visa card since I am reserving our cash for our holiday expenses and Macchinine is not included in our itinerary.

When the shop owner noticed that I was scanning the place thoroughly and lifting some of the cars for close-up inspection, he knew that his customer is a collector. He asked me what model of cars I was looking for. I replied that I'm searching for "JDM" cars or in layman's terms, Japanese brand cars.

He brought out some of his model cars stored inside his special drawers. Long story short, I got some Ebbro "JDM" in 1/43 scale, those were my first Ebbro brand diecast cars. I laid my hands on a couple of rally cars as well but American brand. All of them were second hand but in mint and near-mint condition. Knowing how delicate loose diecast cars are, I was worried how my items would be packed. To my surprise, the owner had small boxes ready as packaging and protection too. After discount, my visa card was billed 235 Euro.

Vintage Matchboxes

When I posted Macchinine pictures on our diecast collectors Philippine FB group page, many were in awe on massive display of vintage and rare models while other drooled on vintage Matchbox cars; unfortunately it wasn't included on my collection line so I didn't buy any of them.

Bigger scale


Newer models

I regret not buying these vintages - anyway there is always next time (crossing my fingers)


One of my hauls. Taken at Montjuic Castle, Barcelona

Nissan Rally Car

Ford Focus Rally Car

The owner at the back

Undoubtedly, the place is haven for diecast model cars collectors. You'd find plenty of rare and hard to find diecast cars especially European brands and models making me remember some of my vintage diecast cars I bought at a flea market in Pisa, Italy.