OLIVIA ROUND BARBADOS

Known for: Surfing
Rum + seafood cuisine
Resorts and beach clubs
Scuba diving and water sports
Island life

“You’re on island time now” they tell you. Just remember to look before crossing the road as the average speed limit is… let’s just say it’s fast.

It’s the common joke, for some reason Barbadians are always in a hurry. Hop on a local reggae bus and you’ll be holding onto your seat (and stomach) the entire ride. It’s wild, and they certainly know how to have fun.

Barbados is a British Commonwealth country, and largely owned by expat Brits. There is a UNESCO site and many colonial houses on the island juxtaposed between the seafood and rum shacks populated with locals having their afternoon respite. I loved seeing the contrast of culture, vibrancy of energy and warmth of both travellers and locals alike.

🇧🇧 Still can't believe where I am right now 💙🌊🐚🐠 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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I spent one week on the island, and made many British and local Barbadian friends who shared their top tips for having the best time in Barbados. They told me to pass them on, and to tell you not to ask if they like Bob Marley when you visit, but to say hi and they’ll shout you a rum.

 

WHAT TO DO

1. Go for a Hobie Cat ride. When offered a ride an hour before my flight, I didn’t even stop to question logistics. Instead I bolted to grab my togs and GoPro and hit the ocean for a hair-raising, adrenaline pumping ride.

2. Swim in resort pools. Walk down the beach and take your pick. You may even score a free afternoon tea or BBQ dinner.

🇧🇧 I dived 🙊 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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I love meeting other travellers and got chatting to a man in his 80s who used to visit the same resort every year with his wife who has now passed. He asked if he could enjoy a rum with us and have me take his picture, I obliged and after showing him the back of my camera he chucked, “My, I do look handsome tonight!” beaming from ear to ear. It’s moments like these that I get so much pleasure out of my job.

3. Ride on the reggae bus. There are normal buses in Barbados, and then there are “Reggae buses”. Opt for the latter. Do bare in mind they drive very fast, music is very loud, and sometimes there is a poison substance involved. You’ll see animals, school kids, grandmas, workmen, office ladies, you name it, they all ride the bus.

4. Swim with turtles. The best advice I was given was to head to Lone Star restaurant and head out when there is a snorkelling squad already out. They will be feeding the fish, so there are bound to be flurries of beautiful fish and turtles if you’re lucky.

🇧🇧 So thankful to have the opportunity to visit this place 🙏🏼✨ #OliviaRoundBarbados

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Travel tip: Don’t chase the turtles. Imagine how you would feel being followed by a big goliath 8 times your size. 

5. Give the monkeys some love. Avoid getting scratched (rabies) but you can gently pat the baby monkeys who go for walks with their owners. After talking to some locals we found out that these monkeys are well cared for, which is good to hear given the animal cruelty around the world these days.

6. Visit the colourful village of Holetown. Terribly overpriced, but cute to peruse in the heat of the day. The houses are straight out of Edward Scissorhands.

7. Visit Nancy. Ask any local about Nancy, and they’ll spin you a yarn. She’s known for her hearty meals, few words and a stiff, ice cold rum. In order to visit Nancy, you must do your own research (it’s part of the fun of finding her).

8. Walk everywhere. This tip probably features on every travel list I write, but I can’t stress enough the value of walking. You see far more, get a better sense of the place and you’re always bound to get chatting to locals along the way.

9. Hit Mullins Beach Club for a dance. They played everything from Rolling Stones to Red Hot Chilli Peppers (and we thought it was a jazz night?!) 100% recommend for a fun night out. Don’t be surprise if you get asked out for street karaoke afterwards.

10. Visit Oistins once only and buy yourself a little handmade momento, but trust me, once is enough. My mum bought me a super cute pink turtle necklace to remember our holiday by. I still wear it back home, so it was the perfect souvenir.

WHERE TO STAY

I found a cute little AirBnB house in Paynes Bay, which is honestly one of the best locations to be based in. There are however many great hotels including the Tamarind, Fairmont Royal Pavilion and Coral Reef Club.

🇧🇧 Where the royals stay 🌴👑 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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🇧🇧 Post about Barbados on my website soon featuring lots of handy tips! 💙 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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WHERE TO EAT

Coral Reef Club: Best buffet breakfast I’ve ever eaten. From sweet waffles, pastries, fruit and muesli, to hearty fry ups with hash browns and eggs. I had about 5 breakfasts one morning.

Lemongrass Noodle Bar: This Holetown haunt is not your typical Barbadian cuisine, but it’s pretty delicious Thai food in a gorgeous setting. Beware, it’s super spicy, so not for the faint hearted!

Tamarind Resort: The Tamarind’s restaurant serves up some nice cocktails and lunch snacks. Don’t skip the kumara fries, they’re pretty good. The view is also spectacular. If you ask them nicely they’ll give you some bar snacks to eat by the pool, complimentary.

Travel tip: Have a good supply of snacks to keep your blood sugar up throughout the day.

WHAT TO WEAR

I wore a long shirt in the evenings to avoid mozzie bites, but apart from that minimal clothing is required! Grounds are very uneven and there are little to no footpaths so wear sturdy footwear.

🇧🇧 Tevalicious in Barbados 👍🏼 comfort first always, don't care what anyone says 😉 #OliviaRoundBarbados

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Tevas were my go-to and I was very thankful for them. A light wraps skirt is always a good choice too as you can toss it on over your bikini.

Next stop: London.

Love,

Liv x

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LOVE is when 285,000 travel girls have your back

It’s easy to feel alone, especially while travelling. I know I have, along with the 285,000+ girls who are also members of a Facebook community Girls LOVE Travel. In saying this, life experiences unite us and restore an overwhelming feeling of warmth.

Lara Bothe, an 18-year-old girl from Germany devastatingly lost her father in the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. This morning she posted on the page tentatively asking if someone might go down to the World Trade Centre to leave a token of love in his honour as she was not in NYC.

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The overwhelming response of kind words, gestures and acts of selfless kindness brought me to tears. Although I’m sitting here on the other side of the world in New Zealand, I too could offer my condolences and love along with hundreds of other girls who may have shared similar experiences or just have an open, empathetic heart.

Photo: Jenna Znak

Lara commented graciously, thanking each girl and mentioned that it would be tough going through graduation. A local New Yorker suggested she would even take a photograph of her own graduation cap next to Lara’s father’s name.

One #GLT member couldn’t have put it better, “It’s humanity at it’s finest. There are always more beautiful souls helping than there are who harm. This is a reminder of how much love there is in the world! ❤”

Wise words in my opinion, and a message we must all take away from this story. You never know what your neighbour is going through and extending a little love, even to a stranger can do a world of good. We’re in this life together, let’s stop racing round competing, and instead build one another up with love and positivity.

My thoughts are with Lara and her family, thanks for sharing your story and to the #gltLOVE community.

Love,

Liv x

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How to travel as a VEGETARIAN

In some countries, being “vegetarian” is a foreign concept. “So, you don’t eat cows?” “You eat chickens though right?” “Wait, so how do you survive?”

Following a veggie diet while travelling can be an absolute dream (Bali, Thailand, Australia) but it can also be a nightmare and lead to many hungry nights (Japan, China, Iceland). So here are a few tips to surviving in a meat lovers city, followed by my top veggie haunts across the globe.

What to do when you can’t find vegetables

Continue reading “How to travel as a VEGETARIAN”

OLIVIA ROUND ROME

Known for: Roman history
Basilicas + cathedrals
Foodie's paradise
Ancient architecture
Beautiful art

Push open the shutters, inhale the aroma of rich brewed coffee and look at row upon row of ancient buildings lining the cobble stone streets.

In New Zealand our oldest building, Kemp House, is nearly 200 years old, The Pantheon in Rome however was built in 117AD, and is still used as a Roman-Catholic church to this day.

During a bleak winter week in England, I booked a fly-out-tomorrow spontaneous getaway to Italy, and without hesitation (and a ticking time-out server pressing my deadline) I chose Rome.

WHAT TO DO

10pm Friday night, I checked into a gorgeous BnB called Salotto Monti. When I first arrived I thought I’d booked a dud as there was no signage to be seen and no signs of life.

After bumbling my way through broken Italian, a game of charades with some locals and doubtful thoughts that the streets would be my home for the night – the big wooden door opened and a little head popped over the bannister of a spiral staircase. “You are here!” cried a petite Italian woman. “Buonasera” I replied as I turned to thank the entourage of helpers peering through the doors behind me.

Two days in Rome was not going to make me an expert on the place by any means. However I was content with the amount of activities I fit into my schedule. If you’re only visiting for 2 days also, you might like to follow my itinerary. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND ROME”

OLIVIA ROUND OAHU, HAWAII

Known for: Water activities
Island lifestyle 
Traditional Hawaiian culture
Music & dance
Volcano, waterfalls and great hikes

Get tossed around in the enlivening surf in the morning, break a sweat up to a mountain summit, lay under a palm tree in a hammock in the heat of the day and cool off at an Eastern beach, floating in ultimate relaxation in the blue azure ocean. Why would you want to leave Hawaii?

Photo of Diamond Head peak

WHAT TO DO

1. Take a tour with Hoku Tours. Our host Kanamu was witty and knows absolutely everything about Oahu. The trip lasted 11 hours, and Kanamu shared fascinating stories and history the entire time. If you’re going to take any tour, this is the one.

Photo of waterfall in Hawaii
Swimming under a waterfall

Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND OAHU, HAWAII”

OLIVIA ROUND ICELAND

Known for: Geysers
Glaciers
Great hiking and snow sports
Caves
Natural hot springs
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)

Feel the crisp wind biting at your ankles as you hike up a snowy mountain overlooking a sea of turquoise blue glaciers. Warm your hands on hot chocolate, sing loudly to a great road-trip playlist and take a night bath in a cave. Iceland is the place to be this winter.

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WHAT TO DO

1. Visit Blue Lagoon in the early evening to watch the sun go down, or en-route from/to the airport (it’s nearby). Soak your tired muscles and cleanse your face with the active clay minerals in the natural vivid blue geothermal spring. The iconic pool has been running since 1976 and is well frequented by tourists and locals, so try to visit off-peak if possible, but don’t miss it. $65 NZD.

bluelagoon Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND ICELAND”

OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO

Known for: 4th largest city in Japan (population)
Snow sports
Natural Onsen Hotsprings
Mountain ridge walks
Historical villages
Nikka Whisky

Ski down a snow capped mountain in the morning, hike through the woods at lunch, warm up with an early evening onsen and dive into crisp, fluffy sheets at the Keio Plaza for a good night’s sleep.

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We arrived at midday in Sapporo itinerary-free but eager for adventure after seeing countless magical photographs in books and online.

With picturesque snowy mountains, wild animals and rugged wilderness, I couldn’t help feeling a touch of nostalgia for New Zealand. Continue reading “OLIVIA ROUND SAPPORO”

OLIVIA ROUND NARA + WAKAYAMA

Known for: Famous deer park (Nara)
Beach towns (Wakayama)
Onsens (Wakayama)
Fishing Villages (Wakayama)

Spend the weekend befriending deer and bathing in seaside onsens.

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WHAT TO DO

NARA

1. The first “must see” in Nara is the famous Deer Park. Deer are seen as “sacred” and highly regarded by Japanese people. 

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They have the privilege of roaming the park with little to no disturbance of cars and other noisy machinery, and rule the roost when it comes to animal hierarchy.

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Travel tip: While most people would assume the deer will take to their beds at night, they tend to become more lively around twilight.

🇯🇵 Hanging out with the wild and boisterous deer in Nara 💓 #OliviaRoundNara

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2. While you’re hanging out with Bambi, walk around the Nara Park lake and find a spot to paint a picture.naraart

Travel tip: If you want to buy snacks to feed the deer, you can. There are stalls throughout the park that sell little round biscuits or nuts.

3. Take an evening walk through the quiet streets of Nara and look at the beautiful wooden architecture.

WAKAYAMA

1. Rent a car from Nara and drive south around the coastal peninsula of Wakayama.

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Travel tip: Toyota Car Rentals is your cheapest bet for a 4 door sedan. It’s handy to opt for a GPS so you can avoid toll roads too.

2. Embark on a hike through part of the famous Nachi Taisha pilgrimage. It’s incredible to think how many generations have walked the path before you.

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Travel tip: Majority of the walk is in the woods so if you’re pushed for time and looking for a scenic route, don’t worry about trying to complete the entire track.

3. Find the old manual roller slide near the base of the hike for an adrenaline rush ride.

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4. Visit the world’s 3rd largest waterfall, Nachi Falls. The waterfall runs over primeval forest of luscious evergreen trees and has a sheer drop of 133 meters.

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5. Take a look at the The Nachi Taisha Shrine (Shinto) and the Seiganto-ji Temple (Buddhist) which despite religious differences, stand next to each other and has functioned as one religious centre since the 1500s.

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6. Dip in the hot springs at popular beach town, Shriyahama. If you’re looking for a co-ed, bathing suit spring check out Shirahama Beach Onsen.

Travel tip: Try to spot wild monkeys during the drive.

WHERE TO STAY

Naramachi Hostel & Restaurant

Naramachi Hostel & Restaurant is a little gem conveniently located right next to the deer park. Formally a soy factory, the property contains fragments of history around it’s grounds and throughout the interior, with old instruments and tools displayed in a museum-like fashion.

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We were surprised to hear they had a jacuzzi available for use which is great after a day out walking the streets – you can ease your tired feet in the privacy of the secluded back patio, complete with fairy lights.

There are two sleeping arrangements to choose from, typical bunk bed dormitory style, or private rooms. I would highly recommend the later option purely for the experience of sleeping up high on a spacious mezzanine wooden a-frame bed, it was possibly the coolest room I’ve seen travelling so far and felt like sleeping in a luxurious tree house!

WHERE TO EAT

The coastal roads are not Tokyo-style food metropolis’, so it will pay to stock up in Nara before you go.

Buy a yoghurt tub from supermarket or convenience store and fill it with muesli and chopped banana for a tasty breakfast. The great part about exploring by car, is you can enjoy your meals surrounded by some of the best views in the world.

If you have no facility to heat your dinner, mexican wraps or sushi are an excellent solution. Look for the international supermarkets and pick up some chilli beans, avocado and chopped carrot for a quick and protein packed meal.

Travel tip: Find hot water at any 7/11 or McDonald’s to go with your Nespresso instant coffee.

WHAT TO WEAR

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Both Nara and Wakayama are rather mild in Autumn, and quite sunny. Bare in mind evenings become brisk and temperatures drop significantly overnight, especially in coastal areas.

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Some days I wore jeans and a merino, while other times I was fine in a sundress. Keep a towel on you at all times in Wakayama as there are onsens everywhere!

 

Next up, Fukuoka.

Love,

Liv x

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OLIVIA ROUND KYOTO

Known for: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Nijo Castle
Fushimi-inari Shrine
Ryokans
Geisha

Take a walk back in time down the streets of Kyoto lined with burnt orange leaves and wooden architecture from a bygone era. There’s something about Kyoto that displays a true sense of tradition and authenticity, and it’s charming city keeps travellers returning year round.

One myth I can immediately quash for you is that you can’t see both west and eastern sides of Kyoto in one day. You totally can. Wake up early and cycle to Arashiyama bamboo forest on the far west, grab a bit to eat afterwards, then meander over to Fushimi-inari for sunset.

WHAT TO DO

1. Start with Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. A beautiful green grove of sleek and tall bamboo stretches down a (surprisingly short) pathway like nothing you’ve ever seen.

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Dress warmly as it is not exposed to a lot of sun, but the air is so fresh and crisp you’ll want to enjoy it while you’re away from car fumes of the city.

 

2. While you’re there, keep walking to explore the gardens. Regardless of what season you visit in, they will be beautiful. While we were there we got to see this vivid red tree.

🇯🇵 Nature putting on an autumn show for us 🍁🍂 #OliviaRoundKyoto

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3. Grab lunch, and cycle over to Fushimi-inari shrine and walk through the 1000 red gates. Each one is so well preserved, it’s hard to believe they were first built in 711.

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Travel tip: Make sure to side quest off the path to see another stunning bamboo grove

 

4. Stay to watch the sunset

🇯🇵 Sunset watching after a short hike through the 1000 red gates 👌🏼 #OliviaRoundKyoto

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Travel tip: Don’t bother going right to the top as the best look out is just below (look for this view).

5. Bike back via the canal

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6. Spend the evening at Len bar and Restaurant. The hospitality went beyond expectations as they looked after our bags, let us use the internet and helped us find a hostel, and to repay them we bought about 6 of their delicious curries while we were there!

We built great friendships with the staff and I feel like our experience was a memorable one and it goes to show how far a little bit of kindness can go.

7. Seek out cool street art

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8. People watch

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9. Try to spot Geisha women in traditional dress

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Travel tip: Always get to tourist saturated places early. I can’t stress this enough!

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WHERE TO STAY

There are plenty of great hostels in the area.

We stayed at a hostel called Suzuki Guesthouse. It was quite far from the busy area of town, but super handy to our favourite restaurant so we were happy. Another cool thing about the hostel is when describing it’s location you can say, “Oh you know, that one next to the ancient old castle across town”. How many other places in the world can you say that?

WHERE TO EAT

Morpho Vegan Cafe: Carnivores need not be put off this plant-based wholesome haven. We loved the soy meat “fish” burger with tartare. Sounds strange, but it was so delicious we went back the next day and ordered the same thing for lunch.

 

WHAT TO WEAR

Once again, pretty mild weather. I wore a light jacket and yoga pants while I was there as we were doing a lot of riding. The bamboo forest is teeth-chattering freezing in the early morning, but by the end of the day you’ll be hot from biking, so best bet is layers, layers, layers.

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In all honesty I’d be back to Kyoto in a heartbeat. While it is one of the more popular areas of Japan, it doesn’t feel over-run with tourists or built up with Westernised monstrosities. The old fashioned charm with lure you in and you won’t want to leave.

Next up, Nara + Wakayama.

Love,

Liv x

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OLIVIA ROUND OSAKA

Known for: Osaka Castle
Great music + dance
Local authentic street food
Friendly locals
Modern architecture

osakacastleedit

Osaka is such an interesting city we visited it twice. The first time we stayed at a super cool backpackers called Casa Macondo which is owned by a lovely guy from Colombia called Oscar.

One thing I learnt in Osaka is that there is no real word for vegetarian. I found the best phrases to say are “no nikku!” (no meat), “no dashi!” (no fish extract) and “yasai only” (vegetables only).

WHAT TO DO

1. Stay at Casa Macondo and visit the junk shop run by the old man down the road. It looks like someone’s old garage from the outside, but we ended up finding some incredible old gems: film cameras, groovy hats, pottery, nic-nacs, art and more.

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David & I with the lovely owner, “uncle”.

2. Walk across the river via one of the many bridges at night.

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Beautifully lit up canal

3. Check out Tsutenkaku tower at night. It’s a little bizarre and old, but great for people watching and you might even find yourself strolling through the fascinating red light district on the way home.

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Bright lights of Shinsekai

4. Watch the street performers dance in the Umeda Station. The train station is equipped with mirrors on each wall so performers can practice their routines.

5. Visit Osaka Castle

Travel tip: Walk 100m around the back and there will be no tourists in sight. Great place for a picnic.

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6. Go for early morning walks and you’ll see some cool sights! We found a petting zoo in a local school, the rush of betting hour at the local TAB and a group of women wearing crazy headdresses.

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1. Guy placing his horse-racing bet 2. Woman with Peanuts crown 3. Boy getting a fright from some animals in a pen 4. Elderly lady upsetting the animals!

7. Visit the wacky supermarkets. It’s hard to believe this neon fantasy is a chain store.

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1. Ridiculously expensive melons (they price up to $70 US) 2. Fish, fish and more fish 3. Exploring the colourful supermarket

8. Hang out at Arcadio bar (which is also Casa Macondo hostel) and chat to the locals and other travellers.

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Travel tip: The best way to get to Osaka from Tokyo is via the Shinkansen bullet train. It’ll cost around $100, but is really worth it.

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WHERE TO STAY

Casa Macondo
Casa Macondo is run by the nicest and friendliest host you’ll meet, Oscar – along with his team of great staff. What is so appealing about the hostel is how passionate Oscar is about running it, he wants travellers and artists to come and feel at home and warmly welcomed.

 

The hostel is adorned with the most exquisite artwork. Oscar has commissioned local artists to paint the walls with lively, beautiful murals and the bar downstairs Arcadio has a groovy lit up table top and paintings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (who is the inspiration and muse behind the decor). There are many references to his novel 100 Days Of Solitude, including an uplifting trail of butterflies leading guests up the stairway to upstairs rooms.

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The location is minutes walk from downtown Osaka and a block away from the coolest old junk store. Not only are there great things nearby, you can even enjoy a delicious enchilada and beer while locals and regulars trickle in, bringing with them stories and a genuine interest in you and your culture.

We made so many friends and had so much fun that it was hard to say goodbye.

WHERE TO EAT

 

Arcadio: You might as well eat where you stay, right? Located on the first floor of Casa Macondo, the chef cooks the most delicious mexican/south american fusion food which can all be made vegetarian on request. I was a happy girl when I was served a plate of burritos with avocado and fresh salad! Round the corner is also a cheap omlette place for breakfast with free coffee.

Possibly the ugliest food photo I've ever taken, but it's pizza so who cares when it tastes good.
Possibly the ugliest food photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s pizza so who cares when it tastes good.

Girasole Ricco: VPN Association Certified Neapolitan pizza! This place was a good recommendation by our friend Misa. We had the mushroom and olive pizza, a classic margherita and the pesto pasta with green beans. Highly recommend.

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Camp Curry: Possibly the best find of the trip. Camp is a chain which makes veggie curries (you can add meat if desired). Vegetables include a hearty serving of broccoli, capsicum, beans, onion, eggplant, root veggies, tomato and mushrooms. Comes with rice and you can choose your level of spice too. Cost: 900 yen (around $10NZD)

Sushi shop in Eski Marche: We found salmon + avo sushi! Finally a flavour we could both eat and it was from the food court in the Osaka train station. Delicious, fresh and cheap.

Travel tip: This brand of muesli is great to travel round with. All you need to do is buy a banana and yoghurt fresh.

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WHAT TO WEAR

My go-to outfit was a summer dress from my favourite American store, Madewell which I paired with a cheap thin merino sweater.

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Jersey: Farmers · Dress: Madewell · Shoes: Nike

Sneakers are a must as you will be doing a lot of walking up cobbled stairs and mountainous paths.

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Jersey: Farmers · Dress: Madewell · Shoes: Nike · Sunglasses: store in Auckland airport

I found this great pair of UV polaroid sunglasses in the Auckland airport for $30NZ, love love love them!

🇯🇵 Enjoying people watching in Osaka • wearing @madewell 💙 // 📷: @psychedelicpanther

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During travel I wore loose fitting pants with boots and a cashmere sweater.

 

This is also my new travel pack for those of you who are interested in what I take when I travel. It’s a 55L Kathmandu Kilimanjaro canvas pack which doubles as a carry bag. I love the fact that it doesn’t look too bulky, but can fit all the essentials I need.

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Cashmere sweater: Hospice shop · Pants: Brandy Melville · Boots: Ziggurat, Wellington · Pack: Kathmandu

My advice would be to take the time to really explore Osaka. See the sights, but walk to them. Along the way you’ll find the hidden gems like we did. Prepare yourself for the touristy areas and embrace them. Marvel at the incredible way in which they organise the unruly tourists who spill out like krill at feeding time across the pavement… Also remember that while you’re laughing at the funny tourists, you are one. Respect the locals and give them the time of day. Drink sake with them, share a “kannpai” and smile lots. Then you’ll fall in love with the culture of Osaka.

Next up, Kyoto!

Love,

Liv x

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