Tag Archives: spa

Onsen in Nantan, 2016

One of the main things my husband wanted to do in Japan was visit an onsen. Most of the best spas are in the snow, single sex and naked. Seeing as we had our daughter with us we had to find a family onsen near Kyoto that allowed swimwear.

Our journey to Rurikei Onsen in Nantan began with a local train through plunging rivers and mountain tunnels. It seemed like the spa was in the middle of nowhere already, but the best was yet to come.

When we arrived at the closest train station, we found out that we had missed one of only a couple of buses that go to the spa in the morning, so we had to catch a taxi. As the cab climbed further into the mountains and the meter ticked over, I feared that we were lost.

Eventually, we pulled up to the Rurikei Eco Resort Village and there was not a tourist to be seen. The functional spa had pools, hot spas, cold spas, reading rooms, relaxing rooms and a foot tub where fish ate the skin off your feet.

The prettiest was the traditional looking outdoor spa with bamboo decorations and I liked the indoor waterfalls. The weirdest room was the mysterious room that had coloured rocks on the roof that could be seen glinting in the dark room.

The resort also had a hotel and healthy eating restaurant attached to it where we had a tasty light lunch. It also had the only beer vending machine we saw the whole time we were in Japan. I was beginning to think they were a myth.

With time to kill before the free afternoon bus back to the train station, we wandered around the surrounding gardens. The backdrop of mountains was beautiful and they were building a little tent area for future campers. Lots of autumn leaves up here, a cute little friendship pavilion, a water wheel and real waterfalls.

They were setting up the gardens for Christmas with lots of colourful lights, a few Christmas trees, reindeer, angels and even Santa’s sleigh that you could sit in. There was also a strange kids playground that consisted only of stone animals, like Narnia. There were kangaroos, tigers, giraffes and duck statues mixed in with real cranes in the river.

While we were waiting for the bus back at the spa entry with the old folks, I felt the ground roll underneath me. One of the older ladies started freaking out and we realised it must have been an earthquake. Small, but still shaky, it was a very odd feeling.

We caught the train back to Kyoto, happy in the fact that we had been somewhere only locals go and had our last dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant serving Kyoto specialities like mackerel, fried chicken and sake.

Related posts: Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Solo trip to Hawaii, 2014

My first solo trip in many years was when my bestie got married in Hawaii and asked me to be a bridesmaid. Leaving my one year old at home with my husband for 8 days, I flew to Kona on the big island of Hawaii via Oahu.

Most of the wedding party was staying in a few private bungalows on the property where the event itself was to be held. It was strange to be travelling alone again and it took me a while to get used to only having to feed and cloth myself again. But before long I fell back into old habits, heading to my bestie’s parents house every morning to be fed breakfast. Unfortunately I never really got out of the habit of waking up early.

The bride and groom to be were staying in the main bungalow with large living areas, a pond with koi and a pool with spa. Most importantly, the house backed onto the ocean with a sea wall separating the garden from the rocks and waves. This is where both the ceremony and reception was to be held.

My bestie is a master of décor having renovated many houses around the world as they moved around for work; so the main house was also being utilised as decoration making central. Everything from the hair pieces to the table settings was made with the love and care of many helping hands.

The verandah off the main bungalow was utilised for social gatherings and sunset watching and what beautiful sunsets they were. Living on the east coast of Australia, I relished the opportunity to see the sun dipping into the water just as it should be.

There were some small markets across the road from the bungalows where you could buy food for lunches and souvenirs. I purchased a t-shirt for my husband and the cutest little blue Hawaiian dress for my daughter, with a matching flower bracelet of course.

After the sunset on my first night, a few of us walked to the Royal Kona Beach Resort for dinner. The hotel looked like a cruise ship pointing out to the ocean, affording fabulous ocean views from Don the Beachcomber Restaurant which specialised in Mai Tai’s.

With only 30 or so guests attending the wedding and everyone arriving a week or more earlier, it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with some like the groom, my bestie’s sister Janeen and her boyfriend; and meet others like my bestie’s brother Chris’s new girlfriend and the groom’s best friends who would make up the other half of the bridal party.

Related posts: USA, 1990It’s a South Pacific Thing, The Seven Year Itch

Belgium, 2013: The Place

Our week of nights in Belgium had filled up quickly; so one afternoon my husband, daughter and I went to our friends house- Corrine and Ben- for a traditional French style lunch: our favourite. Corrine and Ben had a multi story home in the village of Tilff which was bright with all the autumn colours on the tress outside. They had two older kids of their own and I still remember how sweet Corrine was as I was distraught when our daughter fell off the couch. She was fine of course.

We walked around Dolembreux one morning, to the war memorial, the school and the fields behind the farmhouse. It was such a pretty little village and I could see why it would be a nice place to raise kids.

Another day we headed into Liege where we all enjoyed some authentic waffles and a walk around the city. We went to H&M and Mango of course and visited one of Steve’s friends who worked in a shoe shop in town.

Finding a car seat of the right age was easy with so many kids around. Although she did mange to wriggle out of it that morning as we were driving back from the city that day. Bit scary, but I think she was just trying to look out of the window rather than open the door.

We went to visit Yves in his nice house on the hill and he gave us a book of Liege photos that he had published. One lunchtime we went to the restaurant that Ben’s partner owned in Tilff. It was bright and airy and served the best baguettes.

Bill took the day off work to take us to Durbuy- reportably the most beautiful village in Belgium and a place where neither my husband or I had been before. It was ridiculously picturesque, even in the cold weather, with small cobbled streets lined with stone houses covered with red and green vines. There was an actual castle, a fort and a spa and the small town was encircled by rocks, fountains, water wheels and the river.

Our  daughter fell asleep easily in the pram as we trundled along and we kept warm by eating Chokotoffs– hard carmel treats covered in Cote d’Or chocolate. We stopped for lunch in a nice traditional French restaurant and drove home munching on sour gummies. All in all it was a day of beauty and eating.

With so many adoptive aunts and uncles, our daughter received lots of presents and hand me down clothing that necessitated a big rethink of packing the bag when we left. It was great for her to receive French speaking toys and good quality warm winter clothing, so it was an easy choice to pass on some of her clothes that we had brought that she was outgrowing anyway and we knew that they would go to a good home here.

Related posts: Belgium, 2013: The PeopleEurope, 2006, Belgium, 1997, People vs Place

Marlborough to Akaroa, 2012

Before long, it was time to bid farewell to our New Zealand Sri Lankan family and catch the ferry back to Picton with no view of the Marlborough Sounds once again and a shared baby’s room with no private cabins. We didn’t realise just how spoilt we had been on our previous trip.

My husband and I decided to console ourselves with a rare couple of hours off from the newborn to sample some of the local Marlborough wines near the holiday park we were staying on river in Blenheim.

We started at Lawson’s Dry Hills, who suggested we visit a lovely new winery that I now see popping up in Australian bottle shops everywhere. Wither Hills had an undoubtedly modern cellar door and with old barrels for added character and a view of the vines to the hills.

The next day, we drove the East Coast to Kaikoura to see the seals. We didn’t have to look far as there was one lying in the car park in the sun when we arrived. We walked out onto the rocks and found a few bathing in and out of the beautiful healthy sea weedy water.

That night we stayed at Hamner Springs, a spa town in the hills. We visited the big water park with thermal springs the next day and soaked in the pine forest of the town.

Our final stop was Akaroa, one hour from Christchurch, for New Year’s Eve. Akaroa was a pretty little French inspired town and was my favourite place on the trip.

We stayed in a holiday park overlooking the town which had a comfy lounge building with TV. We walked down the hill into the town and discovered that a cruise ship had invaded for the day.

The French influence could be seen in the French bakeries, lovely heritage buildings and French signage that was dotted around the town. I bought some lovely earrings in a small gift shop and we walked out to the pier on harbour.

On New Year’s Eve we walked a little further to the lighthouse and had a yummy local seafood platter lunch. We were back in the van in time to see the lovely sunset. Our little family of three were all sleeping well before midnight, so tuckered out that not even fireworks hitting the van at midnight woke us up.

By the end of the trip, we had gotten used to our comfy little portable home and were sad to drop the campervan off in Christchurch before we boarded our plane home on New Years Day. New Zealand had turned out to be much more beautiful than I had imagined and I was so glad we had come.

Related posts: West Coast to Wellington, 2012, Queenstown to Fox Glacier, 2012, New Zealand, 2004

Luxury Istria, 2010

Buzet in the region of Istria, is not a place that springs to mind when you think of a honeymoon destination. For a few weeks of the year during truffle hunting season, it’s the place to go for the finding of both the black and white varieties of the fungus, but for the remainder of the year it appears to be largely deserted.

My husband and I visited the local tourist office where they were amazed that we had not hired a car, as buses were not frequent in the area. They gave us the number of a local man who could give us a lift if it was on the way to where he was heading for a small fee and a plan to find some sulphur springs that were not in the guide book while we were in the region.

The main reason we had come to Buzet was for a truffle degustation at Stara Ostarija. So we booked for dinner, hoping that our journey into the middle of nowhere was not for nothing. We returned to the restaurant at twilight for our six course slow meal and were the only ones in the restaurant. Now this was more like it, I thought to myself.

First course was soft cheese with white truffles on bread. Kind of like cream cheese with a nutty twist. The second course was hard cheese with black truffles, prosciutto and olives. Not unlike a mezze plate and very tasty.

With both black and white truffles, the signature dish was the third course of soup and it was most definitely the best course. Course number four was ribbons of flat fettuccine pasta with lashings of truffle shavings. I had had this dish once before in Rome, but not with quite as many truffles. I guess they don’t exactly have a shortage of them in Buzet.

By course five, meat with larger truffle shavings, I was beginning to get a bit truffled out. So by the time the desert course of cake with truffles arrived, I really could not stomach more than one bite. So that’s what truffles taste like, I thought, as we rolled ourselves down the hill and back to the hotel.

By the next day, we had forgotten our gluttony and headed to the Zigante Tartufi truffle shop to stock up on various truffle pastes and oils to take home.

We called our local man with a spa who drove us to Istarske Toplice mineral spa. We planned to spend the day here, as there was only one bus back into town that afternoon. The outdoor sulphur pool was closed, so we headed to the indoor pool, only to discover that no more than a thirty-minute soak is recommended for the sulphur pools.

After our short dip, we had lunch as the one hotel on site and wandered around the grounds. There was a mini golf course that was not in operation and some truffle hunting dogs in cages. I would have loved to have been here in truffle hunting season so that we could get a glimpse of these clever dogs in action. As is always the way, our procrastination almost caused us to miss our bus back to town and we had to run to catch it on the main road.

Of course, Buzet will always have a special place in my heart because it was my honeymoon. The town was beautiful and the truffle degustation was also the most romantic meal that we had on our trip that sparked a lust for degustation dining that continued when we returned home to Sydney.

Related posts: Pag and Buzet, 2010, Split and Zadar, 2010, Dubrovnik, 2010, Destination Thailand, 2010