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#TravelexTourist: Sketch Afternoon Tea & Icebar, London

I had been back in London for about a week, and I had the post-holiday blues bad – particularly as I’d managed to get a month off over Christmas and New Year to travel around Cambodia and Japan. So when the Travelex team got in touch to see if I wanted to play tourist in London, I was over the moon – particularly as they’d given me some dosh to spend, too.

#TravelexTouristThis was no ordinary dosh – I got my US dollars loaded onto my fancy new Travelex cash passport – a multi-currency, pre-paid Mastercard that I could top up online, and use like a regular bank card. The best part about it is that I can order different currencies on it, so when I go back to Japan, or on a European adventure, I only have to take one card with me (and not have to worry about mine getting lost or stolen!)

Liberty, #TravelexTourist#TravelexTourist#TravelexTouristSo, Cash Passport in hand, we decided to start the day off doing the most touristy thing we could think of to do in London – afternoon tea.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI’ve been desperate to go to Sketch for ages. Not only do they apparently do one of the best gluten-free afternoon teas in London, it’s also the gallery of David Shrigley – one of my favourite artists.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristI wouldn’t be surprised if this is the most instagrammed room in London – it was absolutely beautiful.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristThere was so much attention to detail – everything from the menus, to the crockery – even the uniforms for the waitstaff (which I would wear in a heartbeat).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristAs for cost, it’s a little on the steep side, but for the location, and the wow factor of the venue alone – combined with the sheer amount of food, I do believe it’s worth it. Not something I’d do every day, but definitely worth popping in for a special occasion.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristYou get a lot of food – unlimited refills of tea, sandwiches, cakes and scones, the latter being the best part of the gluten free menu.

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristSketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristEven the bathrooms were outstanding (to the point where I was slightly concerned that they were toilets at all, instead of part of the artwork).

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe didn’t manage to finish our tea completely, but the lovely waitstaff packed the last of our cakes for us, which we got to enjoy later that weekend. I was given a pin with my Cash Passport card, and it worked seamlessly (which is always slightly nerve-wracking with a new card!)

Sketch Afternoon Tea, London, #TravelexTouristWe were so stuffed by the end of it that we were tempted to go home and have a nap. Somehow we managed to roll ourselves out of there and made our way to Covent Garden for a little window shopping, and enjoy some of the uncharacteristically good January weather.

#TravelexTouristPiccadilly Circus, London, #TravelexTouristCovent Garden, London, #TravelexTouristWe slowly walked off our food babies and made our way to Heddon Street for an appointment at the Icebar.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristUnlike Sketch, Icebar is pretty much what it says on the tin – a bar made of ice. Cold, -5°C Swedish ice, to be precise.

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar, London, #TravelexTouristWe got kitted out in thermal capes and gloves, and were served cocktails served in glasses made entirely of ice – it was awesome.

Ice Bar, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristIce Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristThe walls, the chairs, the bar – everything was ice, and had been carved beautifully. My favourite part was the skull, which had a brain carved into it and everything!

Ice Bar Cocktails, London, #TravelexTouristnFor the price of a ticket, you get given a cocktail and can stay in the room for 45 minutes before you have to leave. Is it gimmicky? Yes, absolutely – but it is really fun, and you do feel surprisingly toasty in your thermal cape.

The entire day made me appreciate the fun and interesting things to do that London has to offer, and definitely helped to keep the January Blues at bay! I can’t thank Travelex enough for the opportunity to play tourist for the day – I had a brillliant time.

Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea? Have you been  to the Icebar before? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

I was given a preloaded Travelex Cash Passport for the purposes of review – all opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t blog about it if I didn’t love the service!

sketch Gallery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disneyland Tokyo

I freaking love Disneyland.

Tokyo Disneyland
I love it so much that I’ve been to Tokyo Disneyland over 20 times, and I’ve been to almost every Disneyland in the world except Hong Kong and Paris. I want to go there so badly, but unsurprisingly no one seems to want to go with me.

I can’t really put my finger on what I like about it so much. I mean, I like all of the movies, but if you asked me if I wanted to go somewhere that was like one big commercial, where they would play the same music over and over again, AND is full of kids, I would probably run away screaming.

Except for Disneyland.

Tokyo Disneyland
My boyfriend even managed to get a video of me almost crying from happiness as we went to Tokyo Disneyland this trip – it is just total escapism, and I cannot get enough.

I get that it’s not for everyone, but Tokyo Disneyland is even more magical than any other Disneyland in the world. I know that makes me so ‘basic’ or ‘lame’ or whatever the kids are calling it these days, but I DON’T CARE. That’s how much I adore the place.

Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
Part of the appeal is the attention to detail everything has. From the gates to the rubbish bins, everything is so on-theme. The other thing about Tokyo Disneyland is that absolutely everyone gets involved – even the guys. Where else can you see grown men with mouse ears on? Where else can you find awkward teen goths inexplicably in a sugary-sweet theme park wonderland? NOWHERE ELSE.

Tokyo Disneyland

Even the eggs have been genetically engineered to be on theme.*

Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
I really couldn’t write about going to Tokyo without including Disneyland in the list – it’s always been a massive part of my trips there, and I always have such a good time. I also wanted to put together a list of what rides to go on, and what to avoid – and most importantly, what order to do them in.

Disneyland have this FastPass system, which is great for the most popular rides – you’ll get a ticket for a set period of time, and won’t have to stand in the queue for two hours waiting to get onto Big Thunder Mountain, or whatever.

Splash Mountain is the most popular ride by far, so I’d recommend going to get the Fast Pass ticket for that immediately (or being one of the first ones on, if you can). Make sure you try and get in there as the Fast Passes for that get taken up pretty quickly, and queueing is long.

Tokyo Disneyland
After two hours pass, you can get another Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain or Space Mountain, which are two of my favourite rides and well worth getting in there for.

Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disneyland
The tamer rides include the ToonTown ones – Roger Rabbits Car Toon Spin and Gadget’s Go Coaster are the only ones worth going on there.

The only rides worth going on in Tomorrowland are Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, which is a StarWars themed ride. The queues are never big for this, so don’t waste getting a Fast Pass for it. Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters is a good laugh – you are playing against your partner to get the most points – although not good enough to waste a Fast Pass on, or queue for ages for.

Tokyo DisneylandTokyo Disneyland
Then there are the attractions at Fantasylandwhich include Pirates of the Caribbean (a must, in my opinion, although it has gotten pretty naff after they made the Johnny Depp films about it) – It’s a Small World (the stuff of nightmares), Alice’s Tea Party and Snow White’s Adventures. I’d give The Haunted Mansion a miss – it kept on stopping, which is really irritating.

The Jungle Cruise is my guilty pleasure, as is Peter Pan’s Flight, which was closed when I went last.

We ended up going home a bit earlier, and missed the fireworks (damn jetlag), but I had such a great time and I can’t wait to be back.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? What’s your favourite part? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

*I actually have no idea how they did this. I really hope it isn’t genetic engineering, because I ate that thing.

A Weekend in Kamakura

After three glorious weeks in the Cambodian sun, I had to pack up my suitcase and prepare for a completely different climate all together.

Kamakura Hachimangu ShrineI wasn’t really that prepared, to be honest. After a few weeks of the heat I’d completely forgotten that, you know, I’d probably need my coat, prompting a mad dash back to Phnom Penh half a day earlier than I was supposed to from Kep. Oops.

I also would not recommend flying with Vietnam Airlines – almost every single flight I took with them was delayed (by five hours), and the service was not great. I did get a few rather hilarious stories out of the experience, though, so if you’re at all interested I’ll add that to the end of the post!*.

I finally arrived in Haneda Airport in just about one piece about 30 hours after I had left Phnom Penh. My family in Tokyo live in Shinagawa, which is really convenient to get to from Haneda – only half an hour away by train. The first thing I’d do before coming to Japan is getting the JR Pass – it’s a little pricey, but such good value, and you will save so much money once you are there by getting one. You can only get one outside of Japan, so it’s worth doing before you go. A 7-day pass set me back £154, and it was well worth every penny – I got mine here.

I arrived on the 31st of December, and spent about half an hour in Tokyo picking up my boyfriend (who had landed that morning) before I was on another train – this time, to Kamakura.

Kamakura is one of my favourite places in the entire world. It was the de-facto capital of Japan, years and years ago, and is absolutely beautiful. My grandparents would spend their weeks in Tokyo, where my grandfather would work, and almost every weekend they’d come back to Kamakura, which is around an hour away from Tokyo by train.

As far as cities go, it’s a pretty small one, but is full of some of the most amazing architecture in Japan, in my opinion, as well as being surrounded by natural beauty. It’s close to the sea, but there are several forests – and I can even get a great view of Mt. Fuji from my grandparent’s house in the Highlands.

Mt. Fuji, Kamakura, JapanNew Year’s is a massive deal in Japan – it’s kind of like how Christmas is in the UK – very family-orientated, and everything is shut. I was only in Kamakura for three days this trip, unfortunately, and spent it less on getting out there to look for things to blog, but more on spending time with family (sorry). I do think it’s a stunning place to visit, though, and I know it really well, so I just thought I would share some of my favourite places to go, see, and eat!

What to Do

Kamakura is filled with stunning temples – the biggest and most famous being Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which is a five minute walk from Kamakura Station. I’m slightly biased towards this temple,  as this is the one I always go to to get my blessings (and my grandfather was a temple elder there when he was alive). Built in 1063, it is absolutely breathtaking. At New Year, around 30,000 people will gather to pay their respects, and it was absolutely rammed when I went. Being Japan, of course, it was the most civilised crowd ever, but if you are claustrophobic I strongly suggest not going there on January 1st!

New Year's Day, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanNew Year Plaques, Kamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanKamakura Hachimangu Shrine, JapanHachimangu is filled with interesting street food vendors, too – so it’s worth checking them out if you’re a fan of street food – Japanese street food is awesome.

Kamakura, Hachimangu ShrineChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanChoco Bananas, Kamakura, JapanAnother place I’d strongly recommend is Hokokuji, a beautiful old temple surrounded by a bamboo forest. It was unfortunately closed at new year, so I didn’t make it this time round, but it is one of the most serene places I’ve ever been.

Going to Kotoku-in to see the Daibutsu (giant Buddha) is definitely one to tick off of your bucket list – there are regular buses going straight there from Kamakura station, and is really worth seeing. It’s hard to believe that the buddha was built in 1252 (and you can go inside it, too).

Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanGiant Buddha, Daibutsu, Kamakura, JapanKamakuraA few honorable mentions, that I didn’t have time for this trip: The beach (in the summer months, of course); Zenarai Benzaiten shrine, where you go to wash your money so you can get rich; taking the Enoden electric railway along the coast for a great view of the sea; the Shakado pass; and the yagura tombs.

Where to Eat

I didn’t go to too many restaurants this time, as I was busy getting osechi ryori (traditional Japanese new year fare) at home. A lot of places were also closed around New Year, so we had to make do with stockpiling amazing fatty tuna sashimi, and doing a lot of cooking for ourselves, too!

Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanOsechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, Japan4Osechi Ryouri, New Year's Meal, JapanSashimi, Kamakura, JapanKamakura does have some amazing places – and things – to eat. I highly recommend the shops and little izakayas (Japanese pubs) down Komachi-dori, which is just off of your left as you leave Kamakura Station.

They are all pretty great, but that’s where I got this donburi bowl of maguro tuna, natto (fermented soybeans) and raw egg. The way eggs and chickens are reared in Japan is of such a high standard that you can safely eat eggs and chickens raw, unlike the UK. Raw eggs in particular are a big part of Japanese cuisine, and something I miss the most when I’m back in the UK. Natto is an acquired taste. I absolutely love the stuff, and have loads in my freezer, but I’ve yet to meet a non-Japanese person who likes it. If you do, let me know!

Natto, Maguro and Raw Egg Topped Rice, Kamakura, JapanThe absolute best omelette rice IN THE ENTIRE WORLD can be found at Cafe Vivement Dimanche – it’s a must.

If you’re walking along Komachi-dori, it is absolutely imperative that you get ice cream, because I’m under the impression that you can’t get better ice cream anywhere else. Sweet potato ice cream might sound totally crazy, but it is my absolute favourite, and I’ve never seen it anywhere else. You can’t miss it – it’s purple, like sweet potatoes are in Japan – and has the most beautiful, subtle flavour.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanSweet Potato Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanIf the thought of it freaks you out too much, you can always get matcha ice cream from the same place, or go a few doors down and try a black sesame one, too. It’s pretty great.

Black Sesame Ice Cream, Kamakura, JapanWhere to Shop

Basically, Komachi-dori is where it’s at in terms of shopping – the Ghibli store is a must (one of the first on your right), and the whole street is full of places selling traditional souvenirs. If you’re looking to take back confectionery, the Hatosabure Kamakura Dove Cookies are really iconic, and worth taking back.

It was so wonderful to go for a visit, and I’d totally recommend Kamakura as a place to check out when you’re in Japan. It’s authentic, without being spoiled by tourism – a stunning place that everyone should go to at least once!

Have you ever been to Japan? What were some of your favourite places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

*The first story was the rather hilarious, but perhaps only to me. On our first 5 hour delayed flight, I asked the much older gentleman who was also delayed coming in to Phnom Penh whether he wanted to email his son, who was meant to be picking him up from the airport. He didn’t have an email address, so I offered to send his son an email from my own address. I had to take a picture of the old man and attach it to the email, to prove I wasn’t an extremely unimaginative prankster, and I felt like someone that has kidnapped someone for ransom. This same old man, by the way, managed to sneak a ONE LITER BOTTLE of shower gel – not only through HEATHROW SECURITY, but also through Hanoi airport, too. It was only when we were going through security in Ho Chi Minh that anyone called him out on the “no liquids over 100mls” thing. Doesn’t fill me with confidence, really.

The second story was just so bizarre I felt as though I was hallucinating throughout. I was upgraded to premium economy on my flight from Hanoi to Tokyo, and was sat next to an old Vietnamese man. I had been reading a book on my iPad, watching movies with my Bose headphones, and using my own neck pillow. Every time I would get up to use the loo (it was a long flight, so this happened quite a few times) the old man would have taken one of the three from my seat, and would be using it. I guess he thought they came with the plane and I was just hogging it all, but it was so funny and really awkward having to get all my belongings back from him every time!

Kep & Kampot Revisited

It’s been a little over a year since I last wrote about Kep and Kampot, but I went back again over Christmas and I just had to share how beautiful it was all over again.

Kep, Crab Shack, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaWhere to Eat

As always, a trip to the crabshacks in Kep should be mandatory – fresh crab with kampot pepper is out of this world. I always go for the steamed crab, as it’s a lot juicier. We usually head to Kimly, but it tends to get busy as it was voted the best place to eat in Kep by the Lonely Planet a few years ago. If it’s too packed, So Kheang a few doors down is marginally cheaper (and they often have better crab, too).

KepKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaThere are a few places a little further down from the crab market that do amazing cocktails – the mojitos in particular are worth trying. Be sure to get down for sunset – it’s pretty spectacular.

Knai Bang Chatt, the Sailing Club, also do nice cocktails – I prefer the cheap and cheerful food from the crab market, but in terms of ambience it can’t be beaten.

Mojito, Crabshack, Kep, CambodiaKep, Crab Shack, CambodiaDSC08648Kep, Crab Shack, CambodiaKnai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaKampot is supposed to have amazing coffee, but both times I’ve been have been way too close to Christmas, when the coffee shops are shut. The ribs at The Rusty Keyhole in Kampot are a must – quite simply the most delicious ribs I have ever had – a statement still true one year on! Their portions are huge, so keep that in mind when ordering – and if you ever brave the dino ribs, please let me know!

Rusty Keyhole, Kampot, CambodiaRusty Keyhole, Kampot, CambodiaWhere to Stay

We’ve always stayed at the Villa Saat. It’s perfect for big groups, the pool is amazing, and the staff are very attentive and helpful. Not to mention the photogenic tiled floors – needless to say, Villa Saat was all over my Instagram feed.

Villa Saat, Kep, CambodiaVilla Saat, Kep, CambodiaVilla Saat, Kep, CambodiaDSC08565The best part about Villa Saat is the fact that you can get local masseurs to come by to give you a massage. But one top tip – Khmer massages are very firm. Personally, I prefer firm massages (not so keen on the idea of paying someone to stroke me) – but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste.

What To Do

The highlight of my trip was spending the day out on a boat with Captain Eric on a tour of local fishing villages, islands and secluded beaches.

Kep Boat Tour, CambodiaKep Boat Tour, CambodiaThe Facebook page is in French, but Eric speaks great English, and is very knowledgable about the area. Drinks and lunch can be provided, as are snorkels – a lot of great coral and marine life. The water was so clear – it was absolutely stunning.

Kep, CambodiaKep Boat Tour, CambodiaWatermelon, Pineapple and Banana, CambodiaKep Province is an absolute gem, and a must see when you’re in the region.

Knai Bang Chatt, Kep, CambodiaHave you ever been to Kep? What are some of your favourite places? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!


The Tiger’s Eye, Phnom Penh

A year or so ago I wrote about the amazing food over at The Common Tiger. Since then, The Common Tiger has sadly permanently closed its doors – but the same team are still creating the same stunning dishes at a new location, The Tiger’s Eye on Sotheros Boulevard.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom PenhTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhI say ‘same stunning dishes’ loosely, as the menu is still seasonal, but each dish is still as jaw-droppingly beautiful as it is delicious – just as it was back in BKK.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: BreadTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhTiger's Eye, Phnom PenhBooking in advance is strongly recommended (it’s very popular) – and you seriously don’t want to miss out on this tasting menu.

I opted against the paired wines, as I’m quite a slow drinker – and downing several glasses of wine in the heart of the Christmas season is just asking for trouble.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseThe first course after the bread was a white onion pannacotta served with a caramelised cashew nut pesto and goats cheese. It was as mouthwateringly delicious as it sounds – I really enjoyed the texture of the savoury pannacotta.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: White Onion Panacotta, Caramlised Cashew Nut Pesto, Herbs & Goats CheeseNext up was a pork course – pork crackling and a terrine of braised head, served with Kep crab, leek and avocado.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pork, Terrine, Kep Crab, Leek, Avocado, Pork CracklingIt was all so beautifully presented, and the braised leek with the crab pate was sublime. The pork crackling was my favourite part of this course, reminding me of the one from Kurobuta – flavourful, crisp, and light as air.

This was followed by pan-roasted seabass served with a northern Thai style curry, aubergine, and rice.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pan Roasted Sea Bass, Thai Curry, Aubergine, RiceAlthough pleasant, this course didn’t blow me over the way the first two did – saying that, it was still really tasty, and I enjoyed the vegetables with the rich sauce in particular.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, PotatoTiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, Potato Penh:The final main was truly incredible, and really showcased what the team behind The Tiger’s Eye really excel at – the use of Cambodian flavours and ingredients in a modern and imaginative way.

The beef tenderloin and short rib were served with green Kampot peppercorns, mushrooms and potato.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Tenderloin, Peppercorn, Mushroom, PotatoThe steak was cooked to perfection, in my opinion, and the mushroom was flavourful and meaty in texture – just the way I like it.

Tiger's Eye, Phnom Penh: Pumpkin Creme Caramel, Meringue, Sticky Rice and Cashew NutThe final course was also inspired by local cuisine – a delicious pumpkin creme caramel, served with sticky rice and cashew nut.

You really can’t fault The Tiger’s Eye for their food or service. It is without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants, and the only drawback for me is the fact that it isn’t in London!

The Tiger’s Eye is located at 49 Sotheros Blvd, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

What about you? What are some of your favourite restaurants abroad that you wish were in the UK? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!