Around Italy in 6 weeks

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 10.01.24 PM


Am I the worst in updating or what? (Don’r answer that)

As part of an exchange program from university and thanks to a scholarship from an anonymous and generous donor, I was able to live the Roman Holiday, bask in the sun of Tuscany, go wine-tasting in the mountains, and study an amazing culture and its art! 

I haven’t even begun to tell the tales of my trip to Japan from last summer (remember that??) or my trip to NYC with my boyfriend. 

Please follow me as I share my experiences once more of the amazing journeys I took part in, and share your thoughts with me, too! 


驚き (へへ)


実は、交換留学だった^^本当に楽しかったわよ。。。(> m < )



はい、Let’s begin!

On our way to Florence from the airport!  それではフィレンツェに行こう!
On our way to Florence from the airport!
On the bus with classmates!  友達とバスに!
On the bus with classmates!
Couldn't fall asleep...too excited!  眠ることができなかった...興奮していた!
Couldn’t fall asleep…too excited!
Our dormitory building was an old monk monastery! Modest and beautiful building.  私たちの寮は、修道院にあった!
Our dormitory building was an old monk monastery! Modest and beautiful building.
Dorm windows!
Dorm windows!
Welcome to our dorm room! My roommate was so nice~ 寮の部屋へようこそ!私のルームメイトは、とても素敵でした~
Welcome to our dorm room! My roommate was so nice~
As I opened my shutters for the first time, seeing this gave me "goosebumps..." 鳥肌!!
As I opened my shutters for the first time, seeing this gave me “goosebumps…”
Both buildings belonged to the monastery.  修道院の建物。
Both buildings belonged to the monastery.
The view from my dorm room window, overlooking the garden. 住宅の建物の庭。
The view from my dorm room window, overlooking the garden.
There was a balcony in our room!  部屋にはバルコニーがありました!
There was a balcony in our room!
The common room for students.  学生コモンルーム。
The common room for students.
View outside the common room! 談話室の外!
View outside the common room!
Our class ate breakfast and dinner at this amazing restaurant everyday!  毎日、クラスはこの素晴らしいレストランで朝食と夕食を食べました!
Our class ate breakfast and dinner at this amazing restaurant everyday!
The restaurant's typical menu! レストランのメニュー!
The restaurant’s typical menu! レストランのメニュー!

Well, that sums it up for my residence building and arrival! Next post I’ll talk about the palace bellow and share some stunning photos:

Our residence was closest to the Medici Palace!  レジデンスは、メディチ宮殿に近いでした!
Our residence was closest to the Medici Palace!

Medici family was one of the most powerful and richest families in Florence, ruling on-and-off for many years. メディチ家は、ルネサンス期のイタリア・フィレンツェにおいて銀行家、政治家として台頭。Now the palace is a large museum with beautiful gardens, antique fashion and furniture, and rare art collections….one of my favourite places in Florence!

I’ll share the photos next time!




My Tokyo Eats! オムノムノムー Part 1/2

お久しぶりですね - It’s been a long time but without any more delay, here are a few yummy recommendations if you’re in Tokyo or plan to go!

Place: Santa Monica crepe

Location: 9-31 Jingumae 1-Chōme, Shibuya, Japan

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mini crepe cafes are very popular and super common – nearly every block in the popular parts of Harajuku had them!

They’re all heavenly and most venues have over 100 combos, but this was my favourite (though I don’t particularly recommend their tapioca drink menu).


Place: Azabu Sabo (麻布茶房)

Location: 2nd floor, Wing Takanawa, 4-10-18 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo (They have other locations, too)

My Rating: ★★★★★ (dessert only – I didn’t try their food/ drinks menu)

All of their amazing (and healthy) desserts are made with Japanese traditional ingredients such as matcha (抹茶, green tea), shiratama (白玉, white dumpling), (餡, sweet beans paste), and tokoroten (ところてん, seaweed jelly). My dessert cost about $9, but the quality I assure you is the finest, and the proportion was HUGE.




Place: Gindaco Takoyaki 

Location: South exist of Harajuku station – hard to miss and many locations !

My Rating: ★★★★☆ (If you want Takoyaki, THIS is the place)

500JPY for an order of 6 dumplings or 12 for 1000JPY. You can choose from a wide variety of toppings from mentaiko cheese to curry sauce and with new flavours introduced every month or so. I went there at least twice in one month and I blame their amazing taste for not having photos of the actual food – it was gone before I could even take out my phone.


Place: Sanuki Udon Hanamaru (はなまるうどん 新宿東口モア街店)

Location: 3-23-14, Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-0022

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

Cheap (Large bowl and a side-dish easily under $10), delicious + quick. Despite their cheap prices they are DELICIOUS! Also, their Udon dishes variation are very traditional Sanuki styles.This was the first thing I ate upon arriving in Tokyo and it was great. Many udon houses such as Hanamaru, as you can see from the pictures bellow, are located bellow ground level in a small, fast-paste and welcoming atmosphere. We went very late at night (they’re open until 1am) so we saw mostly salarymen eating alone and hurrying home from work.





Place: Sembikiya (

Location: Atre 3F, 1-5-5, Ebisuminami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

My Rating: ★★★★★

This is the place to go for brunch or dessert to chat and gossip for hours with your girl friends. Kind of a cute atmosphere for a date brunch, too~ They have a parisian and contemporary Japanese cafe atmosphere with a hybrid of western and Japanese desserts (and a small selection of dining dishes that are also amazing). As you enter you can smell freshly-put baguettes and feast your eyes on tiny to-go  desserts behind the glass display. Although the pricing is not considered cheap (more like Starbucks menu prices where things are just a tad over-priced but you indulge anyway). According to another review: “There are so many amazing places to get sweets and desserts in Japan but Senbikiya is one of the most famous dessert shops because of their high-quality premium fruits (which are inside of all of their desserts!). They also sell the fruits separately but they can get quite expensive, like 8400 yen for a watermelon… yikes!” We had shaved mango ice and curry rice – YUM. こちらは私の好きな場所 !


imageMe taking the longest time deciding what to order form their Mango fair menu. Screen shot 2014-03-23 at 2.24.04 PM



I apologize for the butchered quality, these just happened to be taken on my phone…That is all for part 1 of 2!

またね、” \(○´∀`○)


Tokyo Day One

Our flight was a sweet 12 hours with no delays – not to mention it was a direct so while we were a bit jet-lagged the excitement was fuelling our energies (though not enough for me to take out my good camera)!




The interior of our hotel was just as I had imagined and better. Truly one of the best I have stayed at with the exception of the wireless Internet access which we only got in the lobby and guest lounge (see bellow)!



And finally, a sneak peek of shopping done on just day one alone…. I like shopping ok.


More on each item (cost, what brand and where to find them) next time!


Flying to Tokyo in 20 hours!

I’ve been too busy to tell you all about which shrines I plan to visit in Tokyo (remember the category of places I wanted to visit?) BUT hopefully you’ll forgive me as I will tell you briefly a few names, but won’t go in to pictures or details this time! 

Meiji Shrine – One of the most popular shrines in Tokyo (and the oldest)! 

Asakusa Shrine – Located in Asakusa area of Tokyo, this is the place to go for your traditional and authentic Japanese goods (charms, kimonos, accessories et.c) 

I’m sure there are more shrines that my friend and I will visit, but these are the two at the top of my head! It’s getting late and as we bought our tickets on a travel website, we must print them tonight (was supposed to do this rather than blog, actually but hey)! 

My travel buddy and super-close friend will be sleeping over tonight, and is in fact already here entertaining herself with the piano and her Japanese rock songs… time to go tend to the honoured guest! 

Our flight is in the afternoon tomorrow and not too early (thank goodness) and if I’m lucky enough, my luggage hasn’t gone over maximum weight ! ! 

Lia (and friend)!

Shopping in Tokyo!

今晩は (Good evening)!

I’ll skip the small talk and jump right in to tonight’s topic: Shopping!

Tokyo is quite a fashionable city, and shopping there is not cheap if you are looking for good quality merchandise. When it comes to fashion, Tokyo has both high-end Western brands (Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Prada…mostly located in the Ginza district) as well as its high-end Japanese brands (Issey Miyake, and Comme des Garcons for example). For those looking for non-luxury brands, Tokyo also has it all!

louis vuitton (Photo from

Where to Shop for Fashion:

Shibuya 109 – Hip and trendy, this 8-story shopping mall (plus 2 basement levels) is paradise for the fashionable youth. Check out the mall’s website for more information about the stores on each level! I’m looking forward to shopping at Mioremyu (1st basement floor), Navana Wig (2nd basement floor), Samantha Vega (1st floor), Flag-J shoe store (2nd floor),  Liz Lisa (5th Floor), pretty much every shop on the 6th floor! I should note though, that probably 90% of the mall is targeted towards female shoppers.

shibuya 109(Photo from

LaForet – Popular department store, also targeting youth shoppers. This mall, in addition to many shops (including Hysteric Glamour, Lazy Hazy Planet, World Wide Love ) has restaurants, a museum, and often hosts special events and performances.

LaForet(Photo from

Omotesando Hills – A shopping area which includes a Multi-purpose 6-story shopping mall with a variety stores including custom-made fashion, high-quality Japanese brands, jewellery, cosmetics, books, stationaries, cafes and bars.

If you’re looking for Lolita fashion, here are my faves:

Angelic Pretty – Sweet / Classic Lolita.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright – Victorian / Rococo / Vintage Lolita.

Innocent World – Gothic / Sweet Lolita.

angelic pretty

                                         (Photo from

Other favorite brands:

Milk – Clothing; lolita influence; feminine; elegant.

Les Merveilleuses LADUREE  – Makeup; bath and body items.

Mary Quant – Clothing; bold checks; London look.

Bomica Dot – Clothing; feminine; creamy colours; 60’s.

Mary Garet – Clothing; classic; 30’s; dresses.

Mercuryduo – Clothing; pastel colours; feminine; floral patterns.

Other must-visits in Tokyo are the Akihibara Electric town (for all your anime, high-tech and highest quality electronics), the famous Hello Kitty store (for all you HK lovers), Kiddy Land (toys, toys and more toys), the Ghibli Museum, Tsukiji fish market (food stalls and fresh fish in one of the biggest fish markets in the world), and Asakusa area for all your authentic, traditional Japanese objects (kimonos, fans, swords, and antiques).

kiddy land

(Photo, Kiddy Land, from


(Photo, Asakusa shop, from


(Photo, Akihibara, from

As for Japanese cuisines, I’ll have to share that along the trip! I’m sure there are tons more brands and places to shop that I haven’t seen yet or forgot to mention, so the rest I will also share when I’m finally there (in 7 days to be exact) !


Entertainment in Tokyo

tokyo gif, tokyo

A few days ago, I mentioned I’d be making separate posts for my “TO DO IN TOKYO” categories, and as promised, here is the 2nd! Tokyo, as one of the most crowded places in the world has plenty to offer in entertainment. Bellow are a list of things my friend and I are considering to do while there!

Harajuku – More specifically, Harajuku Station area (between Shinjuku and Shibuya on the Yamanote Line). If you’re in to fashion, specifically Japanese street fashion, and Japanese pop-culture, you most likely know of the popularized term. The style originated with the youth and their creativity in mixing/ matching a hybrid of global and timeless elements (western, traditional Japanese, punk, goth, rococo, lolita, cosplay etc.). My friend wants us to blend in by dressing up….we’ll see if I can give in to persuasion, or rather build the courage (you’ll never know until photos are uploaded)!! (Photos bellow from Flickr and


Tokyo Disneyland – If you’re a kindred spirit, love amusement parks/ semi-thrill rides and are a Disney fan like me, this is a must. Tokyo Disney Sea is the another resort, also connected to Tokyo Disney.

tokyo disney

tokyo disney


Tokyo Tower – If you ever searched up “Tokyo” in Google images and stumbled upon the Eiffel tower instead, don’t be alarmed. Tokyo’s so incroyable, they just had to make another one! I couldn’t possibly compare the two, other than the difference in setting and colour, but after seeing it for myself, I’ll let you know. Simply stunning!

Tokyo Tower


Tokyo Sky Tree – Completed in 2012, Tokyo Sky Tree is now the tallest tower in the world. Having had the privillage to behold Toronto’s C.N Tower (once upon a time the tallest), I can only imagine what a sight this will be! Sky tree’s elevator can take you 450 meters up to the Observational Deck, and 350 meters high, where you can step in to the high-end restaurant/ observatory, shopping area.

sky tree

sky tree


Festival/ Event in May: Sanja Matsuri – (May 17th – 19th 2013) Annual festival in Asakusa area, in which Shinto gods are (symbolically) placed in nearly 100 portable shrines (mikoshi) and paraded around to bring good luck and prosparity to the businesses and people. A colourful, crowded and lively event with nearly 3,00,000 visitors in the span of 3 days, food stalls, traditional costumes, festival games and playing of Japanese drums and flutes! This is one of many festivals happening in May.

sanja matsuri  sanja matsuri


Other options:

Nightlife entertainment? Most “Host clubs” are located in Kabukicho/ Shinjuku area, and according to this forum ( the prices normally vary from $20 – $50/ 90 mins, in addition to unlimited drinks (see link for details). I’ll dodge this experience as I can think of many other things to do with 20 bucks.

host club    (Photo:

Karaoke is very popular in the bustling city of Toronto, though I’m not sure how available it is elsewhere. Karaoke in Japan is apparently even more awesome, and highly recommended by many tourists! In addition to these places/ activities, there are of course clubs, Anime conventionsJ- Rock concertsand Izakayas (Japanese bars). 

That’s that! Been to Tokyo? If you have any recommendations, do share!

Countdown has now reached 18 days, everyone!! ….though my luggages are still lying on the floor, empty, and begging to be packed.


To Do List Tokyo: Gardens, Parks & Nature

Days draw nearer and only 22 remain until we board our flight to Tokyo. My friend and I will be staying there nearly a month, and with every vacation and adventure of course, there must be a good balance of spontaneity and spur of the moment, as well as smart planning!

Without further ado, let me introduce to you, my list of places I intend to visit. To make it easier and a bit more organized, I’ve split the categories in to Shrines, Gardens/ Parks/ nature, Shopping, and Entertainment. In addition, to avoid long posts, I’ll be splitting the four categories in to 4 separate posts!

Gardens/ Parks/ Nature: 

Shinjuku Gyoen National garden – known as (one of) the most beautiful parks in Tokyo, this garden is located in Shinjuku. Enraptured in its beauty, there is also a traditional Japanese teahouse, a French Formal garden (a style of garden based on symmetry and the principle of imposing order over nature), a Taiwanese-style pavilion, and the Mother and Child Forest ( Haha to Ko no Mori/母と子の森 ).

(Image and information retrieved from 

Chinzanso Garden – Beautiful all year round, and perfect for those who love taking long leisurely strolls! Many of the historical architecture and monuments remain in the garden today as well as the 500-year-old sacred tree, a large pond and waterfall.   Image

(Illustrated Map retrieved



Hama-rikyu – This garden, during the Edo period Japan, belonged to a feudal lord. Today, the garden is open to public, with an admission of $3 (it is not rare for some gardens as such in Japan to have a small fee of admission as the grounds are attended with utmost care).


Image(Above photos from this great travel blog!

Yoyogi Park – With a reputation as the most entraining park in Tokyo, Yoyogi is also one of the largest. The park is conveniently located adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine. It is a place not uncommonly occupied by those with Harajuku fashion taste!


In addition, the most popular and must-see places such as the Imperial Palace (where the imperial family lives) and Imperial Palace East Garden, the classical Japanese garden Rikugienas well as the Koishikawa Botanical garden (maintained by the U of Tokyo). We’ll see how many of these beauties we can fit in to our plans!


1 month until TOKYO!

お久しぶり! “Long time no see” !

I have been, as you know, anticipating my trip to Tokyo for quite some time, though I hadn’t really the chance to get too excited about it because of school! With only one exam to go however, and exactly 32 days left to lift-off, I’m finally back to blogging.

I’ve slowly started thinking about a list of things to take, and what luggages to choose. AirCanada apparently allows 2 luggages (maximum 50 kg each), in addition to the carry-on (smaller luggage like a rucksack, suitcase etc.) that passengers can take on the plane with them!

For any of you travelling soon, I found this very general and standard “packing list” which I’ll probably look over for my “just-in-case-I-forgot-something” moments.


For my trip this time tough, I’ve decided to pack the minimum, as I plan on going all out on shopping when I’m there and want to fit as much in my poor luggages as they’ll carry on the way back!

TRAVEL SICKNESS: On that note, as I am prone to “travel sickness” sometimes (usually experience heart-burn, upset stomach, nausea and headaches), I recommend anyone who experiences similar symptoms, and is O.K. with taking over-the-counter drugs for it, to take some sort of  “Bismuth subsalicylate/ calcium carbonate” medicine such as Pepto-Bismol or Tums, used to help relieve heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, nausea, and diarrhea. According to some info I found, these medicines work by coating the stomach to prevent stomach acid, and reduce inflammation  by killing certain bacteria. Now. IF you’ve never used such relief medicines before or have had side-effects, I don’t recommend trying them for the first time while away from home (same for any medication, even over-the-counters, which you should read up on and take with guidance from a pharmacist or your physician- esp. if you have any health problems). I MYSELF only use them in small doses as a LAST resort as I’d rather not take medications unless I’ve got to (but that’s just me).

ANYWAY!!! (How did this become a medical entry….)

Most hotels, like the one my friend and I will be staying at, already provide towels, soaps, shampoos, extra blankets etc. In addition,  According to Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku‘s website, all rooms provide guests with:

  • Refrigerator
  • Hair dryer
  • Hot water pot
  • Pant press
  • Simmons beds
  • Lofty pillows
  • LCD Televisions
  • CNN News channel/Chinese Channel/Korean Channel
  • High-speed 100 mbps Internet connection
  • In-room climate and temperature control
  • High security, non-contact keys
  • Secure elevator

… Which I just read up on right now! And that my dear readers, is why I find blogging about my travels so great. I remember and learn things as I share them with you! And of course I won’t forget my CAMERA. How would I share the experience otherwise??

For anyone who’s got travel or packing tips, do share and let me know!