Books I’m reading (Sept 17)

I go through phases where I become obsessed with one book and I have to read it in every spare moment until it’s finished. Then there are other times I just float between a few books, which I’m doing right now. There’s a few book sitting on my bedside that I’m trying to get through at the moment. So I thought I would share them and tell you why I’m really savoring every page.

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Disney Fashion for Grownups

I am a long time Disney fan and visiting the theme parks was really a dream come true. When you visit the parks you feel like you’re in a ‘Disney bubble’. In this bubble, you are so emersed in this magical world and there is so much merchandise that you feel like you need to have. A lot of this stuff I didn’t really need as much as I felt like I did in those few magical days (eg. Minnie Ears). However, there are some items that I cherish and are happy I bought.

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Since visiting the Disney parks in Tokyo, Florida and Paris, I am more of a fanatic for the Disney merchandise. At the parks, there are some exclusive items that you can’t get anywhere else, such as Minnie Paris Collection or The Cherry Tree Lane Collection. However, there are some other brands that sell very cool Disney inspired clothing and accessories for adults, that aren’t tacky and still inspires your Peter Pan complex. These are some of my favorite brands with Disney inspired clothing and accessories.

By the way, if you are interested in visiting Disney parks or want to reminisce with me, see my photos and guides for the Disney theme parks here.

 


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Como: panoramic lake views and splendid villas

After staying Milano it was time to go further north to visit my family. On the way, we stopped at the north Italian town of Como. This idyllic town sits on Lake Como and the Swiss-Italian border. The amazing panoramic views of mountains and the lake is a little piece of paradise and is known for its’ rich and famous residents.

I’ve always wanted to visit Como, but for some reason or another never got here while I was living in Milano. Luckily we were able to drive to Como and up through Switzerland to visit my family in Luino, Italy. This took roughly the same amount of time as it would be to drive directly north. So we made a stop for a couple of hours to see the majestic lake and have some lunch.

 


 

Our first impressions of Como was the gorgeous old architecture and bustling narrow streets full of shops and cafes. Nearly every directions you look had a beautiful mountainous backdrop.

 


 

Like every Italian town, there was a beautiful Duomo in the centre of the city. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a very special duomo because it is last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It was built between 1396 to 1770.

 


 

The Lago di Como (Lake Como) is a huge body of water and is the third largest lake in Italy. Many wealthy people have built and resided in homes along the shore of the river, as far back as Roman times. It really is so spectacular to see in person and feels like your looking into a beautiful landscape painting. The lake is actually shaped like a wishbone and the city of Como is situated on the bottom left of the fork shape.

 


 

We continued walking around the Giardini del Tempio Voltiano and up to the Aero Club Como to see new perspectives of the lake. The garden itself is quite beautiful and plush and has many war memorials. If you have the time, you can take a small water plane from the Aero Club and see even more amazing birds eyes views. You can also visit the museum Tempio Voltiano, which is dedicated to the inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta.

 


 

The Passeggiata Villa Olmo is a scenic pedestrian road along the river. This walk will take you past the splendid villas, all the way to neoclassical Villa Olmo. Unfortunately on our visit we were not able to walk all the way to the Villa Olmo, as there was work being done on the grounds and the garden beds were all taken out. I wish the tourist office had mentioned that after they recommended we visit it. I imagine doing a tour of these villas would be amazing, to learn their history and see their interiors.

 


 

After all that walking we were really hungry. So we walked back towards to centre and headed to a hidden gem. L’Ora della Pasta is a small fast-service lunch bar that serves fresh pasta and ready made meals. They use organic and high quality ingredients and offer vegetarian and vegan options. You only need to choose your pasta and sauce and they will whip you up a lovely authentic meal that is reasonably priced and really delicious. We ordered Gnocchi al pesto and Ravioli con mozzarella di bufala.


 

So that was my short visit to Como. I hope you enjoyed revisiting it with me. If you would like to know more about this beautiful town, see Visit Como website for more information.

Pottery Barn Kids eco-friendly finds

I just love hunting for homewares and home decor. I could spend hours looking in showrooms and pinning my favourite furnishings and decor. Since having my daughter I am always on the look out for pretty eco-friendly, organic or non-toxic furnishing and manchester. Brands that carry these lines are usually hard-to-find, expensive or only sell online (imported). Big retailers usually don’t carry these kinds of goods. When I have asked questions about the products they sell I usually get a blank stare and the (imaginary) Australian compliance lines. One big retailer that I have found that carries beautiful interior goods for kids, which offers eco-friendly options is Pottery Barn Kids.

Pottery Barn Kids is part of the American parent company Williams-Sonoma, along with Pottery Barn and West Elm. Over the past few years, they have opened stores across Australia. These three brands are mostly housed in the same locations. Their products vary from reasonably priced to expensive. However, I do find the quality of the furnishings are quite good compared to large Australian retailers and the website gives plenty of information on materials and certification. In saying that there a lot of terrible MDF furniture and a bit of green washing, but if you know what your looking for you can find some great products. I have noticed that many eco-friendly products lines on the American website are not offered in Australia stores. However, I was assured by a store manager that these products will make their way over in time.At the end of this post, you can find the information of different certifications that most of these products carry.

These are some of my favourite eco-friendly finds that are available in store at the moment:

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Bergamo: a medieval marvel

While visiting the Lombardia I wanted to see some of the smaller towns. So off we went to the beautiful medieval town of Bergamo. It is less than an hours drive by car (or train) from Milano, so it’s a perfect day trip outside of the big city. There is also an airport in Bergamo, which is about 20 minutes from the city center.

Bergamo can be divided into two halves, Alta città (upper city) and Bassa città (lower city). The upper city is the older part, which dates back to around 49 BC. They have quite an interesting history and if I could go back (without a toddler) I would do a historical tour. The local cuisine is also amazing, so make sure you arrive hungry.

 

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Milano: amazing food and beautiful architecture

In my last post, you saw some a few of my favourite places in Milano. However, there is so much more to this city. I spent a semester studying at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me on my favourite eats and places to visit.

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Milano: a home away from home

Next stop on our trip was Italy. We stayed in Milano for a few nights so we could spend time with family and visit some nearby cities before heading up north to Luino. Milano has a special place in my heart, as I spent a semester living here when I was in my third year of Italian studies a few years back. When I wasn’t studying, I was walking, eating and shopping my way through the city or travelling to nearby cities. I’ve already seen all the sites, so I wanted to spend a day just enjoying my favourite places and doing a bit of shopping.

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Bordeaux: the sweet life

The second stop on our trip was Bordeaux, in the south of France. This port city is the known for its wine production and is the largest urban World Heritage site, with half of the city Unesco-listed. This exciting city is bustling with patisseries, restaurants, local and artisan food markets and super-food food trucks, making it a foodie’s mecca.

This was my first time travelling independently outside of Paris, so I was really excited to see something else in this beautiful country. I have a couple of friends, former Parisians, who have been live in Bordeaux for the past couple of years. They hosted our short stay and showed us a few of their favourite places.

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Disneyland Paris in Pictures

Disneyland Park Paris is a replica of my favourite park, Magic Kingdom (Florida). The land themes are nearly the same and few of the rides have also been replicated. However, there are some big differences. The castle in the centre of the park is Sleeping Beauty’s castle, there are also many unique rides, amazing walk through exhibits and the restaurants are all unique.

I really enjoyed this park. I love Disney princesses and Disney movie themed rides and exhibits. I also really love the parades, shows and fireworks show that feature my favourite classic characters. Being that this park is in France, you may be wondering will anyone speak English. Well yes, the staff in the restaurants, shops, rides etc all speak English. The attractions and entertainment are primarily in French but they do include English, so it is easier to follow.

My favourite attractions in this park were It’s a small world, Big Thunder Mountain, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. It was my first time experiencing all of these attractions, but I really felt like they were worth the wait. Octavia’s favourite attraction was strangely the La Taniere du Dragon. I also really loved the Disney Illuminations show. I went alone since it started at 11pm, but it was definitely worth the hour I sat in the crowd and the walk back.

After visiting Florida parks I did have a few disappointments with this park. Firstly the restaurants and fast food were nowhere near as good. The restaurants were beautifully themed but nothing blew me away in terms of flavours and uniqueness. On the bright side, it was less completive to get a booking. Also, the app does not allow you to book your fast passes. It’s really just a map with wait times that wasn’t always reliable. There were not many rides that had fast passes, so the wait times were really long and you have to take a fast pass ticket from outside the ride so you could not choose the best time available. Despite this, I did get to go on nearly every ride available in a day and a half. I didn’t bother with character meets since they were ridiculously long. Since I stayed in a Disney hotel this time I also had extra magic in the morning, which was only for a few rides but still worth going before the crowds arrived even to line up for rides. Another plus was the Baby Switch, which we utilised for rides that Octavia couldn’t go on.

Probably my biggest disappointment with Disney Paris is that people are allowed to smoke in the park. Although it’s only permitted in smoking areas it does not stop people smoking in lines for rides and even in crowds where children were watching shows. Even in the evening show, it was advised over the loud speaker in five languages not to smoke. Yet I had two ladies behind me smoking and they were seated next to a toddler.

We visited four restaurants at this park, which included Walt’s – an American Restaurant, Silver Spur Steakhouse, Market House Deli and Agrabah Cafe. I wasn’t blown away by Walt’s or Market House Deli. I had a delicious pork chop at Silver Spur but the highlight was definitely Agrabah Cafe. This buffet had many great Moroccan and Middle Eastern savoury and sweet options. My only regret is that I wasn’t famished when I visited. It was also the only place my toddler liked the food. Everywhere else she was offered baby food or ate part of my meal, both of which she didn’t like. Unfortunately, Blue Lagoon and Victoria’s Home-style Restaurant were closed the days we visited.

So here is my day at Disneyland Paris in pictures. If you are planning a visit or want to know more about the attractions see my Guide to Disneyland Paris. I have also written a Guide to Walt Disney Studio Park Paris and recently wrote a post on Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures.

 

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Walt Disney Studios Paris in Pictures

I’m back from my month long holiday in Europe and I have so much to share with you all. Our first stop was Disney Paris. This was our first visit and a great year visit, being that it is the 25th Anniversary.

We arrived quite early in Paris, but we didn’t get to our hotel until 9:30. Since we arrived after the parks opened we decided to start with the smaller of the two parks, Walt Disney Studios Park. I thought it would be more low key and we could do everything in that day.

I really didn’t love this park and it was probably my least favourite of all the parks I’ve visited. It is such a mishmash of themes. There are limited choices of restaurants and not many fast passes available for the attractions. This means long lines and large wait times. I guess I feel a bit negative towards this park since our experience on the first day was great. We first got Fastpasses for Ratatouille: The Adventure ride, which was quite late in the afternoon. We then decided to line up since the wait was 30 minutes, which wasn’t so bad. However, the ride broke down and when we were nearly at the end of the line. It was not known when the ride would start so we had to leave after wasting 45 minutes there. After that, we were faced with over an hour wait times and not a lot that we could do with a toddler.We did later revisit Ratatouille which was really great. It did malfunction while we were on it though for a few minutes but it wasn’t a big deal.

We did end up seeing the Mickey and the Magician Live Show and Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular. I loved the Mickey show, the other show was a bit boring for me. We missed Disney Junior when the Moteurs show ran late. So after that, we decided to walk over to Disneyland Paris to get to know the park. Surprisingly at the time in the afternoon, there was plenty to do with minimal wait times, which was not the case Walt Disney Studios.

We did end up revisiting this park to see Disney Junior Live on Stage! and did nearly all the other attractions. The only regret I have is that I didn’t get to go on Crush’s Coaster Roller coaster and Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic Tour. The wait time for Crush was 70 minutes just for Single Rider so with a toddler it was impossible. If I didn’t have a daughter I may have just waited. Unfortunately, because there are not a lot of fast passes it is difficult to avoid lines with long wait times. I did enjoy the park better the second time we visited. I guess after visiting Florida parks I had some higher expectations. I do still recommend you check it out if you visit though.

We dined at the two most highly recommended eatery and restaurant. For lunch, we went to Cafe des Cascadeurs for burgers in a 50’s style diner. It was nice but not great. It was quick though. For dinner, we went to Bistrot Chez Remy. The decor is quite amazing, the food was not though. It was nice but not mind blowing. The ratatouille itself was really delicious though.

Disney Village is an area with restaurants and shopping with free admission for public and is located just outside the parks. We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants. I did notice that Annette’s Diner was always really busy. I did visit all the shops though. There were not really large Disney stores. I much preferred the shopping in Disneyland Park for the variety of merchandise and clothing.

This was our first time staying in a Disney hotel. We stayed Disney’s Newport Bay Club and I’m really happy we did. We had the breakfast buffet included in our meal plan which was quite nice. The room was simple but comfortable. The good service, proximity to the parks and extra magic time (morning) really made it worth it though. I don’t think I would visit a Disney park again without staying in one of their hotels.

So here is our experience at Walt Disney Studio Park in pictures. I also included some photos of Disney Village and Disney’s Newport Bay Club. I have also written up a Guide for Walt Disney Studio Park and Guide to Disneyland Paris. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on Disneyland Paris in Pictures.

 

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Life update

Since starting this blog I haven’t really told you guys what’s going on in my life and where it’s about to take me. As most of you probably know this blog is a new project I started after concluding Live Blissful that I started back in September 2012. I had a really long break from blogging after I had my daughter. I just really didn’t have the time or energy to put up quality content. Additionally, I was unsure where my plant-based journey would take me.

As I stand at the moment I am not 100% plant-based. I really struggled with this during my pregnancy and since then. I have accepted that I will probably never be 100%, but that’s ok. Different phrases in my life will call for different foods to nourish my body and my growing child. Does that mean I will not continue to cook and seek plant-based food? no. I actually prefer to eat like this. However, I also love to try new things and eat traditional foods when I travel. My biggest priority is to eat the clean, mostly organic and unprocessed foods. This means that majority of our families diet is vegan and vegetarian. I never came to this diet for ethical reasons, but I do believe eating minimal amounts of animal-based foods for better health and for the environment. Eating dairy-free is still a priority for me. I was able to eat small amounts while pregnant and through breastfeeding, but now as my child is feeding less I am getting side effects. For me just tasting someone else’s food can bring on blemishes and flu-like symptoms. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, I would have never known how bad cows milk can be for our health had I not found out about my intolerance. As for the recipes, I will be sharing, I will probably stick to vegetarian since that’s what I like to cook.

Other big news is that I’m going to Europe tomorrow for a month. We are travelling to France, Italy, Serbia, Sweden and Belgium. Although we will be staying with family and friends throughout our trip, we will be making a special trip to Disney Paris. I can’t wait to share our adventure with you when we get back!

Hiroshima: tragedy, rebirth and great food

Hiroshima was the last stop on our Japan trip. It is the largest city in the Chugoku Region on the western front of the Honshu Island. It is largely known for the Atomic bomb that was dropped on it during WW2. Despite this, the city has been rebuilt into a modern city, whilst paying homage to its rich history and is home to million inhabitants.

Hiroshima was one of the highlights of our trip. We visited nearly all the top attractions in a day, without rushing and had some great meals along the way. The sites that we saw included Shukkeien GardenHiroshima CastleHiroshima Peace Memorial ParkHiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Downtown Hiroshima.

 

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