Japan: Otaru, Hokkaido

We did a day-trip to Otaru yesterday. A port-city that is a quick train ride away from Sapporo. It is famous for its port, canal, glassworks, fresh seafood and (like any other Hokkaido cities) dairy products.

image

We allocated almost a whole day, which was very generous. We walked around the place at a leisurely phase, looking at almost every shop, which started to look same-same after awhile 🙂 We think that Otaru is trying to sell itself as a Japanese version of Venice 😉 Also, not surprising given its location, there were a few Russians walking around the area.

image

This glassworks shop has a lot of miniature animals and things that are super duper cute! Most especially the tiny tiny baby turtle on the bottom photo, look how small it is! I wanted to spend all my life savings in that shop (like any other shop in Japan so far). Like always though, when given too many choices, I ended up with nothing. Sadface.

image

Instead of having a sit down lunch, we grazed all afternoon. I had a giant Hokkaido oyster and scallops, freshly grilled while I waited, as well as a slice of rock melon at around $5.50! The Japanese sure knows how to grow sweet and juicy melons. To balance it all off, I had the best creme brulee in my life!!! It was so so creamy, and milky, and delicious. Hokkaido cows have not disappoint me so far 😉

image

One of the weirdest flavours ice cream I have yet in my life: Japanese sea urchin (uni) and fermented soy beans (natto). They were surprisingly alright, though I wouldn’t go back for them again 🙂 When ordering this cone, I am reminded why Mr E and I are good together, our views of things in life are compatible ♡

By the time we set off for Sapporo, I was full up to my eyeballs. The Japanese souvenir shops provide generous samples, and I am a sucker for free samples! It is very hard not to try everything in the shop, though I have learnt which looked like something I wouldn’t like (red beans, matcha green tea, etc). I enjoyed our trip to Otaru, if you’re ever in Sapporo, I recommend you going there 🙂

Japan!

We’re only on our second full day in Japan today and we have done soooo much! Summer night dancing festival, dressed up in a Yukata (a summer kimono), had a 10-course dinner banquet, did loads of sightseeing, and ate copious amounts of food. We’ve also spent heaps on the vending machines, making the difficult decision of only choosing one drink at a time 🙂

IMG_0158.JPG

I am missing Little E a lot! It is difficult when I see little children around his age cuddling up to their parents. Or running around having fun. I feel like we should have brought him with us. Everything I look for at the shops are for him, and it was hard not to as everything here are just too adorable! However, my in laws are wonderful at keeping me up to date with photos and messages about him. By the sounds of it, he is behaving himself, going back to having full nights of sleeps!

IMG_0159.JPG

I also appreciate this opportunity of being me again, enjoying the company of my husband and my family members. It is nice to have undisturbed sleep and not to follow a routine 🙂

I am having a great time here, Japan is almost like my (third) home. I hope to continue to post photos of this holiday and take you all with me 🙂

Child friendly restaurant: BentSpoke Brewery

BentSpoke Brewery
Ph: 02 6257 5220
38 Mort St
Braddon
Website here
Bentspoke Brewing Co on Urbanspoon

image
After a whole week being cooped up inside, we decided to go out for lunch last Sunday. Mr E wanted to try a new place so we went to BentSpoke Brewery. We arrived just as they opened (11am FYI) and were served straight away. It was their 5th weekend since they opened on the weekend and you could feel it too. The restaurant is decorated in a “warehouse” style, it’s open and airy, with cool decor using old bike parts. Mr E said that apparently the owner’s wife did the welding herself! So cool.

I really want to recreate that vertical herb garden on my top right picture.

image The menu isn’t extensive but I think it caters for a lot of people. I couldn’t go past the ribs and wings so that’s what I ordered. Mr E went for the Ploughman and I was glad that he did, because I wanted it too. We were able to give Little E bits of our food for lunch so he was happy too. There is also Kids’ menu if you prefer, which I think are reasonably priced at $8 each.

I liked my meals, though there were things that I think they could have done better:

  • heat up the sauce that came with the meals, as it was weird having hot things with cold sauces
  • or even better, marinade the ribs with the sauce
  • the Ploughman needed a bit of “something” like chutney, salsa, cranberry jam or even just a knob of butter, as it was a little dry

In saying that, I think Bentspoke Brewery has way better food than the owner’s last gig. I will go back to try their other meals, definitely. It’s also in a cool area, so I need to hang around there more often 😉

image I didn’t mind the beer that Mr E ordered but as I’m not really a beer connoisseur I couldn’t say anything other than that I liked the fruity beers that the owner’s old joint did. Mr E liked it though, so I guess that is good. They seem to have a number of selections, which they of course brew in-house, so for any beer-people, do check it out.image The menu for last weekend, the place isn’t cheap but as I said above, it is located in a hip area so I guess we have to allow for that. I like that they have a highchair available – though they have only 1 that we could see, so you may need to mention when booking a table. The beverage menu indicated that they’ll have a bigger range of beer as they go, so I can foresee Mr E wanting to visit loads in the future.

Holiday: Queenstown in Detail

The drive to Queenstown were relatively easy. Little E slept most of the way and when he was awake, he was happy looking around. The only “exciting” thing that happened was a hawk flew at us, hitting the windscreen then scratched the whole of the roof. We found out later that a group of our friends had similar encounter too. Silly hawks.

We made a lunch stop at Cromwell, as Mr E wanted to check out the motorcar park. Owned by a man from the Gold Coast, QLD, the place reeked of fancy schmancy cars and revheads. Interesting indeed, but Mr E liked it and the food were delicious (though pricey).

Another quick drive through was to Arrowtown. We went just as some sort of cycling event was finishing so the whole place was hectic and crazy. Definitely not something I wanted to deal with after a long drive. Arrowtown was beautiful though, a quaint little town with little shops. It is an option for something to do while in Queenstown 🙂

Queenstown

Now, onto Queenstown. I won’t go into details of each day we were there, just to keep this post unrambly.

Activities we did and liked:

  • A walk through the botanical garden and its playground – Little E absolutely loved the playground, so did we, as it is right by the water with the beautiful Queenstown backdrop. We visited it each day we were in town. The garden makes a nice stroll, one experience we enjoyed was watching a group of children having a race of what looked like boats made of recyclable materials (ie. Old milk bottles etc). You can’t help feel as excited when watching little people being excited 🙂
  • Eat chocolatey dessert at Patagonia – a must do! Their churros were really delicious.
  • A walk around the Queenstown main shops – lots of pretty and fancy shops. There’s a children’s clothes shop that I really had to leave very quickly as I wanted too many things and we really couldn’t spend that much money in one shop. I wish I did purchase something though.
  • Appreciate the beauty of Queenstown by the water. It reminded me of the equally scenic Switzerland but less cold 😛
Milford Sound Flight

A view from up above – Milford Sound Flight

  • Milford Sound – we did the flight/cruise/flight as I couldn’t do 9hrs+ in the bus with Little E. It is so much cheaper doing the bus but I just couldn’t do it. I cannot say that the trip was worth the money though. I enjoyed parts of the flights, when it wasn’t bumpy, and I liked the cruise, but only when I was outside (I get motion sickness). We saw a lonely penguin having a snooze and a few seals, though after our tour in Dunedin, it wasn’t as special 🙂 Both my boys enjoyed their time so I guess it was worth it for me to go.
A view from the gondola ride at Queenstown Skyline

A view from the gondola ride at Queenstown Skyline

  • The reason we were in NZ was for our friends’ wedding as Little E was the ring bearer. I loved the wedding and had heaps of fun at the reception. Held at the Queenstown Skyline, we went on the gondola ride, marvel at the beauty of Queenstown view from up high and had a fab buffet meal. The food was absolutely delicious, so I would assume that the food served at the restaurant would be of the same quality. Yum! The Skyline is definitely a must do while in Queenstown 🙂
  • Cookietime – delicious but expensive warm cookies, so make sure you keep an eye out on their Happy Hour times 🙂
  • Fergburger – a must eat place. Deliciously awesome burger place but not exactly child friendly. Limited seats, definitely no high chairs, long queues but worth it.

Tips:
Make sure you organise the Milford Sound flight on the first day you’re there as it will get cancelled if the weather isn’t right.

Suggested activities that I would have liked to do given the opportunity and/or other activities available:

  • The luge rides at the Skyline
  • Putt Putt golf – a great rainy day activity as it’s indoor
  • Kiwi Encounter for the bigger kids
  • Gold panning in Arrowtown
  • The many variety of water activities, such as jet boating, whitewater rafting, parasailing etc.

Accommodation

The Whistler Apartments
15 -17 Gorge Rd
Queenstown
ph: +64 3 409 0394

Loved this one bedroom apartment that our family friend suggested. It had a full kitchen, which we made use of as Queenstown is expensive! Close to the main part of town but still away from the noise. You can walk to the other supermarketnot in town for cheaper grocery 🙂 The apartment also comes with a washing machine and a dryer. The perfect family accommodation 🙂

Of all the cities/towns we went to in our trip, Queenstown has got to be my favourite! A definite must-go city when you’re in the country 🙂 Though probably the most expensive, everyone we met was happy and friendly, the atmosphere welcoming and fun. We were there for 4 nights, 3 days and I felt like it gave us enough time to explore the place and do the things we want to (and can) do at a leisurely pace 🙂

On a separate note, here’s my photo for day 12 of 100.
image

Little E loved the chicken dish I made that he hardly made a mess even though it came with rice and he fed himself! He ate all the chicken pieces I gave him. All.of.them! An absolute success in my books! In this photo, he was being impatient for seconds 🙂

Holiday: Rotorua in Detail

We made an ultra early start towards Rotorua as we wanted to catch the Lady Knox geyser being manually erupted. The drive is around 3.5hrs from Auckland to the Thermal Wonderland (it’s about 30mins south of Rotorua CBD) and we made it just in the knick of time. We all liked seeing the geyser erupting, it was pretty fun to see while it lasted (it didn’t erupt for very long). Little E was mesmerised by all the commotion and the clapping 🙂 After seeing the geyser, we went to the wonderland itself and it was amazing! I have not seen anything like it, the colours and the bubbling sound.. oh and of course, the smell? It’s spectacular! Little E didn’t really like it all that much, I guess it was pretty boring for him, being stuck in his pram the whole time. He did enjoy walking around the shops afterwards though 🙂

Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland

We made our way to the Rotorua CBD for lunch and went straight to Hennessy’s Irish Bar. It was highly recommended by my brother and sister inlaw from when they went. I was told that the mussels were really good so that was what I had. Little E had a great time making himself comfortable at the pub, charming the pub lady while he was at it. She liked him so much that she gave him four marshmallows! There goes my rule of “no sweets until he’s 15” 😉

They forgot to take a photo of it for me when they went, so he drew me a picture instead lol What do you think of my brother inlaw's sketch of the dish? :)

They forgot to take a photo of it for me when they went, so he drew me a picture instead lol What do you think of my brother inlaw’s sketch of the dish (insert)? 🙂

After lunch and a quick look around at the shops, we went to the supermarket to get some supplies. We had booked a room with a full kitchen, in an attempt to not eat out too much and maintain some sort of healthy eating for Little E. I absolutely loved our accommodation, especially the huge outdoor spa (more on this below). After checking in, we made our way to Rotorua museum, a beautiful building full of equally beautiful exhibit. It is full of Maori cultural information/stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though he would enjoy museums later when he’s a little older, Little E had great fun running around the place, making friends with some of the other patrons there.

The Rotorua Museum

The beautiful building – Rotorua Museum

That night, we made great use of the playground, the spa and the free videos on offer.

The next day, we got up bright and early for the Hobbiton tour. This was the first thing that we booked and paid for after we bought our tickets to NZ 🙂 I enjoyed the tour immensely, even when Little E had his worst ever tantrum in his life so far! We did make him pose a lot, as he is at the perfect height for a hobbit 🙂 I’m also sure that there are a lot of people who has photos of him dressed up as a hobbit at the Green Dragon Inn. We got there as a big tour group of oldies were enjoying their complementary beer, and they were so delighted watching Little E toddling around in his outfit, pretty much all of them whipped out their cameras and started clicking lol

The Hobbiton

I won’t say too much of the tour as it is something that you gotta experience yourself, but I can now appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into filming such big-budget movie. Oh, and that Peter Jackson sounded like a really pedantic dude who has a high attention to detail. I really think that it is worth going to the Hobbiton, and given the opportunity, I would go there again and again 🙂 One of my favourite stories told to us that day was of a 2.2m tall German guy who came dressing up as a hobbit. When asked why he didn’t dress up as Gandalf, he answered “I wish to be a hobbit”. Fair enough! This same guy apparently refused to leave the Hobbiton, telling the staff there that he was home and they can’t possibly kick him out. When the staff finally coaxed him out, he told them that he was going to help Frodo look for “the ring” lol I love crazy people!

SAM_1185

We were dropped off at our motel after the tour, and after a quick and easy lunch at the motel, we went to the big playground by the water. It was another awesome NZ playground, full of squealing kids 🙂 Little E particularly loved all the seagulls around, and had great fun chasing them around. We contemplated going to see another attraction in town, but we enjoyed seeing Little E played there that we decided to stay. After he had enough fun terrorising the poor seagulls, we had another look around at the shops before dinner at Brew (more details below).

SAM_1209

Dinner was soon followed by ice cream for dessert then another run around at the park before another bath in the outdoor spa back in the motel.

Activities Summary:

  • Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – Lady Knox Geyser is manually erupted at 10.15am everyday.
  • The Hobbiton Tour – goes for 4.5 hours with free bus pick-ups/drop-offs
  • The Playground near the Novotel Hotel
  • Shopping for souvenirs in Rotorua CBD
  • Rotorua Museum

Tips and hints:

  • If you got to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland right at 10.15am, don’t worry about going to the main entrance to get a ticket. Go straight to the geyser first then get a ticket later. That’s what we did and we made it.
  • If you’re looking for souvenirs, do look around first, as Rotorua is chockablock with souvenir shops all selling almost the same thing but at different prices.

Restaurant Suggestion:

All three of us enjoyed our meals at Brew, a craft brewery place in “Eat Street”. The restaurant is child-friendly, the waiter was super patient and friendly with Little E, the food was good and if you or your travelling buddy loves beer, I heard the beers weren’t bad either 🙂 Right across from it is Lady Jane’s ice creamery where you can have your choice of ice cream from the 25 or so flavours there.

We also liked the Hennessy’s Irish Bar for simple hearty pub meals and fresh cold ones. As mentioned above, the pub lady was very friendly and super duper nice to Little E. So despite it being a pub catering for adults, it was still child-friendly. Little E was able to share our meals (the serving size was huge) and we got to enjoy our lunch!

Accommodation:

Arista of Rotorua

It was difficult to choose an accommodation in Rotorua as there were a lot! We went to Tripadvisor for help but was innundated with too many people’s differing opinions. In the end, Mr E found Arista of Rotorua through a random forum and we booked it. I loved the room we had, it was in a loft-style room, with the beds upstairs. It came with an outdoor spa, which came really handy for Little E. The motel also had a big playground, though it was a little dilapidated and needed cleaning. The room itself was clean and recently refurbished. The housekeeping ladies were very friendly and accommodating with our requests. It is a little far from the Rotorua CBD, though it wasn’t a problem for us, because we had a car. Depending on where you’re going next and when, I would suggest you don’t do any laundry at the motel as it was expensive! NZD4 for the washing machine and another NZD4 for the dryer.

What we found in one of the souvenir shops - wut wut?

What we found in one of the souvenir shops – wut wut?

I have to say that Rotorua was one of my favourite spots we went to in NZ. I expected the smell to be a lot more pungent than it was, in fact, after only a couple of hours, my nose got used to it that I couldn’t smell it anymore. I would call Rotorua as a must-visit city, only because you need to go to the Hobbiton and also experience the sulphuric experiences 🙂 For my other posts on our New Zealand trip, please click here.