Having fun as a fam of 4!

Hi all! Its been quite a while since we posted, but as you can guess we’ve been busy getting used to having 2 little ones to look after. Looking back, I actually realize that we haven’t even really posted since getting back from Mexico! Don’t worry – we’ll keep this quick, and I’ll let you look at some of our photos from the past couple of months.

Everything has been going really well settling in here. We’re still living with the Fishers in Altadena, and work is going well for me – I’ve actually been based in LA for a change so not traveling has been great. Leonora is going to school a couple of days a week and being a wonderful big sister (so many kisses and cuddles!). She’s also been having a blast with her Nonna, and with her best friend Felix (our friend’s Caitlin and Dan’s son) who she sees every couple of days. Camilla is already six weeks old which is amazing – where does time go! She’s gorgeous, and growing up fast – she now smiles and is getting strong holding up her head. Jacs is being a super mum with the two of them.

Last month, mum and dad came to stay for almost a month which was wonderful. Leo had such a blast with her Oma and Granddad, and we all had a lot of fun hanging out and really appreciated all of their help!

As you might expect for Southern California, the weather has been beautiful, so we’ve been spending lots of time in the sun, at the beach (I’m still surfing most weekends down at Manhattan Beach/El Porto), going to the pool (Leo loves her swim lessons!), hiking around the mountains and canyons around Altadena – it has been heaps of fun!

Other than that, given the amount of time since our last post, here is a quick summary of some other highlights:

  • In January, before I started work, we had a quick trip up to San Francisco to see all of our friends there. We had so much fun there staying with Chris and Jordan, and seeing their son Jack.
  • We celebrated Jacs’ 21st birthday and Leo’s second birthday! She’s getting so grown up
  • Leo, Felix, Dan and I went to Peppa Pig Live – what an experience 🙂
  • I had a quick trip to New York for a bachelor party, and happened to be staying a block from Keiren and Will’s house so had a really fun time seeing them
  • Chris, Jordan and Jack came to visit us in LA
  • We had an Easter egg hunt around the garden and Leo found so many eggs she had to fill her basket twice – she loves the Easter bunny
  • We celebrated my 32nd birthday!
  • Keiren and Will came to visit while mum and dad were here, so we really had a full house 🙂 They managed to come for a whole week which was great since usually we only get one weekend at a time!
  • Hope that all of you are well
    Ben and Jacs
    xx

    From three to four, welcome to the world baby girl!

    Welcome to the world, Camilla Eloise Buchanan!

    IMG_0782

    Our dear family and friends,

    At 7.38 a.m on March 7th, we were blessed with another healthy baby girl. Somehow our hearts have doubled in size in one short breath. We’re overwhelmed with joy, love and excitement to welcome our new baby girl to the world.

    Both Jacs and Milla are healthy, albeit a bit exhausted, and recovering well. Leo is smitten with her baby sister and relishing in her new role as big sis!

    We will be in touch with more photos and information once we’ve had time to settle into our new family of FOUR! 🙂

    All our love
    Ben, Jacqueline, Leonora and Camilla

    Camilla Eloise Buchanan
    7 March 2016
    7 lb, 14 oz / 3.57 kg
    20.5 inches / 52 cm

    Hola Mexico

    Happy New Year everyone! We’ve been having a blast settling in here in LA with the Fishers, and it has been a busy few weeks. Vik and Mike came to town just after we arrived and were here until after New Years which was great fun. It has been wonderful to meet EJ (Elizabeth Jane), Bubba and Christy’s daughter who is now 2 months old. Leo loves holding her which is so cute! We’ve also been catching up with friends, including Caitlin and Dan and their son Felix who Leo has been having a lot of fun playing with too!

    Leo, Nonna and EJ

    Nonna loving her two grand babies!

    2 days after arriving, we headed down to San Diego for a good family friend, Tiffany’s, wedding which was great fun (as weddings always are) and Leo had a great time tearing it up on the dance floor. We even squeezed in some beach time in Coronado.

    Hotel del...

    Suns out, bumps out at the Hotel del. 28 weeks pregnant!

    Leo enjoying the Coronado beach

    Leo enjoying the Coronado beach

    Nice family shot at the wedding

    Nice family shot at the wedding

    The full fam at the wedding

    The full fam at the wedding

    Leo tearing up the DF

    Leo tearing up the DF

    After a couple of days of hanging with the fam back in LA, it was then Fisher family Christmas – we started the day with a nice family Christmas morning opening pressies (I got a new surfboard 🙂 Leo was spoilt with heaps and heaps of pressies – she couldn’t believe it) before Bonnie hosted ~30 people at the house. It was a really fun day seeing everyone, and of course having a few beers (I’m definitely still in holiday mode). In no time, it was then New Year’s which we kept fairly low key at the house… and managed to make it to midnight for the first time since arriving 😉

    The Christmas Tree all ready to go

    The Christmas Tree all ready to go

    Leo loved the ornaments on the Christmas tree!

    Leo checking out the Christmas tree

    She loves Santa

    She loves Santa

    Four generations at Christmas

    Four generations at Christmas

    Fisher Christmas

    Fisher Christmas

    After New Year’s the house started to empty out and calm down, and on the 3rd, Jacs, Leo and I headed down to Mexico for 8 days which was so amazing and relaxing (more on that in a moment). Other than that, we’ve been doing some hikes down in the Canyon by JPL, exploring Pasadena and other areas where we might live, looking at some cars, heading to the beaches, and of course eating some In’n’Out. I’ve even been to a couple of antique car shows with Lou – we even saw a steam one!

    Stanley Steamer

    Stanley Steamer

    Hiking the canyon - its chilly!

    Hiking the canyon – its chilly!

    Yesterday was Jacs’ birthday so we started the day with a walk around the rose bowl and then nice brunch at a new cafe called the Lincoln in Altadena. We’re also having a low key birthday gathering for Leo on Saturday (we can’t believe she’ll be 2!!) before driving up to San Francisco for a few days to see some friends there. That will be the last hurrah before I start work next Friday – where have the past 7 weeks of holiday gone!

    With that, back to Mexico! We had 8 days after new years down on the Caribbean Coast of Mexico, a little south of Cancun which is about 4.5 hours flight from here. The first 4 nights were in a town called Tulum that has beautiful beaches and has become quite the spot for the rich and famous. The next 4 nights were in a town called Playa del Carmen which is a bit of a beachside party town, but also has a Grand Hyatt so we could take advantage of all my time at the Hyatt in Canberra and finally redeem some points 🙂

    The trip was awesome from the start. We were upgraded to business class on the flight so travelled in styled had a bit more space which made so much difference with Leo! After landing, we did have some hiccups with the discount rental car place, America Car Rental, who weren’t waiting at the airport so I had to call them to get us, and then had to argue with them to get our car seat for Leo which they initially said they’d run out of. That was all behind us quickly though and we were on the road for the hour and half drive down to Tulum.

    Tulum

    By the time we arrived in Tulum it was about 9pm, but we were happy to find that our hotel Los Lirios (which we booked through Hotwire) was right on one of the most beautiful stretches of beach, had a playground on the beach with a swing that Leo loved, and our room looked out over the beach and had a hammock on the balcony. The food there was nothing special – but other than that is was wonderful, and there were so many restaurants to try in Tulum that it really wasn’t an issue.

    Tulum is actually in 2 parts, the town which isn’t on the beach and isn’t particularly cute – that is where the hostels are, and some of the more reasonably priced food options. There is then the beach, where all of the nice hotels are along the beach front for a number of kilometers. They all have nice restaurants, and are all boutique hotels with character, but the prices definitely reflect the celebrity interest!! We were actually surprised to find that there wasn’t a good path along the road to walk, so we were really happy to have a car to be able to really get around!

    Our 4 nights there really was so much fun – we spend most of the time just playing in the sand, swimming, running along the beach, and of course, playing on the swing. For each lunch and dinner we’d try a different restaurant, including many along the beach like Zumas, Tacolum, Zebra (where they also had a New York based cocktail making popup called the Mulberry project!) some bars including a fun place called Mateo’s, and especially Posada Margherita, which had homemade pasta which was delicious and our favorite meal of the trip. We also checked out some taco places in town, and a restaurant called La Coqueta (the flirt) which was really great fun and delicious… I may have had quite a few margs!

    Tulum is also home to some Mayan ruins, one of the only ones on the beach, so one morning we went to check out them out. They aren’t the biggest ruins, but the setting on the coast makes them really spectacular!

    The whole Yucatan peninsula is also home to many Cenotes which are freshwater sink holes with beautiful clear water that you can swim, snorkel, and dive in. The whole peninsula is basically on top of an underground river and cave system, and the Cenotes are where the caves have opened up. One morning we went and swam in Gran Cenote, which is partially open, but also lets you swim in to the caves and see all the underwater stalactites which was beautiful.

    Tulum ruins

    Tulum ruins

    Family on the beach

    Family on the beach

    Gran Cenote

    Gran Cenote

    Windy evening beach walk

    Windy evening beach walk

    Swinging on the beach

    Swinging on the beach

    Our favorite meal - Posada Margherita

    Our favorite meal – Posada Margherita

    Playa del Carmen

    From Tulum, we headed back up to Playa del Carmen which was half way back to the airport. It is a bigger town centred around 5th avenue / Quinta Avenida which is a whole walking street of restaurants, bars and partying. The beach front is also home to a number of European style beach day clubs (including one right by the Hyatt where we stayed). I’m sure we could have got in to a lot of trouble if we didn’t have Leo and Jacs’ wasn’t pregnant – next time when Oma and Nonna come with us to watch the girls 😉

    In Playa we were staying at the Grand Hyatt which is a gorgeous brand new hotel right on the beach front. It has been built to preserve the mangroves so has lots of peace and quiet despite all of the hustle and bustle outside. It also has 3 infinity pools which Leo loved playing in, as well as the beach where we once again built castles and swam. We were treated like kings there given how much time I spent at the Hyatt in Canberra. We had a beautiful suite that looked out over the pool and the beach from the top (5th) floor – the best view there, as well as access to the lounge where we had breakfast each morning, as well as evening canapés (which often were dinner for Leo) and drinks (including lots of nice tequilas which I took advantage of).

    Given how beautiful the hotel was, our basic agenda each day was breakfast when Leo woke up, the pool/beach until Leo’s nap (and Jacs and I took turns to pop to the gym and Jacs even got some lovely yoga in), then head out for lunch somewhere (one of our favorite finds was a taco place off the main drag called El Fogon!), come back and relax a bit by the pool again, then head to the lounge at 6 for drinks and food for Leo. We’d then head out to dinner (Leo would often fall asleep in the pram) along Quinta Avenida. It was so beautiful and relaxing – we loved it and hope to get a chance to go back sometime!

    Poolside silhouettes

    Poolside silhouettes of all three of my girls! 30.5 weeks pregnant!

    Quite the little model

    Quite the little model

    Attitude by the pool

    Attitude by the pool

    Not a bad view from the room

    Not a bad view from the room

    Pool games

    Pool games

    Cool Hyatt Architecture

    Cool Hyatt Architecture

    Leo loved the pool

    Leo loved the pool

    Lots of love from us all!
    Ben, Jacs and Leo

    Our Japan adventures continue: Kyoto, Nara and Osaka

    We arrived yesterday in LA after another whirlwind few days of fun in Japan which we loved. Arriving in LA was a bit of a relief – we’re ready to unpack and have a few days to relax – our darling little Leo has kept us on our toes travelling and we’re ready to catch our breath. That said, she was actually really good on the flight. There were some extra seats around so me and her went and sat further back in the plane where Leo could stretch out on a seat next to me and sleep with her head in my lap, and she slept nearly the whole way from Osaka to LA! Jacs and I still didn’t get much sleep – hard to sleep on a plane with a baby on top of you, or when you’re 6 months pregnant apparently! It was also super smooth getting through the airport – we were our in 30 minutes which is unheard of for LA, and as we walked out Leo ran in to her Nonna’s waiting arms which was so sweet to see. It is great to see all of the Fishers and to meet our new little niece EJ! Anyway, more on California in the next post… back to Japan!

    Day one: Shinkansen to Kyoto

    After a relatively relaxed morning since we didn’t want to hit the road until rush hour started to past, we checked out of the beautiful Park Hyatt intending to hop in a shuttle bus to Shinjuku station, however in a nice touch they put us in a nice Jaguar black limousine which made for a very comfy start to the journey and was a lovely way to wrap up Tokyo! As we walked out of the hotel, we did have a little unplanned excitement as Leonora managed to get her hand stuck in the lift door as it opened and we had to react quick and pull it out – no real harm done other than a bit of swelling and some shock for her, but she was brave and said ‘take that ouchy’ and moved on very quickly after some ‘mummy tuddles’.

    The trip to Kyoto was actually a breeze – a short train to Tokyo station followed by a 2 hour 20 minute bullet train to Kyoto station and then a 5 minute cab ride (compliments of the Hyatt in Kyoto) to the hotel. By the time we arrived however it was around 1, so we quickly checked in, squeezed in a welcome drink (a hard earned thirst deserves a nice cold beer 😉 ), and started to explore South Higashiyama where the Hyatt is located and luckily also the main sightseeing area. Kyoto is a really cool, gorgeous city, but what I hadn’t realised until getting there was that it is a big modern city, as well as having all of the beautiful temples and gardens that we all think of.

    Like father like daughter

    Like father like daughter

    First stop was a Udon restaurant for some yummy noodles and some energy for the afternoon which Leo slurped down very noisily! We then had a bit of a wonder around some of the nearby temples including Kiyomizu-dera which was beautiful with views over the city from the foothills of the mountains. It was lovely to realise that although it is December, the autumn foliage was still definitely around and the trees and gardens were beautiful and red and yellow. We did however start to realise that in the afternoon (and on the weekend especially we would find), there really are a huge number of tourists – hot tip for Kyoto: start early and try to check out the temples on weekdays since it makes a huge difference avoiding the crowds! Nevertheless, walking through the beautiful little old streets, eating local sweets (mostly bean based… I missed some chocolate) and feeling a little like we’d gone back in time was a great start to the Kyoto experience.

    Exploring Kyoto

    Exploring Kyoto

    Poser

    Poser

    Beautiful back streets

    Beautiful back streets

    Treat time with some local sweets

    Treat time with some local sweets

    Mountain laneways

    Mountain laneways

    The view from our first stop

    The view from our first stop

    After a quick rest back at the hotel, we hopped on the bus for downtown, which although modern, is an approachable size and has some really cool areas. Our first night we walked down ponto-cho which is a cool little lane lined with bars and restaurants, and also one of the areas where Geishas still live so we got to see a couple darting out across the street as we wandered around to pick a restaurant for dinner. Dinner ended up being delicious: a nice big glass of sake for me, followed by some fresh tofu (a Kyoto specially due to the spring water), some sashimi, teriyaki salmon and fried eggplant bowls! Yum yum!

    Tofu time!

    Tofu time!

    I'm getting thirsty

    I’m getting thirsty

    Delicious dinner on ponto-cho

    Delicious dinner on ponto-cho

    Ponto-cho

    Ponto-cho

    Day two: Nara

    Despite only just starting to explore Kyoto, we decided to do our day trips early in the stay so we could relax for our last day before travelling. Our first day trip started with the 35 minute train from Kyoto station out to Nara which was definitely worth it. Most of the sites are in a confined area, Nara Park, which we walked around in just a few hours. Nara Park is filled with deer too which Leonora loved as she could feed them ‘biccies’ as we went. Despite being there fairly early (we arrived at 9), it was Saturday and the tourist buses were streaming in, but nevertheless the temples were cool to see. Our favourite was the main temple Todai-ji, which as we walked in and saw the size of was really impressive and houses a huge Buddha, the Daibatsu. Leonora was also a huge attraction with the school groups and tourists from around Japan and China.

    Exploring Nara

    Exploring Nara

    Leo not impressed with being a celebrity

    Leo not impressed with being a celebrity

    Paparazzi

    Paparazzi

    Nara

    Nara

    Feeding the deer

    Feeding the deer

    An interesting mascot...

    An interesting mascot…

    Did a school group bonehead our photo?

    Did a school group bonehead our photo?

    After exploring all the other beautiful sites, we hopped on the train back to Kyoto, and decided that since it was only lunchtime, we’d have a quick lunch (pork katsu with curry sauce – basically schnitzel with gravy 🙂 ) we hopped on another train for about 20 minutes to Arashiyama to see the bamboo forests, which were cool to see, although a little over run with tourists!

    Just hanging on the train

    Just hanging on the train

    Bamboo forests!

    Bamboo forests!

    From there is was back to the hotel for a rest and then a drink in the hotel bar, Touzan, which is a cool underground bar that also happened to have happy hour from 5-7 so I decided that a martini was in order! Given all of the walking and exploring during the day, we decided that it was also a great opportunity for some non-japanese food at the hotel’s Trattoria Sette – duck ragu and wood-fired pizza was a great break… even if Leonora decided the most fun game was putting parmesan in her hair so we started calling her ‘cheese head’!

    The hotel bar

    The hotel bar

    Party panda!

    Party panda!

    Day three: Osaka
    After the busy day getting out to Nara, we started the day slow with a trip to the gym and brekkie, before starting our next day trip to Osaka. Osaka was also only a 45 minute train ride from Kyoto station so we thought it would be fun to explore for an afternoon as well. The trip was definitely worth it as it is a bustling city with a different feel to Kyoto or Tokyo. It also has a reputation for beeing a foodie city so we took it upon ourselves to eat our way through the day. First stop after walking out of the massive Osaka Train ‘city’ was a restaurant called Yukari on a nearby walking arcade for some Okonomiyaki, a local specialty. Okonomiyaki is often explained as ‘Japanese savoury pancakes’ and is grilled at the table teppanyaki style and is a large pancake looking meal of egg, veggies and all kinds of meats depending on what you order. I opted for the special which was delicious if a bit weird sounding: beef tendon, pork, squid, prawn and konjac jelly (which they all seemed to have – turns out to be a fairly tasteless gelatin like vegetable product…), and Jacs had a pork one but with a lighter green onion base which was welcome after my heavy choice!

    Okonomiyaki

    Okonomiyaki

    Well if it is #1 most popular!

    Well if it is #1 most popular!

    After lunch we had a quick look at the Umeda Sky Building, a local landmark, before hopping back on the subway for 5 minute to the southern part of town where most of the sights are. The first area we explored was called Amerika-mura which was really cool – some really funky stores, a bit of a grunge feel, and of course a statue of liberty on top of one of the buildings. We had a good relax in ‘triangle park’, a concrete area on one of the corners, while Leo chased pigeons, I had a beer, and we watched all the crazy fashion walk by and people stop to eat Takoyaki – another local specialty of batter balls with octopus in the middle. We also saw a crowd following a local celebrity as he filmed something around the area, although no idea who of what!! As we continued our walk over the Shinsaibashi-suji, a long shopping arcade, we stopped to hear some beatles covers and christmas songs from a band at the entrance to one of the malls at Leo’s insistence (she sat down on the steps and slowly worked her way to the front row which was cute).

    The famous peace on earth mural in America-mura

    The famous peace on earth mural in Amerika-mura

    Time to rock-out!

    Time to rock-out!

    Hanging with the locals in triangle park

    Hanging with the locals in triangle park

    Shinsaibashi-suji was packed and goes on and on and was cool to walk down although we had a tantrum on our hands so didn’t dawdle until we reached Dotombori which is where you see a lot of the photos of Osaka – a strip of restaurants, bars and neon signs along the river. It was really cool, and a great place to stop and try some Takoyaki (although I was still recovering from my Okonomiyaki so didn’t get through many of them!). We also became local celebrities after posing for ‘Kansai TV’ (Osaka is in Kansai state) to say ‘Kansai is the best’ and then having our photo taken by some teenagers for their blog!

    Elegant eating

    Elegant eating

    The big crab

    The big crab

    Dotombori

    Dotombori

    Tantrum time

    Tantrum time

    Back in Kyoto, we decided that we had no room for a dinner out so relaxed in our new suite with the biggest bed ever of two kings joined together (one wasn’t available the first two nights but they had upgraded us during the trip to Osaka), and had some room service and a glass of japanese whisky to relax.

    Day four: Our final day in Kyoto

    After an early morning wake up, we decided to continue our explore of Higashiyama from our first day by hopping on the bus up to nearby Gion where we left off last time. It was like night and day being early on a weekday and we had many of the temples to ourselves which made for an even more special experience. Yasaka-Jinja and the beautiful Maruyama-koen gardens were the first stop, followed by Chion-in, the headquarters of the Jodo sect of Buddhism and the biggest temple gate in Japan. It was then onwards to Shoren-In and up to Northern Higashiyama where we saw Nanzen-Ji, Eikan-do, and walked along the river along the path of philosophy all the way up to Honen-In, a nice hidden temple in the forest where we also found a little playground for Leonora. It was then time for our final stop at Ginkaku-Ji which was gorgeous – beautifully manicured gardens on the hillside with raked sand gardens and huge cones to symbolise the mountains. At this point it was only 11 but we had covered some serious ground and were ready for lunch – luckily just down on the main road we found a restaurant called ‘Omen’ that served a version of Udon where you add veggies to the broth and dip the noodles in and eat them ‘little by little’ which was delicious. I also tried some Yuzu wine which was refreshing citrusy-deliciousness after the hike!

    Family shot at Ginkaku-ji

    Family shot at Ginkaku-ji

    The view from Ginkaku-ji

    The view from Ginkaku-ji

    mummy and leo exploring the gardens

    mummy and leo exploring the gardens

    mummy and leo at Ginkaku-ji

    mummy and leo at Ginkaku-ji

    Sand mountains!

    Sand mountains!

    Nanzen-ji

    Nanzen-ji

    The gardens at Nanzen-ji

    The gardens at Nanzen-ji

    Autumn foliage

    Autumn foliage

    We found a cherry blossom!

    We found a cherry blossom!

    Now that is a big gate

    Now that is a big gate

    Daddy and leo

    Daddy and leo

    More daddy and leo time! She gets heavy!

    More daddy and leo time! She gets heavy!

    Starting the day early without the crowds

    Starting the day early without the crowds

    After lunch we hopped on the bus (public transport really worked well!) home for an afternoon nap before heading out for a walk through some of the beautiful streets around Gion, one of the main entertainment/nightlife areas, and pack in to downtown for a delicious final ramen dinner at the famous Ippudo restaurant (which has outlets globally these days) where we beat the queues given our early appetite and gorged on heaps of Gyoza and ramen before heading home for a final beer and Asahi Dry Zero (Jacs’ non-alcoholic beer discovery) which had become an evening tradition!

    Beat the queues!

    Beat the queues!

    One final ramen!

    One final ramen!

    A beautiful snack of apple sauce in cinnamon rice paper

    A beautiful snack of apple sauce in cinnamon rice paper

    Day five: Homeward bound

    That about brings our trip to a close! A final 80 minute express train to Osaka Kansai international airport had us on our way to LA! What an amazing trip it was. We really loved Japan and will have to make another trip at some point – both to get a chance for some snow boarding there which I’ve always wanted to do, as well as to enjoy some of the sights and nightlife without a toddler (sorry Leo – we love you!) in tow.

    We’ll post again soon from LA!

    xx
    Ben and Jacs

    Konnichiwa Tokyo!

    After a whirlwind final couple of weeks in Sydney, we waved our goodbyes to our friends and family and were on our way to the US… via Japan for a quick holiday. It was really sad and surreal saying goodbye – my last day in the Sydney BCG office, farewell to all of our friends (Jacs hosted an amazing Thanksgiving party our last weekend there as well), and of course goodbye to mum and dad / Oma and Dadda as Leo calls them – we’re all going to miss living in ‘Oma Dadda’s house’ and hanging out with them. Leo has such a blast with them.

    Day one

    Sunset view of Mt Fuji from the room

    Sunset view of Mt Fuji from the room

    After a relatively uneventful but full overnight flight to Tokyo, we landed at Haneda airport to a cold winter morning at 5.30am and hopped on the metro to Roppongi Hills, where we were staying at the Grand Hyatt (finally using some points!). The hotel was lovely but unfortunately we were too early to get our room, but never fear! We headed up for a lovely breakfast in the lounge over looking the city and then in true Buchanan style, set off on a walk around the area – to see the Tokyo Tower (taller than the Eiffel tower!), a beautiful Buddhist shrine in a park nearby, and then back to the hotel for a relax in our gorgeous room!

    Tokyo Tower

    Tokyo Tower

    Leo the photographer in the imperial gardens

    Leo the photographer in the imperial gardens

    After a bit of a rest, we were back on the subway to see the Imperial Palace gardens (after a quick stop for some Kara-age (fried chicken) for Leo) which were gorgeous, but for some reason were free for the day and absolutely packed with visitors! From there we checked out the architecture of Tokyo station, and walked down and around Ginza to see all of the shops – which were actually less crazy than we were expecting! By that stage Leo had cracked it and we headed back to the hotel to rest up and clean up before cocktail hour began ? Leo loved our evening cocktail break each day as she could grab snacks and a juice. Roppongi Hills (where the hotel was) is a fancy development and for Christmas there were all kinds of cool light displays so we had a stroll around the area before settling in for some yummy Soba noodles followed by an early night – what a first day!

    Family Christmas in Roppongi Hills

    Family Christmas in Roppongi Hills

    Leo and Jacs with the Christmas lights

    Leo and Jacs with the Christmas lights

    Escape attempt

    Escape attempt

    Day two

    The pace didn’t slow on day two! We were up bright and early with our darling human alarm clock and headed over on the subway to see Tsukiji Market (the huge Fish Market!). We first strolled around the outer market since you can’t get in to the central area until 9am since there is so much activity going on for the actual commercial fish wholesaling. The outer market sells lots of stuff including knifes, other food, other cooking related items, and luckily for us, food for a hungry toddler! Leo demolished two ‘egg on a stick’’s (actually quite yum!) which must have been at least 3-4 eggs. I then of course had to have sushi for breakfast which is a change! A few places like SushiDai (a famous sushi place) had 1-2 hour queues, but we popped in next door and it was delicious, although in Sydney we do get pretty good fish as it is! Then it was time for the main scene – the wholesale area which really is amazing in scale! There are little trucks whizzing around everywhere and everyone is rushing around still hard at work. There are all kinds of strange fish, but I do think the most amazing is seeing the massive tuna getting cut up!

    EEEEEGGGGGGG

    EEEEEGGGGGGG

    Sushi for breakfast

    Sushi for breakfast

    Tuna!

    Tuna!

    Egg on a stick!

    Egg on a stick!

    From there, we walked around a beautiful park called Hama-rikyu before hopping back on the subway over to Asakusa to check out Senso-ji, a huge shrine which was fun – Jacs even received a great fortune… although if you get a bad one, you just hang it on the wire and leave it behind. The journey then continued to Ueno, where we wandered around another beautiful park (Tokyo really has a lot of gorgeous parks and we got lucky as the leaves are still changing so are beautiful reds and yellows), walked past the national museum, and then walked around Yanaka, a cute little area with little temples, narrow streets and old houses. We were pretty exhausted at this point – Leo isn’t as light as she used to be – but squeezed in one more quick stop at Akihabara (‘Akiba’) which is the centre of geek culture and was quite a sight to see. At Electric Town there are flashing lights and gadgets everywhere, as well as lots of ‘maid cafes’ – these strange restaurants where the waitresses are dressed as maids! Phew! What a day!

    Daddy and Leo in Asakusa

    Daddy and Leo in Asakusa

    After a rest back at the hotel, we decided we’d grab a simple dinner and managed to find a cool little Yakitori place nearby called Jomon – we’d read about it in Lonely Planet, but luckily it wasn’t touristy. We actually had to write down its name in Japanese and find those symbols in small writing on a door to find the place! It was the perfect place since Leo could chow down on the food, it was quick, I could have a beer, and of course, everything was cooked which Jacs needs here! Leonora has started learning Japanese and can now proudly say Yakitori and Arigato – or ‘ah-gee-tori’ and ‘gaa-toe’ respectively.

    Excited for some Yakitori

    Excited for some Yakitori

    Day three

    After a final brekkie at the lounge, we hopped in to a cab over to Shinjuku for two nights in the luxurious Park Hyatt (made famous by ‘Lost in Translation’) where we had a lovely corner suite, free brekkie in the restaurant and free drinks in the evening (finally getting some pay back for all the travel!). The hotel is really cool – reception is on level 41 of a tall tower, and the rooms go up from there, so there are amazing views of the city, and also Mount Fuji – it was cool going to the gym on level 47 and looking out at that, and made for a fantastic yoga studio for Jacs!

    Tantrum 679 at the Park

    Tantrum 679 at the Park

    All settled in to the room

    All settled in to the room

    View from the room over Yoyogi Park

    View from the room over Yoyogi Park

    After checking in, we set off on another big day – but one that we’d been super excited for. From the hotel, our first stop was just across the street where there was a huge playground so we decided to give Leo a few minutes on the swing and huge slide! We then walked down and through another beautiful park called Yoyogi park which has the Meiji jingu / Meiji shrine in the middle of it which is a gorgeous wooden building that was rebuilt still using old wood so it has the original feel to it. From Meiji jingo, another 10 minute walk got us to Harajuku, where first stop was a stroll down Takeshita-dori, which is the epicentre of teen culture there – there were crazy clothes and stores, and surprisingly a huge number of dessert and crepe stores! It was really cool to see, and definitely made us feel like we were in Tokyo! We continued the walk around Harajuku to see all of the luxury stores (many in cool new buildings with funky futuristic designs) around Ometesando, and the more boutique stores in the lane ways off the main road.

    Harajuku!

    Harajuku!

    From Harajuku, we walked down a small street called ‘Cat street’ with even more shopping, all the way to Shibuya! Shibuya is where Shibuya crossing is, which is what we often see photos of from Tokyo – it is an incredibly busy crossing surrounded by all the buildings with neon signs and billboards. Quite a sight! We’d worked up quite an appetite so found a little ramen place overlooking the Shibuya centre-gai where we ordered on a vending machine before walking in and then handed the tickets to the waitress – something we’ve never done before but seems to be the standard for ramen here! It was yum – Leo really scoffed it down ? Recharged after the meal, we continued the wander around the area and came across a photo booth place that we’d heard about, where you can edit the photos to airbrush them and put on makeup and decorate them – it was a blast! The result was hilarious, if a little scary!

    Next generation sushi train!

    Next generation sushi train!

    And then this... some photo booth fun

    And then this… some photo booth fun

    Final stop was another quick snack at Uobei Sushi which a friend had told me about – it is the ‘next generation’ of sushi train where you order on a screen at your seat, and the dishes come whizzing out of the kitchen on a track that brings the food to you! It was great fun, and tasty too! After that though it was time to hop on the train back up to Shibuya for an afternoon rest at the hotel (and a quick trip to the gym!) before our evening ‘twilight hour’ cocktails looking out over the city. Leo was a little tired so we just decided to stroll to a nearby restaurant for … another massive meal of ramen ordered on a vending machine. It was delicious again, but we were definitely all noodled out from the day!

    Ramen time!

    Ramen time!

    Day four

    Yesterday was our final day in Tokyo, and instead of trying to squeeze in a day trip somewhere, after the pace we’d been moving, we decided to have a relatively relaxing day exploring Shinjuku, the area around the hotel, which is also a really cool part of Tokyo – especially for shopping and nightlife. After a slow morning (Jacs did some Yoga, I took Leo to the park, and we had a nice breakfast at the hotel), we set off on a stroll down past Shibuya station which is the hub of the area (and one of the world’s busiest stations apparently), with a quick look at the massive sky scrapers of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices by our hotel. After a rest and a coffee at Starbucks by the station, we started the explore with a walk around the huge Shinjuku gyoen park to let Leo run around a bit. From there we wondered around some Department stores, a Bic Camera (one of the huge electronics shops) and then some more Department stores where we grabbed a bite (including a packaged pork katsu sandwich which Jacs thought was weird but I tried anyway!), squeezed in one more department store visit to Takashimaya, before walking home for a bit of a rest.

    Starbucks brekkie Tokyo style

    Starbucks brekkie Tokyo style

    Exploring Shinjuku gyoen

    Exploring Shinjuku gyoen

    As 5pm approached, we diligently headed to the Peak lounge for our twilight hour drinks (and some nuts and crackers – Leo had a blast feeding us the ‘spicy’ wasabi peas). Before heading out to dinner we decided to go upstairs to the New York bar, which is the set for much of the movie Lost in Translation. Although we couldn’t sit in the actual bar with Leo, we sat in the adjoining Grill restaurant area looking in to the bar and had a cocktail there. The view was awesome from the top of the building and the drinks were pretty tasty too. They even had a delish mocktail for Jacs.

    Posing in the lobby

    Posing in the lobby

    Lost in Translation

    Lost in Translation

    It was then time to hop in a cab back to downtown Shinjuku for some Yakitori in a tiny street known as ‘piss alley’ or ‘memory lane’ (Omoide yokocho) lined with heaps of equally tiny yakitori restaurants that you can barely fit in to. That was a fun, quick meal, after which we went for a quick walk around Golden Gai, a series of little lanes filled with tiny bars, many that only sit a handful of people and you need to a regular, however Leo had reached the end of her tether and it had started to drizzle so instead of pushing our luck and sitting down, we hopped in a cab home and had a beer (Jacs was enjoying Asahi ‘Dry Zero’ and ‘Style Free’ alcohol free beers!) in the room to relax after putting Leo to sleep.

    Piss Alley or Memory Lane?

    Piss Alley or Memory Lane?

    We’re now just checking out of the Park Hyatt to head to Tokyo Station for our Shinkansen / bullet train to Kyoto. Overall, Tokyo was awesome and we had a blast – such a great city and we were amazed by all of the parks too. My back could use a break after carrying Leo around everywhere (as could Jacs’ at 6.5 months with BubbaB2), but other than that we’re feeling great and are super excited for Kyoto! We’ll post again in a few days from there!

    Xx
    Ben, Jacs and Leo

    Farewell Sydney!

    Hi all!
    It has been quite a while since we posted an update – don’t know where the time has gone, but we’ve been really busy getting ready for our move back to the US. We can’t believe it, but we actually fly out two weeks today for 8 days in Japan which we’re so excited for, and then we get to LA on December 15th. We’re all moved out of our apartment (we’re living with mum and dad for the next few weeks) which was actually really sad as we’ve loved living there and have so many great memories with Leonora there too (including all the pee stains on the carpet 😉 ). We’ve found a tenant who moves in on December 1 which is great as that’s one less thing to worry about!

    Last night we had a farewell party which really made it real that we’re leaving – we’re super excited for the next adventure, but it is definitely sad to be leaving all our friends here, and of course my family – we’ve loved being just a few minutes walk away, and Leonora gets so excited going to Oma’s house. The party was great fun though – we had a blast with everyone. Anthea, one of mum’s friends who makes amazing cakes, made a beautiful Australia cake for us as a surprise which was so lovely (and delicious)!

    Farewell party - with our delicious Australia cake from Anthea

    Farewell party – with our delicious Australia cake from Anthea

    Last month Bonnie and Lou came to visit for two weeks which was so lovely. Lou hasn’t been for 7 years since Jacs first moved here and we were living in a share house with friends, so we’re so happy that he could make it so see our lives here, and our home – and see what a great setup we have. Since they were coming all the way to Australia though, we decided to make a real holiday of it, and had one weekend up in Byron Bay, and one weekend down in Melbourne – I flew from Canberra direct, so we had Thursday night – Sunday evening in each so we really got a chance to enjoy them.

    In Byron, we rented a house on Air BnB and had an amazing time. It is always so great to visit Byron since it has such a nice feel, and the weather was gorgeous and we spent hours each day on the beach, or checking out the lighthouse or strolling through town – but just generally relaxing and hanging out together. Our last day there before our flight we drove up to Surfers Paradise, and wow, that is a different experience! It is intense and touristy – makes me think of Vegas on the beach almost!

    The weekend in Melbourne was heaps of fun too. We used some Hyatt points to all stay at the Grand Hyatt right in the middle of the city. Mum and dad came down one night too. It was so convenient staying there and being able to stroll around town… and of course take advantage of the lounge for breakfast, evening drinks, and views over the city. We caught up with our friends Stuart and Mai from Singapore, and Byron as well who has been living there for a while. We also saw my good friend from BCG Luke, who we haven’t seen for a while between both of us going away to business school and then working in different cities. We also spent lots of time with my cousins – Pasq and Paski, Wendy and Ray – and Auntie Sheila and Uncle Frank. It is always so much fun hanging out with all of them so really glad we got down there one more time before moving. We got to check out Wendy and Ray’s house and wonder around their area (Fitzroy, which is a funky and fun part of town). We also had a lovely lunch as a family at the Stables of Como which was set in beautiful gardens so Leo could run around, and a delicious dinner at Feast of Merit in Richmond (another cool part of town) which was awesome… and gives all of its profits to charity too.

    Other than all of that, our weekends always seem to be jam packed with catching up with friends and family, and trying to spend some time just us, as well as lots of time at the beach since summer is coming… although you wouldn’t guess it today with the gloomy windy weather! We’re really trying to enjoy our last little while in Sydney as much as we can – taking advantage of the beaches and checking out events like Sculptures by the Sea which is always really cool, and eating at all of our favourite restaurants. Still can’t believe we only have 2 more weeks here!

    See lots of you in the US soon!
    xx
    Ben, Jacs and Leonora

    SurfAid cup – thanks for all of the support

    Last Friday was the SurfAid Cup at Queenscliff. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had an awesome time surfing, although we didn’t make it through the quarter finals… all part of the fun! The sun was out and it seemed like Spring was in the air.

    Thanks so much to everyone that donated to our team to support this great cause. The event raised over $150,000 for communities in remote Indonesia – and our team did an amazing job raising over $8,000 of that putting us in 5th place out of 18 teams!

    Click here to read more about the event.

    Hope you’re all well!
    -Ben, Jacs and Leo