Our first trip back home…

Hi there everyone!
Happy Thanksgiving! We can’t believe how fast the end of the year is approaching and that we’ve now been in LA for 11 months! We’ve just returned to LA after a wonderful 2 weeks back in Australia visiting family and friends, and popping over to Queenstown for our friends Nick and Fi’s wedding. It was our first trip back to Sydney since we moved to LA, and Camilla’s first! We had such a blast although it flew by so quickly. Sydney really put on the Spring weather for us, so we had almost daily walks down to Balmoral with Oma (gosh we miss being able to stroll down to the beautiful blue water!) for coffee and to use the playground (which the girls loved!), as well as trips to Manly for surfs and strolls (and to use the playground there πŸ™‚ ), and swims in the pool at home (with its ‘exquisitely’ warm water πŸ˜‰ ). We loved spending time with my parents, seeing them with the girls (Leo was obsessed with her doctor’s kit and gave everyone constant checkups – especially Grand dad). Our very first night, we had an early dinner at Bather’s which was always one of our favourite spots. The next day was beautiful and sunny and we invited all of our friends to come for a lovely day of cocktails and beers in the sun at the Greens in North Sydney which was great fun and a wonderful way to reconnect with all of our close friends, and also to meet some of the new babies! Leonora was having heaps of fun playing with Molly (Sarah and Jason’s daughter) and Sammy (Kylie and Matt’s daughter) – and saw them lots during the trip including many days in the pool and at balmoral.

After a few more days hanging out with everyone, it was off to New Zealand for Fi and Nick’s wedding.

We’re so glad we were able to make the trip! Queenstown is a beautiful city that Jacs’ hadn’t been to and I hadn’t been to since a family trip when I was little. Right from the moment the plane broke through the clouds and we saw the incredible ‘Remarkables’ mountain range, with its snow capped jagged peaks we were in awe. The wedding was 15 minutes drive outside Queenstown at a beautiful golf resort called Milbrook just outside a historical little town called Arrowtown. It was such a beautiful place (although a little chilly!) and we had our first 2 nights staying at Milbrook for the welcome dinner at an Arrowtown pub (where Leo had a blast playing in a little tree house cooking ‘rock soup’), and then the Wedding day. Rory and Nat and their son Lachie, and Nat’s sister and her boyfriend were at the wedding too, so we were hanging out with them which we really enjoyed. Our cottage looked out over the golf course, and Leo could play outside with all of the ducks which was fun to watch. For the wedding reception, we had baby sitters too, so had a really fun night hitting the dance floor!! Congratulations to Fi and Nick! It really was wonderful to be there and celebrate.

The day after the wedding, we did a morning drive along Lake Wakatipu up to Glenorchy (‘Gateway to Paradise’) which is one of the really beautiful drives to do, before heading back to Milbrook for a final farewell lunch at Nick’s parents place, before heading in to Queenstown to our AirBnB with Nat and Rory that was about 15 minutes walk outside town with a beautiful view over the lake. After all the festivities, we had a quiet evening at the house to catch out breath! The next day though, we spent exploring Queenstown including a cruise on the historic TSS Earnslaw Steam boat across the lake, followed by lunch at the famous (and delicious) Ferg Burger. Unfortunately the rain then came in, but we were quick on our feet to a little wine bar where you walk around sampling all of the wines (and whisky) which was a good way to spend a little time on a rainy afternoon. The following day, we decided to do a beautiful drive through the mountains up to another beautiful lake in the town of Wanaka, with a stop at the Cardrona Distillery along the way, followed by a drive back down through wine country to Queenstown after lunch – I think our favourite was Brennan! That night, Fi and Nick joined us for a delicious Malay dinner at Madam Woo for a farewell before we headed back to Sydney the next day.

Our final few days in Sydney were jam packed with catching up with everyone one last time, hanging out with my family, and spending some time with TK (who had been in Cuba for the first part of our trip) and getting to know his girlfriend Di. We also had a lovely evening out with our friends Tom and Lisa celebrating their engagement at a delicious restaurant called Cho Cho San, and then a night out with TK, Em, Leigh, Jacek and La at Spice Temple, one of our favourite restaurants, followed by a lot of fun dancing at Frankie’s pizza – thanks mum and dad for all of the baby sitting! It was such a fun trip, and sad to leave! We do miss it a lot.

Other than that trip, since we last wrote, October was a fun month in LA. I won’t go in to the details but some of the highlights were:

  1. We had our housewarming party with about 40 friends – it is so nice feeling settled, and the party was a blast! We even organized a taco truck to do the food so we could relax πŸ™‚
    The girls...

    The girls…

    ...and the boys

    …and the boys

  2. The following weekend, the parties at our house continued with a 90th celebration for Jacs’ grand dad. He and Gita came down from Berkeley, and we had a big group of family and friends come over for a lovely afternoon party.

    The whole fam!

    The whole fam!

  3. Our really close friends the Browns from Berkeley were in town, so we had a great time out with them in Santa Monica – thanks Nonna and Bobbo for baby sitting!
  4. I did a charity stair climb up US Bank tower – 75 floors and the tallest stairwell west of the Mississippi – in 14 minutes 52 seconds which was exhausting, but the view from the top is spectacular.
  5. We celebrated Halloween with a small party at our house. We were dressed as crocodiles on Leo’s insistence! It was Leo’s first Halloween actually knowing what was going on, and Camilla’s first! Caitlin came with Felix, Nick and Nicole brought Adelina, and Bubba and Christy brought Lizzie Jane, and all the babies happened to come as animals so we had quite the zoo as we trick or treated around our neighbourhood! On the weekend we did also have a more adult Halloween celebration since our neighbours a few houses down hosted a party and really got in to it, and some of our friends had a party too! What fun!

    The Zoo!

    The Zoo!

That’s all from us for now. Hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Vik and Mike are in town, and we’re doing a family Thanksgiving celebration at the Fishers house.
Ben and Jacs

6 months old already!

Gosh! It has been 3 months since we’ve posted. Where has that time gone? We’ve been busy here with a combination of dealing with 2 girls, moving in to our new house, having friends come and stay, getting away for a few fun weekends, and of course, continuing to get to know LA. I’ll keep this short though, since I’m sure we’ll lose your interest pretty quickly!

First things first, we can’t believe that Camilla is already 6 months old. She’s a little darling – such a smiley baby with a gentle temperament. She’s already trying to crawl, and can shuffle across the floor. She also has some teeth coming in (so is sleeping great! πŸ˜‰ ) She’s growing up so fast!

Camilla is 6 months old!

Camilla is 6 months old!

Next up, I’m sure you’re all curious about our new place. We’ve got a lovely Spanish ‘Adobe’ style 3 bedroom place with a garden that Leo loves playing in (with a swingset all setup!). It’s about 5 minutes drive up to Bonnie and Lou’s so we’re still getting lots of Nonna and Bobbo help, 2 blocks walk to Leo’s school, and a little over a mile to the Club where we’ve been spending a lot of time by the pool. We’re so happy and feeling at home… and the guest room is all setup, so come and visit πŸ™‚

Other than that, since we last posted back in June after returning from Miami / Vik and Mike’s wedding, we’ve been up to lots, but keeping it quick (photos below!):

  • Our dear friends Jacek and Em came to visit us from Sydney, so we had a great time catching up with them and showing them around LA
  • For the fourth of July long weekend, we headed up to the Bay Area to catch up with all of our friends with Berkeley and to celebrate Jacs’ granddad’s 90th. It was a lovely weekend – we stayed at the beautiful Claremont Hotel in Berkeley which is just a 5 minute walk to Jacs’ grand parents house. It was great to be back there and reminisce about our wonderful 2 years living there. The birthday party was really nice too – the sun was shining, and we caught up with the family over a few glasses of wine. Over the weekend, we also got to spend some time with our friends Chris and Jordan, and Andrew and Amanda – as well as many others!
  • Back in July, I had a quick trip to New York for a BCG soccer tournament, which also served as an opportunity to see Keiren and Will who cooked up a feast for me at their apartment. Sadly the rest of the fam had to stay home – would have been great to have them there, but so much fun to see K&W! And in the soccer, we got to the quarter finals which was much better than expected – although I had the cuts and bruises to show for it the next day πŸ™‚
  • We spent a beautiful weekend up at Lake Arrowhead with LeAnn and Michael who kindly invited us up to their house there. Its about a 90 minute drive from Pasadena in to the mountains, but feels remote and is a gorgeous spot. We had the boat out on the lake in front of the house, so had heaps of fun getting out wakeboarding – Leo even came out on a boogie board with me behind the boat πŸ™‚
  • Keeping things busy, we followed that weekend up with a weekend down in San Diego, staying in a cute little Air BnB cottage at Ocean Beach with our friends Caitlin and Dan, and their son Felix (Leo’s bestie). It was lovely and relaxing hanging as a family on the beach. Leo even caught some waves on a boogie board πŸ™‚ We also got to hang out with cousin Tal, and see our friends Jess and Mike and meet their daughter Haley.
  • The following weekend was the labor day weekend, but was time for a weekend at home. Instead of going away, we were lucky enough to have Chris, Jordan and their baby Jack come and stay (it was the first test of our guest room – turned out there is no cold water in the guest shower – we’ve fixed it πŸ˜‰ ). We had a great weekend mostly hanging out in the garden while the girls and Jack played, and we drank Rose in the sun! It is always a blast hanging out with them!
  • Last weekend, we’d worked up the energy for another weekend away, back to where it all began up in Santa Barbara πŸ™‚ We haven’t been back there since moving to California, and it really reminded us how much we love it and feel relaxed there. The reason for the trip was that Jacs had signed up for a ‘She is Beautiful’ 5K race that a friend from her triathlon team at UCSB organizes. Jacs ran it in awesome time, especially since she was pushing Leo in the pram (and hasn’t had much time to train at all with two girls) – and Leo even got out to run across the finish line which was super cute. We stayed on the beach, and happened to be right at the start line, so didn’t use the car all weekend! I even got the train up from LA to meet the fam there which worked really well! SB really is so much fun, and we love the outdoor lifestyle. What was the ‘urban wine trail’ has also evolved in to the ‘funk zone’ which is a collection of tasting rooms, breweries, bars and restaurants which was really fun to explore – including a delicious dinner at the Lark.
  • Last week, Jacs and the girls, Bon, Al, Christy and EJ all headed down to Disneyland for the day! Leo was still probably a little too young and got a bit scared on some of the rides but generally had a blast and is still talking about it. I’ve still never been – the next trip will have to be a family one!

Other than that, it has really just been fun getting to know LA and really feeling settled in. We’ve been out surfing lots on weekends (well, I have and the girls hang out at the beach and enjoy the sun πŸ˜‰ ) – both down at Manhattan Beach / El Porto, as well at Venice, and even up in Malibu. I’ve found a few friends to surf with which is great too. We’ve also been enjoying spending days at the pool at the Club – we’re now members, and Leo is such a water girl… and Camilla is getting to be too – and hanging out with friends and family πŸ™‚

Phew! All caught up!
Well done on making it this far πŸ™‚

Hope that you’re all well – as always, would love to hear from you.
– Ben, Jacs, Leo and Milla

Congrats to Mr and Mrs Ilitch!

Well it seems like another whirlwind month here! Not sure where time is flying by, although with the 2 girls we have our hands full πŸ™‚
Believe it or not, Camilla is already 3 months old! She’s a little cutie, and a lovely, easy baby so far (touch wood!) – she smiles lots, has been sleeping pretty well, and is getting strong – we even caught her trying to roll over the other day! Leo continues to grow up fast, and we’ve been having so much fun with her. She talks a lot, and is really putting together sentences – and is certainly an opinionated little thing! I seem to get told ‘Daddy don’t do that, I don’t like that’ all the time – even if ‘that’ is asking her to eat her lunch or something easy πŸ™‚ She starts at her new school this week which she is super excited about – she’ll even be doing swim classes there!

In other exciting news, we’re in the process of buying a house! We should be moving in over the next couple of weeks as escrow should close any day now.

So what else have we been up this month you ask? Lots in fact! Mum and Dad are in the US visiting. They arrived in the US a few weeks ago, just before Jacs and the girls headed out to Michigan to start getting ready for Vikkee and Mike’s wedding. We then had a few days together before they flew out to go and visit Keiren in New York, so we explored LA – one of the highlights was a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Le Comptoir that only seats 8 people at the counter, is largely vegetarian (with vegetables that the Chef grew), and the chef cooks in front of you and talks you through the meal. What a treat!

I then headed out to Detroit for the wedding to meet Jacs and the Fam – my whole family (Keiren, Will, TK, Mum and Dad) all made it which was special too. It was such an experience and a wonderful celebration. We couldn’t be more excited for Vik and Mike! The celebrations began with a family dinner at the MotorCity Casino (where we were all staying) on the Friday night – which Bonnie made pasta sauce for (that’s a lot of pasta sauce) – and was followed by some drinks back in Vik’s suite which was lots of fun. Saturday we then had the rehearsal in the morning which was a great opportunity for me to finally meet all the other Groomsmen! Leo was definitely not co-operating with the idea of being flower girl at the rehearsal and screamed the whole way down the aisle πŸ˜‰ From there, we walked across the street to Comerica Park (Tiger stadium) for an amazing and unique afternoon – there was a merry go-round and hot dogs in the stadium, as well as lawn games down on the field and the chance to actually run around on the grass, and even go and explore the locker rooms… all while the names of all the guests were rotating through on the big screen! That night, we had an awesome evening at Punchbowl social, a cool bar with a bowling lane that we could use – and yes, before you ask, they did make punch…in a bowl which was very tasty, and apparently quite strong based on my memory of the end of the evening!

The next morning we woke up bright and early for the big day…which was also our 5 year anniversary (woohooooooo! Although, we decided that buying a house could be our celebration! πŸ˜‰ ). Vik and Mike had each arranged a suite for the groomsmen and bridesmaids to get ready in, so while the girls were all getting their makeup and hair done, the guys relaxed in Mike’s suite and had a beer or two until about 15 minutes before we had to be ready at which point we all threw on our tuxes, and were looking good – although the girls were definitely looking amazing!! From there it was off to the Church for the wedding. It was a lovely service, and the best thing about it was how happy Mike and Vik were the whole time, smiling at each other and so genuinely happy. Leo even did a great job as flower girl, holding the ring bearer’s hand (Lucas), and Jacs’ hand too (the plan had been for them to walk themselves but this worked out too and no one else knew!). After the ceremony, we headed across the road to Comerica Park for the reception. Initially, the Bridal party had a separate area to hang out and have a drink an some snacks looking out over the rest of the guests below. Leo spotted Felix down below and the two of them did a lot of waving and trying to work out how to get to each other which was really cute. It was then time for the big entrance – Mike and Vik came after the bridal party and did a first dance to huge cheers and there were grins all around – while Leo and Felix were reunited and had a dance of their own! It was an awesome setup being in the Stadium for the dinner – Lou behaved himself in his speech, and Jacs and Al did an awesome job in their’s. After dinner the party continued in to the early hours with drinks and dancing under the stars with an awesome band. There was even an incredible fireworks display over the stadium!

The following morning, there was a yummy brunch at the hotel (and I overate on fried chicken!), and then we did a little explore to Corktown, which was an interesting neighbourhood of Detroit with some cool places opening up including ‘Two James’ – a distillery where we stopped for a cocktail. At that point, it was off to the airport for the adventure to continue in Miami!

Our couple of days in South Beach was heaps of fun – it was great to have some time with the family since it had been so long since all the Buchanan’s were together. We were staying just off the beach at the Hyatt Centric, so each morning had some time in the sun (I’m still recovering from some sun burn!) – The beach was beautiful and perfect for Leo since the water was nice and calm. When we’d had our fill of sunshine, we’d explore town – wanders through the art deco building of South Beach, Tacos at a litle place we liked called Taquiza (where we tried ‘Miami Weiss’ beer), and Sandwiches at La Sandwicherie. One afternoon we headed off to Wynwood Walls to see some really cool graffiti displays. The evenings were equally packed – we had a delicious dinner at YardBird (famous for fried Chicken), a birthday dinner for Keiren at Pubbelly for Asian inspired pub food, and an evening with Will’s cousin’s family and their kids which was a lot of fun too! While we didn’t do any proper ‘clubbing’, we did spend some time at some of the local dive bars, including our favourite – Kill Your Idol – where TK and I saw potentially the strangest live performance ever!!

Bright and early on Friday morning, Jacs, Leo, Camilla and I left the family in Miami and headed back to LA for a BCG retreat at a beautiful beachfront resort in Palos Verdes (South of LA) called Terranea where we then spent the weekend which was a nice way to wrap up the whirlwind weekend, complete with a Circus themed party (Leo was a Tiger!) πŸ™‚

Now we’re back home recovering from all the excitement, and mum, dad and TK are coming to visit for a couple of days which will be fun!

Other than that, we’ve been up to the usual – spending time at the beach, visiting the zoo, hanging with Leo’s ‘best friend’ Felix (who she talks about constantly!), and continuing to settle in to life in LA.

Hope you’re all well
– Ben and Jacs

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 πŸ™‚
  • 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 πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

    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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

    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 πŸ™‚

    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 πŸ˜‰

    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 canapΓ©s (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 πŸ˜‰ ), 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 πŸ™‚ ) 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